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Sundown, Part Two, A Companion Short to the Twilight Saga
We crept up to the house with the beat-up Rabbit Volkswagen in the driveway. I held up a cautionary hand, and the girls behind me immediately froze as I surveyed the yard before us.
The house was small, with flaking red paint. I supposed in its day, it had looked a little like a farmhouse. There were a few windows, tall but skinny, and through them I could see a fireplace and some haphazard pieces of furniture. There were people inside, Native American kids and younger adults. It struck me that they were almost all male.
A fire ring stood in the middle of the backyard, and perhaps twenty collapsible camping chairs circled around it. I hadn’t expected there to be so many. Just how many people was Black expecting?
Black. Jacob Black, as he’d introduced himself, Alpha of the Quileute wolf pack. Had he taken that “detour” yet? I wondered who exactly he was bringing to this party. We’d exchanged a few words after that, and Melody, Haley, Hannah, and I had come to the conclusion that his pack had seemed more fascinated by us than frightened. Personally, I wasn’t sure whether or not this was a good thing, but since I was in human form, I kept my thoughts to myself.
I deemed the yard to be clear. Lowering my hand and glancing back, I gestured with my head to the girls before stepping out into the open. We cleared the trees almost immediately. I took point instinctively, Melody taking my right side, and Haley and Hannah falling into position on my left.
The back door, a sliding glass piece that looked to be recently-installed, opened, and a young man with copper-colored skin and cropped black hair stepped out.
“Are you Jacob Black?” I asked politely.
I heard Haley grumble, “Don’t forget to smile, Jules.” I fought the urge to roll my eyes.
The young man shook his head. “No, my name’s Seth, Seth Clearwater. I was the tan wolf.”
I smiled. “Julia Cummings. The Red-Tail.”
Seth grinned, and I was struck by his youth—surely he couldn’t be in college yet. “Seriously? That’s so cool. I’ve never seen anything like your guys’ flock before. Well, I’ve seen some seriously weird things, but that takes the cake. No offense.”
“None taken,” I replied, finding myself warming up in spite of myself. “May I introduce my niece, Melody, and my third cousins, twins Haley and Hannah?”
Seth’s eyes widened. “Your… niece?”
Whoops. I’d forgotten—we all looked the same age. I searched for a way to smooth things over. “Let’s just say I moisturize a lot.”
“Ah,” Seth said after a moment. “Well, come on in, guys… girls. There’s tons of people who’d like to meet you.”
Without waiting for an answer—it was becoming clear that Seth was just a friendly, excitable person—he dashed back to the glass door, and called, “Hey, everybody, come on out, they’re here!”
If you’ve never been rushed by a sea of tall, burly Native-American boys, then I’m afraid to tell you it’s not something I recommend, even if you are as tall as they are. Melody, Haley, Hannah, and I were instantly outnumbered, and we shrank together as the curious, overly-excited young men crowded us back.
An old man in a wheelchair rescued us.
“Boys! Go get your plates. Embry, go find the hot dogs, they’re in the back of the fridge. Quil—yes, I’m talking to you, wipe that innocent look off your face, I can see right through it—go get the skewers, I think they’re in the shed, bring out all of them, all right?” The crowd backed up, allowing the old man to approach as two boys in the back retreated back towards the house.
He coasted over to us, and extended a scarred, wrinkled hand. “I’m Billy Black, Jacob’s father. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise,” I answered, returning the firm handshake. “May I introduce Melody, Haley, and Hannah? My girls,” I said with pride. “I’m Julia Cummings. The Alpha of our flock, I suppose.”
“Flock?” Mr. Black rolled himself a foot or so backwards in surprise. “I was under the impression that you transformed into wolves.”
“Hawks, sir,” Hannah interjected. “Birds of prey.”
“Fascinating,” Mr. Black murmured. “Someone forgot to mention that.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Seth redden, and rub the back of his neck furiously as some of the boys mocked him playfully. I had to crack a grin at that.
“Well, sit down, sit down, we’ve got a lot to discuss, after all,” Billy told me. He motioned to four chairs closer to the patio. “I’m sure Embry remembered to bring out the matches.”
Embry, who’d just reemerged from the house, exhaled noisily, tossing the packaged hot-dogs to Seth before slinking back into the house. Billy rolled over to the fire pit, and I took the closest chair next to him. Melody and the twins sat a little farther off, probably basking in the attention of several young men of age. I smiled, and turned my attention to Mr. Black.
“I heard something quite spectacular from Seth,” he said to me. He was interested, extremely so, in my answer. He leaned forward with his elbows perched on the arms of his wheelchair, and I wondered how he’d been put there in the first place.
“Oh?” I asked, knowing what he was about to say. I glanced uncomfortably at the fire pit, where the one boy, Embry, was trying to light a pyramid of tinder.
“How did you keep the wing from healing incorrectly? It’s a matter we—or rather, my son’s pack—haven’t figured out yet.”
I frowned. “It’s hard to explain. I tried to teach it to my flock, but I don’t know if it’s age or experience or something else entirely. It might even be a genetic fluke.” I shrugged. “I have no idea, unfortunately. It’s a manipulation of the speed of the healing process. I can’t tell you more than that.” I pictured the way the shimmering air wrapped itself around my arms, pushing against my wrists and straining to enter the wound. Realizing something, I glanced at my hands.
“I hate to stop short all of a sudden, but is there a bathroom I could use?” I asked Mr. Black. Some blood from Melody’s injury had remained on my hands despite my following transformation into hawk form. It probably wouldn’t form the best first impression if more people noticed.
“Of course—inside, go down the hall, and it’s the second door on your right.”
“Thank you,” I said gratefully, stuffing my hands in my pockets.
I slipped out of the circle, and skirted around to the sliding door. Casting a glance back at the girls, I smiled and shook my head. Despite the whole fiasco, maybe it was a good thing for the three of them. It had to be nice, to be able to relate to people closer to your age.
Inside, the house was surprisingly clean and well cared-for. Rough quilts lay over the backs of the two couches in the living room. A small, dented TV was propped up on the coffee table, in the final minutes of some college football game, teams I didn’t recognize (although that wasn’t saying much). A quick survey revealed the team with the blue jerseys to be losing miserably.
There was a hallway directly across from the sliding door. I strode over, and counted two doors down on the left. I could see the light on through the crack below the door, so I knocked politely.
“Occupied,” a woman’s voice called.
“Sorry,” I apologized. I backed out of the hall, and inspected some of the pictures arranged on the living room walls. Mr. Black was in a large number of them. In one, a Quileute boy in graduation gowns stood behind him. They looked alike, I thought. They had the same nose. And the same funny-looking ears. I’d bet at least seven hot dogs that THAT was Jacob Black himself.
Intrigued, I studied the other portraits. Jacob Black—I had to refer to him as Jacob now, I’d only confuse myself—featured even more than his father did. In one, he looked particularly happy. His arm was around a bronze-haired girl, who looked like she might be twelve or thirteen. A woman, remarkably pale, but with similar eyes, rested her hand on Jacob’s shoulder, while another young man, also white as a bone, had his hand on that woman’s waist. The two girls might be sisters, I reflected. The young man and the older of the two girls had matching wedding bands.
Being a changeling means having enhanced senses. I could still hear the chatter from outside, the hissing of fire on wet wood. The toilet flushed in the bathroom, and the sink rushed on. It was shut off after a minute, and the door creaked open.
I turned to the hallway, smiling vaguely at the girl. She gawked back, and I blinked.
“Oh, we must not have been introduced,” I appraised. “I’m Julia. Part of the hawk flock from just outside the reservation?”
She mumbled something, and nodded frantically. She tried to dodge around me, but I caught her arm.
I gasped. “Hold on! You’re not the silver wolf, are you?”
“So what if I am?” she snapped.
I held up my hands. “All right, all right, Leah,” I scolded, plucking the name out of the fleeting conversation I’d had with Jacob Black. “Young lady, it’s obvious you can’t hold your temper. I only wished to say that neither myself—” Lie. “—or Melody hold what’s happened against you. Now, you can either miss dinner and mope inside, or you can go outside and be social.” It occurred to me that I could have been talking to the rebellious Haley just as easily as Leah. I refrained from laughing at myself, opting to see how easily the she-wolf would break.
She gaped at me for a second. I shrugged, murmured, “Your choice,” and sidestepped her to the bathroom. It was with no small amount of satisfaction that I listened to the sliding door quietly whistle open and closed a minute later.
I reemerged outside a few minutes later to find that someone had taken my chair—another Quileute tribesman, although this one looked to be in his thirties. He was enormous and dark haired, and lacked the mischievous look I had seen in the young members of Jacob’s pack. The size of the monstrous pack of boys had doubled, and I stopped cold.
What on earth was going on here? Just how large did this pack get? This wasn’t natural, and I knew, I knew we needed to make our exit now. I glanced over at the girls—they were chatting away with the new arrivals amiably. How to get their attention without the pack noticing? I slid forward edgily, and the man next to Mr. Black noticed me with a start.
“Miss Cummings! I’m sorry, I’ve taken your seat. Sam Uley, chief of the Quileute Pack.” He stood and held out a hand. I had been cornered. Frowning, I stepped forward and shook it. I was thinking along the lines of something Haley might say—Um, what now?
Mr. Black saw my confusion.
“There are two Olympian packs,” he explained patiently. “My son is the Alpha of the pack you encountered.”
“I see.” I absolutely did not, but who was I to question their… abnormal ways? I cracked a smile at this—abnormal. Because we were such strangers to abnormal. “Are you the one Jacob wanted to bring here?” I glanced around, but no one came forward to claim the title.
“Actually,” Sam Uley replied, “I invited myself. We’ve never had visitors of your… nature before. Didn’t Jacob say anything about the vampires?”
I raised a skeptical eyebrow, and repeated, “Vampires. I wasn’t under the impression that they… existed.” I couldn’t meet their eyes; I was embarrassed at the contradiction of my hosts. Vampires weren’t real. Any imbecile could tell you that.
However, it would have been impossible miss the glance that passed between Sam Uley and Billy Black. I was already agitated enough from the size of the wolf pack. But there was only one thing that that glance could mean.