Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chapter 5 - Stealing Forever - Our Own Escape

She'd always wondered why black was the socially-accepted color to wear to these things. When her grandfather died two years ago, she, her mother and sisters had all gone to Neimans and searched for Sunday-best shirts, slacks, dresses, skirts.
All in black.
Glancing tiredly at the dress hanging against the door, she sighed heavily and played with a stray string on her bath towel, void of all emotion.
She found herself sitting on the edge of the double bed in her childhood room, staring at the same paint swirl pattern on the wall opposite her for the past twenty minutes, towel still draped around her naked body, black hair still damp and stick-straight, now becoming matted against her scalp. She knew better than to let the tangled mess begin to dry before running a brush through to the ends.
She just didn't care.

"Claire, honey," her mother said softly in the doorway, "we need to leave in an hour or so... Claire?" It took a few seconds for her daughter to glance in her direction, though she never really focused on the actual words she uttered. She turned lifeless eyes up at her mother, nodding slightly, and tightening the falling towel around the tops of her breasts.
Daphne was at a loss with how to talk to her daughter. Her level of pain was beyond her comprehension, so she did the best she could, and gave her all the love she had within her. Her heart ached for her eldest child, but somehow found solace in the fact that she needed her at this agonizing point in her young life.
Her once lively personality and animated eyes had diminished to a blank expression that bordered on catatonic. Claire hadn't left her room in the past two days, and before that, her mother and sister had to physically carry her to the bathroom to shower and force her to eat even the smallest portions of food.
She hadn't really slept in the days that followed the accident. The nightmares had begun soon after and Claire was terrified to close her eyes. The thin line between reality and dreams blurred dangerously close, and she wasn't ready to differentiate the two for fear of what she would find.
Her Quil. Her love. He was gone.
What happened to their forever?
She cursed God and all the angels of Heaven and demons of Hell for allowing this.
After a half-hour, Kathrine poked her head in to check on her sister to find her sitting in the same place, staring at the same swirl, string still wrapped around her graceful fingers, and called to her mother. The two helped Claire into her dress and designer shoes, applied makeup to her beautiful face, and pulled her thick hair into a smooth chignon.
Though, the moment her mother zipped her chic, but appropriately sheath, she suddenly knew why black.
Black was the only color that suited her mood.
Black hid the stains of tears.
Claire's family drove to Quil's parents' home, where they all were gathered awaiting the arrival of the limousine.
She couldn't bear looking at any of them for very long, her own grief reflected so vivid and raw back at her in the eyes of each of them was too much to endure.
Though his parents were remaining strong considering, Leah was beside herself and took to a private corner of the sitting room to cry silently into a tissue. Mrs. Atera's eyes were red and swollen from crying half the morning as they finalized the arrangements and itinerary for the day. Claire politely placed kisses on both her and his father's cheeks, nodding dully as they tried to comfort her.
She hadn't cried yet that day.
Crying would make this all too real.
Two shiny black limousines slowed to a stop in front of the home and she followed her queue to climb into the back along with his immediate family. Leah slid in next to her and laced her fingers in hers, catching her gaze and touching her cheek.
So funny the things that bring people together.
Claire's heart ache had long since been replaced by numbness. She couldn't allow herself, for even a moment, to feel the pain. If she did, even for a second, she knew she'd never be able to swim to the surface of her depression.
Anxiety, the first emotion that seeped into her consciousness in days, spread throughout her as they arrived at the church, just as six large men were carrying a simple mahogany casket through the front doors.
These were supposed to be his groomsmen.
All the people he loved, she loved, all in one place, that, if things had gone so much differently, she'd be wearing a white dress instead of a black one. She'd be in a limousine with 4 other women, all dressed in the fabulous gowns she had painstakingly selected, entering a church.
But all that was snatched from her in a split second.
Her forever was stolen.
She stared at each of their faces, Embry and Jacob's mirroring her own hopelessly vacant expression, and she felt the tears threatening to pool in her eyes, but she swatted the pain away quickly.
She couldn't do this.
Everything in her body was telling her to run, to get the hell out of there and never look back. Memories of Quil etched into her mind would have to be her comfort, not this.
Despite this, she entered and walked the aisle, lagging slightly behind his parents, and taking her seat between Embry and Jacob, sliding her palms into each of theirs.
Her need to be with each of them at that moment flared surprisingly within her. She needed to touch them, his two closest friends still holding pieces of him, some she didn't even know of. One, the last one to see Quil that night, the other, knowing Quil longer than any other. Only they could even remotely come close to understanding the emotions churning inside her.
Embry handed her the program with Quil's broad smile staring back at her. Across the cover was one of her favorite pictures of him, taken just the summer before while they vacationed in Martha's Vineyard. An almost indistinguishable smile played at the corners of her mouth as she remembered their time at the beach, and their time, more memorably, inside the lush guest house of her parents' summer home.
She would never touch him again.
The pastor's words were just white noise to her ears, as she blocked out the well-wishes and kindnesses spilling from his lips. He didn't know her Quil, not personally, so she considered his words ceremonial at best and inconsequential. Instead, she passed a side glance at Jacob and the pain on his face was so unrestrained with emotion, she had to turn away. She squeezed his hand and rested her head on his shoulder.
Jacob squeezed Claire's hand in return, welcoming the comforting feel of it, however small the gesture.
They decided that Quil would have wanted a closed casket. Jacob knew his best friend, and he let his family know in no uncertain terms, that Quil would have wanted everyone to remember him as he was. His funny, slow-to-speak, sarcastic self. So, throughout the service, those glancing at the front of the chapel were met with the handsome casket with a floral arrangement lying atop it.
After a day or so, Jacob's memory came flooding back to him, and it crippled him beyond his understanding. His stepmom had all but moved into his home, taking care of various arrangements, cleaning and cooking, without him ever having to ask for help.
After realizing that work would be impossible, he'd had a long conversation with the director of his division, telling him he would have to take a leave of absence, then made the appropriate arrangement with several members on his team that would handle the projects he'd been working on. He hated leaving everything so much in the air, but at that point, he really couldn't think that far in the future. He was living day-to-day, trying to keep hold of what little will he still had.
Jacob and Embry had leaned on each other during this time, as neither knew when the days would prove effortless to manage or the sadness would not be so unbearable that emerging from bed would be nearly impossible.
Embry had tried to head over to the gallery a couple of days prior, sending away Kate gruffly. He didn't need her pitying eyes staring at him, not now or ever. Just after they left the hospital the day of the accident, he went to his home, running fingers over various boxes that he still hadn't gotten to yet. He couldn't be around anyone at that moment. He felt the pain filling to the brink, threatening to burst the carefully-placed seams he had made to get him through the next day.
Blasting music as loud as he could stand in the large space, he found several large blank canvases leaning against a far wall. He unrolled his brushes and located the myriad pastels and oils and began.
It hurt. Dip, slather. Dip, stroke.
It hurt so bad. Dip, smear, splatter.
Why did this have to happen now? At at time in Embry's life when things were beginning to line up just right? The way he had always imagined his life going.
In the midst of his work, sweat and tears blinded him. He continued, stripping off most of his clothing, standing only in a pair of nylon shorts. At the end of a long day and night, his lean body, covered in paint and drying saline, sunk to the floor, too tired to go further.
The next morning, he pulled himself up from where he had landed on his couch, realizing again as more fresh wounds formed across his heart, that his friend still gone.
He glanced at his work from the day before. It was beautiful.
…and the tears began once more.
Today was a hard day.
Embry guessed that was a given.
Hard to get out of bed. Hard to get dressed. Hard to grip the handles of the heavy wooden box Quil now lie in.
It was all painfully hard.
But, what is life, if not a struggle, right? And this too shall pass.
He repeated that simple phrase to himself often, though it did little to comfort him, but it did help to keep his mind off the pain in his heart.
Jacob never thought he could love another man, not like this, but he loved his friend deeply. He realized that now. That reality made him become fiercely protective of Embry. He couldn't lose him, too. Not ever.
When asked, he had originally declined speaking at the funeral, mostly because he was positive he couldn't make it through the entire thing still standing. How do you say goodbye to someone you'd known for the majority of your life? Someone who'd been a constant factor in your existence? The one person, family included, that you could always depend on, even in the most fucked up of situations?
But, after some kind words from his mother, Jacob decided that he owed it to his friend to speak, but only if Embry agreed to stand beside him for support. They were a trio, and it only felt right.
Jacob ran his fingers through his hair anxiously as he realized that it was nearing their time to speak. He craned his head slightly to look at Embry and, squeezing Claire's hand once more, he stood to take his spot at the raised podium.
"Quil Atera was our closest friend. We've known him since we were all just about six or seven years old," Jacob began, glancing to Embry for confirmation. "He was always the voice of reason, even back then…"
Jacob and Embry agreed that their eulogy would be most authentic if they spoke from their hearts with a few notes for support, in place of complete prepared speech.
With a smile, Embry launched into a full flash back of the three of them at a fall junior high dance and Embry was terrified to dance with a girl he had secretly been in love with for several years of his young life.
"All you have to do is go over and ask her to dance," Jacob shrugged and sipped his red punch, his pubescent voice cracking in various octaves from its hormonal changes.
"Okay," Embry had said, glancing at either of them for assurance. "I can do this, right? She's just a girl, and I'm a great guy. I have a lot going for myself," he continued, trying to boost his own confidence.
"Yeah, you do," Quil said rolling his eyes with a smile. "Just don't do anything weird or stupid. We think it's cool, but girls really hate that…"
Not long after some laughter, and a lot of tears, the attendees made it out the graveside area. It was warm, even in the early morning, but a gentle breeze drifted to where they were all congregating. Covered in a kelly green tent cover, it was set atop a steep hill blanketed in the most beautiful wild flowers that had somehow still grown in around the graves. Several chairs for close family and friends were simply arranged. There was a brief rites reading, allowing the attendees to place items on the casket.
Claire's disbelief shattered once she straightened out the program she'd been gripping since the service, gazing at his twinkling eyes and playful smile, though, what resonated most heavily with her, were the dates.
Just a week ago.
He really was gone.
She dropped her head, and shrugged against Jacob's strong, warm embrace that must have sensed her breaking, cracking under the perfect, numb veneer that had successfully gotten her to this point without slipping into a grief-endued coma.
Her sobs and wails and cries shook Embry to his core, and his own disbelief mingled with hers.
"Why!" he cried, dropping his head into his hands. "Why!" His sobs shook his body violently, as Leah ran to sit beside him, allowing him to drop his head into her lap as she silently rocked him, dabbing her tears, and letting a breath through pursed lips.
"This is so hard…." Jacob whispered, biting his lip. "Quil…so fucking hard…"
He cursed the piece of shit that did this to his friend. He cursed himself for not driving.
Embry wasn't sure how long the four of them sat crying and mourning the loss of their friend, but once his sobs had subsided, only Quil's parents were left; the rest had made begun making their way to his family's home for refreshments.
The sun remained high in the sky and he shrugged out of the suit jacket that had become suffocating in the heat, lifting his head from Leah's comforting embrace. He looked at her and gratefully wrapped his arms around her, attempting to comfort her the way she had helped her just moments before.
"You know he loved you," Leah sighed, "all of you, very much." Her eyes drifted to his casket resting on its metal bars, waiting to be lowered into the ground. "Let's try to get over to our house, okay? I know there are some folks that want to talk to all of us." She tilted her head back, attempting to get her second wind and find her strength. "Why don't you guys ride back with us in the limo? It's waiting for us."
The thought of leaving him here caused a fresh wave of tears and sobs to spill from Claire. "I can't… I can't leave him…"
"I know Claire, we know," Embry whispered, glancing again at his casket, "hey…hey… we need to be strong for his mother, huh?" He lifted her from Jacob's embrace and wrapped her in his own.
"Jake and I'll be there. We can do it together, okay?" Embry continued softly, glancing into Jacob's pained eyes.
Jacob nodded and glanced into the distance for a brief moment, and sighed. "Yeah…yeah."
They arrived at the house buzzing with condolence-wishers, then filled plates with food and glasses with soda that would go untouched.
Embry smiled. Jacob smiled. Claire smiled.
They were all numb.
All fake grins and mindless conversation.
None of them wanted to be there a second longer.
They wanted Quil back. He'd laugh at the nonsensical nature of it all.
Jacob felt himself being sucked under again. He was drowning. He had to get out. After placing a quick peck on Claire's cheek, saying his goodbyes to Quil's family, and hugging Embry as he stood alone in a corner nursing a glass of cognac, he escaped out the front door of the house. He wanted to be alone. He needed to be alone with his thoughts. No amount of bullshitting country club members or waxing nostalgic about Quil would bring him back, so he refused to take part in it any longer.
His head was fucking hurting again, and all this talking was just irritating him further. He had to get the hell out of this suit, he thought, looping his index finger in the knot of his tie and yanking it down in one quick motion as he found his SUV. Before he'd even gotten in the car, his navy blue jacket was off and draped over his arm, and his dress shirt was untucked and unbuttoned revealing his light gray undershirt. He drove the twenty minutes back to his empty house, relishing the cool air that met him at the door. He welcomed the quiet.
Taking a few quick steps to the kitchen, he found some aspirin and downed a couple with a bottle of beer. Hey, why the fuck not.
These headaches were becoming a constant reminder that the accident had even happened. If the thumping in his head weren't so distracting, he'd welcome the pain. It made him remember he was alive. He hoped his bruises and scrapes never fully healed, never disappeared and forced him never to forget, to always remember that he was here, and Quil was not.
Pulling another bottle of beer from the fridge before he had barely tipped the other, he expertly popped the metal cap off the top of the second on the edge of the expensive counter top, sending it flying across the kitchen.
Rose hated it when he did that.
Reaching behind his neck, he pulled his tank over his head and threw it absently on a chair in the living room, sinking into the couch with his broad arms draped across its back and his feet on the coffee table. He may as well go for broke while his stepmother and Rosalie weren't around to complain about his behavior.
Jacob lay there, head slowly sliding, until it was completely resting just above his shoulders on the back of the couch, until the sun was no longer was high and blazing and its light was replaced with the ones filtering in from the city. His eyes began to droop, and he drifted slowly into that fuzzy realm between awake and asleep, where all was well in the world and he was still conscious enough to realize it, when there was a knock at the door.
Taking one more quick swig of his now lukewarm beer, Jacob strode to the front door and opened it to find Embry's glassy eyes peering back at him. He didn't say anything, just widened the door for his friend and walked back the kitchen, reaching for a beer and handing it to him.
"Hey," Embry murmured simply. He let his eyes run over Jacob 's face and half-naked torso; he looked like shit. Beyond the already-healing bruises sporadically covering his ribs and chest, his face looked haggard and exhausted. He couldn't have been sleeping very well. Shit, neither was he.
Embry knew he couldn't have stayed at Quil's parents' house for much longer after Jacob left, but he remained for the subsequent hours mostly for Claire's sake. She looked so lost, so alone in that sea of people; he just couldn't leave her there. She seemed grateful for his hand in hers, and his shoulder under her head, however quiet her thanks were.
He knew Jacob would head home. He knew he was really the only one who could understand how his heart was breaking then. The two sat in silence for a long while, both wordlessly acknowledging the pain in the room that was consuming them both. Around midnight, they were awoken by a soft, demure knock.
"Claire," Jacob breathed, running a hand over his hair, reaching for her, and pulling her into the house.
Her fresh tears were hot against his chest, and his own began to form. She didn't know how much longer she could cry; she just wanted the waves of pain to go away, and the numbness to return more permanently. She could never stay strong around Jacob and Embry though; when she saw their tired, knowing stares, it reached her so deeply and tugged away the mask.
She turned to Embry, who had made it into the hall and buried her face in his chest, dampening his expensive dress shirt.
"I...I..." She didn't know; the words wouldn't come. Her pain was blinding and incoherent, she just knew she had to be there. She had to be with these two, she had to have a piece of Quil that no one but the three of them even understood.
Embry smoothed her hair and placed a kiss on the top of her head, shushing and attempting to console her. Jacob walked past the two of them, once again into the kitchen to retrieve some water for the young woman.
She found herself curled onto the couch an hour later, leaning against Embry's chest with her head under his chin as she held on to his tie, wrapping it and un-wrapping it around her hand. Her legs rested on the length of the couch, while Jacob mindlessly rubbed the soft pads of her feet.
A million thoughts were racing through Jacob's mind. The insanity of it all, the pain, but mostly, the over whelming need to run, to get the fuck out of there.
"I... I gotta go," Jacob said softly to no one in particular.
"What? Where?" Embry questioned through furrowed brows.
"I don't know, I.. I just can stay here. I can't fucking do it…"
"Jake, dont..." Claire began, rising to a sitting position.
"No..." Jacob said looking around vaguely. "I gotta go..."
He pulled up his massive body, setting Claire's feet down, already walking towards the stairs.
"Jake, don't do this," Embry called behind him, then looked to Claire confusedly. The two followed him into his large master bedroom, watching him frantically search for various items about the room. He pulled a large black suitcase from the closet and began throwing things into it in a daze.
"Jake!" Claire called to him, "what the hell are you talking about? Where are you gonna go?"
"I don't know," Jacob said, putting several t-shirts in the bag. "I just can't stay here. I can't stay in this house. I can't look at his family. I can't fucking see Rose. I can't do it anymore!" He stopped for the first time since he began packing his things and stared at his two friends, who were becoming increasingly more afraid.
"Jake, no," Embry pleaded. "You can't leave... We..."
"We... We need you. Don't make us do this alone," Claire pleaded tenderly, placing a stilling hand on his forearm, his shoes in his hand, hovering above the bag. He looked at her, putting a finger under her chin for a moment and kissing her temple in response.
Claire and Embry stared at him dubiously for the next few moments until the suitcase was filled and he dragged the zipper across the bag's mouth. He searched around once more, finding a t-shirt and sweatpants to change into, emerging from his walk-in closet.
Jacob crossed in front of Claire, who stood with arms crossed, grabbing the handle of his suitcase, his arm straining against the size and weight of it as he snatched it off the bed.
"Well, I'm fucking coming," Embry said absolutely, sure his friend would fight him on it. He was met with silence. Jacob paused for a moment, glancing at both of them, then slid into his running sneakers.
"Embry!" Claire's eyes widening at the insanity of what they were saying.
He stopped for half a beat, searching for his car keys and wallet resting on the table, turning to follow behind Jacob out the front door. He was already at the truck swinging the suitcase into the trunk.
The internal struggle fought within her. She couldn't let them go; she couldn't let them leave her to deal with this alone. But how could they do something so crazy, so impulsive? When would they be back? Where were they going?
She had to say something, do something, because if she didn't come to a decision, it would be made for her.
"Wait!" She didn't know what lay ahead. She didn't know what tomorrow would bring.
As she looked into both sets of dark eyes, she did know, though, that she loved these two men, and as long as they were together, her little piece of the world would be a bit more bearable without Quil in it.
She called to the two of them as they began to enter the vehicle, running into the house, grabbing her purse and locking the front door behind her.
"I'm coming, too."

A/N - Banner - http :// ...Follow me on Twitter - ArtBeatsandLife
Lots in store for these three; the road will lead them in some important directions, I anticipate though, it will also lead them right back to each other.

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music enthusiast, burgeoning fic writer, lover of indian food, art and random oddities. jacob stan, fanfic-natic, shapeshifter enthusiast, obsessed with all things twi.

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