Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breaking Dawn: Part 3 - The Hunt for Renesmee

Jacob sits in the coffee shop. He’s uneasy and uncertain and he’ll admit it, just plain scared. Which is stupid, he knows, but he has to be honest with himself about all his emotions right now. He has to be. It’s what Carlisle had said. And as much as he still felt uncomfortable around the Cullens family he had gotten to spend a lot of time with them lately. Even more than before. It had been the only way to see her. Renesmee. Just the thought of her did it. He tried not to listen to the fearful voice echoing in the back of his mind.

* * *

“But, I mean, just what if!” Jacob was visibly frustrated as he paced back and forth.

“It’s a risk you’ll have to take.” Carlisle spoke softly.

“No! Not again!” Jacob spat with a harsh, wolfish growl, “Not after last time. And not after Bella! I couldn’t stand it to happen again!”

“Would you rather she had no choice? Like...” And Carlisle paused.

“Like me?” And Jacob’s eyes were filled with pain.

“Like some kind of machine.” Carlisle placed a cool hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “You still choose to lover her. You still choose to stay. You want her to choose you too. It means risking that rejection. But it also means that it is genuine love.”

Jacob hung his head. He knew Carlisle was probably right. He usually was about most things. But Jacob couldn’t shake the feeling like he was being talked into something he didn’t want to be talked into.

“Jacob.” Carlisle increased the pressure on Jacob’s shoulder, “You have to trust that the same fated love that helped you find Nessie through Bella will help her find you.”

* * *

“Well, that’s all well and good for you to say!” Edward was yelling at Bella and Jacob felt every word stab him like a knife. Even if he agreed with Edward.

“What else can we do?” Bella hissed at him, showing her fangs.

“But she’s our daughter!” Edward’s anger was replaced by tears, “She’s our daughter.”

“And if she wants to join the Volturi that’s her choice. Renesmee isn’t a child anymore.” And the way she grimaced told both Edward and Jacob that she hated saying the words most of all. But someone had to say it and they had forced her to be the bad guy.

“Where are you going?” Edward saw Jacob duck out of the door. “What are you planning on doing?”

“I have to go talk to her.” Jacob said knowing how desperate and lame he sounded and for the first time ever actually not caring, “I have to do this!”

* * *

“Why?” Jacob asked reaching for her arm before she buffeted it away.

“Jake! Please!” And she threw more supplies in her bag, “Daddy already doesn’t like this. I can’t have you against me too!”

“Then don’t go!” Jacob roared in frustration, “For God’s sake, they tried to kill you! Or have you forgotten that  too!”

“According to you and everyone else!” And for a moment that anger that flared in her eyes reminded him of the way she used to look at him when he’d end playtime because it was bathtime, “But no, since you asked, I don’t actually remember anything. But the Volturi. The Volturi can help. They have a new vampire named Kyle. He can manipulate memories.”

“And what will they ask in return?” Jacob came as close to her as he dared, “What will it cost?”

“Aro... Aro said...” She faltered.

* * *

“No, she never came here.” And he popped the small round, red thing into his mouth.

“What do you mean she never showed up!” Jacob was obviously attempting to keep his growling as under control as possible, though Edward wasn’t sure he’d convinced Aro yet.

“You really must try these! They’re a paste of mixed tiger blood dusted with human blood and with a nougatty O A+ blend at the centre.” And Aro chewed on another before turning to look at Jacob, “Please, Edward, can you call your pet off?”

“How are you doing, babe?” He asked Bella who was standing in the corner.

“Fine. Shield’s fine. Ask him for more info.” She gasped as she concentrated on maintaining the shield, sweat visibly dripping from her face.

“Kyle is no longer with us. Perhaps he and the young lady had a... how can I be delicate about this... an arrangement.” And this time Jacob did growl as Aro laughed, “Oh, come now! Did you really think, mutt, that she could resist the allure of a vampire over a dog?”

“Shut up!” Jacob barked.

“I mean, isn’t it a fact that most human women marry men like their fathers?” And Aro gestured towards Edward as he spoke, “This can’t possibly actually be a surprise to you! I mean, why didn’t she ask you to come with her? Why would she come alone?”

* * *

“I had to. I didn’t have a choice.” Renesmee’s voice echoed high up into the vault of the abandoned cathedral, “My family... It’s complicated. And there’s this person I care about...”

“And you’d like to remember him?”Kyle was pale, even by vampire standards, with platinum blonde hair and eyes that switched from red to blue as if catching the light.

“Well, you see, I’m not sure.” Renesmee played with her hair, “I’ve known him since I was a baby. At least. I think so. I have some memories. Here and there. But because of what happened I can’t remember. And...”

Kyle placed a pale finger on his lips.

“She is frightened.” Spoke a delicate voice from behind her as a vampire with deep red hair stepped out.

“This is Victor.” Kyle placed a hand on the new arrival’s, “My mate. He can help you too.”

“If I may.” Victor’s thin, pale hand encircled Renesmee’s, “Ah, yes. You are frightened. Frightened by...”

* * *

“Jacob! Leave it to the Trackers!” Bella grabbed his arm.

“If Kyle has a shield then they won’t be able to find him. But I can find Nessie. Wherever she is!” He sniffed the air.

“Let us come with you.” Edward’s eyes carried worry. Not just for Renesmee. Jacob had truly become part of his family, “You don’t know how many there are.”

“I’m sorry.” Jacob set his jaw, “But I have to do this alone.”

* * *

“Why?” Renesmee asked as Victor retreated.

“Because the rush of emotions he would experience as I restore your memories could kill him.” And Kyle watched until the door to the antechamber closed.

“So you have done this before, then.” Renesmee swallowed suddenly nervous for the first time since leaving Forks.

“Yes, though never for such an extensive memory as yours. I sense that it extends even into the womb. Which is much further than I normally reach.” And his eyes shifted to the palest blue as he said it with a far off look.

“And... and what about Jacob?” Renesmee bit her lip.

“I will not let memories of him return. As your requested.” Kyle took her hand, “And I will remove all the ones you have of him. He will be a stranger to you.”

As her eyes closed she saw a path of light slide through her mind, revealing her most recent memories. She saw herself walk into the cathedral to meet Kyle. She saw the old woman who had told her where Kyle was, knitting on the steps that led into the Volturi’s stronghold. She saw herself arrive in Italy, intent on seeing the Volturi. And then she was boarding the plane to Italy. And then she saw him.

She saw Jacob come smashing through the woods towards the airplane. And where Jacob was running the light flowed into and around him and then it was as if he dissolved mid leap. He was gone. All she remembered was a warm, glowing presence outside as the plane took off. Kyle had taken the first memory.

She saw the night he came to convince her to stay. Light already filling the spaces, erasing him and the argument from her mind. She saw the light fill the space and washing over him, dissolving him as he burst through the door.

* * *

“Are you Kyle?!” He yelled as he grabbed the thin, frail looking red head.

“P-please! You! You are angry!” Victor stammered.

“Yeah! I’m angry as hell!” Jacob grumbled low, “That’s not what I asked!”

“And you are...” Victor gasped, “Afraid. So very afraid.”

“What!” Jacob yelled, dropping the vampire.

“But––” He gasped, catching his breath, “Most of all. You love. It is your love for Nessie that gives you anger and fear.”

“Hey! Stay out of my head!” Jacob raised his fist before faltering, “Wait... what! Nessie! Where is she!”

“Please.” Victor stepped between Jacob and the door, “I will show you her. But you cannot interrupt. You must remain silent until they are finished.”

“Or what?” Jacob growled stepping towards the door.

“Or you will kill them both.” And Victor shuffled awkwardly as he whispered, “And then I’ll have to fill you with so much fear that your brain will literally explode.... I don’t like doing it! So please! Just be quiet!”

“Fine.” Jacob felt his breath hitch, “But she better be safe.”

* * *

She saw her father say that from between the pale green curtains of the hospital while talking to Uncle Jasper and Aunt Rosalie. The warm, glowing presence from before was there too. They were close now. She watched them all leave in reverse and she was grateful that at least the warm presence stayed. And then Grandpa Carlisle was running in and he looked very worried and her head began to hurt. From far away she heard Kyle’s voice echoing.

“Yes, we have reached the edge of her memory.” And after a pause as if someone was talking to him he said, “Yes you can stay, but Victor should leave. It’s about to happen.”

And as the door closed behind Jacob he clutched his fist. They had warned him about what would happen next. But still, he wasn’t ready for the screaming. Her screaming. His Nessie’s screaming. It hurt him so much.

She could barely take it. It felt like her mind was being pushed against a heavy, metal door. And even though they were inching open it hurt her so much.

“Almost there.” Kyle’s voice echoed.

“I don’t know how much more I can stand.” Jacob and Renesmee whispered in unison.

“Give me your hand.” Kyle held out his hand to Jacob, “You share a special empathetic bond. I can use it to help lessen her pain. Though, it means you’ll have to take some of it––”

Jacob didn’t even think. He didn’t even let Kyle finish. He immediately grabbed Kyle’s hand. And then there was a moment where it felt like a gentle wave washed over his mind, as if getting to know it and checking to make sure everything was in place. And then it began. The pain shot through him like a  lightning bolt.

* * *

Her pain died down. She felt the warm glow from before wash over her, seeping from next to her. And the door opened and her memorized began to flow in.

* * *

She was bleeding all over as she collapsed as her super human legs could not take another step. She had run clear across the Russian tundra. But she couldn’t run anymore. As she collapsed it was less than a minute before Jacob sprinted up and returned to his human form, scooping her up and checking her breathing and kissing her face. The light was already running along his frame as he morphed back into a wolf to lie around her, protecting her broken and bleeding body. He disintegration into the warm glow of her memories. And she could swear she heard a wolf howl as she passed out.

* * *

Jacob gritted his teeth. He was seeing all of her memories and he knew that he wouldn’t like what came next. What they had done to her. But she had to face all of this alone before. He wouldn’t let her face it alone again. He gripped Kyle’s hand tighter, knowing he might be hurting him and not caring. Kyle gripped back as if telling him he understood and it was alright. Or maybe he saw what was coming and knew Jacob wasn’t ready to see what they had done to Renesmee.

* * *

She was cold and she was naked and she knew the drill. But she was so hungry she could barely focus. And she had to. She knew the opportune moment was close. She wouldn’t think about how cold or lonely or hungry she was. She would not think about the warm glow she missed. Which itself was an odd thought because she felt it as if it were with her now. The reinforced steel arms came down and clamped tightly as usual.

Then came the scan. Even as the radioactive particles washed over her, she felt her skin try to repair the damage. And it did, though it did it slower every time. They were killing her. And they knew it. She gritted her teeth, as she imaged a wolf would. As she imaged someone else had once. Someone she couldn’t remember anymore. She focused. She had to escape. And then came the needles.

* * *

Jacob winced as if the drills were grinding into his own bones. He wanted to growl or roar or cry. How! How could they! How could anyone have done this to his beloved Nessie! And to think while this was all happening they had just landed in Petrograd. Three years of searching and they had finally turned up a lead. It had taken all of them. Every single vampire and ware-wolf. Other tribes had been enlisted by Sam and Leah. Even the Volturi had joined in when they had learned that she may have been captured by humans.

Of course, they’d wanted to kill all of the Cullenses and their allies first, but by then the force had grown so massive that it would have ended much worse for the Volturi. It could have created a massive vampire civil war. As always Carlisle had intervened and brokered peace. And then the hunt for little Nessie had begun. But of course she had no idea they were searching for her. He just had no idea how much she wouldn’t know when he finally found her running out on the snow.

* * *

She knew she was missing something. It was like this big gap in her mind. But they told her that this was as it had always been. They told her that she liked it here. And that was what did it because even if she didn’t know anything else she knew she did not like it there in her cell. Then she discovered the notes, written on toilet paper and in her own blood. The notes that told her if she was reading them she had probably forgotten everything. That the men in the white lab coats were bad. That they were messing with her mind. Using chemicals and tricks and torture to see if she would behave and respond like a human would. The note told her that if she escaped, to head towards the east, where the light in the sky came up. It told her to ask for the beautiful woman named Tanya. And it told her to keep hope. Someone was coming for her. But she couldn’t read the name. There was just the warm glow every time she looked at the paper. Like some guardian angel who made her cry.

* * *

Tears were running down his face. He wiped his face with his free hand and knew he had to ready himself. He knew that as she remembered it all he would see it. All of it. All the things they did to her. All the horrible things she had described in the note. Jacob gritted his teeth.

* * *

They watched as memory after memory washed over them. At first the men in the white lab coats were drilling through her skin and bones and skull and spine using diamond tipped drills to extract liquids. She wrote the notes to herself using the slow healing wounds. Then it changed and they were trying to get through her skin, breaking scalpels and needles as if they were straw. She broke their robotic arms and several times almost escaped. And through it all she held onto the hope that her family was coming for her. Coming to save her. And always there was the warm glow coming too. The same one with her.

* * *

It was night time and she was walking along the road. She could run and cut teh journey by a tenth but that would defeat the point. She wanted it to last. Partially, because she enjoyed the open road whenever she could get away to enjoy it. And partially, because she dreaded the coming reunion. He said he’d be waiting at Tanya’s. And she wasn’t looking forward to that. Because she knew the answer wouldn’t make him happy. It would break his heart.

“Hello, lovey.” Came the voice from the darkness.

“Who’s there?” She was shaken, not having sensed anyone approaching.

“I know what you are.” The old woman dressed in black said as she stepped forward. “There is no need to fear me.”

“You’re a vampire.” Renesmee said after one look at the bright red eyes, “A nomad?”

“Oh, goodness, no.” She gave a loud cackling laugh. “To tell the absolute truth, I’m the wife of Aro. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”

“Aro of the Volturi!” Renesmee gasped, “What are you doing here?! Is Aro here too!? What do you want!”

The old woman cackled, “No, deary. Contrary to myth we do not stay in Voltura all the time. Occasionally we have business and our husbands accompany us. But sometimes, like tonight, we travel on business that does not include them.”

“Why? What happens tonight?” Renesmee asked stepping back.

“This is the night the humans from Arkangel Island kidnap you.” The old wand said with a cough, “They will not feed you, so I suggest you eat something now.”

Renesmee walked after the old woman behind a mound of earth to where a small camp fire was burning. A tripod was over the fire and a big pot of stew was bubbling away. The old woman began to ladle some into a bowl as Renesmess asked, “What do you mean the humans will kidnap me?”

“Eat child.” She said, handing the bowl to Renesmee. “See, I’ll eat too. Even if your food is disgusting.”

And the old woman made a bowl for herself as well and scooped up some of the beefy meat and potatoes and carrots in the thick sauce and ladled a helping into her mouth. And Renesmee took a small sip. And suddenly she was ravenous. Against her better judgement she started to eat like someone who hadn’t had anything to eat for days.

“What did you mean about tonight.” She tried to say around a mouth full of the hearty stew.

“Well, since you won’t remember any of it because of the experiments I’ll tell you,” And here she turned to gaze past Jacob and Renesmee directly at Kyle, “But you must make sure she does not remember this conversation. The wolf can, though he’s not important. Now, I will tell you a great secret...

The three of us have watched over the affairs of the world for a very long time. It’s only through marriage to us that our husbands gained power. You see, the ancients had many names for us. The Moriae, the Graea, the Norms. The Fates. Because of all the vampires we allone retain a great power of old. The power to see the entirety of time.”

“I have an Aunt that can see the future.” Renesmee scraped the bottom of her bowl and the old woman refilled it.

“Yes, but Alice can only see the current future as it comes into alignment. We see all of the futures and we chose which to align.” She stoked the small fire, “We make sure vampires never become the dominant race on the planet even though we are the apex predators. We also make sure that the human stock never dwindles away or is allowed to destroy themselves. No matter how hard they seem to keep trying. And occasionally, we must step in directly to prevent certain things.”

“Like what?” Renesmee had finished her second bowl.

“Well, if you hadn’t eaten this food you wouldn’t have the strength to head East when you escape. You would not have the energy to run across the frozen tundra towards your friend Tanya’s new home.” And the wrinkled eyes glimmered in the firelight, “So go ahead. Have one more bowl.”

“But wait, can’t I just not get captured, right now? I mean, can’t you help me?” Renesmee didn’t know why but she felt as if she could trust anything the old woman said as she continued to shovel the food down.

“No. This is the best future. Not just for you but for everyone. In this future the Volturi will not have to kill your family and the humans do not find out about our existence... yet.” And her eyes twinkled more in a knowing smile.

And even though Renesmee wanted to argue she felt like she couldn’t. She felt like everything the old woman said was true and that this must therefore be the best course to take.

“And it will protect him.” And as she said it Renesmee felt the warm glow again.

“Fine.” She set the bowl down and hefted her backpack back up. “Thank you for the food.”

“Good. Do not struggle when they take you. If you do you’ll break your leg and it will heal improperly and when you try to escape you won’t be able to make it in time.” The old woman said, “Good luck, deary.”

“Thanks for the advice.” Renesmee nodded even though she was frightened, “And for the stew.”

A few hours later the vans and the helicopters descended on her. They surrounded her and seemed disturbed that she was so calm. Then the bag came over her head. And she said his name...

* * *

“Please, Jacob.” She had begged. “I just need time. By myself. To think!”

“Fine.” He turned, “I’ll head up North to hunt for a bit. When you’ve thought enough and are ready to talk just let Tanya know.”

“And he bolted out and was gone. But the scene was quickly dissolving and all she knew was that she was angy and upset and confused. And crying for some reason.

He was like another father in her life. Like a big brother. But since she’d turned the equivalent of sixteen he’d been hinting at more. And maybe there could be something there someday. But she doubted it. It all just felt weird. She had too many memories of him singing her lullabies and taking her up for bath time. She couldn’t even imagine kissing the guy that had changed her dirty diapers. It was all just too disturbing and just plain gross on some level.

But on another level she understood it. He couldn’t help it. He had imprinted on her. He had loved her for years. He was willing to be whatever she needed. But there was something he hoped she would want him to be. And she just wasn’t ready to even go there. With him of all people. Possibly never with him. And she had told him that. Maybe having a break from each other would be good.

“Can I come in?” It was her mom.

“Sure.” She braced herself.

“Jake seemed really upset when he left.” Her mom who had once had a thing for him, and he for her. Yeah, let’s just make things worse.

“You know.” Renesmee said, “Sometimes it feels like everyone expects us to end up together. Like some sort of arranged marriage.”

Bella stroked Renesmee’s hair as she whispered, “No matter what choices you make, I will never stop supporting you.”

“Thanks, mom.” She hugged her mother back, “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

* * *

He whispered the words as a tear escaped past his shut eyes. He watched his Nessie get younger and relive her forgotten childhood. And he wasn’t sure why but he kept dissolving out of her memories. He knew he was there. He’d even see himself for a few moments before he was gone. Out of the picture altogether. He had a gnawing fear, a suspicion growing at the base of his spine and turning his stomach to lead. He was even about to break the rule of no talking to ask Kyle when he saw her.

It was an early memory. Probably only a few days after the Volturi had retreated. When they had come to kill Nessie. It was the nursery. Bella was rocking Nessie to sleep and must have thought she was already gone. But she wasn’t. She was still watching. She had seen it too. The shadow in the corner moved.

“Hello, my dovey dear.” Spoke the old woman.

“Who are you?” Bella hissed while covering the baby’s head protectively.

“Shhh, dear. Wouldn’t want to wake the little darling. Do we, my dove?” The old woman placed a hand on Nessie’s head soothingly.

“You’re one of them! The wives! I saw you!” Bella’s eyes grew wide.

“Yes, and unlike my bullheaded husband I am here to help you protect the child.” And she made cooing noises towards Nessie.

“Why would you?” Bella asked bristling.

“Because someday something terrible will happen to her. But she must endure it.” The old woman met Bella’s fierce gaze.

“What are you talking about.” Bella’s blood was boiling, if it could boil.

“She will make a choice. A choice you will not approve of. You must let her. You must always support her. Completely.” The old woman smiled gently, “You know. Before I was like this I was a mother once too, you know. Oh, so many ages of men ago. But I was. And I still remember. You want to protect them. You want to help them and keep them safe and not let anything bad ever happen to them.”

“So.” Bella felt herself prickle defensively.

“You must fight that urge.” The old woman stood up and walked to the door, “You must support her choices. Allow her to make her own mistakes. She must learn to be self reliant if she is to survive someday. You must do this for her sake and for your family’s. And even for the mutt’s sake. Actually, especially for his sake. He’s already been through enough pain, don’t you think?”

* * *

Jacob opened his bloodshot eyes and let go of Kyle’s hand that was still surprisingly cold.

“What did she mean?” But Kyle just shook his head and Jacob knew he must still be working on her memories.

He paced the floor back and forth. He could still feel it. The haunting pain of the experiments they had done on her.

“Excuse me, sir.” Victor peaked in, “Please. There is someone to see you.”

Jacob stepped into the antechamber and knew he should have been more surprised to see Aro standing there with the rest of the Volturi guard. But he wasn’t expecting Alice with them.

“I’m sorry, Jake. They followed you to the Volturi and they captured Edward and said they’d kill him unless I showed them where you’d gone. I couldn’t find you or Nessie so I had to find Kyle instead.” He could tell she’d been crying.

“And now.” said Aro, “If you’ll please. We need to know the location of the human laboratory.”

“Arkangel Island, Russia.” Jacob said wearily, “Your trackers should be able to find my scent. It leads to her trail which will take you back to the lab.”

“Excellent.” Aro said turning before Jacob grabbed his arm and several vampire guards lunged forward, fangs ready.

“Don’t leave a single one of them alive.” Jacob growled.

“Of course not.” Aro removed the offending hand with distaste, “After we have found out how they learned about her and what they know. Using the best methods of all of course. Come along Jane.”

“Wait! I want to come too!” He barely shouted the words before the sudden blow crunched down on the base of his skull and his eyes swam in complete darkness.

* * *

Her eyes fluttered open. She was crying as she fell into Kyle’s arms. Another pair of lithe arms encircled them as Victor cried with her. And then Alice’s hand was there too, soothing her as she spoke.

“It’s alright, Nessie.” She whispered, “Everything’s going to be alright.”

“Alice.” She gasped, “I remember. I remember. I remember it all!”

“How are you?” Victor asked, replacing a strand of platinum blonde hair to it’s place on Kyle’s head.

“I’ll be fine. Just need some rest.” He grinned ruefully, “Don’t ever let me do so much at once ever again.”

Victor gave him a light peck on the lips as he spoke, “Never again.”

“Come on.” Alice took her hand and pulled her up. “You’ll wanna be standing for this next part.”

Just then the door burst open and Edward and Bella rushed in. They were followed by the whole family. Everyone was hugging and crying as Nessie spoke between gasps and hugs. And then Jacob stepped forward.

“Who’s this?” She asked smiling at him.

Before anyone could speak Jacob said, “Oh, just one of the wolves. They needed someone to come help track you down so I volunteered.”

“Well, thank you...” She couldn’t take her eyes off him.

“Jacob. The name’s Jacob.” Bella said her voice almost cracking.

“Jacob.” Nessie said it as if trying it out for the first time, “Thank you, Jacob.”

“No problem.” He stepped aside and the mood was somber and quiet as every eye was on the two. Then he nodded to Jasper who instantly lit up like a lightbulb and everyone was suddenly delighted and happy again. Almost everyone.

As Jacob stepped away he made eye contact with Kyle being led out by Victor. Kyle met his eyes and mouthed the words ‘so sorry’ as Victor said, “Heartbreak. Also... from love.”

* * *

It had been the hardest thing of all. Starting over. Pretending not to know everything about her. Not spending time with her like he’d used to. And what made it worse was that after looking for her for three years he now had to pretend that he didn’t even care that she was back. It was torture. But it was the sweetest kind.

She would blush furiously every time she saw him. He could tell she was putting effort into looking nice when he came over. Something she had never done before. Was she falling for him?

But after talking to everyone about it he realized that even that was not as great. Because he would have to tell her the truth. That he had known her all her life. That he had always loved her. Almost never left her side. It could break the spell. Everything would be as it was. Everything would be, as she had put it, gross.

But he didn’t have any other choice. He had to be himself with her. And that was why he had asked her to meet him in the coffee shop. And as he finishes his story she doesn’t say anything. She just looks out the window at the gulls gliding over the grey, frozen waters of the bay.

“So... say something. Please. Anything.” He begs.

“I....” She pauses as if looking for the right word. “I...”

“You...?” His heart is racing and his hands are clammy.

“I had suspected.” She smiles coyly finally meeting his gaze.

“You did?” He blinks in surprise.

And this time she laughs, “Well, you mean besides the fact that you knew where everything in my house was like you’d lived there for years. And besides the fact that I found our initials carved in the wall under my bed. And besides the picture I found from when I was five that shows me riding a wolf with the words Nessie and Jake written over it?”

“Oh.” Jacob blushes to his roots, “I thought I took care of all those.”

“But more than all of that.” She holds her coffee cup with both hands, looking down into it as she speaks, “There is this feeling. Like a warm... almost like a glow... that runs through all my happiest memories. And it’s the thing that kept me going through... through all of.... anyway... the only time I feel that. Is when....”

“Yes.” Jacob is anxious as he leans forward, wrapping his tan hand over her small pink one.

“Is when I see you smile.” And her own smile spreads out to mirror his.

“So does this mean...” He feels lightheaded with joy.

“Yes.... yes, I think it does...” She laughs and stops him as he leans in for a kiss, “But let’s do this the right way. Maybe start with a date.”

Everyone in the coffee shop is startled and shocked as the massive man jumps on a table, hooting and laughing and pumping his fist. The girl at the table is covering her face with her hands, blushing and laughing at him. From far across the ocean, three old women smile at each other as if seeing the scene in the coffee shop. And in an abandoned cathedral Victor takes Kyle’s hand and whispers, “Joy... it also comes from love.”

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