Chapter 5: Guesser
Jacob lit up to rival the sun when he saw me step back into the circle of tents. He didn't get up from where he was sitting, or try to usher me closer. Apparently he was settled on a strategy of letting his skittish imprint settle down alone. I felt his eyes on me, though, while I drifted towards Kim. She was finishing an angled French braid in Pera's hair.
"Hullo, Elspeth," Kim said to me gently when she'd finished putting the tie in place around the end of Pera's plait. Pera wandered towards where the food was kept and took a bottle of juice. "Do you want me to do your hair, too?" asked Kim.
"If you wouldn't mind," I said. "I can't reach well enough to brush it properly on my own, even, let alone braid it..."
"Of course," Kim said. "You just stand there and I'll look after it, all right?" She started carefully brushing out the ends of my hair and working her way up.
It was soothing, mostly. Kim isn't Mama, but Mama's not the only person who ever does my hair, either. Grandma Esme used to sometimes, and Aunt Rosalie, and occasionally humans like Kora's mother do too. So it wasn't too strange to let Kim tease the tangles out and twist strands into a thick, orderly rope. I closed my eyes and thought of nothing.
I have a lot of hair, and braiding it takes a long time, especially for a human. Thinking of nothing had just begun to become itchily boring when Kim snapped an elastic around the end of my braid and said, "There you are, then, Elspeth."
"Thank you," I said politely, opening my eyes.
Jacob hadn't moved an inch from where he'd been when I showed up. I wasn't sure if he'd even blinked. He was just gazing at me, steadily and with a faintly awed smile on his face.
I turned away, and cast about for something else to do. I considered the bag of munchies, but I wasn't really hungry, only bottomless. There were conversations going on around the camp. I listened, trying to see if any of them were such that I might join.
"Daphne's probably old enough to activate now," Zachary said wistfully to Quil.
"Maybe she's friends with Brooke," suggested Quil, sounding sad. I wasn't sure who they were talking about, exactly, but my best guess was relatives of theirs the Volturi had kidnapped for possessing the werewolf gene. I didn't want to intrude on that converstion.
It hit me, not for the first time, but a little deeper: everyone in the pack was damaged. I'm used to Mama being damaged. Technically I lost someone too. But I've only got a few days' worth of memories of Daddy. I don't think of him very often, since Mama ran out of stories to tell. It doesn't exactly hurt for him to be gone (or not often, anyway). But any of the wolves could have relatives in Volterra, in magically enforced service to their natural enemies. Any of the wolves or imprints would be bereaved, or had simply been torn from family back home when evacuated.
The four babies weren't really damaged the same way, I thought, but the way the pack lived was certainly an odd place to bring up a child.
Cody turned out okay, though.
I listened for other, safer conversations. Emily was attempting to interest Claire in a book which Claire thought had "not enough pictures", while Sam held Paige and looked on. Maureen was nursing Natalie and telling a raptly attentive Victor about what she wanted to do the next time the pack stopped in a town; Ruth played with a battered teddy bear at her feet. Thea was chasing her little Noah between the trees.
Brady and Pera had stolen off a ways for a little privacy, but I could just spot them kissing. I did some mental math and realized that Brady would have been thirteen when he imprinted on her, and she'd have been twenty-five at the time. That seemed nearly as questionable as Quil and Claire, for all that Brady had been the one to do the imprinting. Perhaps the kissing part was a recent development.
I scrunched my eyes shut for a moment, and tilted my head back to look at the sky. Eventually I grabbed an empty lawn chair and sat next to Kim. The pack sure had a lot of stuff. I supposed that they didn't need to move too fast anymore, and the wolves would be able to carry plenty as long as they could go at a sedate pace. How long would it take me to get to New York, if I stuck with them? Maybe we could sneak onto a train or something.
Kim said conversationally, "So I hear Bella is alive after all, but Cody didn't explain in any detail. Will you tell me the story?"
"I'll show you, if you like," I offered, and she nodded, curious. When I'd done that, and Kim had exclaimed over how remarkable it was, Maureen shoved by to demand a look at my witchcraft too. Soon I had a double line of wolves, imprints, and Cody, one line for each hand, who wanted to see what I had to show them. I rotated through them all with the summary of my explanation of Mama's survival, and when no one wanted to be done with the show, I shared things almost at random. It was delicious, to have an audience and no secrets to keep.
Jacob didn't join either line, although he half-stood once when it was clear that everybody except the babies was lining up. Then he changed his mind and sat back down. Waiting for me to come to him, I supposed, even though I was letting every person in the pack have a look and it wasn't really a special thing.
Even when he had sat back down, he had that faint, happy look on his face. She's here, she exists, that's enough, was my guess as to what the smile meant - but my guess wasn't necessarily any good. I didn't know him.
I would probably need to talk to him eventually, about going to New York. He was in charge, after all.
"This memory is in Chinese," complained Thea, occupying my left hand. "I can't understand it."
"It's Swedish," I said, pausing the display. "What we're saying isn't important, I'm just showing the scenery. It's a pretty sunrise."
"But I don't understand it," she said. Jared, standing at my other hand, rolled his eyes.
"Well, I could leave out the sound, if you want," I said. "I'm fast-forwarding and the conversation was already too fast for a human to follow, anyway."
"Make it in English," Thea insisted.
"I... hang on a sec," I said, dropping my hands and thinking. "I haven't tried to translate a memory before. I might be able to do it but I have to think." It seemed like it should be possible. I'm all about making myself understood, after all: Thea can't understand Swedish, so I should be able to send her non-Swedish if I'm really doing what I think I am. Something like the way I summarized, when I showed Cody an abridged autobiography earlier... "Okay, I'll try," I said. I put my fingertips back where they'd been and rewound the sunrise conversation.
It wasn't all that interesting, only Mama telling me about what she'd been doing between nearly getting killed and running into Uncle Jasper. (Mama wavers on whether she wants me to think of him as an uncle or not, but I usually do.) She'd been doing such dull things that she could talk about it in the incomplete Swedish she had, so it had been an opportunity for me to practice. I didn't translate, exactly, not into English, but I sent the meanings of our words along with the senses and the feelings that were already attached to the memory. Thea seemed satisfied.
I was a very new and shiny amusement for the pack. They kept me occupied showing random things all morning and into the afternoon, and at last Emily wanted to know if I could teach languages that way. Everyone else drifted off to other activities. I fiddled around for a couple of hours, holding my palm to her cheek while she reported on my effectiveness patiently.
"I don't know if this is getting me through the material any faster than drilling with Pera does," mused Emily, while most of the pack were rummaging through the food supply for dinner, "but it seems like it'll stick better. Everything you send is so vivid and... and it feels true, but I don't know how much sense that makes for vocabulary words..."
"I know what you're talking about," I assured her. "It's harder to forget things you really believe."
Emily nodded. "You're a charming girl," she said. "Jacob..." She trailed off, and eyed me uncertainly. Maybe she'd been about to say something like is lucky to have you or chose well (as though he chose). "Nothing," she said. "Do you go to bed as early as Cody does? We'll need to... figure out some sleeping arrangement, before you need sleep. We don't have an extra tent, so there will have to be some squeezing."
"I'm usually asleep an hour or two after sunset." I counted seven tents, which looked like they'd hold two or three people, maybe four small people. "How are you arranged now?" I asked.
"All the pairs together, parents share with our children, and Jacob and Zachary and Cody are tripled up in the green one," Emily said. "Perhaps Jacob will put Jared on night watch - we need someone looking out for things like fire or other attacks that can still harm us even while we're hidden, before Cody wakes up and takes over by default," she explained. "And you could share with Kim. That wouldn't be too crowded, at least."
"That sounds fine," I said. "It doesn't look like rain, though, so I could just sleep outside..."
"Nonsense," said Emily briskly. "It's about Jared's turn anyway."
She couldn't possibly have missed the subtext that I prefer not to sleep in a tent with a non-Mama person, so I shrugged, supposing she had some reason to insist. If I were in a sleeping bag then I probably wouldn't disturb Kim with dream leakage.
"You'll want to ask Jacob about the watch schedule, before you need to go to sleep, though," suggested Emily. That would explain why she wanted me in a tent, if she thought I ought to talk to him.
She wasn't being even slightly subtle, so I went ahead and said, "There isn't a reason I have to check that myself. You only want me to talk to Jacob."
Emily sighed. "I don't understand why you aren't. What's stopping you?"
"I... I don't know what to say to him. He could have gotten in the line," I said defensively.
"He's giving you space because you are so obviously terrified of him," said Emily. "And you have no reason to be. You know he won't do you any harm. There's nothing standing in your way." She reached her arm behind her, and Sam was suddenly at her shoulder as though summoned by the gesture. She touched his hand, patted it twice, and I looked up and watched him bend to kiss her hairline. Emily put her arm down, and Sam left, just about glowing with satisfaction as he plucked Paige from where she'd been resting in Kim's arms.
In a low voice, Emily said, "I didn't understand, at first, what I had - what Sam gave me. I only thought that he had betrayed Leah. For weeks, I thought I was somehow being loyal to her, by hurting him. If I had your power, I would show you how much I regret it. Sam forgives me, of course. But I did hurt him. Jacob doesn't deserve to be hurt, Elspeth." And her eyes said, Please don't ruin our community by rejecting our leader.
I cringed, and glanced over to Jacob. He was still looking my way - but when my face turned towards his, the faint smile disappeared and he snapped his eyes to Emily. He frowned at her, looking disappointed in her conduct.
Oh, of course. He was too far off to hear a quiet conversation, but guilt would be all over my face, announced by magic if nothing else. Jacob would not approve of Emily making me feel bad, even on his behalf.
Emily looked at Jacob and pursed her lips, then tossed her hair and got up to join Sam and their daughter where they stood without another word to me.
I sat, tucked in towards myself as much as I could be without actually curling into a ball.
I heard quiet voices, just too soft for me to hear, and then someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up, and it was Cody, avoiding eye contact.
"Jacob wants to know," he said, "if there's anything that I or anybody can do to make you feel better."
"I just want to go to New York and find Mama," I said.
"I'll let him know," Cody said. "You can take your time. It's okay." He sighed, and went over to Jacob.
Maureen brought me one of her daughters (Ruth, the older one) and said that if I had nothing to do I could talk to her in Spanish. That kept me occupied until Ruth asked how to say "mother", and then yelled "Madre, Madre!". Maureen didn't understand that, until Pera tapped her on the arm and sent her to pick Ruth back up.
When the sun set, Cody went to bed first thing. Jared was put on night watch once others started drifting to their tents, and Kim told me so and invited me to sleep in her tent, but I said I would prefer to sleep under the stars. She gave me a sleeping bag and a pillow and I found a mossy spot, far off from the conversations of people who could and did stay up later than me.
I tossed and turned, and finally slept, to have my first night full of dreams that no one could see.
I woke up the next morning to darkness and quiet. But I wasn't the only one awake - I could see Cody, who'd apparently already sent Jared to bed. He was pacing.
"Cody?" I whispered, sitting up.
"Oh, morning, Elspeth," he said, also quiet enough to leave the sleepers asleep. He paused midstride and pivoted to look my way, though it looked like he was focusing on something over my left shoulder. "Sleep all right?"
"Fine," I said, and it was close enough. I wasn't physically uncomfortable, at least. I tried to grasp at the fading threads of dreams, but they wouldn't stick. That night's worth was lost, then, and I couldn't even tell Mama about them later.
"We're breaking camp to start for New York today," Cody told me.
"I'm glad." I climbed out of my sleeping bag and rolled it up into its case. "How long have you been up?"
"Couple hours. Do you s'pose Joham's kids have this kind of weird sleep schedule? Early to bed, early to rise, to the point of absurdity?" he asked idly, but he sounded distracted.
"I don't know," I said. "That wasn't one of the things my parents asked Nahuel when they visited him, or Mama would have told me."
"I suppose it varies, anyway, I seem to be a few hours ahead of you." He scratched the back of his head. "Want to hunt?"
"You haven't already?" I asked, surprised. "Yes, I'm hungry."
We hunted together in silence. Sticking close to camp for night watch purposes, we found no large game, and instead consumed rabbits and half a flock of crows between us. "The early bird gets eaten by the early half-vampires," he remarked offhand, plucking a wayward feather out of his hair. He didn't seem to have much attention on our surroundings.
I nodded at the comment on the birds, and said, "Are you okay?"
"Yes," he said.
I peered at him, and he shrugged and jogged back to the tents. I followed, but slowly.
No one else woke up for the next hour and a half. In that time I tried to work out on my own what might be bothering Cody, because I thought something was, even if he wouldn't tell me.
Here is how I use my power to learn things about other people.
It takes a very, very long time. It's completely indirect. There is some guesswork. There are always gaps. I can't just call up my power and point it at someone and learn who they are.
First, I make a guess about the thing I am trying to learn. Then, I think of something about myself that is like my guess. And then I figure out how I would explain that part of myself to the person, and see if the explanation refers to things about my guess. If it is, then my guess was close to right.
It's confusing, and it took me a long time to figure out. Here's how it might work. Suppose I go back to Kora's town and find her, and she seems sad. I figure out as much as I can without any magic and I decide that my best guess is that she misses her best friend who is out of town. The closest thing I have to that is when I miss people who I have had to leave behind - people like Kora.
So I think about how I would tell her the way I feel about that. If I wanted to say to Kora, "I miss my old friend Raine as much as you miss your best friend", then that would mean saying that will make Kora understand something true, because that is how my power works. Then I would know that my feelings about Raine and Kora's about her friend are the same.
But it would not make sense to tell Kora that. I'm never going to see Raine again, and Kora's friend will come home, for one thing. I knew Raine for a much shorter time and we were not as close. And that is the biggest problem with using my power to do this. It only works if I make a correct guess, and I can only make a correct guess if I have something that's sort of like what's going on for the other person.
That is how I missed what was wrong with Cody.
The others in the pack got up almost in unison, even Jared, who had only had a couple hours of sleep. After they ate breakfast, we packed up all the things in the camp. Zachary showed me how to break down a tent, and how to lash a batch of them to Sam so he could run without dropping anything.
Zachary also offered to let me ride on his back - all of the other imprints rode their own respective wolves, but no one suggested that I go with Jacob. I thanked him, but I decided to go on my own feet, like Cody did. I carried a few of the sleeping bags. I need sleep, but it's on a rigid schedule; in the middle of the day I don't get tired no matter what I do. I kept up with the wolves as we ran, listened to imprints shouting conversations at each other over the wind, and took in scenery. Once or twice I came up with new guesses about Cody, but I couldn't verify any of them.
Since we were hidden, we didn't need to avoid populated places. We ran along the edge of a highway for most of the day, and it did indeed look like the cars were driving themselves; even weighed down with cargo and riders, the pack could keep pace with slower traffic in the right lane, and I went alongside a station wagon for a bit peering in through the window. At noon, we stopped so the wolves could eat without detouring to hunt, and then piled them back up with stuff to carry and moved on again. We were in Illinois by nightfall.
To my surprise, we didn't stop in an empty place and set up tents. Instead we went into a town, and found a hotel. I asked Cody about it. He seemed to have something else on his mind, but explained, while we waited for someone to open the door so it wouldn't appear to swing wide of its own accord to unhidden people. "We only camp out sometimes," he said. "Sometimes we find unoccupied houses, or hotels with empty rooms, and we haunt them a bit. It's nice to have running water, and even if something we do is seen, it would be sort of hard to have the Volturi after us more than they already are. I mean, I guess it's technically possible, we could kill one of their wives or something," he mused. "But anyway, yeah, we're in a hotel for the night."
"How do we get into rooms?" I asked.
"Pera hides the door, unhides whoever's going in, they walk right through it, she unhides it, and they open it for us from the inside," said Cody.
"Clever," I observed, wondering where his jokes had gone. The door to the hotel creaked open, and the pack jostled through it; I was sure that this made the door appear to stick open for an unnaturally long time, but no one was likely to figure it out.
The hotel had enough empty rooms that I got my own. I helped myself to the running water. And then, before I went to bed, I decided to give up on figuring out Cody, and try my new tool for figuring out myself.
I sat on the bed, put my hand on my face, and put myself back in the blank place with two of me. I tried the idea of signing at myself, and was very disoriented to find that only one of me did it. Hello, that one signed, and I "saw" double: the one whose hands were still saw the one who greeted her, and vice-versa, no longer a perfect mirror.
I put my hand down. That was really weird. And if I didn't give my selves names, I was going to get dizzy trying to think of which did which thing. But I didn't know what to call them. Not that I was short of names - any pair of aliases would have done, or just "One" and "Two" - but I didn't know how to tell them apart so names could stick. "The one who said hello" and "the one who didn't" weren't really differentiating features.
I put the puzzle aside for later, and went to sleep.
"Elspeth!" came Sam's urgent voice from outside the room's door. "Elspeth, are you there?"
I sat up and looked at the clock in the room. It was not quite five a.m. Sam was on night watch - even in a building, there were possible avenues of attack the Volturi could use, or some other reason to move. But if it was an emergency, wouldn't he have forced the door down...?
"I'm here," I called, and I hopped out of bed to open the door. "What is it?"
Sam's face was drawn and worried. In the hall behind him, Jacob was pacing, and Pera was looking around groggily. "Elspeth," said Sam, "Cody is gone."