The screeching noise of the alarm woke me up from my pleasant dreams. My eyes slowly opened to the darkness of my meager room. I lay on my bed for a minute, trying to muster the strength to get up. My stomach rumbled from extreme hunger. I sat up on the bed and swung my legs onto the cold concrete floor. Somewhere water was dripping, and I could smell mildew and mold. I turned on the small lamp sitting on a crate beside my worn-out bed, which is basically a mattress on a box spring. Sighing, I slowly rose, doing my best to avoid the pipes above my head. I walked over to the sink and tried my best to clean myself. I looked in the dirty mirror and touched the bruise on my cheek.
I was bad last night. I didn’t clean my aunt’s room to her standards, so she and my uncle punched me several times to remind me that I was useless trash. Sighing, I tenderly gave myself a sponge bath. ‘I am trash. I am nothing,’ I tell myself repeatedly.
‘You are not trash,’ Kaya speaks up.
I am Darcy Michelle Rhodes, and I live in the Star Valley Pack in central Arizona. I am five feet four inches tall with long brown hair and greenish hazel eyes. I am an orphan who lives with my Aunt Jean, her mate Dieter and my cousins Brandy and Miles. Uncle Dieter is the Gamma of the pack, so the third in command. Aunt Jean took me in after my parents died, and she acted like I was a huge burden, so never a kind word towards me has been uttered by her. From the time I was five, I have been made to cook and clean the house while my cousins sit around and do nothing. I live in the basement of their home. I sleep on a dirty mattress and have only a few rags as clothes.
I grew up thinking I was just human like my Aunt Jean. She got a pass because she is the Gamma’s mate, and she gave him two strong wolf pups. I am just the trash she had to drag along. Never a day went by where she wouldn’t tell me about how my mother threw her life away on my drug addict father. So I listened to everyone call me the weak trash human. Even the humans at my school called me trash. My main and worse bullies were my cousin Brandy and her two best friends Eva and Renee, and the future Alpha of the pack, Felix Mason.
‘I am trash, Kaya,’ I slurred out to her as I picked out a pair of ratty jeans and an old t-shirt to put on. I needed to hurry up and get upstairs to cook breakfast. I was hoping to sneak some food before Aunt Jean woke up and caught me eating. I was grounded from eating for three days after last night. Usually, the only food I got was at school. My best and only friend Buddy would bring extra food for me. Not that he had much to spare as he and his mother are omegas.
I get upstairs and pull out everything for breakfast. I slice potatoes and onions and get them frying while starting the bacon. Today I also decided to make pancakes, so I mixed some of those up. I sneak a few grapes to eat, all the while keeping my eyes on the door. It wouldn’t be long before Aunt Jean slinked in for her morning coffee and abuse. I also managed to sip some juice before hearing the stairs creek and my aunt’s scent hits me before I see her.
I look down at the food and ignore her narrowed eyes.
“You better not be eating, you useless wench,” She snarls as I pour her coffee and put in the required amount of creamer and sugar. “When you can behave like a good little piece of trash, then you’ll get food.”
I nodded. “Yes, Aunt Jean,” I replied.
“What are you?” She grabbed my chin roughly.
She released my chin and smacked my cheek. “Exactly. You are trash, just like your parents. My sister chose the trash life to be with your lowlife father. So that makes you trash.” She said while walking out of the kitchen.
Tears threaten to fall from my eyes, but I steel myself to keep them from falling. ‘I am trash,’ I repeat to myself.
‘You are not trash!’ Kaya yells in my head.
I thought I was human like Aunt Jean is, but Kaya started talking to me when I turned twelve. She established that she was not a wolf and that I would find out the first full moon after I turned sixteen what I really was. Buddy was the only witness to my true form. Kaya told me that when I turned eighteen, I would learn more about my true identity.
‘Someday, you will show them,’ Kaya always told me.
I am going to be eighteen in three days, and then I will be gone. I am only halfway through my senior year of high school, but I am ready to leave forever. Kaya told me that she would guide me to a better place far away from my abusers. I don’t care if Aunt Jean is the only link to my parents. I was tired of the abuse. I had earned money by doing homework for some of the popular kids in school. I may be trash, but I am smart trash, and my services were in great demand. Even my cousin Brandy had paid me to do homework for her.
“Three more days,” I smile at myself.
I finish breakfast and set it out on the dining room table just as Uncle Dieter slinks in. He is a large and commanding wolf. He has short military-style cut black hair and brown eyes. I don’t think I have ever seen him smile. He sits down, and I hand him black coffee. “Good morning Gamma Dieter,” I greet him with my eyes cast down.
He sniffs the air and looks at me with narrowed eyes. “I smell bacon on your breath,” He snarls. “I thought we told you no food for three days,” He rose to his feet with his fists clenched.
I started to tremble and looked at the ground. “I am sorry,” I whisper.
A sinister chuckle falls out of the large man, and he sits down. “I’ll let it slide this time, Darcy. But if you do it again, then you will meet the belt.”
I shuddered at the thought of being whipped again. “Yes, Gamma,” I say to him and hurry to finish getting the rest of breakfast out. Aunt Jean and my cousins are at the table scarfing down the food by the time I am done. I quickly move to clean up the kitchen while they eat. The smell of the food makes me queasy from the lack of eating it. When they finish eating, I clean up the dining room and the dishes. While completing the dishes, Brandy saunters into the kitchen.
“Did you finish my history homework, Trash?” She asks while flipping her red hair. I look up at her, and she is wearing a tight green dress with a lot of makeup on her face. The dress is hardly acceptable for high school, but the teachers don’t say anything. She is the Gamma’s daughter, after all.
“Yes, Brandy,” I breathe out.
She looks at her long painted nails. “And did you make sure it looks like I did it and not you?”
I nod. “Yes,” I tell her.
“Good. If I get a C, then I give you $20.” She smirks and walks out of the kitchen.
I finish up my cleaning and do a few more chores before running to my room to grab my backpack and rushing out the door to get to school.
Brandy speeds by me in her brand new Ford Mustang. She flips me the bird, and I choke on the dust. I kick rocks as I walk towards school, which isn’t far from the house.
“Hey Dar,” My best friend says from behind me.
I jump and let out a scream. “Goddammit, Buddy. You are going to give me a heart attack.” I smack his chest, and he mocks pain.
“Ouch,” He says with a grin.
We walk towards school in silence. Buddy and his mother, Lydia, are the only members of the pack that show me any kindness. Buddy is bullied because he walks with a limp and speaks with a slight lisp. We are each other’s solace. I hate that I am leaving him in three days, but he understands. He refuses to leave his mother, and she won’t leave the pack. His father died several years ago in a freak accident, so it's just him and his mother.
“Did you manage to get your homework done and not just Brandy’s?” He asked as I yawned.
I had been up all night doing homework for Brandy, Felix, and two other seniors. I barely got mine done before falling asleep. “Yeah, I did.”
Buddy snorted. “And who else’s?”
“Like four others,” I replied. “But hey, that’s a hundred buck towards my escape fund.”
Buddy frowned and looked away from me. “I wish I could go with you,” He mumbled.
“You and your mom should. No one treats us right here. Surely there are places we can find where people won’t treat us like shit.”
Buddy shrugged. “You know my mom. She is loyal to the end.”
I pursed my lips and kicked another rock. “Yeah. Loyalty is bullshit.”
We make it to school and part ways as we have different morning classes. I walk to my locker and get out everyone’s homework. Brandy slinks up with Felix on her arm. The future Alpha looks at me with his usual sneer, but there is something else in his eyes as he sniffs the air. He looks me up and down as I hand him the homework.
He snatches it out of my hand. “This better be A work, Trash.”
“I hope so too,” I reply.
He goes to slap me like usual but settles on pushing me into my locker. His eyes flicker to black for a second, and I swear he says sorry while walking away. Brandy lingers and watches him walk away.
Brandy and Felix had been together since junior high. Everyone, including their parents, are sure they are mates. Brandy turned eighteen three months ago, and Felix turns eighteen three days from now. The same day that I do. There is going to be a big party for him and everything. And guess who gets to work.
Sighing, I grab my books and stroll to my first class. I crawl into the classroom and head for the back corner, and sit down. I pull out my own homework to work on a few finishing touches before the bells rings. While I am writing, someone sits beside me, and for some reason, it causes Kaya to stir in my head. I glance to my side to notice Felix sitting beside me, just staring. I shudder at his gaze.
“You aren’t as ugly as I always thought,” He finally speaks. “Still smell like trash, though. Don’t you ever shower?” Felix sneers.
I try to ignore him. For some reason, his words are affecting me. For years I let them slide down my back. But today, they hurt. They even made Kaya whimper in my head. I wish I could tell him that the Gamma and his mate only allow me to shower once a week. The other times I have to make do with a kitchen sponge and watered down dish soap.
Felix reaches over and touches my hand, and then pulls back. “Damn,” He curses under his breath. “This better be a joke.”
I look at him and notice just how good-looking he is. He is tall and muscular like an Alpha should be. He has medium-length brown hair with honey brown eyes. He scratches his bearded chin and looks away from me. Kaya hums happily in my head, and I want to scold her. ‘Felix is the enemy, Kaya. He is an asshole.’ But why is he making me hot under the collar today?
The bell rings, and I turn my attention to the front of the room. “Good morning, students,” Mr. Tomlin greets us. “I hope you all finished the assignment. It’s a big part of your grade.”
After class, I rush out and down the hall towards my next class. I feel eyes on me and glance back to see Felix staring at me. He looks at me with hunger as his eyes darken, and I sense his wolf trying to surface. ‘What is with him today?’
The rest of the day, I manage to avoid him. After school, I walk out with Buddy. I have a short half an hour of free time before I have to get home to start my chores. I want to get in a short run before I dive into hard labor. Buddy walks with me into the treeline. This is a quiet part of the territory, so not many wolves come around here. Buddy and I reach our secret spot, and he turns around so I can undress and shift.
He smiles as he looks at me. “I wish I could shift with you,” He remarks.
‘He has a wolf,’ Kaya says to me.
I wag my tail at him and then take off running. I run through the trees at top speed, sometimes chasing squirrels and birds. I leap over logs and up a few rocks. I run for about twenty minutes letting Kaya stretch her muscles. I start back towards where I left Buddy and freeze when I catch a wolf scent nearby. I dive into a large burrow and hope the wolf doesn’t find me. A large black wolf walks slowly by the hole, and I instinctively know it is Felix. He soon walks on by, and I sit waiting until I am sure he is gone. I speed out of the burrow and back to where I left Buddy.
I quickly shift back into my human form and throw my clothes back on. I pant. “f**k, that was close.”
“What happened?” Buddy asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Felix was out on a run. Luckily, I scurried into a burrow in time, but he nearly found me.” I explained.
“I’m surprised he didn’t,” Buddy remarked. “How they don’t know that you are not human, I don’t know.”
‘That’s because I disguise your scent,’ Kaya stated.
“Kaya disguises my scent,” I tell Buddy.
Buddy snorts. “One of these days, they are going to see your true form, Dar.”
“Not if I have anything to do with it,” I smirk at him. “I better get home and get my chores done.” I pick up my backpack and head for home.
I get to the house, and luckily no one is home. Aunt Jean often spends her days at the packhouse with Luna Kendra and the beta’s mate Hanna. Brandy was probably somewhere with Felix, and Miles was most likely on patrol with his father. I get to work cleaning the living room and then the bathrooms. When finished with that, I start on dinner. Today the wolves shall feast on pork loin with wild rice and mushroom gravy. My mouth waters as I am cooking, and I pop some mushrooms into my mouth.
“I f*****g saw that!” I hear Aunt Jean screech out suddenly.
I jump to see her rushing towards me from the doorway. She slaps me hard across the face. “I-I was only tasting-“
Her hand slaps me again. “You ungrateful b***h!” She screams. “I said no food for three days!” She bellows.
Uncle Dieter rushes into the kitchen and sees his mate seething. “What happened?”
“Trash is breaking the rules again, dearest,” Aunt Jean tells him.
My uncle stalks towards me, and I back away until I hit the wall. He sneers in my face and grabs my wrist. “Oh, did she now?”
“Yes, please punish her,” Aunt Jean says from behind him.
Uncle Dieter drags me out of the kitchen, and I try to resist. “I’m sorry, Gamma,” I plead with him. “I was only tasting the food to make sure it was correct,” I tell him.
“No food means no food, Trash.” He drags me down to my room and throws me to the bed. I shiver as he unbuckles his belt and whips it out of the loops. “Pull down your pants.”
I do as he says and lay flat down on the bed as he begins to beat me with the belt. I bury my face in the pillow to keep him from seeing my tears. I lose count of the whips before he finishes.
His rough hands pull me up, and he sneers in my face. “Now get upstairs and finish dinner.” He drops me and leaves the room.
I pull up my pants and painfully make my way back to the kitchen. I cringe through the pain as I finish dinner. Kaya growls in my head.
‘I wish I could help you defend yourself. But I am unable to right now.’ She sighs sadly.
‘It’s alright, Kaya.’ I sniffle and plate the food and carry it to the dining room. The family is sitting around the table talking about their day. I wish I knew what it was like to have a family. They sound so normal and loving. Why can’t I have that, I wonder. What did I do wrong to deserve this life?
‘You did nothing wrong,’ Kaya says to me. ‘You were stolen from your true life.’
I clean the kitchen while they eat. I think about what Kaya said. Is Aunt Jean even related to me? I am a shifter, and she is not though she insists my parents were both human. However, I am slowly beginning to question her stories. Two humans would never produce a shifter. And from what Kaya tells me, I am not an ordinary shifter. When I turn eighteen, she says my true self will be unleashed.
After I get my chores done, I go down to my room to do homework. It’s nearly midnight when I finish. I drag myself to my bed and fall onto my bed, and fall asleep. In my dreams I am running through the woods in my animal form. The moon shines through the branches bathing the forest in silver hues. I stop by a stream for a drink and look at myself. Yellow eyes look at the reflection of the animal I see. My white fur nearly glows in the moonlight. I vow that my abusers will never see this form. They are not worthy of her. A wolf I am not for I am a fox.