I rush out of my broom closet of a bedroom, quickly hustling through the corridors to the laundry room. I don’t need anymore trouble, which meant cleaning Luke’s suit before that hour was up.
As I walk down the hallway to clean his f*****g suit for the second time, I avoid everyone and everything. Try to be as invisible as everyone wants me to be. Though those who bother to gawk at the poor orphan edging down the corridor, not one pair of eyes is kind.
Shame had already clouded my pride by the time I caught a glimpse of Delta James. I lower my eyes, hoping he hasn’t spotted me. But he always senses me coming, and he heads my way. His presence insisting that I stop. His gentle hand lifting my chin, urging me to look into his classically handsome face.
Delta James is not as big as a Beta or Alpha, but he’s still very tall and muscular, which is a given since he’s the chief trainer for the warriors in our pack. But his greatest feature is his kind brown eyes, dark brown hair, and olive skin give off this glowing warmth. He’s always been so gentle. I don’t know why he isn’t like the others.
I look into his eyes as I think of what to say, what excuse I can come up with for the mark that’s literally slapped across my face. The mark that causes his brows to furrow.
His sad eyes narrow, and I realise he already knows who placed the red mark. Hearing his tell-tale, knowing sigh, reminds me that nothing can be done about it. Being a lower rank, there’s not a lot he can do. James has always had time for me and never hurt me, but he’s also never been able to save me.
James huffs again. “Why do you insist on causing trouble?”
Me? My fault? I smirk, feeling the bite of that insinuation, though knowing better to bite my tongue. Learned after many years of no one caring to believe me anyway.
But the weight of the accusation pricks at me was enough to say, “I know I cleaned his suit yesterday, but he—” yet even this attempt at defending myself was slighted when I noticed his eyes were glossed over. I realise James is lost in a mindlink, and then soon hurries me along, knowing the repercussions if I don’t get this suit cleaned in time.
The stone walls reverberate the sound of the dryers and washing machines, drowning out any other noises as I head into the basement chamber. Here in this dark and quiet space, I like to ramble to myself. No one can disturb me. Not with all the clamour in the vast mansion of a packhouse above me, bustling with higher ranking members, warriors, and of course, orphans.
Although I wish there was somewhere else for us. It wasn’t like the packhouse was the only place for us homeless ones. In the woods surrounding the pack house, there are small but decent cabins for other members of the pack, and they are usually two-story homes with a kitchen, laundry, and everything they need. We could happily live there, away from these judgy eyes and upturned noses. But those places were all filled with other pack members. That cluster of our working society, consisting of lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, accountants and even teachers living in those perfect picket-fenced homes with their families.
All of them living that perfect, normal life that I craved.
I hum to myself and finish cleaning Luke's suit. After hanging it up to dry, I head on up to the kitchen and bump into Scarlett and Rose.
Excellent, I think to myself, trying my best to pass them quietly. This is just what I need right now.
Scarlett, like her father, James, with her deep brown skin and the splatter of freckles across her nose. But unlike her father, being part of that nasty crew who targets people like me. She is far from kind.
And not missing a beat, she purposely trips me up, and I land on the floor for the second time today.
Rose looks down with pity as Scarlett cackles like the witch she is. That bitchy attitude souring her gorgeous features, making those deep brown eyes and wavy blonde hair that sways at her waist seem less pretty. At least to me. But not to others.
Scarlett, the beautiful, tall, thin, graceful girl, who I swear could be a ballerina in another life with the way she walks. The adored wolf who has been gunning for the top position, the Luna of the pack. Everyone knows it. And since Aidan, the Alpha’s son and next in line to take his place, will be back any day now, she’s been dressed to impress.
I craned my head to look up at Rose. She’s stunning with those beautiful light blue eyes, dark wavy brown, shoulder-length hair, a fair complexion, and her facial features are just perfect and gorgeous. As werewolves, we are more beautiful than humans, but Rose is someone who takes everyone’s breath away. She is kinder but often turns a blind eye; I’ve never understood why. She is a bit taller than her best friend, thin, but she’s just as graceful as Scarlett.
Scarlett stares daggers at me, and Rose rolls her eyes at her with patient sigh. Quietly whispering, “Raven, are you ok?”
She walks over to me, helping me up. I simply nod and smile as I rush away, not wanting to be in their suffocating gravity anymore.
I turn a corner and catch my breath. Fighting the anger that is threatening to burst free, begging me to run back to them and beat Scarlett down with all of my pent up rage. But that wouldn’t do me any good. It never did. That would lead to more punishments. And Delta James would be right. It would be me causing trouble. Even if it wasn’t me who started it.
Trying to shove all this anger deep in my belly, I walk away and head to the kitchen. To keep from retaliating. To keep myself out of trouble.
Though the kitchen was boiling in its own drama. I walk in on Glenna, the head cook, who is scolding a flustered Amber for dropping the eggs. Glenna yells, “Would you like another slap?!” She is threatening Amber with the wooden spoon looming above her head. “Don’t be wasting eggs!!” She screams.
With an all-mighty slap, she hits Amber with the spoon, her freckled nose scrunching, the coils of her thick brown hair bouncing as she stutters away from the old woman. I wince as I watch my best friend getting beaten. Trying hard to conceal my glare at the head cook.
Glenna is an aged she-wolf and should probably be retired. Or dead.
Ruby cackles at me in my head with that thought. It startled me. She’s primarily sleepy during the day. Uncommon for our wolves, she’s dormant compared to Amber and William’s wolves. I always blame the lack of sleep.
I quickly help Amber clean up, and she thanks me with a smile with those full red lips and dazzling amber eyes.
We quickly finish up in the kitchen and head on out to find William in the garden tending to his loves. I giggle as he’s softly singing to the tomatoes. He looks up and glares at me, and I start howling with laughter.
“William, are you singing them a lullaby?” I ask, still laughing.
He snorts, rolling his eyes at me. “Of course, because they love it,” he scoffs.
Amber laughs, her melodic voice decries, “Come on, you two, we will be late for school. And that’s all we need right now.” She’s right, so we head off.
The high school is only a short walk away, maybe 30 minutes. The werewolves own and run that, too. That way, things can be controlled, and if something happens, it can be swept under the rug. After all, we werewolves have tempers. But we also need to mingle with the humans. As per rules and Laws the Goddess handed down thousands of years ago, we do not harm humans, but protect them. So, schooling with non-wolves is kinda a learning process of living peacefully with them.
The Spring Sun is already sweltering as we walk to school. As werewolves, we already emit a lot of heat, so Spring and Summer are one of our most challenging seasons. Everyone else gets to drive or take a bus that picks them up along the way, and we tend to miss the bus schedule, so we are always stuck walking.
As we head through the school gates and fan ourselves to cool down. I wipe off the beads of sweat dripping from my brow as I head to class. Trying to dry my sopping mess as I bid Amber and William farewell. I hate that we aren’t in the same classes.
In history, one of my favourite subjects to start the day, I sit in the front of the class and get my books out of my bag. Ms Smithe comes in, and we start the class.
Hearing Ruby snoring in my head at my love for History class, I laugh at her in my head.
Well, I thought it was in my head. Oh no! I laughed out loud.
Going beet red, I have drawn the attention of the whole class and the teacher.
Ms Smithe shoots me a glare from the chalkboard. I slink back into my seat as Scarlett stares at me and starts to mock me silently.
“Good one, you freak.” She revels in a mind link.
I say nothing, I just block her out as Ruby shows her thoughts her rear end, I hold back a snort.
I want to vanish right now. Argh, this day already seemed to be long. But seemed to progressively get worse, I think to myself as I delve into my books.
After that embarrassing incident, I ran out of class as the bell rang, so I didn’t bump into anyone. I meet up with Amber and William near the fountain.
As they walk me to my next class, I ask William, “So has your wolf, Max, seemed interested in any other wolves?” He blushes hard.
Ruby laughs and says, “Oh, he has!”
William stutters and says, “Yes, but I can’t… just drop it, please!” He begs me. Amber and I start laughing as he goes a bright crimson to match his T-shirt.
“So Amber, what about your wolf? Has she sensed anything?” I ask giving her a playful elbow in the ribs. Amber looks at me wide-eyed and shifts nervously on her two feet.
“Ahhh, drop it.” She says with a playful but deadly smile.
It is now William’s turn to start laughing and he is thoroughly enjoying himself as Amber goes beat red. She playfully swats at him and is being so high spirited.
As we walk, Amber and William talk, while I get caught up thinking about his strange reaction. I am reminded that male werewolves tend to claim their mates pretty soon after they turn 18. It is an instinct, and our kind has a strong will to find a mate and reproduce, creating wee pups to carry on to the next generation.
It isn’t unusual to see young pack members heavily pregnant straight out of school. After all, we are part animal. The Moon Goddess Selene has allowed supernaturals to be destined for one another, to find our mate. Our wolves will sense and know when we see our fated ones. Their aromatic scent is often the first indication as we are drawn to them through their unique smell. Animals have instincts, after all. Our mates aren’t always another werewolf either.
“Raven, please!” River howls in my head. “It is enough that you keep me up all night with a nightmare, but your constant yammering is doing my head in.” She groans and slinks back to the corner of my mind.
“You cheeky mutt!” I sneer as I chuckle. “I need to think!” I shoot back at her. She trots to the forefront of my mind and plops herself down. “Fine! Let's discuss this so I can get back to sleep,” she says with a yawn.
“Selene said aeons ago that our mates are our second half. They complete our souls and are often aligned with us in such a way that we become more assertive with the bond.” She stretches out as she continues.
“Most werewolves don’t find their mates straight away, so that’s why the little mixer or the Full Moon Ceremony helps. Because under the perfect moon and being fully mature at 18, we have all our instincts. We can sense our mate better.” I continue to walk as Ruby lays her head on her paws.
I can hear her soft snores echoing in my head and I shut her out for a bit to give her peace.
Amber and William are still discussing the many trees he hopes to tend to in the pack lands when he graduates. Letting that conversation fade into white noise, I stretch out a bit as I walk and admire the school grounds. It is beautiful here, surrounded by huge Peppermint trees that almost resemble Weeping Willows.
I mull over what Ruby said.
I suppose that is why we hold a ceremony twice a year under the watchful eye of the goddess, who gave birth to us. We are her children, or so the stories go.
Once a werewolf imprints on another, they must verbally claim or reject them. Shortly after they claim them, they will mark one another by sinking their wolf fangs into the soft tissue between their shoulder and neck.
The males make the verbal claims, but we need to do it civilly, as rejection can lead a person's inner wolf to go feral and kill the mate that rejected them. This happens more regularly with strong Alphas and Betas.
“I have memories of this happening in a past life.” Ruby yawns and stretches out.
A past life?
“Once upon a time, female wolves would be forced into being marked, and it was barbaric, sometimes even resulting in her death.” Ruby says without even a word of worry.
How barbaric, I think to myself.
So that would be why we started holding claiming ceremonies or gatherings like the Full Moon Ball to ensure a safe space to make these claims and commitments. The next one will be coming up soon.
Amber and William are both 18, and I’ll be 18 come the end of October, only a few days away, just before the Full Moon Ball. How I long to be swept away, far away from here and the memories that hold me hostage every night.
I snap out of my thoughts when William starts asking me questions whether Ruby has shown any signs of a mate. “No, not that I can tell.” I laugh nervously.
William shrugs and continues his assault on my mind by pointing out every single plant and tree with their Latin names and herbal uses. I giggle as Ruby snores in my head. She is splade out like a very tired puppy.
Amber has been looking at William a little differently lately, and I am not sure why. Shooting looks at him when he’s not looking. They have always been close, and I wonder if they are mates?
“Alright, guys, I’ll see you at lunch, yea?” I ask as we split off. I need to get a change of clothes from my locker.
“Yea, hun,” Amber beams at me.
I wave goodbye because, as always, William isn’t paying attention.
I head to the lockers, which aren’t typical in Australian schools. We have to pay to have them assigned to us. It is just to keep extra things safe and secure, and we carry everything in our bags most of the time.
I grab my things and head to P.E. – or what others call Physical Education. It’ll be good to let off some steam.
The rest of the day goes smoothly until I need to put my things back in my locker at 11 am, which is conveniently located out of sight up the stairs near the art class. My little personal knook, per say.
While I open my locker and stuff my books in, exchanging them for ones I need for biology class, that scent hits me. That familiar earth, rainy day smell.
The hair on the back of my neck stands up, and I gag a little. Ruby is fully alert and growls, “Luke!” She’s woken up and is roaring in my head.