“Raven, where are you? You cheeky girl.” My mother sings out as I giggle in the corner hiding from her.
It was my favourite game to play. Because she could never smell me, I was able to scare Mum every single time. Watching as she searches under the wooden dining table, and then giving up with a sigh, I giggle again. And again, she doesn’t hear me.
I sneak forward while her back is turned and cleverly dodge all the little floorboards that creak in our little log cabin. I am only a few inches away from her when she suddenly turns to me. Her eyes wide and white. She must be talking in her mind again. I take the opportunity to grab her legs and let out the loudest roar I can muster.
Mum doesn’t react. I look up at her, expecting that radiant smile beaming down at me, but instead I see nothing but fear in her beautiful sapphire eyes.
My brows crinkle together as I stare at her, trying to make sense of what is happening .She's never afraid. Even when David is mean to her, she’s never backed down, even when he tried to hurt me the other day.
I freeze as strange howls erupt in the distance, howl's I do not recognise. The spine-stealing chorus of hounds makes me shake. I look up at Mama and it is frightening enough that the bowl of spaghetti slips from her hands. Shattering into a million pieces on the floor; fraying my nerves into a million more. The loud crack of the glass makes me jump.
I am shaking like a leaf and I am not sure what is happening.
I grab her hand, asking in a hushed voice, “Mama, what is wrong?” Her eyes are still white, and it feels like I don’t exist. I don’t like this game. If Mama is trying to scare me, I don’t like it.
The howls break-out again, even closer this time, when Mama finally blinks, breaking her trance. The tears that are present are foreign to me, I have never seen her cry, only smile.
“Ma...” My voice quivers and I am unable to finish my sentence before she latches onto my arm and rips me into another room. I start crying, it hurts so much.
She has never hurt me. Only one person has and I hate him; the scar on my upper thigh a sordid reminder of that jerk. With the pad of my hand, I rub the tears away from my eyes.
“Raven, Sweetheart, we need to run. Can you be a big girl for me and get your bag? The special one I always hid under your bed?” Her smile is forced and her words tense, but I nod slowly and race up the stairs nearly tripping.
The bag is black, and I have never looked inside it. Before I can get under the bed to grab it, I see the glow outside my window and then I hear the screams.
I freeze… Amber… William, their parents live just down the road. As I look out, I cover my mouth, my eyes widen, I see with horror small figures running as bigger figures follow and transform into wolves, I gasp and my legs fill with concrete, I can not move.
The fire, the glowing red and blue flames are in the trees, engulfing Amber’s house first. I watch, unable to look away, petrified by the screams. Her parents. I recognise those voices.
“RAVEN!” I hear my Mothers frantic words, but I can not run to her, I can not will my legs to move as I watch, helpless, as I watch the people I love, the pack I love, burn to the ground.
I feel a hand wrap around my upper arm and I scream, and thrash, trying to get away.
“Raven, it is going to be ok, sweetheart. We need to go,” I cry but I do not resist.
Looking out the window again, my breath catches as I notice the moon sparkling red with the smoke. Mother turns and sees it too.
A voice whispers, “Too late.” The moon glows eerily bright before going completely black, as if Selene has left us. Has she left us?
“Mama?” I ask, not needing to say everything I am feeling out loud. Because she knows.
Her blue eyes are now purple. A colour I had never seen before. I watch Mothers face morph and change from the calm woman I know to one full of anger and fear.
‘We need to go,” is all she manages as she pulls my arm.
Suddenly, I hear a crash and panting. Mother puts her finger up to her lip, signalling me to be quiet.
I oblige. I am scared, scared of the smell, that swamp-like odour… Rogues. I swallow my tears as Mama points to under the bed and hands me the backpack.
I know. Do not make a sound, so not be seen. She sprinkles a powder over my body that makes me want to sneeze, but I hold it in.
She kisses my forehead and lingers far too long. A single tear falling on my face and running down my cheek to replace my silent tears. Is she not coming back?
I slip under the bed and watch Mama’s feet disappear.
I hear muffled voices and I start humming to myself. I just wish I could go back to this morning. I don’t want this to be happening.
The voices down stairs rise, into shouts now, but I stick my fingers in my ears. The tears falling along with my silent plea, Please be ok, please don't hurt her.
The shouting increases and then I hear the crashing and banging of a full blown brawl, and I smell it. Smoke. I open my eyes and see legs that are pitch black. I freeze.
“She isn’t here.’ I hear a serpent's voice hiss. I have never heard it before. A growl is the only reply, and I know that to be a werewolf.
Where is Mama?
I wait and watch the people vanish with a click of fingers.
Sliding out from under the bed, I blink erratically at the smoke that is everywhere, I can barely see, but I keep going. Slinging the backpack across my shoulder, I race to find Mama. Maybe she ran? Maybe she is hiding?
I tiptoe down the stairs like I normally do to scare Mama. She had always said it was helpful to train and play. Now those words made sense.
Coughing at the soot I’ve been inhaling, I realise I can't seem to use my voice. Instead, I swallow at the lump in my throat.
I need to get out! My heart is racing as I beg my legs to move. I will them forward.
Through the darkness and fire, I notice a broken beam blocking the kitchen entrance.
“MAMA!” I scream, noticing her pale skin peeking out from underneath it. I race to her and lean down.
Mum, Mama…” I start tugging at her arm.. She's too heavy, the beam is on top of her, the smoke is too thick, and I can’t see much. She is looking at me with a faint smile, caressing my hand with her free arm and says, “Raven, run, sweetheart, you need to run.” Suddenly a prominent figure is behind her, the house is burning, and I am squinting trying to see. Their teeth are bared, sharp canines protruding from their lips, glistening in the light of the fire.
Once more I’m looking down at Mama, her blue eyes are now fixed and staring, a single tear slowly sliding down her usually ivory skin, glistening as it turns black. I hold in a sob, and I run.
I run as fast as I can out of the house, the pain like nothing I have experienced, my soul has been ripped in half and my only family is dead, my Mum, I can’t.. I sob hysterically, the adrenaline coursing through my veins as I try and avoid the same fate.
As I am running through the woods, my eyes are blurred and stinging from the smoke, my legs heavy as I am trying to make it to the pack house. I can hear panting behind me, and the tears start rolling down my face, blurring my vision further. Unable to see. I trip over a large branch and turn around to the opening jaws of a wolf launching at me. Suddenly, a dark figure comes out of nowhere. It is much smaller than the rogue wolf but catches him by surprise, and suddenly I can’t hold on to consciousness any longer. The pain, grief, and the fear are all too much, and the darkness consumes me.
Gasping, sweating, I wake up. My hammering heart, still lost in that memory.
These dreams are becoming more frequent, more disturbing, more vivid the closer I am to my eighteenth birthday. Tormenting me most nights, keeping my wolf and I awake, and the lack of sleep has taken its toll.
Argh, I think to myself as I run my hands over my face, lying on my bed staring at the ceiling fan, thinking.
Do I have to go back to school today? I suppose I do, I grumble to myself. It’s my last year before I graduate. Maybe then I can get away from this place.
I rub my fingers over my arms, feeling the bumps and dips that my scars create, a constant reminder of the many reasons for wanting to leave this horrible place. Scars I have not created myself, but from that sick, twisted bastard that loves to see me suffer.
Much to my dismay, I drag my ass out of bed even when my aching bones beg me to stay in it. I would rather not have to face today, but that choice has never really been mine.
Looking in the mirror, I release a languished breath, lost in the reflection. With the dream still haunting my mind, heavy with the memory of my mother’s eyes, my stomach twists as I see those sapphire blues staring back at me. The brightest eyes you would ever see. Except lately, they are dull, lifeless; a perfect compliment to the dark bags underneath.
I need sleep.
Studying myself further, I splash some cold water over my face, hoping to bring some sort of life back into it. But that is impossible. I still won’t be able to crawl back into bed. I’ll still need to go to school. Still need to face everything outside my bedroom door.
My limbs feel heavy as I get dressed. Heavy as I comb my hair. Heavy as I look at the door.
It’s the first day back since the school holidays last term. Finally.
It’s not that I hate school. I’m a good student and keep mostly to myself except for my friends Amber and William. They have been my friends since that day the rogue attacks destroyed all the houses on the outskirts of the packlands. All of the orphans were moved into the packhouse. Meaning, me, my friends, and countless others were all brought in to be fostered, cared for, nurtured by the pack because we had lost everything.
Only problem was… No one here has entirely accepted me since my mother died.
I am not sure who my father is or was. My mother didn’t have a mate, not one that she ever mentioned to me. My memories of her are hazy at best, which has always bothered me. She was the only one I could remember, yet hardly remembered at all.
I mulled over these thoughts, humming a song I knew and didn’t know to myself as I brushed the kinks out of my long, black hair. Smoothing out the silky, straight strands as I tried, again, like I always did after I dreamed about her, to recall something more, something new. Something that would remind me my dreams weren’t dreams, something that told me my mother wasn’t an imaginary comfort.
Because how could I not remember her? I was eleven when she died. Eleven isn’t too young an age to keep memories.
But the memories never came.
A painful reality, reminding me again I’m still just one of the orphans of the Red Moon Pack. One of the forgotten within the sea of others, who are part of the four large wolf packs living in the beautiful bush lands outside of the Serpentine National Park.
Orphans, along with Omegas, who have learned to blend into the background, the unseen, indebted with more domestic duties around the pack house than the children of higher ranking wolves. A cruel reality that used to bother me. Something I now try to ignore, because no one cares. It’s just… How it is.
My primary duty is laundry. I don’t mind because it means I can be in the basement by myself and not be in the way of the other pack members. I get into less trouble that way.
Amber is usually assigned to the kitchen, helping with the meal prep, and she’s a master at anything decadent. Just thinking about her chocolate cake makes me drool.
William is usually assigned to the gardens, which he loves. He has a natural eye for plants, and I think he will end up being a pack nurse or herbalist. An unusual occupation for a male wolf, but he’s talented.
I am an outcast. The girl with no rank, no parents, and nowhere else to go. And for that, I have received a fair amount of punishment. The scars on my back and arms are a testament of that ugly truth. Given to me before I got my wolf, Ruby, so they never healed. An ugly beacon of social exile that I tried to cover with tattoos; it was the only thing I could do. I didn’t bother with the ones on my back because those were easily concealed with clothing.
How did I get them?
There are a few members of the pack who hate me. Well, they act that way. David and his son, Luke.
David constantly finds ways to ensure I’m locked in the dungeon, whipped, chained, or cut with silver blades. His eyes swirl with pure hatred when he looks at me. Venom dripping from his constant taunts. Always hating on me and I don’t know why.
Perhaps he was just an angry person? From what I’ve heard, his true mate died in the fires, but he never knew who she was. Of course, these are only rumours. And of course, it could have nothing to do with his cruelness.
But tragedy does things to people. I, of anyone, should know that.
Not that it's an excuse.
Luke follows along with his father’s brutality and bullies me constantly. Because David is the pack’s Beta, and his son will most likely take his place once the Alpha’s son comes back from training next year, there’s no one I can turn to for help. Why would anyone believe me over the Beta?
So, I just keep my head down and try to stay out of trouble.
What have I done now? I twist my hands together nervously. Quickly, I finish getting dressed and head to the door.
The massive, towering man filled the doorway, looking down his narrow nose at me. His dirty blonde hair is effortlessly styled, and he’s significant for a Beta’s son with broad shoulders and muscular arms. His strong jaw flexes as he stares at me, revelling in my discomfort.
My stomach clenches, ready to turn completely inside out.
Luke narrows his pale green eyes. His thin lips flinching mirthfully. A look I know all too well.
“You call this clean!?” His wicked grin broadening as he throws a suit at me with stains all over it.
My wide eyes wander over the soiled clothes. I know I cleaned this yesterday. Unbelievable, I look over the suit again, coming to only one logical conclusion. Luke had to have done this! He stained it!
But I can’t say this.
Keeping my head low, I look at my toes, knowing I never turn my back on this asshole.
My wolf, Ruby, finally wakes up, and seeing him, punches out a low growl. “Finally. Thought you’d left me?” I chastise her.
“It's a bit hard to wake up when your nightmares keep me up at night.” She stretches out and yawns in my head. “What does this fucker want now?” she snarls lowly.
Luke laughs and pushes his way into my bedroom. My wide eyes follow, wondering why he came in. Wishing he would leave.
Not that anyone would want to come in here, anyway. It’s nothing much to look at. A mattress on the floor stuffed with hay, a small sink to wash up, and a mirror with a metal rod screwed into the wall to simulate a wardrobe of some kind.
He looks over me, and I swear, eating me alive with his eyes.
I look away, “Yes, Beta,” finally answering his question. Hoping that was all he needed to leave.
He seems pleased. “You know, Raven, I could have you whipped for this,” his words grating down my spine. Instantly nervous with the lilt in his voice. Making me physically sick.
Because this isn’t the first time he’s tried to come onto me, and it’s only gotten worse since I got my wolf last year. Because he keeps looking at me with those hungry eyes. Because he’s in my room and I have nowhere to run.
Because he’s already tried to rape me twice.
All of which have become part of the sordid nightmares that keep me up at night.
I was out for a run as Ruby, only a few days after my first shift, and the air was cold and wonderful on our fur.
As a wolf, I’m impressively big. In my human form, I’m only five-foot-three, but in my wolf form, I am nearly six foot and three inches tall which is a bit large for a she-wolf. My fur is black as a starless night sky, and my sapphire eyes are even brighter in contrast.
This was my first solo run; Ruby and I loved it.
Still getting used to my newfound strength and senses, we were running further from the pack house than I originally planned to. Running through the beautiful Ghost Gums, the air was thick and a heavy fog lay low on the green grass that quickly dispersed underneath my thundering paws.
The full moon makes the woods even more ghostly white as the light bounces off the bark of the gum trees.
This is freedom! I howl in excitement.
A sudden flash of brown in front of me pulls me out of my thoughts. Something doesn’t feel right as I pick up my pace.
I knew my only way out was to run. Female wolves are faster than males but never as strong unless they are of Alpha or Beta lineage, so it was the better decision to outrun any danger. I haven’t been trained to fight, so I try to pick up the scent. Every werewolf smells differently.
I know this scent.
It’s earthy and smells almost like the ground during a summer storm. Caught in these thoughts, suddenly its owner is in front of me. He’s used my distraction against me. Those green eyes are almost white in his wolf form.
He lunges at me, and he’s surprisingly quick for his size, nearly six foot seven and a tank of a wolf. I sprint past him. Ruby is pushing us hard and I keep thinking, Just run back to the house, keep going.
Something taps my back leg and I go down. My front paws lose balance, and I start to roll, crashing into a tree. I shift back into my human form, the blood running from my face that had just been smashed into a tree. I am naked and afraid as Luke eyes me off. I am covered in mud and leaves. I am thankful for that because his expression is hungry, aggressive. Frightening.
He shifts in front of me and I panic seeing he’s fully erect, and I start to cry. His laughter cuts through my erratic heart rate as I choke on my own unsteady breaths.
Come on, Raven, this is no time for a panic attack.
He starts whistling that soft tune, celebrating his sick need for control over me, to see me in pain. I tense up, hearing him whistling. Vomit rising up my throat. Trying to put some space between us, I back away, but only get so far, bumping into a tree. I look up and see the white bark of the gumtrees illuminating the night.
I take a second to converse with my wolf. “Ruby… What should I do?”
“Grab some mud from your body and throw it in his eyes,” she growls in response. “Then run.”
I feel sick as those words have been spoken to me before. Run.
Images of my mum's black tears flash to the surface of my thoughts.
He’s close now. I can smell him, and tears burn my eyes as I quickly grab the mud stuck to my body and throw it at his face.
“You b***h!!!” he screams as he stumbles back, slightly stunned and howling in pain. This is my chance. I shift and run. I run as fast as I can, and I don’t look back.
My mum’s voice pumping my blood, Raven, run, sweetheart, you need to run.
Luke brings me back from those memories with a shocking slap to my face. I go down, hitting the floor with a thud.
“Are you listening to me?!” he screams as he leans down to smirk in my face.
Tears sting my eyes, but I try to hold them back. I will not give him the satisfaction. He smiles that evil, twisted, thin smile and lifts my head up by propping his shoe under my chin. “You are pathetic.” He spits at me.“What I would do to you.” His voice is thick with lust. He lifts his foot up higher, my neck straining, forcing me to look into his eyes. I tense when I see his cold glower, and I look away.
I am waiting for it. The punishment. I won’t get away with ignoring him.
Suddenly, he slams his foot down. My head smashed against the floor. My brain spinning, aching, inside my skull as I fight to keep myself conscious. He laughs and mutters something about having his suit cleaned within the hour before turning on his heel and leaving the room.
I lay on the floor crying, holding myself as the tears fall onto the broken wooden boards under my face. Laying there for endless minutes, trying to console myself and find the will to move.
But I do pull myself up to the mirror and see the red mark on my face. It’s a massive welt, but it’ll heal soon. Being a werewolf has its advantages.
With the small amount of money I make cleaning and doing laundry, I managed to save up for a phone. I have to hide it because David destroyed my last one. I take a second to send a quick text to Amber:
Raven: Amber, are you ready to go?
Amber: Not quite. I still have some prep. We will probably miss the first period.
Great, bring on the day. I scoff internally as I try to pull myself together and face the day. “One step at a time, Raven,” I say to myself, pumping myself up.