Escaping across the borders isn't easy, but when I get across I don't stop running. I strip my clothes and shift, hair spurting, bones moving, cracking, my jaw being remolded, paws growing, nails hardening, eyes changing, glowing, I become a beast. With my clothes trapped in my teeth, I run. I am a monster lurking through the night, I am a girl desperate to live.
I don't know where I am going, all I know is that I have to leave. So I am.
By the time the sun begins to rise, I spot something in the distance, a clearing. A road. It was my first time on a road when I had journeyed to the Grant Pack, and seeing one again gives me hope. I hurry to it, making sure to shift and change beforehand just in case any cars come along.
With a racing heart, I study it. Gazing off in each direction, walking alongside it until something in the distance grabs my attention. A car comes speeding down the road, and I hold my breath as it passes me. I watch it until it disappears, then my mind flourishes with new possibilities. A first, I planned on finding my way back home, back to my mother, but now I know that I need to follow that car.
I shift back in the woods, hidden by a few trees but still able to see the road. I follow it for many hours until the sun stretches to the top of the sky—energized by the unknown. I slow down when I spot a sign standing a few meters from the road, and I have to leave the trees to read it. Welcome to Fairview. My body grows warm. I don't know what Fairview is, but I have an idea. Shifting back and slipping on my clothes, I walk back out to the road and stand in front of the sign. It is made of wood—corners damaged by the weather—and the letters are dark, bold enough for the drivers to see while speeding by. I run my hand over the letters and look down the road. There, in the distance, I can see an outline of things, of buildings. My heart picks up speed.
On a limb, I hesitantly continue down the road on foot. I know a few things about humans. I know that they don't have mates. I know that they have an intricate system and not Alpha's and Beta's and Luna's. I know that they don't live in packs, but they live on their own, controlling their own lives. I know that they can be dangerous, more so than I can be. I know that they live in cities and towns with many buildings and houses and roads and people. The more I think about it, the more of an adrenaline rush I get.
I have to blend in. I have to act how they act, but I am not sure how that is. I have seen some movies, but I have a feeling that movies aren't realistic because in the movies people always end up happy. That can't be realistic.
The road comes to a point where another crosses through it, then another, then they all cross through each other and I realize that I am getting close enough to come face to face with people. I see one in the distance. She is standing outside a brick building, leaning against the wall on a phone. As I near her I notice that she is yelling and that the building has a car painted on the side. Then in bold letters, I read Chuck's Garage. I don't know what a garage is beside one that comes with a house. And underneath that it says: Auto Body Shop. I don't know what an auto body shop is either, and I become nervous.
Not wanting to approach the woman, I cross the street and walk on the other side. On this side, I find a dirt lot then a junkyard, and none of it looks pretty. As I journey down, walking as if I have no plans to go anywhere, I notice that the town begins to come together, more buildings and more people for me to dodge. A theater, a small restaurant, a green space that looks like a park. I can no longer avoid the people, and my hands squeeze into fists when they pass me.
I find a boutique, and just for kicks, I wander inside. There are clothes on display and bags and a hat with plenty of sparkles. I find it quite ugly, but when I look to the side I see a woman with one in her hands. Curious, I run my hands over long dresses and beaded jackets, not finding any of them pretty, but simply interesting to the touch. The dress has sequins on the bottom and when I run my fingers over it, the sequins flip over and show a different color.
I leave the boutique and continue down the street, sitting on a bench when I come up to the green space.
I feel lost. I feel like I'm in a parallel universe and I don't know how to act. Part of me yearns to go back and lay in bed and read the diary and live out my days like so because as much as I want to be human right now, I'll never be. The worrying part is that I am not sure if I can go back. If they know that I've left for human society, I'll never be let back in, I'll never see my mother again. What have I done? This was a mistake. This was a mistake and I don't know what to do. I don't know how to fix it.
Panicking, I shoot up and hurry back down the street, bumping into a few people and getting groans and muffled curses in return. I want to apologize, I want to fit in, but I can't think straight anymore. My head can't focus on anything and before I know it, I'm leaning against the wall with the car painted on it, staring out at the road, trying to make my decision.
I can try and go back, or I can stay here.
I can't stay here, who am I kidding? I have no money, no friends, no shelter, no purpose? But I don't have a purpose back there either. At least there's a bed and food and a shower and my books and the diary.
But he's there. Alpha Grant. My pain is there. She's there—that beautiful woman who creeps into his bedroom. What am I doing? I have nowhere. That woman has my place in that world, the space in his bed, in his heart, in his pack—I wouldn't be surprised if he keeps me hidden and announces her as Luna.
How long have I been gone? Maybe he has already forgotten about me. Maybe he doesn't need me to keep him strong after all. The sun begins to lower into the mountains and my eyes fall to my feet. I've been gone for an entire day and no one has noticed. Swallowing hard, I drift down the road as if I am walking towards the gates of Hell, preparing for the kiss of death. What else am I going to do?
I could use a drink, that's for sure. I could use my mother right now, too. Sure, she pushed me to be something I wasn't, but she loved me. That I know. At least someone loved me. Sixteen-year-old me would be very disappointed. I'm sure she would have loved it out here in the human forest—buildings, people, freedom, independence—it's what she lived for. It's all she had to look forward to.
Another car comes rushing down the street, so I move to the side and ignore it until the vehicle comes to a halt at my side. I look up, worried, but feel the need to vomit when I see the guard—Theodore—in the front seat. "Get in," he orders, but seeing his face has me in shock.
"H-How did you—"
"Get in!" He presses, "trust me, you'd much rather be picked up by me than one of the other guys. You don't know how much trouble you've gotten yourself into," he rolls his eyes, "Would you get in the car."
I step back. "No, I-I won't."
"Look, if one of the others get to you first, they'll report you. Alpha Grant has a search out, and if they see you on human territory you'll be shunned."
"Why aren't you reporting me?"
Theodore sighs. "Just get in."
"No. I'm staying out here," I say, unsure.
"Trust me," he looks at me closely, "you don't want to do that. Who knows, he might just come hunt you down himself."
I laugh. "Hunt me down himself? What a joke. I'm sure he'll forget that I'm gone sooner or later. I don't know if you realized this, but that Alpha doesn't really care for me, even if I am his mate."
Theodore looks as if he's growing more and more impatient. "You can get in the car or be reported. What will it be?"
I glance back at the foreign town and bite my cheek. "Where are you taking me?"
"Back to the pack house. I'll say you were off on the other side of the pack wandering around, he doesn't have to know you were on human territory."
"And why are you doing this for me, again?"
He motions to the seat beside him, so I climb in all to hear his explanation. As he turns the car around and drives off, he explains. "This may come as a surprise, me being a guard and all, but I don't care for Alpha Grant either. He took an interest in my younger sister and now she's always off with him. I don't trust him with her, I mean you're his mate. I thought as soon as he found you, that he'd let her go. Sure, she'd be upset but she has her own mate to find, but now she's convinced that he loves her and that he's going to make her Luna. I try to tell her it's a bunch of bullshit, but she doesn't listen to—"
"Your sister's the girl that goes into his bedroom at night?" I cut in and he gives me an uncomfortable look. "Sorry," I murmur, "but. . . Well, I didn't see this coming."
"Well, I would really appreciate it if you started playing the role of his mate so my sister can move on," he says and I chuckle. "What?"
"Did you not hear me just a second ago? I said he doesn't care for me. He couldn't care less, actually. I'm sure he'd rather be with your sister."
Theodore rolls his eyes. "Don't you know how Mates work? Sure, he may act like he doesn't care for you, but he can't control it. There's a thing called the mate bond? Remember? He can't just ignore it. I mean, he did send out a search for you."
"But that's just because he needs me around to keep him strong, you know. All I do is sit in my room all day. That's all he wants me to do," I explain, trying to make him understand. "I'm sorry, I wish I could help that situation with your sister, but if you'd think harder you'd realize that she brings me to the brink of insanity. And frankly, I hate her."
"If you'd just—"
"He doesn't want me, alright!" I shut him up and sit back. "He doesn't want me. You'll have to come up with some other plan, but I'm sure your sister is doing just fine. It's not like he's torturing her because he's already doing that to me."
We continue on in silence, no more questions from me, and he doesn't mention her again.