She couldn't tell me. Vivian couldn't tell me who he is, not yet, anyway. It's like finding out I'm going to die tomorrow but unaware of how and when. Walking home from school was a nightmare—the anxiety weighing on me, the fear of seeing his eyes in the brush. That's all I know about the dark thing now, that it is not a thing, but a He. Was the Waindale Academy shirt his? Why is he watching me? Does he want to hurt me? Do I know him? How long has he been here? None of these questions have been answered. I've only been given the unimportant, meaningless knowledge that it is a He. And, I suppose, that he is a werewolf like Vivian and Imogen and Eli. It makes me wonder about Elara, though. What is she? What is any of this?
Looking up from my plate, I'm faced with my mother and Grandma. "Aren't you hungry, Dear?"
"Um." I glance back to my untouched food. "Yeah, sorry. Just have a lot going on at school, that's all."
They watch as I fork some potatoes into my mouth, watch as I chew with no apatite at all.
"Alright. Well, are things getting better with your friends? Have you met anyone new?" My mom asks.
"Actually, Vivian and I are talking again. She's including me more, so I think I'm getting over what they did."
"Oh, that's good. Maybe I can invite Tali's family over for dinner one night, then. What do you think, mom?"
Grandma nods. "Yeah, of course. It would be nice to see her again."
After dinner, I finish homework and take a shower. With a towel wrapped around my body and my wet hair sticking to my skin, I take a moment, looking in the mirror. For the past few days, ever since Vivian revealed her secret and showed me that fantasies are real, I've been trying to cope with it all. It's hard to comprehend—that people can shift into giant wolves. Are vampires real? What about witches? When I was young, I wished and wished that I would meet a fairy.
I dress in my bedroom after finishing up in the bathroom. My curtains are open, and I immediately think about those yellow eyes. I walk over to close them but wonder if he's out there right now. There's a feeling in my core, a feeling that just knows he is. My eyes scan the tree line.
When my mom and Grandma have gone to bed, I yank on my jeans and cover up with my hoodie. The pull in my chest is too strong to ignore, so I slip out the front door and wander toward the pine trees.
Crickets sing in the background as I enter the forest. The fear that I felt days ago—the fear I had towards this person has withered away and has been replaced with curiosity. A gentle breeze flows high up in the branches of the trees, bringing a calming sound to my ears, making the darkness not so dark. The pulling in my chest grows stronger, and suddenly I know he's here.
I suck in a sharp breath when I turn. The large black wolf with those electric yellow eyes is stood there, unwavering. It's big—bigger than I thought, bigger than Vivian. Its eyes don't leave me, not for a second.
I breathe out and see my breath smoke into the crisp night air. This is a delicate situation, one I could never be prepared for, but the scent of this wolf and the warmth in my heart takes my worries away. Everything is foreign to me. I feel like a child—there's so much I don't understand yet.
I step forward and the wolf moves. "Who are you?" I ask, my voice soft.
The wolf turns and walks.
It stops, looks back at me, then runs off into the trees and the brush until I can't see it anymore. My eyes are glassy, wet and confused. I didn't want it to go, and I don't know why. It has a hold on me.
Back in the house, I eat. My stomach makes noises that are of a natural disaster, and I eat until I've filled up all that has been emptied. Afterward, I go to bed. I sleep deeply and right through my alarm. My mother's hand wakes me as she resorts to shaking.
My eyes open.
"My god, Wren. I thought you were dead."
I spot Vivian at school. I push through the few students in my way and latch onto her. It's been three days since I've last seen her, since she revealed herself. She turns swiftly and relaxes at the sight of me. "Oh, Wrenley—"
"I did," she says. "I talked to people, and I was right, I got myself in a lot of trouble."
"Is that why you've been gone? Did they—do something to you?"
Vivian crosses her arms. "Look, the bad news is that I have to keep my mouth shut from now on. I could have been rejected from the pack. I could be a rogue right now, but my friends defended me. I'm sorry, Wrenley, it's just not my place."
"Then whose place is it?" I ask with more desperation than I would like.
She takes a long breath. "His."
"So you can't tell me who he is?" She shakes her head and I say, "I saw him last night. In the forest."
"I had this feeling in my gut, so I went out into the trees and he was there. A giant black wolf, the yellow eyes, everything. I tried to ask him who he was and he ran off."
Vivian nods and paces a little. "I mean, if I can't tell you, if no one can, then you'll have to figure it out yourself. You're going to have to try and get through to him."
A girl passes and we wait for her to walk far enough.
"Get through to a wolf?"
"He's not just a wolf, Wrenley. That's just his shifted form—most of the time he's human like us and he's going to be—" Vivian stops herself. "Just try again, okay?"
"What if he doesn't come back?"
"Trust me. He will."
Part of me wants to find him. I don't want to face a frightening wolf—I want to face a human. If I'm right, he goes to the academy, but Vivian makes it sound like that isn't an option. Last time I was there, I got kicked out, and I don't even have the shirt anymore. I'm glad it's gone, though. It felt weird to have some guy's shirt under my pillow.
I walk to the beach after school, not having a shift at the diner today. The dirt path that I followed my second day here is the one I take, but there are no worries in my head about seeing something. I feel like I've seen everything at this point. Two huge werewolves—what else can scare me in these woods?
The water is gloomy. It rises up on those many little pebbles and drains back down. I stand at the water line with my hands warm in my jacket. My eyes watch the rising and falling again and again until the distance calls to me. There's nothing—just inky water that looks unforgiving. My eyes trail along the horizon until they reach the cliffs. Green and jagged. The needle-like rocks below stop anyone from cliff-jumping. Waves crash up against the base like its slowly wasting the mountains away. Slowly.
I gaze up to the top where monstrous trees stare out at the ocean. One day I want to hike up there and stand at the end and look out as they do.
As I climb back up to the road, the rocks and pebbles beneath me give way. I collapse onto my hands and knees, feeling my palms scream. My jeans protect my knees, but when I look at my hands, tiny little scrapes flush red until blood dots out. I pick the rocks from my skin and avoid rubbing my hands on anything until I get home. Grandma helps me clean up and sprays the terrible, stinging antibacterial spray. My face scrunches up as she does so.
"Just like when you were young," she says, amused. "Do you remember when you fell off the clothesline?"
"Yeah, I do. I stayed off it, didn't I?"
"Nothing works like a little pain, Dear."
When I sneak out into the forest tonight, he isn't there. I can feel it—there's an absence of something inside of me. Not wanting to give up, I wait for an hour then ultimately decide that it's far too cold for this. My butt has started to ache from the boulder and is missing the comfort of my bed. Knowing how well I slept last night, I'm eager to get into bed. It's anticlimactic, though. I lay there for a few hours until my mind finally shuts off.
Saturday, I have a shift at the diner. Laura welcomes me in and says that I'm looking better. An hour or two into serving, the door chimes and in walks Vivian and her friends. She waves to me. They gather at a booth and I quickly bring them menus.
"Hey, guys," I say, surprised.
Elara and Eli are on one side while Vivian and Imogen are on the other. "We know that you know," Imogen says. "Even though we didn't decide to tell you, it's about time, I guess."
Vivian gives a guilty smile. "At least we don't have to keep secrets anymore, well, that many secrets."
"Does she know about—" Elara starts.
Vivian interrupts, "No. But she'll get there. Did you see him last night?"
I shake my head. "No. I went out, but he wasn't there."
"That's okay. Maybe tonight then."
I set down the menus, discouraged. "I mean, am I supposed to keep doing this every night? What if I don't want to? Why can't you guys just tell me what the big deal with this guy is?"
"We aren't allowed," Eli says.
"Because of what?"
Imogen looks me in my eyes. "Because he said so."
"So what? You guys just let him push you around?"
Vivian can't help but laugh a little. "We don't really have a choice, Wrenley."
"That's ridiculous. Maybe I don't want to figure it out then. Why would I want to know someone like that?"
"Trust me," Imogen says, "we wish we could just say it."