I wait impatiently in the forest again, hugging myself in the cold and minutes away from kicking a rock. This is ridiculous. For some reason, I have to face this guy, and no one can just tell me what's going on because he wants to make it even more difficult. If my mom or grandma woke up, they'd think I've been kidnapped. The police may as well be out searching for me with flashlights and dogs.
Tired of sitting, I get up from the boulder and walk around. The night is still and nearly lifeless. Hardly any crickets are chirping, and the only sounds I have to comfort me are the breeze and the ocean in the distance. Ignoring the sudden crack or rustle is getting harder.
He hasn't been back since I tried to talk to him that first night—approximately three nights ago. At this point I'm exhausted, grubby, frustrated; the list goes on and on. After another few minutes of waiting, I trudge home and crash into bed, but of course, I can't fall asleep. I never can.
At school the next day, I approach Vivian with bags under my eyes that are big enough to carry her books. She looks over me and asks if I'm okay.
"No. I'm really not. I don't care about whoever this guy is. He isn't watching me anymore, so I don't see a reason to wait out there for him in the cold. You can tell me or not, either way, I don't care."
Before I can stomp off, she grabs me. "I don't know why he has to be so difficult," she mutters. "Maybe if you—"
"Does he go to the academy?" I ask, catching her off guard.
"Does he go there? Just tell me."
Vivian gives me a regretful face. "You can't go there. I really mean it. You weren't supposed to find out about that. It was his fault for leaving the shirt behind, but if you want to make things easy—"
"I don't care about easy. What I've been doing certainly isn't easy. Finding out all of this isn't easy. Having to figure things out on my own isn't easy. I'm tired of waiting around like an idiot for him to come to me. I'm going to him."
Her grip tightens. "No, Wrenley. It will only make things worse. We're supposed to watch over you—make sure you don't do stuff like that."
"Watch over me?" I question. "Since when? The beginning? Is that why you reached out to me? Is that why you needed to be my friend? Jesus, Vivian, what's going on?"
Vivian sighs and let's go. She runs her hands through her hair, nearly pulling. "Okay. Fine. I'll try to talk to him. I doubt he'll listen to me after I revealed what we are to you, but I'll try, okay?"
I'm still so confused. Instead of things clearing up, it's just getting more twisted and tangled. Finding him at the academy seems like such a quick solution, but this is a tower of cards I'm treading around; one gentle blow and who knows what will rain down upon me. As Vivian talks, I pick up new information here and there. A pack, something about rogues—I'll keep gathering clues. That's all I can do, really. I simply wait for hints to be dropped, and wait for him to appear.
If I can't go to him, how can I bring him to me? What can I do to reel this thing in?
That night, I sneak out of the house yet again. The majority of his appearances happen at night, so it only makes sense. I bury myself in the trees, my jaw clenched and fists curled with determination. The light from Grandmas porch vanishes, and I know I am far enough.
After a few minutes of standing—just as one of the poised and unflustered pines—the familiar feeling blooms in my gut. My eyes spring from rock to trunk to rotting log. "I'll tell them," I say softly.
The night whispers back to me.
"I'll tell everyone."
Something dark skulks between the trees, behind the brush. I stare, waiting to see those yellow eyes beam back at me. "I-I'll tell them what you are—what Vivian is. What Imogen and Eli are."
Footsteps sound from behind and I swiftly turn. I suck in a breath as the beast shows itself, steadily emerging from the shadows. The scent of him caresses me.
I watch until the wolf stops moving closer. When I take a step, not satisfied, its head bows. Before it dashes off having changed its mind, I continue on slowly and reach my hand out. It could very well bite it clean off if it so desires, but its eyes stay aimed at the ground. I eagerly run my hand over its thick fur. Dense and smooth—I feel again. My hand tingles slightly as an internal warmth ignites. Under my skin, something unnatural makes my eyes wet. I pull back and nurse my hand against my chest. The wolf looks to me, its mouth full of teeth inches away.
"Who are you?" I ask then realize that he can't speak. "Why don't you change—I mean, into your human form?"
He doesn't seem to like that. The wolf takes a few steps past me.
"Wait! Don't go," I say, breathless. "Vivian tells me to wait for you, but I don't know how much longer I can wait for. I want to know what's going on, and apparently you're the only one that can tell me, so, please. Please just—why were you watching me?" Its eyes don't leave me. "I can't go to the academy because you're there. Why can't I see you as a person? Why only like this? Do I know you—is that it? A-Are you my father?"
The wolf makes a low, guttural noise and moves its head to the side as if saying no.
"Who then? Are you connected to me in some way?"
It looks back at me. Without a doubt, that means yes. Before I can ask something else, the wolf walks off. As I hurry to follow it, its head snaps back at me and it flashes its teeth. Taken back, I halt. "Please," I murmur.
It leaves me. I stand alone in the forest once again.
At home, the inhuman warmth and comfort that flowed through me leaves as well. When morning comes, all that helped me fall asleep, all that made me feel human again has disappeared. It's as if whenever I see him, I'm fueled for only a short period of time.
I talk with Grandma, say bye to my mom, walk to school, but fail to find Vivian. My excitement to update her about my small breakthrough dies off after lunch. I couldn't find Imogen or Eli or even Elara. It's as if every one has taken the day off. Instead of returning home after school, I make my way into what I assume to be the center of town. Just on the water, small shops and restaurants welcome me in. I suppose this is where everyone in town vanishes to. I see the houses and the cars, but never the people, not until now, anyway.
A vintage ice cream parlor catches my attention. I walk by and peer through the window, seeing a young family as they pick out flavors. Beside the parlor is a Native American shop of spiritual paintings and carvings. In the window is a carving of a wolf and I can't help but smile.
A girl and boy walk past me and their academy uniforms glisten in the sun like lost treasure. Immediately intrigued, I subtly stalk them. I follow as they walk past the stores, onto the old pier, and to the railing. The pair look over at the water and talk. I stay a few paces behind and hide around a light post.
"I don't think he wants it, not really," the girl says.
"No. Trust me. He does."
"Well, then he doesn't make it seem like he does."
The boy shrugs and turns around, leaning back on the railing. I panic and try to hide myself more.
"When was he ever the kinda guy to show how he's feeling?"
"It's just—I don't know if he'll make a good Alpha, that's all."
The boy laughs. "That's just because you're mad he's not your mate. You're mad that you don't get to be Luna."
"Shut up! You're so full of shit."
"Either way, he's gonna be Alpha whether you're Luna or not, and if I've heard right, it's gonna be soon."
"How are we supposed to take him seriously when he's disappearing all the time now? Where is he even going? I don't trust him."
"Just don't let him hear you say that," he boy says.
My chest tightens as I quietly blend into the background. Once far enough, my mind is cluttered with thoughts and questions and a need to research. Alpha? Luna? That must be like pack and rogue. A pack of wolves; that I understand. An Alpha must be the Alpha of the pack, but I've never heard the term Luna. I thought that was just a girl's name. Maybe I should ask Vivian, but I don't know where to find her. Maybe if I just type things into my computer, something will come up. Are those students werewolves too? Are all students at the academy werewolves?
One thing at a time, Wren. One thing at a time.