Chapter 2:

I walk into classroom 120A and glance around for a seat. I'm about to sink into my usual school-induced stupor, when I see Joan Park across the room, waving me into the empty seat behind her. Thank God, I mean, at least I'll have someone to get me though homeroom.

Ah, homeroom. As if we didn't find school horrible enough, someone had to come along with the bright idea to give us an extra class for us to "improve our study habits". Even Joan hates it, as she's about as gung-ho about school as anyone can get. Joan is another one of my friends…ok, my only other friend. Its not like have a whole group or anything. Joan is a cool-nerd type. I mean, she's smart and everything, does all her homework, and will probably get into every university she applies to next year, but she's also a bit of a knockout. Well, she has the potential, anyway. Joan is petite, and has this mass of red curly hair that practically glows. Even though she's shy, she's so kind that everyone likes her.

Just thinking about her makes me realize how weird we must look together, Joan, Cassie and I. All different, and yet still best friends. Have I mentioned how weird my life is?

Anyway, as I sit down behind Joan she leans back and starts telling me about this campaign she's starting, to save an endangered weed or something. Joan is huge environmental activist. It's the only thing that gets her to come out her shell.

"Did you know that some scientists suspect that this flower could hold a cure for countless diseases, and yet we are still destroying thousands ever year through pollution and destruction of land?"

"Really?" I say out of semi-polite interest. Hey, she puts up with me, and the least I can do is reciprocate, right? But I'm not really listening.

Just as she starts to get into the scientific part of her cause, the part I definitely won't understand anyway, something happens. It's like the room has gone dark all of a sudden, and I'm the only one who notices. I can hear something too, like a whispering, only I don't think I'm hearing it with my ears. It's not a good feeling either; I swear if I were wolfen right now my hair would be on end.

Through the fog of my mind I realize that Mrs. Knight is walking into the room with a student in tow. It's this sallow-skinned boy, wearing really ratty, oversized clothes. His face is really gaunt, like he hasn't eaten enough for a very long time, and when he lifts his hand up to scratch his head I realize that his arm is just skin and bone. The feeling is getting stronger now, and the whispering in my head is louder. I could swear its coming from the boy.

Then he looks up, straight at me. He has the palest blue eyes I have ever seen, like someone washed the colour right out. I recognize the feeling now; its hunger. Overwhelming, rip-off-your-own-arm-and-eat-it hunger. Murderous hunger. The boy's face is sullen, but his eyes are angry and defiant. I can't look away.

Mrs. Knight says something to him, and he turns, breaking his hold on me. Just then, Joan jabs me in the shoulder.

"Kes? Kes? Hey, snap out of it!" I look up.

"What?"

"You were completely zoned out. Are you ok?"

"Yeah," I mutter, "I'm fine. I just got lost in my thoughts for a second." I look around. The light is back, and the whispering is gone, but I'm still in full freaked-out mode. Whatever that was, I did not like it.

"Well pay attention" Joan whispers, "we've got a new student. His name is Viktor Wilson. His family's got to be pretty desperate, moving out here, don't you think?"

"Desperate…definitely."

Lunch at Oakbridge High is the same as at every other school; the horrible food, the randomly arranged tables, the social hierarchy obvious in all its glory. Thanks to Cassie, our table is part of the "socially acceptable" half of the cafeteria. This leaves us to eat our lunches in peace, without the derisive comments the other half is subjected to. As usual Cassie and Joan are already there, eating and chatting idly.

"So, you want to hang this Friday? Mom's going to some conference thing out of town, so I'll be stuck with Dad and Alex unless you guys can rescue me." Cassie waves to get my attention, then turns back to Joan.

"Ok, cool. We can rent movies. I've been dying to see that new romantic comedy."

"You're always dying to see a romantic comedy, Cassie. Hey Kes. Where's your lunch?" Joan asks as I slip into my seat.

"I'm not that hungry," I reply, "So, I hear we're hanging out at your house Friday?"

"Yup, you free?"

"When am I not free? Its not like my ultra-important social life is taking up all of my time or anything." Cassie rolls her eyes at my sarcasm and is about to reply when something behind me catches her eye.

"Who is that?" I don't have to turn around to know who she is talking about, because that feeling has started up again. The hair on the back of my neck is standing on end, and so I'm only half-listening when Joan explains to Cassie about Viktor. In fact, I don't start paying attention until Joan stands up, and starts gesturing.

"Jo, what are you doing?" I hiss at her, ashamed by the panic in my voice.

"Calm down, Kes" she whispers back, "Viktor just looks so lonely. You might not know what its like to be the new kid, but I do. The guy could probably use a friend."

Why, why, why does Joan have to be nice now? I can feel the panic building up inside me, and I'm not one prone to panic, or cowardice. There is just something about that guy that makes me want to run the other way. One thing about being a wolf has taught me is to trust my instincts, and right now they are screaming run.

I keep my eyes focused on the table as Viktor sits down, refusing to look up in case I get caught in his eyes again. That was definitely not an experience I would like to repeat. After an awkward pause, Joan starts up the conversation again.

"So, Viktor, what brings you to Stillwater?" Viktor looks startled for a moment, and then glares down at his packed lunch: a salad and carrot sticks. Even in my panicked state I can see how repulsed he is by the vegetables in front of him.

"Um," he mumbles. His voice is deep and gravelly. It sounds almost like a low growl. "My mother wanted to live somewhere…quieter. She doesn't like the city."

"Well, its definitely quiet around here, right guys? I mean, there was that wolf-kill they found in the woods behind the school last spring. It caused a controversy for months. I still can't believe some people wanted to go and shoot those poor wolves, and in a national park of all places." Joan insists on bringing this up at every opportunity, since she was one of the main activists in support of the wolves. This comment manages to finally force me out of my stupor.

"I told you last spring Jo, that wasn't a wolf-kill. It was coyotes. Just because some old farmer saw a wolf right before he found the carcass doesn't prove it was a wolf who left it there." I was the wolf the farmer had seen, since the rest of the pack won't go near the "human dens", which is why this is such a sore subject with me. If it wasn't for people like Joan the pack would have been hunted down and shot, all because of me. Not exactly one of the happiest periods in my life.

"There are wolves here?" I had forgotten about Viktor, who had gone even paler, if that was possible.

"Sure," I reply, "We are right next to a national park. Most of the time they keep to themselves, though. They're nothing to be scared of." Viktor just stares at me, his eyes unreadable.

"I have to go" he stammers abruptly, and bolts out of the cafeteria.

"What was that about?" asks Cassie. I shake my head, momentarily stunned.

"I have no idea."