3

It had been a warm sort of day for winter, and the air smelled of sublimating snow. Fresh, swampy sort of springtime-ish smell. I loved it. Vermont winters are soooooo long! I craved spring, though I knew it was still a long ways off. As the snow was becoming rather soft, I found it quite difficult to walk on top of it. Legolas I was not. (I had to read The Lord of the Rings last semester in literature class, and there was this one character who was supposedly so in-tune with nature that he could walk easily on snow without sinking. I told my professor that I found that to be very unrealistic, but he just sighed and said I had missed the point of the science-fiction genre.)

I took the shortcut through our dense forest. The trees were massive and thick. Luckily a path had been pressed down by the foot traffic of a few brave souls which had been traveling here all winter. It was much easier going. I could go as fast as I liked, and it was so good to be outside and back in my wolf-form.

I halted about halfway along the path. Something felt terribly wrong. All the hairs along my back stood up at once. I felt a pair of ominous eyes staring at me. I began scanning the trees, searching among the shadows for what I knew was there watching me. An okiulf. The feeling was unmistakable.

This was not good. The tiny heart in my chest raced frantically. I squinted into the darkness, attempting to catch a glimpse of the beast. Far off, I heard branches crackling as something large moved away from me. It would be gone in a moment.

I ran towards the sound. Jumping off of the path and into the forest, the travel was much slower. My luck of course ensured that I landed directly into every sinkhole in the woods, jumping in and back out. I had to bound with a great deal of noise and energy to advance anywhere. I heard the snow crunching wildly as I pursued. It grew faint. It was running, and it was already very far away. I had to give up. I sighed. Another night my friend.

In about fifteen minutes I was outside of the old farmhouse Marcus called home. Instead of approaching by the front, I figured I'd go around the back. The porch was completely open. Whenever I am in my wolf shape I practically know everything. Smells and sounds are greatly enhanced. I could smell the rabbits in their hutch, well, I could smell their poo anyway- and believe me, it was highly unappetizing.

There must be a better way, I thought to myself. I scratched at the door and Marcus was instantly there, giving me an all-knowing sort of look. Cheeky. Sometimes I wanted to bite him. Maybe sometimes he wanted to bite me, too. But then I heard a very familiar voice from just inside the door. Walter was there! What was my boyfriend doing way out here?

"You were right Marcus! Her hunger has finally gotten to her"

While that was true, I felt a little indignant that they had been placing some sort of bet about me. How rude. Didn't they have anything better to do? I entered the house with as much dignity and poise as a werewolf can, and again took my human form.

Able to speak again, I raised my head and gave them hell.

"If you must know, I'm not here because I'm hungry. I came here to let you know that I've seen an okiulf just now. Well, I didn't actually see it, but I felt it. So there." I said in my holier-than-thou voice.

Neither of them bought it.

"Okay, well, we'll just throw this pizza out then, seeing as you aren't hungery and Walter and I don't do the food thing anymore." Marcus said, making ready to throw a big square box out the door.

"Ahhhhh! No, don't throw it away! I'll eat it!" I grabbed the box from him. They both laughed at me, but I didn't care. I was in warm Italian-style heaven. Obviously, they had planned this ahead of time, but only a small part of me cared. Thank God I didn't have to eat a bunny.

With my mouth full, I explained between bites "But I really did sense an Okiulf just now. It was out in the west campus woods."

"I was afraid of that." Marcus explained "It means that He isn't far away. He's probably planning to build himself an army. We definitely need to keep training."

"That sounds good" I agreed "And maybe Walter can train with us too, now that Walter's... a" I paused "A vampire" It was really hard to say that.

Walter looked at me hard. There was still love in his eyes but he seemed different. "Molly. There's actually something we want to talk to you about. I'm having a really difficult time transitioning into this. You have to understand, that day... when it happened to me" Walter looked troubled "I wasn't ready for this. This isn't me." He motioned to himself, and looked like he was ready to cry. He sat down on one of the kitchen chairs and covered his face.

He began to explain in a somber tone "I was at the townhouse yesterday, alone."

He continued "Then Tom walked through the door. An animal inside me awakened. It was only a split second, but I thought about attacking him, Molly. Me. Imagine me hurting someone. I shouldn't be around anyone. I just... shouldn't be around. I shouldn't exist at all. "

I didn't know what to say. Walter didn't like being a vampire. He almost seemed suicidal.

Marcus interceded "It's always like that, for the first year or two. As time goes by he'll find excellent self-control. He'll be okay. "

"No. Can't you see- he's unhappy!" I said. Guilt flooded over me. I was the one who had begged Marcus to change him as he lay dying. Walter must hate me now. He certainly hated himself.

"Relax Molly. It's not your fault." Marcus said "Really if you're looking for someone to blame, blame the Dark One. He's the cause of ALL of this."

"But there must be something we can do" I insisted. "Maybe I can help. I could change him into what I am, that way he can choose when he wants to be human." Okay it was a long shot, but I wasn't thinking clearly.

"I don't think so." Marcus said quietly. "Once it's been done, there's no going back."

There was a creepy finality to that sentence.

Was that it then? No going back?

"I'll just have to... adjust" Walter lamented sadly.

This was heart-wrenching. Poor Walter. He'd been so happy as a human. Now he was miserable.

"But Molly" Walter looked at me carefully. "I can't live in the townhouse anymore. I put in my paperwork today"

"Where will you live then?"

"He'll be staying with me" said Marcus

Hmmmm. That was almost funny. The two of them under one roof. Living together. They looked so strange side-by-side. Marcus was a good deal taller and leaner, with darker features excepting his eyes. Their choices in clothing couldn't be more different, Marcus dressed rather fancy all the time- he certainly never wore jeans. Walter constantly wore jeans, and usually Star Wars t-shirts. Marcus seemed wilder, more dangerous; and despite his change Walter still looked a thousand times more human. His movements were much slower and less graceful than Marcus-the-phantom.

"Oh. You have it all planned out then?" I stumbled "I... I'll miss seeing you at the townhouse" I stared at Walter, feeling both longing and concern for him.

I wondered about our relationship, about a lot of things. A great sadness washed over me. Marcus, who I suspect then broke his promise of not reading my mind, came over to comfort me. He sat me down at the kitchen table and went to pour me some water from the sink tap. I was a train wreck. At least I wasn't crying... yet.

I looked across the table at Walter, who was trying not to make eye contact with me.

"Do you still love me?" he asked

I didn't hesitate "Very much."

"Really?"

"Yeah"

"Then we'll make this work... somehow" his fingers traced lines on the linen tablecloth and then he placed his hand over mine.

I heard a long sigh up at the sink. I turned just as Marcus' eyes broke contact with me. He looked at the ground and placed the water gently in front of me.

"I'm going outside for a bit" he said softly

Again Marcus looked at me before closing the door. I smiled at him, and he bowed slightly. Seeing those deep green eyes, I felt tiny little butterflies in my stomach.

Something told me that my world was far more complicated than I imagined, the depths of which I had never before suspected.