Chapter 1: I'm Never Going to the Mall Again
"Casey, there's a Hadford in the toy store."
I looked up from my giant food court cinnamon bun and saw Mackenzie leaning on the table. "Fwuh?" I asked around a mouthful.
"A Hadford, a Hadford!" The little girl fidgeted back and forth anxiously.
The Callaway kids tried to go on outings together often. Today, we had chosen the mall.
And, admittedly, running into the Hadfords was an unfortunate coincidence. But I really didn't get why Mackenzie had come to me with her problem. I wasn't exactly a pillar of strength and intimidation - if she wanted that, she should've fetched the older Callaway son, Tom.
"Are you sure they're Hadfords?" I asked hopefully.
She nodded resolutely. "One of them is Neil Hadford – I recognize him!"
I shrugged, feeling helpless and wishing I could have a chance to finish my cinnamon roll. "Well, it's a public mall, Mackenzie. Sorry, but there's not much I can do."
She tugged at my arm. "Come with me. I'm scared."
I could tell she wasn't going to give up, but I still didn't want to be the one to go with her. But when I looked around and didn't spot any other teenaged Callaways, I knew I couldn't just send Mackenzie off alone.
"Oh, fine," I grumbled, and left my cinnamon bun abandoned on the food court table as I allowed her to drag me to the store.
Trying to stay low profile as I was towed by the hand across the mall walkway, I maintained the lame hope that we could make it in and out of the store without any interaction with the Hadfords at all.
But we hadn't even made it into the shop yet when Mackenzie paused in the doorway, fawning over a display of little motorized dogs. They were the kind that did flips.
Looking ahead to scan the store, I didn't see any other customers. I thought I heard voices, though, down one of the aisles on the right; I thought it was the aisle with the toy racecars.
My voice low, I urged, "Hey Mackenzie, let's just hurry up and go get you some…" But here I floundered. What toys were popular these days? "…Lincoln Logs?"
She frowned at me. "I want more horses."
Right, that's what this one collected – model horses, with little stables and things. "Ok," I relented, "so let's get you some horses and go find the others, ok?"
"Yeah," she nodded.
I liked Mackenzie. Of all the young Callaways, I considered her to be the most mature for her age. She was only nine years old, after all, and yet she knew the concept of sticking to a plan.
As she steered me to the section with the toy horses – blessedly on the far left side of the small store – she suddenly paused at the mouth of the aisle.
Picking up on the voices in the car section, she craned her neck in that direction and said, "Ooh, so is that where the Hadfords went?" She tugged my hand insistently. "I just want to go look at them. Up close, just for a second."
Ok, so scratch all that – I didn't like Mackenzie. I hated her, apparently.
"Mackenzie, no," I whined, while still trying to sound authoritative.
She was pulling away from me though, and her youth coupled with her animalistic instincts made her pretty dang nimble. "I'll be quiet," she promised.
And she raced off for the car aisle, with my only choice being to stumble after her.
And in this fashion, Mackenzie and I respectively raced and stumbled right into the view of the cluster of three Hadfords. We both quickly realized this, and froze uncomfortably at about the same time.
"Um, hey," I said lamely.
I looked around briefly; sure enough, we were surrounded by little die-cast cars and playsets with bright orange racetracks. I was good at predicting toy store layouts. That was some good news, I guess.
I also observed that all of the three Hadfords were male. One was roughly Mackenzie's age, and the other two were roughly my age. In other words, we didn't stand a fighting chance. That was the bad news.
"Hey," one of the older Hadfords said back. He was blond, and he said 'hey' kind of ironically. He was clearly very confident, even when confronted with a Callaway like me.
Not that I was very scary to begin with.
I cleared my throat. "Whoops!" I said, my voice coming out awkwardly despite my throat-clearing, "This isn't the horse aisle! Oh no. Let's just go look somewhere else."
I tugged pointedly on Mackenzie, but she wasn't budging.
Instead, she was busy glowering at the group. The little kids, like Mackenzie, weren't allowed to talk to Hadfords.
Actually the bigger kids, like me, weren't allowed to talk to Hadfords either. My peers, though, were of the age where it felt good to stupidly provoke them on occasion.
"Um, Mackenzie-" I tugged again, to no avail.
There would be no stupid provoking from me. I just wanted to leave. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the little girl to cooperate. I could practically feel the tension congealing in the air.
The littlest Hadford decided to break up this awkward moment by making it even more awkward. "Are you a Callaway?" he asked curiously, looking to me.
"Um, yes," I said shortly. When a Callaway conversed with a Hadford, they usually ended up fighting, and I did not want to get in a fight.
"Hm, I don't think we've seen you around before." This came from one of the teenage Hadfords – he had black hair, like the little boy, and was alarmingly muscle-bound.
I knew what this meant. He was saying that they hadn't seen me involved in the many scuffles, altercations, disputes, rumbles, brawls, and catfights they'd had with Callaways in the past.
Well, it was simple, really: violence wasn't my specialty, and so I stayed in on nights when there were talks of a fight. I was one for flinging generic insults, not throwing punches – or scratches, as the case may be.
I decided not to explain myself to the Hadfords, though. "So which of you is Neil Hadford?" I asked, only mildly curious.
"That'd be me," the blond teenager volunteered with a lazy raise of his hand.
Neil, as the pack leaders' son and a literal Hadford, was sort of infamous. I was just happy he hadn't turned out to be the scary muscular one. Of course, I would've been happier if he wasn't there at all.
Gesturing to the other teenager, Neil went on, "And this is Parker."
I shifted awkwardly, but felt myself shifting into catty-mode. I wasn't here to make polite conversation with some Hadfords, after all. "Ah, ok. Right. And so you were, what, just enjoying a day on the town with all your… wolf lackeys?"
Ok, admittedly, I wasn't even very great at flinging generic insults. But he could probably tell I was trying to be impolite, which was kind of the point anyway.
Neil frowned. "Sam, go play," he said evenly to the little boy, giving him a push. Sam did as he was asked, leaving me with just Mackenzie and the two older Hadfords.
I swallowed. Maybe I shouldn't have provoked him. I didn't want trouble – well, not unless it was the normal kind of trouble, the human kind. Violent werewolf drama wasn't my scene.
Reluctantly, I said, "You too, Mackenzie – find some horses."
The kid seemed to know something was about to go down, and did as she was told. Great – now she listens to me.
With both children gone, an uncomfortable silence took hold. Neil's eyes roamed over me for a second, before zeroing in on the silver chain at my throat. His tone was sour when he commented flatly, "Nice necklace."
I reached up to tug self-consciously on the silver cord, grasping the blue metal tag hanging from it. "My face is up here," I managed, failing to inject much humor into my tone.
Parker laughed shortly anyway.
"Look," I said, "I didn't exactly come here looking for a fight-"
"Really? That's not how you sounded a second ago, so maybe you should watch what you say in front of the kids." Neil was doing all the talking. Either he was higher in rank than Parker, or he was the kind of jerk who always took charge of conversations.
It was probably both.
I gritted my teeth; I hated being interrupted. Despite my claim of coming in peace, I snapped, "As if that kid hasn't seen and done worse every full moon."
Neil stepped toward me in an intimidation tactic that worked. "That little girl you were with – does she even know what she's capable of?"
I hated Hadfords and their stupid tendency to pick fights. The Callaways may have liked to provoke them, but they provoked us right back tenfold.
I gritted my teeth and tried to answer civilly, "I guess not, but she probably isn't capable of anything anyway. She's only, like, nine. She isn't likely to phase at this age."
"Not that you would know if she could. I saw the silver on her wrist."
I bristled. "If she didn't want to wear it, she wouldn't. Nobody's forcing her to do it or anything; little girls like jewelry."
Parker scratched his ear and turned, murmuring something bitter-sounding to Neil. I couldn't make it out, but I heard at least one word I was glad Mackenzie wasn't around to hear, along with the term "domesticated." Neil laughed shortly and nodded.
"Look, I told you-" I began loudly, but thankfully my tirade was interrupted.
"Is there a problem here?" I turned to the opening of the aisle for the source of the voice, and saw Courtney addressing me. Mackenzie was with her – she'd probably gone to get help, which put the kid right back in my good graces.
Courtney was the only other Callaway girl even close to my age. Because of this, I wish I could say we'd bonded or become BFF's or something of the sort. Unfortunately, though, we were just too different.
Don't get me wrong – Courtney was an alright sort. It's just that she was big into celebrity gossip and going to parties and finding the latest fashions. And she sometimes targeted me with catty comments, especially when boys were around – not often, but often enough for me to sort of resent her. In her eyes, the fact that we were the same age seemed to make me her competition.
When things were bad, though, we Callaways had each other's backs. Courtney was definitely a sight for sore eyes.
After all – unlike me, she'd had plenty of catfights in her day, and she could definitely hold her own.
"Courtney," Neil said shortly by way of greeting. I looked back over at him and his eyes were narrowed.
"Hadford," Courtney nodded back.
Uh oh. This could get violent. Actually, I had the impression that it already had between them. Probably on more than one occasion,
Well, not today, I resolved. "It's fine, Court," I said. She glanced at me blankly at my use of a nickname, so I added, "…-ney…"
Courtney just pulled out her cell phone, and looked at Neil as she asked me, "Should I call Tom?"
"No, let's just go." To punctuate my suggestion, I started to walk out of the aisle.
"I don't even need horses today," Mackenzie offered gallantly, even though no one had asked her about it. I nodded and kept walking, but just ended up passing the other Hadfords; they hadn't started moving yet. "Guys?"
"Keep your distance, Hadfords," Courtney warned the boys, giving her practiced Mean Girl Glare. She didn't use that one on me too often, so it always amused me to see others on the receiving end. Courtney was good at what she did. "Let's go." With a hair flip, she took the lead.
Unable to resist, I turned back to the Hadfords and raised a fist in the air, mouthing, "Girl power!" and following after Courtney. I was a total coward, being a jerk just because I had back-up; but dang, it felt good.
I was feeling much less brave as we went to meet up with Tom, and I walked with the others to the outdoor parking lot. As they pulled away, I was practically shaking in my ballet flats. I was parked elsewhere, in the underground level, and started entertaining paranoid thoughts about angry Hadfords lurking around corners.
It had probably been a bad idea to act all smug. I didn't want to draw any personal attention from the Hadfords, especially given my lack of fighting skills.
Life always became more hectic for anyone who got caught up in the Hadford-Callaway conflict. This was why the adults encouraged the minors to leave each other alone; things were tense enough in the older crowd without adding teenage brashness to the mix.
It was always unfortunate, of course, to have two separate werewolf packs living in one area. This was the most unfortunate case of all, though, because we happened to be two packs with an overwhelming tendency to argue.
The Hadfords were… free spirits, for lack of a better term. They believed in being one with their inner wolf. They phased often, and they reveled in it. To them, their wolf sides were an important part of their heritage.
We Callaways were more civilized. We tried to suppress our animalistic sides, and offered help and support for werewolves who just wanted to lead normal, human lives.
I had become a Callaway when I was fourteen.
Thirteen was the age at which I'd discovered that I was a werewolf. As with most wolves, my phasing was dormant until I hit puberty. After that, though, I converted to my wolfish state whenever my heart rate ran too high, as well as on each full moon.
I got it from my dad – he was a werewolf, while my mom was not. We all had yet to pin down the exact genetics of wolfishness.
As soon as my dad settled down with my mom, though, he had become unaffiliated from any pack. He wanted to stay grounded in his human nature and lead a normal life – which is what I was attempting at the moment, too.
Since my dad was getting on in years, he was used to handling it. He was also used to keeping in a state of zen, to keep his heart rate in its human range. And because he'd phased often in his youth, his wolf nature was somewhat subdued now that he'd gotten the hang of it. When he inevitably changed on each full moon, he was typically in control of himself.
I had never inherited this control from him.
The year during which I started phasing was the worst of my entire life. A transformation was never easy for me – everything was a blur, and the memories that did remain were gory and traumatic in nature.
I was determined to put an end to the werewolf business once and for all. My parents, of course, recognized how resolute I was, and they supported my decision one-hundred percent. After all, it was clearly the safest and most reasonable choice.
So my dad started to make a lot of phone calls.
He had no trouble finding old werewolf buddies, but he did have trouble finding anyone who'd bothered to research methods for containing a savage teenage werewolf.
Finally, the Callaways heard of our plight through the grapevine and contacted us.
They were heaven-sent. Mr. and Mrs. Callaway, the pack leaders, had spent their years of marriage building – and containing – their own little werewolf family. Their two sons, James and Tom, had inherited the wolfishness gene.
Young wolves were notoriously hard to control, but the Callaways were the first we'd heard of to even try. And not only did they try; they were successful.
After experimenting with old werewolf lore about weaknesses to silver, they discovered that the metal was useful in suppressing the entire wolf half of someone's nature. Whenever in contact with silver, a werewolf couldn't phase. Even on the full moon, a transformation was prevented.
The only consequence to all of this was that the longer a wolf went without phasing between forms, the more divided they became from their second nature. They began to lose their supernatural strength and heightened senses.
Most Callaways counteracted this by phasing only on full moons, to sate their wolf natures. Personally, I resisted ever shifting at all. I found that it didn't make me feel much different to just wear the silver all day, every day.
My parents and I decided to move to the Callaways' hometown, to join their pack. It symbolized a fresh start, and allowed me to spend the remainder of my adolescence surrounded by young people who shared and understood the problems I lived with.
It was a more or less peaceful existence, aside from the tiffs we had with the Hadfords.
Now, as I walked alone to my car, I couldn't stop thinking about how often the Hadfords phased. They were bound to be very strong, even just in their human forms.
It was a Wednesday, so the parking garage was nearly empty of cars, and entirely empty of people.
It sucked being a girl. Girls had the presence of mind to realize when they were vulnerable, whereas guys were so oblivious they could walk to their cars alone in dark, concrete structures and think nothing of it. At times like this, I almost missed my own werewolf strength.
I reached into my purse and pulled out my keys, singling out the little remote for my car and holding it at the ready. With quick, purposeful strides I made my way closer to the driver's side door.
I jumped about a foot, my keys slipping from my grasp and landing somewhere at my feet with a loud, singular jingle.
I whirled around to see the blond Hadford leaning against the car two spots away.
"Oh my god," I gasped reflexively, pressing a hand to my heart. "You made me drop my keys." Which, ok, probably wasn't the smartest thing to point out. I stooped quickly to pick them up.
Neil Hadford was just standing, watching me now. I hastily pressed the unlock key once – unlocking only the driver's door. I opened the door and braced myself behind it, preparing to swing inside. It was only at this point that I felt brave enough to demand, "Why did you follow me down here?"
He raised one eyebrow and drew a hand out of his pocket. He was holding his keys. "This is my car," he said, gesturing to the shiny little black thing he was leaning against.
Oh. Sheepishly, I asked, "Ok, so why are you still here?"
"Because now you're making conversation with me. It would be rude to leave."
"I am not talking to you," I said, even though it was kind of an oxymoron.
"Whatever." He shrugged, apparently unfazed. With a little chirping sound, he unlocked his own car and circled around to his door. "Later, Callaway," he said, and I wondered if it was a threat.
Failing to put a filter on my mouth, I snapped, "That's not my name."
He paused in climbing into his car. "Ooo-kay, but I don't know your name, do I?"
Oh. He was right – he'd introduced himself and Parker, but I'd never volunteered my own name.
And just like that, I was sheepish again. "Right." I shuffled my feet and started to turn to my car.
"Well?" he prompted from behind me.
I didn't know what he was looking for. "Well, bye?" I tried, turning back around to him.
Neil rolled his eyes. "What's your name, Callaway?"
Oh. Right. Yeah. Maybe I shouldn't tell him, I considered, even as I heard myself telling him, "Casey." I was just that together, mentally.
And as I got into my car and pulled the door shut behind me, he was saying, "I'll see you around then, Casey."
Even at the time, I hated him for saying that. He sounded so careless, but there was no doubt: I would be worrying over his parting words for at least the next week.
And I hadn't even gotten to finish my cinnamon bun. Going to the mall officially sucked.
((A/N: I'm bad at categories, so please let me know which subcategories you think this belongs in! Also, please please please review.
I'm psyched for this story, and have most of it done at this point. Just filling in the gaps!
Also, sorry for all that explanation in this chapter. Ugh, so much text with no dialogue. I tried to keep it relatively painless, though!
Original posting: 9-2-09 // 3818 words))