I stared at my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my hair. It was long and white, with self-cut bangs that were that farthest thing from even. Freckles ran from one ear to another, and my eyes, blue and dry from a day of worrying, seemed to beg for moisture. Giving into their whining, I splashed water on my face.
The word "worry" isn't usually in my vocabulary, but today was an exception. When I'd awakened, my father had told me that he'd be announcing something big at the pack meeting tonight. I could only wonder what that meant.
My father is the alpha of the Havenwoods werewolf pack. We have meetings once or twice a month, where we can shed our human skins and run like the wolves that we are. It's a time of celebration and wildness, where spiritual leaders can perform their chants and my father can announce things such as the births of new werewolves.
"He could be announcing anything. It's not like it has to be bad news," I told myself, setting down my hairbrush.
A nock came at my door, so I rushed to open it. When I did so, I found my friend, Roze, about to turn around. "Hello, I'm right here!" I yelled to her.
"Hey, babe. Are you ready yet? The meeting's like in twenty minutes!"
I rolled my eyes. "I was waiting for you! My dad left two hours ago and I've been ready for a while," I explained, closing the door. "You aren't really wearing that, are you?" I asked.
She looked down at her outfit, consisting of a ruffled shirt, and short skirt and some big boots, jewelry decorating her like a Christmas tree. "Why? It's better than what you have on," she replied, gesturing towards my simple jean shorts and tank top. I hadn't even bothered to put on shoes.
I watched as she pulled out Lash Blast mascara from her pocket, twisting the cap off and not bothering to wipe off the excess mess. "Come here," she said, grabbing my face and aiming it toward my eyes.
"No!" I protested, grabbing her arm and keeping it away from my eyes. "Are you trying to blind me?"
"No, make you look prettier. Seventeen Magazine gives you a free one of these with every subscription."
I laughed. "I thought those 'human magazines' were too cheap for your liking," I mocked.
Roze sighed, sticking the mascara back in her pocket. "Well I don't see anybody writing a 'She-Wolf Monthly' around here."
We began walking, continuing our conversation. "Why did you put on makeup anyway? It's going to look goofy when you change and it gets all over your fur."
She laughed. "I want to look pretty for Sam!"
"Sam's your mate. He shouldn't care what you look like."
When we reached the meeting area, there was already a huge bonfire in the middle of the clearing, giving the whole place an orange glow. My father stood next to it, running a hand through his brown hair, showing how stressed he was. He must've been looking for me.
"I have to go," I said to Roze, fighting my way through the crowd of werewolves young and old. Everyone was human now, so most of the men were only wearing pants and most of the women were dressed like me, excluding the occasional girl like Roze. When I got to my father, he breathed out a sigh of relief.
"Snow, where were you?" he asked. It wasn't mean, just a question.
"With Roze," I answered. He grabbed me by the skin of the neck like a mother animal does with her child, but with his hand and not his mouth. He dragged me over to a large rock where he made me stand next to him as he climbed on top of it.
When everyone caught sight of him up there, they all became silent and gave him their full attention. A few howled or cheered, but that was it. He started up his speech immediately.
"Wolves of Havenwoods, I welcome you to the first meeting of April. We have many announcements, most of which are good news. I shall begin with the birth of the newest member of the clan; a baby boy named Thomas. His wolf name is August.
A howl sounded throughout the area, but we were too deep in the woods for anyone to hear. When my father said wolf name, he was talking about the name a werewolf child receives to be used by his or her friends, family, and later in life, mate. Anyone else will normally address them by their human name.
Alphas and their descendents, however, are only given one name to be addressed by. Obviously, mine is Snow. My father usually just goes by "Alpha", but occasionally he is called "River".
Once the howling had stopped, my father began speaking again. "Secondly, we will have a new Spirit Event held five days from now, performed by Twig the Spirit Wolf and his grandson, Kyle."
Loud cheering and howling once again ensued, almost too where I wanted to plug my ears. Still, I howled back, feeling more animal than ever. I was ready to make the change into wolf, ready to run through the woods, chew on things, and fight with others. I was ready to be animal.
My dad spoke again. "Lastly, I'd like to announce the seventeenth birthday of my daughter, Snow. Starting tomorrow, she is open for any mate ceremonies that she might be challenged with."
My heart sank. Mate? The word sank deep into my brain, stabbing at my other thoughts until it was the only word that I could think of. It was like a virus, a parasite that churned my insides and made me feel both numb and hurt at the same time.
The cheering, wild and louder than ever before, went on and on in the background, but I could barely take notice of it. All I thought of was the word "mate". The lump in my throat seemed to choke me.
When werewolves reach seventeen, which is considered adulthood for us, they are required to find a mate. Usually, this only happens with girls, where as any boy can challenge her to be mated. Thus the ceremony ensues.
The ceremony can be done at any time and in any place until the girl has chosen a mate. During the time that she is "up for grabs" boy after boy can catch her at any time and attempt to bite her. If she both accepts the bite and bites the boy herself, some sort of spiritual mumbo-jumbo occurs and they become . . . well, it can't really be explained until you experience it yourself.
The worst part about it is that you'll be attacked by boy after boy who wishes to be your mate until you choose one. If you don't want to be his, then you'll have to get him to back off and leave you alone. He can do attack you like this anywhere he wants, excluding your own home.
I was the alpha's daughter though! I'd been told about this since before I could remember, of how even more boys than usual would search for me day and night! I'd known this would happen for quite some time, yet there was no way to prevent it. All I could do was protect myself from being bitten. I wasn't shocked but more of disappointed, seeing how I thought I would just be able to get out of this mess by pretending that it didn't exist.
The rest of my father's words barely made a sound for me. "That is all. Now, let us shed our skins and become wolf once again! The rules are the same as always: you must run with the pack and eventually break away as the night continues. It is your job to make it home yourself. If you don't come back to reclaim your clothing by tomorrow morning, shredded or not, it will be thrown away."
My father howled, arching his back and putting all fours on the ground. When he straightened back up, his bones had shrunken and his skin had become covered in fur. His nose had grown forward, his hands had become paws. He was a wolf.
Shaking his clothes off, he gave one more howl. Now, it was the rest of the pack's turn to change. It was an amazing thing to watch, as my father ran off dozens of people ran after him, attempting to join the pack's run. A few people waited to change, including me. I couldn't even think of changing right now.
My attention was caught when along came walking Salem, better known around the pack as Storm. His black hair and yellow eyes stared straight through my soul as he sauntered over to me. "Better watch out, Snow. Starting tomorrow, you're mine."
With that, he too fell to the ground, shedding his clothes and becoming wolf. His silky black fur shone brightly in the moonlight, and as he glanced back at me one more time before taking off, I gave him the death glare of all death glares; one that said, "Come at me and I'll tear out your jugular."