Life, as I have always believed, hates me.
Why do I think this, you may ask, besides obvious reasons? Well, because my next subject is Literature, and while I usually enjoy Lit, the book we're reading now is Jack London's Call of the Wild. The teacher, Mrs. Everly, absolutely detests Wolves. You can bet she's going to make it as uncomfortable and humiliating as she can.
At least (and this is selfish of me, I know) I won't be the only Wolf in class. Sara will be with me, and so will three other Wolves - not of my Pack. The cruelty won't be solely directed at me.
"So nice of you to join us, Miss Tala," Mrs. Everly quips when I arrive. She clucks her tongue when I hand her the principal's note, but doesn't say anything more.
"So nice to be here, ma'am," I reply, fake sugar coating every word that rolls of my tongue. The teacher gives me a look that says she's not pleased with my attitude, and tells me to take my seat.
"Of course, ma'am, I say, still falsely chipper. I catch sight of Sara in the back, her face full of disapproval. I shrug, and she sighs. I head in her direction, since there are plenty of seats around Sara and the other Wolves - Kyle, Jordan, and Maia. On my way one boy tries to trip me, but I deftly jump over his leg and glare at him so fiercly he shrinks back, and the smell of urine mixes with his fear. I walk away, disgusted, and eventually sit down next to Maia.
Mrs. Everly starts to talk a little bit about Jack London's life while I doodle more than take notes. I have a good memory anyway, and plus I can just sneak a peek at Sara's when we're at the house. Finally the teacher starts talking about the intricate relationships between the people, wolves, and dogs in the novel. Then she veers totally off-course:
"Of course, I'm no expert." That alone sets of warning bells in my head. Where is she going with this? "No, my knowledge of canine and lupine behavior is limited only to what I read in books," Mrs. Everly continues. "But perhaps your classmates in the back could give us some more insight."
My jaw drops as my anger rises. How dare she? My hands turn into fists as I hear the human students start snickering and jeering. Maia looks stricken and buries her head in her hands. Kyle looks away from the teacher while Jordan glares. Only Sara speaks. Her tone is calm, controlled, but cold.
"Whatever do you mean in asking, Mrs. Everly? Surely we'll try to answer your questions, but we just don't seem to know what it is." Mrs. Everly purses her lips, then smirks,
"I mean, you and your Pack live like wolves, don't you? You know how they hunt, how fast they can run. What they're afraid of." She pauses, then carries on, "You act like them." Another pause, and here, as she delivers the kicker, her voice rises until it hurts my ears,
"You are them! Wolves in human's clothing. Beasts. I bet you're just like those whorish vampires, giving themselves away like prostitues. What form do you do it in? Wolf or human? Or is it all the same to you?"
My teeth have turned into fangs, and my nails, claws. A growl rumbles in my throat, and I hear one building up in Maia's. Jordan and Kyle are snarling. But the loudest comes from Sara, which surprises me. She is standing, back arched, claws digging into the desk. Her growl and the intensity of her gaze on teacher frightens even me, though not as much as the humans. The room reeks of fear, and I want to cover my nose.
"We," Sara snarls around a mouthful of fangs, "are not. Animals." Then she shudders and her shoulders relax. She straightens up and stops growling. Her claws have turned back into human fingernails and, slowly, mine do, too. Sara's actions have calmed us other Wolves, but have left everyone else frozen.
Sara calmly picks up her books and walks out the door. The four of us follow suit just as the bell rings, leaving the stunned humans in her seats, quaking in her fear.
Of her, I have never been prouder.
I try to keep track of Sara for the rest of the day, but we have no more classes together. Finally I catch up to her at the end of school, but as I reach her I realize I don't know what to say. "Good job"? "Thanks"? It was a great job, and I should thank her. But, despite being in the same class, the same Pack - despite sharing a room together, Sara and I aren't very close. I am not sure how she would react to me complementing her. So I just keep my mouth shut and stay slightly behind her as we wait for Katie and Jack.
Suddenly, Sara turns around - to glare at me. "It's your fault, you know," she snarls. I am completely taken aback. Then, I am angry. What is she talking about? What in the world could she be accusing me of?
"What do you mean?" I growl back. Sara crosses her arms over her chest and looks down at me. She's about three inches taller than me, so she has to do that anyway, but it was obvious now that she was figuratively as well as literally, 'looking down at me.'
"Today," she answers. "In Mrs. Everly's class. That-that wasn't me." She looks away, a worried frown on her face. "I-I don't lose control like that. Not like-"
"Like me," I snarl, still angry. She's blaming me for that? Over a small slip-up? At least she didn't Phase like Jack and Katie and I did this morning. "This morning was hardly my fault, Sara. Don't go blaming me. And besides, it really wasn't that bad, not like me-"
"I got suspended for it," Sara bursts out. I stare at her, shocked. Suspended? But-that is terribly unfair! If anything, it should be Mrs. Everly who should be suspended - insulting and provoking her students like that.
"But-but why? For how long?" I ask. Sara sighs and, in a wry tone, says,
"Until Mrs. Everyly feels safe in my presence again." She sighs again. "Apparently I scared her that much. And I know what you're thinking - you and Katie and Jack got off real light, why am I being punished so much worse? Well, I'll tell you - you guys...well you nearly attacked another Night Creature. Another monster. I threatened a human." She stares at me, and for the first time I notice how pretty her eyes are -brown, with specs of gold.
"Why did you do it?" I say finally, still curious. Then, because I am still annoyed with her, I add, "I still don't see how this is my fault."
Sara's eyes darken. She scowls as she brushes a strand of her straight blond behind her ear. Her anger is back.
"Because I lost control for you," she snaps. "Because I could feel your hurt and your anger and eagerness to attack, and so I-I attacked for you." I blink, astounded. I know Pack members can feel the others' emotions, especially when we're in Wolf form, but I didn't think it affected them so strongly.
"Why would you do that for me?" I ask quietly, eventually. Why would your Wolf do that for mine?
"Because," Sara says, matter-of-factly, as if that explains everything. "I have to protect you - because you're younger than me," she adds hastily, like an afterthought. Of course, in human terms, Sara is only older than me by a couple months, but in the Wolf world, being younger can also mean one hasn't been a Wolf for as long as another. Sara has been a Wolf for three years.
I'm about to repy, but then Sara turns away and Jack and Katie arrive. The matter is dropped.
The dream starts out the same. My Wolf and I are separated by a chasm of judgement. Angela is also there, but this time she stays silent despite my pleas. After begging for who-knows-how long, my dream changes. Angela and the chasm disappear, and strange but oddly recognizable images pass by. There's Persephone, sitting in her throne of death next to her husband Hades. Another royal couple, before they are - Zeus forcing himself upon his sister Hera. Ares, in his war chariot with his sons and sister, rejoicing at the beautiful chaos around them, is quickly replaced by Psyche, seeing her beloved husband for the first time, in the secret of darkness, broken only by the wavering flame of a single candle.
All these and more (Fenrir roaring in rage, tearing at his bonds; dozens of angels hurtling toward earth much like Hela Half-Rotted cast into Niflheim; the sun goddess locking herself deep inside a cave) flash before me until I see my Wolf again; set against a forest background, she looks regal and beautiful and wild and mine. The moon, full, round, shining descends upon her and surrounds her in its luminous glow, making her seem holy and untouchable.
My Wolf lifts her head back and howls, and it is the most perfect sound my ears have ever had the grace to hear. When she is finished she stares at me.
Come and find me. I hear the words in my head. Her voice is sweet, yet rough. Gutteral-sounding, befitting a wolf. If you want me, come after me. She howls once more and turns, running into the forest. I reach out a hand, then snatch it back, frightened - no, terrified, and the dreamscape fades away like paints on an easel.
I wake up in a cold sweat. My heart is racing, and my breathing is heavy. Sara sleeps on. I don't know what to make of this dream. I feel sick, disgusted by my attraction to my Wolf - and yet, at the same time, I yearn for the sound of her howls to pierce the sacred silence of the night.