Adam surprised me the next day by waiting outside the school doors for my bus, and walked beside me into the building, to my locker, to the classroom. He didn't say anything, but that was a standard between us. We had long comfortable silences together. It did surprise me that he stuck so close. Melissa eyed me at one point but his presence kept her away. It didn't have the same effect on Billy, who continued his uncomfortably stalky behaviour.
"Are you still coming over today?" Adam asked.
"Hm, yeah, sure," I agreed.
I saw Billy behind him shift to hear a bit better
"Good," Adam went back to reading his Computers for Old People book.
Billy was calculating something in his head, looking concerned or whatever.
Our eye met a short moment, and we both broke eye contact and I turned back around in my chair and got situated for class.
That school day was completely normal. Well... as normal as possible when you have an anomaly guy and a stalker of the anomaly guy. Adam was looking a bit more offput by Billy today. But in his defense, Billy was being particularly stalky. He followed Adam everywhere, bathroom included.
Adam was a bit on edge by the time the last bell rang and I shut my notebook. His locker happened to be across the hall from mine so he was always quick to meet back up with me after getting his stuff situated. I was still sliding my folder and my new book into mine when he started hovering above where I was crouched down.
"Hey," I smiled at him. It wasn't an intentional thing, and it embarrassed me but I couldn't help it.
"Hey," he responded and leaned against an unoccupied locker for a moment while I zippered my book bag and slung it over my shoulder. "Ready?" I asked.
He nodded and we walked out of the school together. We left the mowed grass and parking lots for the paved road surrounded on both sides by thick woods. Adam kept glancing behind us, uneasily.
"Is Billy threatening you?" I asked.
"Not... directly," he said. "But he's been frustratingly constant."
"I don't understand why."
"Hm?" he asked.
"I don't understand why he keeps following you. If he didn't like you I would expect him to do something. Not just... follow you around."
"I don't know. He's uneasy, and suspicious, but I don't think he'd-" He stopped himself as there were footsteps behind us. We both turned to find Billy had followed us. He looked scared, but had his chest puffed out in an attempt to cover it up.
"Billy?" I asked. "What are you doing?"
He swallowed and pointed at Adam. "You shouldn't be around that thing," he said.
Adam jaw clenched.
"Adam's nice. You and Melissa are total-"
"It's a front, Aria. I don't care much for yuo either. But you're human. That thing isn't."
I looked between Billy and Adam. "I thought I was the only insane one," I commented.
"No," Adam grumbled. He dropped his book bag to the ground.
"Uh, please don't..." I trailed off about to tell them not to fight when I saw the glint at Billy's fist. He clutched a knife in his right hand. It was small, but looked like it came out of some antique hunting shop. Real leather cloaked the handle. "Wait," I said. "There's no need for..." I didn't even know what to call this.
"What are you?" Billy asked. "My father choked hearing about you."
Adam turned to me. "Give us some space, okay?" he asked. "I don't want you to get hurt in this skirmish."
"What? I'm not gonna- we should call the cops."
"No," Billy cut in. "They would just get themselves killed in a fight like this."
"Look, Billy," Adam said, spreading his arms, "I'm human. You can stab me with that silver knife all you want, I'm not gonna... go wolf or whatever it is werewolves are supposed to do."
"Nothing about you is human," Billy retorted. He started to close the distance between himself and Adam. I was pushed back, behind Adam defensively. "And I wonder very much what you want with her. Are you a vampire? Are you gonna feed off of her?"
It sent an unpleasant shudder down my spine. Because I had woken up in their house with no memory of getting there.
"No. I don't... I don't have any reason to hurt any person in this town. Including you."
"You smacked Melissa with a tennis ball hard enough to knock the wind out of her, and when I smacked you with that racket, I saw the blood. Yet forty minutes later you looked like nothing had ever touched your face."
I swallowed. I'd noticed both of those things too, but I just brushed them off. Was Billy crazy? Or did he know what he was talking about.
"I'm not a vampire. Or a werewolf. Or a litch."
"Of course you're not a litch," Billy snorted. "You're body's as fresh and healthy as anybody else." By this time Billy was just an arm's length from Adam and I'd been forced directly behind so I couldn't see anything.
My heart pounded. I was breathing fast, and realized I was starting to panic, smothered in Adam's natural smell of pine needles.
"Please, leave," Adam said with a sense of final-warning.
I felt his body stumble back, and a stabbing sound. I gasped, knowing then that he'd been stabbed. And all I could do was keep behind him, cowering. But he didn't collapse like I expected. Just stood there.
"Wha?" Billy asked confused and then there was a loud smack and he fell back.
"I told you," Adam said. "I'm not-" he paused and I heard a sound like a key pulling out of a lock. The knife, I realized. "- a god damned werewolf. What is with hunters and their werewolf and vampire obsession."
The knife clattered to the ground next to Billy, tossed there carelessly by Adam.
"What are you?" Billy's voice shook.
Adam sighed. "You can go tell you posse to leave us alone. We don't want any trouble." He started backing up, pushing me back with him, until we'd put some distance between Billy and ourselves, when he finally turned his back and pushed me along in front of him.
"My father'll hear about this," I heard Billy call to us before we rounded a bend and he was gone from our vision.
Adam didn't stop until we'd gotten to the base of his driveway, where he finally paused. I tried to catch my breath here. But looking at him, I saw blood on his sweatshirt, concentrated around a tear in the fabric. "Uhm," I said. "You need a hospital," I told him, "Or an ambulance or-"
"My father's a doctor," he said quietly.
"From what I just heard, either Billy and I are both insane or your father isn't actually a doctor."
Adam was quiet for a while, and glanced at the road leading up to his house. "It was worth a try," he sighed. He put his hands up in surrender. "You've got me. I'm not... normal."
"But how is that possible?" My knees still shook, and even though so far Adam'd done nothing but help me, I couldn't lie and say he didn't intimidate me. Even if he didn't have any supernatural powers, he stood six inches taller and was well muscles. He'd proven he could use his strength before, and that he could manage himself. In short: he could subdue me with little trouble.
He didn't say anything, until a cold wind made me shiver harder. "Come inside," he said and offered a hand to lead me in, but I stepped back. It wasn't intentional. I didn't do it to be mean, but there was still a hurt look in his eyes.
I stood there, cold and afraid for along moment, and he slowly put his hand back down at his side.
"Please," he said. "Trust me."
I took a wary step back toward him and he led me up to the house, but didn't offer a hand again or anything. The pavement was barely wet with the chill humidity. And I tried to distract myself by counting the cracks in it, which did a decent job of easing my breathing, if not my heart rate.
He held their front door open for me, and it slowly closed on its own with whatever fancy hinge mechanism it had. He took off his shoes, and I did the same. There was silence between us as he led me into the house. We passed by the living room I'd woken up in and instead went into a kitchen which was too big for me to feel like I was in somebody's house kitchen. I shrunk back as Mr Raevin Litchfield glanced up from a book, which I instantly recognized as-
"Twilight?" I asked.
"What about..." he trailed off at Adam's appearance. "Trouble?" he asked.
"Hunters," Adam clarified.
Raevin snapped his book shut with a sigh. I couldn't figure out why in god's name an adult male would be reading a dark romance chick flick from twenty-twelve.
"Aria," he acknowledged me. "I apologize things have gotten... out of hand. We're working on a tight leash."
"I don't understand," I said quietly. "What-who are you?" I looked him over once again, but nothing spoke of inhumanness to me. There were no abnormal claws, no excessive hair or smells.
"We're uhm... it's hard to explain because there isn't a proper English word for it."
"We're called o'kehrd," Adam cut in. "Which means we're shapeshifters, among some other things."
"So what, werewolves?"
"No." Adam rubbed his temples. "Werewolves are... our prey if you want to look at it that way."
"Don't put it that way," Raevin cut in. "Werewolves can be hunted by our kind, but not always."
"What do you want with me then?"
There was silence as they both stared at me.
"What?" I asked.
Raevin cleared his throat. "You're uhm... wereblooded."
"You're parents were werefolk, and you are, too." He clarified.
"I'm not- No I don't turn into a wolf on full moons."
Adam cut Raevin off. "You aren't a werewolf. Probably not, at least. You're a werefolk. We're not sure what kind, though."
"And it's probably why your parents were murdered," Raevin added.
"That's impossible," I protested. "You can't be-" I saw the blood on Adam's shirt, and realized there was no stab wound under those clothes. And I'd witnessed the tennis racket incident as well. "But-" I sat down on the floor, and tried to figure out what was going on. "Was the wolf incident... was that real?" I asked.
"Yes," Adam informed me. "And very much a close call on my part."
"So you were there. The white wolf," I pushed hair back out of my face. This was either a very, very elaborate prank or it was very much real. Which meant my mangled arm had been real, and the wolves getting ripped apart too. I swallowed.
"Do you want to sit on a chair," Adam offered a chair at a dining table and I stood shakily and walked over to it, and sat down.
"We don't normally tell the werefolk what's going on unless it's necessary," Raevin explained. "But you're the first in a while so there's a bit of a rush."
"What do you need me for?" I asked. "You said you ate were-"
"No, no, no," Raevin cut me off. "If we chose to we could, but that's not a pleasant thought. But our oppinions are not shared by the majority of the O'kehrd. The majority- those that can make it, are currently trying to figure out what to do about you. They want to consume your blood. We're trying to keep you safe."
"But why?" I asked.
"It's not safe to have a bunch of super charged O'kehrd running around. The last time it happened humans tore themselves apart trying to exterminate them."
"But why do you care?"
Adam put a hand on my shoulder. "Eternity's a long time," he said. "You get bored of sitting around all the time."
I stared at them, trying to figure out if I could trust them. I had no idea what the O'kehrd were or what their abilities were. So far I could tell it involved healing, and one of them must have healed me after the wolf incident, and then shapeshifting into wolves... but other than that, was there anything else?
"Telepathy," Raevin said.
"huh?" I snapped out of my thoughts.
"Telepathy. We can interact with human minds in a way we can tell what they're thinking, and put messages in there, if you're skilled enough, but it's difficult and most can't do it."
"You can," I pointed out, feeling to some degree violated.
"Yes." He had started to read his book again and continued to stare at his page for a while. "I shouldn't, sorry. It's a bad habit. I'll do my best not to look in your head."
From the way he phrased it, it sounded like it was second nature to him.
"Okehrd can't do it to each other," Adam offered an explanation. "So when we're not in the human world there's no reason to hold back."
I stared at the floor. Some kind of crystal speckled tile glittered from the light above. "I'm not sure I entirely believe this is all going on."
"It's.. a lot," Adam agreed. "But its important you understand since..." he glanced down at the blood on his shirt. "It looks like we can't go under the radar this time."
I let out a sigh. "I don't entirely... believe this all. But in order for it to be a hoax..." Making a hoax out of this would requires a lot of very elaborate schemes and psychological manipulation. I looked up at Adam, who'd stayed by my side through this conversation. "Did you kill those wolves?" I asked him.
"No. I couldn't even if I wanted to. We can't... die."
"Whoa, hang on, shouldn't you start with immortality instead of shapeshifting and telepathy or whatever."
"He doesn't like the fact he can't kill himself," Raevin told me, and turned his page.
Adam shook his head. "I'm not that bad."
"Why don't you get her a mul-eht." Raecin looked at Adam expectantly.
He looked displeased at the notion, but obeyed and left the way we'd come in.
"You should know," Raevin said as soon as Adam was out of earshot. "His first love was a werefolk. He's pretty sensitive about it but she died and he hasn't been the same since."
"How long ago was that?" I asked.
"About fifteen hundred years ago," Raevin told me.
"Adam's from the Germany region, way back before it was called Germany, back in around five or six hundred AD. He was changed there."
"So you guys are humans."
"Yes. Or at least, we were."
Adam returned before I could ask him anything else, carrying a leather sheath in one hand. He offered it to me, and I accepted it but just stared before slowly pulling on the leather bound handle and an eerie feeling washed over me as the blade came out.
"That," Raevin told me. "Will stop almost any O'kehrd for a moment. Aim for any scars they have and you can bring them to their knees, giving you a chance to escape, if nothing else."
I pulled the blade the rest of the way out. The metal was dark, but almost translucent-looking on the surface as a strange blue energy traveled across the blade haphazardly. It was inset with a lighter metal with strange, archaic Greek-like symbols. Some represented the Roman alphabet, but the letters were backwards. The metal hummed dangerously in my hand, emanating an ancient power I could never describe in full.
"I'm guessing," I started. "I shouldn't let Billy see this thing."
"Who's Billy?" Raevin asked.
"Some kid part of a hunting posse," Adam informed. "He was the one that stabbed me."
"I wouldn't let Billy see that, no. In general, you should do your best not to let anybody see it."
"Okay," I agreed, I slid the blade back into the sheath and put it into my backpack.
I spent the rest of my time there trying to act like everything that had happened today was normal. Raevin went back to reading Twilight at a voracious pace, and Adam did his best to keep me entertained as the time passed. I didn't want to go home just yet. Not while I knew there were beasts out there, waiting for an opportunity to kill me.
I don't think I slept much that night either.