The next day we are woken early by Beta Mateo. Hopping in our car, we follow him as he drives to the outskirts of the small town. The house is more of a cottage with a large veranda out the front and a gravel driveway; it is cozy, nestled amongst the trees. Hopping out of the car, I make my way inside, along with my father.
Beta Mateo unlocks the green wooden door before handing the keys to my father. “Are you sure you want to live all the way out here? There are plenty of empty places in town that may better suit your needs.”
“No, this is perfect. Thank you Beta,” my father replies.
“We are of the same rank, and honestly, you have been doing this a lot longer than I have. You could probably show me a thing or two. Just call me Mateo, and welcome to the Pack,” Beta Mateo tells my father before patting him on the shoulder.
He walks down the steps to the lawn before he stops beside me and sniffs the air.
“You smell different from most wolves,” he observes, studying me and I stiffen.
“What do you mean?” I was proud of myself for sounding normal, though inside my stomach is tied in knots. What if he can smell the difference on me just like his Alpha can?
“I don’t know, just different. I can smell you’re a wolf, but your scent isn’t very strong. Also, something else, your scent reminds me of someone,” he says, his eyebrows furrowing as if he is trying to figure out who.
“Anyway, I will let you get settled in. Don’t forget, Pack runs are mandatory and on Friday evenings at 6 PM sharp. I know you have been excused this week, but it would be good to introduce yourselves to fellow Pack members. We are a tight-knit community, and the rest of the Pack will feel more at ease with newcomers that attend. Something to think about,” Mateo tells my father, who nods. I hurry up the steps with a box from the truck in my hands.
“We will try our best to be there on Friday,” my mother reassures, staring me down as she walks up the porch steps toward me. I nod before following inside.
A giant fireplace takes up most of the room. Its dark black bricks stretch all the way to the ceiling and it spans an entire wall. The flooring was some sort of solid wood. It is stained dark-brown, almost the same black as the bricks. The whole place reeks like it has been locked up a little too long.
My mother rushes from curtain to curtain, throwing them open and cracking the windows to let the outside breeze in, and the stagnant, smelly air out.
I escape the living room and into what looked to be the kitchen. At least it wasn’t as dated as the rest of the house apparently was. Granite stone countertops, black stainless steel appliances, and even a small kitchen island bench sat in the center. I am going to like this room.
A few of Alpha Ezra’s men help bring in the furniture, and my parents unPack. Carrying a box from the truck to the back end of the house, I find my room, the smallest one right next to the bathroom and the window overlooking the forest surrounding the house. My parents’ room is down the hall and has an ensuite. Overall, I like it.
After we dragged everything inside, I went to my room and start putting my bed frame together, and one of the Pack members helped bring the rest of my belongings into my bedroom. Placing them along the wall that has the window overlooking the forest. We spend the rest of the day unPacking and cleaning and making the place feel a little more homely. By the time night comes, I am exhausted and fall asleep before I could even eat dinner, only to wake up in the middle of the night.
Going to the kitchen, I flick on the light, grab a glass of water, hop up on a stool, and stare out the kitchen window. This place is quiet, unlike our last place, which was on a busy road. I like the quiet, fewer people to evade and it feels more comfortable without neighbors prying into our lives. Yet as I rinse my glass, movement outside makes my eyes dart to the forest edge. I blink wondering if my eyes are playing tricks on me as I lean forward. A huge black wolf stands in the forest staring directly at me. I rub my eyes before pressing closer and peering out. My breath fogs up the window. Only the wolf is now gone. Thinking I must have imagined it or that my mind is playing tricks on me, I shake off the weird experience and leave the kitchen, flicking the lights off.
Once back in my room, I climb back into bed. I pull my purple duvet with the generic lavender flowers on it up to my chin and snuggle into the pillow until I find comfort. I try to fall asleep, yet the wolf I saw keeps replaying in my mind. Who was it? We are pretty far out. Maybe it’s the patrols checking the place. Either way, eventually I am dragged back under by sleep.
The next few days go by in a blur of getting into a comfortable routine. Monday comes around, and I get dressed in my jeans and blue T-shirt before grabbing my bag and loading my school books into it. My mother and father are meeting up with Alpha Ezra today before being assigned to their new jobs. Pulling up to the front of my new school, dread settles in the pit of my stomach. My mother glances at me in the rearview mirror. “Can I fake sick until next week?” I plead with her and she raises an eyebrow at me.
“You will be fine, and by the sounds of it, I may be working here. Just keep your head down and behave, Kat,” she cautions me, and I nod. With a heavy sigh, I open the back door and climb out of the car. I stare up at the brick building that is undoubtedly going to be like the last one, a disappointment and place of torment if they find out about me not having a wolf, which thanks to the whole mandatory Pack runs, it won’t be long before that happens and once again I will be school’s laughing stock.
I head straight to the main office and am greeted by a woman in her mid-thirties; she has straight auburn hair that hangs to her shoulders and big round glasses perched on her perfectly straight nose. Her hazel eyes look at me as I enter. A warm smile greets me and I give a small smile back.
“You must be Katya?”
“Yes, I am here to pick up my schedule,” I tell her, making my way to the office desk. She looks down at the papers before pulling out a manilla folder and handing it to me.
“Your schedule and a map of the school are in there, also a library card and your locker combination,” she explains. I open it, looking down at the schedule. My stomach drops when I realize they have training every afternoon except for Fridays.
I wonder if my mother knows that even the students train every day for two hours. Two hours of normal training and an hour of training with our wolves every Tuesday and Wednesday. Great, just great. I won’t even be here a day before everyone finds out, and I am banished. I should be a fortune teller. I knew they would find out faster. I might as well restart Packing my damn room. Maybe I can be excused for the first week, I wonder.
“Thanks,” I tell her before going to go find my locker. I put the combination in while noticing a few curious stares at the newcomer, but no one is outright mean to me, which was a relief. Putting my stuff in my locker, I grab my books for my first period, English. As I am closing the locker, I jump when I see a girl staring at me leaning against the locker beside mine. Her dark hair is cut in a pixie-cut and she has a golden hoop nose ring. Dark eyeshadow with streaks of purple and black completes her ensemble.
“Hi, you must be new here, I’m Jasmine,” she introduces herself before plucking my schedule from out of my fingertips.
“Ah, Katya,” I tell her, awkwardly, while waiting for her to hand it back.
“We have most of the same classes. You can follow me if you want and I will show you around,” she offers, passing me my schedule back. I set it on top of my books.
“Thanks, that would be great.”
“So you are from Alpha Jackson’s Pack I heard,” she says. I don’t reply. Gossip has already started, then again in Pack communities, everybody knows everybody, so it isn’t surprising.
“My father is third in command. He heard Alpha Ezra and Beta Mateo talking, so you have Beta genes?” She asks and I nod.
Not that they would do any good without a wolf.
“Your mother has quite the reputation too, the only female warrior in Jackson’s Pack. What was it like living there? Is Alpha Jackson as strict as the rumors say?”
“Um, it was okay, just like any other Pack,” I reply with a shrug.
“Yeah, well Alpha Ezra hates Alpha Jackson, I was surprised to hear he actually let someone transfer over. Your parents must have pretty good reputations, we haven’t had any newcomers in a few years now, the Alpha is very wary of who he lets in. There were even whispers that he was regretting his choice of allowing any new Pack members, so your parents must have impressed him,” she tells me. He didn’t seem wary of us. He wasn’t like anything I expected honestly. I thought I would be locked in the cells or banished by now, so her words make me a little uncomfortable. Jasmine stops by a green door and motions toward it.
“This is our English class, Mr.Tonks is nice but don’t be late. He hates tardiness.”
I look inside the classroom and unlike the classrooms back in my old Pack, everyone was chatting quietly as they waited for the teacher to arrive. My old Pack, the students did whatever they liked and were loud and uncontrollable most of the time, so I was a little surprised to see everyone on their best behavior. Jasmine pulls me to an empty desk at the back and I sit beside her. She points out a few different groups of kids chatting.
“That group over there are safe as I like to call them. They won’t cause any trouble,” she cautions, pointing to a bunch of kids talking amongst themselves. They look a little nerdy, not that I care. I was also a bit of a nerd.
“Now that group over there try to avoid them, the blonde girl her name is Angie and she is a real bitch, also Queen Bee of the school as you can probably tell, just try and coast through the middle like I do and you should be fine,” she says before pointing out a few other smaller groups. A few minutes passed before the teacher came in, who thankfully didn’t make a fuss about there being a new student, instead he set straight to work writing on the whiteboard before telling us to copy it.
The day passes by in a blur and, for the most part, I did what Jasmine advised, and kept to myself. At lunchtime, I sat out on the oval with her watching as students and teachers set up the training grounds. Nausea fills me knowing I am about to do two hours of training, when suddenly I spot my mother walking out onto the field along with Alpha Ezra.