“It’s something else, isn’t it?”
From somewhere high above a voice interrupted Devon’s private musings. She lifted herself up from the stump she was sitting against, using her hand to shelter her eyes from the sun shining through the tree tops. As she struggled to find the male voice, it took her a minute to focus in on him. To her astonishment, Jesse was perched thirty feet up in the branches of the tree beside the one she was sitting against. Something struck her, his voice shouldn’t have sounded so clear at the distance he so casually spoke from.
“Ahhh the woods… You know something? I never enjoyed them until after the change.”
“How?” Devon’s voice trailed off, awed by how high he was and equally confused on how he got up there, remembering that she left him back in the house.
“Give me a sec, I’ll be right down.” Jesse rolled his body forward, taking a few spins as he fell from above; landing in front of her gracefully.
During his fall she pulled her fist tight, her body tensed. Devon couldn’t help but gasp.
He gave Devon the same mock bow of showmanship that he presented to Rowland back in the council room.
Back on his feet, he was smiling at her expression. With her mouth hanging open, she realized that she was gawking, but who wouldn’t if they just saw someone fall from that height unscathed.
“Aww, don’t worry,” he said, laughing. “I can’t get hurt, but its sweet you were concerned.”
As embarrassing as it was, the concern she felt for the man was real. Still, she lied. “I wasn’t concerned, I was just impressed that you didn’t split your hipster skinny jeans with that stunt.”
His face, scrunched as he pretended to take offense to her comment. “Correction, they’re eighties punk rock. They predate anything hipster by several decades and a lot of taste.” He grinned, squatting up and down. “Besides, they’re stretch denim. God, I love these modern textiles.”
Devon couldn’t help but laugh. “Wow, we are really talking fashion? Because that’s clearly the most important thing to be discussed.”
“It usually is. Well, at least in my world it is,” he replied. “You, on the other hand, I’m not so sure of yet.”
When he insisted that she wasn’t his type, he wasn’t kidding. Devon felt foolish that she was only now catching his drift. “So, why did you follow me out here?” she asked. “I was pretty clear that I wanted to be left alone to figure this out.”
“And how’s that working out for you?”
“Fine, it’s fine.” Of course, it wasn’t fine. Nothing had changed, every thought was still an unfocused mess shifting around her mind.
“Ugh. Fine. No word contains more bullshit context then fine. Only people terrible at lying use the word fine.”
What once was a beautiful moment of camaraderie between them was beginning to dwindle away. “What you are saying doesn’t even make sense. I left you in the council room, there is no way you would have made it here before me.”
“Sister, you have a lot to learn, and lucky for you, I’m here to be your guide. We can call it an introductory course to Werewolf 101.”
Devon suddenly brightened. “Hey, listen! Have you ever had one of those bad days when nothing goes right, and then you get stuck with an annoying person who keeps pestering you when you need to be alone, leaving you wanting to strangle them?”
“Look, I’m just trying to help.”
“Well, it’s not.” Devon was fed up and unwilling to retract her attempt at a sarcastic insult.
“I’m sorry, but are you always this angry? Or is it just because of everything that’s been going on back there?” Jesse gestured towards the trees that bordered the clearing, in the direction of the house.
Devon smiled, “FYI, today the strangled person is shaping up to be you. What the hell is so important that you needed to follow me – or, excuse me – race ahead of me?”
“First lesson of Werewolf 101: super hearing. So you might want to keep the whole ‘thoughts of murder’ to yourself. Everyone can still hear you from up there.”
All Devon could do was turn away from him and look up to the sky. Behind the treetops the sun had passed over, sinking lower through the branches. The air had chilled, highlighted by the vapor exhaled from her lips as she breathed. Devon assumed the cold would force her back in the direction of the house; a place she was unready to face. She could sense it, but just like the morning in the river, the cold didn’t seem to be affecting her body.
“Just…go away, please.” These words could have been spoken to either Jesse or to the situation as a whole. If only she could just whisk away reality so easy. Maybe it was the exhaustion in her voice that reached through to him or maybe it was just the ‘please.’
“Fair enough, look I’m sorry. It’s just my nature to be a smart ass when things are tense. I just thought that I could be more relatable to you then those stiffs up there.”
Devon reminded herself that there is no leaving this situation, and she could really use all the friends she could get. Who knew what kind of life Jesse had led, and how did he come to be part of this mess; maybe he was here under the same circumstances as her. Suddenly, she felt a cold touch of guilt for the way she had been treating him.
Jesse placed his hand on her shoulder. “I’m here to help you, not make your life worse. I keep forgetting that I wanted this life. I even searched it out and got to choose. It’s shitty that you weren’t given the same opportunity. Which super sucks, by the way. I don’t mean to make light of what you’ve been through.”
“No, it wasn’t fair.” She turned back to face him.
“Well, it was this or…. well, let’s just say the alternative wouldn’t be my first pick. It’s not all bad, you know. It has its perks.”
“Werewolf 101.” Devon gave a tiny smile; the image of Jesse falling through the pine trees landing unharmed filled her mind.
“Werewolf 101 baby. Rowland will get around to explaining all of this if you give him a chance. He’s actually a great leader, and he cares about this family.”
“Yeah, Saint Rowland, going around killing innocent people and all that.” She couldn’t help putting in the dig, especially if Jesse was telling the truth about their enhanced hearing. Safe to say, that warming up to Rowland was the most prominent amongst the challenges she would have to face.
Jesse shrugged. “Wrong place, wrong time, sister. You didn’t know what was going on beyond that door, besides this is a serious conversation about emotions. I’m not really the nurturing type and probably not the best person to help take that on right now.”
It was hard not to become curious about Jesse. How could anyone want all of this? Having a chance to observe his obvious taste for the adventurous side of things, suggested he might be an exciting person to have as an ally or a friend. Would she be thinking differently if Derrick was still alive and he had given her a chance instead? She wasn’t emotionally ready to look past Rowland’s actions, not under the present circumstances.
“My dad always told me that seriousness came with getting older,” she said. “Give it a couple years, you’re only what twenty-five?”
Jesse burst out in laughter, startling a small flock of birds into the distant sky, “Oh honey, flattery will get you everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. Ok, lesson two in Werewolf 101 and I guess the exception to your father’s rule. We don’t age once we are turned. I’m actually fifty-eight, and I still don’t care for serious life drama if I can avoid it.”
“Fifty-eight? Bullshit. There is no way you are fifty-eight.” She was open-minded to a degree, but immortality?
“Ah, now I’ve got your attention,” his smile getting bigger. “I told you, there is a lot to learn about this new world you’re now part of.”
“You are telling me that I’m now immortal?”
Jesse held up a finger. “No, I didn’t say we don’t die. I said we don’t age.”
Great more riddles, she thought, frowning. “So what are we like vampires or something?”
“Oh, you are adorable. No sorry to burst your bubble Twilight, but there are definitely no such things as vampires.” He stroked his chin in thought. “Although, I’m not one-hundred percent on Bigfoot yet.”
“Hey, I get it that you’re not big on seriousness, but come on. Bigfoot?”
“I am being serious! Bigfoot is still yet to be disproved. But now we are getting sidetracked, and we don’t have a lot of time. Rowland said he wants us back before the sun is set. So let’s skip the small talk and show you the fun stuff. Back to your first question, how did I get here before you? Well simple, you’re slow.”
“Thanks.” Devon looked unamused.
“It’s not your fault and to be expected since you are still thinking like a human.”
“Well, how else would I think?” She asked.
“The night you escaped, Rowland told me that you were running as fast as he was. Yet today it took you the better part of a century to get across that field.”
“Again, thanks. Is insulting me part of the fun stuff? Because I’m really not feeling the love here.”
“What I mean is, running that fast is impressive, and I want to see you do it again. I even cut my trip back to Vancouver short, just so I could be here to see you in action. Why do you think I was in the alley outside your apartment? I don’t waste my time on just anybody.”
“Of course I was running full tilt when I escaped from that room, I was terrified for my life. I wouldn’t line myself up for a marathon, and it’s certainly not enough to make you hang around alleys trying to see some kind of a miracle. I don’t have super powers.”
“Figures. I would wager that you’re one of those seeing is believing types? Step back a bit and think about it. You’ve gone from not believing in werewolves this morning, to half accepting the truth of what you are. In a micro-fraction of your human existence, you can do that, but not believe in super powers? Why don’t we call them heightened abilities for now? Sound good?”
“Point taken. What do I have to lose?”
“Good, now shut up and close your eyes, we are losing daylight. Lesson three, memory retrieval.” He stepped in closer to her.
Devon’s body arched back away. “You say you know that I’m skeptical and then tell me to close my eyes. What’s wrong with you?”
“Look, have I lied to you yet? No, I haven’t. So, just put a bit of trust into someone and see what happens.”
“Fine.” If only to shut him up, Devon proceeded to close her eyes. “You’re are going to be disappointed.”
“Or you just might find out something new about yourself. Keep your eyes closed tight and breathe deep. In through your nose and slowly out through your mouth. Picture the clearing around us that we are standing in.”
Despite her misgivings that this was nothing more than Jedi nonsense, she humored him and did as he asked. Within seconds Devon was flooded with vivid details filling her mind with the clearing. “Whoa,” she paused. “I can see the clearing as if my eyes were still open,” she said, filled with astonishment.
“Good, your visual memory is working. I was worried you might have sustained a slight tint of brain damage.”
Her misgivings were clearly displayed on her face, even with her eyes closed.
“It was a joke. Sheesh you need to lighten up a bit.”
Still, her expression didn’t falter.
“Fine, continuing on. Take yourself back to the night you escaped the house, right before the point of breaching the field. Remember how you felt, what you were sensing.”
Devon relayed the images, as a stream of consciousness opened itself up to her at exceptional speed. “There was a man in the window… he saw my face. I grabbed the shard of mirror, taking one last glance at the house before the lights flooded towards me. I was scared of being caught. I didn’t want to be confined back in that room…all I could think about was escaping. My mind urged me forward toward the trees. I wouldn’t look back again, not until I was free.”
“What about when you were inside the tree line? What did you feel when you crossed this area? The one we are standing in right now?”
“I felt excitement mixing in with my fear while my bare feet sunk into the cold ground. Everything was alive to me. The moon shone so brightly that night. I remember being amazed at how clear it was when I entered; everything around me was visible. My movements were natural as if my body was doing the thinking for me. I needed to gain as much distance from that room as I could…”
These memories unnerved her as she delved into them, seeing everything again in such vivid detail. Just like the night she was curled up beside Harvest on the beach, her mind struggled against them. Small bits and pieces of blurred images flashing past her; clouded by darkness and panic. In her willingness, she allowed her mind to access them. This was nothing like the normal recollection of memories in her human mind, seen only in tones of emotions. Devon could now taste the frost in the air on her panting tongue, the crisp night breeze skimming over her fur as she ran charging through the woods.
Something shifted, merging her memories with a vision closer to the ground. Somehow she was behind herself, watching her own form weaving through the dense forest. From this new perspective she could truly appreciate her speed and grace, as the form she was in struggled to keep pace. She looked down toward her own rushing feet, there were paws in place of what should be human extremities.
Realization dawned on her. It was through Rowland’s eyes that Devon had become the observer as he pursued her towards the edge of the river. All of his emotions were confusing to her mind and felt almost alien.
Her eyelids flooded open, gasping in panic. Severe disorientation overtook her as the images from her mind pulled against those of Rowland’s. Devon stumbled backward and was caught by Jesse before she fell. He helped steady her in place while she regained herself.
“What the hell was that?” Devon pushed Jesse’s arm away from her, trying desperately to return her composure.
“I don’t know, I’m not a mind reader. What did you see?” Jesse snapped his fingers in the air as he scanned her face, trying to catch the focus of her eyes. “One moment you were telling me about the forest, and then you suddenly dropped off into your own world. It kind of freaked me out for a minute.”
“Freaked you out? I was the one running, and then… somehow I was watching myself through Rowland’s eyes. At least, I think it was Rowland. I could feel his frustration and panic as he chased me through the woods.”
“Wow really? Crazy, you really are a rare creature, Devon Andrews.” Jesse almost marveled at what she was telling him.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, it means the connection between you and Rowland is working properly, just a few months ahead of where you should be. I guess that’s a good sign for you, maybe not so much for Rowland. Then again I’m not too sure how Alpha to Alpha transference works, I’ve only read what I could in the archives. I wasn’t part of the family when the last transference took place.”
“Screw this.” She stepped back further from Jesse, refusing to take part in any more of these lessons. Devon turned on foot, as she ran from the clearing Jesse called out after her. “Wait, that’s number four.”
Devon found everything constricting around her. Unable to get a moment of peace from this family or from her own mind fighting to make her face this insufferable situation. As she ran her memories wavered between her current vision, and that of the forests dark tangled floor from Rowland’s. More than just her memories were obscured, now that she had looked upon her new mind. Under Jesse’s guidance, a Pandora’s Box had been opened, and there could be no denying her non-human existence from this point on.
It wasn’t fair, her life had finally settled into a place of safe normality. Far away from the pain and struggles of her past. Everything about this was out of any kind of context that she could relate too, or even dreamed was possible. Devon begged for Derrick’s comfort- pizza after work, curling up together on the couch, dreaming of their future life, even them laughing over what they would do when the zombie invasion finally happened. Apparently it wasn’t a zombie apocalypse they should have been planning for, but a werewolf invasion.
Derrick was the rock in her life that grounded her, something she needed to hold onto while everything around her crumbled. The reality of the moment enclosed as the open space raced past her…Devon was disconnected from these thoughts as instantly as she had been ripped from the depth of her memories moments ago. In a smear of greens and browns, the ground beneath her feet blurred; she was moving faster than she could have conceived possible. Each movement of her body was driven safely, the flow of her muscles pumped without even a trace of strain.
Within her human thoughts, a spark of panic gripped her as she began to stumble, her foot caught the root of a tree; as her body cascaded forward.
Devon crashed against ground, violently tumbling against the dense bush, skidding against a section of mud and leaves before slamming hard into the side of a nearby tree. The impact shattered the bark into jagged splinters as she slumped to the ground in front of it.
While she lay there panting, stunned by her sudden loss of equilibrium, this time it came to no surprise that she felt no pain coming from her new body. This was a common reoccurrence since she awoke, something to do with her new abilities that she didn’t understand. Against the ground she pushed, rolling herself into a sitting position as she watched Jesse speed out from the woods catching up to her. With his normal grace, he stopped a few feet in front of her laughing hysterically as he took in the sight of her. Devon spat traces of twig and dirt from her mouth as she glared up at him between his gasps for air.
“It’s not funny, look at me… I’m a mess.” Devon picked pieces of the forest from her ponytail as she stood up assessing the state of her torn and mud-ridden outfit. “These are the only clothes I have left.” She complained, annoyed with how funny he found her current state.
“Oh, I’d say I’m sorry, but the bush woman look is really not working for you.” He gulped, quaking in a fresh howl of laughter.
“Great, I get stuck with the bad comedian as a teacher.” Devon turned away from Jesse to look back at the now smooth patch against the tree that her impact caused. She ran her hand up under her shirt to feel nothing but smooth skin, unharmed without even a scratch. Before she could ask Jesse, her nose sniffed the air as the smell of chimney smoke held strong against the wind. Across the river she recognized the embankment and trail, her mind had taken her back to the same place where she awoke face down in the water.
Jesse’s laughter subsides as he watched Devon’s gaze, a few feet from her eyes he waved his arms trying to get her attention. “Umm earth to mud woman? Are you ok?”
“Yeah…I know that trail” she answered.
“Are you sure? I mean it could be any trail.” He turned looking in the same direction for a better view.
“I’m sure, it leads to a farm, just a few minutes up the path. After the night Rowland chased me, and I woke up in the river, I followed it. There is a woman who lives there with her kids.” Devon smiled. “She was kind to me. Well, she was after she stopped pointing her shotgun at me.”
He smiled at her comment, nodding his head. Her final admission had caused Jesse to chuckle. “Well yeah, that’s pretty much Jenn’s style. Shoot first and ask questions later.”
“Wait, are you saying that you know her?”
“If someone is worth knowing around here, you can be assured that I do. Why don’t we go and say hi?”
Devon looked upon her tattered clothing with a grimace. Of course, she would love to see Jenn and the kids again, but not like this, not again. “No…Jenn was nice enough to take me into her home. She was so kind, even gave me clothing, a hot shower, and food. Imposing twice would be pushing anyone’s limits. Besides, I don’t want to bring any of this madness into her home. Especially around her kids.”
“Well, after all that I think you at least owe her a thank you.”
“Of course I do. I felt bad enough lying to her about how I ended up face down in the river.” Devon was glad that Jesse knew her, which meant the opportunity to show her appreciation could be within her ability. Having someone like Jenn nearby might give Devon a sanctuary to visit. Somewhere away from all the werewolf conformability surrounding her back at the house.
“Wow, you really are hopeless. No, that is not what I was implying,” he said, as though speaking to a child. “What I mean is that you should thank her for keeping your head off the chopping block with Smith. If it weren’t for Jenn and how nicely you behaved around her kids, Smith would have been sent out to retrieve you. Things could have been a lot worse than a night on the beach with a bunch of hippies.”
“How do you know I spent the night on the beach? I never mentioned that to anyone here.”
“I followed you after the alley.” Devon’s face scowled, and he continued before she could make another comment about her loss of privacy. “Oh, come on! You are the most interesting thing that has happened around here in a long time, and well… curiosity killed the cat, not the wolf.”
“So if Jenn knows about the family, how is she still…?” It hit Devon as her mind caught up to Jesse’s hidden meanings. Only people who know about the family are other werewolves. “Jenn’s a werewolf too?” His silence and coy smile answered it for her. “Of course she is! You’re one, I’m one… Christ, is there anyone on this island that isn’t?”
Jesse seemed to be enjoying the reaction this information had brought forth in Devon. “Well, it’s not that big of a club.” He began to pretend to count on his fingers as he stared in mock concentration. “Let’s see, hmm…Rowland, Keryn, Smith, Jenn, the kids, Connor, and yours truly makes seven you have met. The leaves Jenn’s husband, the twins, and well the other family across the water. They are just dying to get a look at you.”
Something about this made Devon’s skin crawl, yet she had no reason to feel anything towards people she had yet to meet. Still, she felt the urge to lie “I’m sure they are lovely people.” How were so many of these wolf people right under the nose of society? Hiding this fact would be part of a new life Devon would have to become accustomed to. Still, every time she tried to think about it, she ended up picturing Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman and how he ended up.
“Well, let’s go say hi to her then. Jenn won’t mind at all. You did something right with her, and she was taken enough by your charms to put her skin on the line. She did regard you as a terrible liar, but hey that’s a good thing, right?”
“Thanks, it’s what I strive for in my life.”
“So, you are already wet and dirty. I think it’s time for lesson number five.”
Before Devon could react, Jesse reached out and took hold of her arm. Instead of pulling away she decided to see what he was going to teach her; within seconds Devon instantly regretted her decision of passive resistance.
“Watch me on the other side.”
“The other…?” Jesse spun her body around with such force that it lifted her feet from the ground. He whirled Devon as he laughed playfully, and just as she was about to yell at him to stop; Devon was airborne. Through the sky, her fear and panic rose as she hurtled over the river toward the far bank. Logically her mind wanted to tighten up in preparation for the oncoming pain of broken bones. Instead, something inside her mind subconsciously moved her body, for her; turning it in mid-flight.
As she landed on the embankment, Devon skidded slightly across the rocks and mud. All of her muscles were tight as she crouched on all fours, panting in shock. Again she was fully intact and unharmed while a small trail of stones rolled their way down into the river next to her.
An intense vibration shuddered the earth under her palms as Jesse landed a few feet away from her. Devon was staring at the churning water, so dumbstruck by what had just happened that she missed his landing.
Jesse adjusted his clothing and brushed himself off before offering Devon, his hand. “Number five: Jumping. I would have let you try, but I think you need to work on running more.”
Devon smirked as she reached up, slapping a handful of mud right into his open palm. She gripped tightly, as she used his hand as leverage.
“Oh man, that was weak!” He shouted as he yanked his hand free, shaking it off with a jovial laugh.
“Now we are even.” She grinned at him before heading off toward the farm at full speed; leaving Jesse to rinse his soiled hand in the river.
This time, Devon was able to come to a graceful stop just at the bottom stairs of Jenn’s porch. As she lifted her foot to approach, Sophia burst through the screen door; rushing down and wrapping her arms tightly around Devon’s waist.
“I knew you would come back!” The girl called excitedly to her mother. “Mom! She’s back!!”
Jenn strolled out from the house with a coy smile on her face. “Well if it isn’t… Keryn, was it?”
“Devon, but I think you already knew that.” Over the top of the girl’s head, Devon mouthed the words Does she know? While pointing down toward Sophia. The girl still clinging tightly to her waist.
Jenn smiled and rolled her eyes. “Yes City girl, she knows who she is. How about you? Are you all caught up to speed?”
“Well, I guess we are all werewolves. I think I’ve been able to take in that much. How about that?” She looked down at the little girl’s smiling face.
Sophia gleamed brightly at her. “It’s really not that bad once you get used to the full moons,” she declared, as though she were speaking of nothing more than going to the dentist.
It shocked her to see the child’s carefree attitude over something that Devon herself was struggling greatly to come to terms with. Maybe there were a few things she could learn from this little girl.
“Well, I see someone has found a teacher, and it doesn’t look like he’s been going easy on you either,” Jenn said as Jesse stopped right behind Devon. “What brings you two to my neck of the woods today? I’m impressed that Rowland let you leave the house so soon.”
Jesse cut Devon off as she went to speak. “This girl is a natural Alpha, she didn’t give Rowland a choice in the matter. She even went up against Smith…”
“Girl you are too brave for your own good, I wish I had been there to see that.”
“Thank you.” Devon broke in. “What I mean is, thank you for everything you did for me. That’s why we came here.”
“And here I thought you just needed a new set of clothes again. Jesse, what did you do to this poor girl?”
“Don’t blame me! She’s a bit clumsy for an Alpha.”
“A student is only as good as her teacher,” Devon quipped.
“Ok, enough you two, and don’t you worry about the clothing. We are always well stocked up in track pants and shirts in case family stops in for tea. Travis is just out with his father picking up a few things. They should be back soon, and this would be a great opportunity for you to meet my husband while you are here. Just wait here at the top of the steps,” Jenn tossed her tangled curls, gesturing them both up the stairs as she went back inside.
Devon lifted Sophia up onto her front as they climbed to the top. “I can’t believe I’m asking this, but you really are a werewolf?”
“We all are silly, even Uncle Jesse.” She beamed pointing at Jesse who remained at the bottom of the stairs.
“Ugh! Kid, I’ve told you a million times, it’s just Jesse. The whole ‘Uncle Jesse’ is too much of a reminder of the 80’s for yours truly.”
“Do you not like being a werewolf?” Sophia asked, a touch of astonishment filling her voice. This kind of ideology was obviously something the little girl had never considered before.
How could Devon possibly go about explaining the complex misgivings of her feelings to someone so young, especially a girl who was raised to accept this as her normal day to day life? “Well I just found out this morning that I am one, so think it’s going to take me some time to adjust to it all. Wait a minute, how did you become a werewolf?”
Her little face squinted in confusion at the question. “Don’t you know where babies come from?” She asked. “My mom can explain it to you if you don’t.”
Devon was embarrassed for even asking the question, laughing as she reassured the little girl that she did indeed know how babies were made. This was going to be a conversation that maybe Keryn or Jenn could clarify in private with her.
Within the moment of Devon’s embarrassment, Jenn had returned with a pile of fresh clothing stacked in her one arm. The mother exchanged them for her little girl and sent Devon on her way to freshen up. She was sure that Jesse would use this time to fill Jenn in on how things back at the house were progressing.
After removing the bits of moss from her hair, she put her torn clothing into the bathroom trash. Devon washed her face before heading back out to join everyone in the kitchen. In her hand she carried her wet shoes. It was no surprise that Jenn was already waiting for her with a plastic bag and a smile. “Unfortunately,” she said, “spare shoes are not one of the perks of being a werewolf.”
“It’s ok she’s tough now,” Jesse reassured her. “You won’t need them walking back. That would be lesson number-”
“No more wolf talk at my table,” Jenn interrupted. “She’s got another three hundred plus years to learn it all, she doesn’t need to hear it all in one evening. Besides from what you’ve told me, she’s already been through enough for one day.” Jesse silently mouthed the words lesson six while holding up six fingers as soon as Jenn turned back around. “Devon, go pour yourself a cup of coffee, it sounds like you could use one.”
How could Devon not be warmed by Jenn’s protective nature? Knowing that she had gone to such lengths vouching to Rowland, only increased her gratitude towards the fiery red head. Jenn was right, if she was stuck playing this role, time was something she had ample amounts of. None the less, she needed to learn as much about her situation as she could, even things that were sometimes difficult to believe.
“I appreciate it, but it’s hard not to talk about,” she said. “It’s not every day you wake up to find out that you’re a werewolf, and that your whole life has been taken away. Poof.”
“You’re right, those are some tough breaks, kid. We’re all going to miss Derrick, I’m sure you most of all.”
Across the room, Devon could see Sophia sinking into her chair silently chewing her lip as the conversation took a darker feel.
“So you all knew him then?” Devon asked as she took a seat beside Jenn.
“For the better part of a year. It was that long ago that Rowland brought him around to the farm to meet Travis and Sophia.”
“Sorry, I’m just having a really hard time knowing that he kept all of this from me.”
“If it helps, Derrick always spoke very highly of you. We could tell he loved you very much. Sophia and Travis are devastated about losing him. We all are.”
There was a genuine sadness to Jenn’s voice, which touched Devon. In her mind she could easily envision him playing out on the field with the kids. Seeing him training to become their leader was something entirely different. Partial thoughts and memories of Derrick over the last year zipped through her mind. How did he pretend that life was completely normal while dealing with all of this? Grasping this was the most difficult part of it all. There was a hard lesson in there somewhere, but for now, she was grateful to be partially numb to the shock of it. This at least kept her tears from breaching the surface. Trust wasn’t something Devon dished out easily, and whatever Derrick’s intentions were for their future, his lies and secrecy lead to loss of his life and the life of their child.
Jenn placed her hand on Devon’s shoulder. “We’ve had a bit longer to process all of this then you have, this life I mean. Where some of us have had quite a long time, a really long time. Give it while to sink in.”
Through the kitchen window, Devon could see the last of the sun beginning to burn out behind the tree tops.
Just then, the screen on the front door pulled open as Travis came barreling down the hall toward the kitchen. “We went to the shooting range!” He shouted excitedly, skidding to a halt just past the kitchen door as he sniffed at the air. Quickly his eyes spotted Devon, and his exhilarated manner turned into a quiet awe. “Hello,” he mumbled quietly as he shuffled his way closer to his mom.
Jenn ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it. “Oh don’t mind him, Travis is always shy around pretty girls.”
The boy’s cheeks flushed as he pulled away, having found his mother an unsupportive shelter from his current shyness with girls.
Travis was instructed to take his sister and clean up for dinner. In tow of her brother Sophia broke away giving Devon a parting hug. “I’m sorry you lost your family, but now you have us for your family,” she gushed before rushing off after Travis.
This time, the front door closed gently, as a man stood in the doorway having bared witness to Devon’s brief moment of condolences. Jenn’s husband simply nodded toward her in respect. Tall and dark-haired, pleasing in an outdoorsy fashion. It was almost as if his style had peaked somewhere in the late seventies and settled. His mustache reminded her of watching late night reruns of Magnum P.I. Just like her father; this man’s entire essence screamed vintage cop.
“Well, I didn’t know we were expecting company tonight.” Passing the doorway to the kitchen John looked to Jesse, brows raised. Devon could tell that the two of them were not the best of friends, she also being no stranger to uncomfortable standings with law enforcement. Something in her past, but still not forgotten. With manners in check, he smiled and tipped his hat to Devon after putting the groceries onto the kitchen counter. Not before kissing his wife on the forehead while making his way over to the empty chair beside her. Nothing in his mannerisms made her question whether he was less than genuine about his affection for her.
“It’s an honor to finally meet our new Alpha in person,” he said, extending his hand out to Devon across the table.
Jesse placed his palm over his face while shaking his head. “Yeah, that’s not awkward,” he sighed.
“I’m John, pleasure to have you in our home.” His handshake suited his personal aura and name, solid and firm.
Jesse was right, how couldn’t Devon feel awkward being addressed by title? Still, she smiled. There was no ill intent or malice meant in his words, only respect. There was no doubt that he would be popular amongst his peers on the force. “A welcomed escape,” she said. “And thank you, this is the first bit of normality I’ve been able to have all day.”
The energy of the room shifted for an uncomfortable moment as Jesse rolled his fingers heavily across the table. “This whole thing is a little too TV sitcom for Uncle Jesse’s taste. If you all don’t mind me, I’ll be heading outside for to smoke and then we have to go. I’ll meet you outside.”
John’s eyes never left Jesse as he watched him leave the kitchen, not once bothering to conceal his frown.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that they don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things,” Jenn said once she heard the front door close.
Devon, of course, was curious to know why, but out of respect for her new comrade, she decided this was not the place to ask. Choosing instead, to break the tension, she asked, “So werewolves can have kids?”
Jenn choked on her coffee as she began to laugh. “Yes, we even pay taxes and drive cars, too.”
“Looks like Sophia was right, maybe I am back to learning about the birds and the bees all over again. I really don’t know how this new world works. Do you have to bite them when they are born?”
John put down his coffee cup hard against the table, leaning back looking almost offended.
His moral high ground was interesting. Quite the upstanding guy, she thought. A werewolf and a good citizen. I guess, why can’t people be both?
“Sorry, it’s just not our way to do something so vulgar to children or anyone for that matter,” he replied.
“I’m a little confused, why is being a werewolf vulgar?” Devon was feeling slightly worried that there was something she was missing.
“Dear,” Jenn placed her hand on her husband’s arm. “Remember there is a time and a place for certain information. Let me explain this one.” Her husband nodded and left her the floor.
“Wolves have children the usual way,” She explained. “We are half human when transformed after all. The major differences are faster-birthing cycles, and our children will grow up like normal kids. Only, they will stop aging physically at the age point of the parent was when they were turned. Travis to John’s, and Sophia to mine. It has been known that gender is not always attached to the sex of the child. Appearance and physical traits of the child are pretty noticeable to which parent the child is following.”
“Wow, seriously? So that’s why Sophia looks so much like you, but why?”
“We pass onto them our DNA, just like any other family likeness. Besides, we can’t bite anyone or make wolves any other way than by mating. Only you and Rowland have that ability. Only you two can create new wolves. We’re forbidden to even try. We don’t understand why but we don’t have the right mix of DNA to make a successful transfer.”
Each sentence made her want to ask more questions, she was captivated and excited by this process. Also, a small glimmer of hope filled her with new prospect, children were not something void from her future after all. Turning in on her, came the memory that she would already be an expecting mother if Rowland’s bite had not found its way into her wound.
As soon as the realization occurred to her, she was inwardly crestfallen. Every loss piled on top of Devon, crushing her. With all the various shocks to her system, it was no wonder her emotions were so volatile and raw. Being aware of this still didn’t prevent her from getting overwhelmed by them one moment to the next. Jenn must have sensed something was wrong when she turned and asked her husband to go check on the kids before dinner.
Once he was upstairs, Jenn reached over and took Devon’s hands in hers, whispering. “Are you okay? I know this is a huge shock for anyone, but what just happened there? It’s like you just fell away from the world.”
Devon could have made a simple excuse up allowing her to keep this private suffering to herself, but the woman across from her had given her nothing but support. Lying to her would be an act of disrespect that was undeserving.
“No, I’m not ok,” she shook her head. “I was pregnant when Rowland attacked me that night,” she whispered back. She just allowed the tears to fall down her face. “It’s not as if I knew for sure, or even had time to process it. That’s part of why I went to find Derrick after getting the call that he hadn’t turned up at work for a few days. That is why I showed up at his place that night. I was going to tell him he was going to be a father.”
The chair legs pulled across the floor as Jenn moved closer, taking Devon in her arms. “I’m so sorry, this whole thing has been a shit show for you. Just remember that we are your family now, if you need anything you come right through that door.” Jenn released Devon and took her by the shoulders, looking her straight in the eyes. “No knocking, you just come in, you hear me?”
“Loud and clear,” she nodded with a smile, trying to not let the past take away her first moments of stability she had in days. “Thank you,” she said, wiping her eyes. Standing up, she knew she had already left Jesse waiting outside too long.
Jenn stood giving Devon a final hug. “You know you’re stronger than you look. Personally, I’d be a mess if I were in your shoes.”
Remembering Jenn and her shotgun, Devon had difficulty believing that there was anything that Jenn couldn’t handle. She laughed, “It’s like riding a bike, I guess. I spent most of my life being a mess. At least I got a few years away from it, but it looks like I’m in the thick of it again.”
An understanding look came from Jenn, giving Devon the impression that she and the rest of the family probably knew about her personal history from Derrick. Another breach of trust if he had.
“Is it ok if I come by tomorrow?” she asked. “I’m going to slip away without making a big production of it. Say goodbye to the kids for me?”
“I think it’s a safer idea, I don’t honestly think Sophia would let you leave if you did try to say goodbye,” Jenn said. “She’s quite taken with you.”
“Before I go I wanted to say thank you again. I guess I owe you my life; Jesse told me what you did for me.”
Jenn lifted her coffee mug off the table with a smile, tilting her head graciously. “Think nothing of it.”
As Devon walked along the gravel drive, she found Jesse sitting against the wooden fence; smoking a cigarette. From the pile on the ground, it must have been his fifth one. Gagging, as she approached, she waved a hand cutting the frozen cloud of smoke and vapor. “I understand the seventies weren’t as informed as we are today, but really? I can’t believe I used to share that filthy habit.”
“I can’t believe you ever stopped! You might as well take it up again, it’s not like it’s going to hurt you. Just one of the many perks of being a wolf: a new set of lungs every month.”
“Yeah, well, that might be true. The smell, on the other hand, is revolting. Having enhanced senses only makes it worse.”
“I guess I don’t need these do I?” Devon waved the bag with her muddy shoes in the air.
He crossed his arms. “I can’t take you anywhere, now can I, Princess? Mind you,” he looked around in the air, “not like there is anywhere fancy to take you too.”
There was no point in putting them on, she could feel the pressure of the ground; but not the pain or freezing temperature. One by one they marched along the driveway and into the field, while she enjoyed the new sensations coming from below. This new information from her environment was being received in such an existential way. It gave her a sense of connection, of being more in control, and therefore: safer. The earth between her toes, each blade of grass that crushed beneath her heel in perfect detail, and the scents of other animals trailing on the breeze. Rather than being unpleasant, this feeling was intimate.
Standing across from the rushing waters, Jesse suggested throwing Devon again to speed up the process. “Rowland is going to be pissed that we took so long.”
“Rowland can kiss my ass at this point. He needs me, not the other way around.”
“Spoken like a true Alpha,” Jesse laughed.
Devon wanted to cross, and she wanted to do it on her own. There was no interest in being surprised and winded, like the first time. How amazing it must feel to be able to leap that high with just the intention of her mind. Sophia was right, some things about this new life would help make up for losing her humanity. The rest would still take time for her old human mind to reconcile. “Hey, can we fly?” she asked.
“What do you think this is, a David Copperfield special? No, we can’t fly. Our muscles are just extremely strong compared to a normal person’s, and we are exceptionally agile. Can we fly? Oh, my.”
“Well, how the hell am I supposed to know what’s possible and what’s not? I just had to relearn how babies are made, like half an hour ago. Give me a little slack, ok?”
“Fine,” he agreed. “Look if you want to jump, then jump. You can ask questions when you get back to the house.” Snapping his fingers quickly, “Motivation, you need a motivation to pull this off. Okay, just jump like your life depends on it. Empty your mind of any other thoughts and just picture yourself touching down on the other side.”
“Yeah, that sounds really easy.” I’m so going to get wet again, she thought.
“Seriously, just imagine you’re being chased by horrible zombie clowns with melting faces. Just you and the river stand in your way of clown apocalypse, now…go, run!!”
“Clown apocalypse?” Devon handed her bag of wet shoes to Jesse and walked back several paces, giving herself a clear path. Here goes nothing.
As she was instructed, she sprinted toward the river bank with nothing but the image of her goal filling the space of her mind. Trust, she reminded herself. Trust that her new body could extend its abilities without having to force it. As her foot pushed off the river’s edge, she was sailing gracefully over the rushing currents; the way she had only before witnessed in her dreams.
Within a few beats, her feet touched down on the other side. Turning quickly around to beam with excitement at Jesse. “I did it!”
He stared for a moment in what appeared to be a look of shock that she made it. Finally, he let out a celebratory whoop, clapping his hands while kneeling down to push off into a run. Devon watched Jesse cross through the noise of the river, cutting the air with his speed. After a moment he joined her, although much farther down toward the rocky shallows; just shy of the water’s edge.
“Maybe I should be the one giving you lessons from now on,” she teased.
“Beginners luck,” he shot back. “Besides I had your wet skanky bag slowing my glide down.” Jesse tossed the bag up onto the grass in front of her before taking one last leap, landing just next to her. He kept walking along with his head up, leaving the shoes sitting on the ground. “Also I was thrown off by all the excitement.”
“What can I say, I have that effect on a lot of guys,” Devon smirked as Jesse continued on, shaking his head.
The walk back to the house was quieter than she was hoping for. Jesse dodged her questions while Devon attempted to pull him out of his emotionally inverted state. Something back at Jenn’s had triggered him and as much as she tried her attempts proved ineffective. He remained elusive, giving only short answers and promises that she would learn everything she needed in time. So much for Werewolf 101.
Probably a relief to Jesse, they found Rowland waiting in the clearing just in the tree line of the house. Sitting in a crossed legged pose on the forest floor perfectly still, breathing deeply in through his nose. Although his eyes were closed, his face was turned up to the night sky, washed across in beams of moonlight.
Devon remained silent, instead of continuing her failed back and forth banter with Jesse. Both of them stood under the shelter of the trees at the edge of the clearing, waiting to see if he would address them.
“What is he doing?” she whispered, forgetting the Rowland would be able to hear her at any volume. “Is he sleeping?”
“It looks like he’s meditating, but I think he’s mostly waiting for you. This is my cue to exit and head back to the city. It’s been fun, I’ll see you around the house.”
Before Devon could convince him to stay, Jesse slipped through the darkness and the trees. Rowland remained like a statue, behaving as though he was unaware of her presence.
Someone meditating was something Devon had never witnessed before. Was it like waking a sleepwalker? Was she supposed to just leave him alone?
Rowland thankfully spared her the difficulty of having to decide when he opened his eyes. She stood before him, watching as his focus made the brief transition to the outer world from the one within.
“Please, sit with me,” he said softly.
Gracefully, she lowered herself to the grass and crossed her legs, mirroring his posture. Her time at Jenn’s hadn’t removed her disdain for Rowland, but hope had helped quench her anger from earlier. Shyly, she looked downward, running her hand through the chill blades of grass as she waited for him to speak.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a moment. Devon raised her eyes to look at him while something uneasy stirred in her chest.
“I am truly sorry for all of this,” he repeated. “This is also the last time I will say this to you. I did not mean what I said to you back at Derrick’s place. I spoke from a place of my own shameful pride and anger. As an Alpha, we must take responsibility for everything that comes to fruition under our leadership. I could have had you guarded or sent somewhere away. We have both made errors, and now we will both have to live with this loss. I know your love for Derrick will push you past any of the deceptions or secrets that he kept from you, and in time you will understand the loss this family is sharing alongside you. He became my son and was to be a father to everyone here, we all loved him very much. If I had killed you that night and Derrick had lived…he would never have been able to forgive me. As much as we loved him, he loved you even more.”
Devon patiently listened to his words. As moving and heartfelt as they were, her eyes remained dry and focused. She recognized this as a moment for full disclosure, an opportunity to be completely honest with Rowland before moving on to whatever the next stage of their relationship would be. In that regard, her anger still outweighed her grief and confusion; something that was needed to be known. “I will never forgive you for what you did, Rowland,” she said quietly.
“I would never expect you to. I’m not telling you this in hopes of forgiveness or for you to take pity on my actions. I’m telling you this in the hope that we can put aside this bad blood between us and look at the larger picture.”
“And what’s that? What is the larger picture?” Devon asked.
“That Smith was right. Creating you was forbidden and against all of our covenant. There are proceedings and laws that we must follow to keep our peace and balance. A new Alpha is shown to us through visions and rites, not chosen by us. But, you are here now and this family has no other options. You are now Mother and Father to this pack as well as my Daughter, and I only have three months to prepare you and present you.”
“What do you mean by Present me? To whom?”
“To the family across the water. If they do not accept you as an Alpha, and stick to the laws of our treaties…this family will be left open to a worse fate.”
“Why can’t you just hold off; you could stay on as Alpha until the next one is chosen?”
“It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “We serve our time, and mine has come to a close. We cannot keep living forever. The family needs to evolve with society and the world. These rules were made over a millennium ago, and I stand by them. I’ve seen over three hundred years of human history, countless deaths, and marvelous inventions. This world has changed so much, and someone new is needed to take this family over for another succession.”
“Great, so being a werewolf is just the beginning of a larger game? What happens if this other family doesn’t feel that I’m the right fit for the job?”
“If they deem you unworthy, then the two packs will be forced to merge under the rule of the Vancouver family’s next Alpha.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, what would happen to me?”
Rowland hesitated before answering her. “You will be sentenced to death.”