Coming home was the last thing I wanted. Already, I could feel the seeds of doubt sprouting from the pits of my stomach as I stood outside the airport, dying from this scorching heat.
I shielded my eyes from the sun’s blaring rays, trickles of sweat gliding down my skin. It was one of the hottest days in Georgia. There was a commotion as the horns sounded violently through the air with the never-ending struggle of cars exiting the parking lot. There were people returning home, others going on vacation and saying goodbye to their loved ones. My eyes wandered around the area to see if I recognised any car but found no luck.
I closed my eyes briefly as I recalled the events that had happened during the past twenty-four hours. God, I truly didn’t want to come home. Hours of arguing with my parents and my brother drained my already weakened mood. My twenty-first birthday was around the corner, exactly on the same day I'd see this new Alpha they were raving about. They spoke about custom and tradition for the whole family to greet him and some other bullshit. It was a difficult decision to return; in a way, I felt trapped. I wanted to explore places, meet new people rather than to live the rest of my life in The Midnight Moon. What was the point of me staying? I had no real purpose. My dad wasn’t pleased with my decision to go to college, to start my life elsewhere.
We hadn’t been on great terms ever since.
“The pack life is the best life,” he once said. It was a form of protection and security and the knowledge that I wouldn’t be completely alone. In other words, I was safe.
"Isolation is our greatest enemy," he said yet I welcomed it, craved it even.
With an exasperated sigh, I walked down the pavement to relax my muscles and to placate my agitated wolf. She’d never like to stay in one place for too long. When was the last time I went for a run? The wind brushed my skin and I inhaled deeply, halting in my steps as a familiar scent wafted through the air. I knew the smell too well, with so many years of being around it, it had been ingrained in my system and it brought me a sense of comfort. I swirled around and saw my dad, driving into the area with his silver car. He waved at me and I forced an awkward smile in greeting.
Unhurriedly, I walked closer to the curb, catching his grin. Getting out of his car, he pulled me into a tight embrace and out of habit, I wrapped my arms around him, my head resting in the crook of his neck as I scented him. He scented me back and I knew he was checking I was untainted, that I was pure. With a growl of approval, he kissed the top of my head then pulled away. Jackson Steele was his name, former Alpha of the Midnight Moon. At the sight of him, I felt the sudden warmth I never thought I'd missed all my years in college. Despite our differences, he was still my dad.
“Look at you,” he said gruffly, scanning my appearance. “You’re all grown up. You cut your hair?”
I nodded, subconsciously touching my brown locks. “Uh... yeah, thought I needed a new look.”
He nodded. “Looks good on you, baby girl.”
I smiled at his compliment. He opened the passenger door and I slid in, not forgetting to thank him. A few seconds after he entered the vehicle, started the engine and we began our journey back to the pack.
“It’s been four years since you’ve been home,” his deep voice disrupted the silence between us.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” I murmured, shrugging. “Classes got in the way, then work and paying the bills-”
“Bills?” he interrupted, sounding horrified and a frown the way he was frowning, I would've thought he heard me saying I was homeless. “Are you in any trouble?”
I let out an exasperated sigh. “No, it’s part of me being grown up.”
“Hmm...” he returned his eyes to the road, his lips tightened into a grim line. “You wouldn’t be having this problem if you stayed in the pack.”
“Dad, I don’t want to fight about this,” I shook my head before resting it against the headset, turning my gaze to the passing greenery.
“I just want what’s best for you. Your mom’s been worried about you and it only increased my own worry about your safety and how you’re getting along. You moved so far away from us and we couldn't just drop by to visit you,”
“I’m going to be twenty-one,” I mentioned. “I can take care of myself, I’m eating well and I’m alive. We asked Alpha Mason for permission so I could stay in his territory. I made plenty of friends in The Blue Moon pack.”
He sighed. “Alright, you made your point...”
I could hear the 'but' in his tone. “But?”
“I would prefer if you returned home.”
God, there was no way to convince him, huh?
I left the conversation, focusing my attention on the people passing by. He wouldn’t understand my animosity against the pack life because he was groomed to be the leader of it. I had to endure it.
“How are Phoenix and Hunter?” I asked, referring to my siblings.
“They’re fine,” he clicked his tongue, thoughtfully. “Hailey is pregnant.”
I widened my eyes, shooting an astonished look towards Jackson. A small smile tugged on my lips but a pang of disappointment swelled in my chest. “Really?”
“Really,” he answered, blowing a harsh breath. “For years, your mom’s been harassing them for grandbabies.”
“Finally,” I still couldn’t believe it. “I’m going to be an aunt?”
It seemed surreal; my older brother is finally going to be a daddy. He was too stern at times and to see him soften up more often would be an interesting sight.
Jackson glanced at me before nodding his head, sending a small smile. “You’re going to be an aunt.”
We pulled up to our home and I took a moment to gaze out the window. Nothing changed. It was just the way that I’d left it four years ago. The garden was well maintained with the flowers sprouting once the sun’s ray’s beam upon them. The house was large, previously painted blue but now white since my teenage years. I grabbed my duffle bag and slung it over my shoulder, sliding out of the car. Jackson said he’d be okay carrying the rest of the bags so I sauntered towards the front door.
The white double doors had a ‘welcome home’ sign and my fingertips skimmed the paper fabric before I dropped my arm. I entered the building to the living room to find my sister sitting on one of the couches.
She didn’t raise her head immediately at my entrance.
“Well, isn’t it the prodigal daughter,” she held the mirror higher, staring at her reflection. For a brief second, her azure eyes pinned me to the spot. She touched her long black hair before her middle finger touched her glossed bottom lip. “Well, sister in my case.”
“Hey,” I muttered, dropping my travelling bag to the floor.
“Well, I would chat but I’ve gotta run, I’ve got a carnival to prepare for at school. It’s for a good cause, raising money for charity and everything,”
I scoffed at my sister and she stood to her feet. I scanned her appearance from head to toe and saw no distinct difference in her height other than her face looked more mature than what I’d remembered. Still a little babyish but mature nevertheless. We were complete opposites, with her preferring the rings and diamonds while I stuck to my converses and t-shirts. She was the daughter my mom always wanted. Don't get me wrong, she loved me but... we had different interests.
Phoenix was gorgeous, with doe-like eyes and a breathy voice any guy would swoon to their knees in submission. Throughout most of her teen years, the boys fawned over her, not that I was complaining as I didn’t do well with male attention. In fact, I tried to avoid it all together.
In her own social group, she was in charge, the Queen Bee and nobody dared to overrule her. And I...? I was the awkward one, didn't have many friends but it never bothered me.
“Oh, well do you need any help?”
She shook her head.
“Nope, I’ve already planned what I would want to do. As the leader of the committee, I will bring justice this year as all the others were disgraceful,” she scrunched her nose in disgust at the recollection and I let out a little laugh.
“Just one thing, though, mom is pretty mad so you’ll have to think of a way to repay her for your absence,”
I grimaced. “Thanks for the heads up.”
She left and quickly, I glanced outside to see Jackson taking out the heavy bags from the car. I thought to wait for him so I wouldn’t my mom’s main attention at her enraged state but I dismissed it. I needed to suck it up and walk in with my head held high.
Once I got nearer to the kitchen, the tantalising aroma of food attacked my senses and a deep growl erupted from me, the depths of my hunger making itself known as I followed the scent that held me captive. Standing over the stove was Sabrina. I knew she was aware of my presence yet she neglected my entrance and I knew that she was more than annoyed. How am I able to get myself out of this?
Sabrina swivelled around and it was as if I was staring at my own reflection, only older. The only thing separating us look wise was her glorious black hair whilst I had light brown hair that I’d inherited from Jackson. She lowered the fire on the stove and rushed over to me, wrapping her arms around my neck as she placed light kisses on my cheeks.
Her hands touched my shoulders and it felt like I was seeing a reflection of myself but just older. “I’m mad that you decided to abandon us and not visit in four years."
I groaned inwardly and she shook her head. “No, Izabella. I raised you differently. I spent all my time and love to raise you and what do I get, my own daughter doesn’t even bother to visit me.”
She stepped back, hands on her hips as she returned to what she was doing. I stood there, in shock. Is she really that mad?
“Mom,” I caught up with her. “I’m sorry, please-”
“No, you’re not because if you were, you would’ve visited. For the love of the goddess herself, does it take a lot to just pick up the phone and call for five minutes? Your father had to talk to Alpha Mason to know how you were doing. You did this on purpose and for that, you will need to be punished,”
“Mom!” I exclaimed in exasperation.
“Whether you like it or not, you are going to the event tomorrow. You will wear a dress and heels and a hell of a lot of makeup. You want to make up for your absences, this is it!” she threw her hands up in the air, her glare potent and left.
I cursed to myself, running my fingers through my hair as I left the kitchen. On my way out, Jackson walked by and he frowned, wrapping his large arms around me in one last hug.
“Just give her some time,” I nodded against his chest before sucking in a deep breath.
“Can you at least talk to her about the dress...?” I looked at him pleadingly and he chuckled, pressing a kiss to my temple.
“Now with that, I’m not standing in your mom’s way. She’s been dying to dress you up for the party tomorrow,”
Dropping his arms to his sides, he brushed past me and I was left in my own solitude as I stood in the living room.
Not even five minutes back at home and I had an argument with my dad and confronted my mom’s anger. A sense of nostalgia consumed me as I glanced at the pictures suspended against the wall. There were some of me smiling brightly but gradually, over the years that smile started to fade and it was at the moment when my home became my greatest enemy and my need for escape boiled deep within.
I was brought back in time, my mind going through a portal as I recalled one distinct moment in my life embedded in my thoughts forever, a stain that could never be ignored.
‘You can never be Alpha,’