The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives
“You were born for this,” my father’s words swam through my brain reminding me why I am standing by myself in my bedroom. Reminding me why I was here at all. Reminding me to take in each breath and swallow each second of nerves.
Grazing my fingers over the leather cloak that was bound by the hands of women in the pack, I tried to remember thinking about this day as a kid. I don’t think I dreamed of this day, in particular, but what came after it – the title – that’s what I dreamed of. Maybe it’s because I was told my whole life that I would rise to the title, that I was born into it. I was never told that I had to have someone at my side for that to happen.
Each stitch in the leather reminded me to repeat the words I was taught as a child. We were all taught them but it was more important for me to have them memorized than anyone else. Being a child of the alpha, I was made to be different than the rest of them. I was not prized higher than anyone I grew up with, but I was held to higher standards.
Everyone out there waiting for me I grew up with. There isn’t anyone I couldn’t tell you the name of, their family history, and where they live. As a pack, we must be each other’s family even if we come from differing lines. But today was still different and I could feel it in the air around me. Even if I knew each person standing and waiting for me it didn’t make me less nervous.
But here I am, standing before a sunlit window, watching kids from the pack run around behind the house. Their parents chatting and mingling around as if they don’t see each other every day. Had things gone differently three years ago, today wouldn’t be happening. Had I not met Noah, I would have earned my title on my twenty-second birthday and my father would have guided me until I met my mate any other way.
But today is different.
Today, the alpha’s daughter marries her mate and separates herself from her parents in her pack. She becomes something else. No longer just the daughter of the alpha and luna but her own person completely.
The creak of the bedroom door paused my intrusive thoughts.
“I was born for this,” I reminded myself one more time before turning to see who walked into the room. When my mother poked her head through the crack of the door I relaxed a bit more, then I saw the box in her hand.
“You cannot be serious, I thought we threw those traditions out years ago!” Complaining, I saw a mischievous glint in her eye that I wasn’t sure I liked. She set the box on the bed while I made sure the leather cloak I wore didn’t snag on a nail poking up from the wood floor.
“It is an ancient tradition that I want my child to carry over. We may not have a monarchy any more but that doesn’t mean the position you will be taking over is any less than that of a queen.” My mother, with her sharp tongue and commanding voice that made the hairs on my arm, stand at attention quicker than my legs could.
“If I wear this then our pack members might think I’m trying to bring back the crown. Shouldn’t we separate ourselves from that? Especially since rumors are swirling about something happening in the center pack land.” I asked her but before she could say anything, the black box opened and my eyes saw the glorious crown that was worn by my ancestors.
“I wore it on our wedding day. Granted, that was when the former king was in reign,” she paused and thought about what it was like when she was my age. I could see the worry lines crease on her face. Sometimes I forget how long she’s been on this earth before I came along. We have long lives and it is easy to forget that.
“I hate showing my age,” she laughed just before reaching into the black box for the crown made from a pine tree. The same trees that have grown for generations around our land. The trees we build our houses from and trade with the other packs for supplies.
“The oldest pine tree, still alive today,” she made sure I knew that. As if I didn’t grow up having to memorize facts like that. “Carved by the first king we had. The one that carved the seven kingdoms itself.” My mother told me the same story I heard over and over again from my teachers and the kids I grew up with. I was still uneasy about the crown but if it is tradition, who am I to argue with it?
“Sit down and I’ll place it on your head.” My mother ushered me to the edge of the mattress and I complied. Looking after the hem of the cloak, I made sure nothing was wrinkled or damaged as I moved along the edge of the bed.
Holding the crown made of pine in her hands, I could see her eyes staring down at it through the intricate details between us. I watched her eyes stick to the details of the crown like glue. Taking in each piece of it I could see why she couldn’t take her eyes off of it. From the laced threads of wood going in and out of loops of silver that would be painful if anyone of us cut ourselves on it.
For the first king to have embedded it with silver…I can’t imagine the pain he had to go through just to get the pieces together. I only hoped he covered his hands with something.
Once it was placed on my head and the weight of the silver and wood sat in perfect unison, I reached up to graze the tips of the wood that came in peaks around the crown.
“Seven peaks for seven packs,” she whispered to me once I leaned back to see her face again. Tears swelled in her eyes once she looked down at me and when her hand found mine, I found a confidence I hadn’t had before.
“Is everything ready mother?” I asked her after a long silence shared between us.
“All that is missing is you. Are you ready?” She asked and I found I had lost my voice. I was ready, I am ready, but my legs didn’t budge. When she pulled my arm along with her hard enough to help me to my bare feet, I snapped back to reality long enough to realize we had made it to the stairs.
She led me down the stairs and to the back door. As I watched and studied the crown before, I studied the wood of the back door before it opened. My mother left me to stand with the rest of our people just on the other side of the doors. I was just me alone with a heavy crown staring at the door.
It wasn’t until my father opened the door spilling the sun’s rays into the small area I stood in, that I took in a needed breath.
“We’re ready, are you?” The smell of pine needles and cardamon filled my nose. Nearly all of us here have the scent of pine needles or the trees themselves, but it’s the other unique scent someone has that allows us to tell each other apart without the use of our eyes. If I was blindfolded and thrown into the forest around us I could get back with my sense of smell alone.
He stepped aside so that I could see our people standing up for me. As I took one step after another, with my father by my side, I saw the faces of my family. My pack. Then the drums started and I almost forgot how to put one foot in front of the other. When My father shoved me along a bit just to get the rest of the way there, I found myself standing before Noah with only him on my mind.
When we were close enough his eyes met mine and the familiar spark between us lit under my skin. My father gave him my hand as we came up to the front under the wooden arch where Noah was already standing. I didn’t even have a moment to appreciate that carvings along the wood. The carvings that Noah and his family did for it.
Noah took my hand in his and a fire was lit between us, something that would only go away under the separation of death. He smiled and my eyes caught the light off his teeth instead of the sun. My nerves calmed just slightly as he held my hands tighter than my stomach churned. I couldn’t tell you when my father started talking – I was lost in a sea of honey hazel eyes that spoke to me louder than the drums dying around us. The screamed at me and filled me with a brightness I’ve never experienced before.
Normally when I first meet a person I don’t notice anything but what they say to me, but it was different when I met Noah. His honey-colored eyes were the first thing that I saw and the last thing I ever want to see. There were specks of brown that sprinkled through the warm honey coloring of his irises. Everything else about him only complimented the eyes that pierced my soul since the first day I met him.
His voice was the song I never knew I needed to hear. It calls to me even when I am not listening. If I go blind, I would know his citrus scent, of the oranges that mix perfectly with the scent of wildflowers that consume his former pack. His touch could wake me from the deepest sleep. The fire that spreads over my skin when he touches me lights every nerve on fire but does not burn me. The way he walks the earth tells me of his free spirit – the spirit that ran with other children when he was a kid. By touch alone, I would know him out of millions of similar burning stars. He is mine and I am his.
“Rogue?” I heard my name and for a second I took my eyes off of Noah.
My father had the biggest grin on his face because he knew that I hadn’t been paying any attention at all.
“Yes, father?” I replied.
“Place the crown on Noah’s head.” Butterflies flew through my stomach making it do flips. I turned to my left and took the crown from my father who had taken it off of his head. This was his last day of being Alpha after all.
“Recite the oath.” My father commanded as I placed the gold and pine weaved crown on Noah’s head. He was a good five inches taller than me so he had to kneel quite a bit. That didn’t matter, his eyes never left mine making the butterflies in my stomach begin to do somersaults.
“I, Rogue Pine, born into the Pine Ridge Pack, hereby crown you, Noah Max, as the next Alpha, my mate, and my husband until our connection is severed by death. As a Luna through birth, I swear to you that I will reign by your side until death parts us, my Alpha.” I recited the words I had memorized as a child. Never did I think it would be some of the hardest words I’d have to say. I said them with such freedom as a kid. But with each word, my heart hammered harder and harder until I felt it in my throat.
When Noah smiled and the breeze picked up I closed my eyes for a moment and took in the scent of pine needles reminding me I am home.
“Please join me in welcoming the new Alpha and Luna of the Pine Ridge Pack. May their reign be long and prosperous.” My father ended the ceremony as the drums began just below the shouts and calls of the Pine Ridge Pack. In a sweeping motion, Noah brought me in for a spark-filled kiss that made everyone cheer louder in celebration.