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I pulled out the white stick, lighting the open end of it. I put the other end into my mouth as I inhaled and exhaled. I did this repeatedly, letting my body soak in the addictive nature nicotine held.

“You aren’t legally supposed to be smoking back here. It’s the property of Subway and they don’t allow smoking on the property,” Phillip said from the doorway next to me.

I looked at him and dropped the cigarette, using my boot to put it out. “You never saw anything.”

He rubbed his neck and looked around the area.

I laughed. “I’m kidding. You don’t have to cover for me. If they ask, you can blab to whoever that I broke rules and I’ll take my fine.”

He laughed with nervousness in his tone. He walked back inside and I frowned, wondering if I had just done something wrong. I was screwing this up, wasn’t I? This guy was hard to figure out.

I went inside using the front entrance and walked to the counter. “So, Phillip, tell me about how you’re going to be a math teacher.”

He worked on his order, listening to the customer and building their custom sandwich. Once he finished, he looked at me. “I like kids. I want to help them learn and understand critical thinking and logic. That’s where my goal lies, in serving kids. Math is easy when you have the right teacher.”

“That makes a lot of sense. I like that. Anything else I should know? Who are your parents?”

He looked at me and smiled a bit. “It’s just me and my mom. Dad died when he got into a car accident. Someone ran into him one night and they determined he was driving under the influence. I help out my mom so she doesn’t feel lonely since she lost my father. She’s such a sweet woman.”

I smiled when I pictured him taking care of his mom. It was so sweet that guys could still do that. Our parents were important. They raised us and we owed them the same favor, to take care of them as they took care of us.

Phillip asked, “You said you didn’t have any parents, correct? It’s just you and your brother.”

“That is correct. Tell me more about your mom and dad if you’d like.” I looked at the customer that walked up to the counter.

“I will when I go on break.” He nodded and began to build the sandwich that the customer listed off.

I walked over to the far table in the corner, crossing my arms and watching him. It was so interesting to me that he existed. He was not the reckless boy who was out to cause trouble. He was just a man who was working to pay bills and finish school so he could teach math to kids. It was something very interesting to see. I wanted to learn about him.

He walked over and sat once his break came around. “You want to know about my parents.”

“I do.”

“Well, dad was always the romantic type. It took him forever to woo my mom. He liked the challenge. Mom was very resistant at first but she finally fell for my dad. They teased each other all the time. Dad was always leaving his dishes in the living room and mom hated it. They mostly agreed on anything that involved me so that made it much better for them to raise me. If mom said one thing, that was the end of it because dad would say the same. It was just nice to grow up in that kind of home.

“After dad died, mom spent most of her days in her room or on the couch. She took it so hard and I can’t imagine it because she lost the love of her life. It was really difficult to see her go through such a big loss. It took her a long time to get back on her feet. I would always help her out and once she moved on, she was back to doing things for herself. Things weren’t the same after he died. She lost a piece of herself that she can’t get back. She’s just forever missing a part of her that we all loved the most. She’s missing my dad.”

I held back the tears, refusing to cry. He lost half of himself, the half that taught him to be a man. The warm liquid in my eyes was hard to hold back but I couldn’t cry for people I never knew. But what if that was me someday? What if I lost my own lover? “That sounds so tragic. I’m sorry. It’s hard on both of you to lose your dad like that.”

He nodded. “It was. Life sucks. We just learn how to live with all the pain.”

I nodded and didn’t say another word about it. I stood from my seat. “I’ll see you later. I wish I could stay. I have to work tonight and I can’t be late. I like this job.”

“Of course. Don’t let me stop you. I’ll see you another time.”

“I’ll be back. I love the sandwiches.” I pulled my hood up and left the shop. I walked back towards my cabin, through the woods, stopping when I heard a growl. I looked back and saw a man standing there. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me. You always seem to show up to make me look bad.”

He started running at me. His bones cracked and contorted into a new figure as he turned into a wolf, his clothes shredding to pieces. Brown fur grew from every inch of his skin, and yet he continued to come for me.

“What the fuck?” I yelled and widened my eyes, beginning to run the other way. I could not believe my eyes. This had to be a dream. He just turned into a wolf!

He was much faster and his teeth grabbed my cloak, ripping it back, pulling me to the ground. I rolled over onto my stomach, dodging his attempt to bite my face off.

“You will not win this, no matter how freaky this is!” I stood up and took off my cloak, throwing it aside. I squeezed my fingers into fists and put them up.

He bared his teeth and growled again. “Come at me you stupid mutt.” That was offensive to wolves. This was some mutated thing.

The thing ran at me and I dodged, letting him run into the tree. I swung my foot around, kicking him in the head. “You are not a wolf or a human. Stop pretending.”

He scrambled back on his paws and jumped at me, sinking his teeth into my arm. I screamed and punched him using my other hand. I kicked his stomach again. I grabbed my cloak and ran back to my cabin, getting there just before he could catch up. Locking the doors and windows, I breathed heavily, looking around my place.

I could not believe what I had just encountered. That was a human that turned into a wolf. It didn’t make any sense. I went to the bathroom and looked at my arm, studying the marks in my skin.

I gritted my teeth as I ran my arm under the faucet to wash away the blood. I grabbed and a bandage and wrapped it around my arm a few times to give it a thick layer.

I looked into the mirror and narrowed my eyes at the girl who stared back at me. Why were wolves coming after me? Why were they after me when I did nothing wrong? I was not the girl they wanted. I was just the outcast of this damned town.

I walked to my room and searched it for anything that could possibly answer my question but nothing gave me what I was looking for.

I checked my windows, not seeing any sign of the creature. I wasn’t sure if it was safe.

I needed to go to the hospital and at least get this checked.

I pulled my cloak back around my shoulders, tying it off. I opened the front door and took off running, making sure not to slow down at any time.

I made it to the town and stopped running. I still moved my feet quickly as I went to the hospital, sitting in the waiting room and filling out the stupid paperwork.

I pulled my hood on and kept my head low. I crossed my arms, slouching in my seat. I did not need the stares people gave me. I was just here to get some medicine for this arm that I nearly lost to some monster.

The doctor took forever to call me back, checking my arm but keeping his distance. I didn’t say anything. It was useless to fight it today. The pain that was surging through my arm was another story.

“Well, I can tell you to just keep changing the bandage and washing it,” he told me.

“I’m sure that’s what you tell all your patients after an animal attack.” As far as he was concerned, it was just that. I could not tell anyone else what I saw. It was something I needed to keep to myself but I would need to look into it. If they were after me, I needed to know what they were so I could fight them off properly next time.

I left the hospital, feeling hopeless. What was the point of going to the doctor if they didn’t want to help me anyway? I had no pain meds to even make me feel sane. This pain was causing my sanity to go haywire. As far as I knew, I wanted to murder someone. I never would but this pain hit just the right spot to make the anger in me sprout and that anger manifested as wanting to murder the people who always blamed me for the murders.

I looked around the area, hiding my bandaged arm under my cloak and away from the people who judged me. I did not need them assuming it was another murder I committed.

I wanted to punch someone. I wanted to make everyone feel my pain.

I made my way back home and grabbed a pillow from the couch, punching it multiple times. I yelled out, letting out the anger that was festering inside.

It tired me out within minutes and I sat on the couch, hugging the pillow I had just beaten a minute ago. I laid my head against the back of the couch and closed my eyes, pondering the thought of creatures in the woods.

They were after me for a reason. Had I done something to them? Had I really hurt them in any way? No. I never killed them. I have only defended myself against their attacks which were always unwarranted.

Was this possibly a case of... No, that couldn’t be a thought. I doubted such an idea.

But what another explanation was there?

“Nothing, Shani. There is no other explanation. There is only one reason as to why they might be attacked you. You’re one of them.” I groaned from the disappointment. Saying it out loud made it that much crazier to believe, but also much more plausible.

I was one of them. I must have not transformed yet for some unknown reason, and maybe for that reason alone, they decided I was the enemy. Did they know? Could they sense I had their DNA?

I didn’t know why I hadn’t become like them. I had always been an outcast here and even my brother didn’t get the same treatment as me. People only seemed to hate me. It would make sense if I was an outcast in their world, too. I was not like the humans, but I wasn’t like the wolves. I was in between.

I swallowed, fearing the conclusion I had come to. I was one of them and that made me an unwanted target. I had to survive the people of this town and even the wolves. Was this my life now?

I had no other option. With my brother here, I could not leave. I wanted to leave so desperately and go somewhere else where I was not the weird criminal. I wanted to make friends.

I had never understood what made me so easy to judge in this town. What was wrong with me that the people here had a problem with it? Maybe they knew what I just found out, and they knew all along. I was a monster.

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