Evie consciously unclenched her fist for what felt like the thousandth time as they pulled out of the drive way of what Valen had called The Pack House. She’d been debating on how to start this conversation with her mother ever since the latter had woken up nearly twelve hours ago. As the two of them were the only ones in the car, Evie decided now was as good a time as any.
“Mom, can I ask you a serious question?” She began hesitantly. Her mom turned the blinker onto the main highway, the longest stretch of their hour-long drive.
“Of course, Sweetie.” Her mother had been in a good mood since they’d been staying with Valen and Evie suspected he had a lot to do with it. She’d told the truth, however, when she’d said she was happy for her mother. Unlike Jonah, Evie was old enough to remember when her parents weren’t so happily married and she didn’t begrudge her mother what little happiness she’d been able to find since; which made her next question all the more difficult.
“Is Valen crazy?” She’d learned to be direct from her mom, which was why she didn’t believe in beating around the bush. It was best to come right out and say whatever you were thinking; it made the conversation flow better and move more quickly to the actual point.
Her mother erupted into startled laughter, taking a moment to answer her question. Evie didn’t continue, figuring she’d get her answer soon enough. When she was finally able to speak, she wiped a tear from her eye. “Why do you ask?” Evie rolled her eyes.
“Maybe because I’ve heard him and his friends mention werewolves on several occasions. You even said something about it, remember? Right after you woke up?” She’d actually said something about silver bullets and full moons, but that was semantics as far as Evie was concerned. If her mother was playing crazy to make the nice man like her, Evie was going to have to step in, as much as she hated to ruin her mom’s good time. Her mother sighed; her mirth put aside for the moment.
“Valen isn’t crazy.” She began, Evie waited patiently and she continued. “How much of that night do you remember? How much did you see?” It wasn’t something Evie liked to think about and had, in fact, spent the past several days trying actively to avoid it. Her mom had respected that thus far, which made the subject change slightly alarming. Evie hesitated and her mother continued. “Evie, honey, I know you don’t want to think about it, and I promised you a long time ago that I wouldn’t push you. But this is different than the divorce, ok? This is a change in our entire lives, maybe even a change in our entire world. I need to know where you’re at with things.” Evie exhaled slowly, collecting her thoughts.
“I remember daddy’s voice. He sounded angry, but not his normal angry, something more. I remember hearing you…. fighting…” She trailed off, scrunching up her face to keep the tears in. She was done crying over things her father did or said. Her mother placed a comforting hand on her knee and she grasped it in both of hers, squeezing. “Then Valen came into my room and told us we had to go with him…” She remembered something then that she couldn’t believe she hadn’t already mentioned. “I hit him with my baseball bat.” Ellie laughed again.
“That’s my girl.” She squeezed her hands back before placing both hands on the steering wheel to pass a car in their lane. When she merged back over, she placed her hand back, which Evie was grateful for. “Evie. The night your father came to our house, he wasn’t himself. Not quite, anyway. He had the same personality, but his negative traits were amplified by something…more…” She seemed to be struggling for the right words. After a few moments of an apparently silent debate, she continued. “When he attacked me, he did so with claws and teeth, not fists. He was threatening you and your brother, and I didn’t know what else to do. So, I fought back with the only thing I had; I distracted him long enough for help to arrive. When it did, it was Valen and Tyson and a few others. They intercepted your father but I was really hurt, and he got away. To save my life, and make sure I could continue to be there for you and your brother, Valen turned me into what your father had become, what he and Tyson and the rest of them are. Valen made me a werewolf.” With that last she withdrew her hand and Evie glanced up to see her giving her a slightly…fearful expression? Her mother looked fearful. Evie thought for a second before making her decision.
“So…. you’re a werewolf? They’re real?” Whether Valen and her mother were crazy was yet to be seen, but she wouldn’t be the one to point it out. Not so long as it didn’t interfere with her or Jonah’s safety, which so far it hadn’t. Her mother smiled warmly.
“I know you don’t believe me fully. I did raise you; you know. But thank you for keeping an open mind.” Evie returned the smile with a grin, acknowledging her mother’s words, before nodding.
* * *
They arrived at the police station in their old town about an hour later, the rest of the drive having past in a blur of classic rock (her mother’s pick) and heavy metal (her own). According to Valen, this was where Anabelle and Tommy had spent the last four nights while child services tried to locate a suitable home. Why they hadn’t just contacted grandma was beyond her but it was only one of the many things she didn’t understand about this situation.
“Evie?” Her mother’s voice was hesitant. Evie offered her a small smile in reassurance. It was just the two of them and for the first time she was grateful for the alone time. She’d spent so much of her life resenting her mother, first for silly things like not letting her stay up an extra hour, then for the divorce. In just a few short days she’d discovered so much about her world that she’d never even dreamed was possible, and, most of all, she’d almost lost her mother forever. Neither she nor Valen had ever said exactly what had happened to her, but Evie knew the look in his eyes when she’d asked about her mother back at their house.
They entered the building and passed through the security checks. Once they entered the main lobby, the officer who’d accompanied them led them down a hallway to a small conference room and instructed them to wait. A few minutes later, the door opened again.
Evie turned expectantly, but froze halfway between sitting and standing. Rather than her cousins at the door, a woman was standing half-in and half-out of the room, looking at her mother.
“Are you Ellie?” Her voice sounded vaguely familiar but Evie couldn’t place why. Ellie appeared as lost as Evie was. The woman nodded before entering the room completely and closing the door. She didn’t walk further into the room, however, and kept her eyes lowered to the table they were seated at. Evie glanced at her mom but she didn’t seem to be any more aware of the reason for the woman’s strange behavior than Evie was.
“I am.” Her mom answered hesitantly. The woman smiled slightly but made no further movements.
“My name is Serena but everyone calls me Siri. I work in police dispatch but I’m also…”
“A member of the pack?” Evie glanced at her mom again and this time, she returned her gaze with a reassuring smile of her own before turning back to Siri. “Look, Valen has started explaining some, but he hasn’t made it very far. So, I’m not sure what I need to say to you to allow you to come further into the room.” Evie glanced at her mom again, catching on that Siri was another of the crazy pack cult. After a few seconds, Siri lifted her gaze and smiled warmly before striding into the room completely and holding her hands out. Her mom grasped them both before turning to Evie. “Evie, this is the woman you spoke with on the phone.” She didn’t get into when exactly the phone call had happened, but she didn’t need to. Evie had just realized why the woman’s voice sounded familiar.
“You were the one I talked to who told me help was coming. Did you call Valen?” Siri nodded.
“I work in the police dispatch so when I get a call that may be something a little above the regular officers’ paygrade, I call Valen. I hope he didn’t scare you too bad.” She smiled warmly and Evie felt her own smile return.
“I hit him in with a baseball bat.” She wasn’t sure why she was so proud of that fact but Siri laughed, the sound fuller than her small frame would allude to. Evie’s smile grew wider, something about this woman making her happy to be around her.
“Sometimes, I’ve wanted to do that too.” Siri laughed, wiping her eyes. Ellie chuckled.
“I can imagine.” She murmured. Siri smiled at her mother before taking a seat across from them.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help to you, Evelyn.” She stated, sounding genuine. Evie shook her head.
“Evie, please, and you were. You helped me stay calm so that I could keep Jonah, my little brother, calm. Thank you.”
“Yes, Siri, thank you.” Her mom sounded like she meant it. Siri nodded, acknowledging their thanks.
“Please. Even before I knew you were my Lalina, I would have protected your daughter. It’s my job.” Her mother seemed slightly bewildered by the title, which made Evie feel a little better about her own confusion. Before either of them could speak, however, another knock sounded at the door.
This time it was Anabelle and Tommy. The two of them peaked hesitantly around the officer’s frame before spotting Evie and her mother and darting into the room and straight into Ellie’s arms, both of them bursting into tears.
“I’ll leave you to it, then.” Siri excused herself, along with the officer, leaving the four of them alone in the room.
Tommy began talking immediately, blabbering between hysterical sobs about his mom and when he could go home. Anabelle, Evie noticed, was uncharacteristically silent during this. Normally, it was the other way around. Tommy didn’t like meeting new people so he usually his behind Aunt Emmy while Anabelle made all the introductions. Only Aunt Emmy wasn’t here, Evie remembered with a jolt. Aunt Emmy would never be here again. She felt the tears return for the second time in as many hours that day and this time she didn’t fight them. Anabelle glanced at her, which was all the invitation Evie needed. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around her cousin, squeezing her tightly. Despite their equal age, Evie had always been taller, a trait she’d inherited from her mother’s side of the family. Anabelle favored her mother, short and curvy for her age. Evie had often felt like an Amazonian in comparison, and this was the first time she’d been grateful for the difference as it allowed her to envelope the latter completely.
“I’m so sorry, Belle.” It was an old nickname, left over from their princess days. She heard a sniffle before Anabelle returned her embrace.
“Thank you.” She whispered. If Valen was right, they were her first words in four days.
* * *
They made it out of the police station, Siri waiving them off as they went, and back onto the highway with no incident. If Evie were honest, she should have realized something was off.
As her mother was crossing under an overpass, a large black SUV pulled up next to them. Thinking they were about to pass, her mother held her speed steady and waited for them to go around. They were quickly approaching a small red sports car that didn’t understand how fast it could go, and Evie assumed her mother meant to get behind the SUV to go around it. It wasn’t until the SUV stalled next to them that Evie, or her mother, paid it any more attention.
Evie gasped as the SUV merged into their lane, directly in the space they were already occupying. Anabelle yelped and Tommy screamed as Ellie swerved onto the upcoming exit ramp with enough force Evie swore the tires on her side came off the pavement. They made it down the ramp and off the road without any real damage before Ellie put the car in park, all of them breathing heavily.
“Is everyone ok?” Her mother asked, her voice breathless. Evie nodded and Anabelle and Tommy expressed their affirmative. “Well.” Ellie offered Evie a small smile. “I think that little adventure calls for some ice cream. Who’s with me?” Tommy gleefully agreed and Evie glanced back to see Anabelle nodding as well, a tiny smile playing across her features. Just as her mother put the car back into drive, the sports car from before pulled up behind them. Evie assumed, as her mother probably did, that they just wanted to check on them, having witnessed the near accident behind them. She continued that assumption right up until the driver’s side door opened, and her father got out.