To go to school... Or not to go...
“Gemma! You’re going to be late again!”
Or not to go...
I scrunched the covers in my hands and exhaled loudly, closing my eyes.
In the end, I stayed home.
I was leaning on the bathroom sink, looking at myself in the mirror, and was trying to notice... Heck, I wasn’t sure what. Probably a pair of fangs or other telltales of being a werewolf. Obviously, I couldn’t find any. I found, however, signs of exhaustion - sunken cheeks, greyish face, dark circles under my unusually dull steel-gray eyes, and greasy, tangled strawberry blond hair... No wonder even dad got fooled by my sick act. I looked the part without even trying.
I sighed and splashed some water on my feverish face.
I felt shit.
Maybe it was because of that werewolf thing. Maybe because I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing Stacy’s lifeless body over and over again. Maybe because there was a psychopathic wolf in the woods, which almost got me. Maybe because after yesterday’s talk with Emmie, I couldn’t get rid of this odd feeling that my freedom was going to be taken away from me - and it made me jittery. Maybe because Bennett’s cyan blue eyes and alluring smell still couldn’t leave me alone. Maybe all of it at once.
I exhaled loudly, feeling my pulse racing and anxiety twisting my insides into tight knots. Dizzy, I tried - and failed - to get a grip. My nails elongated and scraped the white porcelain with an eery screech. I could hear the beat of my heart roaring in my ears. I looked up at the mirror only to find two blazing, light silver orbs staring at me with a creepy, unnatural glow. I blinked. Then I blinked again. And then once more, but my eyes didn’t turn back to their usual steel-gray. Agitated, I gripped the sink harder and heard a crack of porcelain breaking.
My phone blasted off, irritating my sensitive ears and startling me. A very animalistic growl left my mouth as I tried to pierce the wall and melt the wretched thing laying on the nightstand with my gaze only. In the end, I went to fetch the stupid mobile because the ringtone simply didn’t want to stop, driving me utterly insane. I looked at the screen and saw an Unknown number. I almost threw the phone at the floor then but caught myself at the very last second. I didn’t need a new mobile adding to the very long list of things I had to buy.
Exhaling loudly, I clicked the receive button - or tried to, at least. But that became quite a feat as I still had claws instead of human nails.
“Where are you?” Bennett’s smooth bariton filled my ears, after I finally managed to answer.
With everything that had happened, I was beyond livid at that point.
“Is this the way you are going to greet me from now on?” I half-growled, half-said, my irritation skyrocketing for no reason and my skin prickling as a wave of hot rage shook me from the core.
“Matthews...” He sighed, exasperated. Wait... was he chiding me? “You’re agitated. What’s going on? Why aren’t you at school?”
“Do you expect me to report to you my every move as well?” I said through greeted teeth. I heard his low, unhappy rumble on the other end of the call but ignored it. If I was frustrated, so he could be.
And then, because I suddenly remembered something -
“How do you even know what I’m feeling? And who gave you my number?”
“Does it matter?” He countered. It was clear he was trying for patience.
“It does to me.”
“Just tell me if you’re okay...” Bennett sighed tiredly. There was something in his voice that made me want to obey his request, though I was unable to pinpoint what.
“I almost broke a sink basin,” I said simply.
For a second, there was a silence on the other end of the call, but then I heard Bennett... snort?
The unexpected yet rather pleasant sound made me smile. All the steam building inside me until now suddenly left me, leaving me empty. I deflated like a balloon - my nails went back to their normal, human length while my lips started to tremble. In the end, I burst into the fit of giggles that quickly turned into a full-on laugh. Bennett joined me with his low chuckle making the whole situation somehow liberating. The frustration and rage were just unpleasant memories at this point.
I finally caught my breath and asked all serious.
“Am I always going to have such mood swings?” I didn’t even know why I confided in Bennett. One part of me felt it was right, while the other didn’t want to show my vulnerable side and still rebelled against the idea of asking Emmie’s cousin for help. In the end, I decided I just needed someone to guide me through this mess.
“Only at the beginning,” he replied truthfully. “I can teach you how to control it... Or Emmie could if you wish.”
I ran a hand through my tangled hair. I was a mess.
“You’re not alone in this, Gemma...” Bennett said in a quiet, soothing voice like he could sense my internal turmoil through the phone. His statement made some of my anxiety go away, helping me to relax a tiny little bit.
At least, it was something.
I blinked away the sudden tears that welled up in my eyes and said through the clogged throat.
“I’ll think about it.”
And then I hung up.
It was the fifth day after Stacy’s body had been discovered.
I finally went to school and was currently sitting in the car, stalling. Well, I dreaded meeting other... werewolves... now that I knew who they really were and what they could do... But I obviously couldn’t delay the unavoidable forever - my mum was already eyeing me funnily from behind the wheel. So, having no other choice, I opened the door and went to face the music like the brave girl I most definitely wasn’t at the moment.
The morning was crisp, and I could feel the first signs of the upcoming winter in the air: the refreshing bite of the freeze pinching my cheeks and watering my nose; the gentle wind playing with falling leaves twirling and swirling before sinking soundlessly on the glittering grass; the kiss of the sun that hung visibly lower on the cerulean blue sky that was sprinkled here and there with white fluffy clouds.
It was still very peaceful outside. I was earlier than usual to omit the morning racket. I feared it would agitate something I started to identify as a wolf-being. Yet, to my surprise, I was more in harmony here, standing on the damp grass of the schoolyard, than I felt since Sunday. The being inside me was content enough with the everpresent tranquility that it subsided in the darkest corners of my mind, lulled.
I exhaled loudly and made my way to the lockers. I had nightmares about suddenly shifting in the middle of school, but maybe, just maybe this day would’t be so bad?
My stomach quelched once again, and I closed my eyes, trying to push the worries away. I learnt it was when strong emotions emerged that the... thing... perked its head up, striving to be released. Which meant that I had to remain calm - a feat I was hardly capable of lately.
I opened my locker, took my grey woolen beanie off my head, and threw it inside. As I was about to dive in to dig out the books I needed for the first period, my locker was abruptly slammed shut. A loud bang echoed loudly on the almost empty corridor, attracting the attention of the very few students I could see in the hall.
Surprised, I turned my head to check who had the guts to almost jam my fingers. And here she was - Sydney Brooks in person. I knew that our paths would intertwine at some point today, but I never thought it would be this early.
Sydney had her arms crossed under her ample bosom and was eyeing me cooly with her baby-blue eyes. I had a feeling she was trying to appear intimidating. Nevertheless, it was difficult for me to feel threatened when I could only focus on her smell - something sickeningly sweet that irritated my nose like a mix of fruit-scented candles stored together in a small, confined space.
I almost sneezed while the wolf-being perked its head up. It forced me to look Sydney straight in the eyes, so we were standing there like two idiots for a minute or so before Queen B finally averted her gaze. I felt the wolf-being’s satisfaction from the outcome of this strange eye battle as well as Sydney’s rage.
“Don’t think this is over, Gemma,” she seethed in a low voice, invading my personal space. I almost growled unhappily but swallowed it down at the very last moment. “I warn you, Zack is mine. Whatever you may imagine in that little head of yours is nothing but a pitful dream. I will never give up, you hear me? So do yourself and everyone a favour and buzz off.”
“What makes you think I’m interested in Bennett?” I scoffed, feigning indifference that I wasn’t sure I actually felt while the wolf-being tried to struggle free and show Sydney her place.
What did Emmie say about turning into a wolf again? Wasn’t it supposed to be during the next full moon? So why did it seem like it was getting more and more difficult for me to control the urge to change?
I fisted my hands. My suddenly elongated nails pierced my skin, and I felt warm blood on my fingers. My gums started to itch, and I presumed, rather than saw, my eyes turned light-silver again.
I breathed quietly through the nose a couple of times to get myself under control. But Sydney never intended to make things easier for me. No. A calculated, sly smile contorted her face as she smirked.
“Can’t control your wolf, abomination?” She taunted sweetly, agitating the thing inside me even more.
That was when my skin began prickling as the sudden pain bent me in half. I squeezed my stomach, trying to keep it together while hot tears streamed down my cheeks. I was full-on panicking at that point.
Thank God Emmie decided to show up like a knight in shining armor.
“Stop agitating her, Sydney, or I swear to God, Zack will hear about it,” she threatened in a no-bullshit tone as she placed a hand on my bent back. It helped a bit.
Brooks smiled innocently.
“I wasn’t. We were just having a little chat, right Gemma?” She asked sweetly while another convulsion shook me. I couldn’t reply, focusing all of my energy on controlling the wolf-being that wanted to rip the smirk off Sydney’s sly face.
Probably sensing my intentions and Emmie’s pissed-off gaze, Brooks decided to finally back away. Not without the last word, obviously:
“Remember what I told you, Gemma, and all will be good between us.”
With that, she eventually left. I managed to calm down enough to at least stand straight. Cold sweat was gathered on my forehead and neck, making me feel sticky and disgusting.
I hated it.
I hated Sydney.
I hated how vulnerable I felt just a second ago.
I hated that psychotic, feral wolf for biting me and killing Stacy.
“Gemma... Are you okay?” Emmie asked worriedly, frowning.
I abruptly shook her hand off and bit out:
Then I stormed off.