I stare down at my breakfast, pushing it around my plate with my fork. Last night a pair of eighteen year old mates found each other. It's not that I'm not happy for them... really. I just wish everyone would stop staring at me sympathetically like I'm going to burst into tears at any moment.
Truth be told, I'm used to it. I'm twenty eight, I've been watching people find their mates around me for ten years.
For a few years I was broken and bitter about it but now, I guess I've just surrendered to it. I'm the twenty eight year old spinster wolf.
For whatever reason the Moon Goddess hasn't given me a mate. My wolf has become weaker as the years tick past. I try to ignore it, to be gracious about it. No one has to know that I cry myself to sleep most nights, longing for the piece that completes my soul, the mate that I should be holding tight through the night.
My mom sits in the chair beside me. I brace myself, knowing she's going to rub salt into this already open, festering wound.
"Can you believe it, found each other on their eighteenth birthdays! Luc, I think it's time you go on another pack tour. It's been two years, go have another look!"
I clench my fist so that my nails bite into my palm.
I've been to every pack in Europe, twice. I also went to several packs in North America and two balls for finding your mate.
It's humiliating at this point. I can't do it again.
"This might be your time," mom squeezes my leg.
I know she means well, but it doesn't make it hurt less. My older brother found his mate while they were both eighteen and my younger brother found his at the first pack he visited when he was nineteen.
Their mates are sweet, both of them are incredibly sensitive and careful not to make me feel badly.
Every time we have a visitor mom shoves me in front of them, hoping.
"You're right, mom. I've actually already been looking at a pack in America to start off."
I feel like shit for lying to her but she would never let me go otherwise. This is the perfect time to bring this up. I've been waiting for the opportunity, this is it.
There is a pack in Montana that's world renowned for their training. The Alpha trains warriors and the Luna teaches classes on wolf sciences.
I'm a nurse at our pack hospital part time. I would love a certificate in wolf specific anatomy and biology.
"That's wonderful, Luc!"
I bite my lip. By the time she finds out I'm not doing yet another mortifying mate tour, I'll be long gone.
I spoke to the Luna in Montana yesterday and she sent a request to my Alpha. He has a soft spot for me since I've done so much for the pack. I know there is some pity mixed in there but for once it's working in my favor. He told me he wouldn't mention anything to my mom.
I continue to push my food around my plate while mom chatters on and on about things I don't care to listen to. The usual stuff, this person found their mate, these people are expecting their third baby. Just the typical stuff that digs at my soul.
The newly mated pair comes into dining room and my mom gasps, drawing my attention.
"Will you look at them! What a lovely pair."
I bite the inside of my cheek as she reaches out and pulls my hand into hers. I know she's trying to comfort me but after ten years it feels like rubbing sandpaper against my skin.
After breakfast I rush to my room and start packing. I have more than a week but I need to do something to distract myself.
A loud knock on my door brings my furious packing to a halt.
"Luc, it's me," my younger brother Enzo says through the door.
I open it just enough for him to see my face.
"Whatcha doin in here?" He smirks.
I roll my eyes.
"I have something for you. A ticket, it came through the Alpha's office," he quirks his brow at me.
"I'm going on a mate tour," I try to lie convincingly.
"Bullshit! Why are you really going? I won't tell mom but I know you're not going to find a mate."
"How do you know that?" I move out of the way, letting him in as I continue packing.
"Luc, the look on your face when you came back from the last one... I just know you aren't doing that again," he's suddenly very serious.
I sigh, "I'm going to the training pack in Montana."
"No fucking way!" His face lights up.
"Not to be a warrior!" I laugh, "The Luna there teaches wolf sciences courses. It's a six week certification program on wolf biology."
He bumps my shoulder with his, "that's awesome, Luc!"
"You can't tell mom!"
"Do I look like an idiot to you?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?"
"Wow, I'm definitely telling her."
We both laugh as he sets the envelope with my tickets in my suitcase.
"In all seriousness, of course I won't tell mom. You deserve this. Mom would ruin it for you by guilting you into staying. I know you're her only daughter and you haven't found your mate but... you have to live your life. I know she makes you feel bad because she's alone but that it's your fault."
I purse my lips and throw a jacket into my suitcase. I know what he's saying is true but it doesn't make it easier to leave her.
Our dad died when I seventeen and she clings to me, except when it comes to finding my mate. She's happy to let me leave to search but otherwise, she guilts me.
When he leaves I finish packing and set my suitcase by my door, where it will sit for nine days. I'm anxious to go, to try something for myself and see a new place, anything to break up the mundane day to day.
I close my eyes and try to think about anything other than the lonely ache in my soul.