I don’t wait around, I don’t need to, I know what the verdict will be. It’s early afternoon, everyone will be at work. I rush through the city streets. There is an abandoned warehouse built into the wall surrounding the Kingdom. Climbing through the back windows puts you outside of the city.
When I get within sight of the warehouse I break into a sprint. I need to get out of here, I need to run. Climbing through the window I take a deep breath. It’s like, for the first time in weeks, I get enough air.
I sprint for the treeline. I run, tears in my eyes for at least a mile.
The deeper I go, the more alive I feel. I strip my clothes off quickly, growing more anxious with each passing second.
I shift and before my feet even hit the ground, I’m running. I know where I’m going. It will take me over an hour to get there, running at a full sprint but I need to go.
My uncle would kill me if he knew. I’ve been forbidden from going back to our old pack lands.
Today, I don’t care. I’m going to our land, I’m going to the lake, I’m setting my wolf free. As I run I wonder what would happen if I never shift back. Maybe I can live in wolf form forever, out here in the woods.
It’s a stupid, selfish thought but I’m being stupid and selfish today. I run the entire distance, enjoying the slight ache in my muscles.
I almost never get to shift and I absolutely never get to run this far, or this fast. I’m taking advantage of the opportunity, knowing I may never get it again.
When I see the water, I don’t slow down, I run at full speed, jumping off of a rock, crashing into the freezing cold, crystal blue lake. I don’t know how long I swim, circling the lake repeatedly. I switch between swimming quickly, paddling leisurely and floating.
I decide to lay in the grass for a while before running home. I love being in wolf form. The world is brighter, I can hear everything, my senses are sharper.
I know my aunt and uncle will be home when I get back. I’m deliberating on whether or not I’m going to tell them about this run. I know I’ll be in trouble, maybe I can distract them with the Queens closing arguments. I know I need to go home but I don’t want to. I walk slowly, prolonging the inevitable.
I think about Celine and the beautiful dream boy. My wolf likes them. I’m worried about us. Am I being a stupid, hormonal teenager?
Am I so used to being disparaged that one boy, one incredibly handsome boy, can make me lose all sense by being nice to me? For the first time I feel like maybe I can’t trust myself, or my wolf, my judgment is clouded.
Maybe my aunt and uncle were right to keep me locked away. If I had a friend I might have spilled the beans for a kind smile or a cookie.
Get it together. I scold myself, breaking into a sprint. It doesn’t matter that he was sweet, it doesn’t matter that she hugged me, I need to have my guard up. When I see Celine on Saturday, I will be nothing more than a servant girl.
After shifting, dressing and carefully climbing through the warehouse window, I walk slowly home in the dark. I hope they haven’t called an emergency meeting about my lateness again. I pause to take a breath before entering the house, I’ve only been back in the city for fifteen minutes and I already feel like I’m suffocating.
“Where the hell were you?” My uncle yells as soon as I close the door. He is seated at the table with Orin and Alex. I purse my lips, shit. This is going to be bad.
Here goes nothing...“I... umm... I went for a run.”
“What!” The veins in his neck bulge as he screams and jumps to his feet. I see Orin tense next to him. Alex is looking at me like I just lit myself on fire, shock and horror on his face.
“You did what?” My uncle is right in my face now, his voice is tight, angry.
“I went for a run. I needed to go before I lost control of my wolf. It’s been two months.”
“What if someone saw you?” Orin speaks from the table, I can see that he’s struggling to stay calm.
“No one saw me, Alpha.” I throw in a little extra respect, hoping it will calm him down. It does not. He stands slowly, his shoulders hunched over, flexing against his shirt. He looks at me through his lashes, his chest heaving.
“You can’t just do whatever you want. If you had been caught do you understand what would have happened? Everything would be locked down, every single one of us would be retested or killed.” He’s in front of me now, towering over me, shaking.
“The other night, when you were late. Were you out running?”
“No. I really was sent on an errand. I’ve never done this before.”
I’m glad he can’t shift right now, I think he’d rip my throat out.
“If you ever do something like this again. I will kill you myself. I won’t let you jeopardize all of us with your fucking selfishness.”
He’s seething, I know he means it. I look to my uncle but he’s looking at the floor, I guess he wouldn’t try to stop him. I nod, silently, if I speak my voice will shake. I decide against telling them about the trial. It will trickle down into the wolf community by gossipy humans eventually.
Laying on my bed I hear them talking downstairs. In their anger they aren’t being as quiet as they normally are.
“I swear it on the moon, James. If she does this again I will not hesitate. I knew this was a bad idea. She is going to ruin everything.”
“She won’t do it again, Orin.”
“If your wife hadn’t demanded she be trained...” his voice trails.
“I’m sorry, I’ll talk to her. We don’t need to get worked up about what might have happened. It’s done and nothing happened. We can’t change it now. She won’t do it again.”
“She’d better not. I will not be lenient because of your wife’s help in the past.”
I hear their chairs scrape against the floor, then the door slam shut. A moment later I hear angry footsteps on the stairs. My door opens so quickly it bangs loudly into the wall behind it, the nob cracking a small hole in the drywall.
“What the fuck were you thinking? How could you be so extraordinarily stupid, Elle?”
“I’m sorry” tears spill over my lashes “My wolf was getting so restless. I was afraid I would lose control if I didn’t let her run.”
He stares at me, at the moment it’s hard to believe that this is a man who loves me.
“If you do this again, he will kill you. You are my niece, my brother’s daughter but I won’t stop him. This is bigger than you, Elle. I won’t sacrifice everyone because you can’t keep your shit together.”
With that he leaves, slamming my door behind him.