I am thankful to be alone.
Thankful to not have to share my feelings.
Thankful to not have to express my emotions.
Having learned Jackson’s secret—and knowing, as a result, that there are things and forces beyond our known world—I can’t help but feel as though my reality is shattering all around me.
Like a glass chandelier, I muse, falling from the ceiling.
Only to shatter upon my head.
I want so badly to confide in someone—anyone. Yet, I know I can’t, because not only would they think I was crazy, but they would turn on Jackson for ‘filling my head with such nonsense.’
And besides, I then think. The wolves.
If they are not really, truly the wolves I think they are, then who are they? Are they members of the Meadows family? A family I do not know? Just who—or, more aptly, what—is their purpose?
And why have they been interested in me?
Do you really think they’re interested in you? I wonder, frowning as I consider the world outside my bedroom window.
It would make sense, all things considering. I’d seen the first wolf on the road, then the second out my window; and while I could have counted the first sighting as being a one-off, the second seemed a bit too close to home—both literally and metaphorically—to be seen as coincidence.
A sigh escapes me as I consider these things—as my thoughts wander, as my heart races.
In two days I’ve not only almost died, but have learned of the existence of a supernatural people.
How much crazier can my life get?
I’m just about to ask myself this question when I hear the front door being unlocked, and soon after, someone stepping in.
Standing, I make my way to the door—
But stop as I hear voices.
“He fired you?” my mother asks. “He actually fired you?”
“He thinks I’m being unduly influenced by outside sources,” my father replies.
“Did you slip up? Do something you weren’t supposed to?”
“I’m just asking, Ben. We have to remember who we’re talking about.”
“I didn’t slip up.”
“Are you sure you—“
The whispered tones that follow inspire me to lean my head against the door to listen, though their voices are so soft, so quiet, that I can’t even hear anything they’re saying.
Come on, I think. Just talk a little bit louder. Just a little bit—
A knock comes at the door.
I jump backward and fall onto bed.
The door bursts open. My mother looks in. “What’s going on?” she asks.
“I—“ I start, breathless as I shuffle off the cat’s tail. “I fell on Belle.”
“Is she okay?”
The cat peeks out from beneath the blanket and offers me a surly look.
“Sorry,” I say, extending a hand toward her, only to receive a growl in response.
My mother frowns as she considers the two of us, but sighs as she closes the door and says, “I just got back from the police station.”
“And? Did they find out who did it?”
“They have three kids in custody.”
“And one of them is Easton Wells.”
I blink, stunned. “Oh God,” I say, the breath escaping from my throat. “How did they—“
“Someone at school busted a few of the kids on the football team for talking about it. Naturally, they ratted themselves out back to back.”
“I know, I know,” I offer. “Sorry.” I wait a moment for her expression to fade before I lean forward to ask, “Are you all right?”
“Other than your dad losing his job and the reality of a court case coming up? Yeah. I… I think I’m fine.”
“A court case?” I frown. “I thought you just said they caught who did it?”
“They did. But, naturally, they’re not telling me everything—at least, not yet. Your dad and I were out at the site looking around, and we noticed that there were security cameras on the gas station across the street.”
“So they have footage,” I offer. “Right?”
“We don’t know.”
A trickle of unease filters through my veins, and upon reaching my lungs, causes my chest to cramp. I reach up to press a hand over my heart and exhale a long, hard breath before inhaling another one.
My mother, in response, merely settles down on the bed beside me, and asks, “How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” I say.
“Your chest feels okay?”
“It’s still a bit sore, but… other than that, it’s fine.”
“Good, good.” My mother sets a hand on my upper back. “Are you ready to go back to school tomorrow?”
“I’m not sure I want to go back to school,” I reply.
“Is it because you’re worried about what your schoolmates will think?”
“It’s because I know what they’ll be thinking,” I offer. “That it’s my fault that Easton did what he did. That it’s because of me that he got driven over the edge.”
I shake my head and stand. “I know I can’t let it get to me,” I say, “and I know I can’t let it get me down. It’s just… I’m scared, Mom.”
“Of what they’ll say. Of what some of them might do.”
“You’re safer at school than almost anywhere,” my mother offers.
But I shake my head, then; and though I want to say how untrue that is, I keep my mouth shut—not only because I’m still reeling from what Jackson has told me, but because of what Easton has done.
All of this, I think, because of the wolves. Because they came back. Because I dared speak out about them.
I swallow the lump in my throat, then, and turn to look out the window—where, no more than a few days ago, I’d witnessed a wolf in all its carnal beauty, looking in on and judging me with the eyes only a supreme being could have.
The truth is: I don’t know what’s going to happen, or how things will play out from here on out. That alone is what terrifies me.
And, Jackson, I think, and close my eyes.
What might his place in all of this be?
While I know I have no way of knowing, I imagine that I will soon find out.