I don’t expect Jackson to try to talk me out of this. But it’s all he’s been doing since I announced my plans no less than an hour ago.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” he asks.
“For the thousandth time, Jackson: yes. I do.”
“This isn’t just something you can choose to do on a whim,” he continues. “It’s not a get out of jail free card, and you can’t just revoke it once you’ve had enough. Once you become a wolf, you’re one for life.”
“I figured as much, Jackson.”
He sighs—long, hard, and breathy. Then he leans back against my bedroom wall and says, “There’s no way I can talk you out of this, is there?”
“Why do you want to?”
“I don’t want you to make a mistake.”
“Why would this be a mistake?” I ask. “Especially to you?”
“Because I don’t want you to end up like us!” he cries.
I falter. Pause. Frown. “What are you—“
“We’re cursed just as much as we are blessed. There’s… things we have to worry about, dangers that are more than present. I mean, God… they killed my mother when she was out on a run.”
“The Wells,” I whisper.
“Yeah,” he says. “They shot her dead. And then… they… they—“
He lowers his eyes, obviously afraid to let me see him cry, to seen him so frustrated.
I step forward, unsure how or in what way I should respond. A part of me wants to reach out and touch him, because to me, that feels like that would be the most appropriate thing. But standing here, in front of him, not knowing what to do, I find myself trembling not with anger, but hate.
Hate—for everything that family has done.
Hate—for all the harm they have caused.
Hate—for taking away not only my mother’s shop, but possibly even my parents’ lives.
I know I can’t blame Easton entirely for what happened to my parents, because right now, I don’t know if he was the cause of it. But standing here, and seeing Jackson cry, I know I can at least blame his father for the harm he’s caused this town.
For the harm he’s caused us.
As I step forward—and as I take hold of Jackson’s hands—I find myself trembling just as he is.
“Jackson?” I say.
“Yeah?” he asks.
I lean forward and kiss him.
His arms stiffen, his hands tense. But as the moments pass by, and the feelings between us are bared, I find myself melting into his embrace, tears and all.
There’s little that can be said at this moment.
We need each other, now more than ever.
I feel it’s the only thing that’ll get us through these next few days.
I fall asleep that night curled around Belle, and awaken the following morning, only to find that things, as normal as they should seem, are anything but.
My home is gone.
My parents are dead.
Tonight is the full moon.
And soon, I will become the one thing I have learned to both love and fear my entire life.
The urge to simply remain in bed is strong, and the desire for me to sink into dream even stronger. But I know I can do neither. I have to wake up—both physically, and metaphorically—and face the day for what it really is.
The day of my true awakening.
Well, I think, stroking Belle’s fur one last time before pushing myself upright. Here goes nothing.
After climbing out of bed, and gathering some of the fresh clothes Mister Meadows had specifically retrieved for my benefit from the local church, I slip into the attached bathroom, and try my hardest to wash my woes away.
Come time I emerge, I feel slightly more prepared to face the day.
A knock comes at the door.
“Oaklynn?” Jackson asks. “Are you decent?”
“I am,” I reply.
Jackson enters, then pauses a moment to wait for me to nod my approval before closing the door behind him. “I… thought I’d come in and see how you were doing. If you’d need anything.”
“I’m… fine,” I reply. “And no, I don’t need anything.”
“Okay. Good.” He straightens his posture before turning his head to look toward the window, whose curtains are drawn just far back enough to spill fine white afternoon light into the room. “Dad’s arranging for Grandma Meadows and Uncle Bernard to come over as we speak.”
“Jackson,” I say. “I have… a question.”
“Why did your Grandma Meadows offer me the chance to become a Wolf when your Uncle Bernard could’ve easily chosen someone to act in my place?”
“Uncle Bernard’s gay, for one,” Jackson replies. “So… the line is out of luck there.”
“Oh,” I reply.
“And for two: I think… well…” He pauses.
“What?” I frown. “Tell me.”
“I think Grandma Meadows knows more than she’s letting on when it comes to… well… us.”
“Do you mean—“
“I honestly don’t know what to think, Oaklynn. For all I know, Grandma Meadows’ visions of the future have been distorted by recent events. Maybe things were supposed to work out differently before… well—“
“The fire,” I say.
“Yeah,” Jackson says. “The fire.”
“Is that how the Sight, or whatever you call it, works?”
“From what I understand, it’s like a row of dominoes: you can stand them up, and you can arrange them in whatever pattern you want, but you can never control when one goes down, or if one will fall the wrong way, or if someone will—“
“Knock them out of place?”
I frown as I consider his words, and find myself turning away from him a short moment later.
He sets a hand on my shoulder.
“You still have a chance to get out of this,” he says. “You don’t have to do this.”
“No,” I say, and shake my head. “I need to do it. For me. My parents. For… your mother.”
Jackson blinks at me.
I lift my eyes to face him, then force myself to nod and say, “I’m ready for this, Jackson. If I can’t have the life that was offered to me, then, well… I’m damn sure I’m going to make the life I can.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” he says, before turning his head toward the door as what sounds like a car pulling up the drive enters our ears. “That must be them.”
“How much do you all have to prepare for… you know.”
“I honestly don’t know.” He cracks the door open. “You can stay here, if you like.”
“I’ll go,” I reply.
Jackson opens the door.
And I, without hesitation, step out.
Grandma Meadows steps into the home no less than five minutes after she and Jackson’s uncle, Bernard, arrive. Dressed in a thick brown shawl to stave off the cold, and a fine winter dress accented with faux fur, she approaches kindly and offers me a brief hug before saying, “I’m sorry, honey.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” I say. “It’s not your fault.”
“I just wish I’d been given more clarity on the matter. At least then you wouldn’t be suffering so.”
Though I can appreciate her sentiment, and acknowledge the kindness of her words, I don’t know how exactly any foresight would’ve prevented this terrible tragedy from occurring. It isn’t as though I could’ve just told my parents that someone was going to set fire to our house. They’d’ve thought me insane.
And besides, I then think. How would I have explained it?
I shake the thoughts from my head as Uncle Bernard embraces his brother-in-law and watch as the red-headed man steps into the house. He offers me a short nod and gives Jackson a one-armed hug before turning and saying, “Mom.”
“Yeah?” she asks.
“Have you figured out where we’re going to do this tonight?”
Grandma Meadows nods and turns her attention to her son-in-law. “You know of a spot, I assume?”
“I do,” Zachariah says. “The thicket beyond the Smith home should offer us enough cover to perform the ritual in peace.”
“Can you walk all that way?”
“I’m disabled, not helpless.”
“Fair enough.” Grandma Meadows turns to face me. “I guess my question for you is: are you fully committed to what will soon happen?”
“I am,” I reply.
“Do you have any regrets? Any doubts? Any fears?”
“I’m concerned about how the ritual will take place,” I say, “but I don’t have any regrets, or doubts on the matter.”
“Good.” Grandma Meadows steps forward. “It’s imperative you go into this with a clean heart and an open mind. Your thoughts, judgments, and beliefs will ultimately affect what spirit will inhabit your body come time the Mother Wolf sends one of her own from the Heavens.”
“What do you mean?” I frown. “You mean… I just don’t... well…”
“Turn into a wolf?” the woman asks. She shakes her head soon after. “No. The bond, it could be said, is spiritual. To not be born of the wolf means that we must call upon a spirit to share its powers with you. Energy attracts energy, and what you put out into the great beyond will ultimately come back to you.
“I have to ask you once more, before we go to the trouble of preparing for the ritual: Do you hold any grudge that will attract a spirit dark and foreboding?”
“I—“ I start to say. “I don’t—“
The woman narrows her eyes at me.
Swallowing, I shake my head, then close my eyes and say, “No. I don’t.”
“Good,” Grandma Meadows says. “Then it’s settled. We will begin preparing for the ritual, and set out at dusk to meet the moon’s full light.”
As Grandma Meadows and Uncle Bernard turn and make their way into the family living room, I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
Of all the things I could lie about, it had to be this.