It was so strange how…normal, everything felt.
They were kids. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old. We were all kids. And yet, the circumstances were more than any teenager should ever have to encounter.
“Max, you’re such an asshole.” Damon said, a wink in his eyes as he pretended to sulk at Max’s apparent win at a hand of poker. “I’m the best bluff out of the both of us and you know it, brother.” I laughed, sitting back on the couch with Rick and Les on either side of me. They sipped beers. Les had on a tank top that exposed his gleaming muscles, his boyish physique.
He nudged me, his eyes towards the kitchen. “Annoying how they do that, isn’t it?”
I looked in the direction that he was alluding to. Sam and Adonis were deep in conversation. The atmosphere around them seemed charged, heavy with importance and crackling with their own reservoir of power. Sam’s dark features were deep in contemplation. I could hear the stern undercurrents of Adonis’ deep timbre as he spoke, unable to make out words despite my newly heightened senses.
“They’re really something.” I muttered.
“I hate being cooped up in here.” Damon remarked, tossing his lame deck onto the card table as Max counted up his chips with a boyish sense of victory about him. “I think we still have that old football out in the shed.” Rick suggested, and with that, every head in that room was at attention, perked up like a dog’s ears.
“Alright, let’s do it!” Hunter exclaimed, his brown eyes shining with the prospect of an outlet for the energy that consumed all of them. They all got up, Paul, Rick, Hunter, Les, Max, and Damon, a horde of tanned and testosterone-d guys waiting for an outlet to their boredom.
“Hey Jane, why don’t you join us?” Damon asked me, his fox-like eyes eternally mischievous. I raised my hands up in a show of protest, shaking my head. “Oh no, I’m lame at football. I don’t think I’ve even played since elementary school.” I laughed it off.
“Come on, you have to.” Max said. The daylight was fading- it was evening. The golden sun was peach-colored, the leaves swaying around in the wind as I looked out the window. “Okay.” I agreed, although still somewhat reluctant.
“Yeah!” Les exclaimed, and they all whooped and yelled as I followed them towards the front door. Looking back, I saw that Sam and Adonis were still deep in conversation.
I wondered what shed that they were talking about until we got outside. I hadn’t been out in a while. It felt good to feel the fresh air along my parched skin, my hair blowing around along my neck. Rick and Damon had gone into a tiny shack of a structure that was hidden along the side of the house, the door creaking open. There were windows along the sides that spilled out with plants and weeds. “Got it!” Damon exclaimed, his dark hair blowing in the breeze as he held up an ancient looking football, a look of obvious pride on his boyish face.
Watching them, I felt a new surge of youth and freshness. These guys were already becoming people that I wouldn’t mind spending the next nine months with. Or, even, if it came to it, a few years. I didn’t know what lay ahead, but I felt sure that as long as they were there, I would be okay.
“What are we doing out here?” I heard a voice exclaim from the front stoop, and I looked back to see Sam and Adonis standing there in all of their alpha-beta glory. Adonis had a look of bright amusement on his face. I don’t think I’d ever seen him that way. His long hair blew around, some black strands escaping from his ponytail as his golden eyes shone.
“Football. This is an official rematch from last fall, eh?” Hunter joked, jogging up towards Adonis and nudging him with his hand. “Rematch it is.” Adonis said, grinning as he joined the others, who were already fighting with booming voices and playful shoves over team captains and fifty yard lines.
I watched Sam as he stood there, looking on amid all of the organized chaos. He caught my eye. His dark eyes shone with something suppressed. I could never know with him. I wished deeply to know what he was thinking.
“Jane, come on!” Les said, gesturing to me from his huddle. It looked like it was Adonis, Paul, Max, and Hunter vs. Les, Damon, Rick and me. “We’ve got the alpha!” Max called out in a gloating voice, and I laughed as I went to meet Les and his team. They had already made touchdown lines where we would have to run the ball to. The wind rustled the trees around us. There was something so…isolated, about the safe house. There was no one around for miles and miles.
Although the air was chilled with the beginnings of winter- October was in full swing- I hardly felt cold at all. I wondered if it was my warmed temperature. As Damon went over the game plans for our team, his eyes intent and calculating, I snuck a glance back at Sam. He just looked on, never making an effort to join in. He was simply content just watching from the sidelines.
It was a good game. I had made a pretty impressive pass to Rick, which he then scored a touchdown with, but we didn’t win after all of that. Adonis was pretty fierce, and that coupled with Max and Damon’s rivalry, we didn’t really stand a chance.
It was nice seeing all of them in their own elements- in such a natural, human, state. It was almost like they weren’t even Changed Ones. They were just perfectly normal boys that I had stumbled upon on a walk into the woods one day.
“I think we’re gonna call you Goldilocks from now on.” Max exclaimed as we all sat around the porch, the sun setting on the clouded horizon. I looked at him incredulously as all of the others laughed. “I look nothing like how Goldilocks is supposed to look!” I said, gesturing to my dark hair. Max shrugged with laughing eyes and a wide smile.
“You’ve stumbled upon the big bad wolves.” Les said, pounding his chest. Rick made a fierce howling noise, grinning at me. Sam sipped on his beer, sharing a look with Adonis. Adonis shook his dark head with a smile.
“It’s a full moon tonight.” Adonis said, and everyone grew quiet.
“The final Phase for me.” Les said quietly. I looked at him with a subdued strangeness, something foreign gripping me. He downed some of his beer, making a satisfied noise. He seemed hardly bothered by the fact that he would no longer be in human form for a great portion of the fall and winter. When we weren’t Shifted, as Adonis had told me, we would be exhausted during the day, sleeping and resting to gain back the strength that we had lost from being Changed. Ultimately, we would take on the form of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da.
“Us too.” Max piped up. He and Damon shared a look. There was a heavy cloak of seriousness that had shrouded the conversation, the former happiness and lightness.
"I am Shifting tonight as well." Paul spoke up, breaking his usual reserved demeanor. I felt a sharp prick of anxiety as I thought of the changes that were about to take place. As though he could sense this, Rick spoke up.
“Don’t worry, Jane. We’ll still be here.” Rick said, gesturing to himself, Hunter, Adonis, and Sam. Adonis’ golden gaze caught mine. “You will be the last to Change. But you are prepared. I feel it.” We were all silent. I was somewhat assured, but still, the thought of being Changed was still so new to me.
“We’ll be ready.” Les said, looking up the sky as though he wished to know what secrets it held.