Chapter 3 - Q and J
The atmosphere is certainly different when I open my eyes this morning. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it. It’s already nine in the morning but the whole house is quiet.
I didn’t even bother to attempt to finish cleaning up the washrooms after the meeting yesterday or do the laundry like I’m supposed to today. I figure I’m paying enough for my accommodation that is this closet, and no food condition in this pack hell house with all my life savings they took from me. Yeah, I’m salty and petty like that. Surprisingly, nobody comes knocking at my door demanding that I do my usual chores this morning.
The somber atmosphere follows me as I make my way to the bathroom across the hall to brush my teeth and take my shower then back quickly to lock myself in my room again.
“I’m bored,” I inform Oliver. It’s noon now and I’m feeling very hungry. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do next but I can’t think when I’m hungry. “Why is it so quiet today?” I ask Oliver.
A sudden knock on my door makes me jump off my bed. I creep slowly to the door, contemplating whether or not it’s wise to open it. I can still feel the Beta’s hand around my throat. I had nightmares about it last night.
“Hey, it’s me,” says a quiet voice through the closed door. Jorden!
I quickly unlock the door and pull it open. “Hi.”
His chocolate brown eyes peer down at me from the doorway. “Meet me in Nana’s back garden in twenty minutes,” he says before he quietly slips away.
I close the door with a click and change from my pajama shorts into a pair of jeans. I put on a grey t-shirt and a pair of white Converse and lastly pull a comb through my straight black hair. I have a small old mirror hanging on the wall across from my bed. I took that mirror from my Nana’s old house and hung it there myself. I’m not vain, but a girl needs a mirror.
My green eyes stare back at me from the mirror. People always comment about how unusual and vivid my green eyes are. I always wonder if I got that from my unknown biological father because none of my relatives here have green eyes. I guess that is one of the things in life that I’ll never figure out. At least the puffiness around my eyes from crying last night is gone.
I hurry outside because Nana’s old house is fifteen minutes walk away from the pack house. Before I step outside, I grab a scarf and wrap it lightly around my neck.
Jorden calls me Q and I call him J. Together, we’re Q and J, get it? No? Well...that’s okay. I don’t understand it either but when a seven-year-old Jorden told a six-year-old me that we’re going to be J and Q, I agreed with him wholeheartedly. The six-year-old me thought it was the coolest thing ever. That was until I figured out that I was his sidekick, the one to fetch things for him when we’re fighting the evils of the world. I’m nobody’s sidekick. We argued about it. Now we’re Q and J in my head. In his mind, we’re still J and Q.
I survey the garden before me. This used to be my Nana’s joy. Nana used to spend hours happily tending to her garden while Jorden and I used to play back here. It’s been a couple of months since I last saw it and now it’s grown wild. There are weeds among the coneflowers, penstemons, lilies, and black-eyed Susans. Wild grass is growing freely between the tomato, peas, squash, and beets.
Jorden must have seen something in my eyes because he says, “I came to water them once in a while but I’m not good with anything else. Maybe the new owner will be better at it.”
“Yeah,” I choke out my answer. It’s hard to believe that this place is owned by somebody else now. The new owner hasn’t moved in yet but I hope they will love and care for this place as much as Nana did.
I look up and give my cousin a watery smile.
“Here,” he says, handing me a sandwich wrapped in paper napkins. The smell alone makes my mouth water. I stuff the turkey club sandwich into my mouth. Oh, so good! I know I look like a pig, but I’m hungry and it’s just Jorden. It feels like I haven’t eaten in days! Oh, wait! I haven't eaten in days safe from some bananas I stole from the kitchen yesterday morning before I started my chores.
I look up at my cousin, giving him a big smile with my mouth still full. The smile he gives back looks pained. I find his dark eyes watching me carefully as I finish eating. Swallowing still hurts but hungry stomach hurts too.
All of a sudden he steps closer and starts to unwind the scarf from around my neck. “Jorden...” I protest, but he tilts my head up to inspect my throat.
A muscle ticks at his jaw as his finger skims the reddened skin on my throat gently. Just as quickly, he lets me go and shoves his hands down the pockets of his jeans. He turns around and kicks the pebbles at his feet. His movement mirrors his frustrations. He kicks the pebbles over and over again. “You have to get out of here,” he says.
My heart stutters at his words and I just watch him for a moment. His broad shoulders hunched and his head down. The wind blows his hair wild. His dark hair is getting long and starts to curl. If it gets long enough, it’ll start to turn into ringlets. I used to make fun of his hair when we were little while secretly wished I had those ringlets.
“Did you hear me, Q? You have to get out of here. Very soon.” He turns around to look at me. His eyes are very sad. “I can’t protect you, Q. You have to go far away from here and don’t come back.”
“Why?” I know Jorden. There’s something he’s not telling me. “Jorden?”
“Everything is fvcked up, you know that right, Q? My father is fvcked up. This whole pack is one big clusterfvck.”
I’ve never heard Jorden St. Martin swears so much before. It was always me and Nana who swore a lot, so much so that we had a swear jar...I still have that swear jar. We used to put a dime in it for each time we swore. That’s why I try very hard not to swear anymore. I’m broke.
Jorden runs his fingers through his unruly curls before he rubs his hand over his face. His eyes look tired.
Jorden is more than a cousin to me. He’s like a brother. He’s the only one who used to visit Nana and me often. Nobody else did. I used to secretly feel guilty that Nana had to go to the pack house in order to see them all. Maybe if I wasn’t living there they would have visited their mom and their grandmother.
I listen to the sound of the wind blowing the leaves and rustling the blades of the long grass together. The chirping of the birds never sounds so sweet. We’re so far from everybody and that, in itself, is a freedom. I miss it out here.
“Do you know that Judith Maddox, our former Luna died last night?” says Jorden, breaking the peaceful silence.
“She’s dead?” Maybe that’s why it felt odd this morning. I didn’t know the old Luna that well and she’d been bedridden for years but I still feel kinda sad.
Jorden nods. “She died last night,” he repeats. “You wanna hear something funny, Q?”
“Okay,” I say. I don’t know what can be funny about this.
“Yesterday, after everybody left my dad’s office, Old Mr. Maddox came to visit my dad.
“I guess there’s nothing weird about it since they’re best friends. My father served as his Beta for decades while he was still an Alpha...but somehow I had a bad feeling about it. Or maybe because I was still pissed with my father for putting his hands on you. I don’t know, but whatever it was, I decided to listen in on them. I went into a broom closet next to his office where the wall is thinner.
“Q, I heard him tell my dad that you’re his second chance mate,” he says. His breathing gets heavier. His chest moves up and down very fast. “It’s bullshit, Q. How can he find his second chance mate when his true mate was still alive? The bastard! It’s a load of bullshit and I heard my father agree with him. They agreed that you’re his mate yesterday afternoon and last night... last night, his mate died!”
He snatches my arms and grips them tightly. “I can’t let them touch you, Q. I can’t let my father lay a hand on you again or you’ll be dead. I can’t let that old swine lay a hand on you...” his voice breaks and he shakes his head. “They must have done something to her. They must have. I can feel it in my gut. If they killed her, what would they do to you?”
I pull my hands out of his grip, wrap my arms around his middle and lay my cheek against his chest. His body is so taut and stiff. His heart is beating fast. This must be very hard for Jorden. I don’t know why I’m so calm right now. I think I’ll start to freak out soon but I have to make sure Jorden is calmed first before I start to lose it.
After a while, I can feel his body starts to loosen up as he wraps his arms around me and buries his face in my hair. His heartbeat starts to return close to normal. “I don’t want you to go but I can’t keep you safe. I hate it that I can’t protect you, Q.”
“That’s okay, J. That’s okay,” I tell him even though my head is spinning. I don’t have any money. Where can I go? How do I get out of here? I know they wouldn’t let me go before, but once one of them claimed me as his mate, it’ll be impossible to get out of here.
I let Jorden go when I’m sure that he’s calmed enough. We both sit cross-legged on the grass, facing each other like we used to do when we were younger.
“I love you as much as I love Joelle, maybe more. I just lost Nana and now I’m about to lose you too.” I see his Adam apple bobs as he swallows hard. “Life sucks.”
I just nod. How am I going to survive? It’s a scary world out there but then the thought of being marked by old Mr. Maddox and be trapped here forever is scarier.
I can’t go to WVU as planned. It’ll be the first place they’d be looking for me when they discover that I’m gone. I have to get as far away as possible where they can’t trace my scent.
I have to get myself a job. Who’s going to hire me? I would have to go down South. Maybe I’ll go to Vegas and be a showgirl. Maybe I’ll move to Texas and work at a seedy bar as a waitress. “I might have to work the streets or something and change my name to Candy.” No offense to Candy anywhere but if I have to work the streets, I want that to be my name.
“Why do you have to work the streets and change your name to Candy?” Jorden asks me after staring at me oddly for almost a minute.
“Well, a girl gotta eat. Duh!”
Jorden signs. “You’re not going to sell your body, Q. I won’t let you,” he says. “You’ve got such a wild imagination.” He shakes his head. “Don’t worry, I have it all figured out.”
“Where would I go, J? I have nowhere to go. I have no money. Even if I had the money, I know they’ll find me if I went to the University as I planned to.”
“No, the University is now out of the question. You have to go far away. As far away as you can so nobody can trace your scent. Here, this is where you’re going,” he says, handing me a piece of paper from his back pocket.
It’s an acceptance letter from a small college in California. I remember leaving that letter in my old room in Nana’s house. It was just a wishful thinking on my part when I applied to that college. I dreamt of going somewhere far away from here where nobody knows me. Back then Nana was still alive and I had no real intention of moving across the country from her.
“But I emailed the college that I wasn’t going there. I think they would have given my spot to somebody else by now.”
“Yeah, but Jonah is there to look out for you and he knows somebody who can fix that.”
“Jonah?” My mouth is hanging open. Jonah is Jorden’s older brother. He was supposed to take over the Beta title from his father when he turned 21 six years ago but he left the pack before that happens. I heard that he had a big fight with his father and Old Mr. Maddox who was still the Alpha back then. I was 12 when he left and I don’t know much apart from what I heard from what everybody around me was saying about him back then.
Jonah was known as a troublemaker. He’s always rebelling against his father. Always doing what he’s not supposed to be doing. Mixing with the wrong crowd. Fighting. They said he’s bad news. Nobody knows where he went. Well, apparently, Jorden knows.
“I didn’t know you’re still in touch with him.”
“Yeah, he got in touch with me two years ago...and he gave me his number, just for emergency. This qualifies as an emergency,” Jorden answers. “They’re having the burning moon gathering tonight. Get ready to leave around eight when everybody’s occupied out there.”
I know what’s going to happen. There’s going to be a big gathering under the moonlight where the body will be burned in a pyre out in the clearing in the woods about half a mile from the pack house. Then everybody will change into their wolves. They will howl at the moon and go for a run to show their last respect to the person, in this case, old Mrs. Maddox. I was there for my Nana’s, though I just stood on the side by myself when everybody phased and went for the run.
“Here, take his number, call him as soon as you get there, and some money. I know it’s not enough but it’ll get you started.”
I stare at a piece of paper and a thick rolled up fifty dollar notes in my hand. There must be over a thousand dollars in there. “I can’t take this money, J. This is your money.”
“Precisely. It’s my money so I can do anything I want with it and I want you to have it,” he says. “Just take it, Q. Stop arguing with me. You can’t afford to be too proud right now. You’re going to need it.”
I stare at the money in my hand again. I know he’s right. “Thanks, J,” I tell him.
“I’m sorry I never defended you when they made fun of you and bullied you. I’m-I’m such a coward.” he looks down at the ground, not meeting my eyes. It must be hard for him to admit that.
“That’s okay, J,” I answer truthfully. I never expected anybody to fight my battles for me.
“For what its worth, I’m proud of you, Q. You never backed down. You don’t deserve any of it and you’re so strong,” he says. “You go out there and have a good life, Q. Don’t ever look back.”
Yes, I have nothing else here. I don’t think I’ll be coming back. The only person I would miss would be Jorden. Tears start to well up in my eyes, but I tip my chin up and smile.
“I’ll pay you back, J. One day I’ll pay your money back.” I don’t know if that’s possible, but it feels nice to say it. It makes me feel like I was going to see him again.
“You are so much like Nana, Q.”
“Really???” I smile up at him. A couple drops of tears fall on my cheek. I wipe them away quickly. That’s the biggest compliment anybody could’ve given me. My Nana was awesome!
My Nana had just lost her beloved mate when her daughter dropped an unwanted newborn baby that she didn’t even bother to name on her doorstep. My Nana took the baby in. She named it after her mate, Quincy St. Martin. Yes, she named me after my late grandfather. She could’ve rolled over in grief after suffering such a great loss, yet she got up and gave the baby a name and a home. That’s how awesome my Nana was.
“Yes, you’re proud and strong yet gentle and kind...and a bit coocoo,” says Jorden.
“I love you too, J. I love you too.”
*My next update will be next Friday again if not sooner. Have a wonderful weekend, everybody♥