“Artemis!” Zena cheered before barreling forward with a toolbox that lost a handful of bolts with every bounce. She eventually discarded the load, hoping that its loss would help her reach Artemis quicker.
Artemis stood awkwardly, feeling every inch a buffoon. She tried to ease a smile on her face, knowing that the reunion meant a lot for her mother. She was only able to accomplish a grimace.
She had been hoping that her mother’s face would unlock her past. But alas, this territory and this woman looked new to her. Sure, she could see the resemblance Lukas mentioned but couldn’t find a drop of deja vu in her.
Her mother’s embrace nearly drove her to the ground. Zena’s arms entrapped her like a boa constrictor hellbent on making her lunch.
“I missed you so much,” Zena whined tearfully. She nuzzled her cheek against her pup’s to intertwine their scents. The tender exchange was exercised by those in either romantic or platonic relationships. The mark announced a claim for a few hours. Artemis recognized that Zena was claiming her as her own.
She felt like she was on the verge of drowning in the ocean of affection Zena threw her in. And she felt horrible about that. As much as she wanted to, she didn’t love this woman who was her mother by paper but not recognition. How could she love someone she didn’t know?
Zena pulled away and held her at arms length. “Do you remember me?” her brown eyes shone with tears and the presence of her wolf who was equally excited about the reunion.
“I don’t. I’m sorry.”
Zena’s face fell but her hands remained cemented, refusing to give up Artemis a second time.
“That’s okay. Let’s get you to the doctor,” she smiled encouragingly. Her smile was beautiful and Artemis found herself reflecting it back. She may not have her memories but she will fight for them. It felt good knowing that her parents had her back. Amusingly, Lukas placed a palm on her back the second that thought crossed her.
Together, the family of three made their way deeper into their territory, getting greeted by many relieved werewolves. Zena pointed out people and landmarks as they went, only stopping her informative rant when they reached the infirmary in the right wing of the titanic main pack house.
The wooden monstrosity had a door that was wide open, welcoming all inside. Upon entering, warmth surrounded her. She could smell the artistry of cooking coming from one direction so she assumed someone was making lunch. Artemis couldn’t remember if she had been to any other pack house before but something told her most of them were draped with luxurious crystals, cloth, and portraits to declare wealth. She was pleasantly surprised to find adorable children’s drawings instead of Mona Lisa decorating the left wall and pictures of pack members instead of the alpha family claiming the right.
Although this didn’t feel like home, it sure looked like it.
They didn’t know when or if her memory was going to come back. The news didn’t phase her parents. They were sure that if they kept tossing money and support at her then she would be her old self soon enough.
Followup appointments were set up with both a neurologist and a therapist. Artemis looked at the road to recovery from retrograde amnesia and could help but feel bummed out over its length. She also felt a tang of self-vexation. The ability to recollect was inside of her yet a whole dimension away.
“This is Solomon. He works at the daycare,” Zena gestures to the teenager. As expected, the recognition was one-sided.
Artemis flashed the half-hearted smile she had given the previous twenty strangers she got re-introduced to. She knew Zena meant well, but the overwhelming list of people she couldn’t remember was a formidable reminder of her ineptness.
“I’m so glad to see you again!” Solomon rehearsed the line she had heard so many times before.
“Thank you,” she did the same.
Zena suddenly gasped and tagged Artemis’ hand. “Oh, look! That’s Roxanne. She’s our Oracle. She has known you since you were a baby. Come on, let’s go say hi!”
“Wait a second,” Artemis interjected.
“I’m very grateful for your help but I’m getting a bit overwhelmed. Do you think we can slow down a bit?” she asked politely.
Zena looked dejected for a split second before recovering and nodding positively. “Of course we can, honey.”
They did take it slow. For the next two months, her parents focused on doting on her. Between their constant flow of attention and medical help, she made outstanding progress. Snippets of her childhood came back, helping her develop the parental attachment that she had lost.
Before the accident, Artemis spent her free time shadowing her parents in hopes of learning the ropes for the alpha position. She had been a junior in college pursuing a BBA. She opted to teach herself werewolf law, using her parents and research as resources.
After the accident, a break was inevitable. Now, all she did was work on regaining her personal and factual memories. Well, that’s what her parents thought, anyway. While a lot of personal blocks were indeed missing, her education rapidly rose back to the surface within weeks. She could handle political and social conflicts in the pack with ease. She could even recite the Alpha’s Code, a codex that she mastered well before the accident.
Her parents didn’t know that.
And she wouldn’t tell them.
While she was hogging books that they assumed had something to do with finance, the judiciary, treaties, or some other harmless eco-political subject; she was reading about lycanthropy. The only thing she had been catching up on was myths and legends.
Her 21st birthday was three days away. It was time to tie off her loose ends. And her parents wouldn't be able to do anything about it.
“Hey, the guys want to grab a beer. You want to tag along?”
Wrath tugged the ax out of the battered log and turned to face the team’s latest addition— a skinny mechanic with too much motor oil on his cartoon T-shirts and too much pizzazz in his smile. Marley was the PG version of Sol. His dorky jokes and childish gullibleness made it impossible to not recognize his cuteness.
Wrath didn’t answer his question. He simply stared deadpanned, hoping that his sullenness would spare him from indulging in pointless chatter. He didn’t want a beer. He didn’t want to socialize. All he wanted was to be left alone.
“Marley!” Stephen, their manager, hollered.
Marley looked away from Wrath’s unsettling gaze. He had begun working with the team a week ago and always wondered why Wrath’s responses were limited to grunts and nods. He figured the guy just had a bad week. But after their short exchange, he got the message: The ax-enthusiast was an antisocial freak.
Marley walked to Stephen, taking his offer of friendship with him.
“Stay away from that guy,” Stephen muttered, unaware that his voice reached the lycan.
“He’s been around for two months and already earned himself the title of town psychopath. He probably chops people up as well as he does wood with that damn ax,” Stephen visibly shook for effect. “Seriously, what a fucking weirdo.”
Marley accepted the adjectives, still a bit shaken up.
Weirdo. Psycho. Killer.