When I heard the doorbell ring, I jumped off my bed and sprinted down the stairs. I knew exactly who was waiting at the door. Maia is here! Maia has been my best friend forever - we are inseparable. She lived a few doors down, and our families became really close since we were born only a few months apart.
We have done everything together: attending homeschool lessons, sneaking off pack grounds to see the regular humans, and doing daily training. Even our first shifts happened around the same time. And now that we are both old enough, we will attend our first Choosing Ceremony together. And man, was I nervous.
“I got it!” I shouted, letting my family know I wanted to get the door. Opening the door, she attacked me with a hug, and Maia’s dark brown hair flew into my face. “Maia!”
Maia is a couple of inches taller than me, with long, wavy dark brown hair that ends just at her breast and matching dark brown, almond-shaped eyes. Her face is round with high cheekbones, a straight turned-up nose, and full lips. She has this beautiful olive, tanned skin, and thick curves.
“Leia!” We just started laughing as I pulled her inside and shut the door. “I cannot believe this will possibly be our last sleepover!” Maia whined, and I nodded sadly.
Tomorrow is going to be the first day of the Choosing Ceremony. The Choosing Ceremony is held once a year on August 10th, where wolves of age get together to find their mates, mingle with the other packs to uphold pack relationships, and the packs’ leaders discuss pack issues. You start attending once you are 20 and have until 26 before being given the option of claiming a chosen mate or expanding on travels to see if you can find your mate that way. Crazy, I know.
Most people tend to find their mates within the first 2-3 years at the Choosing Ceremony or other instances, so it is only a last resort to ensure the pack line continues to have a chosen mate. It is incredibly awful for an Alpha to be unable to find their mate. If the Moon Goddess does not bring together a mate for an Alpha, it is believed that the chosen or assigned mate will not last, and the pack will then fall. Glad I am just a Beta!
“Alright, Leia! I brought the movies you requested for our movie binge! I have Mulan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Breakfast Club, and 10 Things I Hate About You.” Maia smiled widely, shaking me out of my thoughts. We casually walked up the stairs to my room, Maia already memorizing the way there from her countless visits and sleepovers.
“Perfect. My mom says we have to do our nails and make sure we are perfect for tomorrow.” I rolled my eyes at the thought but could not help but feel the butterflies in my stomach at the idea of finding my mate. “We will definitely find our mate!” My wolf, Tala, spoke excitedly.
Yes, I can hear my wolf in the back of my mind when I am in my “human” form in the same way that I am in the back of hers when we are in wolf form. It is like two souls in one body that shifts from human to wolf - and no, it is not just when there is a full moon either. I can transform whenever I want, but Tala typically wants out more than usual in reaction to the full moon.
“Aw, come on. I know you’re excited about tomorrow, even if you try to pretend you aren’t!” Maia teased as we plopped on my unmade bed with a soft, dark grey comforter and black sheets.
“Leia.” I heard my mom call through my door as she knocked before opening it. “Oh, hi Maia, dear! How’s your mother?” She smiled at Maia as she walked in, the crinkles around her mouth and eyes forming. My mom is plump and mid-height with short curly brown hair and deep-set hazel eyes that match mine. She always looks warm and beautiful, with smile lines next to her eyes, soft wrinkles from age, and dimples on both cheeks.
“Hi Rhea, thanks for having me again! My mom is great. She’s hoping I get my mate tomorrow, of course.” Maia laughed awkwardly at that. Neither of us was ready to go off with some strange male and leave our pack, but the desire to find our mates had grown strong. My mom smiled warmly.
“Well, girls. I know you’re nervous and scared, but I promise you that finding your mate is the best feeling.” It took till my mom’s third Ceremony to get chosen, meaning my dad is younger than her. She told me she struggled for so long, feeling as if she was not good enough or that the Moon Goddess never gave her a mate. “Now that you both received your coming-of-age tattoos, they’ll react to your mate once they get close.” I looked down at my inner wrist and lightly touched my moon tattoo.
Once you turn 20, you receive your coming-of-age tattoo; a moon. Original, I know. It is an extraordinary kind of tattoo that changes phases with the real moon phase and is supposed to give off a burning sensation once your mate is near. That is how you know the Moon Goddess has found your match.
“Leia, I just wanted to let you know dinner is ready! We are having spaghetti and meatballs, your favorite.” My mom smiled, and I jumped up, hugging her. Yummy! I am going to miss mom’s cooking if I leave.
We followed my mom down the stairs, where I saw my brother Lance and his mate Corina. I grinned and ran to him, pushing past my mom. Like our dad, Lance is tall and lanky, with messy, straight dark brown hair and wide hazel eyes on his angular face. His mate Corina is gorgeous, with thick, curly black hair down to her chest, big doe-like brown eyes, curves to die for, and sun-kissed olive skin.
Since he moved out into the main packhouse and started learning about becoming Alpha’s right hand, I have not seen him much. We were always very close despite the few years of age gap (he’s 23), and our favorite thing to do together is racing. Especially once I could shift, we could run in our wolf forms! I jumped into his arms as he chuckled and held me.
“Hey, Leia. It’s been a while!” He ruffled my hair and smiled sweetly before looking at Maia and waving. “What’s up, Maia?” Maia’s face turned bright red like it always did when Lance was around, and I laughed. Maia has had a crush on my brother since we were 10. She felt crushed when he found Corina but knew we could not fight what the Moon Goddess had decided.
“Hi, Lance. I’m excited for tomorrow!” Maia exclaimed happily but with apparent nervousness about what may be the most significant event in our lives.
I could still tell Lance is a soft spot for her, and although Maia has never been disrespectful of Corina, she slightly resents her for being mates with her long-time crush. It is conflicting to understand how mates work and want your mate but still develop feelings for someone else before you find your destined mate.
“Hi, girls. I heard there was a movie and nail party tonight!” Corina laughed and hugged us both. She became a great sister-in-law, and I’ve never seen my brother happier. Sorry, Maia.
“Come on, people. A man is hungry!” I turned to see my dad chuckling and waving us over.
As the Beta, dad has a muscular build and is the tallest of the family; he has dark brown hair that is always combed neatly, stern but welcoming dark brown eyes and a big smile. It is still funny to see him stand towering next to mom since she is only 5′3, and he stands at 6′0.
Dinner with my family was fun, and I almost completely forgot about tomorrow’s big event. Almost. We all talked long after eating, enjoying each other’s company on what could be my last night home.
Corina and my brother were spending the night so they could come with us to the Ceremony tomorrow. After dinner, my mom and Corina came up with us, and I knew what they wanted to talk about. Oh boy... Maia and I sat on my bed, looking expectantly at Corina and my mom’s faces.
“Now, girls. Tomorrow is crucial, so do not stay up too late! Alpha Grant will not be happy that his pack members are late to the Ceremony.” My mom scolded, knowing Maia and I always stayed up too late.
“We know, mom.” Corina laughed at my tone.
“I’m serious, Leia.” Her face softened as she touched my cheek. “Of course, I would love for you to stay with me forever, but I know how important finding your mate is. So I can’t be selfish! Hopefully, you will be chosen by a male in our pack. Maybe Alpha Grant’s son, Marco!” My face instantly heated up at her words, and my wolf’s ears perked up.
I’ve had a crush on Marco for a long time, but I haven’t seen him since he came of age, so I don’t know if he’s my mate. Maia must’ve noticed since she gave me a knowing look, and I blushed more, playfully hitting her arm.
“Now, as for tomorrow, you can get dressed here at home, but they want everyone to have their hair and makeup done at Alpha Grant’s estate. There you will sign in and get a band to mark your rank with your name and pack.” Maia and I nodded, already hearing this many times before. As my mom spoke, my mind wandered to my first time hearing about mates and the Choosing Ceremony.
I turned back to my mom, describing the Choosing Ceremony for what felt like the millionth time. She did not notice that I tuned out into my own world for a bit, and I smiled.
“...If you get tagged in the Running, you go straight to meet with the Elders to see if you’ve found your mate. If not, you can still meet the Elders with your mate if found during the Ceremony, or you will have to wait another year for the next Ceremony. Yours and the other wolf’s ranking will determine if you join their pack or they join yours.” My mom spoke seriously. “Of course, there are not always mates who are just male and female couples, and although the Elders believe in the Moon Goddess’ matches, they stick with this male/female Choosing Ceremony.”
I swallowed hard, taking all the information in. I’ve heard this a million times, but it didn’t feel real until today. I shivered.
“Don’t worry, Leia. It’s scary, but you’re with so many other wolves who feel the same way.” I nodded as Corina smiled gently at me.
“Alright, we won’t take up your time any longer. I think I taught you well enough.” My mom smiled. “Have fun, girls, and don’t stay up too late! Don’t forget to paint your nails!” I shook my head at my mom, laughing as she hugged Maia and me goodnight.
“Thanks, mom, thanks, Corina.” They both nodded and smiled before leaving and shutting my door.
“Oh, Goddess!” Maia sighed loudly, and I laughed. “That just made me way more nervous... I’m so scared about tomorrow. I hope my mate is nice like Lance.” I rolled my eyes at her comment.
“Maia! I love my brother, but you’ll find a better mate than Lance!” We both laughed.
“I hope so. My wolf is getting anxious, wanting to meet our mate badly.” I nodded in agreement, feeling Tala pacing around excitedly.
Since my first shift, my wolf has wanted to meet our mate and talk non-stop about it in my head. The first shift is scary, despite how much our parents and Elders try to help prepare us for it. Your whole body is shifting and morphing into another form that can feel painful the first few times as your bones crack and twist. Once you get used to it, the feeling is so freeing and wonderful. I love shifting into my wolf form, especially if I go running.
Tala, my wolf, did not talk to me immediately, and I felt pretty nervous that I could not hear my wolf as my friends did. It takes practice to speak to your wolf through your mind and feel what they feel, and I was a late bloomer with this part. I noticed my mind drifting off again as I heard Maia clear her throat and shake my arm to bring me back.
“So you’re hoping to get chosen by Marco, huh?” Maia teased, and I groaned loudly, a blush creeping up my cheeks.
“What? We both know you’ve been crushing on his cute self for years! Did you think I missed your little blush when your mom brought him up?” She gave me a knowing smirk, and I hid my face in my hands.
“Well, I don’t know if I want to find my mate yet... I mean, of course, I want to. My wolf has been aching for our mate since I turned 20. But I just don’t think I’m ready!” Maia nodded in agreement, and I sighed.
“Besides, even though we haven’t seen Marco since he came of age, don’t you think when he turned, I would sense something if he were my mate?” Sadness filled my heart at the thought of my long-time crush finding another mate. Maia rubbed my arm to comfort me and smiled.
“I’m sure whoever your destined to be is wonderful, Leia. We won’t know until the Moon Goddess shows us our mates.”
“I hope we don’t get separated,” I whispered sadly.
“Stop! No sad talk, missy! Let’s not think about that. Besides, I’ll fight anyone who tells me I can’t visit my best friend even after we get chosen.” I laughed at her remark and nodded.
“Let’s watch a movie! What should we watch first?” She dug in her bag to show me the four movies she had brought. Yes, we still watch DVDs. Watching movies is probably one of our favorite things whenever we hang out. Even though we like to be active as wolves, Maia and I have a strong homebody side. We have probably watched every movie we own at least two to three times each and don’t even talk about anything we’ve watched on Netflix or Hulu.
“Mulan.” She grinned. “Let’s get into pajamas first and grab the nail polishes.” I went to my drawer as Maia dug through her bag again to get her pajamas.
I moved towards my drawer with only minimal clothes left after I had packed in anticipation of moving to my mate’s pack. I pulled out a tank top and a pair of shorts. I sighed contently as I immediately took off my bra, feeling much more comfortable. Bras can be so annoying! Quickly changing right there, I turned to see Maia changed too. We are way too close to be worried about seeing each other undressed.
“Nice.” I winked at her, and we laughed.
I high-fived her before grabbing my bag of nail polish bottles and sitting on the floor beside her. I don’t want to mess up my bed with nail polish. I started setting up the movie while Maia looked through my colors to find the one she wanted. She chose a pale matte pink, and I went and got my dark blue.
The night continued like this. We watched all our movies, chatted up a storm, and painted our nails. We both decided to give each other one nail on each hand a design to make our nails look fancy. It felt like one of the best nights with my best friend, and I worked hard to avoid thinking about it being a while before we could do this again. It wasn’t long after our nails thoroughly dried that we curled up into my bed, getting ready to sleep before our big day.
“Leia. I’m going to miss you if we get separated.” Maia whispered as she started to tear up.
“I know, Maia. I hope we don’t have to. But if we do, let’s visit all the time.” I smiled at her, trying not to tear up myself. This event is stressful, but the wolf in me is excited about tomorrow. I know it’ll be hard to sleep.
Maia luckily fell asleep soon after, probably exhausted from all the pressure and worry. She is the oldest child, so her parents have been freaking out a bit about her leaving. I couldn’t stop thinking about tomorrow and stayed awake for at least another hour.
“I hope I get chosen by a good mate. I hope he loves me.” I whispered to myself over and over. “Don’t worry, Leia, a great mate, will choose us.” Tala, my wolf, tried reassuring me. After what felt like forever, my eyes finally closed, and I fell into a deep slumber.
A/N: Hi, all! Some things are slightly different from my initial writing of this story, so bear with me if you’ve been here since the beginning! (Thanks for sticking around, haha)
Anyway, what are your thoughts so far??? Would you want a pre-destined mate