I was more than ready to accept change. I couldn’t wait for change. After living in shame and embarrassment for months I was all too willing to leave Pennsylvania and settle down in Oregon.
On my seventeenth birthday I changed, drastically. Not only was I now able to get a driver’s license but I shifted into a wolf. Four paws, fur, canines—the whole deal.
This sudden change in appearance not only scared my parents, but also drove them a little insane. But then again, I guess watching your daughter turn into a wolf while blowing out her birthday candles would do some damage to anyone’s mental health. My parents were deemed unfit guardians and were dragged off to the loony bin. All because of me.
Being an only child meant that making the trip across the country from Pennsylvania to Oregon was a solo one. I was going to live with my Aunt Sarah, my mother’s sister. She was an outgoing, successful lawyer in the peak of her career. The last thing she needed was a screwed up she-wolf teen to deal with. If I were my aunt, I would’ve left me to rot in foster care. But, Aunt Sarah has a kind soul and as much as it pained her, she was taking me in.
I watched as the tiny buildings grew considerably larger as the plane got closer to the ground. Though we were not officially on solid earth the people around me started to shuffle and gather their things, a habit I found completely pointless and annoying. I squeezed my eyes shut as a baby started to cry and people started to complain about sitting on the tarmac and the person next to me started an agitated shuffled in his seat.
I mean, it would be a less painful experience for all of us if everyone could just shut up.
My wolf wasn’t making the situation any better. She was yearning to go for a run, to stretch her legs. This was something I’ve been denying her ever since she scared the shit out of my parents. She howled loudly, the sound echoing through my brain sending a painful jab to the base of my skull. I gritted my teeth and rubbed my temples, willing her to be calm.
“—thank you for flying with us, we hope you had a good flight. Please wait for the stewardess to dismiss your row and have a nice day.” The pilot’s voice boomed over the cabin's P.A. system to deaf ears, everyone was too busy complaining to listen.
We were herded off of the plane and finally out into the open airport. I looked around for my aunt, stomach gnawing with anxiety when I didn't see her after a few passes of the crowd. I had only seen her in pictures due to the distance between us but I recognized her short black hair and creamy complexion when I spotted her.
I walked over to her slowly, trying to think of something appropriate to say but coming up blank. It wasn't like I had an entire plane ride to have thought of something to say but here I was, stuttering as I approached my only sane, living relative.
I shot her a small smile, trying not to seem like too much of a freak. My worries were quashed when without saying a word, she grabbed my shoulders and dragged me into a hug.
“You poor thing,” she mumbled, hugging me tighter. “You’ve been through so much.” The cover story back in Pennsylvania was that my parents had been attacked by a rabid animal and were left emotionally scarred. The story was a little lacking in evidence but it was the best lie I could come up with when child services asked.
Unfortunately, the first lie you tell is the one you have to stick to.
“Hey, Aunt Sarah, it’s nice to meet you,” I replied, awkwardly hugging her with one hand while I held my carry-on with the other.
“Oh Haven dear, I hope your flight was okay and everything?” I smiled and nodded and let her tug me away to get my luggage. I wanted to add something more but my mouth gaped like a fish as I floundered to think of something relevant to share.
“I decorated your room, but don’t be afraid to tell me if you hate it. I would hate to think you’d be trying to spare my feelings—we are family after all. If you don’t like what I’ve done with it than just tell me and we’ll get it fixed in a jiffy!” I nodded numbly and smiled before we settled back into an almost comfortable silence. I turned on the radio before she could start overcompensating again.
The car ride from the airport to Aunt Sarah’s home wasn’t too long, just over an hour. I watched as the main city was stripped away until we entered a more modest town. It wasn’t tiny, but it wasn’t as big as the city. It was a nice medium. For some reason Oregon was filled with forests, the outskirts of the town was surrounded by them. My wolf didn’t mind that, in fact, she rejoiced.
Now we have somewhere to stretch our legs. Her voice echoed in my head, well my voice—just more feral. I chose to ignore her and watched the trees flash past. I couldn’t help but compile a list of differences between Oregon and my home state. Already I was starting to feel the weight of homesickness, the uneasiness of it.
Finally, we turned onto my Aunt’s street. The road had large maples on either side of the road. Their age and size made them tall and strong. Their braches hung over the street, twisting together and forming a sort of roof over the road.
We passed a huge mansion type house that was settled just in the tree line. When I asked Aunt Sarah who lived their she just shrugged, “I don’t really know, I see people come and go from the house but no one that is familiar, they keep to themselves.” I decided to leave it at that.
Just down the street from the mansion was my Aunt Sarah’s house. It was by no means the size of the mansion but it wasn’t exactly a shack either. It was white with dark brown shutters and trim. There was an elaborate garden that looked untamed but well kept at the same time. It was the perfect house for a successful, single, suburban lawyer.
“Home sweet home!” Aunt Sarah sang as she pulled into the driveway. I caught her looking at me from the corner of my eye and figured she wanted to see my reaction to the house.
“Wow, what a beautiful garden!” I exclaimed, hoping it was enough. Aunt Sarah’s worried expression broke and her face changed as she conjured a huge smile.
“I’m so glad you like it, now let’s get you settled in. You’ll want to rest before school tomorrow!” I grimaced and got out of the car. I looked around again, my wolf prickling against the back of my skull as I eyed the trees behind the big house. I fetched my bags from the trunk before following my Aunt onto the porch.
School. The very thought made my stomach clench in fear. The last few months of school last year were humiliating. It wasn’t long before everyone found out about my parents and I was immediately labelled as an outcast. My own friends abandoned me. I was the freak with the institutionalized parents.
“So, what do you think?” I broke free from my reverie and looked around, stunned. The room was large and painted a deep purple. When you walked in there was a desk to the right and large window facing the street to the left. And if you went up three steps there was a large bed with a gray comforter, a walk in closet, bathroom and small balcony.
“Amazing,” I breathed, not having to feign my excitement. “It’s perfect, thank you!” I turned to my Aunt and threw my arms around her, hugging her tightly—too tightly. I wasn’t that adjusted to my new found strength and was caught off guard by her coughing. I let go immediately and stepped back, blushing.
“Sorry, I was excited. I was on the baseball team last year and it built up my arm muscles.” Lying was becoming a little too easy—not that my lies were improving in quality. I didn’t want to lie to my Aunt, not after she kindly dropped her single lifestyle to babysit her estranged niece. But my Aunt didn’t know about werewolves, and that’s how I wanted to keep it.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about werewolves either. I only knew what I read online. And I had already figured out that the internet wasn’t always the most reliable source. For all I knew I wasn’t even a werewolf, just some abomination. I could be the only one of my kind. This, above all else—above losing my parents—made me feel hollow and extremely lonely.
“No worries, well I’ll let you get settled, dinner will be in an hour.” She left my room, closing my door softly and leaving me to myself. I sighed and flopped down onto the bed, feeling a pang of home sickness again. Actually it was more like pre-werewolf Haven sickness. I wanted my old life back so badly it hurt.
I got up and forced myself to unpack my clothes and most of my belongings. I was able to stay on task until I heard yelling. I walked over to my window and shoved it open, letting in a crisp Late-September breeze in.
“Jude! Get back here!” I watched as a girl with short blonde hair chased wildly after a boy—who I assumed to be Jude. He was holding a small book which I took to be the girl’s diary.
“Try and catch me, Rach!” The boy—who was also blonde—yelled over his shoulder. I watched as the two passed by Aunt Sarah’s house and then suddenly stopped. They were absolutely still before their nostrils flared and they turned to look at each other, fearful expressions on their faces.
Then, the boy turned and looked directly up at me, as if he knew I was there all along. His brown eyes narrowed and then they were gone. They ran towards the mansion and quickly disappeared. I was frozen, paralyzed by the strange events.
I forced myself to move, to close my curtains and step away from the window. I turned around and took a deep breath, trying to clear the look on their faces from my mind. It had almost looked as if they had... smelt me? The only explanation conjured a mixture of fear and hope in my chest. If they were like me—I stamped out the thought. I couldn’t let that idea take root in my mind, I’d only be disappointed.
“Haven! Dinner!” Aunt Sarah yelled. I shook my head to clear it and walked down the hall to the kitchen. My Aunt was running around trying to throw the last minute things together for the meal. It looked as though we were having spaghetti and meatballs but the smell coming from the stove said otherwise.
I took a deep breath and smelt burnt noodles. “Uhm, Aunt Sarah? Do you need help?” My Aunt looked over her shoulder at me with a frazzled expression. Her short black hair was sticking up on one side as she held her hands, which were adorned with oven mitts, up in the air like a helpless child.
“Oh Haven! I tried to make a nice dinner, I’m a terrible cook! The noodles got stuck to the bottom of the pot so I put butter in there to try and loosen it but the butter just melted and then crisped. And I don’t understand how the meatballs were burnt on the outside yet raw on the inside! Oh, I’m sorry dear. Is pizza okay?”
I grinned, “Pizza is perfect.” I help my Aunt clean up the mess and by the time we finished the pizza had arrived. I went to the door and yanked it open; the boy holding the pizza looked me over and grinned cockily to himself. I just took a deep breath and paid him—no tip for checking me out. I closed the door and brought the pizza over to the table were my Aunt and I dug in right away.
“I guess I’ll have to do the cooking around here,” I said, taking a big bite of my mushroom pizza.
My Aunt blushed. “You don’t have to do that Haven dear, I’ll just take a few classes and—”
“No really, I don’t mind at all,” I smiled, “I’m actually kind of good at it.”
My Aunt grinned, clearly relieved. “That would be awesome, I’ve been living off of microwave meals, pizza and Chinese takeout for years!” I could see it. A younger, determined version of my Aunt surrounded by a take-out graveyard as she studied to pass her law exams.
I laughed, “Well not anymore, starting tomorrow we can have a balanced diet of takeout and home cooked meals.” We finished up the pizza, yes we ate the entire thing, and put away the dishes before my Aunt headed upstairs for the night.
“Try not to be up too late Haven, just because you have school tomorrow.” I smiled and nodded and she seemed pleased. She kissed my head and disappeared.
I decided to watch some television and settled for a random program that I didn’t get back in Pennsylvania. It felt as though I was being watched and looked out the window. My Aunt didn’t have a backyard, so directly behind the house was forest. I could’ve sworn I saw a pair of eyes looking at me from the trees but when I blinked again they were gone. Once again my thoughts clung to that same desperate hope—that I wasn’t alone.
I tried to ignore the feeling but I was too unsettled to watch anymore television. So I flicked it off and headed up to my room. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.