Maria took the small bundle back to the nursery starting to think of names.
"Henri, Harold, Harper, Hector, Hannibal... oh heavens no...Hans, Hayes..." she rhymes off. It's not until she starts changing the diaper that Maria realizes her mistake. "My apologies madam. How about Helena?" The baby opens her vibrant green eyes at the name. "Helena it is then." Maria smiles.
Twelve years later...
I lay in bed trying to ignore the shouting from downstairs. My new foster parents fight like cats and dogs. I've only been here a week and I hate it. I want to go. I feel itchy like my skin doesn't fit right.
"Don't you dare go up there!" My foster mom shouts. Oh no. I pray that I'm ignored. I've never wanted to be invisible so much in my life as the door creaks open revealing Larry. The other kids call him slimy. I get it now. He is slimy.
I feel him walk towards my bed and just watch me pretend to sleep. I startle when a rough hand strokes down my arm.
"Sssshhhh..." he sounds and I scramble away from him. "It's ok sweet Helena. I'll take care of you." He says leaning into me. I do not want him to touch me. Something flares to life in me and kicking him in the face sounds like a fantastic idea. So I do. He goes flying into the opposite wall and I run.
I run down the stairs and past the "mom" who was supposed to protect me. I run to the woods in the park down the road.
I can breathe easier in the dark protection of the forest. I've always felt better here. In any forest really. It's quiet and dark and perfect.
I slide down the trunk of a large tree and cry. My heart is beating so fast I don't know whether it's from fear or the run. Maybe both. After my tears dry I take a deep breath and try to sleep.
My skin still feels itchy but sleep finds me eventually but not for long. I sit up quickly my legs feel wet. I don't understand what's happening. Did I pee myself? That's embarrassing. I look down and see deep red instead. Oh, my period has come. Thank God for Maria telling me about it.
Hello, Helena. I'm Amethyst.
Maria did not tell me my period would talk to me.
I'm not your period silly. I'm your Panther.
Yes. Oh, we are going to be best friends I know it. I'm so happy we can talk now. Oh, wait until we shift! We can do that now if you want.
Yes. Shift like change. Into a panther.
Ok, you'll have to take off your nightgown and let me upfront and we will go for a run.
I throw off my stained nightgown and let go and I feel Amethyst prowl to the front of my mind. I feel my body start itching like my skin really doesn't fit. I grow and curl and break and reform in agony until it's over. We stand up and take a breath in I smell everything. I can see so much better at night. I feel alive. We run and play until morning.
I shift back and put on my nightgown and make my way into town and call Maria. We are not going to go back to slimy Larry.
Seven years later...
I can't sleep. It's my birthday and I can't fucking sleep. Maybe it's because I have to move out today. Maybe it's because I'm so close to starting college. Maybe it's because Amethyst is restless. Either way, no rest for the wicked. I get up and throw on some leggings and a sweater over my sports bra.
Amethyst is very picky about what we wear so she insists that if we're going out like that at least put on pretty underwear. So I do as I'm told and slide on some violet lace panties. They're cheap but at least Amethyst is happy.
I grab my bag and climb out the window. I balance my way across the branch with ease and slide down the trunk to the ground.
I make my way downtown to see my second best friend, Marco. If it isn't obvious Amethyst is my very best friend. Marco has been couch surfing for about a month now ever since the system spat him out at eighteen. We shared a foster home when we were fifteen and have been thick as thieves ever since.
I follow his airy chemical scent to the club he's been working at lately. Maybe I should have listened to Amethyst about my outfit choice. I feel her huff an I told you so. Sassy panther.
The bouncer lets me through the rope anyway. Neat. I make my way to the bar where Marco is serving a woman in jeans and a crop top. Maybe I'm fashionable and didn't even know it.
I wait for Marco to notice me. I mean what good wingwoman would interrupt a man's game? They wouldn't. I see her slip Marco a slip of paper that he puts in his back pocket with a smirk. Marco is handsome with dark hair, dark eyes and mocha skin. He is the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. And many people have said we should be together but the dude is like my brother. No thanks.
"Hey, Lena!" He grins coming over to me.
"Hey. How's work going?" I ask.
"Good." He grins looking over at the blonde.
"I saw." I nod my approval.
"What are you doing here? Everything ok?"
"Ya. Just couldn't sleep. Figured I'd bug you before moving day." I shrug.
"Happy early birthday by the way." He grins pulling all five foot two of me almost entirely over the bar for a hug.
"Thanks, hun," I mumble into his shoulder.
"Damn Marco. Where do you find all these hotties?" A voice sounds from behind him. I sit back down in my seat to see a man with slicked-back brown hair and a bright teal Hawaiian shirt. Wow. I mean it looks good on him but bold choice. He's also wearing sunglasses. Inside. At eleven at night.
"This is my friend, Lena. Lena, this is Cash." Of course, it is.
"Well, hello. I haven't seen you around before." He leers. Amethyst is not liking him. Neither am I.
"And you won't again." I wink. "I'll text you when I get there Marco," I say waving as he laughs at his friend. A short visit but an eventful one.
I make my way back to the house climbing up the tree and balancing along the branch and through my window. I get into bed and sleep finally finds me.