There are four main species in the world, taught to us since we could walk.
Humans - With their penchant for building and expanding. Raising buildings high into the sky, rushing around in their business suits with their smart phones glued to their ear.
Vampires - Creatures who emerge during the night, humans their source of sustenance. Speed is on their side, allowing them to flit from place to place without being spotted. They live in the darkness and many can become one with it, cloaking themselves.
Werewolves - Shape shifters by nature, with the spirit of a wolf living within them. They shift anywhere from ten years old and up. A mate is gifted to them, able to find them at sixteen or older. Speed and strength are on their side. Werewolves reside in a pack, a leader chosen among the masses.
Fae - Elusive creatures, incapable of lying. Decades of being forced to tell the truth has made them gifted speakers, able to twist words easily. Not much is known about the Fae as they prefer to keep to themselves. Spotting a Fae is incredibly rare, talking to one is impossible.
* * * * *
“I can’t stand Atlas.” I sighed, giving Alyssa a long look.
Tomorrow was my sixteenth birthday, and my Mom was trying to keep me in high spirits. Sixteen years old marked the ability to find my mate, my other half. I had many expectations about how the day would go. After my Dad’s death, I refused birthday parties. It felt wrong without my Dad there, celebrating another year of life while he was dead. Eventually, my Mom stopped asking. Birthday’s became private events between her and I. She would buy me a small cake and a gift or two, setting them on the counter before she left for work as the Pack Doctor.
It was hard to talk to my Mom about how I felt. Anytime my Dad was mentioned, her eyes would cloud with memories from the past. Her mind would leave the present, remembering a time where Dad had been alive. Her eyes would fill with tears, weighing on my heart. I couldn’t force myself to bring her anymore pain. Living without a mate was a bleak life, whether you had children or not. She did what she needed to. She took care of me, supporting me my entire life but there was always a small part of her that wasn’t there. I’d like to believe that small part of her died when Dad did, and is currently with him now.
“He’s just a bully.” Alyssa frowned, pulling her chocolate hair up in a bun. “Are you doing anything special for tomorrow?”
I was grateful Alyssa changed the subject, letting me mope in peace. Atlas and his friends specifically targeted me, knowing I would never fight back. They never once batted an eyelash at Alyssa, something I was jealous for. Regardless, I wouldn’t want to trade places. It was better than letting them bully someone else.
“Nah.” I shrugged, “I’ll find my mate eventually. I’m not big on birthday parties.”
Alyssa gave me a cheerful smile, “We could hang out tomorrow. Spend the day wandering around after school.”
“I’d like that.” I smiled, even if my heart wasn’t in it.
Each year I had visited Micah on my birthday, and each year he never failed to show. Last year was the first time he was absent, another hole forming in my heart. Tomorrow was Friday, the weekend I should be spending with Micah at the front of my mind. I had never told anyone about Micah, we were both each other’s secret.
The school bus stopped at the corner, my house at the end of the cul-de-sac. Alyssa and I exited the bus, heading to where my modest home sat. We never lived a luxurious life, like some others in our pack, but that was never a problem to my Mom and I. We preferred things simple, finding happiness beyond material possessions.
The two of us sat on my front porch, picking at the chipped blue paint. Three years back, my Mom asked what color we should repaint the porch in an attempt to cheer me up. I told her ‘baby blue’, thinking she would refuse. She came home that day with buckets of blue paint, a tired grin on her face. The paint was peeling now, chipped from the years.
Atlas Andino’s car sped around the block, squealing to a stop out front of his house. Atlas had been our neighbor since I was eleven. His family lived on the other side of town, moving here once their house had finished being built. Atlas’s Dad was the Alpha of our pack, his wife the Luna. Both were fair to the rest of us, but were extremely strict. Our pack was the biggest in the country, the ‘Full Moon Pack’ our name. I had always hated the name of our pack, thinking it was too bland.
Atlas Andino emerged from his car, his usual friends in tow. I knew them all by name, noting how their styles of bullying differed. Atlas Andino, with his pale blonde hair and startling grey eyes. Shaina Adam’s with her espresso skin and gorgeous sneer. Michelle Cario, with her long legs and thick accent. Duke Kentworth, with his football jersey and messy black hair. Dean Marsh, with his curly chocolate hair and sly smile.
The five of them made my high school experience hell, Atlas Andino being the worst. Michelle Cario was glued to Atlas’s side the moment he stepped from the car. Michelle Cario had an alluring Spanish accent all of the guys were fond of. Her skin was a beautiful tan color, her hair long and curly. She had been dating Atlas since they started high school two years ago. Michelle enjoyed throwing things at me, Duke Kentworth enjoyed spilling liquids, and Shaina Adam’s enjoyed name calling. Dean Marsh would often trip me in the halls, or knock my books from my hand at every chance he got.
Atlas Andino simply looked down on me, and ignored the torment his friends put me through.
A month into my Freshman year, I made the mistake of crying when Dean knocked my books from my hand and Shaina called me an ‘antisocial freak’. My fate had been sealed once they saw the tears that fell from my eyes, the sniffle that left my lips. I had always been a pushover, unable to stand up for myself. It went against everything we were as werewolves. We were supposed to be confident, strong, and proud. I was none of those things, and I didn’t know how to be.
“Dean look,” Shaina snorted, her eyes flickering in my direction. “The freak has a friend.”
Dean glanced my way and smirked, his finger tracing an invisible tear down his cheek.
I averted my gaze from the five of them, turning to face Alyssa’s annoyed stare.
“Ignore them.” She rolled her eyes, pulling out some sheets of homework. I tried to follow in her foot steps, pulling my books and sheets of paper from my bag. The handful of my homework was ripped from my grasp, a smirking Duke stood above me.
“This important?” Duke smirked, his earth colored eyes staring down at me.
“Yes.” I managed to force the word from my lips as my throat constricted, “It’s--my homework.”
“Homework?” Duke’s smirk deepened.
A ripping sound filled the air as he destroyed my work-sheets. Tears stung the back’s of my eyelids as I heard his friends whoop in laughter.
‘Don’t let them see you cry.’ My wolf, Circe shook her head.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and fixed my eyes on the coffee table.
“Good luck doing homework, freak.” Duke snickered, walking back to his friends.
I couldn’t help but steal a glance at Atlas, my throat aching at the indifferent look on his face. His arm was wrapped around Michelle, and the five of them went inside his house.
Alyssa didn’t say much about me getting bullied. She had once convinced me to stand up for myself, and that ended horrifically. She no longer made that suggestion. She’s tried to stick up for me in the past, but it only pulls her into their bullying. I refused to let their attention shift over to Alyssa, no matter how much she insisted she could handle it.
Alyssa and I finished our homework, heading inside to hang out until my Mom got home. She often worked long shifts as the Pack Doctor. There was always some teenage werewolves getting injured, coming back with scrapes and cuts. She loved her work, it was how she met my Dad. Going to work was an escape from dealing with my typical melancholy, but I also think it hurt her to be there. That building was where she met Dad, and I wondered if she could still see him walking down the halls.
Mom arrived home after a few hours, a tired smile on her face as she peeked her head in my bedroom. Mom always did what she could to keep me in high spirits. She knew the bullying I’d endure at school, but there wasn’t much she could do. She once spoke to Dean’s parents, getting him grounded for a solid week. That only made the bullying worse, increasing the number of times I’d run home in tears. I was merely thankful she didn’t talk to the Alpha and Luna, Atlas’s parents. I couldn’t stand the indifferent look on his face as his friends tormented me.
The three of us ate dinner, something my Mom hastily put together in under an hour. Mom wasn’t the best cook, that was usually Dad’s job. I couldn’t remember many of the meals I shared with him, but I remember he loved to experiment and cook new things.
“Mr. Barnes was at the hospital today.” Mom gave me an exasperated look and I chuckled wholeheartedly.
Alyssa looked between the two of us in confusion. Mom had a disgusted look on her face, while mine was filled with humor.
“Mr. Barnes is this old werewolf that has a crush on my Mom.” I snickered as my Mom repressed a shudder.
“Poor thing’s mate passed away two years ago.” Mom shook her head, her own pain clear in her eyes. “Ever since then he won’t leave me alone.”
“Poor guys got it bad.” Alyssa giggled at the two of us.
Other than Micah, my Mom had become my bestfriend. I told her everything, and we became incredibly close over the years. She was always optimistic, while I remained my gloomy self. While I talked to her about everything, I couldn’t bring myself to mention Dad. The pain that flashed in her eyes chilled me, halting me in my path.
“Every other day he comes in with some mysterious pain or injury.” Mom rolled her eyes.
“Poor guys putting himself in danger trying to win your heart.” I chuckled.
“Fat chance.” Mom shook her head, “He’s sixteen years too late, and forty years too old.”
Mom always had a way to make me laugh after a bad day, bringing light to any dark situation.
As I said before, my view of the world was very black and white. People were either good or evil, an event was either good or bad. I had never thought about the thousand hues of grey that stood out among the two colors. Grey simply wasn’t a possibility. Grey meant someone was both good and evil, that an event could be both good and bad.
It was the day of my sixteenth birthday when my view of the world changed.