Alpha Atlas

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Chapter 5

Mom drove through the center of town, turning into one of the residential neighborhoods. Every house nearly looked the same. Small and identical, ideal to fit the most amount of people in a small space.

“It’s not as big as our old house.” Mom grinned sheepishly, “But it’s the best I could get on short notice. The landlord was friends with my Dad.”

“It’s not a problem.” I chuckled, my eyes tracing over the small square windows.

My eyes were elsewhere. They were trailing over the porch’s peeling blue paint. A low whine left Lila’s lips as she recognized the similarities. That was one thing that needed to be changed.

Mom parked on the curb by the house and popped open the trunk. Her arms were filled with bags as she wobbled down the sidewalk. I must’ve packed more than I thought. Her arms were overflowing with bags as she tried to carry everything at once. She could hardly see where she was going, nearly bumping into someone.

“Woah--” A man’s voice called out, catching one of the duffel bags as they fell from her arms.

The man’s face broke out into a grin, “Let me grab some of these for you.”

His smile was wide, a spattering of salt and pepper hair on his head. He was up in his years, but still looked refined and handsome. A younger guy was at his side, looking slightly disgruntled. It was clear from looks alone they were related. The only difference was the older man had a lopsided smile, while the younger guy looked grumpy.

From their scents, they were definitely werewolves. Werewolves had this strong earthy scent that was hard to miss. Human’s either smelled like body spray, soap or sweat.

“Oh, thank you.” Mom breathed, her face flushing.

“New to the pack?” The older guy asked, taking a couple more bags from my Mom.

“I’m not, but my daughter is.” Mom smiled, her eyes flickering over to me.

I walked around to the back of the car and pulled my own suitcase out, followed by a couple bags. I kept the torn pieces of my Dad’s book wrapped in a shirt. I planned on dealing with the book later, finding some way to mend it.

The older guy looked over at me and smiled, I tried to return it as best I could. I wasn’t exactly happy to be here, but I wasn’t completely miserable either. I was grateful to be gone from my old pack, yet the pain still lingered.

“Help her with her stuff.” The older guy grunted, nudging the younger guy with his elbow. “I’m Beta Ned and this is my son Kris.”

“I’m Molly and this is Raelynn.” Mom smiled, gesturing to me with her chin.

Kris stalked over to the trunk of the car, pulling a couple bags from the trunk. The closer proximity let me have a good look at Kris. Raven colored hair sat on his head, brushed back and away from his eyes. His eyes were a deep brown, rich like the earth. Some of his sour expression went away as we locked eyes.

“I got these.” Kris muttered, grabbing some of the bags from my arms.

The two of them helped us carry everything in. Ned and my mom chatted for awhile, leaving me sitting on the front porch with Kris. It sounded silly, but I felt nervous. I had no experience talking to guys, apart from Micah. But Micah was never someone hard to talk to, everything just came easy with him. Not a single part of me was interested in Kris, and yet I felt nervous. What if things were the same here?

“You gonna start school soon?” Kris broke the silence, giving me his undivided attention. His dark eyes were soft as he noticed my discomfort.

“I’m not sure.” I shook the stab of pain away. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

“If you need a ride, I can take you.” Kris shrugged, “I live next door so it’s not a problem.”

I was just about to say no when Lila stopped me. It was probably the last thing I expected to hear.

‘Say yes.’ Lila nodded, ‘Let’s make things different here. We can have friends.’

My stomach clenched as I thought about Alyssa and what she might think of me. She had other friends, so I wasn’t sure why I continued to beat myself up over it.

“Sure.” I nodded, “I wouldn’t mind a ride.”

I struggled to keep my nerves from my voice, instead sounding slightly surprised. I’d need to kick my nerves to the side if I wanted to make any friends. Guilt filled me as I thought about Micah for the first time in days. I hadn’t even wondered if he had gotten my note. It made me feel horrible to think of how easily I had forgotten my first friend.

‘It’s not your fault.’ Lila shook her head, ‘You did just travel thirty hours.’

“Alright, here’s my number.” Kris shot me a smile, seeming to be in a better mood.

After exchanging numbers Ned came outside with my Mom.

“I can definitely teach you how to cook.” Beta Ned chuckled, “It’ll be easy.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Mom laughed, the sound was strange. “I can burn almost anything.”

Beta Ned and Kris left a couple minutes later, and I shot my Mom an odd look. Something weird was swirling in my stomach. Betrayal? It was stupid of me to feel that way. Mom deserved friends just as much as I did.

* * * * *

“What should I make?” Mom spoke to herself, her eyes scanning the contents of the fridge. We had stopped by one of the grocery stores for some food and essentials, but we were a long ways away from being fully stocked.

‘Pizza?’ Lila giggled.

‘I’m betting on Chinese food.’ I chuckled back, ‘We had pizza two days ago.’

“How about some Chinese food?” Mom slammed the fridge shut with a grin.

She looked much happier here, not as dragged down by the past. If this place was changing her, certainly it could change me.

“Chinese food sounds great.” I nodded, a smirk playing on my lips.

The house was set with two beds, and a worn looking couch. Furniture and everything else would come with time. She ordered our food and the two of us sat on the worn couch, eating our dinner in silence.

“Can I start school tomorrow?” The words were out of my mouth in a second.

Mom seemed surprised, “I thought you might’ve wanted to take the week off. Start next Monday.”

I shook my head, “I’d rather get started right away. It’ll keep me busy.”

I needed the distraction, it was the only thing keeping me afloat. Mom was exactly the same way, she needed a distraction. I wasn’t surprised to hear she was beginning work Monday. We were too much alike to think anything different.

“I understand.” Mom nodded, “I’ll give the school a call and get your paperwork in.”

Mom went to make a few calls as I carried some bags to my bedroom. It was smaller than my old one, but had a nice window seat overlooking the front yard. I pulled my blankets from one of the bags and laid them across the bed. After setting a few pictures up, and hanging my clothes in the closet the room felt a lot more comforting.

I pulled the torn poetry book from my bag, frowning as more of the pages fell out. Mom had picked me up some hot glue and tape after noticing the destroyed book in the trunk. Her eyes flickered back to the past for a second, focusing a few seconds later.

I used the hot glue and tape, setting to work.

The result made me realize mending books was not a suitable career choice. It still looked like a tattered old book, but at least everything was held together. I had glued one of the pages on backwards, making the page numbers not quite add up. The cover had been taped back together, but was still missing chunks. The entire process filled me with the first shred of relaxation I had since coming here. I felt like I was piecing back some parts of my life. My heart was still shattered, but was being held together just like this book. The thought was comforting, that even in the face of great pain I could still find a way to survive. The pain was still raw, like a festering wound. But I was growing stronger, counting the days until I could truly breathe again.

I threaded through the book, choosing one of the poems at random as I often did. It had become a ritual of mine when things got tough.

The funny thing
about chasing the past
is that most people
wouldn’t know
what to do with it
if they caught it.

-Atticus

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