One Month Later
Liam and I had become the closest out of the entire bunch. Nicki and I had also grown extremely close. She loved that I had no sense of fashion, and allowed her to choose my outfits for me. She often paired me with cute skirts and tennis shoes, or the occasional dress but I didn’t mind.
In the month I had been here, I had grown more confident. I was now telling jokes with Kris and Dustin, or talking about guys with Nicki and Tyra. I’d often hang out with Liam, who wasn’t nearly as grumpy as Dustin painted him out to be.
No matter how hard I tried, Atlas was always on my mind. The first two weeks in town were horrible. I would awake in the middle of the night screaming, my insides burning with an invisible fire. Every nerve and cell in my body was screaming in pain. My Mom rushed into my bedroom without fail, soothing me with her words as best she could. After a few days, I finally got the truth from her. The truth broke my heart more than words ever could. The pain was from my mate being with someone else--being with them physically.
After an entire month, the pain was easier to manage. I could contain my screams as the fire ate away at my insides. Mom couldn’t help me, no one could. This was all part of being rejected by my mate. I regretted not accepting the rejection while I could. If I accepted it, the pain would’ve gone away. Even then, I couldn’t bring myself to return to my old pack. The pain was a single dark spot in an otherwise good situation.
Christmas rolled around quickly. Beta Ned and Kris came over for some of the day. Beta Ned and my Mom had grown awfully close, becoming great friends in the span of a week. Beta Ned was right, my Mom’s cooking had improved after meeting him. She no longer burnt everything, and some things she made were actually edible.
Mom got me what she could for Christmas, a couple new poetry books and some new clothes. The doorbell rang, and I ran over to get it.
I was shocked to see Liam and his parents standing at my door, a goofy grin on Liam’s face.
“I wanted to drop your present off personally.” Liam grinned, sitting on my bed next to me.
My room was much more cozy than it had been. I had gotten a new bed set and even let my Mom hang a few pictures on the wall.
“You got me a present?” I scoffed, a smile forming on my face.
“I was out with my parents and saw it.” Liam shrugged, his grin still intact. “Don’t tell Dustin though, he’d never let me live it down.”
“My lips are sealed.” I chuckled.
Liam sat a small package on my lap, wrapped in some cheesy Christmas wrapping paper. Little shimmery Santa Clause’s danced around on the paper, a jolly grin on his face.
I unwrapped the package gingerly, my jaw dropping as I stared at the familiar cover. It was my Dad’s poetry book. Obviously not his book, but a replica of it. This one looked brand new, not torn or faded by time.
“I always see you carrying that book around.” Liam shrugged, his face turning a light shade of pink. “Figured you’d like a new one. Yours is kind of falling apart.”
“The book belonged to my Dad.” I smiled back at Liam, running my fingers over the pristine cover.
“Oh.” Liam’s face fell, “I didn’t know--I understand if you don’t want it.”
“No.” I shook my head, still smiling down at the book. “I love it. Seriously, one of the best presents ever.”
“Top three best presents or top five?” Liam cocked his eyebrow at me, a smirk forming on his face.
“Hmm..” I trailed off, pretending to think about it long and hard. “Top ten maybe?”
“Top ten?” Liam scoffed, his face looking playfully offended. “I had to fight an old man for that book and it’s in your top ten?”
“Please tell me you didn’t.” I chuckled, the book against my heart as I convulsed into laughter,
That Christmas had been the best I’ve ever had since Dad died. Even with all of the good in my life, Atlas was still ever so present in my mind. The pain of losing my mate hadn’t faded. He was often in my dreams, haunting me while I was both awake and asleep. I could only hope I haunted him as well, tormented him for rejecting me.
Two Months Later
Christmas had passed a month ago. I spent my New Years with Liam, Kris, Dustin, Nicki and Tyra. They took me to my first ever party. Nicki and Tyra did my make-up and helped me pick out a dress. Dustin and Kris urged me to drink, to get drunk for the first time. Liam was the one scolding the two, making me laugh in the process.
After the party, the six of us headed over to Liam’s house to stay the night. The pack house was huge, set with multiple bedrooms. Liam even had an entire room for all of his gaming stuff. We spent half the night in there, the guys teaching me how to play video games.
At one point Liam had lost a game, his face wiping of any positive emotion. My heart shuddered in my chest violently. He looked just like Atlas. I tried to remind myself of their differences. Liam’s hair was a couple shades darker than Atlas’s, his hair just a little shorter. His blue eyes were nowhere near the light shade of Atlas’s. And yet my heart shuddered, my brain only seeing Atlas.
I must’ve made some sound, as Liam turned to look at me. His brows furrowed in confusion.
“You alright, Rae?” Liam asked.
Rae--A nickname the twins had come up with for me. A nickname I was growing to love. Raelynn was a girl rejected by her mate, Rae was a girl who fit in perfectly, surrounded by amazing friends.
That familiar pain wracked through my body. Invisible flames licked my skin, searing my nerves and cells. I could hold the screams in just fine when I was laying in bed. Right now I was surrounded with people. Liam watched as my face contorted in pain. Holding back a scream was easy, but that never lessened the pain.
“Yeah.” I nodded, my voice cracking. “I just need some air.”
I stood from my seat and walked out onto the balcony, welcoming the rush of cool air. The moon was brightly lit in the sky, a beacon to my kind. I couldn’t help but think the same moon was hanging over Atlas at this very moment.
Liam followed me out, and I gritted my teeth as he reached out and touched my shoulder. His touch felt wrong, all wrong.
“What’s wrong?” Liam brought himself down to my level, his blue eyes swirling with concern.
I didn’t want to tell him, I really didn’t. Another fiery blast shot down my spine, a painful hiss leaving my lips. Liam turned to run inside, to grab some help but I stopped him.
“Don’t---Don’t.” I shook my head, my chest was heaving as I struggled to control myself. I never had to act normal while this was happening. I was always in the safety of my bedroom when the pain hit.
“You never told me why you came here.” Liam pointed out, turning to face me.
“No.” I shook my head, grinding my teeth tightly. “I didn’t.”
“That pain, does it feel like your on fire?” Liam’s voice held curiosity, but it also held something else.
“Yes.” I nodded, unable to understand where his line of questions were going. It was hard to focus on what he was saying through the pain, but somehow I managed.
“My Mom’s sister went through something like that.” Liam’s voice was soft now, filled with pity. “How old did you say you were?”
“Sixteen.” I hissed.
Clearly Liam was putting together the pieces on his own. He knew what was happening to me better than I did.
“Did your mate reject you, Rae?” Liam frowned.
When a frown formed on Liam’s face, he looked like a sad little boy. Even with his towering height and muscular build, he looked much too young for his age.
“Yes, he did.” The words floated quietly in the air between us.
Liam wrapped his arms around me, pulling me into his chest. For just a moment, I pushed away how wrong his touch felt and let the fire consume me.
I would still wake at night, my skin burning with unseen flames. I could only assume Atlas was still mating with another female, making her his Luna. The pain remained, but I was growing used to it. I was getting used to the random stabs of pain that came out of nowhere. They would suffocate me for just a few minutes, leaving me breathless when they had finally passed.
It was then Mom came to me with a question. Her eyes were open and pleading. I could tell she was putting herself on the line here.
“I like Ned, Raelynn.” Mom’s voice was small. She looked at me like a child afraid of upsetting it’s mother. “I want to give this a try. I deserve that, don’t I?”
I couldn’t help but think how my answer would differ if she had asked me a month ago. I would’ve lashed out, asked her how she could hurt Dad this way. I had changed in the two months we lived here. I was slowly becoming more confident, slowly learning my own self-worth.
“Of course you do.” I smiled at her, fighting the pain in my own heart. If my Mom could find her happy ending, why couldn’t I?
“Then why do I feel so guilty?” Mom huffed, sitting down on the couch next to me.
“Cause Dad was your mate.” I shrugged, giving her a sympathetic smile. “He would want you to be happy, Mom.”
“Ned understands your situation.” Mom frowned, smiling at me gently. “The same thing happened to him. He wants to talk to you about it sometime, if you don’t mind.”
I couldn’t really be angry with her for telling Ned, after all I had told Liam. I didn’t want to talk to Ned about my rejection. I wanted to suffer in silence, pretending the pain was never there to begin with.
“Sure.” I nodded, “If he can help then I’m game.”
Despite how much I wanted to suffer in silence, I agreed. Strength was admitting you needed help, and right now I needed it.
Life is a mess of bumps and hard times, but I make the most of what I have.
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