The White Goddess

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Mountain View

“Omigawd, omigawd, omigawwwwwd...!”

Serafina cringed at the piercing shrieks of the girls sitting beside her. Although it would probably be more accurate to say she was sitting with them.

Trinity and her friends clapped and bounced on their butts as Ian intercepted the ball and leaped over the burly player diving for his legs. At least half the park showed up for Sunday football games and the grassy lawn rang out with cheers and whistles as Ian zigzagged up the field, knocking anyone he couldn’t avoid aside like bowling pins.

Serafina had to smile at the big stupid grin on his face. Ian loved this. He loved running, loved competition, loved knocking people down. Ian still trained every day but he was a warrior and he missed fighting. There were no shortage of opportunities back when they were on the road and sleeping rough, but here in peaceful libertarian Mountain View, football was pretty much it.

Mountain View trailer park was like a small town with its tidy rows of trailers and postage stamp lawns. The community was close-knit and everyone knew each other. The park had its own general store, community centre, and swimming pool where Ian worked as a lifeguard. Life was simple here. Uneventful. Normal.

The crowd stood and roared as Ian made it to the end zone, with good-natured grumbling from the other side. Usually Mountain View played against Lakeside or one of the other campgrounds or RV parks in the area, but today they were playing against the local fire department. A few of the firefighters were wolf shifters, but since the district fire station was in Sugarloaf pack territory, none of them were rogues. Rogues weren’t welcome on any pack’s territory as a rule. Something Serafina and Ian had learned first-hand on their travels.

Not being rogues meant these shifters didn’t answer to the Rogue King and weren’t on the lookout for his runaway bride. Still, Ian made it very clear Serafina should stay away from the other team, just in case, which was why she wasn’t sitting with Bonnie and Abel at the sidelines like usual.

“...Right, Sarah?”

Serafina turned to find Trinity and her friends watching her expectantly. She’d been going by Sarah since LA and was used to it now. It had been Ian’s idea to shorten her name and spell it the regular way when they got their fake IDs done back in California. Ian said her real name was too uncommon, stood out too much. According to him she stood out enough already. Like he was one to talk, but whatever.

Serafina pasted on a smile. “Sorry, what?”

“Your brother,” Trinity repeated. “He’s going to Jamestown this year, right?” The local district public school.

Of course they were talking about Ian again. Serafina resisted the urge to roll her eyes. The girls were nice enough—well, Trinity and Melissa were—but they’d spent half the game gushing over how hot the new guy AKA Ian was, how ripped his abs were and how good his butt looked in his cut-off joggers. It made Serafina want to gag.

Ian had always gotten attention from girls back home, but out here in the big wide world he was practically an estrogen magnet, drawing the eyes of females of all ages and more than a few males as well. It was nauseating watching them flirt and drool over him. And Ian didn’t exactly push them away.

“Uh, yeah. We both are.” A smile crept across Serafina’s face even as nervous butterflies filled her stomach. Bonnie had registered them both for school this fall—Serafina was going into Sixth Grade, Ian into his junior year of high school—with a promise to the school to arrange tutoring since they were so far behind.

Amazement bloomed inside her all over again. She’d always wanted to go to school, a real school like normal kids went to, with lockers and classrooms and teachers that called her by name. Serafina knew Ian was excited too and just as anxious, but for totally different reasons. He’d only agreed because they were going to be in the same building.

“Why do you look so happy?” Kylie wrinkled her nose. “School sucks.”

“No it doesn’t,” Melissa spoke up. She smiled shyly at Serafina. “I love school.”

Kylie rolled her eyes. “You love making out with Brad in the art supply room.”

Melissa blushed. “That too.”

“Melissa’s boyfriend lives in Gold Hill,” Trinity explained to Serafina. “He was working at an overnight camp all summer.”

“If he still is her boyfriend. What?” Kylie said when Trinity shot her a disapproving look. “Everyone knows all the counselors hook up with each other. Melissa’s the one who said he’s been back for two weeks and they’ve only seen each other once.”

The tip of Melissa’s nose turned pink and she blinked like she was trying to hold back tears. Serafina frowned. Kylie could be so mean. Serafina didn’t understand why they were even friends with her. Literally, she didn’t understand.

Social dynamics were still a mystery to Serafina. Growing up, she had no experience interacting normally with other kids. Kids who didn’t regard her as their goddess or just some weird cult celebrity like the Willow Beach townies had. It wasn’t until they got to Mountain View that Serafina understood just how complicated interacting normally was.

“That doesn’t mean he’s breaking up with her,” Trinity argued, sending Melissa a reassuring look.

Melissa’s voice was soft. “His parents are making him work at the hotel until school starts.”

“Okay okay. Sorry.” Kylie raised her hands in fake-surrender and rolled her eyes. “Is Ian going to be playing for the Bobcats?” she asked, turning to Serafina.

“Bobcats?” Serafina furrowed her brow. Why would Ian be playing with bobcats? They wouldn’t even go near him. “What do you mean?”

“The Bobcats. The football team at Jamestown?” Kylie’s tone was condescending. “Is Ian going to be playing.”

“Oh.” Serafina felt silly. Of course not real bobcats. “Um, he doesn’t know yet. Tryouts are tomorrow.”

“He’ll get selected for sure,” Trinity said proudly, like it had anything to do with her. Or maybe she was just proud she was one degree closer to Ian than Melissa and Kylie. He was practically a celebrity with the girls around here.

At thirteen and fourteen, Trinity and her friends were older than Serafina but still way too young for Ian, who treated them like kids no matter how they dressed or how many socks they stuffed in their bras. But that didn’t stop them from mooning over him. Serafina wished she could tell them how he farted in his sleep and he licked his own balls in wolf form.

Hank, the park owner and self-appointed referee, called half time and the players slapped each other on the shoulder and gave each other props as they headed to the ice-packed coolers of water and gatorade set up on the sidelines.

A girl named Brittany with long black hair and boobs spilling out of her top threw herself at Ian as soon as he stepped off the field. He was gross and sweaty but Brittany didn’t seem to care as she pressed herself against him. Blech. His arm wrapped around the brunette, Ian scanned the crowd over Brittany’s head, looking for Serafina. Needing to know where she was all the time. That much at least hadn’t changed.

I’m here, she mindlinked him before he could ask. Under the oak by the end of the field. No, the other end, she directed when Ian turned to face the firs that doubled as goal posts at the opposite end of the field. Do those look like oak trees to you?

What am I? Ian snorted. A...whatever people who know the names of trees are called?

You mean smart? Serafina innocently supplied.

Fuck off, Ian said mildly, swivelling his gaze to find her on the picnic blanket with the girls. Oh, sitting with your friends, cool.

Except for Trinity, calling them her friends was pushing it but it made Ian happy to think Serafina was doing as well socially as he was. He flashed Serafina a smile and chugged the rest of his water before handing the empty bottle to Brittany with a smack on her butt. Brittany giggled and blew him a kiss. So embarrassing.

“He’s so dreamy.” Trinity sighed as Ian jogged back onto the field. “Does he ever date blondes?” she wondered, trying and failing to sound casual.

“Not fat underage ones,” came a sneering voice from behind them.

They turned to see Grace, Trinity’s sister, walk up with her friends Lacey and Drea. Grace was always saying mean things like that to Trinity. Trinity said she was even worse at home.

Trinity flushed red as Lacey and Drea cackled. Serafina felt a spurt of anger. Trinity’s fixation on Ian was silly, but Grace didn’t have to be a bitch about it.

“Aren’t you all underage too?” Serafina asked the older girls.

“We’re sixteen,” Lacey said, like it was some kind of achievement.

“That’s still underage.”

“And we’re not fat,” Drea pointed out. She was so skinny her hipbones poked through her cotton shorts.

“Neither is Trinity.” Serafina shrugged. “And boys don’t all like skinny girls.”

Grace looked down her nose at her and scoffed. “What’re you, like, twelve? What do you know about what boys like?”

Serafina wanted to say that in the four and a half months before they got to Mountain View, she and Ian had stayed in mostly male-populated hostels, shelters, and rooming houses where she’d heard more conversations about women’s body parts and what men did and didn’t like about them than Abel had army stories. Which was a lot.

But Serafina couldn’t. Not even Bonnie and Abel knew how long they’d been on their own. “I know what Ian likes,” is what Serafina said instead.

“He’s her brother,” Trinity blurted, her face pinkening again but this time, in triumph. Because someone was finally sticking up for her, Serafina thought. Trinity’s mom was where Grace got her personality from and her dad was always on his Blackberry. “They’re like, really close.”

Grace’s brows shot up. “Is that true?”

No. “Yes.” That’s what Serafina and Ian had been telling everybody, including Bonnie and Abel.

Grace closed her mouth with an audible snap. Grace had probably been hoping to replace Brittany at some point. Ha. No chance. Ian could overlook a lot of things in a girl but being a bitch wasn’t one of them.

“Ian’s your brother?” Lacey’s eyes widened like they were talking about the President or Justin Bieber. “Like, Ian playing football right now Ian? Lifeguard Ian?”

“No, Ian the boomer in Row D who always smells like eucalyptus,” a flustered Grace snapped at her friend sarcastically. Her gaze shifted to a group of boys walking towards them. “Oh, perfect. The junior pencil dicks are here.”

Connor Romero and his friends stopped a few feet from Grace and looked her over. Connor was only fifteen but had the natural authority and confidence of someone much older. He reminded Serafina of Ian that way.

“Wow, not just pencil dicks but junior pencil dicks?” Connor smirked. “Good one.” His tone made it very clear he didn’t really think so.

Grace glared at him. Trinity said her sister hated Connor out of embarrassment for having sex with him last summer when she was drunk and Connor had been just fourteen years old.

Connor’s friend Mikey grabbed himself obscenely over his basketball shorts. “I got my pencil,” he sing-songed.

Gabe, his twin, guffawed. “Gimme something to write on!”

Serafina didn’t get it but it was impossible not to laugh at the goofy brothers playing air guitar. Mikey and Gabe were the same age as Connor but they acted a lot younger.

“Ugh. I’m losing brain cells just standing here.” Grace swept a contemptuous look over the group before returning to Connor. “Let’s go, girls.”

“Good move,” Connor said as the older girls turned to leave. “You can’t really afford to lose any.”

Grace raised her middle finger above her shoulder without turning around.

Drea’s hopeful tones floated back to them as the girls walked away. “Hey, does that mean that Ian thinks Brittany is fat?”


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