ONE. Best Friends
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ONE. Best Friends
“Yes, please!” my twelve-year-old cousin calls out from the living room as the jug makes its noise telling us it’s boiled. Ngaire is watching Netflix, and I can hear the sound of arrows and zombies coming from the television. I roll my eyes but smile anyway.
“Cup of tea?” I ask.
“Nope. Hot chocolate, please!” she calls back. I groan. Hot chocolate entails me filling a cup with milk and heating it in the microwave. No hot water is required at all.
I love my cousin. Out of all my cousins, Ngaire is the one that looks most like our grandmother. She has long blonde hair, blue eyes and similar features to Grandma. She’s also the more studious cousin, preferring to spend time in front of the television (it’s like watching a book with pictures, she told me the other day) or reading a book. My other three cousins, Mitchell, Odin and Pan, look more like my grandfather and are soccer mad, like their dads.
The microwave beeps when Mitchell, Odin and Pan walk into the house with their dads. Mitchell’s hefty smell of sweat fills the room, and I hold my nose. For a twelve-year-old, he’s very tall and already in need of wearing deodorant.
“Yes, please!” Mitchell calls out, walking over to where I’m standing. He goes to cuddle me, but I push him away.
“I’ll make you one after you shower,” I tell him.
“Yes!” he shouts, letting his soccer boots thump on the floor as he drops them and runs off.
“How was it?” I ask my other two cousins.
“We lost,” Pan tells me, picking up her brother’s boots and heading for the mud room.
“No, they did well,” Jonas, one of my uncles, tells me.
“Leora not back yet?” Killian, my other uncle, asks. I shake my head. No.
Killian and Jonas are my uncles and my auntie’s mates. They’re identical twins, although I can easily tell them apart. Killian’s blonde hair is slightly darker than Jonas’s, and Jonas is the more brooding twin.
I travelled to Sefton, where my aunt and uncles live, a couple of days ago. I’m going to Alpha Training Academy at the end of January, and I wanted to meet with my aunt and best friends before I go.
My best friend, Zoe, finished her stint at Alpha Training this year, and I hadn’t seen her since before she left. She’s the next Beta wolf of the Iunae Lumen Pack. My other best friend, Todd, is a Delta wolf. I last saw him a couple of years ago, too.
Since my family moved back to Silver Forest, where my pack is from, Zoe, Todd, and I began taking turns visiting each other during school holidays. I’ve known them since I was a baby and was part of Todd’s pack, Waning Moon.
But I last saw Todd a couple of years ago. He got busy with his Delta training and could only visit me sometimes. I catch up with him on Facebook and Insta, but other than that, we don’t really talk. He also has a girlfriend, and they’ve moved in together. I can’t wait to find out if they’re mates or not. I’m really excited to meet her.
“Can I borrow a car?” I ask my uncles, giving them a smile; I know they can’t deny me. I look like my aunt, their mate. I’m the spitting image of her, except for my eyes, which are a different colour.
Jonas throws me his keys, and I catch them effortlessly.
“Thanks, Jonas, you’re my favourite uncle,” I say, shoving his keys into my jean pocket.
“Hey! What about me?” Killian asks, not happy. I smile and laugh at him.
“You’re my third favourite uncle,” I tell Killian, who gives me an admonished look.
“But Jonas and I are identical!” Killian complains as he follows me around the kitchen.
I only laugh and pull cups out of the cupboard to make everyone tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
“I’m home!” Leora calls out as she walks into the house.
“Hey, Lee,” I reply, giving my aunt a smile. Aunty Leora smiles back at me.
“I hope my boys haven’t been giving you too much grief,” Leora replies.
“I’m her third favourite uncle!” Killian replies, making the three of us laugh.
“What did you get?” Jonas then asks, opening a supermarket bag Leora brought into the kitchen.
I continue getting the drinks ready, and Leora helps me; the only noise we can hear is my uncle’s ahing and ooing at the food Leora’s brought home.
“Hey, they’re for after,” Leora scolds them.
We take the food and drinks into the dining room, where my cousins sit and play on their devices as they wait. Leora explained to me before she went out that the five (my three cousins and my uncles) of them always come back from soccer hungry, so she likes to go out and get something nice to eat when they return.
On the table is an assortment of muffins, cream buns, cake and brownies. It might seem like a lot, but Jonas and Killian, being werewolves, eat a lot.
After our afternoon tea, I grab my handbag and hug Ngaire, Pan and Leora goodbye before heading off to see Todd.
Leora, Jonas and Killian lived in Silver Forest when I was little. Leora ran Jonas and Killian’s family bookshop. But five years ago, my uncles were offered teaching positions back in Sefton with a considerable pay increase. They couldn’t refuse, so they moved their family back to Sefton. The bookshop, Hembry’s Books, is now run by my grandmother. When she retired from being a Beta female, she picked up managing the bookshop to help her extended family. I secretly also think she likes going there because she can read books for free while sitting at the café and drink coffee.
Google drive directs me to Todd’s new house, and it’s only a twenty-five-minute run from Leora’s. As we get closer, my wolf, Marie, becomes increasingly restless. We’ve only met for a few months; I shifted for the first time in October when I turned eighteen. This is a new feeling from Marie, and I’m unsure what to make of it.
I find a parking spot on the road of Todd’s bustling street. Apartment buildings and townhouses line both sides of the street, and I can see why parking is premium around here. I walk toward Todd’s townhouse, an inner pull leading me.
Todd and I have always been friends. We went to daycare together. We were in the same classes at school. He has been my best friend; we were so close. I’ve missed him. I think that’s why I pull toward his house’s direction.
As I approach his door, a tantalising scent of chocolate and almonds fills my nose, making my mouth salivate. Marie is bouncing in my head, and I try to ignore her as I press the doorbell.
The smell of strawberries and icing sugar invades my nostrils. The door opens, and a beautiful girl stands on the house’s threshold.
“Rhiannon?” she asks, dimples forming on her cheeks as she smiles. I’ve seen photos of Larissa on social media, and she doesn’t look as good in real life. I can’t believe I just thought that. The Larissa in front of me is beautiful… but without filters, she looks ‘real.’
“Todd baby, Rhiannon’s here!” Larissa calls out.
“Wow, you look exactly like you do on Facebook,” Larissa comments, pulling me into a hug. I slowly hug her back, stupefied about what is happening around me. At the same time as Larissa hugs me, Todd walks to the door, and Marie begins yelling ‘mate’ in my head.
“Well, I was going to get a few extra things from the shops for dinner. You just caught me,” Larissa laughs, flashing her hand toward me, showing me her keys.
“Why don’t you two catch up? Talk?” Larissa smiles. She leans over and kisses Todd on the cheek, and I feel pinpricks of pain radiate from my face.
Todd and I nod as Larissa smiles and walks out the door.
Todd and I stand there for a moment, looking at each other.
“We should talk,” Todd finally says, taking a step backwards and indicating that I should walk into the house. I nod and take in the surroundings.
The hall is painted rental white, and to the left is a small kitchen dining area, and to the right is a living room. I step to the room on the right and see happy photos of Todd and Larissa displayed around the room. The pit of my stomach feels heavy, and Marie has stilled inside me.
I take a seat on the edge of the couch. The room is homely. There is a painting of a field of daisies on the wall behind me. A television on the wall in front. I can see Larissa’s touch throughout the room. I should feel relaxed and comfortable. However, I feel anything but.
“I can’t be your mate,” Todd says. My stomach recoils like I’ve been punched in the gut. I look up at Todd, who stands there, looking in my direction, his hands in his pockets.
“I love Larissa. I’m sorry, Rhiannon. I love her,” he continues. I feel hot tears gather in the corners of my eyes, but I keep them at bay.
“She’s pregnant with my baby,” he says as I nod at his last sentence. Fuck. Not good.
“Rhiannon? Are you okay? You’re not saying anything,” he asks. I’m thinking about all the times we played together as children. Todd always wanted to play with me and do the things I wanted to do. When we were asked to buddy up at school, he always picked me. Always picked me.
I bite my lip and look at the coffee table standing behind Todd. It’s a dark wood with a wicker bowl sitting on top of it. Inside the bowl are several ceramic sphere thingies painted in different colours and hues. A few women’s magazines are stacked on the side, and a dirty coaster with a ring from the cup is on the other side.
Todd sighs, and I look at him. His mahogany brown short-cropped hair sits beautifully on his diamond-shaped face. His light brown eyes, with flecks of amber in them. His straight nose with the bump he got when we went horse riding as children.
“We should just get this over with then,” Todd sighs, “I, Todd Rupert Gessop, Delta of Waning Moon, reject you, Rhiannon Delaney Erstad, as my mate.”
Pain hits my body in full force. My nails bite as they dig into my fists, and I feel my whole body tighten in pain. Acid from my stomach fills my mouth, and I want to vomit.
- If he doesn’t want us, let him go – Marie tells me, pain in her voice. I nod in agreement.
“I, Rhiannon Delaney Erstad, next Beta of Silva Luporum, accept Todd Rupert Gessop’s rejection of mate,” I choke out. I don’t notice Todd’s reaction as I try to weather through my pain. A tear trickles down my face, and I quickly wipe it away with the back of my hand.
The bile in my mouth increases, and I cough as I try to swallow it back down. When I look up, I see Todd sitting on the coffee table, dealing with his pain.
“I’m really sorry, Rhiannon,” Todd says to me. I nod slightly. I know he is. He loves Larissa, and she’s pregnant with his pup. I would want him to choose her anyway.
“That’s okay. I only ever saw you like a brother anyway,” I lie. I can’t believe that came out so quickly.
Memories of me watching Todd play touch rugby when we were twelve fills my head. Watching his strong calf muscles pound across the dirt as he ran across the field with the ball. This was when I first remember feeling more for him than just friendship. It developed into a full-blown crush. I remember sitting eagerly at the door, waiting for him to arrive for his holiday stay. I remember feeling disappointed when we were fifteen, and he stopped visiting me because he had started Delta training for his pack.
“I should go,” I say. I realise I’m standing, my feet shifting towards the exit. Todd nods.
“I’m sorry, Rhiannon. I love Larissa. You understand, right?” Todd asks as I head for the front door. I do understand. I do. I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.
“Rhiannon,” Todd says, grabbing my arm as I open the door. I look down at his hand. Dull sparks ignite from his touch, residue from our broken bond.
“Can you not tell your dad? I don’t want him to know… that I rejected… you….” Todd asks, his hand falling off my arm.
“No problem,” I say, forcing myself to look him in the eye. The smile on my face is forced as well.
I turn and walk out the door. I can feel Todd’s eyes on my back as I head along the driveway, but he doesn’t follow. Goddess, I would do anything for him to follow, to pick me. He’s been my best friend since forever.
Edited with Grammarly
Ngaire (Maori) – pronounced Nyree