Chapter 1 - So It Begins...
A sigh whistled past the lips of sixteen-year-old Oliver Sage as he let his gaze wander the quickly-passing treeline along the highway. He couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t belong here. In fact, he knew he didn’t. He should be back in Brooklyn - going to his school, living in his house, hanging out with his friends. Not some random city in Louisiana. Even if it was as world-famous as New Orleans.
He could feel his mother eyeing him every so often from the driver’s seat as he pressed his forehead to the cool glass window beside him.
“Look, Oliver, I know that you’re not happy about this...But it’s going to be fine. I think you’re really going to like it there. Great food, great music. And I bet you’ll make a lot of new friends,” his mother spoke up suddenly, trying to sound optimistic as she struck up a conversation for the sixth time today.
“And what was wrong with the old ones?” Oliver shot back irritably, glancing over at her.
Elizabeth sighed, pushing back strands of her dark curly hair that was a mirror image of Oliver’s own, “I know, sweetie. But this is for the best...I’m sure of it.”
Oliver only shook his head in response as silence fell between them once more, the only sound to be heard being the light hum of an AC/DC song drifting through the speakers in the car.
He’d spent his entire life in New York, he’d never lived anywhere else. But one day, out of the blue, his mom had quit her job and found a new one in New Orleans. She hadn’t even mentioned why she quit in the first place or even why she wanted to move, only saying that it would be good for them. But Oliver didn’t remotely believe that. Not for a second. Sighing to himself silently, he fingered the wolf pendant he always wore. He’d had it since he was a baby and now, it calmed him to know he had at least one thing he could hold onto from his old life. Gingerly, he slid it back inside the collar of his shirt, the cool metal familiar against his skin.
Settling back into his seat after popping in his earbuds, Oliver’s eyes fluttered closed, letting the music take him away as it always did...
It was a few hours later when he finally felt the car stop, the engine turning off as his mother stepped out of the vehicle. Blinking his eyes open, he noticed they had stopped at a gas station. Trees sprang up all around, the geography of it looking much the same as it had when they’d hit the Louisiana state line. The building was pretty run-down although there were a few other cars here besides them. But before he could let his thoughts wander too far, there was a knock on his window and he looked up into the cheerful face of his mother.
“Ollie, why don’t you go inside to pay and I’ll pump?” she asked as he pushed the passenger door open and stepped out, his mother shoving some crumpled dollar-bills into his open palm as he did, “Go get you some snacks too while you’re at it, we’re still about an hour out.”
Taking the money from her, he trudged past the locals milling about outside before entering the gas station. Bells jingled against the clear glass door as he stepped inside, earning curious glances from the other customers. Absentmindedly, he pushed stray curls from his face, avoiding their eyes whilst making his way down one of the small aisles. It had been this way ever since Oliver could remember really - little glares here and there, sometimes outright rudeness but overall, nothing he couldn’t handle. He’d developed a thick skin from being bullied as a child, to say the least, and most times, he didn’t even notice it any longer. After all, being Mexican was apart of who he was - even if he was only an 1/8th, it was the side of his family he was closest to. It had taken years but slowly, he’d come to grips with his mixed-race identity in this world. But then again, growing up in a big city in New York, there was a lot more open-mindedness than in a small, rural town like this one.
His eyes scanned the junk food spread out on the shelves on either side of him - Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M & M’s, Butterfinger bars, and even something smashed and completely unidentifiable from being pushed to the back for so long. Making a face, he bypassed that one before grabbing a few random things and heading back towards the front counter, snagging a Dr. Pepper from the coke machine on his way. Who knows how long they’d be on the road for.
After ringing up the few items, the man huffed out a bored, “That’ll be 6.87,”
Fishing in his pocket for the wadded up bills handed to him by his mother, Oliver pulled out a lone 5 dollar bill and a couple of pennies. Sighing to himself, he shook his head. It was just like mom to forget to give him more before he went inside. The guy at the counter snorted at the sight, obviously annoyed with him.
“Look, man,” Oliver sighed, raking a hand through his tangled, ebony curls, “Let me go out and get a couple more dollars-”
“Yeah, so you can take the food with you on the way out and leave without paying? No, that’s not how this store works, alright, kid? Either you give me the money now or-”
Rolling his blue eyes, Oliver leaned onto the counter, palms pressed flat against it when suddenly, the guy’s eyes widened considerably as he cut himself off. Oliver frowned.
“I-I’m sorry, I-I didn’t know you were- Ah, it doesn’t matter! Discount for you, man.” the cashier said nervously, tripping over his words as he quickly took the money from Oliver’s outstretched hand before depositing it into the cash register, “Have a great day.”
Oliver’s eyebrows knit together in confusion as he gathered up his candy and coke before stepping out the door. His mother was waiting in the car for him, engine running and the A/C blowing her curls back from her face as she spread the map out on the dashboard. He almost grinned at the sight despite himself. She was still so old-fashioned in some ways, even if she did have a GPS on her phone. When Oliver got inside, Elizabeth smiled over at him.
“We’re not far now, I think. Actually, we’re closer than I’d initially thought - only about a half hour’s drive from here,” she told him as she folded the crinkled map up before tossing it into the backseat with all the rest of their belongings.
As the car pulled back onto the highway, he took a swig of his Dr. Pepper bottle before he finally took notice of his mother’s sideways gaze towards him.
“Sweetheart, I know this is hard on you. I really do. But...you need to be here. This is where you belong - we belong.” she corrected herself as the car sped down the blacktop.
Only nodding glumly to her words in response as a wave of exhaustion from all the traveling hit him, Oliver’s eyes shifted to the passenger window, watching the trees around them slowly thin out as they neared civilization. Did he really though? Did he really belong somewhere so alien to him? How could this place possibly become home? From his reflection then, he noted that his necklace had fallen free of his shirt collar once more. The wolf medallion at the end of the leather cord winked back at him as the sunlight streaming inside glared off of it.
The glittering black eyes of the creature was the last thing he saw before darkness over took him and he succumbed to sleep.