I turned to Willow. “You’re a shape shifter too?”
She looked uncomfortable, trading her weight from one foot to the other uneasily.
“No…what I can do is considered more of an affliction than a talent; a curse, not a gift,” she explained hesitantly. She caught on from my bemused stare that I wasn’t quite following, and sighed heavily. Meena was watching us both anxiously, her secret already spilled.
“Humans can have it too, but it’s worse for them,” she muttered, not meeting my eyes. “It’s my magic that saves me from an existence like theirs, what makes me immortal combined with the… the power.”
In my subconscious, I think I had already known what she was. ‘Protecting’ - a shape in the trees, a dog behind the school; the leaves and mud frequently on her face and hair…
“Werewolf,” I blurted out, before I could stop myself. The part of me rooted deep down seemed to withdraw in disgust from the word, hoping it wasn’t true, because those creatures were barely human. I swallowed to squash back that part - I trusted Willow, although now I could see that I had barely scratched the surface of both girls’ realities.
“Yes,” Willow whispered. “People like you, or Meena, could live almost normally with the condition if they had it. It makes me ashamed that it can be so easy for us, who have magic, than those who don’t. You’ve read werewolf stories, haven’t you?”
She looked at my face for the first time, but I had it composed.
“Er…they transform at the full moon, right?”
“Wrong,” Willow corrected. “The moon gives us the ability to change - but that power is strongest at the full moon, when humans fully transform. In their human guise they keep the traits of the wolf; keen eyes and smell, a taste for meat, especially raw. They only become the wolf once a month, for three nights. Only during a new moon can they be normal again. A few days of peace. With your own magic, it’s different. Using the power of the moon, I can change any time I want to.”
“That’s why it’s easier for you?” I said tentatively, not understanding properly.
“Kind of,” she said, and her voice was back to normal level. “Except for me, it’s just like Meena’s talent except shape shifters cannot change into wolves; I can change into wolf form and keep my human mind, my emotions. Ordinary humans lose everything, all they have is the smell of human meat in their memory and the wolf instinct to kill. That’s what makes them so dangerous - and if they don’t kill, they spread the curse like a disease through the wounds they have inflicted. A werewolf bite or claw laceration is all it takes. I can control myself but they can’t.”
“There’s nothing you can do!” I said. “It’s not your fault, you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”
She smiled weakly; we were all on our feet now. The shop was quiet.
“So… now you know what we are…are you still friends with us?”
I looked at Meena.
I knew the decision was made when I stepped through the mirror; I was going to find out all there was to know about the hidden magic world of immortality - I was part of it now, after all.
Meena grabbed us both in a hug and released us, wrinkling her nose.
“You’ll need a shower, Willow, the forest doesn’t smell flattering.”
They laughed. I smiled and glanced out of the window, and it slid off my face at once. It was pitch black outside, the sun long since gone down. Checking the silver watch on my wrist, I saw that it was seven o’clock already. During the excitement I had completely forgotten my mother.
“Got to go,” I yelped. “I’ll see you at school!”
I dashed out of the shop, for once thinking the next school day couldn't come quick enough. I had a LOT of questions.