My mother was irritating. By the time six o’clock rolled around, she was sitting on the sofa with the leg that was crossed on top of the other twitching excitedly. I rolled my eyes and leaned my head into my hand, picking up the remote and flicking through channels. I had already stopped off at the Mini-Mart and stored the compulsory Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer. I had a feeling that Meena might have appreciated it. I leaned my head back again, because it had started to ache again, although I had swallowed a few paracetamol since I had got home.
The doorbell rang. Though I had been expecting it, it made me jump. My mother jumped too, right to her feet. She was wearing a knee-length bright blue dress with black tights and a black cardigan, which had only one button fastened, and it was in the wrong hole. I pointed this out quickly then skirted around her while she stopped to fix it.
I tugged the door open and was welcomed by two faces and a pile of duvets on the front step; one expectant and one restrained but smiling. Meena scooped up her belongings and bounced in as I stood back to let her pass, trailing a strong smell of something summery. Willow smiled at me wryly and grabbed her own things, hauling her bag onto her back and squeezing by. She smelled more earthy than Meena had, something deep and rich. I followed her down the hall and into the living room, where I found my mother hugging Meena and welcoming her to the home.
“Okay, we’ll just be going now,” I inserted, prising Meena away and dragging her by the arm.
“Have fun!” my mum shouted after us enthusiastically. I rolled my eyes for the second time, but then winced a little because it hurt, as if the action had tugged some pain cord in my head.
“Welcome to my room,” I said nervously as I flicked on the light switch and let them in, spreading my arms wide. “Dump your stuff anywhere.”
Meena took it literally, dropping everything right where she stood and darting around, poking at my things and squinting at the titles on the bookshelf.
“This awesome,” Willow said a little wistfully. I pulled a beanbag over and plopped down on it, gesturing for the others to grab the spares and sit, which they did.
“So…” I started, a little awkwardly. I didn’t just want to launch into an inquisition. “Um… what’s your bedroom like?”
Meena twisted her mouth ruefully. “Not like yours. I don’t really have a bedroom… it’s more like a guest room which is permanently mine… if you understand.”
“Sure… so where do you stay then? Do you have any family?”
“We both live in the guest quarters of the Citadel. There’s hundreds of rooms. Every magical creature who wants refuge there can take it.”
“So how come you stay there permanently..” Before I could finish the question, I thought of a reason which also answered the previous one.
Willow was looking at the floor when she spoke for the first time, staring hard at the rug. “My parents were human. My dad was bitten at the same time as I was… when my mother found out, she didn’t want anything to do with us anymore.”
Her voice was bitter, and I wished I hadn’t asked.
“It’s okay though. I don’t need anyone but me. My dad thought it was my fault she turned her back on us… so he did too. I’ve had a lot of time to grow up, though, since I was an Immortal.”
She sensed my next hesitant question, and looked up again, her voice back to normal.
“I was bitten two months after my fifteenth birthday. That was in 1998.”
“So you’ve been a werewolf for ten years?” I blurted, the surprise obvious in my tone. “But how can you not have changed?”
“Immortals don’t age,” Meena took over the conversation, for which Willow looked grateful. It seemed as if she was wondering if she had told me too much. “Surely you’ve heard some kind of thing that like that somewhere, even if it was just fiction. Elves are most famed for it in stories, obviously, because of their ethereal everlasting beauty.”
She cracked a smile at her use of vocabulary and shifted to get more comfortable on her squashy purple beanbag before continuing.