When I get home I notice there’s a message on the answering machine. I lay my bag on the couch next to me as I sit down and lean over to press the button.
“Hey, um, it’s Matt, the one you called earlier about the plants. I can’t meet you today at four, sorry. I’ll be at the greenhouse tomorrow in the morning from eight to ten, so if you come sometime then I can help you. Bye.”
The machine beeps a few times and then goes off. I sigh and lean back on the couch, rubbing my face. I was hoping to get that done today, but I guess tomorrow is better than not at all.
My dad was a werewolf. I can’t get the thought out of my head. It just..I never would have thought it. He was always so calm and always taught us that violence was a last resort. That’s not how I imagined a werewolf to be like. But I also believe that Marcus is not lying to me. He hasn’t lied to me yet, except when his anger went out of control and he attacked us on accident. There must be proof of this somewhere. I found proof of him knowing Marcus, but that was simply in a photo album. Where would he keep something he didn’t want us to see? His office, I think.
I get up and walk down the hallway, then turn left at the end into his office. Well, it was his office when he was still alive. Now it’s just a spare room. We left everything pretty much the same when he passed.
Now where would he keep it? What am I even looking for anyway? What’s the point? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions but I start by looking through the drawers. Files of random things from his police work, along with government files that we can’t throw away, but nothing about werewolves.
I look through every drawer in every cabinet, I look up and down in the closet, I look through boxes in the corner, I look everywhere. Nothing. On the edge of giving up, I turn around and reach for the door handle, then stop. Look with your other eyes. Your werewolf eyes.
I slowly turn back around, focusing on getting my heart rate up enough to shift. I think about the wild, about running through the trees and chasing things. I think about being free from all this stuff I have to worry about. And it works. I shift.
I scan the room with a new perspective. At first I don’t notice anything different, but then something catches my eye in the corner of the room. Something gleaming from the floorboards, hidden by a stack of boxes on top of it. I walk over and gently tug the boxes out of the way.
Underneath is a small latch, and when I pull on it, the wood flooring in the shape of a square comes up. Inside isn’t stairs, or anything mysterious like that. It’s just a dusty, old book.
I pull it out, wiping the thin layer of dust off with my hand. It’s tan, and looks to be well-used, but there isn’t a title on it. I back up a couple feet and close the small opening in the floor, then slide the boxes back in place. The latch blends in for the most part. The only reason I saw it was because it had a gleam when I looked with my other eyes.
I take it with me to the living room, slowly sitting down on the couch. I gently flip it open, because the pages seem ready to tear out. The first page is filled with strange symbols that I don’t recognize, so I flip it to the middle of the book. The words seem to jump out at me across the page, but one in particular gives me interest. Werewolf.
My heart races as I go back to the top and read, but once I start I realize just whose handwriting it is that I’m reading. It’s my dad’s. He wrote this book. Or at least, parts of it. What I read doesn’t make much sense, something about experiments. I did start from the middle though, so I need to back up some.
Whoa, whoa, wait, I think. It's getting late now. I need to get to the school to see Luke and Mr. Griffith before it closes. I can look at this later. I delicately place the book in my bag, arranging so it, hopefully, won’t rip apart. Looking at the time, I see I need to hurry if I want to make it in time for last hour.
I make it to the school just as the bell for last hour rings, and I have to hurry to catch Luke before he makes it to the football field. Athletics is the last hour class for anyone in it, so I know that’s where he has to be headed. Pushing myself forward, I make myself go at slow jog, though I want to go much faster. I weave through the crowds of students leaving the school building.
I get many strange looks, probably because I’m not supposed to be here. We were in a car wreck a few days ago, everyone’s going to assume that I’m still in the hospital. Wait until they see both Logan and me walking at the same time. Their heads will probably explode.
The football field is directly behind the school, and there’s only one way to get there from here: going around the school. I look ahead and around me at the mass of students trying to spot him. I get halfway to the field before I see someone with familiar blond hair and his walk. It’s definitely him. He has a large gym bag strapped over his shoulder that hangs down to his hips as he walks in the center of a line of kids.
Repulsion rises in my throat and forces me to stop running. All I can think about is what he did to Logan and me. I want to claw up his face, scream and yell at him. I have to stop myself so I don’t. It’s not his fault, it’s not his fault.
Swallowing the bile down my throat, I call out to him. “Luke!” He keeps walking so I have to raise my voice. “Luke!”
This time he hears me. He stops and turns around, along with the rest of the guys walking with him. His eyes widen for a split second when he sees me, but then he turns and says something to the people he’s with. I see a couple nod before walking away, though they give me one more look before doing so.
Every instinct in me screams at me to either attack Luke or run away from him as he walks toward me, but I hold my ground.
“What are you doing here, Logan?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Not Logan. Julia.”
“Julia?” He sounds surprised. Before he can ask what I’m doing here I start talking.
“Logan told me how sorry you are, and that you really want to help if you can. Is this true?”
He nods. “Yeah.” I want to snap at him, even though he’s done nothing wrong so far, but I don’t. I can’t let my pride get the best of me, because I may actually need his help.
“And I assume that you want to make up for what you done to Logan, right? Try to get her back?” He nods to that as well and I continue. “Okay, well I have something for you to do.”
I explain to him in a hushed voice that I want him to get up in a tree with a gun Sunday night, prepared to shoot if he has to. With silver bullets. I tell him that Sarah will also be there, ready to start a fire if it comes to it. Kids weave around us to get to the field but they all are gone by the time I finish. No one suspects anything weird here, understandably.
“Do you think you can do that?” I ask.
“Of course,” he says, nodding.
“Good,” I say. “And between you and me I don’t plan on letting it get that far. But just in case. See you Sunday morning. Right?”
“Yeah.” I turn to go, but he grabs my arm, his grip surprisingly strong. “Julia.” I look at him. “I really am sorry,” he says.
His touch brings me back to the cabin, to the woods, to him hitting Logan with a rock and yelling at me, but I push the memory away. That isn’t him.
“I know you are,” I say. “And as much as I want to hate you for what you did, I know it wasn’t your fault now. I forgive you.”
He sighs, visually relieved, but he is still holding my arm. “Thank you.”
“Yep. Now let go of me before I break your arm.” He immediately lets go, saying, “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” I say. “Get to class.” As I walk away, now on my way to find Mr. Griffith, I can feel his stare lingering on me. I look at my arm where he gripped me and I can still see the marks where his fingers were. Huh. He had a stronger grip than I realized.
The hallways are empty, all the students already in class. I search out Mr. Griffith’s room, feeling anxious, and find it with the door open. He’s the only one in there, so luckily, I caught him during his free period.
I don’t know what I’m going to say to him, but I don’t stop to think about it. I nervously tap on the doorframe. “Mr. Griffith?”
He looks from his desk, where he was grading papers before I interrupted him. “Miss Monroe. Come in. Close the door.”
I do as he says, and awkwardly pull a chair from the side of his desk to the front, facing him as I sit down. I put my bag gently on the floor beside me. “So which twin am I talking to? And what are you here for?”
He knows that I can walk now, I think.
“Julia,” I say, watching him carefully. His dark brown hair seems to stick up in several directions, though the rest of him is well-groomed. He wears a white long-sleeve shirt with a tie on, his black jacket resting on the chair behind him. Considering his young age and his attractive looks, many girls at the school have a crush on him. I’ve never thought of him as anything other than a teacher. I’m too infatuated with Elijah to notice anyone else.
What if I’m wrong? What if he’s not a werewolf? Tiffany could’ve made a mistake, I think. No. He knew that I could walk. He had to get that information from somewhere.
I decide to just spit it out. “I know that you’re a werewolf, Mr. Griffith. I need to know where you stand on this whole deal with Marcus.” The small smile he was previously wearing fades away and he’s left with a blank look. Oh god, I was wrong, he’s not a werewolf, I’m so stupid-
“I see,” he says, interrupting my thoughts. “Well, let me ask you this first, what do you know and what do you plan to do about it?”
A small part of me relaxes but I know I need to be on guard still. He hasn’t said whose side he’s on yet.
“I know that a few months ago my sister starting shifting and she had no help. She was confused and no idea what was going on. She had no control and ended up killing four people. One of those people happened to be Marcus’s daughter, and even though he before planned on helping Logan and I, he changed his mind. Now he’s going to kill her if I don’t do something to stop it. I know he used to know my dad, who I recently found out was a werewolf, which is why Logan turned, and he was supposed to take care of Logan and I.
“He still wants me, but not Logan. And I’m not going to allow that. So I have a plan set in place, and I am going to kill him. I also have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. My only question is where the rest of the pack stands on this, including you.” Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that I plan on killing Marcus, but I didn’t say when or how, so I should be good, even if he informs Marcus of this.
“There are nine pack members, not including you or Marcus. Three of them will blindly follow Marcus into a fire if he asked them to. They will be loyal to the death, so don’t bother with them. There’s another two that I think are just so scared of them that they’ll do whatever he says, and they won’t rebel against him either, even though they secretly want him dead.
“The other four, one of which is me, don’t want him as alpha at all. We hate him and want him dead. But any attempt to kill him and take over up to now had been met with death, so we don’t dare do anything to disrupt how things go around here. With his compelment ability, no one stands a fair chance in a fight. He could tell you to rip your own heart out and he’d have to do it. I don’t know about the others, but if you have a good enough plan, I’d be willing to help you. I’m tired of being with Marcus. He’s made other packs angry and it looks bad on all of us, putting us all in danger. We need someone else to take over.”
“Do you think you can write the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the ones against Marcus? I would like to talk to them and see if I can get them on my side.” Looks like it was a good thing to come here, then. Not only does Mr. Griffith want Marcus gone, but so does five others. Three of which could possibly help me. This is perfect.
“I can do you one better. I’ll set a time up for all of to meet and you talk to them all at once. I’ll see if I can get everyone together tomorrow. Is that good?”
“That’s perfect,” I say. “Can you tell me a little bit about them? Like their names and stuff so I’ll know who they are?”
“Yeah, yeah, sure. Okay, so there’s me, and you already know me so don’t worry about that. There’s John. He’s about thirty years old, isn’t married or have kids or anything. There’s Alyssa, who’s actually only nineteen. She was an orphan for most of her childhood, and at the time she met Marcus she wanted him to turn her. Not anymore since she’s gotten to know him, but now she’s stuck.
“And then there’s Cecilia. She’s the oldest of the pack, a year above Marcus. That doesn’t mean she’s weak though. In fact she’s one of the strongest, and the smartest. I think it’s in mutual agreement that if someone is chosen to be the next alpha, we’ll choose her.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” I say. “Thank you so much for this, Mr. Griffith. Having more people supporting us would be great.”
“Yeah, um, how about you only call me Mr. Griffith in class. It’s Roman. And I don’t know how the others will stand when it comes to supporting you. I’ll make sure they give you a chance though. Everyone’s quite wary of you two.”
“What? Why?” I ask. They’ve never even met me, why would they be wary? It’s not like I’m intimidating appearance-wise. I was in a wheelchair a week ago for crying out loud.
“There’s kind of a lot of..stories about twin werewolves in case you haven’t heard. They can be kind of...disturbing, I guess, and nobody really wants to be caught up in that.”
“Oh,” I say. “Yeah, I know about that. I don’t blame them.” I stand up, pushing my chair back. “Anyway, I think it’s time for me to go now. Thanks again, Mr. Gr- I mean, Roman. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I have the number to your house from the beginning of the year. I’ll leave you a message of where and what time later. See you then.” I pull the chair back to where I got it and swing my bag back onto my back, then walk out into the hallway.
That worked out well. Now all I have to do is train with Tiffany and Logan. Since school is almost out anyway, I can just wait outside for Tiffany. Logan should show up as well, since this is where we’re supposed to meet up at.
I plop down on a bench outside, with nothing left to do but wait. A cool breeze blows my hair around, tangling it, so I grab it and put it into a ponytail.
“Julia?” A voice says from behind me. Elijah, I think. When I spin around to see who it is, I find that I’m right. He stands ten feet away wearing a loose pair of shorts and a grey shirt that’s a size too big. He has a stack of papers in his hands. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m waiting for Tiffany to get out of school so we can go train. Why aren’t you at practice?” He walks over and sits down beside me, laying his papers on the table in front of us.
“I’m supposed to be taking these papers to the office for Coach Green.”
Somehow our hands end up together on the table, and something about being around him relaxes me. We stay quiet for a little while, just enjoying the little bit of time we have together.
I’m going to have to make a decision soon on whether or not I’m going to convince him to stay or go. It needs to happen. But not right now.
“You know, Parker, Sarah, and I were going to throw a party for you and Logan today. You know, for your birthday. But after Parker talked to you earlier he said you’d be too busy.”
“He’s right,” I say. “Although I’d love to see everyone together, one last time before Sunday, I can’t today. But...after training with Logan and Tiffany, I can come over to your house. Spend the night.” I want to spend as much time with him as I can, and this the only way I see it happening.
“That’d be great,” he says. “I’m sure Milton would be happy to see you again too.” I feel like I’m falling endlessly in the sea of his blue and green eyes. How am I ever going to say goodbye to him?
We spend a few more minutes there, discussing various things. He actually gets me laughing really hard one time, something that seems hard to do here lately. But this can’t last forever and he needs to get back to practice.
He sighs, closing his eyes. “I guess I should get back to practice, huh?” I lean forward and kiss him, slowly yet passionately. I eventually force myself to pull back, or else I never will. We sit there, hands tangled together and foreheads against each other, both of us a breath of fresh air for the other. I wish this moment would never end. But it will. I’ll go back to worrying if Logan and I are gonna make it out alive the next few days, worrying that I won’t be able to kill Marcus in time, worrying that my mom might not make it, worrying that my mom will find out about Logan and I, worrying that even if Logan and I make it through everything, we’re still going to have something else to deal with. We’re still going to wind up dealing with The Merging.
But alas, I have to go back to all that, back to the real word.
“Yeah,” I whisper. “Yeah, you should go.”
He gets up, picking his papers up with him. He leans forward and kisses me one more time, just a quick peck, and says, “See you tonight.” I watch as he walks into the school with the papers and a few minutes later when he walks back out.
I try to enjoy the high feeling I get from seeing him, but it fades away quickly when he’s gone. All I can think about now is how much danger I’m putting him in by bring with him. He already got kidnapped once, how many more times does it have to happen before I realize that I can’t be with him?
Luckily, the bell rings not very long after, so I didn’t have to wait too long. Students start pouring out, many getting into cars or bikes and speeding away. I watch for Tiffany, and after a while I start to think that I missed her, but then I see her blonde hair come through the doorway, a head above most of the other girls.
She spots me as I stand up and walks over. “Logan?”
“Julia,” I correct, shaking my head. In that moment, a thought hits me like a tidal wave. I’m so stupid; I can’t believe I haven’t thought of this before.
“Oh my god,” I say, staring into the distance when I realize it.
“What is it?” Tiffany says, peering at me. I realize she can’t read my mind and that I probably just said that out of nowhere.
“I just had a really good idea,” I say. “Logan and I..we’re twins, identical twins. We get mistaken for each other all the time.”
“So?” Tiffany prompts.
“So, I know a way to make sure that Logan doesn’t get hurt, even if things go terribly wrong. We’re going to switch places.”