Penny Howler is a normal teenager. Or so she thinks until a few days after her sixteenth birthday, she is approached by a teenage guy who hands her an invitation to a school she has never heard of before: the Lupin Scuela Academy for Selected Students. He comes with her to her house to tell her family, and it is discovered that Penny Howler... is a werewolf.
1. The Invitation
"Happy birthday!"chorused my parents as I entered the kitchen, which was decorated with a large banner reading ‘HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY!'.
I grinned at everyone. "Thanks!"
My mum gave me a giant hug which I happily returned. My dad nodded to me - he wasn't much of a hugging person. I didn't mind, though. I knew that he was happy if I was happy and that was enough. Mum let go of me and I sat down at the kitchen table, wondering what was in store for me.
Today, like birthdays in the past, was great fun. I was allowed pancakes with chocolate sauce for breakfast and for lunch we went out to my favourite Indian restaurant. After that we went bowling, which was great fun because I won.
Before I knew it the day was over and I was climbing back into bed, one year older but aside from that no different to the Penny Howler from the day before.
A boy was standing on the bridge. I was crossing the bridge in order to get home after having done some grocery shopping on the high street for my mum.
I recognised the boy from a group I had seen picnicking near the small wood in what I thought of as my front garden but which was technically public land. He looked to be waiting for me. Indeed as I approached, he smiled in a friendly way and pulled out an envelope the colour of haematite from one of the pockets in his jeans - it was a relatively small envelope.
"Hi, I'm Edward Ferris," he told me. "I attend the Lupin Scuela Academy for Selected Students. You've been Selected."
I looked warily at the face of the fair-haired, of medium height, quite handsome teenager (who was perhaps around my age, certainly couldn't be older than 17) and searched his bluish grey eyes for signs that he was joking or playing a trick on me. But all I could see was calm sincerity and almost an invitation to seek a lie in his features.
"How do you know who I am?" I asked, slightly confused.
He shrugged. "I've seen you here and there. You live in the mansion over there." He glanced at my house and then back at me. "And the head showed me a photo before I came so I was absolutely certain of to whom I was delivering this letter." He held out the glossy envelope, which appeared to have my name written on it in black, curly, italic handwriting.
I took it cautiously. Edward didn't run away and the letter didn't explode. Still, I felt a little nervous for accepting something from a stranger.
Edward must have caught something of my anxiety in my expression because next moment he was saying "Do you want me to come to your house with you to tell your parents?"
"That's really kind of you," I said, both surprised and touched by the thought.
Edward smiled. "It's no problem; really. I remember receiving my invitation from Lor Greatmaw - it was terrifying because he even looked dangerous."
"Shame it wasn't me, then," called another boy who had appeared at the end of the bridge closest to my house. I turned to look at him.
This boy had black hair that was soft and fine, dark skin typical which caused me to think he was either Indian or Pakistani and long legs which emphasised his tall, lean figure. His eyes were like chocolate and melted beautifully in the late afternoon sunlight.
"I'm not sure I would have preferred to be flirted with," Edward called back.
The Asian-looking boy, who seemed to have a completely English, slightly ‘posh' accent, chuckled before casting a glance in my direction.
"Does it not bother you that he lied about his name?" he asked me.
"Pardon?" I replied, and I felt my brow furrow in confusion.
"Well his name is Edward Fang-Ferris, not Edward Ferris."
"Hey you," Edward said sternly. "Only when you buy me an engagement ring will I consider adding your surname to mine."
I watched the Asian guy, mystified.
"Who said I have to buy it? Don't you want us to get married too?"
It would appear that they were gay together.
Edward walked towards him, shrugging.
"You always bring it up."
He glanced at me, smiling.
"Shall we go to your house? Don't mind Teritt."
I blinked as I remembered the letter in my hand. I realised now that he was walking towards my house.
I walked up to him and we ambled up to my house. ‘Teritt' tagged along.
"I hope you're not cheating on me, Ed," he said as we walked, his tone one of mock gravity.
"I thought you were too hot to cheat on," Edward replied mildly.
"Well, I am," Teritt said with utter casualness. "But you might have lost your marbles and decided you were straight."
"If I went straight, I can promise you that you'd be the first to know about it."
"Ah, but what if you kissed a girl and then became straight?"
Edward's nose wrinkled slightly in something that wasn't quite as strong as distaste but still conveyed unwillingness at the thought of kissing a girl but he replied, "I'd let you know with all immediacy."
"Good boy," Teritt said approvingly.
"Why do I always have to be the dog?" Edward asked, but I could see that he didn't mind from his eyes.
"'Cause my voice is too beautiful to be a dog's."
"Oh, charming (!)," Edward said. "That's almost like telling me my voice is horrible."
Teritt regarded Edward very sympathetically.
"Darling, I am telling you your voice is horrible."
Edward's mouth twitched in amusement.
"I'll get you back for that, Teritt."
Teritt smiled broadly. "I look forward to it."
I smiled wistfully and murmured, rather randomly, "Wish I had a boyfriend."
Edward looked at me, his smile one of amusement but not an indication that he was laughing at me.
"They can be more trouble than they're worth," he told me.
Teritt was watching me warily.
"You can't have Edward."
I laughed. "Don't worry, ...Teritt, was it? I've no intention of stealing your boyfriend."
"Fiancé," Teritt corrected me.
"Boyfriend," Edward said firmly.
"Fiancé," Teritt argued.
"You have to buy an engagement ring," Edward insisted.
"No, you have to," Teritt replied.
Edward rolled his eyes.
"And you wonder why we've not tied the knot yet."
"Do you really want to marry?" I asked, curious.
"I do," Teritt said, sounding like a stubborn, stroppy child.
"I'm willing to wait until we don't need parental consent," Edward answered, his tone reasonable and that of a sensible child.
"He tells me he doesn't care if we don't," Teritt said, pouting.
"Well, I don't," Edward said. "I love you and I know I love you and I don't need some piece of paper or a ring to remind me that you'll always be the most important person in my life."
"He thinks he can use flattery to dissuade me," Teritt said.
I didn't pay attention to Teritt. I was gazing at Edward whose strong feelings were so evident in his expression that he was frowning slightly.
We arrived at my front door.
"You sound so intense," I whispered to him.
He looked flattered as I opened the door and crossed the threshold.
"Dad," I called, hoping my father would be the more tolerant of my parents. "I need to talk to you."
Dad entered the hallway and approached the open door.
"What is it, Penny?"
Edward jumped in.
"I'm Edward Ferris, sir, and my friend..."
"Boyfriend," Teritt interjected.
"...and I attend the Lupin Scuela Academy for Selected Students."
Dad looked, understandably, blank.
"Your daughter's a Moon Child," Teritt told him.
"What?" I asked, confused, at the same time as Edward exclaimed "Teritt!" in evident mortification.
My father's expression turned grave.
"And what exactly is a Moon Child?"
"We Only Loathe Foes," Edward said, sounding as if he were quoting something or chanting a spell.
"They didn't say this when I met them," I said in my defence.
But Dad looked like he comprehended: something altogether bizarre when I didn't understand myself.
"Honour Originally Won Love?"
Staring at him I almost missed the boys' nods. It was difficult to miss the subsequent bow of their heads, though.
"And a Moon Child's honour shall never falter," Teritt murmured.
"What on earth is going on?" I exclaimed in wonder."I thought I was being invited to join an academy!"
Edward smiled wryly as he and Teritt raised their heads.
"It's a rather ... special academy."
"You'd better come in," my father told the boys.
"Should Lor come too?" Teritt inquired. "He was sent by the Alpha to oversee happenings."
"Of course," my father said, looking slightly dazed by the mention of the word ‘Alpha'. I heard him murmur to himself, "It's been a long time since I last heard the word ‘Alpha'."
"Top dog?" I asked.
Teritt and Edward paused in their entry into my house to look at me questioningly.
"Well, that's what it means, isn't it?"
"Yeah," said a quiet voice from the left of the doorway. "That's what it means."