The snowy landscape is clearly visible through the large windows in my biology classroom. Though the sun is partially hidden by threatening grey clouds, it still manages to send its rays down on the pale snow, giving the cold blanket an eerie glow. The skeletal tree branches sway in the afternoon breeze, making me slightly uneasy.
Sean had been so protective of me before school started. He'd even gotten Jason to finally admit his feelings for me--though it hadn't been in the way that I had imagined him doing ever since the pack started hinting that he liked me. The look on his face had been so angry, yet his words had sounded sincere. Sean and I barely have any classes together, but I can still feel his protection like I can still feel the warmth of his hand on my waist. I close my eyes and sigh. Did he really mean it when he said that him and I were our own pack now? If so, then why hadn't he told me sooner so that I could tell Jason myself? Another thing nibbles at the edge of my curiosity, but before I can delve deeper into it someone clears their throat loudly, bringing me back to the present.
Mr. Frap, the biology teacher, floats in front of me. His wide moustache is eerily the same as when he died and his hair is softly curled down to his shoulders. When I'd first started at NPS, I thought that nothing could be weirder than werewolves, vampires, and witches. But then I'd seen the ghostly teachers and other-worldly creatures roaming the halls and my assumptions had been quickly controlled.
"Is there something bothering you Miss Claire?" his voice is hollow, making him sound almost like the wind on Halloween night. I can see through him to the blackboard where different words and diagrams are displayed. I shake my head, both to answer him and to force myself to concentrate. "Well then," he says sternly, "I suggest that you pay attention since this will be on the mid-term next week, understood?"
The sound of someone snickering in the back of the classroom fills the silence and I nod. Mr. Frap looks up from me to the rest of the class and returns to his lecture, easily gliding over the floors.
I put my chin in my left hand and grip my pen with my right. These thoughts of Sean and Jason are beginning to impede on more than just my wolf-social life. My extrasensory hearing picks up someone flicking their wrist and a soft pop as a small piece of paper appears on my desk. Looking behind me quickly, and noting that no one is staring at me guiltily, I open the note.
What's the matter wolf? Dog got your tongue?
Scrunching up the paper, I look back again. This time a witch is watching me, her black hair is in a braid like mine and her black eye make-up is layered on her eyelids. A look of concern is on her face and I let a snarl escape my mouth. Luckily, the lunch bell rings before Mr. Frap can chide me for my interruption.
Getting up quickly, I leave the classroom ahead of everyone else. The werewolves of this school have always kept a private lifestyle, so I have no keen interest in having everyone swoon over my problems.
"MC, wait!" I hear a girl's voice behind me as I walk down the hallway. Students are piling out of their classes, eager for a break. A bunch of witches cackle together as they gossip about their weekend and a Faerie boy watches me walk past him, his elfish ears and grey eyes standing out in the crowd of students. "Please," someone grabs my arm and I yank it back forcefully, feeling my reflexes work as I quickly turn around and pin the girl by her neck against the lockers. The crowd parts, but keeps on their routines. This is a normal occurrence in NPS. I can see the dent that the girl's body has made in the metal lockers as I also realize that it is the witch from my biology class.
"Why are you following me?" I growl at her terrified face. She gasps for air and fights against my grip. "Do you know that I can rip you apart without even breaking a sweat?"
"I...know," her words are hoarse and quiet. "I...just... want... to help...you."
I glare at her and let go of her neck. She instantly falls to the ground, drinking up the air around her. The scent of herbs and spices wafts up from her hair and now that my wolf anger is subsiding, I'm surprised that no other witches have come up to help her. Instead, they are all snickering amongst themselves and trying to not glower at the scene. "I don't need your help," I say tersely and walking away.
"Wait," she yells over the crowd and my ears hurt with the sound of her struggling breath as she reaches me. "You do need my help, with your cousin," she swallows away her nerves before adding, "you can trust me."
I snort, making sure not to make eye contact. "Your note in class wasn't very trustworthy." I turn to her to see her reaction now that I've figured out her game.
But her eyes aren't wide with surprise and there's no sneer on her face. "What note?" she questions, her eyebrows raised.
"Never mind," I shake my head and continue once more. Again I can smell her beside me as I walk towards my locker.
"Please," she pleads, "I can help you."
I reach my locker and sigh, putting my books down on the floor. "Okay, I have two questions for you before I can even consider trusting you."
She nods quickly, her black braid bouncing off her shoulder. "Go ahead."
I measure her with my stare and her fingers twitch, her nerves showing through. "Why aren't you in a group with the other witches?" I ask, crossing my arms.
She clears her throat and stares at her Nike clad feet. "They never accepted me," she looks back up at me and smiles weakly. "Yeah I showed promise back when I was eleven, but now that I'm sixteen all that promise has gone elsewhere."
I cock my head, silently questioning her meaning.
"Last year I was in a car accident and I almost died," she taps her fingers on the locker beside mine, sending the vibrations of her fidgeting into my sensitive ears. "They have this thing in witch cults that say that when you come close to dying, you can either have enhanced powers or you can lose them altogether."
"And you lost them?" I conclude, pulling her hand down to stop her tapping.
"That's the thing," she replies, holding her hand closer to her. "My strong spells don't work any more, but sometimes I can feel the energy just building up, as if waiting for something big to happen."
I nod slowly and bite my lip, now it's my turn to fidget. "Why do you want to help me?"
Her nostrils flare and her pupils dilate as her memory takes her momentarily away. "Because someone I love was taken from me and I think that your cousin's death may be a small part of it," she walks closer and looks up at me, sending me signals with her eyes. "I want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do."
"Can I trust you?" I finally say after a moment of silence. The hallway is nearly empty now and the noises of talking students can be heard from the cafeteria. I can smell Sean coming up behind me, his scent now more noticeable to me than ever before.
"You can," his voice is placid and he says this as a statement. "She can help us Meredith."
I look from Sean to the witch and point my chin at her. "What's your name?"
She smiles softly and bows her head slightly. I have never seen such a reaction from someone who isn't a wolf. "My name is Aerie, faithful witch to your command."