The sky is darkening with the heavy, grey clouds of rain and the school grounds are oddly silent in the minutes before class begins. I'm sitting on one of the wooden benches, the cold seeping through my jeans, waiting for Sean and Aerie. Unlike this past week where everyone would look at me oddly or snicker quietly amongst themselves at my expense, no one gives me a glance. The witches are especially acting weird, keeping to themselves and travelling in large groups.
A strong wind kicks up and a familiar scent passes by me. I am instantly on the alert, clinging onto the musky smell while looking around urgently. Someone with white-blond hair steps out of Sean's car, his eyes are a brilliant green even from across the parking lot. Sean's mouth moves, telling him something with a frown on his face. The stranger looks at him and instead of responding, smirks. Sean's face contorts with anger and his wolf side takes over as he rushes over to him.
"You'll stay away," Sean's voice carries faintly towards me. "You promised mom and dad."
The stranger shakes his head and smiles. There's something odd about him, but maybe it's just something that he has in common with Sean. They have the same eyes and build, so I am guessing that they are brothers. The only alarming difference is their hair colour, ranging from extremely dark to dazzling light.
After a moment of silence, where the two stare each other down, Sean walks angrily towards the entrance of the school. His strides are long so it's hard for me to catch up quickly.
"Sean," I call out and he jolts at the sound of my voice.
"Hey," he says quietly, notably trying to calm himself down. "What's up?"
I shrug. "We need to talk about something... I saw Saturday morning in the woods."
He is quiet for a moment, looking over my shoulder. I turn, moving blond strands of my hair away from my face. The stranger is staring at us, through all of the other students. I can't help but notice how attractive he is. His strength is visible through the slight tug against his leather coat on his arms and a black necklace contrasts against the white shirt that he's wearing underneath. His jeans, slightly torn at the knees, rest comfortably over his converse shoes. He looks like a typical student, but with an edge of rebellion.
"What were you going to say?" Sean interrupts my observation of the stranger. "Meredith?"
I close my eyes against the cold winds of winter and turn back towards Sean. When I open them, he is staring at me quizzically and I know that he is struggling to not look over my shoulder again. "I saw something that morning," I take a deep breathe. The school bell rings and suddenly we are plunged into silence as everyone enters the school quickly. "Something weird."
"Another wolf," I say quietly. Sean looks at me like I'm crazy and I narrow my eyes at him. "But it wasn't any of the wolves around here, I know that."
"What do you mean? You can't possibly know every wolf."
"I've been here a long time Sean," I explain. "I do know most wolves."
"Okay," he looks up into the darkening sky. "What was the difference?"
"It was beautiful," I shake my head in thought, "ruthless, but beautiful. It had gorgeous fur and it walked with such power and elegance." Sean is silent, so I continue. "But it was weird too, he had your eyes. The same eyes that you have when you shift."
Sean growls and grasps tightly onto my arms. I yelp with his sudden movement. "Stay away from that wolf," he says quietly. "Trust me, you don't want to get involved with it."
"Wait," I say, sensing fear in his grip. "You know this wolf?"
He lets me go and takes a step back, visibly shaken from my question. He looks at me from out of the corner of his eyes. His head is down, showing remorse. "I have to go."
We're silent for a moment, letting the sound of faraway thunder fill in the uncomfortable silence. I don't understand Sean's sudden fear or why he is being so distant. Aerie hasn't arrived at school yet and we still have so much more to discuss about my cousin's killer. Then I notice how worn down Sean looks. There are bags under his eyes, eerily making his eyes a darker shade of green. His mouth is twitching with anger, and his hair is messier than normal. His shirt looks worn, misshapen and his jeans have several red stains on them. His Nikes are scuffed and unlaced and his hands are clenching into tight fists.
"Sean," I whisper. "Are you okay?"
"You need to be careful," he says quietly, a growl growing in his throat. "Stay away from that wolf."
I shake my head in frustration and take a step closer to him. He takes a step back, mirroring my movements. "Why are you so scared of it?"
He looks at me sharply, anger in his once calm eyes. "I'm not scared," he snarls, "you just don't understand." He walks past me and I grasp at his leather coat, which for an instant I realize looks just like the stranger's. He wheels around and steps so close to me that I can see the gold flecks in his pupils. "You will stay away from me."
"But we're a pack," I argue. "We can't do that."
"We can and we will," he puts his hand on my cheek, sending me a silent, urging message. It is the kindest he has been with me since we met, but it is tinted by his anger. "You aren't safe around me any more."
"But," I look up at him, trying to read his face, "what will I do about my cousin's murderer?"
He stares at me quietly and I can faintly feel his hands changing against my skin. "I'm sorry," he mutters before turning around and shifting, his clothes falling around him, revealing the same beautiful white wolf that I used to dream about. His paws are silent as he leaps away from the school.
"No," I yell out, "wait!"
I watch after him, trying to figure out what just happened. Last week he had promised me that he would help me, that he would be my pack... but now I am on my own again. I keep my eyes on his white figure until he disappears from view, feeling shiver after shiver take over. What now? What can I do now for my cousin? All over again, the guilt of not helping her engulfs me in its icy grasp. My eyes become unfocused as they tear up.
Before she left for school two years ago, my cousin and I'd had a last minute sleepover. She'd told me how scared and excited she was, though I could already sense it. She was ecstatic about her program and the idea of living in a different environment that wasn't as weird as Diente. I remember her long, strawberry blond hair always hanging off her shoulders in pigtails. She was so innocent and why anyone would want to harm her is beyond me. She'd once been my best friend and now she is gone, her killer possibly getting away with murder.
"Everyone is due what they deserve," a cool, deep voice says from a few feet from me. I turn and gasp with surprise as I realize that it's the stranger that Sean was arguing with.
"Excuse me?" I hiccup and wipe away the tears from my face. "What did you say?"
"I said, that everyone is due what they deserve," he burrows his eyes in concern. "Even if it's hard to take, remember that."
I take a step back from him, sensing that he is more than he appears to be. "Who are you?"
"We've met before."
I feel confusion coming over me, but it is instantly replaced with dread as I once again look at his green eyes. This is what Sean had been warning me about, this stranger. "You're the wolf from the woods."
He smiles softly, but his voice sounds tinted with years of anger and darkness. "I am," he turns to leave but then looks back at me sharply. "Be careful, my brother isn't used to travelling with other wolves."
I stand, frozen with surprise, as he once again walks away quietly, leaving me alone on the cold, deserted front entrance of the school.