Sandra (8): Her First New Moon Party
Sandra was startled and a little unnerved by the fact that Rhyley had invited her to a werewolf party. What could it mean when he hadn’t spoken to her since Monday - the day that she had explained her chastity to him and he had reacted in a way so different to the one she would have liked?
After she told Roger (who was just as astonished as her), she had the troubling thought that Rhyley might want something from her on Sunday. But she reassured herself by reminding herself that Roger would be there, not to mention one or both of his parents if it was at his house. They wouldn’t let any harm come to her. Still, she woke up anxious on Sunday and the feeling grew as she dressed in a long dark blue top, black leggings and dark brown ‘kitten’ heels. Her hair hung in loose waves around her face. She worried that maybe she had dressed too casually (knowing that she usually made a bit more effort when a party started later on in the evening) but was reassured when Roger arrived with his mother to pick her up wearing a light blue shirt over jeans.
“Is Rhyley already there?” Sandra asked him in the car.
“No - we’ve picked you up a little early so we’re all there when the guests arrive.”
“Oh right. How many people are coming?”
“Including you, 18. Our pack’s quite small compared to others.”
“How many packs are there in the country?” Sandra wondered, curious.
“Oh, there must be hundreds,” Roger replied. “I’d guess that there were at least five million werewolves in the UK.”
“Wow. It’s amazing no one’s reported their existence before.”
“Well, we try to keep a low profile. You can be punished for attracting too much attention to yourself.”
“Oh, by the Alpha?” Sandra guessed.
“Yeah. They might have abandoned corporal punishment in the law system but it’s an effective deterrent for werewolves.”
Sandra winced slightly.
“I’ve never agreed with corporal punishment.”
“Well... werewolves are naturally a bit rough, anyway,” Roger explained. “So it’s not so much of a bad thing.”
“Oh, okay then.”
Ten minutes later they were pulling up outside the Steelfang residence, a four-bedroom detached country house with a vast back garden like a paddock which could have held a small fête.
The rooms were large and spacious - perfect for an indoor party - and there was ‘character’ to the living room with its large open fireplace and also to the farmhouse style kitchen.
“Sandra; welcome,” said Mr Steelfang warmly as Roger took her through the house to the kitchen where his dad was washing up. Mr Steelfang was a tall, broad-shouldered, muscular man with black hair and green eyes like Roger’s - he was gentle and friendly, despite his intimidating appearance, like a kind of tame lion.
“Hello, Mr Steelfang,” she replied.
“Would you like a drink, dear?” Mrs Steelfang asked as she herself entered the kitchen. “There’s squash, apple juice, lemonade , Coke...”
“Oh, could I have some orange squash please?” Sandra asked.
“Of course, dear.” As she bustled around, Sandra looked around the kitchen. She spotted the long wooden dining table, on which was an array of snack food, covered with cling film, set out for the party. There were sausage rolls, cocktail sticks speared with cheese, pineapple and mini sausages, scotch eggs, quiches, pizzas and home-baked muffins. Sandra almost felt like she was here for Roger’s birthday rather than a totally-strange-to-her New Moon party. It was even hard to remember that the person who had invited her was Rhyley, since he wasn’t here yet.
Mrs Steelfang handed Sandra her squash in a plastic cup.
“Roger, do you want to go and sort the music out?” Mrs Steelfang asked her son.
“Oh, sure,” Roger replied. “Come on, Sandra.”
In the living room, all the furniture had been pushed to the sides of the room to create a large open space like a dance floor. Roger took Sandra over to a sound system which was connected up to speakers in one corner of the room. This system was an old model which could play the tracks of five CD’s at a time.
Roger seemed to have collected the last five ‘Now That’s What I Call Music!’ compilations and asked for Sandra’s advice as he chose the best five out of the ten discs. Sandra picked out her favourite ones, going by the amount of songs she liked on each, and Roger, satisfied with the selection, put them into the player. He clicked the Shuffle button, but didn’t press Play, saying that he would wait until the guests started arriving. He put the CD’s away in wooden shelves to the left of the fireplace.
“So this room is meant for us teenagers and young adults, what with the music and the dance floor,” Roger told Sandra. “The older adults usually sit and drink in the conservatory.”
“Will I have to hang around with Rhyley for the whole party?” Sandra wondered.
“Nah, that’s not necessary,” Roger answered. His expression turned teasing. “You might have to acknowledge his presence, though.”
“Do people know?” she asked. “That I’m his soulmate?”
“Only my parents and the people that he’s told. I mean, technically, I could have invited you if you were my girlfriend.”
“Oh right,” Sandra said, feeling a little awkward.
“A few people might ask you who you are but if they assume that you’re like Rhyley just because you’re his soulmate they’re idiots. You could stick with me all night and we could hide in the attic playing Scrabble if you’d prefer not to talk to anyone.”
“Don’t let anyone make you feel uncomfortable, Sandra. This is everyone’s party to enjoy.”
“I won’t,” Sandra promised.
Suddenly, someone rapped the knocker on the front door. Roger walked over and answered it.
“Oh, hey, Mr and Mrs Stoke. Hi Amelie. Come in.” Roger moved aside and three tall, slender people walked in: a man with grey hair and glasses over his grey-green eyes, an elegant middle-aged lady with her brown hair tied back in a bun and stern brown eyes, and a girl about Roger and Sandra’s age with the same brown hair as her mother (though she wore it loose) and brown eyes (though hers weren’t stern).
“Evening, Roger,” said the man gruffly as he stepped in. Mrs Stoke acknowledged Roger with a mere nod.
“Hi,” said Amelie unenthusiastically.
Roger closed the door behind them. Amelie’s parents passed straight through the living room while Amelie lingered. She looked around vaguely but her expression turned to one of shock when she saw Sandra sitting on an armchair by the sound system.
Roger was asking, “Can I get you a drink?” but Amelie’s next words were addressed to Sandra.
“You’re Rhyley’s soulmate! But ... he wasn’t talking to you...” Amelie looked confused.
“He invited me on Friday,” Sandra explained, though that was only an explanation of what she was doing at the party.
“Really?” Amelie asked sceptically.
“Yes,” Sandra answered, annoyed to be accused of lying.
“Okay then.” The girl walked off in the same direction as her parents. Roger plonked himself on a sofa pushed up near the door.
“She was his last girlfriend,” he remarked absently.
“Oh... She was very pretty,” Sandra observed, not really knowing what else to say.
Roger frowned slightly.
“That’s what he liked.”
There was another knock.
Roger stood up and opened the door.
“Ben!” he exclaimed, surprised. “You weren’t with your parents and sister.”
“I know,” said the voice of a male adolescent. “I stopped to admire someone’s garden and they walked off without me.”
Roger frowned as he moved to let Ben in.
“They’re still upset that you like guys?”
Ben walked in. He was a handsome teenage boy, a few years younger than Roger and Sandra, with neat brown hair and his father’s eyes. He also wore glasses.
“Upset is not the word,” he told Roger. “Disgusted, it seems. I’m a disgrace to the family and they look forward to when I leave home.”
Ben looked around as Roger closed the front door and spotted Sandra.
“Oh, hello, there,” he said in a friendly tone. “I’m Ben.”
“Hi, Ben,” Sandra said, smiling.
“Are you Roger’s girlfriend?” Ben asked.
“Er, no, I’m someone else’s soulmate.”
“Oh, right.” Ben didn’t press her. “Well, I’m going to get a drink. See you again in a minute.”
Roger came over to the sound system and hit Play, though made the volume low so that people could chat.
“He’s gay and his parents don’t like it?” Sandra surmised.
Roger nodded, frowning.
“It’s awful. Ben’s such a nice person. But they found a poster of a topless male celebrity stuck on the inside of his closet and have barely spoken to him since.”
“Poor guy,” Sandra murmured.
“Yeah. But if nothing else he has self-assurance. He realised a long time ago that it didn’t matter to his parents whether he hid his sexuality or showed it and so he’s open about it.”
Ben walked back in and sat on a wooden chair near Sandra. Roger went over to perch on a table next to him, sipping at a drink.
“So how’s life?” Roger asked.
“Good - I won a school chess competition on Wednesday.”
“Well done. Did you get a trophy?”
“Yeah, I did actually. It was a wooden pawn made by the D.T. department.”
“That’s quite cool.”
“Hmm. And how have you been?”
“I’ve been good thanks...” A rapping on the door prevented Roger from saying any more. Grinning, he got up, saying, “Hang on a minute.”
“Mrs Quentin,” Roger said warmly when he opened the door. And then, less kindly: “Hi, Rhyley.”
“Hello, Roger,” said Rhyley’s mum, coming in. “Your mother’s in the kitchen, yes?”
“Either there or in the conservatory.”
Mrs Quentin smiled and walked through, quite oblivious to Ben and Sandra.
Rhyley walked in next. He wore a black blazer, a grey shirt, black trousers and black shoes. He seemed to Sandra to radiate a slight coolness that reminded her of her fear that he had invited her to this party to try to get something from her.
But when he caught sight of her, his expression became a slight frown that radiated no menace at all. He walked up to her and quietly asked, “Can we go outside?”
“It’s a bit cold outside,” Sandra murmured.
Rhyley shrugged off his blazer and offered it to her.
“Here, you can wear this.”
There was the sound of Ben whistling.
“That’s hot,” he said. “You’re Rhyley’s soulmate?” he asked Sandra.
Rhyley glanced at Ben.
“Don’t go telling everyone else that.”
Ben was taken aback.
“Oh... okay. I won’t.”
Rhyley looked at Sandra expectantly, though not impatiently. Roger looked on from the now closed front door, his expression guarded.