Mrs Quentin was walking off in one direction and Sandra was about to follow her when Rhyley caught her wrist and pulled her in another.
“You’re coming to the teenagers’ Wolfsong, not the adults’,” he said, grinning.
“Oh, of course,” Sandra said, blushing.
The teenagers were standing in a group which comprised Roger and the young people Sandra had seen at the New Moon Party. Kayla waved, making her feel welcome. When Rhyley and Sandra arrived at the fringe of the throng, Roger smiled.
“Hey, Rhyley. You’re the last to arrive.” He addressed the whole group as he pointed to a red flag tied to a tree to his left. “Boys are changing over there.” Then he pointed to a blue one to his right, a little further away. “And girls are changing over there. I don’t want to hear of anyone in the wrong area; it’s not fair and you all know it. Anyone who does,” he said, mildly enough, “will face castigation.”
“Sorry, what was that?” called Rhyley’s friend who Sandra thought was called Willis. “Castration? Is that legal?”
A few people sniggered.
Roger looked at Willis calmly, saying nothing, before looking at the rest of the group again.
“Just make sure it doesn’t happen. Off you all go - I’ll meet you in a minute.”
“Red flag, remember,” Willis called, grinning at Roger as the group split up into boys and girls who walked to their respective changing place, Rhyley included. “Otherwise you’ll face castration.”
Roger shook his head slightly and walked over to Sandra.
“Hey, there, Sandra. You all right?”
“Yeah, I’m good thanks. Are you?”
“Yeah,” he said, smiling.
Sandra noticed that he didn’t seem as excited as Rhyley.
“Are you not looking forward to changing into a werewolf?” she asked, confused.
“Oh, I am, but I can do it more often than the others so it’s not as thrilling.”
“Oh, right. Well, don’t you need to change as well, then?”
“Yeah, but then you’ll be left alone,” Roger pointed out. “I’ll wait for Rhyley to come back and then I’ll go.”
“Well, thanks for thinking of me.”
“Don’t be silly. Anyway you’re safer with me staying here. Some wolves go a bit wild when they shift.”
“Oh, right,” Sandra said, unsure what to say to that.
Roger sighed slightly, shaking his head.
“I can’t believe you’re actually here. I thought you’d never get to know what I was. And now you’re attending a Wolfsong. It’s incredible.”
“Isn’t it?” Sandra replied, smiling.
At that moment a sleek dark grey wolf appeared, walking out of the trees and approaching Sandra and Roger. Beautiful, liquid amber eyes watched Sandra with an unfathomable expression.
“And here’s your soulmate,” Roger said. He nodded to Rhyley and walked off towards the red flag.
Sandra stood still and took Rhyley in. He was a lean wolf, though he didn’t look weak. Along his coat were faint silver streaks and the tip of his tail and nose were silver too, and these areas glittered in the lights from the parked cars as though he had been sprinkled with glitter.
“You are breathtaking,” she told him. Rhyley drew near and lifted his snout to lick her hand with a coarse dark pink tongue.
Sandra knelt down and ran her hands through the fur, burying her face in him. He smelt like the wood, the scents clinging to him all natural - none of them from anything manmade. Sandra put her arms around him as he sat down and never wanted to let go. Rhyley nuzzled her hair and she felt like he was as happy as she was.
A howl echoed from deep in the forest. Rhyley’s ears pricked and he nudged Sandra’s face as if to say ‘Come on, let’s go.’
She rose to her feet and watched him as he stood up. When he walked into the trees she followed as though in a dream, and she remembered her feeling from the Wolf Dream, that she was didn’t know what she was moving towards but she knew that she was drawing closer. Her fingers brushed the fur near Rhyley’s tail as she drew up beside him and she felt comforted by his presence in the dark wood. She had the intuitive sense that nothing would hurt her while she was next to Rhyley - a wolf was a predator, the top of its food chain, and wouldn’t be challenged by another. She fancied as they walked that she could hear the other werewolves padding through the forest and was a little surprised by the silence of the forest. There was no rustling of leaves, there were no birdcalls - there was no sound of any other animal life. It was as if the wood had held its breath in anticipation of the Wolfsong, as if it were as excited and as new to the phenomenon as Sandra. But perhaps the fauna had experienced the Wolfsong before and had learnt to respect its significance. Whatever the reason it was slightly eerie. Sandra’s hand rested itself more firmly on Rhyley’s back and she once again felt safe. Rhyley would never let her fall into harm’s way.