I woke up that morning and got dressed as though it were any other day. Birthday's no longer felt exciting, but this one felt different.
I felt excited for a chance. I knew I'd still spend the day bullied by Atlas and his friends but today was the day I was able to find my mate. It opened new doors for me in many ways. If I found my mate and he belonged to another pack, my Mom and I would move. I couldn't imagine my mate being from this town, as most of the people my age ignored me completely.
I combed through my light brown hair, enjoying how much easier it was. A month ago I decided to chop my waist-length hair off, growing tired of how it constantly got in the way. My Mom was supportive and did the deed for me. My hair was no longer getting caught on everything, constantly slipping in my face.
Once I was finished, I went downstairs. Mom had stopped trying to cook breakfast every morning. She had burnt so many pans of bacon I had lost count. Instead of cooking breakfast, she always leaves out some pop tarts and frozen waffles. Like all of my birthdays, there was a note and a small cake out on the counter.
'Happy birthday, Raelynn! I had to leave for work early, another problem with Mr. Barnes ugh. Try and have a good day at school--and I hope you find your mate!'
I smiled at the note, wondering if she'd be having the bad day. Mr. Barnes was like a shark that smelled blood. He constantly pursued my Mom without fail. He wasn't a threat though, simply old and somewhat senile. He had long ago lost his strength and agility, even though he swore he was muscular in his youth.
I grabbed a clean fork and ate a few bites of the small cake. I didn't bother cutting a piece, I wasn't really a fan of cake. The only reason I ate some every year was for my Mom, well that and she always ordered a chocolate cake. Chocolate was probably my favorite thing in the world.
I ran out to the bus stop, wanting to dance with joy when I saw Atlas's car gone from his driveway. That gave me some free time at the bus stop. Just a moment to not be picked at or tormented. I slipped a tattered book from my bag, opening it randomly. I had picked up reading poetry a couple years ago. Dad had always read them to me before bed. This was a way I could be close to him. I even tried my hand at writing poetry a few months ago, realizing that was definitely not a talent of mine.
The book was tattered and nearly falling apart at the seams, the paper cover worn with holes and dirt. This was the same book Dad had read to me before bed. It was old even then but I had kept it through the years, never once bringing myself to read from it.
Lost and Found
A sunken cheston the ocean ground to never be found was where he found me.There he stirred my every thought my every word so gently, so profoundlyNow I am kept from my dreams I dreamt from once I slept so soundly
Dad always said poetry held many meanings, conveyed many emotions and faces. You could never read poetry at face value, you had to delve deeper. I struggled with delving deep, gaining hidden meanings. It was a reflection on how I viewed the world. You often didn't have to dive deep with people, their true self sat right on the surface. The only thing holding them back from revealing themselves, was a carefully placed mask. The same mask that would form on Atlas's face when he stood by idle as his friends tormented me.
I rode the bus to school, my nose buried in my tattered book. I couldn't understand the hidden meanings of any of the poems, yet many of them resonated in my life.
I met Alyssa at our lockers. She had spent an entire month figuring out who had the locker directly next to my own. She traded with some freshman kid and stayed by my side ever since. Alyssa was funny that way. She could be wild at times, but never pushed my boundaries.
The first part of my day went on as normal. Only Alyssa told me Happy Birthday, not that I minded. I had gone to school with these kids for many years, and many of them had been invited to my childhood birthday parties. People moved on with their life, surely they didn't remember.
Michelle tossed a wad of paper at the back of my head during first period, while Shaina and Dean called me some names. So far it was just a typical day, I didn't feel any sort of connection as I looked into my classmates eyes.
Werewolves discovered their mate by looking into their eyes. It was then a mate bond would form between the two, tethering them. Mom had explained the process to me at one point in my life. I couldn't bring myself to ask her again, knowing the pain in her eyes would halt me.
The bell for lunch rang and I stifled a sigh. I had more than half of my classes with Alyssa, but I had my lunch alone. More often than not, I would sit in the bathroom and eat. Our lunchroom was huge, but Atlas and his friends always seemed to sit much too closely to whatever table I chose. Sometimes other kids would try and join in on the bullying, hoping for a spot in Atlas's friend group.
Atlas, Michelle, Shaina, Duke, and Dean had all been friends since they were children. For whatever reason they were practically inseparable. Atlas would be the Alpha in just a year's time, while Michelle took her place as Luna.
Our school was broken up into two wings, each wing leading to the lunchroom through a separate door. I was on the left side of the building, while Atlas and his friends were on the right.
I walked down the hall, brushing past students that lingered in groups. Our lunch period was abnormally long; 45 minutes to be exact. My heart jumped in my chest as Atlas, Michelle, and Dean came out of a classroom in the same hall as I. I knew their schedules by heart, avoiding them at all costs. Nearly a lifetime of torment did that to a person. I was constantly hyper-aware of where each of them were.
I hadn't anticipated this--then again, there was a lot I hadn't anticipated.
Michelle was the first to see me, nudging Dean with her elbow until he paid attention. Dean's lips turned up in his patented sly smile, his curly hair bouncing as he walked up to me. It was no use, but I turned on my heel and headed the way I had come. I could live without lunch for a day, but the last thing I needed was bullying on my own birthday.
"It seems a Happy Birthday is in order." Dean's snarky laugh was much too close, just a foot or two behind me. My short legs did me no favors, my pace was much slower than his.
A hand wrapped around the back of my shirt, spinning me around. Dean's eyes glinted maliciously, but was quickly diverted to the tattered book in my hands.
"No, not this---" I shook my head, clutching the book to my chest as his fingers wrapped around it.
I could practically hear the withered book groan, my heart along with it. Dean's sly smile was wider now, realizing he had just what he needed to get to me. I could feel the book slipping from my fingers, a strangled whimper leaving my lips. The book was torn from my hands, a quarter of the paper cover fluttering to the floor.
"This book special or something?" Dean cackled, dangling it in front of me like bait.
Tears stung my eyes, but they often did. Every emotion I had seemed to be wired to my tear ducts, making the waterworks form all too effortlessly.
My head snapped over to Atlas, my eyes pleading. His steel grey and blue eyes were bright, reminding me of Mercury. I could've sworn time had stopped, that we had been looking at each other for years. I could see my eyes reflected in his own, his heartbeat quickening to match my pace. For the first time, I watched as emotions crossed his face. I had never seen him smile, never seen him laugh in my presence. He was always a silent bystander to my bullying. His eyes widened in surprise, giving me a better look at the colors swirling within them.
I swore I could hear the mate-bond snap to life between us. The feeling hit like a freight train, rattling my bones and clicking my teeth. All at once I noticed things I had spent years trying to forget. His hair was soft and full, lighter than the color of wheat. His hair framed his strong face perfectly, highlighting his sharp jawline and high cheekbones.
'Mate.' My wolf's voice was filled with awe as she looked at Atlas for what felt like the first time.
It was Atlas who tore his eyes away first--to look at his girlfriend, Michelle.
It was then I realized the world isn't black and white; but cloaked in vast shades of grey.
Michelle looked devastated, her own eyes filling with tears. Her lower lip quivered, her hands shook. I had nearly forgotten they had been dating for two years, he had been hers first. Jealousy burned in my veins, my wolf howling at the girl who had stolen my mate long ago. Michelle wasn't all around an evil person. Sure, she was a horrendous bully but she was also a girl in love. She saved the good in her for Atlas, maybe he returned the same.
"Don't let him ruin my book." I whimpered, the deafening howls of my wolf ringing in my ears. "Please Atlas."
I had never said his name before, never heard it fall from my lips. His name sounded right on my tongue, tasted sweet and lingering. It was clear he too felt the affects of the mate bond. Something flashed in his eyes, his face softening for just a moment. Before I could appreciate the sight, his hard mask had been put up. His eyes burned into me before flickering over to Dean.
I had some hope, just a sliver of hope that Atlas would surprise me. That he would accept me as his mate, end the tormenting and spend the rest of his life protecting me. I was weaker back then, I believed I needed protecting. Everything I wanted was within grasp, and yet I received none of it.
Atlas nodded once to Dean, who smirked cruelly in response. I turned my head, knowing the sight would only break my heart further.
A tearing sound could be heard throughout the hallway, followed by the light thumps of my book as it hit the floor in pieces. I couldn't help but look down at the book, the book that I had carried around for years. It was torn into five pieces, random pages and bits of cover were scattered along the floor.
Atlas had made his decision when he let Dean destroy my book, that much was clear. He had chosen her; his girlfriend of two years. Did that make him fully evil? Evil for choosing the girl he had loved for two years of his life? No, he wasn't evil. Cruel yes, but not evil. Mates were sacred, but rejections happened sometimes.
"Take Michelle to the cafeteria, I'll be there shortly." Atlas nodded at Dean, and I wondered if his voice had always sounded that way. Silky yet rough, smooth yet raspy. I had heard his voice many times over the years, never once appreciating how it sounded.
I turned my head away from Michelle, flinching at the sob that left her lips. I could feel her pain, mirrored a thousand times within me. Atlas Andino was my mate after all.
'She can heal from a simple heartbreak.' My wolf hissed in my mind, her fury rolling in waves. 'Rejection is more than that.'
She was right after all, Atlas and I were two halves of a whole. We fit each other perfectly, we were made for each other.
"I, Atlas Andino--" His full lips parted, his incredibly light eyes hard and distant. "reject you Raelynn Tress, as my mate and Luna."
If I was strong I would've stayed. I would've fought for my mate, used the mate bond to bring Atlas closer. I would have found some way to make him see that I was more important than a girlfriend, as selfish as it sounded.It took me some time to realize how selfish and deluded Atlas had been. He chose Michelle over his mate. His two year girlfriend over his other half. Michelle had a mate out there somewhere. Was she destined to break his heart as mine had been broken?My world had come crashing down with his words. A part of me buried so deep inside broke, spewing out into the world like an unleashed tidal wave. My wolf was howling in my head, making my ears ring mercilessly.I gathered the scraps of my ruined book, clutching them to my chest as I turned on my heel and ran. I didn't notice the other students lingering in the halls, the ones who had witnessed the entire ordeal. The human students would have no idea what happened, but the werewolves wou
Mom offered me a ride home, which I reluctantly said no to. My face was red and puffy, aching from how much I had cried in her office. I needed time to think. Being trapped in a car with my Mom would only bring on the tears, and I didn't want any more of those. My body groaned and ached with fatigue, but I trudged home anyway.It was a fifteen minute walk to my neighborhood, giving me too much time to think. The entire scene in the hallway replayed in my head a million times. I thought of every possible thing I could've said, everything I could've done differently.Y'know how something happens to you and after it's done you think of everything you could have said? That was what I was going through. I could've pleaded, I could've simply stepped into his arms and used the mate bond against him. I didn't though, I didn't because I was weak. This fact was beginning to dawn on me, how I lacked true strength.When I made it home, I ran inside and grabbed a noteb
Mom drove through the center of town, turning into one of the residential neighborhoods. Every house nearly looked the same. Small and identical, ideal to fit the most amount of people in a small space."It's not as big as our old house." Mom grinned sheepishly, "But it's the best I could get on short notice. The landlord was friends with my Dad.""It's not a problem." I chuckled, my eyes tracing over the small square windows.My eyes were elsewhere. They were trailing over the porch's peeling blue paint. A low whine left Lila's lips as she recognized the similarities. That was one thing that needed to be changed.Mom parked on the curb by the house and popped open the trunk. Her arms were filled with bags as she wobbled down the sidewalk. I must've packed more than I thought. Her arms were overflowing with bags as she tried to carry everything at once. She could hardly see where she was going, nearly bumping into someone."Woah--" A man's voice c
Mom came into my room shortly after, letting me know everything with the school was in order. I would be officially starting school tomorrow, the thought frightening yet exciting.I laid in bed that night, picking my phone up to send Kris a text. I ran my fingers over the keyboard, struggling to figure out what to say. Alyssa and I never really texted. We hung out constantly, but rarely ever communicated over the phone.-Me 10:23p.m.'I'm all set for school tomorrow. What time does it start?'-Kris 10:29p.m.'Cool! Starts at 7, be at my house at 6:45'I had meant to send a response, but my eyes were fluttering warily. I fell asleep on top of the covers, my phone resting on my chest. The next morning, Mom peeked her head in the door waking me up in the process."What time is it?" I grumbled, squinting down at my phone."5:30." Mom responded, "Bet you're regretting not taking me up on my earlier offer. You could've been home
One Month LaterLiam and I had become the closest out of the entire bunch. Nicki and I had also grown extremely close. She loved that I had no sense of fashion, and allowed her to choose my outfits for me. She often paired me with cute skirts and tennis shoes, or the occasional dress but I didn't mind.In the month I had been here, I had grown more confident. I was now telling jokes with Kris and Dustin, or talking about guys with Nicki and Tyra. I'd often hang out with Liam, who wasn't nearly as grumpy as Dustin painted him out to be.No matter how hard I tried, Atlas was always on my mind. The first two weeks in town were horrible. I would awake in the middle of the night screaming, my insides burning with an invisible fire. Every nerve and cell in my body was screaming in pain. My Mom rushed into my bedroom without fail, soothing me with her words as best she could. After a few days, I finally got the truth from her. The truth broke my heart more than words ever
Six Months LaterI often thought back on the talk I had with Beta Ned. He was quite understanding about my situation, clearly seeing himself once in my position. While his words did nothing to lessen the pain, they helped me understand what to expect.I would never feel true happiness--not the way I would if my mate had accepted me. Atlas would always carry a piece of my soul within him, tethering himself to me. Even accepting his rejection would not remove that piece of my soul. Accepting rejection would only dull the mate-bond, making the pain fade as quickly as it had come. There was no taking back that piece of your soul. Once the Moon Goddess picked two mates, they would remain mates for life.Beta Ned asked why I had not fought for Atlas, why I had not tried something else instead of running away. I told him the truth--that I was weak and broke easily. He disagreed of course, but I already knew the truth. Beta Ned told me I might be better off accepting
Tyra and I shifted, darting into the woods behind Liam’s house. Lila was eager to stretch her legs, the two of us nearly bursting with anxiety. I was determined to keep away from the fight. We would provide help with evacuation, but fighting wasn’t in my skill set. I just needed to see my Mom, to make sure she was alright.Our paws thundered against the dry earth, twigs snapping under our feet. My chest burned with exhaustion, but I kept pushing forward. Somehow, I found the strength to continue running, even when my legs cried for mercy. Branches whipped across our fur, feeling like velvet across our thick skin.‘Over here.’ Tyra snapped through the mind link, darting out of the woods and behind one of the buildings in town.The two of us shifted, the warm air lapping against our exposed skin. I had never become comfortable with constant nudity, even after spending my life in a pack. My cheeks burned, but I tried to pay no mind.
I waited twenty minutes before exiting out the back door. Hopefully long enough for Tyra to get the kids out safely and far enough away. Each snarl and growl I heard set me farther on edge. Fear rooted me to the spot, begging me to stay. It would’ve been easier to stay. I couldn’t even bring myself to look out the window, to see what was going on. Six months ago, I would’ve never imagined doing what I did today.Rogue's ran rampant down the street, tackled and killed by our own warriors. Windows in the buildings closest to the fight were shattered, glistening glass laying in the road. Blood splattered gruesomely, running down the front of some of the now vacant buildings. I could only hope everyone had gotten away safely, or were hiding until this mess was over.It was a start—but I forced myself to go out the back door. I crept behind two empty shops, trampling weeds and walking through tall grass. I stumbled through patches o