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 notebook and a pen. As soon as I had entered the house, I was already leaving. I needed to see Micah one last time, just to say goodbye. I would miss Micah the most, miss the time we had spent together. Spending time with Micah was addicting. I could forget everything going on in my life with him. He had a carefree attitude that was addicting, one I had grown used to.
I was disappointed when I came to the bank of the river. I wasn't sure why I had expected him to be there. It was one in the afternoon on a Friday. Micah wouldn't be here at this time. Our visits became less frequent, but I looked forward to them regardless.
Instead of hanging around, I pulled out the notebook and pen. I figured if he wasn't here I'd leave him a note, letting him know I had left. The thought of Micah waiting around for me hurt, so I decided the truth was better than nothing.
I'm not sure if you'll ever see this but I really hope you do. I can't give you any excuses on why this happened, so I hope you'll understand. My Mom and I are leaving. We're moving somewhere else. I can't tell you why, but maybe someday I'll be able to. I just wanted to leave this so you know I'm safe. Thanks for being my first friend and giving me somewhere to forget my problems. Hopefully we'll meet again someday.
I sat the notebook on top of the flat rock Micah would always perch on. Hopefully the weather would be kind, and hopefully Micah would actually show up tomorrow.
I walked back to the house, realizing I only had an hour left to pack. I only grabbed the essentials, stuffing some clothes in a suitcase for Mom and I. I tucked some pictures of Dad into a box and stuffed it in the suitcase as well. Everything else was replaceable.
Once I was finished, I looked around the bedroom I had spent my entire life in. These four walls held me since I was a baby, keeping me safe at night. The chipped paint that had been replaced countless times held more memories than I could comprehend. I tried to think back to my childhood, wincing at the blank spots. The injury to my head had done it's damage, stealing away some of my coveted memories.
I found myself sitting in the living room, my eyes scanning the pictures on the walls. This was how Mom found me when she came into the house an hour and a half later. Her ponytail was falling, some of the long hairs sticking up on her head.
"Everything's set." Mom nodded, standing in the doorway with a strange look on her face. "I didn't tell them anything. They gave us the clear to leave."
"Good." I nodded, looking as lost as Mom did.
"Y'know--I never wanted to move here." Mom chuckled, "I hated this house, still do."
"You didn't?" I found myself asking despite the pain in my chest, "I always thought you loved this place."
"Oh no." Mom shook her head, "Dad loved this place. I couldn't bare to tell him I hated this damn house."
This was the first time Mom willingly talked about Dad. The same pain flashed in her eyes, but this time she seemed more at ease with it. Maybe this was a new start for the both of us.
"I think this will be good for us, Raelynn." Mom turned to me, a small glimmer of hope in her eyes. "I think we both need to leave our pasts behind."
"I would like that." My voice was small, unsure. I knew no matter how hard I tried, I would think about Atlas Andino until the day I died.
We left only twenty minutes later. Mom asked where I wanted to go, I told her I didn't care. The Alpha and Luna told us we could relocate to another pack, but could not live as rogues. I told Mom to pick whichever pack she wanted.
The car ride was silent, but I battled my tears the entire time. My mind flickered from Atlas to my Mom. She had given everything up for me, while he couldn't even give me a chance. Mom had given me the world, but Atlas couldn't even open up his heart. She was leaving her home behind, while Atlas was leaving me behind.
I continued fighting the tears until I fell asleep, my head resting against the cool glass of the car window.
I awoke to the sound of a car door shutting. My eyes snapped open and darted around. We were in a hotel parking lot, the hotel's neon sign blinking rapidly. Sands hotel, it was called. One of those hotels where the doors were outside and each room had it's own balcony.
"Where are we?" I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, pulling myself out of the car slowly.
Mom was pulling our suitcases from the car, slamming the trunk shut with a thud.
"I didn't mean to wake you." Mom smiled softly, "I drove a solid ten hours, but I need some sleep."
"Don't worry about it." I nodded, "The car did no favors for my back."
The more I thought about Atlas, the sharper the pain got. When I pushed him from my mind, the pain faded. It left me feeling numb and detached. Was this the choice I was left with? Be in constant pain or feel numb to the world?
We clamored up the stairs and into our hotel room. There was nothing fancy about the room, but it had two beds and a working shower. I plopped down on one of the double beds and curled into a ball. Sleep was already beginning to take me.
"Did you want a shower?" Mom's gentle touch was on my shoulder, and I grumbled in response.
"No." I mumbled, "I'll shower in the morning."
Mom was silent as she crept away, and I faded happily into sleep.
We left the next morning. I showered and changed my clothes into something comfortable. She said we were going somewhere warm, knowing how much I hated the cold. The thought made me miss Texas. I would miss the lush forest with it's incredible wildlife and density. There was so much room to explore and run around.
We spent all day driving, only stopping for food and the occasional bathroom break. The monotony was getting overwhelming, my thoughts constantly going back to Atlas.
"Where are we going?" I frowned, glancing at my Mom's GPS before she turned it out of my view.
"No peeking." She scolded with a stern face, but her lips broke out into a smile. "It's going to be a surprise."
I wanted to tell her not to bother, that surprises didn't matter anymore. I couldn't say the words after seeing the excited look on her face.
We stopped at another hotel that night, repeating the same process as yesterday. We had driven much longer today, and Mom had let it slip that we only had four hours left to go.
I woke early that morning, ready to get the rest of the drive finished. I'd be the happiest girl in the world if I never had to go on a ten hour drive again in my life. I was tired of sitting in the car, watching the buildings pass as we zoomed down the highway. I'd assume we were somewhere in California, judging from the road signs.
My favorite part of the entire drive was going through the desert. Everything was so big and open out there. It made you feel insignificant when placed against something so vast. I found the desert strangely beautiful, Lila disagreed with me.
'It's just a big bowl of sand and rock.' Lila shook her head, 'Nothing pretty about it. Wanna know what's pretty? Forest's are pretty.'
I could tell we were nearing the end when Mom was practically jumping in her seat. Her eyes flickered excitedly to each building in town. The town was much bigger than our own, but the buildings also seemed older.
"Were here." Mom breathed, the start of a grin on her face.
I looked at her in confusion. Where was here?
"This is where I grew up." Mom breathed, her eyes dancing with excitement as we pulled up to the red light. "Welcome to the Night Walker pack."
The Night Walker pack was just another in a long list of packs through out the United States. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place my finger on where I had heard the name.
"I told you about my old pack, remember?" Mom grinned. "You had to have been seven or eight."
"I can't remember ever hearing you say those words." I chuckled humorlessly, rubbing my temple as a sharp pain zipped in my head.
"Must've forgotten." Mom frowned, "The best warriors come from the Night Walker pack. They send the warriors all over to help packs and fight rogues."
Mom sounded so excited, so wistful.
"I was one of their warriors once." Mom nodded proudly, a grin on her face as my eyes widened in surprise.
"You?" I was speechless, "A warrior?"
"I was." Mom grinned, "Not one of the best, but I was still a warrior. That's how I met your Dad."
Mom's voice trailed off, her eyes glazing over. It only lasted a split second, much shorter than the times it happened in the past.
"Sorry." Mom chuckled, her smile soft. "This place just has a lot of memories."
"And you wanted to come back?" I grimaced. Why would she want to be bombarded with those memories? Having been rejected, I understand why she'd want to forget.
"It wasn't all bad." Mom smiled softly, "I grew up here. My Mom and Dad lived right in the center of town. Dad owned a hardware shop just over there."
Mom pointed at one of the buildings. It looked like it had been remodeled into something else. Grandma and Grandpa died when I was young. I couldn't remember much about them, but I had heard plenty of stories.
Grandma and Grandpa were the best example of mates. Grandpa's family hated Grandma, but he never let that stop him. He took Grandma into his arms and promised her the world. His family disowned him, took away his inheritance but he didn't care. He stayed with Grandma through it all, and she with him. Their lives had ended peacefully, nearly at the same moment. That was the classic love story everyone wanted to hear. Guy meets girl, they fall in love, defy the odds, have a family, and die together peacefully.
I wondered if they realized how unique that was. How many people truly get happy endings? My black and white vision was becoming melded, shades of grey forming in the cracks. Was an ending truly all happy? Or did the good mix with the bad and make it bittersweet?
I wasn't sure I believed in happy ending's anymore.
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
When I was seven, I asked my Mom for a new bike. I wanted this bike more than anything, convinced it would solve all of my child-like problems. Bright pink with waves of gentle orange, bright streamers dangling from the handles, and a large wicker basket on the front. I had begged and pleaded, negotiated and screamed until I was blue in the face.Mom had already gotten me a bike two months ago, a present for my birthday. She couldn't understand why I needed another; what importance that bike held in my child-like mind. Another month had passed, my begging and pleading only growing worse. Her and Dad were often on the same page, agreeing over just about everything. My begging and pleading had cracked Dad's willpower. He asked Mom if we could get me the bike. Dad understood as he always did. He understood what that bike meant to me, understood my childish reasons behind wanting it in the first place.Mom was solid in her resolve, but suggested a s
Two days; that was how long I sat in the spare bedroom of Liam's house.Food tasted like ash in my mouth, mixing with my spit to create a disgusting cement texture. I felt itchy and uncomfortable in my own skin, but couldn't force myself to shift.The day after the fight, a large ceremony was held for all of the lives lost. I couldn't force myself from the bed, couldn't force myself to face what I had lost.The pain was overwhelming, and some cruel part of me hoped Alpha Atlas could feel every excruciating sting that pulsed under my skin. After the pain he had caused me for months, he deserved a little in return.Liam, Dustin, Kris, Nicki and Tyra all visited me that day. They didn't force me to go, nor did they pressure me into leaving the room. Kris was the only one who seemed to understand what I was feeling, as he too had lost his Mom many years ago.Liam's parents welcomed me into the