A sweet, calming voice melted over me. "Aubrey, darling, you need to wake up. You know Alpha wouldn't want you to be late for your ceremony."
I glanced at my digital clock that seemed to be the only thing giving off light. 3:20 a.m. You would think that after almost 15 or more years I would be used to getting up this early.
"Honey?" I turned over to face the voice.
"Yes mom, I will meet you there. I promise. Why don't you go ahead? I'll catch up to you." My voice was groggy.
"Alright, Aubrey. Please make sure you're not late. A pre-alpha cannot be late." Her voice was still calm but stern.
I let out a huge sigh. "I know mom. I know."
"It's at the lake; you know, the one that's 2 miles north from the railroad?"
"Mmhm." I turned away from her. I heard four paws hit the ground and I felt her light baby blue eyes stare at me. "Mom, I promise you I won't be late. I love you and I'll catch up."
She put her front paws up on the bed and nuzzled her furry, soft, pure white head on my back as if to say, "I love you, too." The last thing I heard was her four paws going out the bedroom door.
Today's the big day: the day where I move up rank in my pack.
I'm going to be pre-alpha. That means when the alpha male dies or steps down, I take his place. Me and whichever male I pick to lead alongside me.
As of right now our pack is average size, consisting of 8 wolves: there's me; my brother, John; my sister, Jazzel; John's mate, Bella; Jazzel's mate, Michael; my best friend, Peyton; and then our alpha female, my mom, Alicia; and our alpha male, my father, Luke. Most of my immediate family is a part of my pack, except for my 6 year old nephew, Ryan. I honestly don't know why he hasn't been marked yet; I mean, I got marked when I was 3 years old. Imagine that, just learning how to walk and talk, and then getting slapped in the face by learning all the responsibilities of being a wolf, and everything that goes with it.
It was a lot to take in.
I got into a lot of trouble by the time I hit my early teen years. I can remember one specific instance: the time I came face to face with a strange, demented wolf. I was 13, and Alpha had finally let me explore our territory. I felt so happy that I could finally be on my own; doing what I wanted to do, not being watched. It was right after I was done swimming in the river when I got out and shook off. Then, as I was finishing shaking, I caught an unfamiliar sent. I couldn't place it, for I never smelt anything like this before in either my human or wolf form. Curious, I followed the vile smell, and as I got closer and closer the smell got stronger. I merged out of the brush, and right there and then I saw a dead body with a wolf standing above it. He was huge and built, with dark brown fur – except for around his mouth. Around his mouth, the fur was stained a blood red.
He grinned at me.
"Luke's pup, aren't ya?" His words were lifeless and cold, as were his dark eyes.
Instinctively, I bared my teeth and let out a low growl.
"Easy now, pup. Where's your respect?" He started walking away from me and towards the territory Alpha said never to enter.
"You killed an innocent person!" Stricken, I trotted over to the dead body in hopes that there was some way I could save it.
"She's dead," he assured me. The wolf's eyes echoed a devious laugh as he disappeared into the trees.
I never told Alpha about it. I guess I was afraid of getting in trouble. But to this day I never forgot the horrifying smell of unjustified death.
I rolled out of bed and stumbled my way to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, I saw a pale-skinned girl; her jet black hair pulled up in a pony tail with a right blue eye and left green eye starring out from behind her bangs. With a sigh, I took out my hair tie and watched my long hair completely cover my back and my bangs fall in my face to completely cover my left eye. I took out my purple tooth brush and started brushing my abnormally white teeth. Grabbing my denim washed jeans and a white tank top, I slowly made my way down stairs to finish getting ready.
It was 4:13 A.M. when I stepped out of the house. The warm summer breezed danced around me. A smile escaped my face, and I started running full force toward the forest. Quite a ways in, I leapt over a dead fallen tree, and thick black fur covered my body as I landed on my paws.
All my instincts kicked in and I lost sense of time as I became one with nature. I smelt the morning grass; I could feel the air shift temperatures as it was getting ready to welcome the sun in the sky; I heard the birds call to one another; water falling off the cliff and landing in the lake, where the pack was waiting for. . .
"The ceremony!" I snarled and took off running.
Telling by the sun, I got to the lake around 4:34 A.M. It was so beautiful – the shades of the sky started getting lighter as the sun greeted the land, the lake was calm and soothing, and the breeze was very comforting. This serenity all came to an end when I heard bickering and fidgeting from the pack, and a deep, angry howl came from above the lake.
"Aubrey!" The strong, powerful voice echoed all around, causing goose bumps and quieting the pack down.
"Ye-yes, Alpha?" I let out a whimper.
Above the lake's ridges stood a huge wolf with features that gave away his rank of Alpha male. He was a grey wolf with a pure white line that wrapped around his neck and a patch of white on each paw. But more than that, his very stature demanded respect, with his head held high and body carried tall.
"Join me," he demanded.
"Yes, Alpha." I climbed an eternity to the ridges above.
As I approached, he growled, "Aubrey, you know the ceremony started 10 minutes ago. As Pre-Alpha, you will take on greater responsibilities, and that means showing up on time!" He bared his teeth at me. In response I bowed my head to him.
"I understand Alpha. I'm sorry." His green eyes glared at me. I could have sworn I felt daggers stab right through my body.
Letting out a growl he went to the ledge of the ridge and spoke out with his authoritative voice. His words reached the ears of every pack member as he went through with the ceremony. "Aubrey, having reached the age of eighteen, you are prepared to take on the duties and responsibilities of a Pre-Alpha. As Alpha of this pack, I grant you the rank of Pre-Alpha. Do you accept?"
"I accept." I took my place by his side.
"Lead us in a closing howl," he instructed. Inhaling as deeply as I could, I let a long, deep howl. Alpha joined in, and then Mom, and last but not least, the rest of the pack. Our voices together echoed through the forest.
After the ceremony was over, I had a full 45 minutes to get home and get ready for school, so I decided to take the long way home. I was walking along the railroad tracks, lost in thought, when a voice came from behind me.
"Aubrey! Hey, Aubrey!" A panting hazelnut wolf, with a distinguishing white strip stretching down her underbelly, came trotting up alongside me.
"Hey, Peyton," I greeted her nonchalantly.
"Congrats on your rank up!" she piped up immediately. Acting as though I didn't hear her, I started sniffing the ground. Peyton shook as if she was trying to dry off.
"Bree?" she asked after a moment.
"I was congratulating you on-" A bloody scream followed by a strange dark deep howl rang around us. Within seconds the pack was running right by us, baring their teeth and letting out frightening growls. Peyton and I joined them in the chase.
"John! Mike! Let's go, it's coming for the northwest boarder. Alicia, Jazzel, Bella, you're gonna cut them off, so be ready!" Alpha commanded.
"Alpha, what about me?" I said, trying to catch up to him.
"You are staying here with Peyton. You're not ready for this." His voice was very intimidating.
"But, I've been in this pack for years now and I haven't-"
"I said no!" Alpha's growl made the other wolves flinch and made me stop dead in my tracks. Slowly, they all disappeared into the horizon as Peyton and I were left there, staring.
It was 7:20 A.M. when I finally got to school. Making my way to the cafeteria to meet with my friends, I fumed over what had happened.
As before, a voice came from behind me. "Bree?"
"Yeah?" I turned around turned around to see who needed me.
Peyton was there to greet me. She smiled comfortingly and said, "I'm sorry about Alpha. I mean, I understand why I can't go. I'm a new blood, I can't even catch my own tail," she said, trying to be humorous, as is her way.
"Eh, don't worry about it, Peyton. It's whatever. I just wish I knew what it was." I was very frustrated.
" You will, Bree. You are Pre-Alpha, after all, and you need to know these things," she said.
"Well, I'll see you at lunch?"
I rubbed my arm. "I'm not gonna be there. I'm gonna leave before then."
"Bree! You can't! You know Alpha would chop your tail off!"
"I don't care. I'm already gonna get yelled at for being late to the ceremony, and for asking to go with them. Why not add one more thing to the list?" The bell sounded, interrupting Peyton's incoming response and signaling students to their first period class.
As it died down, Peyton put her hand on my shoulder. "Bree, don't worry about your rank up. I know you will be an awesome Alpha some day." She hugged me and left.
I had Gym, P.I.G., and a study hall, followed by a math class; four 45 minute periods to go, and then I could leave. I could make it. It's my senior year, after all. I didn't have a lot of classes that I needed to pass in order to graduate.
I know Peyton said I would make an awesome Alpha someday, but I honestly don't want to be Alpha at all. If I have to act anything like my father does, then I don't want it. Not only that, but I don't know if I can handle the responsibilities. I have know the whereabouts of all the pack members at all times, fend off intruders, keep balance in our territory, know what to do in any giving situation, and just, AH! It's too much!
I never wanted to be Pre-Alpha, though it's kind of late to take it back now. I can't deny it – to refuse the title would be to betray my pack, which is the number one thing you cannot do as a wolf. Needless to say, I'm really not all that worked up about the ranking. It's more of what happened earlier.
I really want to know what Alpha and the rest of the pack is doing. That's happened a lot throughout my life in the pack, but especially this past month. Why can't I go? Peyton did bring up a great point: I'm going to be Pre-Alpha, so shouldn't I learn all I can from Alpha? Truth be told, however, our relationship isn't all that great. He's Alpha all the time, wolf form or human form. I can't say I remember the last time I called him "dad."
The bell rung, derailing my train of thought and ending my 4th period math class. I couldn't hurry enough to get out of there. It's not that I hate math; actually, I love it. I just hate school in general, but not always for the schooling itself. As I made my way out of the class into the hallway, to the first left there were two girls that were wearing really expensive clothing and giving off an almost visible stuck-up aura. Anyone's first impression of these girls would be correct.
"Ew, look. It's the mutt," the fake blond whispered to the fake brunette.
"She probably has fleas!" the brunette shrilled out with an unmasked giggle.
That's why I despise this place. I walked out the door to the outside and, once again, the air danced around me, lifting up my hair and exposing both my eyes. I looked back at the two stuck up girls who stood there, dumbfounded in their disgust in me.
I decided to walk instead of phasing, though I came so close to doing so in front of my would-be tormentors. I figured I'd walk until I got to the mall, and then I'd phase and go swimming in the river, or maybe practice some hunting. As I came to the road I looked up to see if a car was coming, and that's when I saw him on the other side. Xavier.
His to die for blue eyes locked on mine, causing me to stand there like an idiot. Xavier is a couple years older than me, and we used to be the best of friends before he graduated and left me behind in our scummy high school. He was in my business and law class back in 10th grade, though he was in 12th at the time. I can remember sitting in the back of the room watching him walk in and take his rightful place in the front of the class. I noticed something was different about him, though. I could tell there was something making him sad. At the end of the class one day, I got the courage to walk up to him and ask him what was wrong. Ever since then, our friendship grew.
In the early days, I decided to test our friendship by trusting him with the secret of my wolf blood. And he passed the test with flying colors. He accepted me and even understood me, when I was in that form. After that I knew that I really could trust him with any secret of mine. Then, after he graduated, I didn't hear from him or see him at all. I'd thought he'd forgotten about me and moved on with life.
"Aubrey? Is that you?" His voice didn't change. It was still his voice.
"Uh. Hi, Xavier." My voice shook.
"How's everything going? I haven't seen you in a while," he said with a smile.
"OK? OK-ish? And I know. Seems as if you forgot about me." I let out a small laugh.
"Aubrey." He turned serious. "I never forgot you. I had to go live with my uncle for a while. I thought about you a lot." There was nothing but dead air and awkward silence lingering in the air between us. Xavier crossed the street and walked over to me.
"Shouldn't you be in school?"
"Yeah. . ." I looked down at my shoes, scared to make eye contact.
"Since when did you become a rebel? What, is school too mainstream for you?" he laughed. I couldn't help but join him in laughing. Xavier always could get me to laugh, no matter what.
"Say, Bree, what do you think about us hanging out tonight or tomorrow?" Before I could answer he rushed out, "It's your call. Just text me before you show up, alright?"
"Haha. Sure Xavier, will do." I smiled.
He hugged me; I had forgotten what his hugs felt like. That's something I really missed too. Once we let go, I turned away, smiling, and started running gleefully. I jumped up and landed on my paws, and looking back, I sent him a wolfish smile.
He looked delightfully astonished, but in a bad way, never in a bad way. "I've seen you've grown a lot." I found a trace of shock in his voice. I simply shook my head back and forth.
"Um, uh, I'll see ya, Aubrey." He started crossing the street, still staring at me.
Suddenly, a huge 18 wheeler's horn blew a deadly warning. Xavier only had time to whirl in terror. I sprinted straight for Xavier. I couldn't let anything happen to him – for as long as I can remember I've had this instinct to protect him, no matter the cost. As quick as I could, I bit onto his shirt and leaped across the rest of the road. As the truck sped off, I inadvertently tore through the flimsy fabric of Xavier's shirt in my frantic rush to get him away to safety. He slipped out onto the grass and went rolling away on the ground. I walked over to him and sniffed his face.
His eyes, having been squeezed shut tight, opened slowly as his breathing became more regular. "Thank you Aubrey." His hands stroked my head. "I don't know what to say, really."
He stood up, grabbed his ruined shirt from my mouth, and wrapped his arms around my neck.
Almost inside his house he turned around to face me as he admitted, "I missed you."
His last words echoed in my head on my way back to my house. I honestly thought Xavier left me. Why did I ever tell him that? Ugh. I feel so different, like I wanna be – not apart from him. Hmph. It's probably 'cause he almost got hit by a truck.
I let out a low howl just to let the pack know where I was. I phased back into my human form, walked through my front door, and followed the soft carpet up to my welcoming bedroom. I put on my fuzzy light blue PJ bottoms with a black tank top. After closing all of the curtains in my room, I fell into bed and drifted off into a deep sleep, thinking all the while, "I missed you too Xavier. More than you think."