Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A short tail....

Canis lupus
By Brittany Torres and Caitlin Smith
Fighting for control, I try to contain my lupine factor. Claws retract and flash out in an instant of silver; sobs fill my room. Hayden! What would you think of me now? Every part of me yearns to leap out of my miserable heap and run straight for the hills—going until speech returns. I love being loup garou and revel in my quickness and grace. Shifting would be balm for my tortured soul. Yet shifting now would be dangerous. The wolf could win—the girl lost.
Hayden has no troubles beyond the occasional sack during the football game. My volatile moon-self exists beyond his comprehension. He loves the way I sometimes suddenly shiver in his arms; he can’t see the carnal instincts warring within. So often I have tempted fate and almost lost control, almost failed to quell the rising wolf. That last kiss—the mere thought conjures butterflies and sighs—that last kiss the wolf surfaced, if only for a second. He didn’t notice the silver sparkle of my claws, but how much longer can instinct be tamed? He creates a tumultuous whirlpool in my soul…
My thoughts float back to our first date. He was so sought-after; it was unfathomable that Hayden would notice me. Rumors filled school for weeks. What’s he thinking? Quarter-back trying to get the attention of the loner chick? “She is so exasperating!” the cheerleaders proclaimed. “But she’s hot!” the rest of the team would respond. The cynic in me—who said he was doing this on a stupid bet—ignored his advances for weeks. Alas, his persistence and killer smile won, when he showed up at my door bearing cookies and flowers I begrudgingly admitted that I did kind of like him. We were sparring five minutes into the impromptu date and loving it.
“Where does a big, strong football player get the nerve to touch flowers?”
“Same place I found it to read Austen. This reminds me, you need to turn your books in sooner—I’ve been waiting for Canterbury Tales for a week!” Apparently my name is always right above his in library books.
“I don’t have Chaucer; the only English poet worth reading outside class is the Bard!”
“Right… didn’t your Shakespeare thing get you detention?” At my laugh his brown eyes dance; he’s referring to my infamous argument with our literature teacher over the authenticity of Shakespeare. Hayden continued, “I was the TA that period. When you stalked in I knew it was love at first sight. Those furiously flashing blue eyes, that wonderful, long, dark pelt of hair pulled over your lovely face…” He paused to push the hair out of my face.
“I’m not furious now…” I search his eyes, wondering what I would find. We shared our first kiss that evening, the beginning of a beautiful tragedy. Shakespeare couldn’t have written it better.
I don’t want to lose him! He is my dearest friend outside the Pack! I dream of his sweet, golden-brown curls and thrilling baritone. Yet he would never accept a wolf princess! He can hardly stand the fantasy elements of “A Midsummer Nights Dream.” Hayden will find out if we continue our current path, being with him wakes the wolf in me. I almost don’t want to be loup garou any longer if it means being separate from Hayden. The next convulsion of lupine impulse leaves me shaking and sick. I can’t hold on much longer! What to do!?! I frantically question the fast-fading girl. I don’t knoooooooow…she howls. I can’t do this! I run.

He has never noticed that I can’t wear the silver necklace he gave me or that I am never available on full-mooned nights. I laugh to myself, the short bark breaking the sanctuary of my room. Falling from my musing, I clench my teeth against the next wave of wolfishness. I don’t really want Hayden to figure this out—he would flee. Afraid of what he would do, I closely guard my secret. No boy, no outside friend has managed to discover but Hayden is dangerously near.
I should end things now, his image alone elicits dangerous emotions and desires I am not willing to acknowledge. Animal magnetism isn’t the only thing drawing me to him—he leaves roses in my locker; calls every night (even when I tell him not to); and seems totally mesmerized by me, never even glancing at another girl. I am fascinated by his inane obsession with football and entranced at how he has managed to cross the athletic/academic line. His love of books matches my own; together we have spent countless hours pouring over Shakespeare. The thought of losing him hurts physically but the ache in my stomach is nothing compared to the agony of losing him—a friend I have poured my heart into.
Tears streak my face as hiccoughs ricochet through my body. I am trying to hold my shape—I am human, a teenage girl. For the first time, I curse this part of me. Transforming has never hurt before but between my body and my heart, death looks sweet. Usually changing is pure joy! Shifting into wolf-form, I should be reveling in the powerful muscles and sleek shape. I adore my ability to run for hours on end. The quickness and grace of my lupine side brings no end of happiness. I’ve never held in my change before. I have never been afraid to be loup garou.
Internal fires of anger turn to Hayden. He may be the perfect boyfriend but he has never been able to accept anything different. Grimm’s fairy tales are strictly off limits for him; I can’t imagine what he would do with a wolf princess. He is so judgmental! Why can’t he just accept something extraordinary for once? As anger courses through my veins it becomes harder to hang on. Hayden is to blame for awakening the wolf, yet he would never accept her.
I don’t want to lose him! Yet soon he will find out if we continue our current path. The next convulsion of lupine impulse leaves me shaking and sick. I can’t hold on much longer! What to do!?! I frantically question the fast-fading girl. I don’t knoooooooow…she howls. I can’t do this! I can’t hold on! I run.

As I dash though trees and leap over boulders, the torments of the girl slide away. This is freedom, glorious and right. The euphoria fills me and instinct gains control. A rabbit sprints across my path and I take chase, not feeling hungry but enjoying the sport. The only thing that would make things better would be to have my pack around me, joining the fun. We would cavort around in our safe forest and think of nothing but the freedom.
A strange scent drifts across my path. I pause, leaving the rabbit. This is musky and sweet but not any animal I know. Nothing like my wolf-mates, the scent confuses me. It speaks of things more complicated than I know. Cautious now, I slow to a brisk trot and follow the scent. I am more curious than frightened. It’s stronger now and somehow… familiar. I wrinkle my nose—I want to sneeze. As I step from the trees onto a river bank, the scent hits me with full force, carrying recognition. I see a human! Instinct tells me to flee and I leap across the stream before I finally recognize the scent. Hayden.
Walking down the heavily wooded slope, I hear the sounds of something crashing through the undergrowth. I catch the glimpse of a silvery tail and curiosity beckons me to the edge of a brook. A beautiful wolf with streaks of golden brown entwined throughout a silvery coat is staring at me with eyes of depth.

They say that moving is hard—thankfully I’ve never had to experience it. My family has lived in the exact same spot for night on two hundred years. Maybe longer— we weren’t big on record keeping then. This town was founded in part by my ancestors and abounds with cousins and aunts and uncles and strange relations that I’ve never met but who greet me with a hug on the street. They know me by scent I guess.
My house was built at the turn of the century, with century old dust still haunting the attic. The house is on a small hill—more of a mound really—and the backyard slopes into a small wood. The entire area used to be woods; lush thick forest that sheltered the small town from civilization. It was perfect for my privacy-loving ancestors… until they discovered the love of money. A lumber company bought much of the woods and mill workers flooded the once-small town. My great-grandmother remembers when it switched from being mostly family, with a few young men and women from the next town over marrying in, to the mini- city we have today. It’s not a thriving metropolis and we are defiantly still out of the way… but it’s no longer a little backwater town where your butcher is your brother and your aunt bring bread twice a week.
I have moved schools though, several times. And that has to be more difficult than relocating. It is one thing to pack up all of your belongings and cart them to another house; another entirely to leave behind all your friends and familiar teachers for new foes, new people to let you know that you don’t fit in.
I have never fit in.
When I was in kindergarten, I bit a little girl who wouldn’t give me her crayons. She didn’t stop bleeding and had to get stitches. I was jerked out of class and home schooled for a few years, socializing only with my cousins, among whom biting was never a problem. By fifth grade I was allowed to try public school again, this time with strict rules from my parents on how to behave around the other students. I was good at kick-ball and the boys welcomed me with open arms. The girls—whom I desperately sought the approval of— shunned me as a freak who had boy cooties. Therefore, I became one of the guys. When I found out about an all-fifth-grade girl slumber party hosted by Kimberly, the queen bee of the group, I joined the boys on a TP raid. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have the gist of TPing and stuck around too long—I was caught and blamed for the whole mess. Once the little tyrants—Kim in the lead—added all their stories of my “freaky ness” at school and how I “terrorized” them (come on! How on earth is running after you, howling, during recess terrorizing? Do you even know what terrorizing means?) I was summarily suspended and soon after my parents decided it was time to change schools. I think I was in all three middle schools in the town, before being funneled into the smaller of the two high school. By then, I had figured out what freaked people out and how to act relatively normal.
As a freshman, I still struggled to hide my secret, gym was especially hard, and there were days that I missed or dashed home “sick” because I couldn’t control it. But as I matured and observed the others I gradually began to figure things out. I had very few friends and even less confidants—no one very far from my family circle really knew more than my name.
As I grew more and more alienated as school, books became my best friends…

I hurry down the hall, staying invisible as long as I keep my eyes down and my long hair covering my face. If anyone actually notices me, I may shatter. For some reason, today my control is tenuous and I don’t know if I can survive… but another unexcused absence means I may fail English and Mrs. Durmire gives me enough trouble as is. I clutch an extra-thick novel to my stomach and rush onward, hiding in shadows and spaces between people. I flinch away from touch, my canvas jacket that is usually so protecting is less defense than a spider web. Finally, I can escape the dizzying crush of the halls and slide into my seat. Back left corner, far from Mrs. Durmire’s desk and close to the door. A rather large band nerd in front of me is the perfect cover for furtive reading or writing and the empty seat to my right allows me to breathe. I slump down low, pulling my jacket close and praying she is on a dull subject today.
A week ago she was haranguing on Shakespeare and I couldn’t stand it. For the first time ever, I had broken my cover in class and argued back to her. She is the spawn of the devil, the very soul of horror, and had ruined many fine pieces of literature for me the past few years. (Our school is large but some teachers cross grades—especially teachers of ‘advanced’ classes like Mrs. Durmire. Her vast vocabulary has dazzled the superintendent into giving her the brightest of the English students. I’m sure her aim was for golden girls like Kimberly—yes, the same one—who write perfect little papers that reflect every opinion spouted of by the Spawn in class. Not so much the more free-spirited, like me.) She has also continued to push me to the brink of failing by constantly pretending not to understand the premise of my papers, labeling them as “incomprehensible,” and failing them. Thankfully she can’t rig a multiple choice test… It isn’t my fault that most of my thoughts on any given subject are in direct contradiction to hers! It isn’t my fault that she is so blind that to be against her is inconceivable and thus a failure! It is my fault that I let my anger and frustration with her narrow-minded teaching boil over. But when she started against Shakespeare…! I could not let such a blatant and horrid rumor as Shakespeare a plagiarizer continue unchecked! I listened to it the past three years, I let her go on for three days, but in the end the large, spiky “D” scrawled across my paper defending the most glorious Bard in English history was what ended it for me. I ended up in detention, the golden boy- TA there already text-ing his friends and laughing by the time I was signed in and seated. I have no intention of incurring her wrath again and make sure I am safely hidden away before the final bell can ring.
Thankfully it is simply Shaw, easily enough ignored. I pull out my journal and begin to write, adding to a chronicle about a teen vampire girl I’ve been dreaming up. She is so cool—not gothic like a lot of vampire lit you get now days but defiantly on the counter-culture end of things. She is one of my favorite characters and I am actually writing this story with the aim of publishing. Probably just a short story at first, but eventually pulling all the shorts into a novel. Or a screenplay. I am a very diverse writer.
I am just getting into the story, sending Jenna down a dark tunnel to meet her stalker, when a note slides across my desk. Startled, I glance up then slowly pick up the folded paper. It has my name—Kaia—written on it in curly script and actually spelled correctly … who on earth would be writing notes to me? Who in this room knew how to spell my name? As I look around the room, I study each student, searching for motive to write me. None of my cousin’s are in this class—I don’t really talk to anyone in here. Could it be a cheerleader once again making a jibe at my uncool jeans or strings of beads? Perhaps a ploy to get me in trouble?
My natural curiosity overwhelms me and I hunker further down in my seat, praying that Mrs. Durmire won’t hear as I pull the folded paper into its original shape. It’s a guy—that much is obvious from the messy handwriting. The ornate letters on the front must have taken him ages... My eyes scan the missive and I have to bite back a gasp. Someone is either playing a really elaborate joke or I… I have an admirer. My head tilts forward, hair falling into a natural curtain and shielding me from any prying eyes. I re-read the scribbles words—
Haunting eyes of deepest blue,
Tawny hair hangs down.
I’ve seen her mirthful,
A smile too beautiful to look at for long,
And my heart is heavy when she wears a frown.
A poet or at least an attempt at poetry. My literary-self sees that it is really much better than most of the junk Mrs. Durmire drags up and forces embarrassed linemen to read in front of the class. And it is kind of sweet, defiantly complimentary. I allow a few wistful thoughts of romantic tryst to drift across my mind-- I’m sure a dreamy smile was beginning to form—when there is someone in front of me. I snap upright, tucking the note into my sleeve with one hand, shoving Jenna’s story into my jacket with the other. Mrs. Durmire.
“Kaia—we would love to hear your thoughts on this?” her voice is poison, sickly sweet and deadly.
I try to look as innocent as possible—I really really don’t want to fail…-- and change to my own cloyingly sickening voice.
“Ma’am? I was just pondering the raptures of Poe and missed your last statement.”
“You were sleeping!” she snarled. “I don’t tolerate slackers in my class!” Oh no, oh no… that last time she said that, James (who hadn’t turned in a paper over one page all year) was kicked out. I really can’t fail!
“I wasn’t sleeping! I…” dare I show her my writing? It might back me up… but if she read it she would rip it to shreds! I frantically glance at the other student. Most of the girls are smirking or readjusting their lip gloss. A couple of guys seem to be sleeping… no one is even trying to help me. Why did I pick the corner? I have no one to get a quick answer from…
Crash! I jump and Mrs. Durmire spins around to find a heap of books on the floor and a sheepish TA in the door.

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