Three months later…
Linley’s growing friendship with Chelcie and Skyler made her even more eager to attend school. Not only that, but she actually enjoyed this new learning environment. She got to know interesting things with other kids her own age, and Mrs. Kirkwood was always willing to help when she needed it.
Already, Linley was one of the top students in the class. She was always in the spelling bee finals, loved volunteering to read out loud from text books, and always got her homework done. Chelcie and Skyler always wanted help from her, and she was happy to oblige, especially when Mrs. Kirkwood was too busy.
Unfortunately, her excellent grades and educational enthusiasm had its prices. Derek, it turned out, had a few cronies, and they began calling her the “teacher’s pet” since she was always trying to help Mrs. Kirkwood, plus she always tried to “suck up” to her by getting the best grades.
Still, Linley was determined not to let this bother her. She knew that Derek and his friends were only jealous. Maybe if they stopped screwing around and actually did their assignments, they’d get good grades too.
Besides Derek, the main concern Linley had was her impending transformation into a wolf. Since her parents had explained to her that she was a hybrid, and thus would more than likely transform, she was trying not to let it frighten her. But she’d recently had her ninth birthday (which she’d invited her two best friends to), and her mother had told her that normal werewolves first phased between the ages of eight and ten. That meant that Linley could transform sometime soon. What feared her most was that she wouldn’t be able to control it.
Still, when Chelcie invited her over to her house for their very first sleepover, she couldn’t refuse. Skyler, being a boy, wouldn’t be allowed to spend the night, but he could come over Friday after school just to play.
Allanna and Xavier weren’t too thrilled at first, but they didn’t want to deny their daughter any fun for something that might not even occur. So they agreed to let her spend Friday night at Chelcie’s house and they’d pick her up Saturday afternoon.
Chelcie didn’t live right in town, but she didn’t live clear out in the country, either. She lived on the outskirts of town, but far enough away so that her house contained a small barn with a fence surrounding the backside of it. Chelcie explained that this area was where she rode her horse. She then guided the agile-looking mustang to the fenced area as Linley and Skyler watched.
Chelcie demonstrated how she controlled Rocket, though her parents wouldn’t allow her to jump any hurdles with him until she was older. She then mounted the horse and led him around the fenced area. When Chelcie approached the fence, Skyler wanted to take a turn as well. So Chelcie allowed him to ride Rocket around, though she kept a close watch on him.
She then asked if Linley would like to ride.
“I’d love to,” Linley said eagerly, but then she remembered something else. “But…horses don’t like me.”
One of the flaws of being part wolf – horses were terrified of her. But Chelcie didn’t buy it.
“Rocket likes everybody. He’ll like you, don’t worry.”
“I don’t know…”
“Come on, I’ll show you.”
Chelcie then instructed Skyler to get down so that Linley could have a turn. But, just as she suspected, Rocket reared up in fear as Linley approached him. Chelcie tried to calm him, but her efforts were futile. There was no way that Linley would ever get to ride a horse as long as she had wolf genes in her body.
“That’s so weird,” Chelcie said as she led Rocket back to his stall. “I’ve never seen him like that before. I don’t get why he doesn’t like you.”
“No horse likes me. I don’t know why, it’s always been that way.”
“It’s okay,” Skyler said in an attempt to lighten the mood. “Why don’t we go play in the tree house instead?”
“My princess tree house? But you’re a boy.”
“That’s okay, I can be a knight or something.”
“Well, okay. I know! I’ve got my costumes up there. I’ll be a princess, you be the knight, and Linley, you be the dragon. Skyler will have to slay you to save me!”
Linley didn’t like the idea of being slain, even figuratively, but she didn’t want to be a buzz kill. So she agreed and the three dashed off toward Chelcie’s pink tree house. The three friends changed into their respective costumes (though they all had their backs turned away from each other so they didn’t see anything they didn’t want to see), and the role playing began. Chelcie took her place inside the tree house tower while Skyler hid behind a bush. Linley approached the tree house making growling dragon noises and stomping her feet.
“I’m gonna get you!” she declared in a scary voice and let out a roar.
“Oh no! Someone save me! Please!” Chelcie cried.
“Fear not, my lady!” Skyler said as he approached. “I will slay the dragon!”
Skyler approached Linley wielding a plastic sword. He waved it around and pretended to stab it through her chest. She dramatically grasped her chest, put her arm to her head, and fell down.
“My hero!” Chelcie cried. Skyler climbed to the top of the tree house where he bowed to his princess. They didn’t go to the kissing part, since no one wanted to get cooties.
Before long, Skyler’s father arrived to pick him up. Shortly after, it was time to eat supper. The meal consisted of spaghetti with meatballs. Linley met Chelcie’s older brother, Trent, then. He was as weird as his sister described and he didn’t talk much. As soon as he was done eating, he vacated to his bedroom and locked the door, not even bothering to help with the dishes.
Linley offered to help, but Chelcie’s parents insisted that, since she was a guest, she didn’t have to. So instead, she and Chelcie went to put on their pajamas and watch some TV in the living room.
“Blah,” Chelcie complained as she flipped through the stations, “there’s nothing on. Want to play a game?”
So Chelcie hooked up the gaming console and she and Linley began a fierce game of Mario Kart racing. Chelcie chose Princess Peach while Linley went for Daisy. The two started laughing so hard in their entertainment that Trent finally came out of his room to demand they shut up and turn the TV down.
“You shut up,” Chelcie shot back as she paused the game. “We can play this if we want to.”
“Not if you’re being that noisy about it. How am I supposed to concentrate?”
“What do you have to concentrate on? Being a pain?”
“You’re ten times more of a pain than I could ever be. At least I leave people alone and don’t bother them.”
“What’s going on in here?” Mr. Wilkins wanted to know as he rounded the corner.
“Trent told us to shut up,” Chelcie tattled.
“Bullshit,” Trent retorted angrily. “They’re making enough noise to wake the damn dead!”
“Watch your mouth!” Mr. Wilkins warned. “You apologize to Chelcie and her guest, and girls, please turn down the TV.”
Trent pathetically mumbled a half-assed apology before returning to the sanctuary of his bedroom. He sucked the fun out of the game, so the girls went to Chelcie’s bedroom then. Chelcie showed Linley all of the pictures she’d painted as well as her huge collection of horse toys and pictures, and then the two decided to have a pillow fight.
When they tired of beating each other up with feathers stuffed inside socks, Chelcie suggested the two tell ghost stories. Linley agreed, so Chelcie turned out the lights and grabbed a flash light before beginning her scary tale.
“Once upon a time, there was this ghost hunter, and he had to get rid of a ghost from this old haunted house. But he didn’t really believe in ghosts because he never saw one before, but he went anyway. He saw the ghost, but she was really pretty. She wasn’t scary like he thought she’d be. They got to be friends, but when she found out the man was there to get rid of her, she got super mad and killed him so he could be a ghost, too. It was her house and she didn’t want to leave it, so she made him stay with her forever. Then she put a spell on him so whenever somebody else came to the house, they’d kill them because it was their house. And they’re still in that house today.”
“Whoa, let’s stay away from that house then,” Linley stated. It was obvious that Chelcie had gotten some of her older brother’s emo influence.
“Your turn!” Chelcie announced as she took a seat on the floor. Linley stood up and found herself once again at a loss of words, just like on the first day of school. What kind of ghost story could she tell? Practically everything in her life was supernatural, but she couldn’t say that out loud.
She finally settled on a story about something that couldn’t possibly exist, even in her own world of vampires, werewolves, and hybrids.
“Once upon a time, there was a girl warrior who went around killing monsters like dragons and giant spiders. But nobody liked her because she was a girl and only boys were supposed to do that kind of thing. One day, she killed this dragon that was really strong, and his power went into her when he died, so she turned into a dragon. But she could remember everything, so she flew over the village and burned everything down because people didn’t like her killing monsters. But after that happened, she got lonely and wanted to be normal again, but she couldn’t, so her dragon powers made her forget who she was and she started burning all the villages in the kingdom until a knight killed her.”
“I’m glad we don’t live where dragons exist now,” Chelcie said when Linley sat back down. Linley nodded in agreement, but she felt compelled to ask, “Do you believe in monsters?”
“No way. I used to think there were monsters under my bed and in my closet, but Mom and Dad told me there weren’t and they showed me. Why? Do you?”
“I mean…monsters like…like in fairy tales. The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood.”
“Those monsters were wolves. Wolves are just animals, that’s all. They can’t blow down a house and they can’t eat someone’s grandma whole.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I asked.”
The two chatted a little longer before the exciting events of the day began to catch up with them. Chelcie unrolled her own sleeping bag so that Linley didn't have to sleep by herself on the floor, and then they snuggled into their sleeping bags and fell asleep.
Or rather, Chelcie fell asleep. Linley wasn’t used to spending a night away from her own house. She knew she had nothing to be afraid of, but she could still feel fear’s strong grip encompass her as she closed her eyes.
And then the pains began.
Linley sat up in her sleeping bag with a jolt. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but it must have been a while since all the lights in the house were no longer on and Chelcie’s deep, even breathing indicated that she was sound asleep.
The pains that shot through Linley’s body were excruciating. It was all she could do to keep herself from crying out. Every part of her body ached, from her head all the way down to her toes. She also began to sweat profusely, so she uncovered and clutched her stuffed rabbit with all her might. Still, the pain didn’t subside. If anything, it kept getting worse.
Finally, Linley staggered toward the bathroom. Maybe she was sick. In any event, she didn’t want to be around anyone else with whatever was going on. She closed the bathroom door behind her and sat down on the cool tiled floor, willing the pains to pass.
It seemed the more she hoped the pains would subside, the worse they became. It felt like her body was changing beyond her control.
That’s when she remembered.
She was nine years old, and she had werewolf blood in her body. Her transition into a wolf for the first time was inevitable. Her mother had told her that the first time would be painful, and she wouldn’t revert to her human form until the sun came up.
This was just her luck. Her parents had barely let her stay with Chelcie tonight as it was for this very reason, and they’d finally caved because they didn’t want her to miss out on having fun for something that might not even happen.
Too bad that’s exactly what was happening.
Linley was more frightened than she’d ever been in her life. The second she knew what was going on, she flung open the bathroom door and hurried to the living room. She could see clearly in the dark thanks to her heightened vision, but that didn’t make the situation easier.
She reached her destination as fast as she could, yet it seemed like it took an eternity. The telephone was on the coffee table in front of the couch. Linley snatched it up and began dialing.
The phone on the other end of the line rang incessantly until at last she heard her father’s groggy voice ask, “Hello?”
“Daddy,” she whispered as the tears fell. “Help me.”
“Linley? What’s wrong?”
“I’m…I’m turning…Please help me, it hurts…”
“Get outside and take cover in the trees. We’ll be right there.”
There was a click as the phone was disconnected. Linley followed her father’s orders and headed outside. She ran toward the trees as the pains got worse. When she was shrouded in the shadows, she let out a scream of agony before burying her tear-stained face in her shaking hands.
Grasping a nearby tree to steady herself, she began to sink slowly to the ground, squeezing her eyes shut tightly. Her parents were vampires, and thus had incredible speed, but they weren’t fast enough to get to Linley before her worst nightmare became a reality.
Kneeling on all fours, Linley felt her spine grow longer as a tail sprouted from her behind. Her nose elongated and her ears became pointed. Claws protruded from her hands that turned into furry paws. Linley felt the rest of her fur begin to cover her body, and as she let out another shrill cry, a howl emitted from her throat.
Fully transformed, the pains ceased at last. The transformation didn’t take that long, but it felt like the end of the world for Linley due to the unbelievable pain. Finally, she heard movement and picked up her mother’s scent. Moments later, Allanna’s frazzled and worried face popped out from behind the trees and her arms circled her daughter.
“It’s all right,” she said reassuringly. “I’m here now. You’ll be okay.”
“Where’s Daddy?” Linley asked in her mind, grateful that her mother could hear it so she could still somewhat communicate.
“He had to stay with the boys. I came because I know what it’s like. But you did it, all by yourself. The worst is over, and it won’t hurt ever again.”
“But what about Chelcie? What if she wakes up and I’m not there? And my pajamas are shredded. I’m scared!”
“I know, it’s all right. I’m going to stay with you all night, and let you get some sleep out here. I’m sorry I took so long, but I brought you a few things.”
Allanna then withdrew a bag from behind her shoulder that Linley hadn’t noticed before and with lightning fast speed, she set up the tent that was inside. She also extracted some blankets and small lanterns as well as a spare set of pajamas.
“These are for when you turn back,” she explained. “I’ll wake you up when you turn back into a human, then you just get dressed and go back inside. It’s not the best solution, but it was the only one we could think of. We were prepared for this, but we never thought you’d actually change when you weren’t at home.”
Linley rubbed her new muzzle against her mother’s arm to express her gratitude. She was so glad that she wasn’t alone. She and her mother then both climbed into the tent and Linley curled up and went to sleep after feeling her mother cover her up with a blanket.
It didn’t seem very long, but all too soon, she felt her mother’s persistent shaking. She opened her eyes and saw the sunlight streaming in through the tent. Her mother was smiling at her sympathetically.
“Good morning, sleepyhead,” she said. “You did it. You survived your first night turning into a wolf.”
Linley looked down and embarrassingly covered her nude body with her blanket. Even though Allanna was her mother, she didn’t want her to see her naked. She asked curiously, “I turned back into a human while I was sleeping?”
“Yeah, only the first transformation into a wolf hurts. That’s it. And since you’re a hybrid, you won’t change uncontrollably when there’s a full moon. You don’t have to change unless you want to.”
Linley was glad to hear that. She didn’t want to be a wolf ever again, even if it didn’t hurt. She just wanted to be normal. Now the only side of her she had to worry about was her vampire genes.
“Honey,” Allanna said softly as Linley put her pajamas on. “It’s not all bad being a wolf. They’re one of nature’s most beautiful creatures. Remember how I told you that werewolves were special humans that got powers from the moon? You should embrace it, not run away from it.”
“But I don’t want to be a wolf. I want to be normal.”
Allanna hugged her daughter as she began to cry. “I know,” she said soothingly and understandingly. “I used to think the same way. Linley, I can show you a lot about being a wolf that you’d enjoy. Like running for fun, and you could even hunt some animals if you wanted. I know how much you love meat, and that’s the best way to get it. But it’s your decision in the end. I don’t want to force you. But right now, we have to get you back into Chelcie’s room so she doesn’t notice you were missing.”
Linley wiped her tears and nodded. She found her body a little stiff from last night’s metamorphosis, but she managed to successfully sneak back into Chelcie’s room and bury herself in her sleeping bag. She closed her eyes and thought about what her mother had said. Were there actually good points about being a wolf? She had to admit, she was a little curious to learn them, but she wasn’t sure how to transform on her own. She was still shaken up after the previous night’s activities and she didn’t want to go through such a frightening debacle ever again. She only hoped that was the hardest thing she’d ever have to endure in life.