Chelcie had asked why Linley had changed pajamas since the previous night, but Allanna hadn’t come up with an excuse for that. So Linley had to lie and embarrassingly say that she’d had a small accident during the night due to a bad dream over the scary stories.
Chelcie was thankfully sympathetic. Still, even though it had been a few weeks, Linley was still on edge after that fateful slumber party. Allanna was still giving her the choice of learning more about her wolf genes, but she found herself already pretty occupied with her vampire ones.
Sometimes she’d lie awake at night wishing she could be one or the other, or just a human. Anything but both. She was the only one of her kind in the world, so absolutely no one could relate to her or understand how she felt.
School went about the same, and Chelcie never brought up the pajama issue again. The two girls and Skyler were still the best of friends, and Derek was still a little jerk, but they grew accustomed to ignoring him.
The same couldn’t be said about Linley’s home life. Despite Allanna’s encouragement, she still feared turning into a wolf. What if she wasn’t able to turn back? How could she possibly control it? And what guarantee did her mother have that it wouldn’t hurt her again? She wasn’t a werewolf, she was a hybrid. Maybe it worked differently.
But alas, she decided to take the plunge one day after school. She asked her mother one Saturday night if she could teach her some things about being a wolf. Allanna was happy to oblige.
“Transforming is simple,” Allanna explained as they stood in the secluded woods. “All you have to do is picture yourself changing, and it’ll happen. The same goes for turning back into a human. Your father and I looked up a lot of information on hybrids. We wouldn’t let you do this if we weren’t sure you were safe. Just remember, take your clothes off first or you’ll ruin them.”
“Can you turn around?”
“Of course, honey. Just tell me when you’re ready.”
Linley peeled off her clothes, wondering why the heck she didn’t just wear old ones that she didn’t mind shredding, and then announced that she was ready to begin.
“All right,” Allanna said as she remained facing the opposite direction, “just remember what I said. Focus on what you want. Concentrate on turning into a wolf, and just let it happen.”
Linley cautiously lowered herself to the ground and closed her eyes. She thought of growing fur, paws, and claws, and of running through the forest freely under the moon. She suddenly felt her body begin to shift, but not in a painful manner. In fact, it felt like second nature. Before she knew it, she was the very creature she’d envisioned becoming.
“I did it!” she said in her mind. Allanna turned around and praised her. “Good job! I knew you could do it. Now, how would you like to go hunting? We’ll get some sort of pesky critter instead of a cute one. Let’s get something no one will miss.”
“What about a rat?”
“We’ll see what we can find.”
“Are you hunting too?”
“Yep, you know me. I prefer animal blood to human blood.”
“Why doesn’t Dad hunt animals instead?”
“Well, he grew up living like an actual vampire, but I grew up as a werewolf. He’d like to, but he’s scared that it would be too much like him drinking our blood since we’re both werewolves. Well, you’re part werewolf, and I used to be.”
“Oh. I feel bad for him.”
“I do too. But that’s why we have blood banks. He doesn’t hurt people, and that’s the important thing.”
Finally, Allanna began explaining the concepts of hunting. She couldn’t demonstrate exactly how it was done due to her not being able to transform into a wolf anymore, but Linley got the gist of it. In fact, she was able to catch a raccoon with hardly any hassles. And her mother promised that she’d get even better with practice.
When the hunt was over, they returned home.
“How did it go?” Xavier inquired as they entered the kitchen where he was cleaning up the dinner dishes.
“Great,” Allanna replied as she gave her husband a kiss, much to Linley’s chagrin. Who wants to see their parents kissing, anyway?
“Did you catch anything good?” Xavier asked as he and Allanna pulled apart.
“I got a raccoon,” Linley announced proudly.
“Great! I think those varmints are attacking our garbage cans in the middle of the night anyway. One less raccoon in the world is a good thing.”
“How do you like being a wolf now?” Allanna wanted to know.
“I like it more than I thought I would,” Linley admitted. “I want to be a wolf some more.”
“Okay, but remember, only at night, and you can’t do it without one of us with you.”
“I know, Mom.”
“Good. But it’s time for bed now. Go take a bath and get cleaned up after that run, and then go to sleep.”
“But I don’t want to go to sleep yet.”
“You need your rest after that run,” her father insisted. “Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time for you to play tomorrow.”
Linley pouted but obeyed. She hiked up the stairs and filled the bathtub with warm water and bubbles. She grabbed a rubber ducky and played with it for a little bit before actually bathing.
As she played, she thought about what had happened tonight. She’d been so afraid of turning into a wolf and not being able to phase back, but like her mother had promised her, it was incredibly simple. What made it even better was that she could completely control her transformations. If there was a full moon, she wouldn’t have to turn into a wolf unless she willed it herself. She was beginning to see how fortunate she was that she was a hybrid. She had the powers of both species, and she didn’t have any of their weaknesses apart from the blood cravings. She had no ultimatum to worry about and she could live her life the way she wanted to. In the long run, she had it made.
Five years later…
Linley continued living her life the way she wanted and as normally as possible. She now had an even better grasp on her transformations and had even managed to somewhat quell her blood cravings. She even had the simple but taken for granted advantage of her long hair not affecting her wolf fur length. Her mother was particularly envious of this, for Linley could grow her hair as long as she wanted and it didn’t affect her fur. How fortuitous for her.
Still, she liked it manageable, and cut it to a shorter length so that it wasn’t all shaggy after her nightly wolf runs, which she did to stay in shape in lieu of going to the gym or joining organized sports (though she did occasionally engage in cardio workouts shown on TV).
Linley was now twelve years old and in seventh grade. Middle school was vastly different from elementary school, as she found out last year in sixth grade. The concept of having different teachers for each subject wasn’t that intriguing to her at first, but now she fancied the idea of each teacher knowing their own subject rather than one teacher trying to know all subjects.
Her friendships with Chelcie and Skyler were still strong as ever, and Braden and Jaden were now seven years old and in second grade. After Linley had gone to school voluntarily and had no issues, Xavier and Allanna had decided that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea if they went as well. They used the same method regarding blood that they had for Linley involving the plastic cup with a matching straw, but they weren’t as eager to attend school as their older sister had been.
Aging wasn’t an issue for the boys, since children who were born vampires rather than turned into them aged at a normal pace until they turned 18. Then, the slower aging process would begin. Linley, being a hybrid, would age like a human or a werewolf. Sometimes she envied her younger brothers, since they’d have many more years than she would to experience the world, pursue their dreams, or do whatever they wanted. That was yet another side effect of being a hybrid.
Now that Linley was a teenager (her thirteenth birthday was two weeks away), she was learning a lot of new things about life and her body, not all of them particularly pleasant. One would think that a creature who could transform into a wolf wouldn't need a certain monthly visitor, but that wasn't the case.
“This is so awkward,” Chelcie whispered in Linley’s ear during their mandatory health class. “My mom already told me all this crap, why do I have to learn it here in school? Doesn’t it suck enough?”
Linley shrugged indifferently. There were several other places that she’d rather be besides listening to their teacher (who was unfortunately male, making the lesson even more uncomfortable) going on about STDs.
The bell didn’t seem to ring fast enough. When it did at last, the girls got the hell out of there as fast as they could. One of the perks about middle school was having lockers, and Linley, Chelcie, and Skyler got to choose their own. So of course they chose lockers right next to each other.
Today, however, there was someone new bending down in front of one of them.
“Who’s that?” Linley asked Chelcie.
“I have no idea, but his butt looks fine from back here.”
Linley rolled her eyes. Since she and Chelcie had gotten “the talk”, Chelcie was very observant about members of the opposite sex. She could spot hot ones from a mile away. She’d also become very obsessed with her outward appearance, so she went crazy with makeup and any attempt she could to make herself appealing to guys.
Linley, on the other hand, only put a small amount of makeup on her face, not wanting to waste time with the ridiculously high-priced beauty products that, in her opinion, masked who someone really was. She wore a little just to make her natural beauty stand out, but that was it. Plus, if she transformed into a wolf, it would look ridiculous if she was running around with lip gloss and eye shadow on her fur.
Chelcie took it upon herself to approach the stranger who was kneeling in front of the previously empty locker adjacent to Skyler’s.
“Hi!” she said cheerfully. “You’re new, right?”
The boy stood up and Linley saw that he was just as good looking in the front as he was in the back. Her heart skipped a beat and she forgot all about getting to her next class the moment she saw him.
“Yeah,” he replied in a pretty deep voice for being only twelve years old. “This is my first day. I just transferred here from Appaloosa Plains.”
“You’ll like Morningside,” Chelcie declared. “I’m Chelcie, by the way. And this is Linley.”
Linley stepped forward and held her hand out to the stranger. “Nice to meet you,” she said.
“Nice to meet you, too. I’m Craig.”
Just then, Skyler sauntered up to the trio and more introductions ensued in the vicinity of the lockers (as well as a little teasing at Skyler’s new Justin Beiber-do). Then, the bell rang, and the friends scattered off to class.
Craig, however, was looking down at his class schedule in bewilderment.
“Hey,” he said as he stopped Linley before she could head downstairs toward her next classroom. “Do you know where seventh grade science is?”
“Yeah,” Linley replied with a nod, “that’s my next class. Come with me, I’ll show you.”
Linley led the way downstairs, then down a hall and turned into the third door on the left. Craig followed close behind, and Linley could smell his sweet boyish scent. It was a mixture of a small amount of Axe body spray mixed in with testosterone. Yum.
“This is it,” Linley declared as they stepped through the door.
“Thanks a lot,” Craig said earnestly. Linley nodded and found herself feeling shy all of a sudden.
Craig took a seat in the back while Linley took hers at the front. She was still somewhat considered a “teacher’s pet”, but she saw no harm in being serious about her grades. In fact, some teachers had suggested that she skip a grade due to her high GPA, but she always refused, not wanting to leave her friends behind. She was content with where she was now, and to her, that was the most important aspect.
Still, Linley found her gaze shifting behind her throughout the science lesson, trying to nonchalantly peek at Craig. His hair was a mix between brown and blonde, and his azure colored eyes were intoxicating. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen anyone that looked so cute.
This was just further proof that she was getting older – she officially had her first crush. Too bad Chelcie had her eyes on him first. Still, she didn’t have any claims to him. Part of the fun of being a hybrid was the thrill of the chase. And Linley now had new prey to pursue.