Ugh... was all I could think of as I stared out from the rain covered window of the car. My dad had turned on the radio to some rock station to ease the tension, but it really didn't make a difference.
"Come on Alex," he pleaded, after the endless silence clawed at him. "It's not going to be that bad moving out of California." I ignored him as I watched the landscape slowly melt away into the sand blasted golden brown horizon. He sighed but ended the conversation. It was not long until I took a deep breath and thought my words out carefully.
"It's not that I mind moving Dad. It's just that I had to leave my whole life behind in California." I never once looked away from the window as I spoke to him, afraid to let the tears show.
"I know Allie, but you can make new friends and start your senior year new..." he said, hoping it would make me feel slightly better. He waited a few minutes to see if it had any effect and then continued when I nodded. "I know you didn't want to move but because of your mother's de--" his words were cut abruptly and the car was filled with silence once more. We just couldn't afford the house anymore.
I felt the anger boil through my blood at once when the words left his mouth. I bit my bottom lip to keep myself from screaming at him while lightly tapping my fingers on the plastic door panel. After a few minutes of taking quiet deep breaths, I calmed down and stopped the tapping. "I'm going to sleep....wake me up when we get there." I rested my head against the cool glass and closed my eyes. The soft pattering of the rain eased my mind and within a few minutes I was asleep.
I was surprised when I woke silently. Dad was still driving when I looked out the window. When was the last time he got any sleep? "Where are we?" I asked, still half asleep, staring at the small houses passing by.
"We're almost there..." he grinned as he turned off a street and onto a dirt road. Roughly, ten minutes had passed when we finally turned into a small dirt driveway in front of a cabin. Outside, a vast forest surrounded the perimeter with bright green fir and hemlock. He shut the car off and turned to smile at me. I couldn't help but smile back. "I promise you'll like it here Allie Bear." The grin on his face grew wider. He got out of the car and walked to the passenger side to open the door for me. Painfully, I stepped out and stretched out the stiffness in my arms and legs. As I inhaled, the strong smell of the forest filled my lungs. It was a nice scent that instantly relaxed and calmed me. In the distance, I could hear little birds chirping out their songs to each other.
"Well dad, I guess you were right. It's not so bad after all." I made a full circle, looking at every inch of the place. I began to notice that it was strange because there were no other houses. "Um...dad? Do we have any neighbors?"
"Well...yes and no. We have neighbors, but, they're about a half a mile out." He gave me an apologetic smile and then put his arm around my shoulder. I sighed and shrugged away from him, heading towards the forest. "Be careful Alex, there are wild animals out there."
"Right, Animals...danger....got it." I muttered as I began to follow the small foot trail into the deep lush green. I walked slowly, taking in all of my surroundings. The smell of the earlier rain still stuck to the bark and moss and chattering little squirrels scuttled up the tree to their burrows. As I walked, a light wall of rain drizzled down on the tree tops above me. After walking for awhile, lost in my thoughts, I stumbled across a clearing no bigger than a sandbox. It was filled with wild flowers and soft, feathery grass. I sat down, ignoring the wet blades and splayed my hands out in the grass. It was soft, unlike most of the grass I had felt, and it made me smile a bit. Underneath the grass, the dirt was moist so I buried my fingers in it. Joy rose up in me unexpectedly. I let out a laugh and stopped abruptly when I heard a soft rustling noise in a nearby bush. I froze as I looked around. "H-hello?" I called out, my eyes nervously shifting around the clearing. My breath caught in my throat when I saw something move. I should have listened to dad. I sucked in a deep breath, prepared to scream, when a rabbit leapt out from behind the bush. I laughed and let out a sigh. "Great...now I'm scared of rabbits?" With disbelief at myself, I shook my head and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, a large wolf stood in front of me, staring quietly. 'How long has he been there?' I thought as I stared at the white wolf. It slowly moved towards me, deliberately trying not to scare me. Me? Shouldn't it be scared? When it was close enough, he bent his head so that we were eye level.
Something about the way it looked at me made me think it was...human? Slowly, he began to wag his tail. "This," I hesitated for a moment, "this is definitely not normal" I muttered to myself, hoping that I was still asleep in the car, dreaming. I automatically assumed the animal didn't understand but I was entirely wrong. He whimpered and, what seemed like to me, pouted. My eyes grew in size as I watched the animal in awe. "Can you understand me?" I asked without thinking, knowing that I should feel stupid, but I was oddly fascinated. He dipped his head as if to nod. "No way!" I mouthed, trying to comprehend the situation at hand. I tried to think of something logical to say but nothing came up. The wolf pressed its nose against my hand and whined softly, begging to be pet. I Reached up and placed my hand on his fur. It was softer than the grass which surprised me. I ran my hand through it a few times, amazed by the texture and feel of it. I smiled again, loving the warmth of it. He coughed a few choppy barks as if he was laughing. I glared, feeling embarrassed because he was laughing at me. "What?! I like soft things okay?"
He barked again, only this time, more apologetically. I sighed and continued to pet him, without much thought. He laid next to me and rested his head on my thigh with a heavy sigh. "I take it that you like me, huh?" I muttered unconsciously. He gave a quick look of 'who wouldn't?' I half-heartedly smiled. "Thanks, that means a lot to me. If only you were human, it would make things a lot better, but for some reason I don't get along with the human race..." I didn't realize I was rambling until I ran out of air. He wagged his tail when I started breathing again. I petted softly behind his ears when a sudden idea popped into my head. "I should give you a nick name," I thought aloud and then looked down at him. "Would you like a nick name?" I asked him, I was certain the wolf was male now. His tail wagged again, only more eagerly. He liked the idea. I laughed to myself as I thought of cute little nick names in my head. The name just flew out of my mouth. "Bear, like a teddy bear. That's what your nick name will be." He tilted his head in thought for a minute and then his tail wagged. He liked it? Again, strange. "Ok, Bear it is."
About an hour passed before I heard my dad's distant calls. I didn't realize how late it had gotten while I was just jabbering away to my new friend, well more like a pet. He looked up at me, a bit sad for me to leave. "Yeah, I know buddy. I don't want to leave either." He whined softly and then rubbed his head against my cheek. "I'll be back here again sometime tomorrow, okay?" He stretched and stood before he nodded and then bared his teeth as if he was grinning. I laughed and then stood up, wrapping my arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. He licked my face once and then nudged me towards my house. I turned and waved before heading back to my house.
When I reached the cabin, dad was on the porch, as cheerful as he was this morning. "Well, I got your room all set up. Would you like to see it?" His smile never faltered and I found myself smiling with him.
"Sure dad, I would love to."
"Great! C' mon!" He led me by my hand into our new house, which made me feel like I was six years old again. The entire interior of the house was made from the same trees in the forest, which also brought the scent with it. The walls were still a bit bare but the couch and television were set up. "I know it looks empty right now but I'll get it looking like home in no time!" I nodded, not really listening to him anymore. I ventured around the house, running my fingers along the smooth walls. Strangely but oddly comfortable, the house reminded me of Bear. I sighed when I reached the brass doorknob of my new room and opened it. Everything had been neatly set up and the boxes were stacked in the corner, neatly as well. "So, how does it look?" he asked, startling me slightly.
"It ...looks great dad." I couldn't tell if I meant the words or if my depression was creeping up on me again. It must have sounded like I meant it because dad smiled.
"Well I'll leave you so you can start unpacking your things."
"Thanks dad," I smiled. He left, humming to himself. It was sort of nice to hear dad hum like that. I looked at the boxes and began unpacking the biggest ones first. Most of the smaller boxes were my clothes so I left those for last. When all of the other boxes were out of the way, I started on my clothes and laid out a long sleeved black shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans. At the bottom of the box rested my mom's picture.
When I had finished unpacking my room and had everything set up, I grabbed a towel and headed towards the bathroom. I locked the door after I shut it behind me and stripped down. I turned the water on as hot as I could take it and stepped in. It took both the stress and chill away from my body as I stood under the running water.
When I was finished, I quietly stepped out and rushed to my room. After I was decent, I walked out into the living room and sat next to dad. He was watching one of his old western movies so I didn't really pay attention to it. "So dad," I spoke up after a few minutes of gun shooting, "I made a new friend."
"What's his name?" he asked, not in the least interested in who he was.
"Bear" I mumbled, a little miffed that he wasn't listening.
"That's nice honey. I made dinner, so if you're hungry, it's ready to eat."
Anger seemed to flow into me as I got up and stomped towards the kitchen. "Stupid jerk, doesn't even care!" I hissed to myself as I threw open cupboards and then slammed them shut while looking for a plate or something to eat. Finally I gave up and made myself a cold cut sandwich and went to my room. I shut the door and locked it before sitting on my bed. I took a few small bites and slowly chewed the food, contemplating on what I should do for the evening. I stopped mid bite when the thought popped into my head. I was going to sneak out. I had never really snuck out of the house before, but really, I was almost 18 and I followed all the rules. I turned on my radio before I flicked off the light. I went over to the window and lifted. It silently opened, which surprised me, and I made a clean get away. Outside, the air had dropped another 30 degrees and now little snow flakes floated to the ground. Snow, great. I was glad I had put on my heavy jacket. Slowly, I made my way to the forest.
Snow had made a thin layer of white on the clearing floor when I reached it. But to my astonishment, someone had been sitting in the middle of the clearing, seemingly oblivious to the snow. It seemed to melt when it touched him and yet he didn't shiver. I slowly advanced towards him, being quiet as possible until I snapped a twig beneath my foot. It wasn't loud, not even audible enough to hear but the boy turned, snarling like a wild beast. I made a small cry of fear and surprise as he realized I was not going to hurt him. He gave me a sheepish grin and then looked down, quite embarassed with himself. "Sorry," he murmured softly, barely audible for me to hear. I stepped closer, compulsion making my every move. He gazed, a bit confused at my movement. "If I would have known that I would draw you in this much, I would have stayed human."
I stared at him, dumbstruck by the comment. "Human?" I echoed, still confused. He grinned widely and laughed. It was a deep laugh, almost like a growl. The laugh sent off a light bulb in my brain and my jaw dropped. "Bear?!"
"Bingo!" He roared with laughter and covered his mouth. When he was calm, he cleared his throat and smiled. "Sorry about all that. I know it was rude but it was so cute I couldn't help myself." His smile seemed to grow wider as he looked at me. I felt a little embarrassed so I dropped my eyes and bit my bottom lip. He noticed and then his smile turned apologetic. "Sorry, um, I'm guessing you want an explanation, right?" I nodded meekly. "Ok, first off, my name is Jean. Second, I'm a shape shifter." His smile never faltered a bit as he casually explained it to me. I knew something was wrong with that wolf.
"Ok, well my name is Alex, and well....I'm human." That was all I could think of at the time. I felt a little dumb but that's all there was. He laughed a soft laugh. I seemed to have forgotten what I was doing but the next thing I remember I was inches from his face. His eyes sparkled with excitement as he looked upon me. I felt my face grow hot and I suddenly backed away. I cleared my throat and sat down in front of him, a bit nervous to say anything. "So, how old are you?" I asked, trying to make light conversation.
"I'm 16," he chuckled with a husky voice and then smiled. "How about you?"
"I'm 18, almost."
"Wow, an old lady!" He laughed and fell backwards, holding his stomach. This time I growled and then got up, wanting to leave. When he heard my silent shift, he was on his feet and in front of me. "I'm sorry. I won't do it again. I promise." His voice was a mixture between a whine and agony. I thought about it for a second and then sighed. Strange how he easily brought me back to his side. He smiled gently and held out his hand. "It's nice to meet you...again." His teeth gleamed like white pearls as his smile grew. I looked down at his hand, afraid that if I touched it, I would never let go. With a deep breath, I rested my hand in his. The heat was unbelievable when he closed it, engulfing my hand almost completely. I gasped as the fire crept through my body. He smiled as he pulled me closer into a hug. "Sorry, but since I've first met you, I have wanted to wrap my arms around you." My cheeks flushed red.
"Jean....can't breathe"; I muttered, slightly struggling to get air. He quickly let go of me and took a step back. I wrapped my arms around myself as I gasped for air.
"I'm so sorry...I didn't...it just....and" was all he could say as he looked at me.
"It's fine, I just didn't think you had so much....power," I finally said after I regained air in my lungs. A slight pain throbbed in my chest and ribs. "See I'm fine," I said as I smiled up at him.
"But I seriously could have hurt you," he pouted as he stared down at me. "I'm not human Alex. If I'm not careful I can break something...or even kill you." I could see the tears forming in his eyes just at the thought.
"Now, now, no one is going to die. Plus, I don't believe you would ever hurt me on purpose. You just got to remember to be easy when you get excited like that." A small smile lit up my face as I reassured him. The thought of him crying made my chest feel like it was being crushed. Crushed....the word echoed around in my mind. This brought back memories of my mom. I gasped and moved away from him. "I...I have to go!" I cried before turning and running.
"Alex!" He cried. I didn't stop or turn to look at him. I kept running until I reached the edge of the forest. I hadn't noticed that the snow began to mix with rain. I was panting heavily and I felt a bit dizzy as I reached the house. I slowly made my way back to my window. I climbed through and I could hear dad snoring in the living room. I didn't realize I was cold until I was fully in the warmth of my room.