Ervin watched Amaya claw her way up to the top of the tree, then leapt down, landing gracefully, perfectly, laughing.
On the other side of the clearing stood her mother, Darsa, her fury just barely contained. Her fists were clenched, and Ervin knew that if she wasn't wearing dark sunglasses her eyes would be sharp amber.
Ervin sighed, dragging a hand down his face. No matter how many times he said it, Darsa refused to accept his apology. He had lost control, broken out of his chains, and yes it had been a while since he bought new ones, but it was a pandemic. A pandemic, he was stressed, he forgot to order the massively expensive and heavy chains.
And he bit Amaya. Ervin's gut clenched with guilt and he looked to Darsa again, but she didn't bother glancing at him, typing something on her phone. Her claws had emerged in anger, and he could hear the annoying taps.
"Ami, Ami, stop." Ervin said and the girl spun around to look at him, her face flushed with excitement.
"Uncle, you will not believe it, look, look!" And she did a backflip, howling with elation. "Isn't that awesome? Like, no teaching, none, and I can just-" She did it again, this time landing a little off and falling into the grass. "This is so awesome!"
Ervin didn't dare to look at Darsa's face, even though he wanted to beg his sister to forgive him, help him deal with this unprepared and half-wild eighteen-year-old child. "Ami, that's amazing, would you please focus?"
Amaya rolled her eyes, which had been a fixed amber for a few days now. Ervin found the change deeply unsettling. He knew it would go away eventually, but it was a constant reminder of what he had done, of how he had created a murderer.
"Ami, the full moon's in a few nights, and you need to pay attention. It's your first moon, so it is going to be really bad." Ervin said, injecting as much urgency and firmness he could into his voice.
"Okay," Amaya plucked a flower, drawing out the word. "Okay, so what's going to happen?" She carefully plucked one tiny petal off at a time, her nose twitching at the smell.
Ervin gritted his teeth. He knew the transition was intoxicating and incredible, the new smells, the new sights, the new abilities, but this was serious. "You're gonna turn, yes, into a wolf. Amaya, please pay attention."
The teen finally folded her hands and looked straight at him, never quite remembering that wolves didn't make direct eye contact. Ervin continued, "It is a dangerous time, so you're gonna have to stay in your basement, chained up-" Ervin felt deep annoyance when Amaya snorted amusedly. "You could kill someone. That's how crazy the full moon gets, can you please be serious?"
"Okay, how come Amma's never chained up?" Amaya asked, watching her mother walk deeper into the forest.
"Firstly, she was a born wolf, she has better control. You were half, you got bitten, you're a wolf, less control. I don't know why-" Ervin cut off oncoming questions as he explained. "All you need to know, is that turning for the first time can be really, really scary, your bones start shifting, there's a lot. So you need to find a way to stay controlled next time, it could be a song, it could be-yes?" Ervin sighed, seeing her raise her hand.
"How come you bit me then? Aren't you also a-"
"I was adopted into the family, we don't know how my blood got triggered," Ervin said quickly, eager to move on. "We'll talk more about that later, anyways, you need to get into yoga and meditation too, all the wolves do it, Ami I'm being serious here."
"Sorry," Amaya blushed, looking away from the squirrels. "It's weird, okay? I feel so wired, and crazy, I don't know."
Ervin scratched his chin, knowing she was right. "Fine, short break, then we finalize plans and take about school."
"What? What do you mean, school?" Amaya sat back down. "You mean university?"
"No, you are taking a gap year-hey, no buts, no nothing! You have to, you are out of control, you think you'll get anything done this year?" Ervin stopped, knowing he should let the argument happen.
Amaya clenched her fists, standing up, and Ervin rolled his eyes. God, young wolves and their drama. "That's crazy! Where am I supposed to go exactly? Everything is still sort of shut down! This is so unfair, all my friends are going! This is your fault!"
He had heard it enough times by now and it didn't really affect him. "Okay, you done? This is what is going to happen: you are going to an academy for young wolves, to get housebroken. You will learn the skills you need to survive, learn pack skills, and learn how we have learned to survive. If you do well enough, I could approve you for high-pressure jobs, like a doctor."
"Why do you get to decide, I don't care what you think." Amaya narrowed her eyes, her fangs sharpening out, and Ervin saw it again. The consequences of what he had done. Amaya's whole personality had done a 180, and while she may seem happier now, she was also going to kill. He knew it, Darsa knew it, Darsa's human mate knew it.
How could a girl who wanted to be a doctor, to save lives, cope with that?
It is all my fault, Ervin stared her back in the eyes. "Because, I bit you, and I am the alpha of my pack, I get to make the decisions."
Amaya scoffed, crossing her arms. "Way to show control, how many others did you bite? Also, how are both mom and you alphas, shouldn't you have killed each other by now? And if you think I'm listening to anything you say, you have another thing coming."
Ervin growled, slamming his fist into a park bench, which crumbled. He reminded himself that this annoying behaviour was common, everyone did it. He had to stay in control.
"Answer me!" Amaya yelled, her voice distorting into a growl, and Ervin roared at her.
Amaya's eyes flashed back to brown for a second and she edged back immediately. "What the hell?" Her fangs and claws retreated.
"I make the decisions, this is not a democracy." Ervin snarled, fighting to keep his voice even. "Your mother and I occupy different territories, but we work together too. And you are listening to everything I say, mostly because you have to, also because someday you might kill someone if you don't!"
Amaya paled but said nothing. Ervin felt more than a little regret over his reaction, but honestly, this girl could not learn pack etiquette soon enough, holy hell. She had been pushing buttons all morning, all week in fact. "And as for the other pack members, some are born wolf children, some are actual wolves, grey wolves mostly, and some are like you, who got bitten, sometimes by me, sometimes not and joined."
Amaya fiddled with a jacket zipper and Ervin dragged a hand down his face, pissed off with himself.
He could never atone for this bullshit. He would always be the one who ruined this girl's future. He was lying to her, there was no chance she could be a doctor.
There would be too much stress, too much blood, too much that triggered her. He had effectively doomed her for a life in the dark, hiding from hunters, her old friends, and wrestling with what she was and what she wanted to be.
"I'm sorry," Ervin said for the first time, his voice finally normal.
Amaya shrugged, crushing a flower under her red converse. "I'm actually really scared," She admitted, not looking at him. "This is cool and everything, but everyone's really starting to scare me." She stared at a tree trunk in the distance. "I don't want to be this anymore."
Ervin inhaled sharply, those words stinging even though he had heard them many times over and over. This was the first time she had admitted that she didn't want this.
There was a moment that felt too cold, where Ervin felt deep sorrow. He knew she would make an excellent werewolf, she was a natural. This girl could even rise to alpha, but that path was the bloodiest, filled with loneliness and abandonment, and she would never, ever be human again.
"You want to see how fast you can run?" Ervin asked, letting her quickly wipe off her eyes.
"Uh, yeah, totally!" Amaya said immediately, stumbling over the words. "I bet I-I can beat you!"
"Oh, you little foolish cub," Ervin smirked, "You think you can beat an experienced werewolf? Come on,"
Amaya laughed at the challenge. "You're on!" And she shot off immediately.
Ervin swore under his breath, yeah, this girl had a long way to go. He sprinted after her, overtaking her within five seconds, and racing faster, letting her struggle.
He needed to help her, to fix the mess he had made. He could never, ever give her back the future or the innocence she would lose, and he didn't know what the full moon would bring.
But he couldn't fail, either.