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They include words such as I, you, he, we, hers, they, it. Prepositions Prepositions come before nouns or pronouns and usually show a connection.
For example: Your pen is on the desk. The children went to the park. We rested under the tree. Jim hid behind the door. Conjunctions Conjunctions link words, sentences or parts of a sentence together. The rug is blue and cream. The road was busy. And it was loud. I closed the door but I didn't lock it because I thought she was still inside. Articles There are two kinds of article: definite and indefinite. The definite article is 'the'. It is used to identify a specific thing.
The indefinite article is 'a' and 'an'. It is used to refer to something in general. But now I realized my seclusion was self-inflicted and Olivia was just painfully shy. This year, it felt like the more time we spent together, the harder it was to stay friends. And you look angry. I liked it. You look like a princess and I look like an ogre. She does look insane. Or at least highly caffeinated, as per usual. Really, Rachel looked like a sun, bright and exuding energy, holding us two moons in parallel orbit by the sheer force of her will.
It was my wolf, deep in the woods, halfway hidden behind a tree. In fact, keep the whole stack. We can put the good ones in a book next time. I pointed at the picture. I stared at the photo of him—breathtaking, but flat and inadequate in comparison to the real thing. Something knotted in my chest, bitter and sad. Something had changed—and I thought it was me.
They were impressive: a fall leaf floating on a puddle, students reflected in the windows of a school bus, an artfully smudgy black-and-white self-portrait of Olivia. I oohed and aahed and then slid the photo of my wolf back on top of them to look at it again.
Olivia made a sort of irritated sound in the back of her throat. I hurriedly shuffled back to the one of the leaf floating on the puddle. I frowned at it for a moment, trying to imagine the sort of thing Mom would say about a piece of art. Did she want me to pretend to like the other photos better than the one of my wolf? Anyone home? He grinned at me from the front hall, shutting the door behind him. He was handsome in a very conventional way: tall, dark-haired like his sister, but with a face quick to smile and befriend.
We like doing nothing together. All talk, no action. Are your parents home? I should get a head of household bonus on my taxes. I shut up. You coming, Grace? I shook my head. Rain check? Come on, Olive. Bye, good-looking. Just go. Bye, Grace. Knowing that dinner would be canned beans unless I made it, I rummaged in the fridge and put a pot of leftover soup on the stove to simmer until my parents got home.
It was stupid, the way I needed his phantom at the edge of the yard to feel complete.
Stupid but completely incurable. I went to the back door and opened it, wanting to smell the woods. I padded out onto the deck in my sock feet and leaned against the railing.
But that was impossible. I was just imagining it, remembering it from the cafeteria, where it had always seemed to carry over the others around him as he catcalled girls in the hallway. Still, I followed the sound of the voice, moving impulsively across the yard and through the trees. The ground was damp and prickly through my sock feet; I was clumsier without my shoes.
The crashing of my own steps through fallen leaves and tangled brush drowned out any other sounds. I hesitated, listening. The voice was gone, replaced by just a whimper, distinctly animalsounding, and then by silence. The relative safety of the backyard was far behind me now. I stood for a long moment, listening for any indication of where the first scream had come from.
But there was nothing but silence. And in that silence, the smell of the woods seeped under my skin and reminded me of him. Crushed pine needles and wet earth and wood smoke. I retreated to the house, just long enough to get my shoes, and headed back out into the cool autumn day. There was a bite behind the breeze that promised winter, but the sun shone bright, and under the shelter of the trees, the air was warm with the memory of hot days not so long ago.
All around me, leaves were dying gorgeously in red and orange; crows cawed to each other overhead in a vibrant, ugly soundtrack. I stepped carefully, avoiding the little streams that snaked through the underbrush. This should have been unfamiliar territory, but I felt confident, assured. Silently guided, as though by a weird sixth sense, I followed the same worn paths that the wolves used over and over again.
It was just me, acknowledging that there was more to my senses than I normally let on. I gave in to them and they became efficient, sharpened. As it reached me, the breeze seemed to carry the information of a stack of maps, telling me which animals had traveled where and how long ago. My ears picked up faint sounds that before had gone unnoticed: the rustling of a twig as a bird built a nest overhead, the soft step of a deer dozens of feet away.
I felt like I was home. The woods rang with an unfamiliar cry, out of place in this world. The whimper came again, louder than before. Rounding a pine tree, I came upon the source: three wolves. It was the white wolf and the black pack leader; the sight of the she-wolf made my stomach twist with nerves.
The two of them had pounced on a third wolf, a scraggly young male with an almost-blue tint to his gray coat and an ugly, healing wound on his shoulder. The other two wolves were pinning him to the leafy ground in a show of dominance; they all froze when they saw me. The pinned male twisted his head to stare at me, eyes entreating. My heart thudded in my chest. I knew those eyes. I remembered them from school; I remembered them from the local news.
The pinned wolf whistled pitifully through his nostrils. I just kept staring at those eyes. Did wolves have hazel eyes?
Maybe they did. Why did they look so wrong? As I stared at them, that one word just kept singing through my head: human, human, human. With a snarl in my direction, the she-wolf let him up. She snapped at his side, pushing him away from me. Her eyes were on me the entire time, daring me to stop her, and something in me told me that maybe I should have tried. But by the time my thoughts stopped spinning and I remembered the pocketknife in my jeans, the three wolves were already dark smudges in the distant trees.
I could have been misremembering his eyes. What was I thinking, anyway? I let out a deep breath. Actually, that was what I was thinking. Or his voice. There was a knot in my stomach. That night I lay in bed and stared at the window, my blinds pulled up so I could see the night sky. One thousand brilliant stars punched holes in my consciousness, pricking me with longing. I could stare at the stars for hours, their infinite number and depth pulling me into a part of myself that I ignored during the day.
Outside, deep in the woods, I heard a long, keening wail, and then another, as the wolves began to howl.
More voices pitched in, some low and mournful, others high and short, an eerie and beautiful chorus. My heart ached inside me, torn between wanting them to stop and wishing they would go on forever. I imagined myself there among them in the golden wood, watching them tilt their heads back and howl underneath a sky of endless stars.
Or can I leave it here? She was wearing reading glasses, complete with a chain on the ear pieces so that she could hang them around her neck. On Olivia, the look kind of worked, in a sort of charming librarian way. Behind us, the hall hummed with noise as students packed up and headed home. And now the day was over.
I took a deep breath. Even inside my head, the words sounded crazy. But since the evening before, the secret had surrounded me, tight around my chest and throat. I let the words spill out, my voice low. The new wolf—I think something happened when the wolves attacked Jack. Her knotted eyebrows were making me regret starting the conversation.
I sighed. It was his voice. Wait—what do you mean? About me wanting to believe it? The whole pack? It was impossible. That those long absences were because my wolf vanished into human form?
The idea was immediately unbearable, only because I wanted it to be true so badly that it hurt. What in the world would we call something like that? Oh, yeah!
An obsession! Just not like all-consuming, involving, whatever, interested. I wanted to walk away and leave her standing there in the hallway. Instead, I kept my voice super flat and even. Thanks for the help. Instead of heading home, I trailed back into my empty homeroom, flopped into a chair, and put my head in my hands. She owed it to me to at least hear me out. My thoughts were cut short by the sound of cork heels squelching into the room. The scent of expensive perfume hit me a second before I lifted my eyes to Isabel Culpeper standing over my desk.
The sympathy conjured up by her presence vanished at her words. You must not have heard the newsflash: Those animals killed my brother. If Olivia thought I was crazy for believing in werewolves, Isabel would probably be on the phone to the local mental institution before I could even finish a sentence.
Well, obviously they are. I imagined my wolf, stuffed and glassy-eyed. I knew the wolves had done it. She just looked at me for a long moment. Long enough for me to wonder what it was she was thinking. They killed him. But you know what? For a single moment, I sat at the desk, my cheeks burning, pulling her words apart and putting them back together again.
And then I jumped from my chair, my notes fluttering to the floor like listless birds. I left them where they fell and ran for my car. I shoved my key in the ignition, feeling the car rattle reluctantly to life as I did. My eyes were on the yellow line of school buses waiting at the curb and the knots of loud students still milling on the sidewalk, but my brain was picturing the chalkwhite lines of the birches behind my house. Was a hunting party going after the wolves?
Hunting them now? I had to get home. My car stalled, my foot uncertain on the dodgy clutch. I bit my lip, pulled myself together, and managed to restart.
There were two ways to get home from the school. One was shorter but involved stoplights and stop signs—impossible today, when I was too distracted to baby my car. The other route was slightly longer, but with only two stop signs. Plus, it ran along the edge of Boundary Wood, where the wolves lived. As I drove, pushing my car as hard as I dared, my stomach twisted, sick with nerves. The engine gave an unhealthy shudder. I checked the dials; the engine was starting to overheat.
Stupid car. If only my father had taken me to the dealership like he kept promising he would.
As the sky began to burn brilliantly red on the horizon, turning the thin clouds to streaks of blood above the trees, my heart thumped in my ears, and my skin felt tingly, electric.
Everything inside me screamed that something was wrong. Up ahead, I spotted a line of pickup trucks parked by the side of the road. Their four-ways blinked in the failing light, sporadically illuminating the woods next to the road. My stomach turned over again, and as I eased off the gas, my car gasped and stalled, leaving me coasting in an eerie quiet.
I turned the key, but between my jittery hands and the redlining heat sensor, the engine just shuddered under the hood without turning over. Growling under my breath, I braked and let the car drift to a stop behind the pickup trucks. What I was worried about was those trucks. Because they meant that Isabel had been telling the truth.
As I climbed out onto the shoulder of the road, I recognized the guy standing next to the pickup ahead. It was Officer Koenig, out of uniform, drumming his fingers on the hood. When I got closer, my stomach still churning, he looked up and his fingers stilled.
He was wearing a bright orange cap and held a shotgun in the crook of his arm. I turned abruptly at the sound of a car door slamming behind me. Another truck had pulled up, and two orangecapped hunters were making their way down the side of the road. I looked past them, to where they were heading, and my breath caught in my throat.
Dozens of hunters were knotted on the shoulder, all carrying rifles, visibly restless, voices muffled. Squinting into the dim trees beyond a shallow ditch, I could see more orange caps dotting the woods, infesting them. The hunt had already begun. I turned back to Koenig and pointed at the gun he held. Cheers rose from the group down the road.
But I knew what it was. It was a gunshot. In Boundary Wood. My voice was steady, which surprised me. The wolves. My wolf. In my head, I saw a perfect image of a wolf rolling, rolling, a gaping hole in its side, eyes dead. The words just came out. You have to call them and tell them to stop. I have a friend in there! She was going to take photos this afternoon.
In the woods. Please, you have to call them! Are you sure? Call them! Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, he punched a quick number and held the phone to his ear. His eyebrows made a straight, hard line, and after a second, he pulled the phone away and stared at the screen.
I stood by the pickup truck, my arms crossed over my chest as cold seeped into me, watching the gray dusk take over the road as the sun disappeared behind the trees. Surely they had to stop when it got dark. Staring at his phone again, Koenig shook his head.
Hold on. Let me lock my gun up. It will only take a second. I jumped the ditch and scrambled up into the trees, leaving Koenig behind.
I heard him calling after me, but I was already well into the woods. I had to stop them—warn my wolf—do something. We were silent, dark drops of water, rushing over brambles and around the trees as the men drove us before them. The woods I knew, the woods that protected me, were punched through by their sharp odors and their shouts. I scrambled here and there amongst the other wolves, guiding and following, keeping us together. The fallen trees and underbrush felt unfamiliar beneath my feet; I kept from stumbling by flying—long, endless leaps, barely touching the ground.
It was terrifying to not know where I was. We traded simple images amongst ourselves in our wordless, futile language: dark figures behind us, figures topped with bright warnings; motionless, cold wolves; the smell of death in our nostrils.
A crack deafened me, shook me out of balance. Beside me, I heard a whimper. I knew which wolf it was without turning my head. There was no time to stop; nothing to do even if I had. A new smell hit my nostrils: earthy rot and stagnant water. The lake. They were driving us to the lake. I formed a clear image in my head at the same time that Paul, the pack leader, did.
The slow, rippling edge of the water, thin pines growing sparsely in the poor soil, the lake stretching forever in both directions. A pack of wolves, huddled on the shore. No escape. We were the hunted. We slid before them, ghosts in the woods, and we fell, whether or not we fought.
The others kept running, toward the lake. But I stopped. These were close woods made of a thousand dark tree trunks turned black by dusk. I was completely disoriented; I had to keep stopping to listen for shouts and faraway footsteps through the dry leaves. My breath was burning my throat by the time I saw the first orange cap, glowing distantly out of the twilight.
And then I saw the others—orange dots scattered through the woods, all moving slowly, relentlessly, in the same direction. Making a lot of noise. Driving the wolves ahead of them. I was close enough to see the outline of the nearest hunter, shotgun in his hands. I closed the distance between us, my legs protesting, stumbling a little because I was tired. He stopped walking and turned, surprised, waiting until I approached.
I had to get very close to see his face; it was so close to night in these trees. Seconds ticked by as I struggled to find my voice. I have a friend in the woods here. She was going to take photographs. I saw a black box at his waist—a walkie-talkie. How would they see her? He reached for his walkie-talkie and unstrapped it and lifted it up and brought it toward his mouth. It felt like he was doing everything in slow motion. The hunter clicked the button down on the walkie-talkie to speak.
And suddenly a volley of shots snapped and snarled, not far away. Not little pops, like they were from the roadside, but crackling fireworks, unmistakably gunshots. My ears rang. In a weird way, I felt totally objective, like I was standing outside my own body. So I could feel that my knees were weak and trembling without knowing why, and I heard my heartbeat racing inside me, and I saw red trickling down behind my eyes, like a dream of crimson. Like a viciously clear nightmare of death.
There was such a convincing metallic taste in my mouth that I touched my lips, expecting blood. But there was nothing.
No pain. Just the absence of feeling. There are people with guns here. On the edge of the woods. The house was invisible behind a black tangle of trees. Koenig seized upon this bit of information. Ralph, use that thing to tell them to stop shooting things.
The cold air was beginning to bite and prickle on my cheeks, the evening getting cold quickly as the sun disappeared. I felt as frozen on the inside as I was on the outside. I could still see the curtain of red falling over my eyes and hear the crackling gunfire. I was so sure that my wolf had been there. At the edge of the woods, I stopped, looking at the dark glass of the back door on the deck.
For a long moment, I stood in the silent twilight, listening to the faraway voices in the woods and the wind rattling the dry leaves in the trees above me. The rustling of animals in the woods, turning over crisp leaves with their paws. The distant roar of trucks on the highway. The sound of fast, ragged breathing.
I froze. I held my breath. I followed the sound, climbing cautiously onto the deck, painfully aware of the sound of each stair sighing beneath my weight. I smelled him before I saw him, my heart instantly revving up into high gear. Then the motion detector light above the back door clicked on and flooded the porch with yellow light.
And there he was, half sitting, half lying against the glass back door. My breath caught painfully in my throat as I moved still closer, hesitant. His beautiful ruff was gone and he was naked, but I knew it was my wolf even before he opened his eyes. Red was smeared from his ear to his desperately human shoulders—deadly war paint.
Not like this. The breeze carried the smell to my nostrils again, grounding me. I was wasting time. I pulled out my keys and reached over the top of him to open the back door. Too late, I saw one of his hands reach out, snatching air, and he crashed inside the open door, leaving a smear of red on the glass.
Stepping over him, I hurried into the kitchen, hitting light switches as I did. I ran back to the door. He lay half in and half out, shaking violently. Without thinking, I grabbed him under his armpits and dragged him far enough inside that I could shut the door. In the light of the breakfast area, blood smearing a path across the floor, he seemed tremendously real. I crouched swiftly. My voice was barely a whisper. His knuckles were white where his hand was pressed against his neck, brilliant red leaking around his fingers.
It was him. Human words, not a howl, but the timbre was the same. There was too much blood to see the wound, so I just pressed one of the dishcloths over the mess of red that stretched from his chin to his collarbone. It was well beyond my first-aid abilities. The wildness was tempered with a comprehension that had been absent before.
My words were gentle, as though he might still leap up and run. It was already soaked through with his blood, and a thin red trail ran along his jaw and dripped to the floor. Lowering himself slowly to the floor, he laid his cheek against the wood, his breath clouding the shiny finish.
I have to take you to the hospital. I had to lean very close to hear his voice. I was a leaking womb bulging with the promise of conscious thoughts: the frozen woods far behind me, the girl on the tire swing, the sound of fingers on metal strings. The future and the past, both the same, snow and then summer and then snow again.
I wanted to answer, but I was broken. He had that sort of moptop black hair and interestingly shaped nose that a girl could never get away with. He looked nothing like a wolf, but everything like my wolf. Sunny smiled pityingly at me. I kept waiting to feel sleepy, but I was wired.
Every time I saw him it was like another jolt. Midnight was early for them. For the bullet to just graze him? Why he was in the woods? He was. A hunter accidentally shot him. I was pretty confident it was no accident. Sunny clucked. Grace, are you his girlfriend? Sunny took it as a yes. I almost laughed. I stared at them, but they were like words in a foreign language.
They meant nothing to me. I shrugged. It was some insane hunter. Let me know if you need anything. Face flushed, I shook my head and stared at my white-knuckled grip on the bed. Of all my pet peeves, condescending adults were probably at the top of the list.
It took a long moment of staring at him for my pulse to return to normal. Logic told me to read his eyes as hazel, but really, they were still yellow, and they were definitely fixed on me. My voice came out a lot quieter than I meant it to. He narrowed his eyes. Sam reached his hand toward mine, and I automatically put my fingers in his. With a guilty little smile, he pulled my hand toward his nose and took a sniff, and then another one.
His smile widened, though it was still shy. It was absolutely adorable, and my breath got caught somewhere in my throat. I feel stupid for not remembering. It takes a couple hours for me—for my brain—to come back. He wanted me to say it. He blinked. Warm makes me me. Makes me Sam. When I opened my eyes and spoke, I said the most mundane thing possible.
I opened my eyes. He was still there. I tried again, closing and then opening them once more. But he was still there. He laughed. Maybe you should be in this bed. I spared him from his mortification by answering his question. He peeled away the gauze to reveal four new stitches dotting a short line through old scar tissue.
There was no fresh wound still oozing blood, no evidence of the gunshot except for the pink, shiny scar.