I half expected Kimberly to be standing right behind the door, where she could hear our conversation, but instead I found her sitting cross-legged on the bed, clutching one of the pillows like a teddy bear.
“Hey," I said gently, closing the door behind me. “How are you feeling?"
“I could hear everything you said," she told me, eyes wide with fear. “You were all the way out there, but I could hear you."
I paused, halfway to the bed, and then sighed. Of course she could hear me and Dex outside. She probably could have heard if Dex dropped a pin in the elevator.
“What did you hear?" I asked, coming to join her. I sat on the foot of the bed, as far away as I could get from her so she wouldn't feel threatened. I had no idea how I should have broken the news to her, but I did know that it needed to come from my own mouth. Hearing two people talk about her like she wasn't there would be the worst possible way to find out.
“He said you were a werewolf," she answered, “and you didn't say no."
I nodded. “Anything else?"
She shook her head. That was a small relief. She had only thought she'd heard everything. I remembered what it was like discovering I had superhuman hearing. I could hear people talking through a concrete wall like they were yelling in my ear, but that didn't mean that was all I could hear. Everything else was amplified too, and more often than not it would distract me from what I was actually trying to listen to. After a while, I learned to tune things out that I didn't want to hear, but Kimberly had been changed less than a week ago. What was being said in the hallway could very well have been drowned out by the sound of her own breathing.
“Well," I said, “do you think I'm a werewolf?"
She scooted further away from me, so that her back was pressed against the headboard, never letting go of the pillow. The look on her face, like she was just waiting for me to pounce on her and eat her, told me everything I needed to know.
“I saw you turn into a monster," she said in a frightened whisper.
A monster. I shivered when I heard the word, but I didn't deny it. I couldn't deny it.
“You're right," I said, my voice hoarse with shame. “I turned into a monster last night. I'm a werewolf."
To my surprise, Kimberly didn't seem any more frightened by this revelation than she had already been- probably because she was already as scared as she could possibly be.
“And there's something else I need to tell you," I went on, but then stopped. How could I explain this to her? It would have been hard enough telling an adult, but to a little kid… Somehow, I didn't think “I'm very sorry, but I accidentally turned you into a monster," would cut it. “Kimberly, you're…"
“I know," she interrupted me. “I'm sick."
I shook my head. “No, you're not." She started to object, but I spoke over her. “I know I said you were, but that wasn't really the truth."
“What do you mean?" she asked, hugging the pillow even tighter.
“There's something wrong with you," I clarified, and then cringed. That must have sounded great. “But you're not sick."
“I'm not really sick?" she echoed, and for the first time I saw her eyes light up with hope. “Can I go home?"
I shook my head again. “No, sweetie, you still can't go home."
And just like that, the hope was gone- crushed by my heartless realism. I had to look away from her for a few seconds to keep from bursting into tears myself. She needed me to be the strong one. Seeing me cry would only make her feel even more helpless. I gripped the bed sheets in my fists hard enough for my fingernails to puncture the fabric, and bit my lip. Controlling my emotions was proving to be harder than I thought…
“What's wrong with me?" I heard her whisper to me, bringing my mind back to the present again.
“You're…" I began, but then stopped and forced myself to look at her. If I were going to shatter her whole perception of reality, then she deserved to be looked in the face when I when did it. “You're like me now, Kimberly. You're a werewolf."
For a minute, I thought the revelation had killed her. She didn't move, she didn't blink, she didn't even breathe. Her skin turned as white as it had been the night before when I found her in the funeral home. The only thing I had to reassure myself that I hadn't just stopped her heart was the fact that I could still hear it pounding in her little chest.
“I'm a werewolf?" she asked at last, her voice a stunned monotone.
I nodded. “I'm sorry. If there was anything I could to do help, I…"
“I'm going to turn into a monster?" she asked, like she hadn't heard me at all.
“Not until the full moon," I answered, my mind already filled with horrifying images of her cute little face stretching into a snarling wolf snout. “And I'll…"
“No," she said, and then said it again louder. “No! No, you're lying!"
“Kimberly," I said, trying to sound calm, “listen to me."
“No!" she said for the fourth time and stood up on the bed. “You're a liar! Get away from me!"
She threw the pillow she'd been holding at me, and it struck me in the face. It didn't hurt me, but it distracted me long enough for her to jump off the bed and run for the door.
“I want my mommy and daddy!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, and grabbed the doorknob. It had been locked from the outside again, as usual, but that didn't stop her from trying to wrench it free anyway.
“Kimberly, stop it!" I begged her, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her away from the door. “You need to calm down!"
It wasn't that I was worried she would bother anybody- I couldn't have cared less about that. What I was worried about was her temper. If a werewolf gets too scared or angry, their wolf will break free and they will change regardless of whether it's a full moon or not, the way I had the first time I had seen Victor. I didn't know if it was possible before their first full moon, but I didn't want to take the chance. The last thing Kimberly needed was to turn into a wolf before she'd had the chance to accept her new condition, and the last thing I needed was to be stuck in a locked room with another angry wolf.
“Let me go!" she screamed, and started punching me and kicking me as I carried her back to the other side of the room. “I want my mommy!"
There was no calming this girl down. She was in too much of a frenzy. Even if she didn't transform, she might hurt herself trying to break out of the room. She might even manage to hurt me. I desperately racked my brain for a solution. Maybe if I could get to the kitchen, I could make her some food? She probably hadn't had a bite to eat since she'd come here. If she smelled food, the wolf in her might be hungry enough to calm down if I gave it some food.
That option was thrown out the door, though, when she managed to land a solid kick in my stomach. I doubled over in pain, trying to keep my grip on her strong.
“Let me go!" she screamed again, and grabbed my face, digging her nails into the skin. I don't know if they were fingernails or claws at this point, but either way they were sharp enough to make me bleed. I flinched away from her, and that was all she needed to break free of my arms. She landed on the floor and ran for the door again.
“Kimberly!" I shouted, recovering from the momentary pain. I went after, and ended up tackling her to the floor. For a moment I was worried that I had hurt her, but her kicks and squirming told me that I had not.
“Get off me!" she cried, but I refused. I kept her pinned to the floor, and wrapped my arms around her again. She continued to struggle, but my weight and strength together kept her from getting away. Eventually, her screams turned to whimpers, and she began to stop fighting.
“Kimberly, I'm so sorry," I said, tears running down my face. “I am so, so sorry."
Beneath me, Kimberly shook as she cried. The long day had finally taken its toll. She was completely exhausted.
“I hate you," she managed to whisper, before sleep took her, and her head hit the floor.
“I know," I replied with a sad nod. I picked her up as gently as I could, and laid her back down on the bed. I put the pillow under her head, and pulled the blankets up to her chin. “So do I."
NEXT TIME: Victor arrives to take Amber and Kimberly to their new pack: the Swag Pag. Doesn't that name just fill you with confidence and happy feelings? Oh jeez, this can't end well...