“Mom?" I called softly as I stepped out of my room. I was on two feet again, and dressed in my softest, most comforting, set pajamas and fuzzy slippers.
“In here," she called back.
I followed her voice and found her lounging on the living room couch, watching a soap opera. She'd left me alone after I turned back, giving me the time I needed to think about things.
“Hey," I said quietly, having trouble meeting her eyes.
“How are you feeling?" she asked, standing up.
“Pretty hungry," I admitted, and my stomach gave a growl of confirmation.
“We have some turkey in the refrigerator," she said, bustling towards the kitchen. “I'll make you a sandwich."
I followed eagerly. Right now, a sandwich sounded awesome. Or maybe several sandwiches.
Mom prepared the food in silence, and then delivered it to me at the table with a glass of iced tea. I immediately grabbed one of the sandwiches and began cramming it into my mouth. Mom sat down across from me, still not saying anything. After swallowing the last bite, I quickly downed half of the glass of tea. I was reaching for the second sandwich when my mom finally spoke up.
“So," she said tentatively, “what happened today?"
My hand froze, and I looked at her.
“And don't lie to me," she added sternly. “You came running home four hours before school was supposed to get out, and in your…" She paused, the words still unfamiliar to her.
“In my wolf form," I finished.
“Right," she nodded. “I want to know what happened."
I broke my gaze, staring intently at my plate of food, “Nothing happened."
Mom slapped the table in frustration, “Amber…"
“I don't remember much of what happened," I lied, cutting her off. “It just did."
She chewed on her lip for a moment, staring at me in uncertainty. Finally, she asked, “Did anybody see you?"
I shook my head, lying again, “No, nobody saw me."
I felt my heart sink into my stomach, leaving me feeling dirty inside. I hated lying to her like this. Before she could ask any more questions, I began to eat the second sandwich. Mom stood up and took my plate to the sink to wash it off.
I really should tell her, I thought. I was being chased by a bunch of crazy people with magic wands. Crazy guys who could make my wolf side flip out for reasons I didn't understand. And then there was the Octopus, and whoever it was he was working for. It'd be dangerous to not tell her what was going on, even if it'd be hard to believe. Not to mention extremely selfish on my part. Then again, she'd taken my becoming a werewolf in stride. Maybe she'd react to this better than I expected too.
“Mom," I said, turning to look at her.
Before I could continue, the TV in the living room switched programs.
“Thank you for watching Stars in Her Eyes," the announcer said. “We now bring you your evening news."
The familiar logo and jingle played, and the anchorman appeared on the screen.
“Good evening," he said, reading off his teleprompter with practiced professionalism. “This afternoon, the police believe they came across a new lead in the investigation of the death of Kimberly Newman."
I felt my blood run cold, and turned back to my mom.
“Mom, I need to tell you something," I said, trying to drown out the reporter's voice.
“Just a minute," she silenced me. “I want to hear this."
“For those of you who don't know," he went on, “this morning, five year old Kimberly Newman was found dead in in the woods across the street from her house. Authorities say that she suffered several wounds that appear to have been inflicted by a large dog. At roughly 12:35 this afternoon, several people reported seeing such an animal running around town."
The anchorman disappeared, replaced by a video of a wolf running down the street like a bat out of hell. I subconsciously began to dig my fingernails into the table. The wolf was me. The video changed again, this time to a middle aged man.
“I saw it come running out from behind the school," he said into the microphone. He pointed into the distance, “Went that way and around the corner."
Another person appeared on the screen. “It was just a big brown blur," she said. “Ran right past me and knocked me over. I thought it was going to eat me or something!"
The anchorman came back on, “The local authorities have said that they believe this is the same animal that killed Kimberly, or at least closely related to it. They are still unsure whether this is just a large dog, or some other type of animal. People are encouraged to stay inside until it is caught."
I heard a crash behind me, and I spun around to see that my mom had dropped the glass she'd been holding. She was pale and shaking slightly, as if she'd just seen a ghost.
“Mom?" I asked tentatively.
Slowly, she turned to stare at me. I could see something in her eyes I hadn't seen since the first time I'd changed- a look of pure horror.
“Amber…" she whispered, as if she couldn't quite bring herself to believe that the girl sitting at her kitchen table was the daughter she'd raised for the past seventeen years. Did she really believe that I'd done that? How could she believe it?
I stood up, tears already coming to my eyes, “Mom, I swear, I didn't do it!"
Are you sure about that? A nagging little voice asked inside my head. I couldn't remember much of the previous night, and I had woken up with blood in my mouth. Kimberly had only lived a few streets away from me. Could I really, in all honestly, tell my mom that I hadn't done it?
Before I could say anything more, though, Mom had ran across the kitchen and wrapped me in a big, smothering hug.
“Amber, Amber, Amber," she sobbed into my hair as she pressed her face against the top of my head.
We stayed like that for a whole minute before I pulled back, having to use a bit of strength to break away from my mom's grip. She had tears in her eyes now too, and they were running down her cheeks in little rivers.
“No more," she said decisively. “No more, not ever again!"
“No more what?" I asked.
“No more school," she said. “It was a mistake to let you keep going after it happened. You need to stay here with me. I can keep you safe. I can keep you secret. I can keep you from…" She broke off, and a fresh wave of tears cascaded down her face. “Oh, Amber!"
“Mom!" I exclaimed, utterly shocked taking a step back. “You're going to keep me in here forever?"
“It's the only way, Baby," she said, her voice choked. “I can't lose you like I did your father. They all saw you today. They might have even followed you home. Honey, Sweetie, this is the only way I can keep you safe!"
“Mom," I whined, giving her my best puppy dog eyes. Surely she could see how ludicrous this was. Even if I wasn't a werewolf, keeping a teenager inside, never allowing her to leave, is a recipe for insanity. And what would she do on the full moon? There's no way she could restrain me. My wolf could easily break out of the house, and hurt her even more easily.
“It'll be fine," she assured me. “We'll do all the things normal people do." I winced at this, but she kept going. “We'll… we'll bake cookies! And brownies! We can watch movies and read books. Maybe we can even finish putting that puzzle together we started so long ago! It'll be just like before."
I wanted to keep arguing with her, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. It'll be just like before, she'd said. That may not sound very enticing to normal people, but to someone like me it was like she was promising that we could live in a five star hotel for the rest of our lives. Normal… I could never be normal again, but we could at least pretend, couldn't we? Slowly, I nodded to her.
“Good," she said with a smile I could see was only skin deep, and turned the TV off. “Now, what were you trying to tell me?"
Wizards and warlocks, magic wands and disembodied hands.
“Nothing," I said. “Never mind."
Apparently having had enough drama for one day, Mom accepted this answer without question and headed for her bedroom, telling me I should go to bed soon as well. I felt a quick pang of guilt for not telling her, but it was soon drowned out by my desperate need for normalcy. It was selfish of me, I know, but you'd be surprised what six months of weirdness will make a person willing to do…
NEXT TIME: As good as Amber’s mom’s intentions are, nothing good can come of locking a werewolf inside your house. Especially a teenage werewolf. Especially a teenage werewolf being hunted by crazy wizards. But, what’s the worst that could happen?