“I don't get it," I said. “She's dumped him three times for three different guys. Why does he keep letting her come back?"
I crossed my arms and propped my feet up on the coffee table, staring at the TV. Beside me, Mom was eating rocky road ice cream right out of the container. I held a spoon too, but it still clean. We were playing one of our favorite movies, a chick flick starring a man and woman who were both too good looking to be taken seriously. The appeal, I'd noticed, had diminished a lot for me since the last time I'd watched it.
“It's true love," Mom said, dreamily. “It doesn't matter how many times she hurts him, because he'll always love her anyway."
“Why, though?" I asked. “There are plenty of other women out there who wouldn't hurt him every time they see another handsome guy. Like her best friend. She's obviously had a crush on him the whole time, and she's way nicer than the other girl. Why doesn't he choose her?"
“Because he doesn't love her," Mom said plainly before putting another gob of ice cream into her mouth. She held the bucket out to me in offering, but I declined. Ice cream just didn't appeal to me like it used to. If she had thought to fry up some bacon, she probably wouldn't have had a chance to have any herself.
“But that's stupid!" I insisted. “He's a good looking guy. Why settle for a woman who treats him like trash?"
But, of course, the actors ignored my completely reasonable advice and began kissing in front of the sunset as the credits started to roll. I rolled my eyes just as the kitchen timer began to go off.
“Oh, the cookies are done!" Mom exclaimed and jumped up, leaving her ice cream forgotten on the coffee table. The sweet chocolaty smell wafted into the living room. I stood up and went to join her.
“This is wonderful, isn't it?" she asked with a big smile as she took the cookies out of the oven and placed them on the counter. “It's been so long since we've got to spend time together!"
“Yeah," I agreed, forcing a smile onto my face as well. In truth, I was less than enthralled, and I couldn't figure out why. This was what I'd wanted ever since I got bit six months ago. Why wasn't I enjoying it like I should have?
“Mmm," Mom groaned in appreciation as she put one of the piping hot cookies into her mouth. “Want one?"
“No thanks," I said.
“Oh, come on!" she persisted, holding one out to me. “It's my secret recipe, just the way you've always liked it!"
I hesitated, and then reached out and took the cookie from her. It had stunned me just as much as it had her when I'd suddenly lost my taste for junk food when I became a werewolf. I'd never had the heart to tell her that chocolate made me feel sick to my stomach now. Probably had something to do with being a great big dog. I waited until she'd turned back to the oven and then flung the cookie into the trash can.
“What should we do next?" she asked after she'd put the next batch of dough in to bake. “I found a really cute looking book at the store a couple weeks ago, and guess what? I bought two copies!"
“What's it about?" I asked, following her back into the living room.
“Oh, the usual," she said as she fished the books out of her purse. “Romance, vampires, and…" she broke off suddenly, her face turning a shade paler.
“And werewolves?" I finished for her.
“Never mind," she said, and marched towards the trash can.
“Wait," I called. “That sounds interesting."
“No, no, no," she said, shaking her head as she dropped both books into the garbage. “I don't think we'd enjoy a book like that very much. Especially considering your… condition."
“Are you serious?" I demanded, glaring at her from the living room. “How far are you going to take this?"
“Take what?" she asked, giving me only a guilty glance before going back to the oven to peer in at her cookies.
“All of this!" I answered. “I know you want to make things seem normal, but aren't you taking it a bit too far?"
She stood up and looked at me now, and I was surprised by how much pain I saw on her face. For a moment, I thought she was going to open up and spill her soul out to me. Instead, she walked away. She brushed past me, making straight for her bedroom, where she slammed the door and locked it behind her.
“Mom?" I called, going after her. “Mom!"
I knocked on her door, but got no reply. My keen ears could hear her breathing heavily on the other side, as if she were trying to keep from breaking down and crying.
“Mom?" I tried again. “Open up. We need to talk about this."
“You're not the little girl I raised," she said weakly. I'm not sure she even meant for me to hear it.
“Yes, I am," I replied as gently as I could. “I'm still your daughter."
“But you've changed so much! You don't like any of the things you used to like. You don't tell me anything. You don't even act the way you used to!"
I took a deep breath and stared at the door for a minute. Despite my best efforts to keep my feelings under control, I could feel my eyes stinging now as well.
“Mom, I'm sorry that things haven't been easy over the last few months," I said at last. “I really am. I'm trying to be a good daughter for you, but… well, you're right. Things are changing, and I don't know how they're all going to turn out. I'm still your daughter, though. We can still be a family. Please, come out and talk to me."
There was no answer, only a faint whimper, and then Mom started to cry. I sighed, and went back to the kitchen. There was still seven minutes left on the timer before the cookies were done. Seven minutes to start thinking about all this. I crossed my arms and leaned against the counter. What was I going to do? I'd always known that my being a werewolf wasn't easy on Mom, but she wasn't exactly making it easy on me either. When she'd finally reached out to me to try and reconnect, I'd only alienated her further. I put my face into my hands and rubbed my forehead.
“Something has got to change," I grumbled.
It was obvious that Mom couldn't keep this up for much longer. She loved me, and I knew it, but she was in no way, shape, or form prepared for what had happened to me. She may as well be trying to raise a tornado in her house. I didn't matter how much I tried to please her, either. I just wasn't the girl I used to be anymore. I couldn't even remember how to be her. That life seemed so far away now…
“You know," a voice said from beside me, “things could have gone a lot better if you'd just come with us in the first place."
I looked up and spun around to find a man I'd never seen before standing beside me. He was leaning against the counter lazily, just like I was. What caused a frightened tremor to shoot down my spine, though, was the scepter he held. Gold, like Victor's, and holding a bright yellow gem.
“How did you get in here?" I demanded, backpedaling away from him.
He shrugged, and reached up with his free hand to scratch his wild blonde hair, “Magic, duh."
I felt a growl rise to me throat, but I forced it down. Instead, I asked, “I thought I told you people to leave me alone!"
“Can't do that, Sugarsnout," the man said, standing up and making his way towards me. “You're way too dangerous to be left all on your lonesome."
I found myself, once again, with my back against the wall. The man smiled casually and held out his hand.
“Name's Dexter. Call me Dex."
I didn't shake his hand, but I had to admit that he was giving off a much better first impression than Victor and Edgar had. Well, besides the whole appearing uninvited inside my house thing.
“What do you want?" I asked.
“For you to come back with us," Dexter answered.
“Come back where?" I persisted. “I have no idea what's going on!"
“Eh," Dexter shrugged again, “it's kinda hard to explain. I'm not even supposed to try until I get you back to Majestic."
“Majestic?" I repeated.
“The company I work for," he clarified. “That we all work for."
“You, Edgar, and Victor?"
“Bingo," Dexter said, pointing at me. “Now, I'm not as into following the rules as the other two you've met, but as charming as I'm sure they were, they have a point. In this particular instance, it really would be more than I'm worth to tell you what's going on."
“If you think I'm going anywhere with you," I snarled, “your blonde hair must go all the way down to your brain!"
Dexter chuckled, and I scowled at him.
“I saw something when Victor tried to take me," I told him. “I saw him with somebody else. He was hurting me."
Dexter's eyebrows rose in surprise, “Blood memories?" he asked. “Interesting. Very interesting."
“What the heck are you talking about now?" I demanded, instinctively baring my teeth.
“Come with me, then you'll get all the answers you want."
“I'm not going with you!" I said again. “Not now, not ever!"
As I glared at him, Dexter began to twirl his scepter in his hands like a baton. The yellow gem began to glow, leaving an afterimage trail behind it. Suddenly, he smiled.
“I like to think I'm a nice guy, you know?" he said. “But here's the thing: I have my orders, and I'm not going to let you go like Edgar and Victor did. I'm bringing you in with me, whether you agree to go or not. I'll tell you now, coming willingly would be a lot more pleasant for both of us."
I was about to give him a snappy remark, but instead he walked past me, out of the kitchen and into the living room.
“I'm not heartless, though," he said over his shoulder. “You have until tomorrow. Use that time to say goodbye to your mother."
And then there came a bright yellow flash, and Dexter was gone.
NEXT TIME: First Edgar, then Victor, and now we’ve got Dexter! Majestic, whoever they are, really has a thing for hiring people whose names end with “-er.” Hey— maybe that’s why they’re trying to get Amber! (fyi, that’s totally not it)