“No, you just wanted to take my body and use it to incubate your children so that I can give birth to a new race of werewolves,” I said, unable to believe that I actually said that sentence.
“I know it’s a lot to take it…”
“A lot? That’s an understatement. First of all thank you for the backhanded compliment by the way. I’m glad to know that the only reason you chose me was because I was so pathetic that I didn’t have any links to the world and wouldn’t be missed at all. But then how can you possibly believe that this is the way to go about forming a new clan? Surely it’s better to actually find someone who wants to be a mother, who wants to be a part of this. Isn’t there some other wolf woman who could volunteer? Did you really need me? And you know that I’m not going to be enough, right? To have a whole clan you’re going to need a lot more women.”
“I know, and we will in time, but we want the first children to be strong. And you’re wrong, we didn’t choose you because you’re pathetic. We chose you because you’re like us. Our senses are stronger than your own Millie. We can tell a lot from just a smell.”
“And what does my smell say about me?”
“That you are strong and kind, that you are a force of nature and won’t let anyone or anything stand in your way when it comes to something you want. Your genes are compatible with ours and we would have very many healthy and strong children. Breeding is seen as a great honor in our culture, and I apologize if I have disrespected you.”
“But why the altar?”
“Because it is said that the children born from the altar will be the strongest, and will have a long and proud reign. It is our hope that our children can integrate into the world better than we did. It has been made clear to us that wolves must fully incorporate themselves into human life. It is not enough to dip our toes into the waters of society, we must be able to climb the social ladders and put ourselves into positions of power so that we might have the strength to deal with people like Ishmael through other means than war. But it is too late for us. Only our children have the chance to do so.”
“If you want your kids to integrate themselves into society then I think you’ve picked the wrong Mom. Do I really strike you as the kind of person who is good with people?”
“Oh but you are Millie. It was not a coincidence that we came to the Rainbow Bar that night. We had been observing you for a while. When you first came to my attention I decided to watch you and I saw that you were adept at talking to people. For some reason they gravitated towards you even though you spoke to them savagely and often seemed to want nothing to do with them. I have no doubt that if you entered the world you could become anything you wanted to become, and perhaps if your children are free of the baggage that you carry with you they might be able to immerse themselves in the world and make good impressions.”
“Mel told us all about you Millie. You have endured a lot of suffering, but that can be at an end. We are offering you the chance to be a part of a family, to do something noble and honorable with your life, to raise a powerful clan back to its rightful place, to bring into life powerful warriors who can be a force for good. Can you honestly say that you have ever thought of doing anything like this before?”
I looked at him, still stunned by everything that he had been saying. I hated thinking that he’d had me pegged even before we met. It made me feel stupid and powerless. I hadn’t known anything about them and they were already planning to make me their queen. Jackson had complimented me, but I still wasn’t sure if he really knew me at all, because that certainly didn’t sound like me. And the thought of me being a part of a family…well…
“I’m sorry Jackson, but that’s just not me. I don’t know where you’ve gotten these ideas from, but I’m not the kind of woman that can be a part of a family. Mel might have told you a few things about me, but even she doesn’t know the whole truth. I get that you’ve endured a tragedy and you’re trying to fix it, but this isn’t the way to go about it. You need someone who wants to be here. You can’t force someone into being a mother. It doesn’t work that way, and I would have thought that you would be wise enough to know that. Next time you should try leading with the truth.”
“And if I had, would you have come with me?”
“No, I wouldn’t have, but I’d think a little better of you.”
“Well, I’m sorry that you think so little of me. I’m just trying to do what’s best for my family.”
His head sagged and I realized the weight that must have been on his shoulders. Suddenly a question popped into my head. He had revealed himself to me in a way that I hadn’t expected, and I suddenly felt an affinity towards him, as though I could share the parts of myself that I had been hiding as well. If I couldn’t share them with a werewolf then who could I share them with?
“What’s it like, being a part of a clan, having two brothers, having people to support you all the time?” I asked.
“That’s something I haven’t lied about,” Jackson said, referring to the brief conversation we’d had at the Rainbow Bar. “Being part of a clan always gave me a home, a place to turn whenever I felt lost. Having my brothers around me gives me strength. I know that they count on me to look after them, but I also count on them. We carry each other and protect each other. I could never imagine living a life without them, and I’m grateful every day that we made it out alive, even if the rest of our clan didn’t.” He rubbed
his eyes. “I mourn them every day. I think about my parents and the others…all of those who still had plenty of life to lead. We all had plans, we all had things we wanted to accomplish and Ishmael just came in and stomped on them all. By the time we realized what he was doing it was too late, and he had already killed most of the strongest warriors. The ones that were left put up a fight, but it was clear it was a losing battle. Father looked at me and as he did so I knew that it was my duty to continue the legacy of our clan, no matter what. It brought me great shame to run away from that battle and leave my people to suffer and die, but my calling was greater. If we had stayed we would all have died, and the clan would have died with us. At least this way we can remember those who are no longer with us.”
From the way his words were so heavily weighed down with emotion I got the sense that although he said he knew he had to do his duty, he was really holding a lot of guilt for having survived the cull. I wondered if Logan and Jamie were feeling the same thing.
“Is that what Logan meant when he said that you and Jamie had saved his life?”
“We pulled him out just as one of Ishmael’s minions was about to kill him. We ran with him, away from the carnage, fleeing like cowards. Even though I have no desire to die part of me wishes that some other wolf had the duty to carry on the legacy of the clan so that I could have enjoyed the honor of dying with my companions on the battlefield, rather than waiting to be picked off by Ishmael. But let me ask you a question Millie. What is it like to be alone?”
“It’s…I mean, it’s okay I suppose. I get to do whatever I want when I want. I don’t have to worry about anyone else. I don’t have to tell anyone where I’m going, or check with anyone about how long I can stay out. I don’t have to feel like I’m being monitored, or have anyone to tell me what to eat or drink. I don’t have to go to places I don’t want to go. I don’t have to see people I don’t want to see. I’m free really.”
“And what price has freedom brought?” I wasn’t sure how to answer his question, so I was glad when it became clear it was a rhetorical one and he was going to answer it himself. “You spend your evenings in a bar with people you do not consider friends. You do not have any meaning to your life other than that which you ascribe to it yourself. You do you not share your memories with anyone else, you do not share your experiences. When you die you will die alone, without anyone standing over your grave, and without anyone to mourn you. That is the truth death. Death is the absence of all things. The people of the clan will not truly die until we forget them, and that is why it’s important for us to continue the legacy. You say that you are not the type of woman to become a mother Millie, but what type of woman are you? Are you content to live out your life as a ghost, waiting for the cold embrace of death to finally alleviate your suffering, or for once in your life are you willing to take a chance on other people and involved yourself in other people’s lives? Are you willing to try and do something that goes beyond your own ambitions, beyond your own selfishness?”
“I…I don’t know. Jackson, what you’re asking me is beyond anything I’ve ever been asked before. I can’t just say yes, especially not after the way you’ve treated me.”
“I’m truly sorry for that, and you can be sure it will not happen again. I am just so desperate to perform my duty. I do not my clan to die. I do not want to fail in my duty.”
As I looked at him sitting there, helpless on the bed, I couldn’t help but see the man rather than the wolf. This was a man weighed down by a tragedy, burdened by responsibility, struggling to see a way through. I wasn’t quite at the point of forgiving him for what he had done, but I could almost understand what had driven him to such extremes. He had lost everything apart from his brothers, and he had almost died again by another of Ishmael’s minions. He was trying to hold onto the past while building a future, and it didn’t seem as though there was enough of him to go around. He stood for more than I had ever stood for. I had lived my life in the shadows, and as a result I hadn’t accomplished anything at all. He was right when he said that when I died I wouldn’t be mourned, I would just be forgotten. Even now nobody had come to find me, and I was left feeling rotten.
He wanted me to be the mother of his children, mother to a new generation of wolves, but I was still determined to escape, although I wasn’t going to tell him that yet. I realized that I needed to make some changes to my life if I was ever going to become the person I could be.