Today was the day. Amos was going to be made Alpha in the summoning ceremony and it was supposed to be one of the greatest days of my life as well. I was supposed to be crowned queen and mated to him. Well, I was supposed to be mated to him back when I started shifting over five years ago, but I wasn’t accepted. Now, it was going to be official. He had to accept me or reject me.
Amos stood in front of the gathered people, a big smile on his cruel face. When our eyes met, it was only for a second, until his steely grey eyes moved on to someone else.
If I looked, I knew it would be Sondra, but I didn’t care about Sondra. I knew they had been together. I’d caught them a long time ago and I figured this would be the day she would become his mate. I would be rejected, and Sondra would take my place. I was not like women like Sondra, who blossomed early. I took years, and while I sometimes wondered if I ever did grow up fully, I knew I had.
“Everyone, thanks for coming! You know what today is, it’s a special day, where we are going to name our new alpha. This is a change of power that has been coming for some time. This is destiny, and Amos will reign as his father did and his grandfather before that,” announced the old blind oracle.
Amos liked theatrics, they made him feel more important, and I had to admit, many of the people were enthralled. Maybe it was just because there was going to be a huge party later and they were all anticipating that. I wished this all wasn’t so grand a gesture. That meant it was going to be far more humiliating when I was rejected, because he would do that with flair as well. I didn’t even want to come, but Amos had insisted. It was mandatory for the whole pack, and that included me—at least for the time being.
So, I was here, waiting for the inevitable. We’d met for the first time when I was seventeen and he’d taken one look at me, frowned, then quickly left. On his way out, he told my parents he would never want someone who looked like me. I was too awkward and ugly, not suited for him. To say it broke my heart would have been an understatement. To be rejected in such a way, made me think that there was something wrong with me. Ever since Amos turned his back to me, it was like the rest of the pack decided I wasn’t worthy either. I was sneered at and sometimes beaten for just being me. There wasn’t really anything I could do about it.
My whole life I was never good enough. I was the runt of the litter, and my parents found fault with me because of it. My brothers were well loved, and the ugly duckling daughter was the least of their worries. Now, they were both dead, and I was as good as dead to my brothers.
I looked over to Hugh and Alex. They were purposely not looking at me, making it clear that they wanted nothing to do with me. They were close to Amos, but they would never help me. I knew that they would be happy about what was going to happen next.
“My first order of business as alpha regards my mate,” Amos declared. “Eliza was destined to be mine by the fates, and I have always shared my reverence for their wisdom. I cannot accept her as my mate, though, I will not. I reject Eliza Reed and further kick her out of the pack. I would let her stay longer, if her own family wanted her to. Her brothers have declined to speak up for her. So I ask anyone here, will you speak up for Eliza Reed, to keep her here in the Bransom Country pack?”
I knew no one was going to say anything for me. That might have hurt worse than being rejected’, which was bad enough. Literally everyone I had known most of my life didn’t want me either. Once I was said to be unworthy by Amos, it was like everyone believed it. I started to believe it as well.
Everyone’s eyes were on me now, and I wished I could melt into the ground and disappear. Why was everybody looking at me like that? Why did I have to prove to them that I was worthy of being here? I was part of the bloodline and a part of the pack just like everyone else. I was to be Amos’ mate and the pack’s queen. That he could just reject me and send me away was ridiculous. I didn’t want to be with Amos either, but why did he get to decide that I had to leave?
“I will speak up for her,” someone said way in the back, right after a door had opened and closed. I looked out over the crowd and saw it was Patrick, my dad’s best friend. He probably wasn’t told about the meeting. Everyone knew Patrick was probably the only one on my side in the pack.
“Then it’s settled. Eliza, you will leave the pack,” Amos decision done before anything could be said.
“No!” Patrick tried to argue, but nobody else agreed with him. Amos’ word was law.
“Don’t worry, Patrick. I don’t want you to get in trouble because of me.” Amos was known for his violence, and Patrick had always been nice to me. When my parents died, he had stepped in, and I didn’t know what I would have done without him. I would not repay him by getting him mixed up in the mess I was in. He didn’t need to know what it was like to have such hate pointed towards him. I wouldn’t let it happen.
“Silence!” Amos called. I knew what my fate was going to
Amos had told me several times that he was going to send me away. He said that my very presence would be bad luck for him and his new wife. I’d never known what I’d done wrong, but it didn’t matter anymore.
“It is better for everyone in the pack if you leave, Eliza. Leave without a fight and whatever dignity you can muster. You are not good enough to be one of us.”
His words were biting, but I’d heard it all, been made to feel lower than low. This was no different, it was just more public. Because it was public, I was going to go without a fight.
Patrick pushed towards me through the crowd, but I looked into his pale blue eyes, smiled, and told him to let it go. “This is always what was supposed to happen.”
Too much time and energy were wasted trying to make the pack want me or find value in me. I was given the lowest jobs from the very beginning, like I couldn’t handle anything more. Because of that, I never learned to do as much as I could have. I didn’t have the sensory abilities that most of my people had, and because I was smaller, I couldn’t carry the weight that many of my pack could. I was made wrong. I had been born into the wrong pack; it was the only thing that made sense. That, or I didn’t belong anywhere. I didn’t want to believe that. I had to belong somewhere, even if it wasn’t the place I was born to.
Since I knew this day was going to come, I already had a bag packed. I tried to save up some money, and it was going to have to be enough. I needed to find a new place to live, a new family. At the moment I just needed to find a job, and then I could go from there.
I spent a lot of my time on the bison ranch the pack ran, and it wasn’t the most marketable skill. I knew the animal and the trade forward and backwards, but I didn’t know if that would translate into something else. I knew that the next biggest town that would have some prospects for work was Mystic Falls. It was bigger than what I was used to, there would be other shifters around, but as long as I did no wrong, I didn’t think it would be a problem. I hoped that they would see my experience with bison could translate to taking care of cattle and horses.
I got to the Greyhound bus station, and while I was waiting for the next bus, I was fantasized about starting my new life. My old life was in the rearview mirror now and there was no looking back. I felt like this was the moment where I was finally going to get to see what life was really about. The sadness and bitterness I felt when I was home was gone. That was no longer my home. I looked forward to where I was going. It had to be better than this. Anything had to be better than what I’d endured.
I rested my head on the headrest of my seat on the bus when it came, and for the first time in a long time, I smiled. It was all going to be okay. I didn’t know how I knew it, but I knew it. I would get to where I was going, find a job at a ranch, and I would be happy. I could do normal things, and no one would know I was a runt who didn’t start shifting until later in life. I could make up a new identity, anything I wanted. I would find a new pack, a better pack, and I would be happy.
Ihad known Eliza her whole life and there was no way there was anything wrong with her. Eliza had just taken a little bit more time to find herself, and it was worth the wait. The woman she had become was too good for Amos, alpha or not.