If the Paw Print Fits

You know the phrase, "if the shoe fits?"
Ella is one of the few female werewolves in her pack. Giving birth to females is rare, and because of this, they often come with birth defects. Ella is a defect like never before. She was born with Congenital Anosmia, or the absence of the sense of smell. Ella is literally a werewolf who can't smell. How lame is that? Because of this, she can't track her mate, if she was even to find one. So, the pack elders have came up with a solution. Ella and Cash, the next in line alpha to be, would be the next alpha pair. She's grown up, knowing that one day, she would be nothing more than a breeder for the leader, and she's never been happy about it.
With outside forces threatening pack territory yet again, everyone is on high alert. Cash won't leave her alone, and she has reason to believe it has something to do with the new guy in town. Ella is blond, beautiful, and all the guys at school want her. Even the new guy seems to be taken with her.


1. One


        Running down a soft dirt path in the deepest part of the woods, wind gliding through my fur. Dawn quickly approaches, the sky bleeding through the trees in a mix of black, grey, and a deep, dark blue. Although its glow is not as radiant as the night before, the moon is still visible within the mix of the beautiful chaos. The sun has not yet stolen the spotlight away from its sister, and although it’s not as strong as it is at night, the energy of the moon still surges through me, assisting me in my run. Birds chirp, flower buds bloom, and dance in the wind I soar through. I run this path every morning, but days like this make it all seem worth it. Like I often do, I imagine this is what freedom feels like. No humans, no pack, just a wolf riding the wind, running wild and free.

        But, I'm not free. Not even close.

        'If only I could stay out here forever,' I think to myself. 'Or, at least for a little bit longer.' Would more time be too much to ask for? But I can't, and I wouldn't dare to. The pack as a whole is more important than one individual’s personal, selfish desires. Not to mention, it was almost time for school to start. Internally sighing, I force myself to change from wolf form to human form and prepare myself to join the world of the unsuspecting humans. They have no idea what really lurks beyond their sleepy little town, or what their “Mega Wolves” really are. They’re called Mega Wolves, because they look like any other wolf around, except bigger. Way bigger; almost double the size of a real wolf, and near half the size of our human forms. They know that we’re out here, but they have no idea what exists inside. The soul of a human. A wolf, walking amongst them. Looking like them, sounding like them, but not truly being them. I would never give up the wolf inside, not for anything, I only wished I didn’t have to pay the price that came with it.

        You can’t make a werewolf. They have to be born within the bloodline. Sounds simple enough, except for the fact that only fifteen percent of babies born are female. Giving birth to one is rare, and because of this, they often come out with birth defects. Some of them never shift. Some of them can't give birth, themselves. Some of them die young, and don't live to see puberty. My mother was among the ones that couldn’t withstand the rigorous endurance of childbirth. She was really weak, and died shortly after. I know that it’s not my fault. These things happen, more often than not. Not only had it killed her, but fate had gifted -or rather, cursed us- by also giving me a defect. I survived puberty. There’s no sign of infertility. I’ve been shifting since infancy. My defect is one none of the elders have ever heard of before. I was born with Congenital Anosmia. Any guesses as to what that is? It means being born without the ability to smell. I am literally a werewolf that can’t smell. How lame is that?

        After my mother passed, my father had become very depressed. He threw himself into his work, but he never really worked. It was mostly just empty staring. Then, one night, I heard voices. The elders were going to kick us out of the pack. His mate had died,  so they wouldn’t be producing anymore children. The one they did have, was defective, and he couldn’t even defend the pack against defending packs and prowlers, because there was no one else to take care of me. This made my father think. He felt that I needed a mothering figure, and to stop them from throwing us out, they came to an agreement. He would marry a widower with two other children -daughters, no less!- and she would take care of me while he was away, and he would go to war, so that they would provide for us. He never came home. A year later, when the war was over and the warriors came home, he was not among them. “He’d died, ensuring the pack was safe and earning them more territory to thrive on.” That didn’t make me feel any better. Once again, I faced the jury, once again faced with being thrown out of the pack, this time, as an orphan. The decision made that day changed my life forever. It weighs on me, even now.

        Under the dim glow of the trees, my phone screen illuminates the time, almost like it’s screaming at me, “it’s seven o'clock, school’s starting soon!” Brushing leaves and burs from my hair and smoothing my hands over my clothes, I step out of the trees. Slipping my phone into the back pocket of my jeans, I start walking towards the parking lot, acting natural, as if stepping out of the woods is the most normal thing in the world. For me, it was, and it’s not like anybody notices where I come from. They are all too busy staring at me and giving me catcalls the moment I join the rest of the real world on school property.

        “Hey, Ella,” some say with a wave.

        “Helllooo gorgeous,” the more confident say slyly, like they actually have a chance.

        “Yo, Ella! Lookin’ good- as always,” Brad says with a wink as he opens the door for me, as he does every school morning. Thanking him and giving slight, awkward smiles to the others, but nothing more, I slip into the halls, wanting to escape all the attention. I know I’m beautiful, or rather, I know that they all think that I am. I’m pretty, sure, but not enough to have all the males within a hundred mile radius tripping over each other -and themselves- to get to me. I don’t deserve all the attention, and don’t see why I get it all. Every. Single. Morning. All year long. There are plenty of other girls who I think are way prettier than me, and some I would even call beautiful. Truly beautiful; I wasn’t anything special, not in the physical sense, anyway. Besides, I have no interest in relationships. After high school, I’ll never see any of them ever again. I have nothing to look forward to but packlife, from graduation on. Even my friend Penny, who I adore. I never could let myself get too close to her, knowing that one day I’ll have to say goodbye forever, but she still stayed. I guess, because she didn’t have anyone else. Even with having my packmates around, I never feel more alone. It’s hard to believe we came from the same bloodline.

        Nearing my locker, I weave through huddles and gangs of students cluttered together in groups. They talked and chatted, laughed and giggled, overall annoying me. I wish I could close my ears to it all and block it all, but that’s not how it works. You hear everything, all at once, unless you wanted to hear only one person. There isn’t a button to zone out, only in. Gliding to my locker, I stop at a hault and spin the dial, entering my code. It makes a small tick as it lifts open. Inside, I have nothing but a mirror on the door, a bag sunk to the bottom, and a single book sitting on the top shelf. Most of my classes are what some call “blow off classes,” meaning they’re really only to pass time. Most kids talk for the fifty-four, or goof around. I pass the time by reading, imaging I’m anywhere but here, and anyone other than myself. A girl can dream. It’s not any use, but at least I can. Anything to hold on to until the month is over, and school ends, taking my life and any shred of freedom I have, with it.

        “Ella,”a voice calls from beyond the locker door. Slipping the book off the shelf, I drop it into my tiny pack and swing the door to reveal a familiar face, the one belonging to the familiar voice from before. It’s not one of the many admirers, thank goodness, but Penny. She waves a hello, and I smile, leaning against a locker as she faces me, doing the same, and we create our own little, two person huddle. “Good morning,” I greet her.

        “Oh, it sure it! Happy Spring, Ella!”

        I laugh at her excitement, shaking my head as a huge smile breaks onto my face. “Happy Spring,” I repeat back to her. She starts talking, going on and on, talking way too fast to keep up with. As she’s sifting through her more than messy locker, I take in her features. She’s a very interesting girl, always happy and bustling with energy. She’s one of those girls who’s all about nature, and very hippy dippy. A little weird, but I liked that about her. She has eyes that go big, filling up with whatever emotion she’s feeling. Eyes not a specific color. Eyes a mixture of light green and golden brown, and red hair that’s not truly red. I’ll never understand why they call it “red headed” when, in fact, it’s orange. Everyone calls her Ginger because of it, but she pays it no mind, her freckled face never faltering for a second.

        If you pay close attention, you can sense the slight change in her appearance or mood, but then she’s right back to smiling. I envied her, to not have a care in the world, to not have everyone expecting something from her, to be able to simply be. Me, with my blonde hair, blue eyes, and all eyes on me. Me, the pitied orphan or envied school superstar. She has two parents who love her very much, who never miss a single thing, despite how minor it is, because to her, it was a big deal, and nothing else mattered. I’m not jealous of her for having parents, or for them being friendly people who invite me over, now and again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to turn the offer down. I have been to their house, a time or two. By house, I mean the piece of cloth put up on the reservation they call home, but it was nice. Peaceful. Everyone helping one another out and being neighborly. Something like a pack, so unlike my own. The one with my richy, witchy stepmother and stepsisters who think they can blink their eyes and get whatever they want, and throw a fit when they don’t. But, who can blame them, when their mother gave them everything they’ve ever asked for, and took everything my father and I owned. She even kicked me out when she found out my father wasn’t coming back, and we didn’t have to “pretend anymore.” Now, I live with my godmother, who is an older lady who never could have children of her own, but works as the pack’s health adviser instead, taking care of everyone else. Having her uses, she’s able to stay and have a home. They call it “pack,” but to me, it felt more like politics.

        Penny might have a more than okay home life, but when it comes to school, I am the one who has it better. I would trade “boyfriend” and “popularity” if it meant I could be a little bit normal. I will never be normal.

        My ears pick up at the sound of an obnoxious, purposely loud laugh. It belonged to Shelby, the queen bee who loved to have all of the eyes be on her. Seeing her isn’t going to spoil my day, but the guy with his arms all over her as she chatted away with her cheerleading friends, is. I groan at the sight of Cassius “Cash” Johnathan Davis, our pack’s alpha to be. He’s arrogant, conceited, self-obsessed,  egotistical -shall I continue? Almost all the girls want him, even with knowing they’re just the flavour of the week, and he has a girlfriend. Feeling my eyes, he turns and throws me a smug smile and a wink, arm still thrown over the cheerleader’s shoulders. She’s too busy complaining loudmouthed to notice. “Ugh,” I complain. Hearing this makes him chuckle. Throwing him a glare, I whip around and stomp away. “Just his very existence infuriates the living leach out of me.”

        “So… why are you with him?”

        I snort at the absurdity of it all. It does sound ridiculous, doesn’t it? Except, it’s not at all how it sounds, not really. “It’s… complicated,” I sigh. Sometimes, I hate having to lie to her. Most everything that leaves my lips are lies.

        “Right, the whole “Arranged marriage” thing,” she says, using air quotes. “Is that even real though? I mean, come on; seems to me like you’re the only one who takes it seriously.”

       Man, oh man, do I wish it wasn’t, but it was. When the jury agreed to let me stay in the pack, the second time, I had to agreed to being paired with Cash. It was the only way. He’s an alpha, or, he will be, and an alpha male isn’t complete without his alpha female. Since mates are rarely born into the same packs, alphas are assigned one who seems fit. Mates will recognise each other by scent. Are you seeing the problem here? Bingo! I can’t smell. Therefore, I’ll probably never find my mate. Not everyone does. Even being a defective, it seemed the best option for all parties involved. But, he’s not alpha yet. Not being officially paired together, he takes advantage of his time as a free wolf. As for myself, I could care less about relationships. This doesn’t stop girls from glaring my way as we cross paths in the halls. Even my own stepsisters are jealous of me for being paired with Cash. “Dashing, breathtaking, drop dead gorgous Cash.” Believe me, I would trade places with any of them in a heartbeat.

        “Cash does what Cash wants. Besides, there’s more important things than guys. Especially the shallow, no-brained ones around here.”

        “I hear yea,” she giggles. Then stops, getting serious. “I still want a date to prom, though.”

        I scrunch my nose up in disgust at her statement. “Ugh, prom. Why did you have to remind me?”

        “Oh, come on! You have to go! Please? Oh, pretty, pretty please? Say you’ll come!”

        “I’ll think about it,”I say at last, avoiding her huge, pleading eyes. Truth is, I have bigger things eating at me than prom. Like, what happens after prom.

        Midnight, day after prom, is pairing day. Wolves the legal age of eighteen come from allying packs to witness the ceremony. A wedding, of sorts- the wedding between Cash and I. Our pairing will become official, we’ll start our lives together as pack leaders, and as alpha and wife. In a month’s time, I’ll be kissing my freedom goodbye.

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