Diana had always thought of herself as a wolf. She’d always had a pack that she’d run with. First, it was her family; then she made friends as the tomboy at school; in high school, she was on all the sports teams.
But now she couldn’t have a pack anymore.
Being a wolf didn’t seem like all that much fun anymore.
She had friends, though, here at college. Jenny and Kelly were great, even if they did seem like polar opposites. Sarah spoke her mind and kept things interesting, and Tanya did an awesome job of keeping them all together. Meanwhile, Mike and Noah were always getting into it about politics and religion and Hairy cracked really lame jokes about what a bad idea that was.
She even had a boyfriend: Mark Dixon.
But none of them could ever really know her. And that bothered her a lot.
Mark was suspicious, of course. She wasn’t bothered so much when she thought Kelly or Tanya had figured her out, but the idea that Mark might know, that they might tell him or, worse, that he would figure it out for himself… She wanted to keep him away from all that, to keep it separate. That part of her wasn’t part of the real world, after all. And he was.
Then there was Shirley.
Everyone insisted to Diana that Shirley meant well, that she was a sweet girl who was not —“I absolutely promise you,” Tanya added—that she was not out to steal Diana’s boyfriend. And they were probably right. She was probably overreacting.
But there was something just a little bit entirely too cute about Shirley. It wasn’t just the ridiculousness of her insisting on being called Vyxen—with a fucking y—why? Who does that? Who does any part of that?
It wasn’t just the way she was always so scatterbrained, the terrible perverted things she did to English sentences when she was nervous—which, of course, was when she was at her cutest, and of course, that was all the fucking time. It wasn’t just the way she was always flirting with everyone—she acted differently around girls, but it was still flirting.
But then she didn’t flirt with Mark. Out of respect, or something. That’s what Tanya said, anyway. But it was how Diana knew.
Mark wouldn’t flirt with her, either. He wouldn’t even talk about her. If she came up in conversation, she wouldn’t. He would make damn sure she didn’t. If she asked him questions about her, he wouldn’t even get defensive.
Maybe she was just overreacting. Maybe she was insecure because she knew that it was wrong for her to be with Mark in the first place—what if Shirley really did deserve him more; I mean she was such a Fox, right? It was right there in her name, the name people called her. She was Vyxen and Diana was a Wolf. Wolves shouldn’t be around people.
The pack wanted to have a bonfire one weekend at the full moon. Well, there was no way Diana was going to make it. She could tell Mark wanted to go—but how could she tell him? What excuse did she have? Homework? She was sick, she insisted. Couldn’t make it. He called her on it, showed up at her place unexpectedly—it was all she could do to get the chains back into the closet without making too much noise before opening the door.
But she had to turn him away. She knew it was the wrong move—at least if she wanted to keep him. But what else could she do? He offered to stay—she could tell him. But who in their right mind would still want to stay after being told? Why would she even let him?
The sun was setting and she could feel all rationality and inhibition seeping out of her, melting her humanity away and evaporating into the stale dormroom air.
It was the smell, she decided. Something about the way Shirley smelled, like a vixen, a real one, one without the y, without a “why”, without a purpose, a carrion-lover snatching prey from stronger teeth.
There was hair on her skin already by the time the next knock came. Five more minutes and the sound she made in response would have been quite different, but through the muzzle, Diana managed a “Go away!”
“Are you a werewolf?” Shirley asked in a scolding tone.
Diana was speechless.
“It’s okay,” the Vyxen continued, “it’s just me out here and I completely understand if you are, but if you are, you have got to tell Mark. You owe him that much.”
It wasn’t fair, Diana thought. It wasn’t fair that Shirley got to be rational and insightful on top of being so despicably adorable.
“Look,” Vyxen continued, “if it makes you feel any better, I’m actually a Changeling and I can turn into a Fox. I know it’s not the same as being a Werewolf, but I know what it’s like to have to keep a secret.”
It wasn’t the kind of thing Diana would have responded to anyways, but by that point, her limbs were thinner, her neck was thicker, her snout was growing into its muzzle and she had a tail.
“OK, well I can see it’s getting dark outside, so… Talk to you tomorrow? By-e.”
The Wolf lunged at the door, fighting the muzzle all the way, but her collar kept her chained tight to the closet. Even the furniture was pushed back against the far wall, too far away for her to pretend it was the fox as she sharpened her skills.
It was going to be a long, frustrating night.