Of all places I ran to the beach, the one place where I couldn’t escape memories. Hell I was running here all the time nowadays to torture myself a little more. There were memories here that were only formed today. There were memories here that I remember so clearly it’s painful. How could I forget the place I walked up and down looking for Sam? When he disappeared he was meant to be meeting me. How many times did I ring him, how many friends did I contact to ask where he was? How many posters did I help put up?
So many questions and no one around to ask...I could run anywhere but what was the point? It was perfectly acceptable for anyone else to go missing apart from me. I couldn’t put my mom and Seth through what I went through.
Never did I dream today would start off like this. I looked at the empty beach. It was too early for anyone to be here yet. It’s almost comforting how familiar the feeling of being alone is.
My teeth snapped together. “What do you want from me Kyle?
He didn’t answer. I watched him from the corner of my eye as he sat down next to me, running his hands through his dark hair. He sat for a while with his head in his hands. I deliberately didn’t look at him in case he was crying.
“Thank you. For doing what you did. I could see it was hard,” he said into his hands.
“Was it really that obvious?” I asked bitterly.
“Yes it really was. Could you-” he stopped himself.
“Just say whatever you need to,” I sighed.
“Could you just tell me you know that I appreciate it?” he asked tentatively.
“Oh for God’s sake, ask what you were going to! Just because you saw today was hard on me you don’t get to treat me like I’m weak.”
I don’t even understand why I lost control today. It would have been hard on anyone seeing that but I didn’t expect myself to react in the way that I did. The only way I can explain it is that Kyle was there watching his imprint die. It made it harder, for everyone, not just me.
There was a long pause. “Why was today hard? You don’t have to tell me,” he added.
I looked at him. His face wasn’t in his hands anymore. He was looking at me with desperate eyes. His eyelashes were wet and he blinked fast.
“It’s probably obvious by now that I don’t enjoy being around imprint,” I said quietly, “all you need to know is I had a bad experience I don’t like having to relive.”
I couldn’t look at him anymore. I knew something had happened, something bad. I didn’t need to know about what had made him like this. I didn’t need anymore pain. I hate heart to heart moments. Just because I’m a mess doesn’t automatically guarantee I’ll be there to listen to what’s going on in your miserable life. I don’t want you listening to what’s going on in mine either.
“I suppose that’s all I need to hear. Bad experiences come with an imprint sometimes. Imprint is...” he searched for words.
“I don’t need to hear it,” I lied.
“You said say whatever you need to. I need to tell someone.”
“I’m not that someone Kyle so run back to your pack. The hunt for Ryan is on right?”
If a pack member kills or attacks another member’s imprint they can’t be forgiven. They’re hunted down and a fight to the death begins. It was the one fight I had no intention of taking part in, even if Cameron asked for Sam and Jake’s help.
“He’s gone,” Kyle said in a dead voice.
He was shaking but it didn’t look threatening, or like he was bursting with anger. He looked empty. I flinched as he met my eyes. I wish he’d stop looking at me.
I stared at the sand. “Why did he do that? Who is he anyway?”
“His name’s Ryan. He joined the pack before me. I was showing signs of becoming a wolf but I was still human when I ran off with them. Before I changed Ryan met Amber and after a while-”
“Are you going to tell me?” I asked when he showed no sign of saying anything else.
He nodded. “Yeah...They got together. I suppose it was lucky for her. If they hadn’t gotten together she wouldn’t have started travelling with us. When we found her she’d ran away from home. She’d been living rough for about two weeks,” he looked uneasy, “anyway they were close enough that Cameron said it was okay for her to come with us. We could take care of her.”
“How did that work though? I mean she’s human.”
“So was I at the time. Quite a few of us were actually. It was tricky obviously, with a lot of us changing along the way but she never got hurt. I would’ve skinned him alive...” he muttered.
Realisation finally set in and I blinked fast. I couldn’t listen to anymore of the story. I knew what came next. Next came the parts I could relate to, the parts about imprinting and losing people you love. Crap I’d had enough pain for today.
“Then of course I changed,” he watched my face. I wish I could’ve seen my expression. “I’d never spoken a word to Amber until that say. I had literally just changed, just had my first run. As soon as I saw her I knew exactly what had happened. Of course there was Ryan. I left it up to her. I wasn’t going to force her into anything.”
I dug my hands into the sand, squeezing the damp sludge in my fists. I shifted further away from Kyle and shut my eyes tight. Why was I still here? Why was I still listening when I knew I couldn’t stand anymore?
“She left him in the end. He hated me. He told himself he didn’t hate her but I hear his thoughts. It was only a matter of time before it became too much-”
Ryan’s not like you, I told myself. I wanted Sam to be happy and that was the truth. I was happy for him and Emily and no matter how many times I made scathing comments in my head I still loved him.
“-and today it did. I should’ve known it would be today. That fight we had was bad; we scared the Hell out of Amber. That’s why you had to watch me. That’s why I wasn’t with her-”
My eyes flew open. “She told you to leave her?”
“She felt terrible about everything but she knew what I did was right. She asked Jake if I could go with someone in his pack to calm down and get my head together. Jake chose you.”
“What did you do Kyle?”
“I told Ryan exactly what he deserved to know. I told him he was making her suffer. I told him that she wanted him to disappear-”
“-she just wanted him to leave and let her get on with life,”
“-I don’t want to know anymore.”
“-and if he didn’t believe it he could hear it in my mind.”
I slapped him in the face, throwing him off balance. He swore and I got up and walked away before he could say anything. He ran after me.
“Leah, what the hell?”
“All that crap about Ryan, Kyle, that’s what. Do you really have no idea?” I shouted over my shoulder. He continued to follow me and I sped up my pace.
“No! What is it? Do you think I was wrong to tell him? Because if you do you’re the only one, Amber’s so relieved I know it, and she’ll tell me when she gets better...” he choked off the end of his sentence. I span around.
I paused, mid-breath. “Is she okay?” I asked. He shook his head dismissively.
“Forget about it she’ll be fine- just tell me Leah.”
I sighed defeated. I knew exactly why I hated meeting his eyes. It’s like when you imprint your eyes contain ten times the emotion normal people hold in their own gaze. Even the object of your imprint has a reflection of your own intensity in their eyes. If I couldn’t look at him properly now I wouldn’t stand a chance when he’s with Amber.
My hand stung from hitting him and so did my eyes. I always find weak spots but this time he found mine.
“I shouldn’t have hit you.”
“It’s okay really. Tell me Leah,” he insisted.
I sat down and motioned for him to join me.
“You probably know who Sam is by now right?”
“Yeah I do.”
“Do you know Emily?”
“No but wait, slow down, what’s he even got to do with anything?”
“He’s got everything to do with everything,” I said.