Lydia adored summer. The blissful warmth, freedom to roam, and delicious men had a tendency to make her delirious.
Something about summer made Lydia’s life worth living. As she basked under the fiery sun – her skin getting browner by the minute – all was almost right in the world. Lydia laid in a meadow of blooming wildflowers and golden grain that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was an otherworldly beauty.
With her eyes closed, it was easy to pretend. Lydia could almost hear her mother’s voice again, whispering about places faraway. She told of the oceans, the islands, and countries Lydia longed to witness herself. Her mother had cherished her memories, and that, Lydia envied. She envied the freedom of a carefree world unknown to her. Her memories of the world were in a small-town hidden in the trees; it was this small-town she called home.
“Soon, Mother,” Lydia promised. Lydia exhaled softly, ignoring the twinge in her heart, as she rested her head in a pillow of grass. A breeze rained vivid yellow pollen down on her, and ruffled her wind-blown hair. She didn’t mind. She laid in a serene quiet, thoughtfully running her hand across the smooth leather book propped against her leg.
The old tome was a diary, history that’d been buried under an inch of dust in her attic. Lydia’s father had given her it for the sole purpose of her Initiation, not understanding the true value of it.
She propped herself on her elbows, tucked her hair behind her ears, and opened it. The pages were yellowed from age and crisp from mildew, but it was perfect. It was her grandmother’s diary.
The first several pages depicted the origin of shifting – a tale scribbled in her ancestors’ diaries and told around late-night campfires. Lydia could envision her grandmother, perhaps fifteen at her first entry, eager to tell her version of the historic legend. Little had Lillian known, the diary would outlast even her.
Lydia flipped to page one.
Father told me of the Maya today. Upon birth, every mortal child was given a Nahual by the gods, a spiritual being whose essence was of a shape-shifter. The Nahual took the form of powerful beasts, tasked with protecting and guiding their humans to their destinies. Mestaclocan was the first of the Nahual.
Mestaclocan had the ability to change his appearance and manipulate the minds of animals, as did his brethren. He was a protector of mortals. In one tale, Mestaclocan came upon a jaguar and a hunter. Both the mortal and the beast were predators, yet were dying. Mestaclocan could see life within both of them. For he had the temptation of free will, he did not immediately go to rescue the mortal. Instead, he struggled to choose between right and wrong. The mortal represented his spiritual half; the jaguar his animal.
The script became illegible, and Lydia exhaled, an ominous feeling surrounding her. As the last few sentences rang in her mind, she recalled her Initiation just weeks past. Her father had concealed her nature from the rest of the pack, adamantly warning her to do the same. The only weight behind his warning was the look in his eyes: pure fear.
Still caught in her thoughts, Lydia was an unsuspecting target. A hand clamped down on her bare shoulder, bringing her fears to life. With a small shriek, she leapt to her feet and wheeled around, throwing a hard punch. Her fist was caught in a warm, tight grasp: Kaden’s.
Speaking of delicious men, she thought, shaking off her dreary mood. Kaden was the beta’s son, just months older than her. His pale blue eyes smiled wickedly at hers, and his chestnut-brown hair ruffled ever so slightly in the wind. Puberty had changed him from the awkwardly cute boy she’d known into a strong, handsome man. He was alluring. He was her best friend.
But he also had scared her half to death. “What the hell, Kaden!” She went for another hit at his chest. Again, he barely caught it with a deep chuckle. She was becoming stronger. “Hey, Lydia.”
She sighed under her breath, freeing her hand from his grasp after a moment. She couldn’t help but forgive him, yet she was unable to hold her tongue, “What are you doing out here? Did Rebekah get tired of her plaything?” Rebekah was that girl you either hated or loved. Perhaps they were alike, Lydia mused, except she’d learnt Rebekah was all bark and no bite.
Kaden’s eyes glinted mischievously, a smile hinting at the corners of his lips. “I spent half my afternoon hunting you down.” He raised his eyebrows inquiringly at the book sprawled in a disheveled array at her feet.
She retrieved it, keeping her face perfectly blank despite her growing unease. “I’m looking at some stuff for my dad. I needed some quiet.”
The lie slid from her tongue almost too easily, though Kaden eyed her doubtfully. He knew her better than she knew herself sometimes. “Right. You realize tomorrow’s your first shift?”
It was if he could sense her inner turmoil, and though she yearned to spill her guts to him, she couldn’t. Lydia nonchalantly agreed, but her mind was on faraway places – the oceans, the islands, the countries that would soon be hers. The full moon was just a shift for some. For Lydia, it was a turning point.
As she stood in the meadow, Lydia knew she would be long gone before the moon reached its apex. In that split second after her bones molded to that of a beast’s, her Pack would see her for what she was – an omen of death. She wasn’t a wolf, a bear, or a fox; kind, strong, or intelligent.
The full moon was the harbinger of her death if she stayed. But, she would protect herself. As she eyed her lifelong friend, Kaden, she hated to tack on: no matter who got in the way.
Lydia had a secret advantage; her Pack wouldn’t be convinced, defeated, or outsmarted. But, Lydia was a panther.
She was fast.
NOTE: If you read chapter one before I posted chapter two, I changed the story line. Chapter two won't make much sense unless you reread this. Enjoy!