27 of March 2021 – 12:05 AM
“Spill, Jettson,” demanded Whitney, her pecan brown eyes narrowing at me. “What’s going on with you and Zander?”
Professor Katsaros, the outspoken werelion that we shared for homeroom, had dismissed our class only minutes prior, citing that our outfits were a matter of self-expression and should not be policed. I didn’t really understand what he meant until Deandrae, the merlad that sits to my right, explained that the only reason we go to homeroom on our club days (aside from roll call) was to allow our professors to judge whether or not the casual clothes we wore were appropriate for school.
Whitney stomped over as soon as Katsaros followed the crowd of students out, and that was when she confronted me.
“Uh…” What the hell am I supposed to say? Do I tell her what I’ve been doing? Do I tell her that Zan caught me? “Nothing. We’ve just been getting to know each other–you know, step-sibling stuff, I guess.”
If her eyes could have narrowed anymore, they would have been closed. “You’re lying. Something’s up.”
“I’m not lying!” Oddly enough, I wasn’t. My stepbrother and I grew closer over the last couple of days, and I learned that there was more to him than some cold, detached leader. “I’m serious, Whit. There’s nothing going on.”
Her chin jutted out. “Would you consider me your friend?”
I frowned. “Yeah, of course.”
“Then why won’t you tell me what’s going on?” she asked, her tone lower than before. “I’m your guide–I’m supposed to help you, not him.”
Damn it, does she have to guilt me? “I just–” I hesitated and scratched my chin. “I don’t know if this is something I can tell you, Whit. Like, maybe I should ask Zan first–”
Her chest puffed up at the mention of the alpha. “Fine! Go ask for his permission.”
My own irritation was rising as she spun around and strutted back to her seat across the room. “What the hell’s your problem?”
“Excuse me?” she snapped, glaring at me over her shoulder.
“You. Zander. What is your problem with him?” I probed. Whitney, Zander–I hated feeling like I was caught in the middle of two people that I had come to care for. It felt like I was watching my parents’ marriage fall apart all over again. “So he didn’t make you his second–”
“You and your freak-ass ears–” she cursed under her breath.
“–Is that it? Is that all it takes for you to throw away your friendship?” I assessed. “ ‘Cause he’s fuckin’ trying, Whit–”
“If you heard all that, then you know why he won’t name me his second,” she hissed. “It’s ‘cause I’m a girl–”
Her claim was cut off by my mirthless chuckle. “Are you serious? Whit, it’s not ‘cause you’re a girl–it’s ‘cause you’re the girl. He’s in love with you!”
Whitney shook her head and averted her eyes. “No, no–”
“Yes!” I insisted. “He won’t give you a position beneath him because he sees you as his equal. He told you himself–he wants you to be his partner.”
“He’s…” She bit her bottom lip, carefully considering her words. “I don’t think he meant it.”
“How the hell do you know–?”
“ ‘Cause I came up with him!” she hollered, spinning around. I almost thought she was going to advance on me, but she held her ground instead. “No one knows him like I do. It was my house he ran to when his parents got into it, and it was my house where his dad dropped him when his mom was in the hospital. It’s where he saw his first anime–shit, it’s where he first started speaking to the rest of us, ‘cause he never said a damn word before then. I know the world he was raised in, and I’m telling you that Zander Woods has never known love.”
That’s when it all clicked for me. “He probably didn’t,” I conceded. “Until he met you.”
Whitney’s body jerked back as if she’d been slapped, her eyes wide and brow furrowed. We were silent for a moment, and I was debating whether or not to apologize and steer us back to the original topic when my first friend in the pack turned, collected her belongings, and walked out of the room.
Lilly and Helena ran off to check out their desired clubs, and Sage and Gal left to change clothes and meet with the yoga club for their morning stretch. I knew they both had their own club obligations after that–Sage mentioned that they wanted to stop by the LGBTQIA+ Alliance room on their way to poetry club, and Gal was considering meeting them after tending to the rooftop garden with the botany club. Axel and Jett had joined our group outside the classroom just after my besties had gone, and my brother assured my guides that he’d bring me along later after we ran my errands. Since he had always stuck around, I half-expected Jett to come with us–after all, it was his first club weekend, too–but Zander and a handful of Hunters snagged him before he could decide for himself. By the time they had cleared out, the only other people left in E wing were freshmen stragglers.
“Looks like it’s just you and me, kid,” said Axel with a simper. He was dressed in a powder blue collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The first two buttons were undone, and his top spilled down over his dark-wash skinny jeans. His leather shoes reminded me of cowboy boots, despite the fact they didn’t even reach above his ankles, and a small silver medallion hung from a chain around his neck, almost disappearing into his shirt. His blond curls were as messy as always.
I smirked. “Just like old times.”
We were about to head toward the courtyard when a figure approached us. “Is it cool if I join you?”
I studied the young werewolf, trying to figure out why they looked so different. They wore a long sleeve black shirt beneath their black graphic tee, sporting the name of what I presumed to be a death metal band based on the illegible font used. Their shirts were tucked loosely into their dark grey ripped jeans, held up by a black leather belt with the legs rolled up to reveal long black socks, and their feet were clad in worn converse the color of–you guessed it–black. Their licorice-black hair looked as if they had just rolled out of bed, and their silver earrings were mismatched; one was a tiny skull with black eyes dangling from a hook, and the other was a simple black stud. They had on black eyeliner, and their hands reminded me of Lilly’s outfit for the day–rings on every finger, sometimes multiple.
“Hey, Storm,” I greeted them. “Sure, you can come with, if you don’t mind that I’m not really checking out clubs just yet.”
They shrugged and stepped aside, allowing me to lead the way before joining me on my right. Axel kept stride easily on my left, his phone in hand as he nodded in Storm’s direction. “ ‘Sup, I’m Ax.”
“You’re Professor Cloud’s sibling, right?” inquired my brother, holding the left door out of E wing open. Storm was already pushing open the right. “You look a lot like her.”
Storm shrugged again. “I guess. How do you know her? She only teaches Hunter classes.”
Axel smirked as I passed through the doors, my eyes peeled for any sign of the witches I needed. “I have friends in the journalism club who’ve taken her class. Arion’s pretty sure she’s dating the auto shop professor.”
“You mean Balt?” The corners of their mouth turned up slightly. “Damn, he’s got good instincts. They’ve been together for a while, I think.”
I ignored their dialogue, wracking my brain to try and figure out why Storm seemed different to me. Sure, it was my first time seeing them outside of AOA dress, but their outfit wasn’t exactly surprising. One could practically predict the werewolf’s aesthetic based on the way they and Cinnamon accessorize–
That’s when it hit me. “Hey, Storm? Where’s Cinnamon?”
Any hint of a smile that was on their lips vanished, and the tips of their ears turned bright pink. “She’s checking out a bunch of clubs. I didn’t feel like going.”
“Oh.” That’s surprising. I’ve barely known them a week, and even I know that those two are inseparable. Deciding it best not to pry, I shrugged and added, “Okay, well, we’ll check out a few later, too.”
“What’d you say we were doing again?”
I didn’t. “Uh, I have to find some witches and ask them for favors.”
Their dark olive eyes met mine briefly before they nodded. “Alright. I’m down to intimidate some witches.”
Axel snickered and elbowed my side. “Where’d you find this kid? Of all your new friends, they’re my favorite.”
I rolled my eyes. “Great. Why do I suddenly feel like I’m a babysitter…”
The vampire and werewolf followed me toward the gymnasium, gabbing about their music preferences the whole way.