A million thoughts and feelings swept through me as I scrambled to figure out what to do. Should I wave? Smile? Walk over to him? …Pretend that I’m actually looking at the shop behind him? It was a sort of nervous energy that made my legs shuffle under me and my heart race.
I had so much to say to him, yet so much I shouldn’t have said to begin with.
And yet the most important thing, at the forefront of my mind, was still the debate as to whether I should tell him about the future. Because I knew he had a right to know, even if I ended up sounding insane.
I took a step towards him and began to hold up my hand to wave.
But I didn’t get to finish my sentence as he instantly looked away, turning back down to pack his bag. All I could do was watch mutely as he got onto his motorbike and kick it into ignition, not even bothering to look at me again before he rode off. It was as if he’d just slammed a door in my face. I stood there shocked with my hand still partially raised, embarrassment creeping up on me. My cheeks burned at being left looking stupid on the side of the street. “…Aria?” Myra asked, sounding unsure over whether she should ask about what just happened. I balled my hand up into a loose fist and brought it down to hold against my chest. It was fine. I deserved that. Cai may not realise how much danger he would be in one day, but I did. And I still had a chance to make a change for the better. Even if I never saw him again, even if he never thought of me ever again, I would still do my best to keep him safe. Whatever it took. I vowed to never let Aleric start that war which would become the beginning of the end. It was a horrifying reminder that I’d been procrastinating figuring out just what laid ahead for my future. If I embraced my Sainthood and declared ultimate authority, then I would need to b e amassing allies right now for the eventual political takeover within the pack. It was something I didn’t want to initiate if possible as it put my entire family at risk and would only serve to create a civil war. But then that didn’t leave me with many options.
I hated to admit it but, when the time came, I knew I may need to prepare myself for the worst -case scenario in order to save the people I cared about, including Cai. If there really were no options left after exhausting all possibilities, then maybe, one day… I would need to take up m y Luna position once more. “Aria?” Myra asked again, having become worried over my extended silence. It pulled me out of the deep thoughts I’d been trapped in. A rabbit hole of grim reminders I didn’t want to think about just yet. I had to forcefully push them aside inside my mind. There was no reason to get caught up thinking about it yet. There were still so many years before I’d be hard-pressed to make a
decision. “…Sorry,” I said, still a little out of it. She frowned, pursing her lip a little. “What was that? Cai definitely saw you right?” I rubbed at my forearm feeling a little awkward still. “…I guess not.” She was silent in thought but let it go. Myra knew me well enough by now to know that, if I didn’t feel like talking about something, then I wouldn’t. She was used to my normally reserved attitude.
“…Did you want to get something to eat?” she finally asked. And I forced a smile on my face. “That’s a great idea.”
A few minutes later, we’d walked down to the food district and were checking out all the different cafes and restaurants. There was a pretty great variety and I was excited to try something different. Normally all the special meals I had were either prepared at the house of someone important, or we’d attend one of the upscale restaurants reserved for the upper ranked only. It was refreshing to not feel pressured to act so carefully with my words and actions for once.
As we rounded the corner, a small cottage style cafe then caught my eye suddenly, almost obscured completely by trees and plants. It would be easy for someone to walk by without seeing it. There was a sort of beauty about it and I knew this was the place I wanted to eat at for my very first average citizen meal. “Let’s got here, Myra,” I said, pointing to the little cafe. We both walked up to it and inspected the menu outside on a little podium. “Oh, Aria, I don’t know. It’s a little expensive. Maybe we can try somewhere else?” But I was adamant about wanting to eat here. I didn’t care what it meant in order to persuade her. I had told myself I wasn’t going to try and buy her things often, knowing it may make her feel awkward, but I really did have my heart set on this little place. It was so beautiful yet private. “It’s fine, I’ll pay for your meal.” “Aria, you can’t pay for everything in my life,” she said. “I can do things myself too.” “But this is my first time going to a normal cafe. Please, can we go?” I looked at her with hopeful eyes and finally her frown softened. “…Okay, fine,” she said, yielding. I smiled brightly at her and was about to tell her how excited I was but she cut me off before I could. “…On one condition.” “Condition?”
“You have to tell me what happened between you and Cai,” she said with a serious face. “And don’t even try to tell me nothing happened because I’ve gotten to know both of you pretty
well over these last few months. Something is off.”
I bit at the inside of my cheek and debated over whether it was really worth telling her. I didn’t know how to talk about the things that had happened or why they had affected me so much. T o give her the full picture it would require me to tell her about my previous life, of which I couldn’t do.
“Does it really matter? It’s not like we’re ever going to see him again.”
She flinched at my overly harsh words and I instantly felt bad about it. “You know, I normally don’t push you on things like this,” she said, “but I care about both you and Cai. Can you please tell me just this once?” I sighed. I could probably give her a basic rundown of the events without going into too much detail. She might think I overreacted, and to an extent I probably did, but I wouldn’t be able to tell her why it hurt me so badly. “…Okay,” I agreed reluctantly. She smiled and grabbed my hand to pull me into the little cafe. Inside it was completely stunning. There was a small patio that wrapped around the back which had vines creeping along the walls and fencing. Though it looked like it may have been a bit older on the outside, the interior was heavily renovated and modern in a homey kind of way.
A waitress greeted us by the door and her eyes went wide when she realised who I was, my silver hair and violet eyes being something I couldn’t exactly hide from other pack members i n public. But it was easy to ignore her reaction since I had also been getting the same expression from the store vendors all day.
She quickly led us to a spot on the patio that overlooked a forest below us and, much to my delight, we could even see some of the mountains in the distance. It was obviously the best seat in the house and I was definitely impressed. It acted as a nice reminder of how large and diverse, not only our pack was, but also the territory we lived on.
“What are you thinking of ordering?” I asked after we’d settled down. Myra had spent some time studying the menu in front of me with great focus.
“I’m not sure… but they’re still serving breakfast this late, so maybe an eggs benedict or omelette?”
Both of those seemed like pretty standard choices… but I had my eye on something far better.
“What about you?” she asked.
“Hmm… I’m getting the chicken nuggets and fries.” She stared at me blankly. “What...? You mean the kid’s menu item?” “Oh, was it only on the kid’s menu? Do you think they’ll make a full plate if I ask them?” “Aria, why do you want nuggets?” she asked confused. “There are so many other nicer options.
I thought about it and realised that perhaps my choice might have seemed odd to her. But she
didn’t really understand where I was coming from, what my upbringing had been like. “This is my first time being able to choose what I want to eat without being pressured and I’ve never had junk food before. I think my parents would have a heart attack if I told them I was thinking of eating it.” Her frown eased, finally understanding. Thankfully, she didn’t question me further on it. It was true that I’d never eaten a proper unhealthy meal before. In my past life, my diet had always been strict even after I became Luna. I’d never touched anything greasy once I had come of age for fear it would make Aleric think I was unrefined. But I was living a new life now and was so much healthier than I had ever been. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone anymore and I’d already lived one life of little to no luxury. In my head, I didn’t need to justify it any further. I was getting the d**n nuggets. It took some persuasion but the waitress eventually agreed to give me a larger serving of the kid’s meal after several strange looks. I didn’t care though. When it finally came out and I took my first bite, I swear I could have died again right then and there a happy girl. Myra watched on while I ate, her face curious over my reaction, but I didn’t let her stare interrupt me. I was having a whole new experience that was so good it must have been a blessing from a higher power. “So… are you going to tell me?” she finally asked after I’d finished having an intimate moment with my food. I knew what she meant of course. She was asking me to uphold my end of the deal.
And so, I started to tell her what had happened; how Cai hadn’t shown up and hadn’t bothered to cancel when he was so close by, how I‘d found him and how he’d acted at first like I was in the one in the wrong. And finally, I told her how he didn’t even tell me he was leaving.
She took it all in and listened silently, nodding occasionally. When I was finally done, she sat i n thought for a few moments. “Sounds like you’re both in the wrong,” she concluded.
I sighed. “I can’t disagree with that statement. I was going to apologise but it looks as though I’ve run out of time. He made it pretty clear today he doesn’t want to talk to me.” Myra shifted and rested her head against her hand on the table, a small crease forming between her brows as looked to be thinking.
“One thing doesn’t make sense to me though,” she said. “At the time, you seemed to get really upset over the situation quite quickly.”
I suddenly felt really nervous and wasn’t sure how to reply. “Oh… well….”
“Aria…,” she started, “umm, don’t take this wrong way but… seeing Cai like that suddenly….”
Myra adjusted in her chair to sit up, looking unsure as to whether she should ask what she was about to. And I could say with absolute certainty that I definitely wasn’t expecting the next words out of her mouth.
“Aria… could you have maybe been… jealous?” It probably seemed a little harsh given how serious she was about the question, but I couldn’t help it. I burst out into laughter. “Me…? Jealous…?” I asked whilst still chuckling. “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that, Myra?
Her cheeks blushed. “What are you talking about?” I leaned in closer, raising a brow at her questioningly. “You think I don’t see how you always stare at him with those big eyes? How you always blush whenever he was near?” “I do not!” she protested.
“Your cheeks are literally turning red just talking about it,” I pointed out.
She covered her hands over her face in an attempt to hide it. “Stop teasing me, Aria,” she whined. I couldn’t help but laugh harder. “Ok, ok, I’ll stop. I’m sorry.” It seemed like such a ridiculous idea to have been jealous. Cai was renowned for his playboy antics, I knew that already.
“Besides,” I said, taking a sip of my water. I’d been laughing so hard my throat had gone completely dry. “I already have enough boy troubles as it is. Or have you forgotten who I am, Myra?”
She was confused for a second before realisation spread across her face. “Oh, right. We never really talk about the other side of your life so I’d forgotten. Aleric, right?” I nodded. “Unfortunately.” “…Unfortunately? I thought being mated to the Alpha was every girl’s dream? They’re so strong, handsome, and…” “Arrogant,” I finished for her. Not to mention insane, emotionally unstable and murderous, but I didn’t add that part aloud for her to hear.
“Is he?” she asked, curious now. “I’ve never met him so I wouldn’t know.” “I guess most of the pack just sees the poster boy they make him out to be. They have to talk him up since he’s going to be our leader one day.” I internally cringed thinking back to how at one point I’d felt naively the same way as Myra. As a young girl, they really had liked to talk about how amazing it would be if you were mated to a n Alpha. Or rather, more specifically, mated to Aleric since he was the young, handsome heir o four pack. All the non-ranked girls were basically drooling at the idea of becoming Luna. However, their dreams had been dashed pretty quickly for the Winter Mist position when the prophecy about Aleric and I was announced by the Elders.
“Well, if you’re so against it then, who knows? Maybe you won’t even turn out to be mates. It was just what the Elder’s said would happen, right?
I had to hold in another bout of laughter trying to escape my lips. She would ask what was so funny but it would be hard to explain the universal joke of me being stuck with Aleric, lest my entire being be torn apart and remade from scratch. No, I had already tried and failed at that negotiation once, and with a Goddess no less. I just smiled at her. “Maybe.”
We ended up spending the rest of the day together shopping. Myra was adamant about forcing me to try on and even buy a few clothes, which I obliged out of wanting to make her happy rather than any particular interest I had in the garments myself. It ended up being an extremely pleasant day, for the most part, which felt like it ended too soon.
I managed to get home with ample time to spare after dropping Myra off at home in a taxi. Helen was extremely happy and relieved to see me return safely too. Though, in comparison, the happiness she felt when my parents handed her the second cheque of the day obviously had a greater impact on her good mood. School resumed just as it always had over the weeks that followed. I couldn’t deny I felt a little empty inside, having lost something that used to be a large part of my life. I continued to train every day, working harder using the techniques Cai had taught me, but I noticed my skill improvement didn’t increase as quickly as I’d hoped it would without him. There was nothing I could change about that and knew I would need to make do with what I had.
Without consciously doing it, I realised I would still look out into the halls at school to see if I’d find his friendly face waving at me. And every time a part of me felt disappointed when there was nothing there. Cai was gone, and I needed to accept that. And so, after another month of procrastinating, the day finally arrived.
The day I would be going to receive my Goddess mark confirmation, thereby earning the official title of ‘Saintess’. From now on, nothing would be the same.