Now it was my turn to drop my cutlery, almost choking on my food. “I‘m sorry? No. I did not have feelings for Cai,” I said, still coughing a little. I took a sip of water to clear my throat. “It was you who had feelings for Cai, remember? And Cai doesn’t have feelings for me either… unless you‘re talking about the kind of feelings that find him inside a girl’s skirt for a day.”
I quickly looked up to meet Myra’s fiery eyes. It was the first time I’d ever heard her swear or even sound so angry. I was completely taken aback. “Myra…?” She closed her eyes and composed herself for a second. “Sorry, sometimes I think you’ve rubbed off on me a little too much.”
My lip twitched in a smile. It was nice to see Myra standing up for herself so confidently for once… even if she was passionate about the wrong thing in this case.
“Look, I didn’t have feelings for Cai,” she stressed. “You need to realise our lives aren’t the same, Aria. I’m not anyone special. I don’t have a rank, my parents aren’t famous, and I don’t have any cool marks or prophecies about my future mate… I’m just an average pack member, trying to contribute where I can.”
I went to disagree with her about not being anyone special, but she just held up her hand to indicate she wanted me to let her finish.
“I‘m not anyone special, Aria,” she insisted. “Without intervention, I most likely would have lived and died without ever having met a ranked member my entire life. I would have become o f age, become mated to an average joe just like myself, had a few children, and then died. But then one day I saw you in the library at school, just like I had every other day prior, except this time you seemed different. You had stood up to Braydon that day, something so o character for your reputation back then… but it was more than that. Truthfully, when I saw you that day, you looked almost… sad. And so, despite all my better judgment, I still went and spoke to you for the first time.” It was hard to hear her say these things about herself, especially since I cared for her so deeply. But I didn‘t dare to interrupt her. It felt like something that had been weighing on her for a while and she needed to speak.
“Honestly, talking to you that day in the library was the most nerve–wracking thing I‘d ever done. And then, by some miracle, you, the Beta‘s only child, and Cai, an alpha heir, saved me… and suddenly I‘m in a new world where, not only are two incredibly important people talking t o me, but they want to be my friend?! I didn‘t understand why. Like… why me…?”
She looked up to me finally and I could see her eyes had gone watery. And it hurt me to see her like that. She didn’t understand how important she was to me. How much I had needed her
over these years. It was because of her I had started to trust others again. “So, no, Aria,” she said, “I don‘t have feelings for Cai in the way you may think. I don‘t have feelings stronger than any of the other non-ranked girls in this entire pack… or any other pack for that matter. An Alpha heir speaks to me, is kind to me, and you think I‘m in love with him? Hell yes, I am! I would probably act the same if it were Aleric, too. You’re all goddamn celebrities in our eyes! But I know my place, and that‘s not with an Alpha. I‘m not meant to become a Luna or any other ranked member’s mate.”
I felt guilty for bringing it up now, for flaunting something without realising. It was easy form e to forget my privilege having lived two incredibly important lives around influential people. And yet i’d done nothing to deserve it. I knew someone like Myra would be far more suited to a Luna position with her ability to identify the struggles of others easily and help them. She cared about everyone around her, regardless of who they were. “Myra, you’re completely wrong,” I said sadly. “You have no idea how important you are.” She shook her head but still gave me a small smile. “Cai is a really good guy at heart…,” she said, bringing the conversation back. She was trying to take the attention off herself. “But I think you already know that. I also saw how you used to look at him, how you were around him, and I know you don’t have the same excuse as me as to why you acted that way. So, I think we both know he’s not the issue here. No, I think your real problem is with yourself, Aria … not Cai.” I frowned. “No… but I told you, remember? He was with that girl, Iris, the other night. And it‘s so much more complicated than that, Myra. My position complicates it.” “…But did you see them actually go home together? Or even properly kiss?” No… I hadn‘t. I hadn‘t technically seen anything other than them hugging and Iris pecking his cheek Technically, both of those things could be considered normal actions between two people who were close.
“I‘m not stupid,” she said, resting her head on an arm she‘d propped up on the table. “I realise there’s a lot about yourself you’ve never told me and that‘s fine. It‘s not for me to pry into your private life and I’ve always just been grateful to spend time with you. But if there is one thing that I‘ve come to realise over these last few years, it‘s that, whatever it is you’ve kept hidden, it hurt you bad. Badly enough that you‘ve completely rejected the idea of becoming Luna, of becoming Aleric’s mate, or of even getting close to anyone. And it‘s not healthy.”
“That‘s not true! I’m close with you, Myra,” I argued.
“More than others? Sure, I can see that. But even I don‘t know much about you, Aria. Not on a deeper level. From what I can tell, it looks to me as if you’ve rejected the idea of being with Cai for the same reason you were so sad in the library that day. Because of whatever this pain is you’re trying so hard to hide.”
I felt sick. I had never expected our conversation to turn out like this. I‘d thought I had been keeping that part of myself hidden from her well since she had never mentioned it, but this entire time it was actually just because she didn‘t think she was worthy enough to know? And if that were true, then did Myra think all these years that I didn’t trust her? Am I part of the reason for why she thinks so low of herself? I wondered if I’d just been upfront and honest
with her from the beginning, whether or not she would have realised just how important she was. That there wasn’t actually any reason to feel so distant from me. “I’m sorry I’ve let it get to this point,” I said finally after some time. I could hear the waver in my voice as I struggled to not become too overwhelmed by my own emotions. “I should have told you the truth sooner.”
She smiled a little. “I didn‘t say all of this to guilt you into telling me. I’m just trying to give you my perspective on this whole situation. I know you care about me, even if you‘ve had to hide things.”
“No, I get what you’re saying… but you don’t fully understand and that’s entirely my fault,” I said and stood up, digging around in my wallet for some money to leave on the cafe table.” You need to hear this from my point of view, and you need to know why I haven’t told you. But not here… there are too many people.”
Maybe then she would stop putting herself down because of me.
I held my hand out to her and she grabbed it, her face still looking a little sad. And together we walked outside, making our way up the street to where I’d parked my car. I needed to tell her. It was time. Myra had been the one thing in my life I could depend on and yet I had failed to do the same for her. How long had she been hurting because of me? I had been so selfish in my own world, relying on her whenever it suited me, and hadn’t even realised the damage I’d been doing to someone I cared about.
…But what was she going to think once I told her? I knew I didn‘t need to worry about whether she would believe me, but the issue was how she would react. Would she become afraid of Aleric just as I had been? Would she finally understand why a future with Cai wouldn’t lead to anything better?
Because right now it must have seemed like everything was so black and white for her. That any feelings I may have would actually be of consideration when it came to being romantically involved with someone like Cai.
Because at the end of the day, being with a different Alpha heir was actually just the same. Maybe worse. Aleric or Cai, it didn‘t matter. Both of them would mean I’d be forced to become Luna one day and face different but similar difficulties. And that was only if I managed to live long enough to get that far. I’d worked so hard to become a Beta heir and was planning to use i t as my reason for rejecting Aleric; even if that meant invoking the Elders to enforce it. No one was going to be able to question it since it was so I could become Beta.
But if I then went on to reject my pack’s future Alpha, forsaking the prophecy that said our union would bring success to the Winter Mist, before ultimately running off with a different Alpha? I had no doubt that I’d be marked as a traitor and would ignite a war in the process. A war that would maybe end with Cai dead on that battlefield again. Or maybe even Aleric this time too. It was possible that they would just both end up killing each other if I refused to intervene like in the past.
My mind pictured the two of them dead in that field and I shivered. No feelings I may or may not have was worth that. Not to mention the countless lives that would be lost due to war. Hadn’t I just seen with my own eyes how my selfish actions could complete your eyes more hurt innocent people around me? Thousands of people out there, just like Myra, who would be caught up in the whims of people who were considered more important. “Aria, you’re digging into my hand,” Myra said quietly, breaking me from my thoughts. I looked down to see my nails clawing into her skin and quickly let go. It had been completely unintentional and now made me feel so much worse. “I’m so sorry, Myra. Are you okay?” She nodded, smiling a little, but still rubbed at her hand.
I realised then that I’d been so lost in my thoughts that I‘d completely forgotten where I’d parked. I had to scan the area around me to get my bearings.
And it was then that I saw it. Or, more accurately, I saw her. Immediately, I moved fast to hide behind a large tree we had stopped next to. Large enough to stop anyone from seeing us.
…Because Thea was here.
Out in the open, across the street and… appearing to be doing shopping, of all things. “Aria?” Myra asked confused.
“Shhh,” I said, peeking around the side to see if Thea had noticed me before I hid.
Thankfully, it seemed she hadn’t. She was standing by a store that had racks of clothing in a garden area outside. It looked like she had been too focused on sifting through the garments hanging up to realise I was even there.
…I knew this could be a good opportunity for me… but I just needed to think of a plan.
“Who are you hiding from?” Myra asked as she came to lean against the tree too, trying to help obscure me. She must have sensed my urgency and realised that this was important to me.
I bit my lip. I had no issue explaining who she was to Myra since I had already planned to tell her, but I didn‘t have time to explain everything in detail here right now in public. Not when Thea was so close by and could disappear again at any second. “She’s someone I used to know,” I said finally. “Someone I‘ve been trying to find for the last two years. But it‘s all… wrong. It‘s like she suddenly appeared out of thin air and I don‘t know why.”
Myra frowned. “If you‘ve been trying to find her then why aren‘t you going to talk to her?”
“…It‘s complicated,” I said, scrunching my face up. Inside, I continued to quickly try and think about what to do. “Basically, when I saw her again for the first time, she knew I had been looking for her. She shouldn‘t have known I was looking. And yet she saw me and ran before I could talk to her.”
“Wait… so you know her, and you were trying to find her… but she shouldn’t know you were trying to find her… but she does? And it‘s so important that you’re now hiding behind a tree…?
I could tell my words were only making Myra more confused and I cursed internally over the entire situation I was now in.
“Yes…,” was all I could say, even though I knew that didn’t help her. “But I need answers and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get them if I approach her directly.” “Okay… so, I’ll just go and talk to her instead?” Myra offered. “I can just casually pretend to bump into her and introduce myself.”
I stared at her in surprise. She was right. If Myra spoke with her instead of me then Thea wouldn’t suspect anything. Though, as much as I’d like to know Thea’s future plans, I knew with this idea came the downside that the questions asked would need to be kept very basic; such as where she was from, what pack she belonged to, and why she was in town, etc.
But any information was better than no information. And the best part? Myra wasn’t even ranked so it was unlikely that Thea had ever seen her face before. She was also the type of person who was just genuinely friendly to everyone so it wouldn’t be that odd for her to approach a stranger. “Myra… you’re so smart,” I whispered as I stared at her with adoration. She giggled at the compliment. “I try!” And so, with that, Myra and I quickly devised a plan. A plan to find out where the hell Thea had been for the last two years.