Past, Present, Future
“Time never changes itself. It changes everything else.”
Megan laid on Gabriel’s bed staring at the ceiling, her hand clutching at a family photograph. She missed her nana, but since the news came out about her adoption, she almost felt guilty for missing her —as though it wasn’t her place. She had not spoken to her mother since the discovery and she could only guess that Noelle had told her why. Her mother would come by every day and knock on the door softly, asking if she wanted to talk. But she didn’t. She didn’t care to talk to her mother —or Marjorie, as she had started referring to her. She only wanted to be left alone to sit, to think, to cry.
Gabriel had already left the apartment that morning. Since the night of the ritual, the entire pack was turned upside down. News got out about the kidnapping of Noelle, Gabriel and Megan. The pack could not understand why Declan was not the alpha anymore. And no one knew what to say about the new female alpha —with Noelle’s hybrid status. It was enough to make your head explode.
There was a soft knock at the door and Megan groaned inwardly, not in the mood to deal with Marjorie at the moment.
“Megan,” a voice called out. It was not her mother’s, it was her uncle’s. “Open the door please. I’d like to talk to you.”
Megan had no desire to open the door, but her legs moved her out of the bed as though they had a mind of their own. They walked the rest of her body toward the door and her hand reached out and unlocked it.
Garett pushed open the door and when he looked at her face, he immediately stepped inside and wrapped her in a tight embrace. Megan didn’t know how long they stood there like that, with his arms wrapped around her. And she didn’t know how long the tears were streaming down her face before she thought to wipe them away.
“Megan,” Garett whispered, wiping his thumb over her cheek. “My favorite niece.”
“I’m your only niece.” She laughed, brushing her hand across her face.
Garett nodded. “Yes, and don’t you forget that.” Megan visibly swallowed, fighting back a fresh surge of tears.
“I just —I don’t understand.”
“I know that you probably have a lot of questions. More than a lot! And I promise that we will do everything to try to help you through this, but Megan, you have to talk to your mother. She is dying without you. She won’t eat, she won’t sleep. All she has done is sit by herself, locked away in her room.”
“Okay.” Megan nodded. “I’ll talk to her today. But Uncle Garett?”
“I’m still really mad at her.”
“I understand, Meggy. It’s good that you’ll talk to her. You can start getting some answers.” Garett smiled at her and looked down at her hand where she held the photograph. “What’s this?”
Megan handed him the photo and Garett stared down at all of their smiling faces. It was the whole family at the beginning of their family reunion a few weeks before —a few weeks felt like a few centuries. In that photograph, they were all still human. In that photograph, nana was still alive. In that photograph, they were all still hunters. Time never changes itself. It changes everything else.
Megan followed closely behind Garett as they made their way to the other apartment where her mother was locked away in her room.
Megan knocked softly at the door. “Please, Garett,” Marjorie said between sobs, “just leave me alone.”
“Mom, it’s me.”
Megan heard the creaking of the springs as her mother climbed out of bed and she listened; soft footsteps rapidly approached the door. Marjorie swung open the door and the two women stood staring at one another. Neither one knew what to say to the other and neither one really knew who should speak first.
“I’ve missed you,” Marjorie whispered finally.
Megan closed the space between them and took her mother into a tight embrace. They stood like that for a while, just holding onto one another, with silent tears becoming the only words which needed to be spoken.
Megan pulled back first and laughed a little to herself and Marjorie smiled at the familiar sound. “We should probably talk about some things,” Marjorie admitted.
This sobered Megan and the two walked into the living room and sat on the couch leaving a seat between them —a visible void which Marjorie would attempt to close with her confession.
“As you know, I worked for quite a long time as nurse, mainly in the Emergency Room. Well, actually, let me start from before that day.” Marjorie shifted uncomfortably in her seat and directed her gaze out the window. “Your father and I tried for many years to have a child. It became an obsession, the only thing we wanted in life was a family of our own. We tried everything imaginable, but it wasn’t meant to be. My body was just unable to carry human life. We became pregnant three times, but every time we would lose the baby within the first three months.”
Megan’s mouth opened as if she wanted to say something, but no words came out. Marjorie looked at her and nodded as though she understood.
“It was exhausting and it put such a strain on our relationship. We were on the verge of breaking apart. I know your father blamed me for not being able to do it and I blamed him for blaming me —it was a vicious cycle. One which there seemed would have no end. I loved him but I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t keep trying and failing.”
“But you must have figured it out, right? You and Daddy were so happy while I was growing up.”
Marjorie smiled and leaned in closer to her daughter. “You were the answer to our prayers. I was working late one night as I’d taken on so many extra hours to avoid going home… and there you were. Just standing in the middle of the bustling people as if you’d appeared out of nowhere. You had a large cut on your forehead and so I took your hand and led you to one of my stations.”
Megan lifted her hand reflectively and tentatively touched the small scar on her forehead that her mother used to kiss before putting her to sleep.
“You were so young that you didn’t even know how to speak yet. I asked you your name, who your parents were, where you came from, but you only stared at me. It was heartbreaking.” Marjorie sighed. “Once I had patched you up, I had to turn you over to child services and they tried to find your parents. I couldn’t sleep anymore —you became my new obsession. I could not understand how parents could simply lose such a precious child. I called the child service coordinator every single day to follow up on your case. Finally, one day, she told me the news that they would be turning you over to foster care.”
Megan’s eyes widened. “Foster care? So, they never found my parents?”
“No, they never did. At this point, I had it engrained in my head that I was the one who was supposed to find you, because I was your mother. I told your father about it and he thought that I had gone mental. But I told him that he should just give it a try and see. I was so certain that once he met you, he would love you as much as I already did.”
Megan smiled slightly at her mother’s recollection. She imagined the scenes that her mother was explaining to her. It made her feel safe, and very wanted.
“So, your father and I went through the process to become foster parents and because I had been in constant contact with the coordinator, she was able to set us up with you as our first child. Needless to say, the moment your father set his eyes on you, he was a goner. I remember it as if it were yesterday. The door swung open and he bent to his knees with his arms stretched open wide. You looked at him with your precious little blonde curls and said ‘Dada?’ That was that. We started the adoption process that same day and the coordinator was amazed. She said to us that sometimes in life, people just get lucky and find exactly what they are looking for in a different place than where they were searching. And that was exactly true for us. You were the daughter that we had prayed so hard for, and you found us.”
At this point, both Megan and Marjorie had tears in their eyes. Megan came over and sat by her mother, then she laid her head in her lap and Marjorie stroked her hair, just like when she was a child.
“The only thing I still don’t understand is why you never told me,” Megan whispered.
“Oh,” sighed Marjorie, “I wanted to tell you so many times, but it never seemed like the right time. When you were so young, it was fear that you would not understand and you would want to find your real parents. I was scared that if that happened, I would lose you and of course, your father. Then, when you became older, you always had this feeling that you didn’t fit in with your cousins, and I thought if I told you the truth then, it would simply crush you. I wanted you to be a part of every aspect of our family —you have always been my daughter. That is why we chose to introduce you to our hunting ways, and it was the final connection to us.”
Megan nodded. She understood, even though it still hurt to think that her mother had kept such a big secret from her for so long.
“Families come in all shapes and sizes, Megan. Our family came waltzing into our door in the shape of you.”
Megan closed her eyes and breathed in the familiar scent of her mother. She tried to think back to a time before she knew her mother’s face, but she could remember nothing. There was only her.
“Did they ever find anything about my birth parents?” Megan asked quietly, unsure how her mother would respond to the question.
To Megan’s surprise, Marjorie responded, “I kept searching for them. I called the police stations throughout the state and I sent your picture to them in case any parents reported a missing child. I tried to find them for you, which is another reason why I did not want to tell you. I knew you would want to find them, but I also knew that; either they did not want to be found, or that maybe, there was nothing to find anymore.”
Megan’s heart sped up. She had no memories of her birth parents, but the idea of losing them before she knew them hurt her still. She breathed steadily to try to calm down. Marjorie began stroking her arm as she did whenever Megan would begin having an anxiety attack. And just like always, she was able to catch her breath.
“I love you so much, Sweetie,” Marjorie whispered. “And I want you to know that if you want to find your family, I will help you in any way that I can.”
Megan lifted her head from her mother’s lap and looked at her. “Mom.” Megan smiled. “I want you to know that even if we did ever find those people, you will always and forever, be my real mother.”
Marjorie leaned into Megan’s arms and now it was Megan’s turn to stroke her mother’s hair and whisper to her that everything would be okay.
* * *
Noelle sat in the basement alone staring at the remnants of the lab where Edmund had created his so-called “cures.” She hadn’t spoken much to anyone since they had gotten back to the apartments after the ritual. Everyone had been so riled up and flustered —one moment they were celebrating a new female alpha, and the next, they were losing their alpha male altogether.
She hadn’t spoken to anyone because she had no idea what to say. She knew that she needed to get to Declan and explain to him everything that had happened —but no one had seen him. He was not in his apartment, he was not in his office, or the coffee shop.
Noelle sat in the chair and rubbed her hand across her face. What was she missing here? How could he have been perfectly fine one moment? And then suddenly, not able to transform any longer? That’s what the new alpha female had told Gabriel.
Noelle’s thoughts shifted to Gabriel. One minute they were racing through the woods escaping their psychotic kidnappers —which no one even knew about yet —and the next, Declan was crowning Gabriel the new alpha without so much as an explanation.
Noelle decided that if there was one person who would be able to help her process everything, it would be her father, Garett. He would be able to help her make sense of things, and to pick up exactly what pieces she was missing. Or, at the very least, point her in the right direction.
Noelle stood up from her chair and walked out the basement, closing the door shut behind her. She walked slowly up the stairs trying to make sure that nobody saw her. She neared the door to the apartment, but as she looked into the window, she could see Megan and Aunt Marjorie on the couch having a serious discussion. Well it seemed that way, by the looks on their faces.
Noelle leaned against the wall. “Psst!” Noelle looked around to see where the sound was coming from.
She saw a door further down the hallway cracked open. She walked toward it slowly and before she knew it, a pair of hands reached out and pulled her inside of the room.
“Gabriel?” Noelle nearly screamed. “What the hell are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” Gabriel hissed. “I’m freaking hiding out. What the hell is going on around here?”
“You’re asking me?” Noelle couldn’t help but let out a small laugh. “I’m trying to figure it all out myself.”
Gabriel looked at her seriously and then sat down on the couch with a groan. “Everyone keeps asking me what to do… ‘Where is Declan?’ ‘Is what’s-her-face still the new alpha female?’ And I’m like, ‘How the fuck should I know?’”
“I know, Gabriel.” Noelle sat down on the chair across from him. “I think we need to find Declan to get all of this properly sorted out.”
“Yeah, well good luck with that. The guy’s gone completely AWOL. Not a freaking peep from him since all this shit went down. And honestly, if I do see him, I’m going to kill him. I mean, things were finally really starting to go well for me, here. I found Megan, and now what? Now, I’m stuck with that new chick all because she fought some wolfs off or something? I mean is that how all of this works?”
Noelle stared at the man sitting across from her and she couldn’t help but feel for him. She knew that he and Megan had started a relationship, but she hadn’t known that it was anything serious. On top of that, he must now take charge of an entire pack without any guidance whatsoever, from the previous alpha.
“Okay,” Noelle said, trying to process everything, “what would Declan have done in a situation like this?”
“I don’t know!” Gabriel groaned. “I’m not him.”
“Fair enough,” Noelle said. “Then what would you do in a situation like this?”
Gabriel sat up and stared at her. She could see his brain working as he racked his mind for an idea.
“I guess we should call a pack meeting. That way, we can fill everybody in on what happened to us, and we can try to find out from them what happened out there, during the ritual. Also, we should probably let them know about you, too.”
Noelle nodded. “A pack meeting it is then.” She stood up from her seat and walked toward the door, reaching for the knob.
“Hey!” Gabriel called out. “Have you seen Megan at all? She’s been locked away in her apartment since we got back. She didn’t even really want to talk to me.”
“I think she’s working things out with her mom, Gabe. It’s pretty huge news to hear, especially given the circumstances.”
“I know.” He nodded. “I just don’t want her to think that she’s in this alone.”
Noelle smiled at his honest affection toward her cousin. It was refreshing to see that someone cared for another, without any expectations or secrets between them. She turned toward the door and walked out of the apartment.
Noelle thought carefully over the conversation she’d had with Gabriel and one thing was absolutely clear. And that was that they really needed to find Declan —and fast. She made her way down the hall to her parent’s apartment and knocked on the door softly. Her father pulled the door open and his jaw dropped when he saw her standing before him.
“Noelle,” he breathed, “we’ve been so worried! We had no idea what happened to you, and where have you been?”
Noelle smiled and fell into her father’s arms for a wonderful, tight embrace. She could tell that he was upset. And once she explained everything to him about Edmund, and about herself, she knew that he would help her to come up with a plan.
“Dad,” she said, “we need to talk.”
“Time never changes itself. It changes everything else.”