My quiet humming momentarily cut off as I winced. The overhead intercom’s static interference made it nearly impossible to hear which stop we were arriving at. My ears rang uncomfortably as my wolf shifted under my skin, offering me a frustrated look. As if this was somehow my fault!
Luckily, I had heard enough to distinguish the word ‘Kirkwall,’ meaning that I was nearly to my stop. From what I understood about this train system, there was little to no chance of missing the stop since it was quite literally the end of the line. At least, I hoped my understanding was correct. The last thing I needed today, considering I barely had enough money to make it onto campus, was dealing with more train fares and schedules.
My humming once again picked up as I refocused on the southern Wisconsin town that I was now traveling through. This was the furthest I’d ever been from home. Something that was both intimidating and exciting.
This was a good thing.
That was what I continued to tell myself, because if I didn’t, I was liable to freak out, considering the massive change that I was embarking on. Completely alone, mind you. A change that I hadn’t exactly willingly volunteered for, either.
No, none of this, as with most things in my life, had been my choice. I had never considered moving anywhere, let alone three hours north of my South Side Chicago home. More so, the concept of attending a university of any kind, especially one like this, had never crossed my mind. Why would it? I may have been sheltered from the world outside of our pack, but I knew enough to understand that girls like me didn’t get the opportunity to further their education past high school.
Girls like me worked at their pack’s local bar as a waitress and lived with their parents until they managed to attract a mate and pop out their own litter of wolves. Appealing, right? But despite its unsavory nature to me, I had accepted that was my future. Or I had assumed so.
Now, though? Well, now I felt far more free to accept just how much that concept had truly bothered me. I knew mating was necessary to continuing a pack’s heritage and family line, but it had never sounded like something I wanted to take part in. My nose scrunched slightly as I considered the concept of mating with any of the boys that I knew from back home. No. No, thank you.
Was it normal to feel so distasteful about men in general?
Actually, that was a lie. Most men didn’t bother me at all… until they showed themselves to be similar to the man that took me in, Gerald. When those qualities—quick to temper and general disdain for all females—showed themselves, I usually found myself completely disenchanted.
Not that I’d ever been ‘enchanted’ with a man to begin with, if we were being honest. I may have found them attractive at first, but upon hearing their cruel language and watching how they treated others? Any attraction had completely disappeared.
Fertility and strength of your mate.
Theresa, Gerald’s wife, and her friends constantly claimed that the ‘fertility and strength of your mate’ was far more important than the substance. Something that not only left me with an uneasy feeling in my stomach, but didn’t ring true. I was positive they believed what they were saying, but I felt like that was more of a lie created to make shifter women think they were happy or content with the mates they had, even if the pairing was far from perfect. Once coming to that realization, my disdain for relationships like that had only grown further.
Relationships where your opinion wasn’t respected.
Relationships where you were blamed entirely for not being able to produce pups.
Relationships where you were essentially a servant in your own home.
I may have been a more quiet individual, but I was far from ignorant. Rather the opposite, and I found myself constantly wanting to stand up for her against Gerald. What went on between the man and woman I had lived with was far from normal, even if it was accepted in our pack. I’d learned my lesson, though—it was far safer to keep my opinions to myself.
I knew, bone deep, that how he treated her wasn’t right.
I knew the bruises he left on her and me weren’t acceptable.
I knew the hatred he spewed about how she looked and acted was why she constantly appeared withdrawn and exhausted.
Yet when I tried to intervene at all, even talking to her in private, I was somehow the one at fault. I was either ‘too young to understand’ or ‘ungrateful to the man that provided a roof over our head.’ The latter was not even factual, because Gerald didn’t have a job, so Alpha technically owned our apartment. But that didn’t matter. Theresa had twisted it in her head so that those elements weren’t important and that they were minor inconveniences that ‘us women’ had to deal with.
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