Shiver, p.21
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       Shiver, p.21

         Part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater
 
Page 21

 

  My voice came out a little strangled sounding. “Me?” But I remembered his eyes imploring me as he lay pinned beneath the she-wolf. Help me. He had recognized me.

  “Well, it’s not exactly a shock, is it? Everyone knows that you and Olivia Marx are freaks for those wolves, and clearly this has something to do with them. So what’s going on, Grace?”

  I didn’t like the way she asked the question—like maybe she already knew the answer. Blood was rushing in my ears; I was in way over my head. “Look. You’re upset, I get that. But seriously, get help. Leave me and Olivia out of this. I don’t know what you saw, but it wasn’t Jack. ”

  The lie left a bad taste in my mouth. I could see the reasoning behind the pack’s secrecy, but Jack was Isabel’s brother. Didn’t she have a right to know?

  “I wasn’t seeing things,” Isabel snapped as I opened the door. “I’m going to find him again. And I’m going to find out what your part is in all this. ”

  “I don’t have a part,” I said. “I just like the wolves. Now I need to get to class. ”

  Isabel stood in the doorway, watching me go, and I wondered what, at the beginning of all this, she had thought I was going to say.

  She looked almost forlorn, or maybe it was just an act.

  In any case, I said, “Isabel, just get help. ”

  She crossed her arms. “I thought that’s what I was doing. ”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE • SAM

  54°F

  While Grace was at school, I spent a long time in the parking lot, thinking about meeting wild Rachel and wondering what she’d meant by the wolf comment. I debated hunting for Jack, but I wanted to hear what Grace found out at school before I went on any wild-goose chase.

  I didn’t quite know how to occupy my time without Grace and without my pack. I felt like someone who has an hour until his bus arrives—not really enough time to do anything important, but too much time to just sit and wait.

  The subtle cold bite behind the breeze told me that I couldn’t put off getting on my bus forever.

  I finally drove the Bronco to the post office. I had the key to Beck’s post office box, but mostly, what I wanted to do was conjure memories and pretend that I’d run into him there.

  I remembered the day Beck had brought me there to pick up my books for school—even now, I remembered it had been a Tuesday, because back then, Tuesdays were my favorite day. I don’t remember why—it was just something about the way that u looked like when it was next to e that seemed very friendly. I always loved going to the post office with Beck; it was a treasure cave with rows and rows of little locked boxes holding secrets and surprises only for those with the proper key.

  With peculiar clarity, I remembered that conversation clearly, down to the expression on Beck’s face: “Sam. Come on, bucko. ”

  “What’s that?”

  Beck shoved his back ineffectually against the glass door, suffering under the weight of a huge box. “Your brain. ”

  “I already have a brain. ”

  “If you did, you’d have opened the door for me. ”

  I shot him a dark look and let him shove against the door a moment longer before I ducked under his arms to push it open. “What is it really?”

  “Schoolbooks. We’re going to educate you properly, so you don’t grow up to be an idiot. ”

  I remembered being intrigued by the idea of school-in-a-box, just-add-water-and-Sam.

  The rest of the pack was equally intrigued. I was the first in the pack to be bitten before finishing school, so the novelty of educating me was fascinating to the others. For several summers, they all took turns with the massive lesson manual and the lovely, ink-smelling new textbooks. They would stuff my brain full all day long: Ulrik for math; Beck for history; Paul for vocabulary, and later, science. They shouted test questions at me across the dinner table, invented songs for the timelines of dead presidents, and converted one of the dining room walls into a giant whiteboard that was always written with words of the day and dirty jokes that no one would cop to.

  When I was done with the first box of books, Beck packed them up and another box came to take its place. When I wasn’t studying my school-in-a-box, I was surfing the Internet for a different sort of education. I surfed for photos of circus freaks and synonyms for the word intercourse and for answers to why staring at the stars in the evening tore my heart with longing.

  With the third box of books came a new pack member: Shelby, a tanned, slender girl covered in bruises and stumbling under the weight of a heavy Southern accent. I remembered Beck telling Paul, “I couldn’t just leave her there. God! Paul, you didn’t see where she came from. You didn’t see what they were doing to her. ”

  I’d felt sorry for Shelby, who’d made herself inaccessible to the others. I’d been the only one who had managed to float a life raft to the island that was Shelby, coaxing words out of her and, sometimes, a smile. She was strange, a breakable animal that would do anything to reassert control over her life. She’d steal things from Beck so that he would have to ask where they’d gone, play with the thermostat to watch Paul get up from the couch to fix it, hide my books so that I would talk with her instead of reading. But we were all broken in that house, weren’t we? After all, I was the kid who couldn’t bear to look into a bathroom.

  Beck had picked up another box of books from the post office for Shelby, but they didn’t mean the same thing to her that they did to me. She left them to collect dust and looked up wolf behavior online instead.

  Now, here in the post office, I stopped in front of Beck’s P. O. box, 730. I touched the chipped paint of the numbers; the three was nearly gone and had been for as long as I’d been coming here. I put the key into the box, but I didn’t turn it. Was it so wrong to want this so bad? An ordinary life of ordinary years with Grace, a couple of decades of turning keys in P. O. boxes and lying in bed and putting up Christmas trees in winter?

  And now I was thinking of Shelby, again, and the memories bit, sharp as cold next to memories of Grace. Shelby had always thought my attachment to my human life was ludicrous. I still remembered the worst fight we had about it. Not the first, or the last, but the most cruel. I was lying on my bed, reading a copy of Yeats that Ulrik had bought for me, and Shelby jumped onto the mattress and stepped on the pages of the book, wrinkling them beneath her bare foot.

  “Come listen to the howls I found online,” she said.

  “I’m reading. ”

  “Mine’s more important,” Shelby said, towering above me, her toes curling and crinkling the pages further. “Why do you bother reading that stuff?” She gestured to the stack of schoolbooks on the desk beside my bed. “That’s not what you’re going to be when you grow up. You’re not going to be a man. You’re going to be a wolf, so you should be learning wolf things. ”

  “Shut up,” I said.

  “Well, it’s true. You’re not going to be Sam. All those books are a waste. You’re going to be alpha male. I read about that. And I’ll be your mate. The alpha female. ” Her face was excited, flushed. Shelby wanted nothing more than to leave her past behind.

  I ripped Yeats out from beneath her foot and smoothed the page. “I will be Sam. I’m never going to stop being Sam. ”

  “You won’t be!” Shelby’s voice was getting louder. She jumped off my bed and shoved my stack of books over; thousands of words crashed onto the floor. “This is just pretending! We won’t have names, we’ll just be wolves!”

  I shouted, “Shut up! I can still be Sam when I’m a wolf!”

  Beck burst into the room, then, looking at the scene in his silent way: my books, my life, my dreams, spread under Shelby’s feet, and me on my bed, clutching my wrinkled Yeats in white-knuckled hands.

  “What’s going on here?” Beck said.

  Shelby jerked a finger at me. “Tell him! Tell him he’s not going to be Sam anymore, when we’re wolves. He can’t be. He won’t even know his name. And I won’t
be Shelby. ” She was shaking, furious.

  Beck’s voice was so quiet I could barely hear him. “Sam will always be Sam. ” He took Shelby’s upper arm and marched her out of the room, her feet skidding on my books. Her face was shocked; Beck had been careful to never lay a hand on her since she’d come. I’d never seen him so angry. “Don’t you ever tell him differently, Shelby. Or I will take you back where you came from. I will take you back. ”

  In the hallway, Shelby began to scream, and she didn’t stop until Beck slammed her bedroom door.

  He walked back past my room and paused in the doorway. I was gently stacking my books back on the desk. The words shook in my hands as I did.

  I thought Beck would say something, but he just picked up a book by his feet and added it to my pile before he left.

  Later, I heard Ulrik and Beck; they didn’t realize there weren’t many places in the house a werewolf couldn’t hear. “You were too hard on Shelby,” Ulrik said. “She has a point. What is it you think he’s going to do with all this wonderful book learning, Beck? It’s not as if he’ll ever be able to do what you do. ”

  There was a long pause and Ulrik said, “What, you can’t be surprised. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what you were thinking. But tell me, how did you think Sam would go to college?”

  Another pause. Beck said, “Summer school. And some online credits. ”

  “Right. Let’s say Sam gets his degree. What’s he going to do with it? Go to law school online, too? And then what kind of lawyer would he be? People put up with your eccentric gone-for- the-winter routine because you were established when you were bitten. Sam will have to try to get jobs that ignore his unscheduled disappearance every year. For all the learning you’re stuffing in his head, he’s going to have to get jobs at gas stations like the rest of us. If he even makes it past twenty. ”

  “You want to tell him to give up? You tell him. I’ll never tell him that. ”

  “I’m not telling him to give up. I’m telling you to give up. ”

  “Sam doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to. He wants to learn. He’s smart. ”

  “Beck. You’re going to make him miserable. You can’t give him all the tools to succeed and then let him discover—poof—that he can’t use any of them. Shelby’s right. In the end, we’re wolves. I can read him German poetry and Paul can teach him about past participles and you can play Mozart for him, but in the end, it’s a long, cold night and those woods for all of us. ”

  Another pause before Beck answered, sounding tired and unlike himself.

  “Just leave me alone, Ulrik, okay? Just leave me alone. ”

  The next day Beck told me I didn’t have to do my schoolwork if I didn’t want to, and he went driving by himself. I waited until he was gone, and then I did the work, anyway.

  Now, I wished more than anything that Beck was here with me. I turned the key in the lock, knowing what I’d find—a box stuffed with months’ worth of envelopes and probably a slip to collect more from behind the desk.

 
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