Isabelle Martin's life was over.
It was, no matter what her mother said. It was done and over and there wasn't any turning back. It was senior year for God's sake. Three weeks before senior year and she had had everything planned. Everything set. She was dating the captain of the football team (and didn't you know? Scouts from Ohio State were totally getting ready to offer him a full scholarship) and there was homecoming and prom and who knew? Maybe being on the dance team would benefit more than just her glutes.
(Which why it wasn't fair for her mother to tell her that the free running in Beacon Hills was a lot less conspicuous than the free running in Cleveland.
"There's the woods and the trees that you can climb. It'll be fun. You're like a damn monkey anyway."
"Trees? You want me to climb trees?"
"I'd rather you not climb anything but if you are, I want you climb a tree and fall to the forest floor than climb a steel infrastructure, fall, and go splat on the pavement. Now, are you keeping this stuffed owl or is he going into the donation bag?")
But no. Her glutes and her boyfriend and her social status were over. O – V – E – R because Beacon Hills was absolutely nowhere. It was at the foot of the mountains where there wasn't any dance team or football team. There was lacrosse. Who were apparently state champions but lacrosse? Really? There wasn't even a cheerleading squad to try out for.
All because the grandmother she hardly knew was apparently dying.
It wasn't that Isabelle was heartless. It was upsetting and she was sad because even if their relationship was relegated to bi-monthly phone calls and a nice check mailed on her birthday, it was her grandmother and she had a soft spot for the old bird.
But who the hell played lacrosse?
So the four-day drive from what Isabelle called home to what Isabelle was currently calling Hell was a tense one. She knew her mother was trying but it was still frustrating so even when her mother was lecturing her on how mature she was to not be acting like this, Isabelle was milking her age for all that it was worth.
The look of joy on her grandmother's face when they showed up on her doorstep that Friday sent the guilt right on. There were actually tears and Isabelle just didn't do tears. Thank god her grandmother's attention switched to her mother and Isabelle was able to slip away.
Sitting on the back porch, all she could smell was chlorine and nature. Chlorine was familiar but nature? That was fairly new for the city girl that she was. The smell of damp leaves. The house was nestled right on the edge of the woods, the redwoods looming over the pool house roof.
It really was quite beautiful here; she'd give it that.
Looking over her shoulder, she watched her mother and grandmother talking in the kitchen, laughing over glasses of wine. Typical, but it was a fond typical. She turned back to the woods and froze. A wolf was on the other side of the gate.
Logically she knew she should be scared. She knew she should scream or run back inside but instead she just stood there unmoving. She was having a staring contest with a wolf. The wolf wasn't moving either, still in the shadows of the trees just watching her.
"Isabelle! Honey, come inside!" Her mother's voice pierced the air and broke the trance. She blinked and the wolf was gone.
She didn’t mention the strange encounter with the wolf to her mother or grandmother even though she suspected that the encounter was out of the ordinary. Wolves didn’t even live in California any more. But, she reasoned with herself that night while she lay in the guest room, staring at the red numbers on the clock as they turned to two am, they were technically close enough to Oregon and the National Forest that maybe, just maybe, a stray wolf or two had wandered over. It wasn’t impossible.
As if her thoughts were being broadcast, a lone howl echoed through the night and Isabelle could hear it clear enough even with the window closed. Something about it twisted something inside her chest and she could feel the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She didn't get up though, just stayed in bed staring at the clock until the howling lulled her to sleep.