The Challenge of Life
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♔ Eustacia (P.O.V)

My alarm clock begins to sound its hateful siren, signaling to me it’s time to get up. Sitting up and yawning I throw my arms in the air behind my head, lacing my left hand around my right forearm and my right hand around my left forearm as I gently squeeze on my forearms as I stretch. Sighing and scratching my head, I glance over at the alarm clock, it’s 6:32 am. "Shit," I mutter under my breath. I overslept thirty-two minutes so I won't have the time to wash off in the river. If I were to go I would no doubt be lashed for not being on time let alone doing anything without my superior's orders. 

"Today is going to be great," I mutter to no one. I briskly throw my long raven black hair, that reaches the small of my back, into a low ponytail. Throwing on my discolored tan ragged and patchy makeshift clothing I get ready to begin my day.

I just turned twenty-one almost two weeks ago, within that time I still haven't found my mate or they found me. Which is slightly unusual, but how can I meet my mate if I'm never around another werewolf? My life is after all one of a maid's. Well really less than a maid, it's more of a type of slavery. I’ve been living in these conditions for nearly five years so it is sort of a normal life for me.

Ever since my father, Theo, the previous alpha of the Rushing River pack, died in a rogue attack I've been discarded and treated the way I am. All because of Flynn. We had all been told by my father that his first shift came before the age of fifteen. Which is rare, but a sign of a strong wolf. So when his father, Julian, my father's beta before him vanished mysteriously Flynn was anointed as Beta. Allowing him to ascend to the title when my father died.

For whatever reason, after he took the title he treated me as a pest. It started off as banning me from silly tasks like watching tv. Slowly it progressed, my title being ripped from me and thrown to a lowly omega. That wasn't enough though, I was forbidden to look into any mirrors, use any of their showers, eat any of their food, wear any of their clothes or for that matter wash my clothes. Simply put I'm not allowed anything the pack gets. The only luxury they give me is an outhouse on the corner of the pack territory for when I need to do my business. Along with one hunt a week, although sometimes I sneak more.

I honestly have no idea how I’ve come this far. To clean myself, I clean off in a nearby river when everyone else is asleep, I wash my clothes in that river being sure to scrub them carefully against abrasive rocks trying to clean them ever so little. A tedious task since the material is old and brittle. The clothing I have stitched together from various objects the humans or my pack have thrown out ranging from washcloths, towels to old fabrics like blankets or actual clothing. I carved a small rabbit bone from one of my previous kills for my sewing needle and sinew as my string to bind all my objects together, using a sharpened deer bone for my knife to size my materials and cut my sinew when finished. The end results are not pretty but they keep my clothes in one piece, so I'm not going to complain.

Eating takes on a whole new challenge, I’m not allowed to touch their food so I’m forced to hunt wildlife in my wolf form. That is a task all on its own. With the only one hunt a week I would starve even more so since I'm not allowed to keep my leftovers. During that first hunt is the only time I'm allowed to shift into my wolf form. If they catch me shifting or hunting more than I'm allowed they’ll throw me into the Gray Room. Gray Room. . . A dungeon with nothing but concrete walls, ceilings, and floors all but the ceiling is stained a muddy brown from the dried blood from all their individual captives getting trashed repetitively. Some of the stains may belong to me, something I don't want to remember let alone risk. Simply to avoid that if I ever get the chance to hunt in my wolf form I'll roll in something with a strong smell before I ever go. Like fox dung, old leaves or something of the likes. While I’m hunting and luck is on my side, allowing me to snag something big like a deer I’ll take it just outside the pack territory and bury it. Hopefully being able to come back to it at a later date if a rogue or another animal doesn’t get to it before then. Always have to be careful after the hunt and dip in the river before heading back home.

Home... What was once a warm place with all my favorite memories is now my own personal hell I wish I could escape. My ‘home’ is a space in the attic that leaks when it rains, gets the chill breeze of the winter and never has light. All because I am almost directly under the roof. I have a small cot they provided me with tucked into the far right corner of the room directly in front of the door. My alarm clock the last of my possessions I have sitting sadly on the floor next to it. If I had the strength I would run away and never turn back, but my last attempts at that at least a year ago proved to be a pain and waste of my time. So as cliché, as it sounds the only person capable of saving me from this nightmare, is my mate. Although I’m sure he’d reject me simply because of my appearance. Seeing as no mirrors are allowed for me, I’m not quite sure what I look like except for reflections I see from the river. I have tan skin and whit'sits not matted my black hair reaches to the small of my back, blue eyes, and a small button nose. My figure is small, my ribs protrude ever so slightly out a further sign of my poor state. Everything is fragile, almost as if it’ll break with a single sneeze. Not to mention the scars. A pain rises in my chest at the thought of them and the memories that belong with it. Quickly I push it out of my head and leave my small makeshift room. Heading down the stairs directly outside my door.

I begin heading to the kitchen on the bottom floor, having to go down two more flights of stairs to get to the bottom. The scenery is all the same plan white walls with a few landscape paintings lining the wall. They are even with the doors that are grounded to their spot, the ability to move stripped from them unlike the paintings. Sighing as I reach the kitchen I take in the familiar scenery. It has two solid white electric ovens, two white microwaves and a white toaster. They are all in their respective spots directly against the wall or on beige counters directly across from the entrance. From the wall to the sliding door that leads outside they fall in place. Clean counter, oven, clean counter, oven. Resting on their respective counters the microwave and toaster. Followed by the white fridge which stands right beside the door.
First order of the day, get breakfast ready for the thirty pack members.

I turn the ovens on broil and throw in some bread I had previously buttered. Some sprinkled with cinnamon sugar others plain with butter. I crack some eggs into a bowl and begin to beat them, once I'm satisfied with the mixture I throw in some cheese and peppers then throw it all into a pan cooking them evenly. Removing the toast from the oven and sitting them on separate plates, I sit the now scrambled eggs beside them. Preheating the ovens to a set amount, I throw some bacon in them while I prepare some pancakes. Once it's all finished I have everything set in the dining room directly to the left of the kitchen. Pancakes pile high on its respective plate, three large packs worth of bacon now decorate its plate with its greasy goodness, the eggs and toast emitting their sweet aroma. I rush back to the kitchen and grab the assortment of jellies out of the fridge and bring them to the dining room.

Proud of my breakfast achievement I head back to the kitchen and begin cleaning up my mess, my stomach growling with hunger. Turning the ovens off I read the time they shined, 7:30 am. Only an hour, not too bad. I pile the dishes into the sink, taking care to wash them by hand and dry them as I go, and eventually putting them back into their repetitive hiding places. Mindlessly I begin to clean off the fallen food from the oven top and counters followed by sweeping up the hardwood floor and disposing of the accumulated dust and crumbs. Pleased with how my choir turned out this time I leave everything how it was before I got there, with the addition of all the food. 

With my choirs finished I head back to my room making sure to stay out of the way. In my room, I relax in my makeshift bed. While the pack members gorge themselves on food I have about two hours to myself. Within those two hours, I have at most a secret thirty-minute window from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. to either catch a small meal, dig up my previously hidden prey, wash off in the river, patch my clothing or do anything that would possibly lead to me being thrown into the Gray Room.

Grunting I roll over and stare at my alarm clock. 7:45 a.m. That means I have fifteen minutes left until the pack loses the interest in their food and the first border patrol hits my hunting spot. Of course, there could be stragglers but they are the least of my worries. Biting my lip, I ponder on what I should do today, my clothing is as good as they’ll be for now. I have no fabric of any sort nor sinew to patch even the smallest of holes furthering the place of clothing priority to the back of my list. It’s been a week since I last went on a hunting trip, and that trip only yielded a fox that I stashed a part of. Within that time span though it would have been dug up by some other creature, making it one of my less important priorities. I can wash up safer in the morning before anyone is up so that only leaves one major issue now. Food.

“That’s it,” I mutter to myself. With my mind made up I quickly glance over at the rectangular shining box to see the displayed time, 7:56 a.m. Most if not all of the pack members should be eating in the dining room or in their rooms. With that in mind, I silently get to my feet leaving my hand-built animal hide shoes in the far right corner of my ‘room.’ I can’t afford to be heard sneaking through the house and going barefoot makes being silent less of a task. The future that would await me if I was found outside the house or sneaking around would be bleak. Endless lashings from Alpha Flynn, wolfsbane injected into my veins, silver poured on my skin or anything else Alpha Flynn and his lover Emma could think of. Slowly opening my door I begin to count the seconds as they pass.

One. Two. I slink down the stairs in front of my door. Three. Four. At the end of these stairs, I will be on the top floor, no longer the attic space. After that floor, I will have one more to go down, not an easy task if you want to stay hidden. The hallway illuminated by a window and the victorian chandelier that hang down from the ceiling shines its golden rays. Six doors scatter on either side of the hallway, each inhabited by the highest-ranking members or friends in the pack of Emma’s and Flynn’s. Silently and slowly I begin my way down the long cream-colored walls, reflected by the polished brown wooden flooring. All narrowing and attaching to the mahogany colored stair railings leading to the next floor. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. . . Eighteen. . . Twenty-two.

Descending down the stairs, I discreetly make sure to step lightly on each step distributing my weight evenly being careful not to touch the rails as I go down. Twenty-three. Twenty-four. Twenty-five. As I reach the bottom of the stairs, the hallway comes into view. . The walls and flooring mimic those of the layer above it. Twenty-six. Twenty-seven. Twenty-eight. The paintings that decorate the walls all of them of fields and trees, painted with beautiful blues, greens, and yellows. The chandelier that mimics the same one on the level before is illuminating the hallway. Twenty-nine. I've passed four of the doors, its good. The sound of glass shattering hits my ears and they begin to twitch taking in the noise. Being a werewolf, my hearing is sensitive, yet for some reason, my hearing has always been slightly above average even for a werewolf of alpha blood.

‘What was that?’ Zoe, my wolf, hisses in my head. 

‘I’m not sure Zo, but I’m not waiting to find out.’ Shaking my head, I push her out of my thoughts. She’s weak, simply because she can’t be let out in our wolf form as often as she needs to be. Alpha Flynn doesn’t allow me to shift, if I’m lucky I can go on a run freely without fear once a month.. Not to mention the toll of us not being able to eat properly has taken a toll on her as well. Just talking to me in my mind uses energy she doesn't have, and that energy I need her to keep for us to shift. Otherwise. . . I’m a sitting duck in a wolf pack, just waiting to be gobbled up or in my case taken to the Gray Room. Thirty. If my ears serve me right, I got lucky and the noise was from the door directly to the right of the stairs, not only there but towards the back of the room. If they were to approach the door now, they’d take at least seventeen seconds granted their stride is normal and a casual pace. That gets me to forty-seven seconds, enough time to reach the stairs and be down them. Thirty-one. Thirty-two. . . Forty.

‘Almost there,’ I think to myself. Smash. A loud noise resembling the sound of glass breaking vibrates through the air yet again. An ear piercing scream penetrates the already noisy atmosphere. ‘Well, shit. I mutter to myself as panic slowly creeps into my chest burning the already nervousness I have for slinking around even hotter. Quickly, I slip into the fifth door, luckily it’s empty but the sight before me is elegant. The room is solid white with a gray carpet. A king-sized bed fitted with a solid white comforter tucked neatly under the edges as two fluffy white pillows decorate the top of the smooth surface. A foam like backboard sits elegantly behind the bed frame complimented by a small gray nightstand on both sides of the bed all placed neatly against the far wall. The nightstands are accompanied by two white lamps, however, I instantly notice something of use to me sitting nonchalantly on the left-sided stand, perfume. 

Although even if werewolves have some form of fragrance on their body regardless of its type they'll still be able to be tracked as it doesn't completely mask our smells. In order to completely trick our own race, we have to roll in the dung of some other species to mask our sent with theirs. However what the fragrances do is they slow down the process to be tracked, especially if the fragrance is used by more than one person. ‘Bingo.’ I whisper. Spraying myself generously with the perfume I backtrack to the door spraying my trail as I go. Seventy-one. I carefully roll the perfume over to the general area of the nightstand hoping that the owner would assume they dropped it, or it simply fell off. Focusing my hearing on the outside world of the door, I carefully listen for any movement or voices but being sure to keep count. Seventy-four. All I hear is scuffling from somewhere farther away than the hallway, still, in the room I assume the object was broken in. Hoping it’s safe to look in the hallway I carefully grab the doorknob and slowly poke my head out the door. Glancing quickly from left to right I notice the hallway is empty. ‘All clear,’ I think to myself. Silently I begin slinking back down the wall heading to the stairs that lead to the ground floor. Seventy-five. Seventy-six. Seventy-seven. Seventy-eight. ‘Phew.’ I sigh in silent relief as I finally make it to the stairs, not even realizing I had held my breath until I reached them, carefully I descend. Seventy-nine. Eighty. Eighty-one.

Finally, at the bottom of the stairs and the last floor, I need to reach I focus my hearing on my surroundings. To the right of me is a door that leads directly into the living room, I can hear the T.V on unfortunately my ears tuned in at the wrong time of the movie, “Pierce! Taylor! Put some clothes on will you?” Laughter erupts from people who are enjoying their film, mentally shaking my head I continue listening to my surroundings making sure to keep count. Eighty-nine. Ninety. To the left of me is the kitchen which is completely silent except for the humming of the fridge, the spoiled pack members are never in there except to get snacks so I don't expect anything drastic. Past the kitchen directly through it is the dining room where my exit, the sliding side door, resides. Ninety-three. Placidly, I slither from the stairway into the kitchen making sure to keep my ears alert for any movement. Luckily, it’s silent. Leaving my crouched position I begin to tiptoe to the sliding door and smoothly slide it to the left, opening it. Ninety-four. Ninety-five.

If my counting is correct I have more than enough time to beat the border patrol begins. Looking around the vast green opening just before the immense forest. The area around me is peaceful only filled with the melodies of birds, insects and the river that runs directly through the land on the other side of the house. The lively green grass spreads vastly until it meets with the forest trees. No sound or presence of any people around it’s safe to go ahead and enter the forest. Promptly, I run to the forest entrance entering a couple of feet until I approach a towering oak tree with a hollowed out trunk where I have a backpack stashed. Carefully reaching into the hole that resides in the northern equator of the tree I remove my backpack from its safe place. Seeing as our clothing gets shredded if we shift in them it’s always ideal to either have an extra pair with you or remove the clothing. As the first option posses a problem for me as I’ve physically had to tailor these to even have them, I decide to go with the latter. Stripping off my clothing I shove them into the backpack and immediately stash the backpack and its contents back into the tree and brace myself for my shift.

We normally get our first shift at the age of sixteen. We are prepped for an entire year from the day we turn fifteen till the day before our sixteenth birthday. Over the course of that year, all you hear is ‘it’ll hurt,’ or my favorite, ‘it's the most painful experience you’ll probably live through. Ironic, the adults don’t ever speak of those who don’t make it through the shift yet they are willing to say words like that. Even more ironic now considering my situation.

Rolling my shoulders and popping my back I reach out to Zoe, my wolf, and allow her to take over my body. As if answering my call I feel the fever shooting through my being as my body temperature rises. The pain igniting as my bones break and reform into their new-found positions. My skin tears and realign over my newly formed bones as solid black fur begins to sprout on each specific hair follicle sending an unbearable itching trough me until it covers my entire body. My teeth elongate and form into sharp canines meant to sink their presence into my prey and my nails form into claws whose purpose rein to tear away at foes. My eyes burn as they shift into their wolf counterparts, my eardrums ring as they do the same. The pain I feel a dull sensation compared to my first shift, yet even though it hurts the ecstasy I feel as I become one with my wolf once more outweighs it all. Zoe engulfs me. She controls our now complete again wolf form, feeling her happiness spread throughout my mind I allow her to take control as she bounds off into the woods to catch our prey.h my wolf once more outweighs it all. Zoe engulfs me. She controls our now complete again wolf form, feeling her happiness spread throughout my mind I allow her to take control as she bounds off into the woods to catch our prey.

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