A bright, laminated poster announced the upcoming ‘MYSTIKA FOR MENTAL HEALTH’ event on the school notice board.
It had drawn attention from just about every student or faculty member who was either under eighteen, or over eighteen but unmarked. MYSTIKA, a self-proclaimed palm-reader and soul-mate identifier, was donating a handful of tickets for a private session with her as part of the school raffle to raise money for a local mental health charity. A private session with MYSTIKA was said to be a guarantee for having your soul-mate’s identity revealed to you, even if you hadn’t reached the age of mate maturity.
Darcy would make a donation to the cause, but she had no interest in the raffle prizes. She had found her mate the traditional way. Once a werewolf turned eighteen, they had the ability to sense their mate and identify them through eye contact. Despite MYSTIKA’s claims, this was the only proven way to find your soul-mate.
The morning of her eighteenth birthday, Darcy had still been excited to find her mate. She wasn’t expecting to find them on her first day of being eighteen, for some wolves it took years for them to cross paths with their soul-mate. But it was still thrilling to think that at any moment she could lock eyes with someone and know. Something had unlocked inside of her and now she at least had a chance.
Unfortunately, the first person she usually locked eyes with on a school day was Luna. The beta of a neighbouring pack to her own. Luna sought her out whenever Darcy was within a one-hundred metre radius. Darcy was convinced she had memorised her scent, but no amount of perfume could entice her to treat her kindly. She had bullied her relentlessly since they entered high school. Seated together on day one.
Even more unfortunately, when they caught sight of each other on the morning of her birthday, something had erupted inside of her.
Once Luna had noticed her, she’d immediately stalked forwards with long graceful steps. She could never give Darcy a moment of peace if she saw her, her amber eyes lighting up as though she were already envisioning all the ways she would toy with her. With her prey.
But something had changed within Darcy. Luna’s cruel smirk, filled with the anticipation of the hunt, became impish and beautiful. Her tall, imposing frame with arms that could crunch a melon in her bicep filled Darcy with arousal instead of fear. The little curls at the ends of her ruffled blond-brown hair were charming and cherub-like. The tips of Darcy’s fingers prickled with the urge to grab at any tufts she could reach and feel how soft they were. By the time Luna was a foot away, Darcy had been reduced to a heart-eyed mess.
Of course, the logical side of her brain still knew exactly who she was and what she was capable of. That side screamed at her gormless love-addled body to run.
“What’s wrong with your face?” Luna had asked.
Darcy’s heart crumpled as the realisation settled that this was her soul-mate. The wolf she hated more than any other was her one love for this world.
It was too much to accept. Her entire face burned, her eyes filled with tears. Luna’s face became a sfumato of gold and brown tones.
Luna looked to Darcy, and then to the lackeys that had followed her over as though confirming that she wasn’t crazy. The pair behind her snorted and began to laugh at her.
“Why are you crying?” Luna demanded, although she was visibly fighting not to laugh as well. Not for Darcy’s benefit, she was sure. “Did you step on a pebble, omega? Was the wind just a bit too harsh on you? What?”
She had sniffed as subtly as she could. “Nothing,” she whispered.
“You’re crying over nothing? Sounds about right.” She’d given her a shove and merged into the flow of students hurrying to their classes. “Fucking crybaby!” she yelled over her shoulder.
Darcy had turned away, dipping her head inside of her locker to avoid any strange looks as she wiped at her eyes pathetically.
It had been just over three months and she still hadn’t recovered from the shock. The loss of hope had drained the energy from her body in one swift pull of the plug.
Secretly, deep down inside of her chest, she had held a daydream. It was a silly fantasy, that once she found her mate Luna would finally be deterred. That her mate would protect and defend her from her. It was not possible for things to have swerved any further from her fantasy.
Her heart was broken, her soul hopeless, and her blood pressure permanently high. Every time they locked eyes, every inch of her skin would light up with sparks. Every time they locked eyes, Luna would do everything in hers power to chase her down and torment her.
The day of the raffle draw would have passed Darcy by if the entire school wasn’t forced to attend the grand ceremony.
In the assembly hall, excitement filled the room with a buzz of whispers and fidgeting. When their headmaster took the stage with a box filled with raffle tickets, silence fell. Darcy wished she could excuse herself and go home early, or even just slink away to the library. She would rather think about anything other than soul-mates.
“Good afternoon, everyone. Firstly, I would like to express how grateful we are to those kind enough to donate prizes for this event.” A small round of applause ran round the room. “We should also be very proud of ourselves, as through this raffle and generous additional donations we have managed to raise over three thousand pounds for our local mental well-being facility!” Another round of applause. “Now, I will not keep you waiting any longer as I know exactly what you are all waiting for. I will be reading out the ticket numbers as I draw them so please contain yourselves until the end of the assembly, you may then approach the stage to claim your prize.” Darcy fiddled with the sleeves of her jumper, pulling them over her hands and then rolling them up, then pulling them back down again. It didn’t make the time pass any quicker. “The first five numbers will win a private session with MYSTIKA, the next three will receive beauty hampers from Chic Salon, then the remaining seven will have their choice from our wonderful selection of stuffed animal toys, gift cards and attraction tickets.”
Darcy closed her eyes and tilted her head back.
“The first number is…”
She had almost dozed off when the sound of stampeding feet signalled the assembly was over. She bumbled her way along behind the crowd, relieved to finally go home.
The next day, as she collected her books from her locker, Darcy was unavoidably wedged up against the edge of a small gaggle of girls chattering excitedly. Apparently, MYSTIKA had already begun providing her services to the lucky raffle winners.
“What happened? What did MYSTIKA say?”
“She told me I could have either the name, city or pack name of my soul-mate!” The girl who answered fanned herself with a small piece of card and Darcy caught a flash of a purple logo on one side and a scrawl of ink on the other.
“What did you pick?”
“Pack name, of course. That’s obviously the easiest way to find them.”
“Not if you hadn’t already turned eighteen,” her friend reminded her. “So, which pack is your mate in? Are you just gonna show up and start staring into people’s eyes?”
The girls gigged collectively and began discussing tactics for the best way to lock eyes with as many people as possible.
Darcy loped away, she was tired of hearing about MYSTIKA and soul-mates.
A few metres from the double doors leading out of the school, a familiar figure burst into the hallway. Luna’s gaze was immediately drawn to her, but her face was twisted in a way Darcy had never seen before. She looked confused, scared, maybe even a little shaken up. Darcy couldn’t quite put her finger on the emotion exactly.
Her own body had frozen at the sight of Luna, her brain unable to decide quickly enough whether running would be a smart choice, sometimes running away just made her angrier. But the beta didn’t approach. She stood there staring at her with that same strange expression. Darcy watched her back, unsure as to what the rules of this new trial were. Her eyes dropped from Luna’s face for only a moment because she was holding something just out in front of her.
In her hand was a small piece of card, the side Darcy could see was printed with swirling purple clouds surrounding the letter M.