“You could be an Alpha, you know. It seems like a waste to walk away like this.”
Aileas smirked and rolled her eyes. A female as the primary Alpha was a rarity, but not impossible. The issue at hand then was not whether she could be one, but whether she wanted to. She was smart enough, strong enough, and even vicious enough. But her heart would never be in it. Aileas would never be an Omega, but something inside of her indisputably made her an outcast. The pack needed surer leadership than she could offer; but Keir refused to see it that way.
Aileas’ decision to leave the pack came in the aftermath of a treacherous time for them. The winter had been a harsh one and the battles for territory had been in abundance. A neighbouring pack had waged war on them and it made for countless bloody battles. Their opponents were hardly a pack anymore. Aileas herself had proudly torn the throats out of four; three times in human form. The thrill of that winter was great, but the loss was greater. By the spring, her pack had dwindled from eleven, to five. Among the fallen had been their sibling Mysie, to whom Aileas and Keir had been like second parents.
“It’s about Mysie, isn’t it?” Keir asked for what seemed like the thousandth time this week.
“It’s not about Mysie, it’s about me. Once a lone wolf, always a lone wolf, right?”
“Not right. You were separated from your pack as a baby, Ail. You can’t keep pretending that defines you. This is your family, always has been.”
Aileas sighed. He was right. This wasn’t about her lone nature. It was about her curious nature. Humans were an all consuming question to her. It was a bit romantic, she supposed, but living among them seemed like a better thrill than anything she could get in the wild.
Sure, they interacted with humans on a pretty regular basis, but it wasn’t the same. Historically, humans had been the wolf’s greatest enemy – a predator that simply can’t be defeated. In fact, Lauchlan’s own line had been chased out of Scotland by humans in the 16th century. Most wolves just steered clear of people at all costs, but avoidance wasn’t appealing to Aileas. Instead, there was a magnetic draw she could not ignore. Inside, she knew what it meant. She hadn’t been born to wolves, but to humans. Someone had turned her; ripped her away from her cozy human life. She wasn’t angry though, or even looking for answers. She just wanted to know what it would have been like; what she was really meant to be.
“I shouldn’t have told you I’m going,” she whispered.
It was true. Unofficially, the correct way to leave a pack was to wander off unnoticed. But the idea of hearing the melancholy search howls in the distance, night after night, just stung too much. She loved her pack, and she wanted them to know she was going to be okay.
“Did you tell Lauchlan, yet?” Aileas asked, afraid of the answer. She hadn’t specifically asked Keir to keep it a secret, but she had hoped that he would, even if it was wrong to conceal information from the Alpha.
“No. Not until you’re gone.”
Aileas turned to Keir, less surprised than she should have been. He was facing forward, lying on the hill with his right elbow propping him up. His thick dark curls bobbed in his eyes, their emerald tint peeking through. His jaw was clenched, tense with several emotions. Since losing Mysie, there had been an unspoken anger floating between the two of them. It was obvious to Aileas that they were trying not to blame each other, and failing.
The next morning, Aileas roused when all was still. Without the darkness to blanket her indiscretion, Aileas couldn’t help but feel exposed and dirty. Having always felt abandoned by her blood pack, abandoning her adoptive family had an eerily cyclical quality that didn’t settle quite right. Her heart pounded against her chest, sweat spewed from her glands, and a burning fever rose in her. The unexpected guilt was throwing her body into chaos and the lack of control was bringing on a change.
After the night’s hunt, Aileas had gorged herself on fifteen pounds of moose, and it was all coming back on her now. Changing was always laborious and required an amazing level of self-control. Without that, the pain was excruciating, twisting her gut until it emptied itself onto the melting snow. Heaving, wrenching, writhing; Aileas had no choice but to stop fighting and let the change take her over. When it was over, her fur was matted with blood where her skin had been torn open recklessly.
Ashamed at both her ability to leave, and her inability to do it with grace, Aileas took off into the woods. No melancholy howls followed, and she couldn’t help but wonder if she’d ever know what it was to have a family again.
Too human for wolves, too wolf for humans. Aileas knew she’d simply never belong.
© Shyla Fairfax-Owen
2 thoughts on “Unbelonging”
Deeply moving . Reminiscent of Mowgli of Rudyard Kipling. But yes, is gender so dis-empowering ? Alpha female is always shunned by both females who can not stand the competition and males who can neither dominate nor exploit…..Do you see a redemption ?
Disturbing indeed, and a complex issue. I’m glad it resonated with you. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. What’s most important for Aileas is making her own decisions – not being told what she can and cannot be. And although she’s lost and a little broken, there is a sense of empowerment in her decisiveness, however sad her tale is. Thanks for reading!