Once in a Full Moon
Chapter Seventeen So Many Secrets
For as long as I could remember, I hadn't kept anything a secret from Ivy. Half the time it was because she squeezed information out of me, the other half because I blurted it out in excitement. Now I had been keeping several major events under wraps for quite some time. Besides discreetly seeing Brandon, I'd managed to keep three classified secrets: one, that Brandon Maddox had rescued me from the wolves; two, that I was in love with him; and three, the Westsider I was in love with might possibly be a werewolf.
The secrets burned inside me. If I told Ivy about Brandon, she'd be upset that I was in love with anyone other than Nash. And if I told her he might be a werewolf, she'd clearly think it was a prank. She'd be in as much disbelief as I had been and, like me, would want proof. Finally, the news of a teen werewolf would spread through the town faster than a flood. Brandon's existence would ultimately be at stake. Before I told anyone anything, I needed to know for sure what was happening with Brandon - if his dreams and what I thought I'd seen meant that he was, indeed, a werewolf.
My calendar and my notebook became my best tools. As the days passed by, I logged all possible lycanthropic events - the three nights when the moon appeared full, Brandon woke up shirtless and covered in dirt. Brandon dreamed a lot during waning and waxing moons. He was ravenous during the day. And I noted the shapes of the moon and circled the date of the next full moon, which was several weeks away.
Brandon continued to be a loner at school - keeping to himself in the cafeteria while my friends and I gathered at the popular table. I was completely torn up about it. I wanted to go over and sit by his side. Every other table was crowded with friends and cliques. I'd be the only one to break out of the pattern that had gone on for years in Legend's Run. Most important, I would lose my best friends if I chose the Westside over the East. Plus, I worried that Brandon could change his mind about me at any moment. He clearly had some strange things going on in his life. But I couldn't get his kisses out of my mind, and of course, his saving me that day in the snow created a special bond between us.
Regardless, I watched Ivy and Abby chat and cuddle with their boyfriends as day after day I'd stare at Brandon and watch him eat alone, all the while wanting to be sitting beside him.
"Why so glum?" Ivy asked one day at lunch.
"You miss Nash, don't you?"
"Now that you mention it... I - "
"You do?" she said.
I don't, I was going to say. "Why don't we invite Brandon to sit at our table?" I asked Ivy. I gestured to the handsome guy, who was pulling several ber-sandwiches from his bag. "He eats by himself every day since he moved here."
"Are you kidding?" Abby asked. "He's a pig. Look at him eating. He has three sandwiches. If you sat next to him, he might take a chunk out of you, too." My friends laughed.
"I just thought it would be nice to include him," I said.
"Maybe there's a reason he doesn't have friends," Abby said, tapping my shoulder.
I sighed. I didn't know how I'd ever be able to make my friends accept the boy I was secretly in love with.
Nash had been on his best behavior toward me. Though I resisted, he insisted on escorting me to my classes and on buying me lunch every day. I wasn't used to all this attention from him. Nash was turning into the boyfriend he should have been all along. However, I kept him at bay. I never kissed him or in any way considered a rekindling of romance.
The odd thing was that the more aloof I became toward Nash, the more he tried to win me back. Nash was like a wolf in the wild - his territory was being invaded and he was here to reclaim it. If I had been doting on him like I had in the past, I was sure he'd probably ignore me the way he had when we were dating. Whether Nash knew it or not, he was feeling the effects of my admiration for Brandon.
But I suffered in silence. Brandon's shirt was my only reminder of our night together and that kiss under the full moon. I imagined his turmoil dealing with a condition that he hadn't asked for.
Brandon was elusive again, as he had been in those days and nights following the full moon about three weeks ago. He was often late for class and then snuck out before I could catch up to him. He might have been protecting me from himself, or maybe he was finally blaming me for causing his condition. I showed up at his house, and even walked around his hilltop. But my calls to him went unanswered.
One day in study hall I began to cut off the tips of my knit gloves and tried my fingerless gloves on.
"What are you doing?" Ivy asked.
"I thought it would be cool to wear them like this," I said. "This way I can keep warm and use the computer or write my essay."
"You do think of everything," she said. "But I warn you, it does look a bit Riverside."
That was exactly the look I was hoping for. My new fashion statement was the only way I could show Brandon my solidarity and let him know I still was thinking of him. I wanted to slip him notes in his locker, but it was too risky and I wasn't that brave.
I'd caused his lycanthropic condition, and the amount of guilt I felt was enormous.
"Mr. Maddox, we'll have to speak after class," Mrs. Clark said one day in English when Brandon showed up a half hour late.
"I told you he was juvie," Ivy whispered. "And to think we invited him to Nash's house for the party."
"We didn't," Abby said. "Mother Teresa did."
"I know you are kind," Ivy said, "but you have to be careful. You can't bring in every stray cat you see. Some of them have fleas, you know."
"Brandon isn't like that," I said.
"How do you know?" Ivy asked.
"Yes," Abby pressed. "How do you know?"
"Look at him. He's..." I began.
"Yes?" Ivy said.
"He's clean. He takes care of himself," I said.
"Are we looking at the same guy?" Ivy asked.
Brandon looked exhausted. He kept his coat on all day and barely stayed awake through class. It was apparent to me that the dreams he was having were taking a toll on his body.
"He's probably doing drugs," Abby said.
"He is not!" I defended.
"How do you know?" Ivy wondered.
"I just don't think we should rush to judgment," I said.
"But that's what we do," Abby said. She and Ivy laughed.
"There are signs," Ivy said. "He has bags under his eyes. He keeps his hands covered. He's troubled. This isn't a pound. You can't take care of everyone. You might have to let this one go."
"Besides, you have this hottie waiting for you tonight," Abby said.
"Ladies," Mrs. Clark reprimanded. "Time to pay attention."
Were my friends right? Was I choosing the wrong course? I was always the rational one in our clique - daydreaming and caring, but terminally practical. Though I dreamed of becoming a writer, I really wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. I wanted to help people and have a career that could be stable. But now nothing seemed stable. If I followed my head, I'd get back together with Nash. Not only would I be making the rational choice, but I'd be making my best friends happy. However, if I followed my heart, I was on an uncharted course with conditions possibly unfavorable.
After English, Mrs. Clark asked to see Brandon. Ivy, Abby, and Nash went on to their next classes while I stalled, straightening the contents of my locker.
I hadn't been able to catch Brandon for days, so this was my only chance.
"Brandon," I said when he finally came out of the classroom.
He held a slip of paper. It must have been a detention.
"You can't run away from me here, too," I said.
"I'm not running away from you," he said sincerely. "It's just it might be best - "
I couldn't bear to hear him finish his sentence. "It's my fault," I said. When no other students were around, I pulled him into the crawl space of a vacant stairwell.
"Of course it's your fault," he said.
I was hurt. Brandon did blame me - though he was right to do so.
"Yes," he continued. "I'm restless. Can't concentrate. You're not going to make me say any more, are you?" He grinned. He was wickedly handsome, and I was flattered by his romantic implication.
"Then why won't you see me?" I asked him.
He took my hand. He laughed at my gloves, as they were just like the ones he was wearing. "I just haven't been myself, and I thought it best if I didn't complicate your life. I'm still having these strange dreams," he continued. "It's probably because I've had to make a lot of adjustments to a new school. That's what Mrs. Clark said."
"I thought she gave you a detention."
"No, it's a slip to see the school shrink. I keep having these bizarre dreams," he confided. "I wake up exhausted, or I oversleep."
"Are you waking up in the same condition you were in when you went to sleep?"
"I think so. My memories are still fuzzy, but it's not like those times after we first kissed and I woke up... like I'd slept out in the woods."
"What are the dreams about?" I asked.
"You'll laugh. That's why I haven't told you - "
"You have to tell me." I was adamant this time.
He paused. "It was like the one I had after we met on the hilltop. When I wake up I only remember bits and pieces. But by the time I'm out of bed, I forget it. I only remember brief images."
"What do you remember?"
"It's the same every night. I'm a wolf. Only when I run, I run like a man."
He waited for my reaction.
"See - I knew you'd think I was crazy!" he said.
"No - it's just that - " I began. "I'm afraid, too. To tell you the truth."
"I'm not sure I want to hear it, but I think I know it."
"Those first few nights - when the moon was full - those weren't dreams, Brandon."
He was startled and let go of my hand.
"I was there," I said. "I saw it happen."
"Then for the next couple of days - you said you woke up, and you didn't come to school. Those were the days the moon appeared full. Then the moon waned and you don't turn, but you continue to dream as if you are."
"It's not real, Celeste. It can't be - I won't allow - "
It was hard enough to prove Brandon's transformation really happened and convince myself it was real. But for Brandon to accept his new fate could be devastating. Mrs. Clark was right. He should see the school counselor.
Brandon shook his head as if he was shaking the truth away from him.
"But you are so gorgeous and powerful," I tried to convince him.
"But if I don't remember, then it can't be real? Right?"
"Maybe it's best you don't remember. Until we get you help."
Brandon choked out the words: "What if I'm a monster?"
"You aren't. You're just stronger and more handsome... if you can believe that."
"How do you know, Celeste?"
"I was with you."
"The whole night?"
"So how do you know who I am or what I do when you're not there?" Brandon's torment was palpable.
I put my arms around him. At this point, I didn't care who saw us together. "Uh... I don't. But - "
"Then neither one of us really knows, do we? How did this happen?" he asked. "How did this ever happen?"
"It's my fault," I blurted out. "I tried to tell you before. I was warned about the full moon... about the woods and the wolves... about the kiss. And now the moon, full or not, causes your nocturnal affliction or your bizarre dreams. It's my fault this happened to you. If you hadn't been bitten by that wolf. If we hadn't kissed under the full moon. If I'd listened - "
"Celeste, promise me something."
"Anything." This was the moment that Brandon might be asking me to be his girlfriend - to stick by him while he went through his ordeal. He'd want me to bravely confront my friends and make our relationship public so I could finally support him the way he ought to have been supported all along.
He took a breath and stared deeply into my eyes. "Tomorrow is a full moon. Promise me that you won't see me anymore."
It was as if I'd just found out I'd failed every class I'd ever taken. I was devastated at the news. "I can't!" I said. "I won't."
"At least until I have this figured out," he said sadly, cupping my face in his hands. "I understand if you won't wait... but you can't contact me, Celeste. Don't you understand? You can't - "
"I know you. You wouldn't do anything to hurt anyone."
"I want to be with you, more than you know. It's just at night... it's best that you aren't around me."
My heart broke. I'd finally fallen in love, and I wasn't able to be with the one person I'd fallen in love with. I felt as if he were being shipped off to an overseas boarding school never to return. But Brandon was here - in my classes, the hallway, and the lunchroom. He wasn't saying we couldn't see each other because he didn't care for me. He was saying it because he cared.
I didn't want Brandon to leave our secluded spot underneath the staircase. I was afraid I'd never be able to be with him again. He must have felt the same thing because this time he took a chance he hadn't taken before. He drew me into him and gave me the most heartfelt kiss. It hit me through my heart and down through to the soles of my shoes.
It was as if he was saying good-bye.
Brandon disappeared into the hallway as I sat down and sobbed.
I didn't have anyone to talk about my problem with - no school shrink would have the answers. No one would understand. No person could help. No soul would believe me.
Or was there someone who would?