“I’m not a werewolf so I can’t truly understand what it means to be you...but I have some experience with animals. I did grow up observing them after all,” Cady said. “Animals tend to lash out when they’re afraid or when they feel threatened.” Her eyes lit up as she remembered the Kenyan savannah she once lived in. Janis almost wished she could put herself inside that mind, just to understand what it meant to love a place so deeply and how that place could make Cady happy.
“Well...I project a lot of negative emotion onto my wolf side,” she admitted. It made her uncomfortable to say it, but she realized it as the truth. She really did push and blame her anger, her sadness, her disgust, all onto the ‘wolf side’ of her brain. “Is that why I lash out?”
“Your wolf wants to hurt because she’s hurting and her pain comes from your pain. You two are the same person despite the differences. She only knows what you know, and if all you know is pain, well…” Cady trailed off, but it was easy to see her point. Janis didn’t reply and only shifted idly, trying to be comfortable despite her discomfort.
“Maybe...maybe you should try to teach her kindness?” she suggested, only letting the slightest bits of apprehension to soften her words. Janis hummed, mulling over what the two had discussed. When she lifted her gaze to Cady, the girl smiled, ever so gently. Janis thought about how she didn’t deserve such a soft look upon her wretched form, but then stopped herself. This whole talk focused on anger, cruelty, and violence and here she was subjecting herself to more.
“I think...she knows what kindness is, but I’ve forgotten how to be kind,” Janis said. She tried to remember a time where she’d been kind but her mind kept drawing blanks.
“You and Damian showed me around Northshore on that first day and you had no obligation to be friends with me,” she said and Janis paused because she racked her mind for that experience. It doesn’t take long because honestly, how could she ever forget the first day she met Cady Heron? And Cady’s right; Damian and her approached the new girl with the honest intent of truly being friends and it had only spiraled from there.
“Janis, kindness comes from a place of compassion. When you care for others, your actions toward them will always carry kindness,” and then Cady cupped her face and Janis’s breaths immediately became shallower. Her thumb wiped away the tears dripping down the sides of her face and there’s this knee jerk reaction of thoughts that scream insecurity and self-loathing but she didn’t want to think about those anymore. She was tired of the dark thoughts and the ever-present heavy cloud around her head and she wondered, for a moment, how it would feel to be as kind as Cady? To not hate herself and her wolf?
“C-Cady, how can I be kind to myself?” she wept, and inside, her wolf cried too because they were one in the same. The abuse she gave herself for her wolf made her wolf hurt and that in turn made her hurt more and she’s tired—tired and exhausted and wanting nothing more than for this cycle to finally stop. But she didn’t know where or how to start.
And Cady, sweet Cady who was brave and curious and stubborn in one tiny dynamite of a package, just brought her hands away and grabbed Janis’s hands. Though Janis’s hands almost entirely engulfed hers and were as stable as a newborn fawn’s legs, Cady was strong and resolute.
“Forgiveness is a good place to start. Forgiveness and acceptance.”
Instead of thinking about all the reasons she didn't deserve the wisdom and patience given to her, Janis remembered a series of scenes.
A young girl, so eager and happy in the day, turned into an excitable pup who wanted nothing more than to play with her mother.
A hurting girl that didn’t understand the hostility she was surrounded by and a wolf that took those internalized feelings and expressed them in the only way it knew how to.
A fist-sized dent into a metal locker next to a cowering whelp who dared to hurt what she protected and a docile wolf that finally got to witness her friend, safe and whole.
A jealous girl who turned into a jealous wolf, an angry girl who turned into an angry wolf, and so on. Whatever the girl was feeling, the wolf would feel too.
Janis squeezed Cady’s hands and bared her soul.
The air is sweet and warm, reminiscent of the summer sun. She can smell the woodsmoke of the campfire and the burnt sugar of marshmallows. S’mores, as camping laws dictate, are a must. However, she’s never really cared for sweets and she doesn’t know if being a werewolf means she has a chocolate allergy but she doesn’t want to find out. Still, seeing the happiness of her friends as they enjoy their treats coats her tongue in a sweetness akin to eating one herself.
Though the sun is just beginning to dip beneath the horizon and Janis knows the moon’s call will grow stronger until she cannot resist its haunting song, she is not afraid. Even if her hands shake the slightest bit. How can she be afraid when she is sandwiched, not unlike a fire-roasted marshmallow, between the two graham crackers of stability in her life: her best friend Damian and her girlfriend Cady.
The memory of that talk between her and Cady reassures her as she plays it over a couple times in her head. She begins to draw away from her thoughts as the invisible strings pulled taut around her chest start to tug, calling something deeper, more primal into the night. Cady’s hand, though, remains firmly planted in hers once she leaves the memory. Janis gives it a gentle squeeze, which Cady returns.
“It’s time,” she announces and though a part of her still feels like wrenching her hand away and running far from here, she knows it’s an old feeling from a scared pup who didn’t understand what it meant to let others in, of a young girl in a metal cage, alone and hurting. With grim determination, she stands up and leads her friends, her pack, into a nearby clearing away from the tents they’ve set up. With even greater resolve, she lets go of Cady’s hand and walks away, mourning the loss. Damian’s shoulder rub as she passes by eases some of the grief.
She is in the center of the clearing now. She gives her friends the most confident smile she can muster as they watch from the edges of the clearing. They return their own smiles and Janis feels almost blinded by the brilliance. In the face of such support and love, Janis can feel the walls dropping within herself and she lets them fall and lets her friends in.
She stares at the orange glow of the fire mingling with the creeping light of the full moon and whatever is left of her fear drips away. As the sun goes beneath the line of the horizon and its light fades, the moon’s pull on her soul grows stronger and she knows to not be afraid.
Janis Sarkisian is a werewolf, which means she is both girl and wolf, not a monster. Her high school plans were to keep her head down and make it through all four years without too much fuss. Currently, her plans are a little skewed. She’s just finished her junior year and here she is celebrating her summer holiday with Damian Hubbard and Cady Heron. That part seems like her plan has gone right despite some unexpected factors, but the biggest change is this: she can’t very well howl to the moon if she keeps her head down now, can she?
Janis is a wolf and a girl and she doesn’t know a lot but she’s learning and relearning. Tonight, as her wolf tastes fresh air for the first time without distress and fear, she looks at the sky. The stars and the moon are perfectly framed by the yearning branches, reaching up and up into the cosmos, a motley crew of permanent yet changing denizens. And she knows with a deep conviction now, as her body bends and changes, she doesn’t become a monster. She was never one to begin with.