Violets and Ash
Violets and Ash
Author: Jane Doe

Chapter 1

They said it was raining when I stumbled into town, past the boarders so poorly protected even a critically wounded ten-year-old could slip through.

I had been walking for hours. I was told my feet were blistered and bloody with wounds that reappeared faster than they could heal, but that they paled in comparison to the thick slices covering my body.

I couldn’t remember the pain, or the song they had said I’d been singing. I couldn’t remember the feeling of the rain on my face, or the mud in between my toes.

The widow who had taken me in while I was sick and healing, who had begged her Luna and Alpha to take me off her hands once the night terrors and outbursts became too much, I couldn’t remember her either.

My first memory began with him. The tender eyed doctor with the curly hair and friendly smile. I had giggled when his glasses slid off his nose and fell into my lap. Elijah was the first person who didn’t treat me like a problem in need of solving. I told him my name that day, the only detail from my past life that I remembered.

And just a few days later, the small-pack doctor who had never wanted children of his own adopted me. The place I had left—the place I had no memory of it became a distant nightmare I would never be able to shake.

All too soon the townspeople’s stares went from sympathetic to wary. The near endless flood of casseroles and chocolate chip cookies dwindled into long stares and whispered words. Instead of inviting me to play with their children, they would pull them away.

Even with their beloved town doctor as my guardian, I was an outcast.

In school the other children avoided me. They slowly made a game out of it, pretending I didn’t exist. Even though I’d come home crying on numerous occasions, it was nothing compared to what awaited me in high school.

That summer was one of growth for all of us. Lanky baby-faced boys morphed into pimple-faced teenagers, swollen from the small amount of muscle they gained from their limited summer activities. Those same boys, who had squished their faces into looks of disgust whenever a she-wolf their age walked by, now chased them in flocks of strong-scented cologne and spearmint gum.

When the other she-wolves realized the newfound power they acquired in addition to their growing chests and backsides, it was only a matter of time before the games of chase began.

There would be many discoveries and realizations during those three long months, all of which marked the beginning of what would someday become adulthood. When high school rolled around, the children who once pretended I didn’t exist were now infused with a newfound sense of courage that wouldn’t cease.

Teenage hormones and cruel curiosity were the instruments of my destruction—and what a pretty picture they painted.

Scarlet splashed against tile, fabric splitting in two again and again, the sounds of prickling laughter as they tore at my skin—at the scars I tried so hard to keep hidden.

I was swept away, plunged into darkness that stung like ice water. It poured into my open mouth, down my throat in waves that stung and forced me to sputter for breath. The water thickened to slush in my lungs, leaving me frozen and suspended in darkness while a ghost wearing my face smiled down at me.

The last thing I remembered were the screams.

Voices that had deepened this past summer now rang out in shrill sopranos, only fading when the icy grasp of nothingness released its hold on me and sent me freefalling to earth—to the mess I had made.

Everything changed after my blackout.

I was dangerous. A menace. A ticking time bomb that would burn our little pack from the map before long. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t remember anything, that I’d been disconnected from my body like a hot air balloon thousands of feet above the ocean, desperate to land but destined to succumb to the vicious and violent waves far below.

Even as Elijah sat me down for our first ever serious talk, he never looked at me the way the other parents did—never spoke to me in that syrupy sweet tone that reeked of disdain and ableism. He listened to me, gave me every ounce of his belief even though I’d done nothing to earn it. Beginning home-schooling, that was a decision we made together—one of our firsts.

Within those first two months, my grades skyrocketed. I began baking, taking up different hobbies to pass the extra time on my hands. The little girl that longed for friends became used to her comfy, padded prison.

Even when the lock rusted and fell off, she stayed.

We stayed.

Still, there was this restlessness in my chest that I couldn’t seem to shake. It only eased when I ventured outside, took deep breaths of the crisp mountain air, and listened to the dull chatter of people outside.

It was this restlessness that led me to Jeb’s Saloon.

~                 ~                 ~                 ~                    ~

I ducked just in time for the glass to shatter on the wall above my head, raining little crystalline pieces down into my hair. A sigh escaped my lips as the tiny pieces tangled themselves in my pale curls, the loose ones tumbling down my shoulders.

Well, this was wonderful. Not only would it take forever to get out of my hair, but I’d also get a bloody scalp.

I groaned softly when some Jim Beam trickled off the counter and onto my shoulder, soaking into my last clean t-shirt. The pungent liquor burned my nose and filled my head with its nutty and floral scent.

A silent prayer of thanks left my lips because Jeb would skin me alive if it had been the top shelf stuff flung across the bar.

The sound of grunting and cursing meshed with the AC/DC blasting on the speakers, which overpowered tonight’s football game. The subtitles were on, but most of the guys here were stopped being able to read them four hours ago.

If they weren’t piss drunk by 6pm, they’d realize this was just a rerun from last year’s game. Not one person noticed how the date jumped from game to game, or how the players seemed to come and go without reason.

Most of our bar fights started this way, and I can’t say I made things much better.

Some sore loser would bet his entire paycheck that the Raven’s would win this time around, only to forget that when the same game played last week, they had lost miserably.

Chiefs vs. Chargers, Raiders vs. Browns.

Who knew who would win?

It was sneaky and devious, two things I absolutely was not. Still, the cash I won did come in handy for those late-night baking sessions and the occasional tie for Elijah.

I figured it was a little slice of revenge for the men’s mates and children, who they’d complain about endlessly once they stepped foot through the creaky blacked-out door.

All Billy Macon’s kids did was whine, while Phil Crow’s mate couldn’t stop spending his hard-earned money on her ‘scratchies’ at the gas station down the block. Night after night they’d punish themselves, drinking to forget the finality of their choices, the ones that led them to be where they are now.

Most of our bar fights were over the football games, but not this one.

“Donny, you know he’s been sleeping with your wife for two months now.” I said with gritted teeth, narrowly dodging a half-full shot glass as it soared through the air.

Donny was all bark and no bite, especially since he had half his teeth removed last fall. He was one of our more friendly regulars, but his demeanor would change the moment his wife walked through the door—which has happened a time or two.

I cursed Twyla for leaving me here alone tonight, even though I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be. Working at the bar, it was my little secret.

Only Twyla knew about it, her and Jeb, the owner of ‘Jeb’s Saloon.’ He was the one who signed the paychecks, and Twyla’s the one who taught me how to defend myself against the drunken men that visit nightly.

Surrounded by these men--they could hardly remember two days ago, let alone my twisted past.

Twyla had taken one look at my golden curls, curvy figure and scar riddled body and decided I was the only person in town, other than her older brother, who she could tolerate. Jeb didn’t care either way, not while he could pay me a whopping five dollars an hour under the table.

She knew letting me run the bar by myself was a disaster waiting to happen. I was sweet honey, incapable of stopping a pesky bar fight, while Twyla was harsh vinegar.

Don’t get me wrong, Twyla was physically beautiful. At thirty-four years old, she had a slender physique that came from exercising and training with her brother. Her auburn hair was pin-straight and glossy, and looked killer with that shag cut she had gotten last month.

Half of the men here trip over themselves for a chance with her, not that it’s gotten them anywhere. It was her no-nonsense attitude, and tendency to throw the first punch that made her vinegar.

She had broken up more bar fights than I could count. All while I watched, trembling like pup from the adrenaline, trying hard not to black out.

Which is exactly what I was doing now.

My entire form vibrated softly as Donny stumbled drunkenly across the bar, right to where his cousin Ray sat. Both men were clueless. Pit stains and receding hairlines, an all-natural musk that smelled of cheap beer and cigarettes.

I wrapped my hand around the thick base of Twyla’s ‘pain stick,’ which was really just the leg of an old bar stool that had broken. She had wrapped a fuchsia scarf around the base and named it as our bar’s official bouncer.

Glancing down and readjusting my grip, I wondered how hard Twyla had to swing to knock out a full-grown werewolf. Most of my strength came from kneading dough in the kitchen, and not from training all afternoon like she did.

My breath halted as Donny shoved Ray backwards off his barstool, sending spittle flying as he snarled and shouted. Sounds of anger rang out from the surrounding people, who were now covered in beer or jostled from Ray’s fall.

I needed to hurry, before they pissed off anyone else. Two drunken men I could handle, but a bar full of them? I might as well set the place on fire myself.

Stifling an unhinged giggle at the irrational thought, I took a deep breath and counted to ten.

“Just a second, guys.” I called out to the college-aged men sitting along the bar, who had made a fuss as I untied my apron and threw it onto the back counter. The small door swung as I walked through, emerging onto the floor where the crowd of drunken men and women sat.

“Ooh, what’re you gonna do with that Miss Violet?” Harold, one of our boozier regulars slurred, leaning back in his stool to give me a lopsided smile. “Usin’ Twyla’s pain stick all by yourself?”

Heavy fumes of garlic and clove clung to Harold from the seasoning factory just outside of town. He and a few of the other men worked there during the seasons where the snow was light. It did wonders to hide the Fireball he often liked to sip, which was what he currently held in his calloused hand.

The more drunk some of the regulars were, the nicer they could be.

“If I don’t do something, they’ll tear this bar to the ground. Besides, I don’t see you helping me out.” I scolded him, cracking a smile when his raspy smokers laugh filled the air.

“Can’t risk spillin’ my drink, paid too much for it.” Harold said solemnly, cradling the glass to his sweat-stained shirt.

I gave him a look that told him he was full of it and said, “Harold, you haven’t paid your tab in seven years.”

Hearing his slurred apology from behind, I clutched the pain stick in my hands and made my way through the crowded bar.

Donny and Ray were throwing punches now, and while the regulars kept their attention on the football games, the newcomers were enamored with tonight’s fight—as if there weren’t a new one in the parking lot every week.

‘We’ve got this, Vi. We’re werewolves, remember?’ My wolf, Lacey, chanted encouragingly. ‘You’ve been practicing for a reason. Breathe, and take control.

‘Got it.’ I nodded eagerly, hyping myself up before this optimism went straight out the window.

I skirted along the gathering crowd, glancing back at the bar every few seconds. The last thing I needed was Jeb chewing my ass out for letting the register get stolen again. I squeezed through a gap in the crowd, between two hulking masses of flesh and muscle, covered in leather jackets with thick patches.

“Oh, excuse me!” I exclaimed, tapping on the shoulder of one of the large men.

He let out a grunt before turning my way, frowning when he had to crane his neck down to look at me. A scruffy beard covered his chin, but there was something kind of pleasant about his dark eyes.

“You’re too young for me, darlin.’ I prefer my women a good twenty years older.” He grunted.

“No, I’m asking for your help!” I clarified, smiling sweetly when he leaned down to listen. I went on my tiptoes, shouting over the music. “Do you think you could push these people out of the way for me? I’m not strong enough, and I need to hit Donny with the pain stick before he kills Ray.”

The gruff man blinked a few times, scratched his beard, and then shrugged. He slid his meaty arms in between a group of people, forcing them apart with a surprising amount of human strength.

“Thank you, sir!” I sang, slipping through the gap in the crowd.

Donny’s rage was steadily growing and was evident in the way he used barstools and glasses as makeshift projectiles against Ray, who stood a good two feet taller than him.

“Violet, fuck you doin’ in the fight?” I heard one of our regulars shout, a short and stocky wolf named Earl. He was kind to me, only because he had a massive thing for Twyla. “Gonna get yourself killed. Where the fuck is Twyla?”

“I can’t hear you, Earl—” I shouted above the commotion, even though I could hear him clear as day. I waved and tried not to stare at his pit sweat stains, “Maybe another time!”

Lying was another thing I wasn’t particularly good at, and Twyla had specifically told me not to tell Earl she was on a date tonight. Escaping the clutches of Earl, that was the only way I wouldn’t blurt the truth.

I counted the number of times my heart hammered in my chest, taking deep breaths to calm the rush of adrenaline that spiked so easily in me. Whenever conflicts arose, and adrenaline coursed through my veins, I remembered that moment at school and how powerless I was to stop it.

‘Square in the back, Vi.’ Lacey reminded me, her tail swishing eagerly.

I shifted my weight from foot to foot, like Twyla had showed me a few times. It was to keep you moving…or it was a warm-up stretch, I wasn’t sure which.

A few guys in the crowd caught sight of the pain stick, and chuckled eagerly, placing their drunken bets on which man I’d slug. Half of the men in the bar had the honor of feeling the pain stick, courtesy of Twyla and her killer aim.

I lifted the stick in my hands just as Donny landed a solid kick to Ray’s stomach. As Ray doubled over and spewed foul smelling beer onto the floor, Donny readied himself for another kick. I brought the pain stick down at the last second, swinging with all the force I had, since it wasn’t much to begin with. Ray took that moment to recover and charge at Donny, who was thrown backwards.

I had missed Donny’s back completely, letting out a sheepish ‘oops’ when the stick bounded off his skull, sending him crumpling to the floor.

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dddnechols
so far so good
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