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Ewe: On the Lamb

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Disclaimer: Domoviye had nothing to do with this story.

A Whateley Universe story

Ewe: On the Lamb

by

Amethyst

 

Ewe

 

Have you ever made a mistake that didn’t seem so bad at the time, but would later have consequences that would turn your whole life upside down? It’s like tipping that first domino that brings all the others crashing down around you, not in whatever pattern that you may have been planning, but into a chaotic, confused mess that you didn’t plan for and can never hope to return to anything salvageable.

If you asked my parents, for me, that mistake was being born in the first place, or even being conceived. My birth was difficult and left my mother unable to bear any more children; no strong sons or healthy daughters to help out on the farmstead. Just me, a small and sickly girl who my father always said would blow away in a stiff breeze and would never be able to handle any of the real work. Instead, I helped to care for the horses and to help shear the sheep when it was necessary because it was all-hands-on-deck whenever that time came, even hands as small as mine.

I was used to them treating me that way, to them hating me for being born. They could have treasured me because I was the only child they would ever have, but they didn’t or couldn’t, and that was their mistake. They didn’t get to decide mine. No, I made my mistake when I was fourteen. I did something, or rather someone, that I shouldn’t have. His name was Marcel Belangier.

Marcel was sixteen years old, the son of one of the seasonal migrant workers who came and left our farmstead more often than the seasons. They were tourists from France who were travelling across New Zealand and came to work for my father to make some extra money. He was blond, blue-eyed, handsome, romantic, and even though he was only with us for two months, he made an impression on me by striking straight at my heart.

In that short time that he and his father stayed with us, he was perhaps the only person to have ever treated me as a young woman, instead of a child or a burden. Despite my small size, weak constitution, and all of the harsh things that my parents would tell him about me, when we were together, he made it seem like the two of us were alone in the world, that I was desirable and mattered to somebody. On that moonlit night when he invited me up to the hayloft to share his purloined bottle of wine and stargaze, I gratefully accepted and allowed him to make a woman of me.

For a short time, I was happy, until he and his father left without a word three days later. Just like that, the dream that I had allowed myself to become immersed in was gone, burst like a balloon, and I found myself thrust once again into the cold darkness of my reality. As before Marcel came along, I once again found myself turning to the horses and the sheep for companionship. No, not that way, get your mind out of the gutter.

The truth was that the animals were far easier for me to understand than people. I understood their needs and desires, and if I treated them well and showed them love and affection, they would generally return that love and affection. I still had no idea how to get my parents to treat me with anything other than thinly veiled hostility and open contempt.

So, I returned to spending my days feeding and grooming the horses, occasionally taking one out for a ride to give them some exercise, laying out in the paddock among the flocks of sheep to cloudgaze, and generally being ignored by my parents and the farmstead’s laborers. It wasn’t until I was two months along, feeling crook, and chundering everything that I ate that I discovered I was pregnant.

I was used to the occasional bouts of sickness so, at first, I thought nothing of it. After all, I had a poor immune system and had been sickly since I was a child. I was actually pretty sure that if I didn’t have regular appointments with my pediatrician every three months to monitor my health, my parents would have just let me cark it when I was still a small child. They certainly complained enough about how much my appointments and medications cost them.

It was after one such appointment with Dr. Rosenthal that she became concerned about my latest apparent bout of illness and decided to run some tests. When she made a house call two days later to discuss my ‘condition’, my parents were very concerned. They weren’t concerned about me, though they did Dr. Rosenthal the courtesy of at least pretending to be until after she left. They did have an image to maintain after all.

No, they were concerned about themselves, about their reputation being buggered because their daughter was up the duff, big surprise there. The moment that my doctor’s car had disappeared down the road and out of sight of the farmhouse, they let me know exactly what they were concerned about, and it wasn’t my health or the baby. Did I get a lecture? Sure, if you call screaming at me, with the occasional use of words like ‘slut’, ‘whore’, and ‘trollop’, a lecture, then yes, I got lectured.

I was told how I had always been an embarrassment to them, a black mark on the family line, the black sheep of an otherwise sane and healthy family. I was told how, just by existing, I had stolen their chances of having children who could actually be useful around the farmstead or who might actually amount to something in life. And now I had gotten myself knocked up out of wedlock by some French boy, and I didn’t even have the common decency to wait until I was out of high school. What would the people in Church say on Sunday?

My parents demanded that I get an abortion, to save them from the embarrassment of having a pregnant teenaged daughter, of having yet another burden to care for. Even Dr. Rosenthal had advised me not to carry the baby to term. She told me that my small size, my sickly constitution, and my age made it too dangerous for me to try to have the baby. My parents latched onto her words in desperation when their threats and screaming failed to immediately convince me.

It was my body that I would be risking though, and that made it my choice. I wanted to have the baby, I wanted to raise it and give him or her the love, care, and affection that my parents never gave me. I promised myself that I would have this baby and be a good mother and it was a promise that I intended to keep.

It was dangerous for me and there were a few close calls, especially as I got further along. Sometimes I think that my parents would have preferred it if those close calls had turned the other way and I carked it, so they wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore. As it was, they stopped bringing me to church with them on Sundays. I guess at first, they thought that I might miscarry, and having a child who doesn’t have the decency to go to Church was far preferable to bringing a young teen who would very soon be obviously pregnant.

The further along that I got in my pregnancy, the more that I could feel that new life growing inside of me, and the more determined I became to be a good mother to my child. Through the morning sickness, trips to the medical center, high blood pressure, and the emergency bed rest during the last trimester, I swore that I would not let any of it bring me down. I would have my baby and I would be a great mother. I kept thinking that right up until that dream was shattered and crashed down around me like so much broken glass.

~o~O~o~

Shepherd Farmstead
Southwest of Fairlie, New Zealand
Wednesday, July 11th, 2007
6:13 p.m.

I cradled my gravid belly with one arm and held my long brown hair out of my face with my free hand as I expelled what little I had managed to eat of my dinner. We’d had a thick mutton stew and for some reason, even the thought of eating mutton had been making me feel sick to my stomach. Bugger, I was having a real mare today. Now, on top of feeling bloody knackered, I was feeling crook too and almost chundered all over the floor before managing to make it to the dunny.

There was a tentative knock at the door, followed quickly by a voice asking, “Are you okay in there?” It was Linda, she and her fiancé, Dave, were from Canada and doing a tiki tour of New Zealand, stopping occasionally to work at farmsteads like ours to make some extra money for gas and supplies. She seemed pretty skux, at least she didn’t judge me for being almost eight months pregnant at my age and she had quite a few visible piercings and a pink streak in her hair, something that my parents found sus. She’d only been here a few days and they only planned on staying a couple of weeks, but I liked her.

Once I managed to stop emptying my stomach I replied hesitantly, “Yeah nah, she’ll be right, eh,” to reassure her that everything was okay, and I wasn’t going to cark it.

“What? Who’ll be right? I thought it was just you in there?’ Linda asked, sounding very confused.

Ah right, they hadn’t been among Kiwis for very long and hadn’t picked up the local lingo. “Never mind. Don’t worry, I’m sweet as,” I tried again. Well, I was as good as I was going to get, if you didn’t count tossing cookies and feeling a little cold and itchy all over since I woke up this morning.

I got to my feet and washed my face and hands. Then I took a deep breath before heading back out into the hallway, where Linda was waiting. For a moment, I thought that she might need to use the dunny, but she made no move to take my place in there and her expression seemed concerned when she caught sight of me. The only person that I had ever seen look at me with a similar expression was my doctor.

Not even Marcel had ever seemed concerned about me. Friendly, yes. He had been good at being tender, attentive, and sensitive, or at least seeming like he was, but even nearly eight months later, I still wasn’t sure if all that was an act or not. He had never looked at me in concern or worry though and it was an emotion that I was unfamiliar with seeing on the faces of the people around me. Even my doctor only ever displayed it briefly before slipping back on her mask of professionalism.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Linda asked, her eyes not leaving my face. “No offense, Mary, but you kind of look like shit.”

I wasn’t used to this kind of attention from the adults around me and for a moment I wasn’t sure if I should feel happy or as concerned as she looked. She was pretty skux, and seemed to have her shit together, so why would she be worrying about a useless and worthless bundy like me? My parents had reinforced just how true that was every day for as far back as I could remember. Surely, she must have heard their complaining, so why worry about me?

It was just like Marcel, but different, and after he and his dad had left so suddenly after he bedded me, trusting others wasn’t easy. I was grateful for the time we had, and determined to be the best mother I could be to our baby, but I knew now that I never really loved him. I just loved the idea that he represented, that someone could care for me and treat me like someone worthy of respect. In light of my past experiences, someone like Linda worrying about someone like me was a little sus.

I viciously stamped out the hope that threatened to bloom in my heart as I hesitated to answer her. “Yeah nah… I told you, I’m sweet as.” Then I turned to head toward my bedroom, the thought of finishing my dinner only threatening to make me chunder again.

It didn’t help that Rae was kicking up a storm in my womb, I swore sometimes that that girl was going to kick a hole in my gut to make her way out. Yeah, she was going to be a girl, I found that out last month during an ultrasound and I couldn’t be happier about it. I had decided to name her Rae since she was my ray of sunshine, the one bright and warm spot in a dark and dreary life.

I made it halfway to my room before blinding pain tore through my abdomen, forcing me to fall to one knee as I clutched at my belly protectively and half grunted, and half squeaked at the sudden knife-like pain that was gone as quickly as it had appeared. What was that?! Was that a contraction? I wasn’t due for another month.

My heart pounded rapidly, and it was like there was a tornado in my chest as fear, excitement, and panic surged within me. A hesitant touch to my shoulder brought me back to reality and I turned my head to look up at Linda, who now looked even more worried than before. “Contraction?” she asked, the single word seeming to hang between us as she glanced down at my swollen belly.

“I… I think so?” I asked more than answered, since I had no experience with this. My parents had refused to help pay for childbirth classes since they considered them an unnecessary expense and they didn’t want me leaving the farmstead since they wanted me out of sight and out of mind in regards to the people who attended their church in Fairlie, the closest thing resembling a town. Fairlie was home to less than a thousand people and most of them knew one another, and people like my parents who visited town regularly for supplies and such.

Linda helped me to my feet and offered, “I’ll drive you to the hospital if you want.”

“I… Chur, Linda,” I muttered awkwardly, trying not to look at the sympathy written all over her face as I thanked her. “Yeah nah… why are you helping me?”

“Because I’m here, and it looks like your parents are assholes who don’t give a shit about you,” she replied as she cast a dark look in the general direction of the kitchen downstairs. “It’s raining out there, and I wouldn’t want to see you trying to walk to town on a night like this while going into labor. Go grab what you’ll need while I warm up the car.”

I swiftly waddled to my room, where I began stuffing a small duffel bag with a change of clothes and personal hygiene stuff for me, and the few things that I had managed to collect for Rae’s imminent arrival. This included a blankie and a couple of sleepers that I had gotten cheap at the local op shop, a small pack of disposable nappies, some baby powder, and a couple of baby bottles for feeding her in case nursing her didn’t work out. I really wanted to breastfeed her and from the way that my nipples had been leaking over the past couple of days, I was hoping that it would work out.

There was also the beginning of a blanket that I was knitting from some pink yarn I had gotten very cheap at the op shop as well. I probably could have made some yarn, and even cloth, from the wool that our sheep produced, I knew how since it was one of the few jobs around the farmstead that my mother thought I was capable of aside from shearing. It would have taken time though and I fell in love with the baby pink color after learning that Rae was going to be a girl. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to replicate it with dyes and it wasn’t like the yarn cost a lot, it was less expensive than the blankie actually.

Once I had my bag packed, I threw on a wool jumper since it was a cool winter night, and I could hear the rain coming town outside. It helped with the chill that I was feeling and for some reason, that itchy discomfort that I had felt crawling along my flesh all day seemed to subside as well. I barely noticed and didn’t spare it a passing thought since I had more important things to worry about at the moment. Even driving, it was going to take at least fifteen minutes to get to the medical center in Fairlie since our farmstead was out in the wop-wops.

“Which way to the hospital?” Linda asked once I was safely belted into the passenger side of the car.

“No hospital,” I replied cautiously. “Not out here in the wop-wops. The closest one would be in Christchurch. There’s a medical center in Fairlie though, I can tell you when to turn when you get close. I know the way well enough, practically grew up there.” Then I hesitated as I saw how worried she looked. “Yeah nah… don’t worry, eh. She’ll be right. Ma or Da wouldn’t have made me walk out in this rain. They usually drive me there, with it being a good walk into town and keeping up appearances for their church friends. Chur for offering though.”

Linda’s hands tightly clenched the steering wheel, her eyes on the road but her jaw set in an angry frown. Had I said something to make her mad at me? I decided not to say anything since that might just piss her off more. After a moment she asked through gritted teeth, “I see how they treat you, how can they treat their own child that way?”

“Wait, you’re salty about that?” I asked, suddenly very confused. We barely knew each other, why should she give a damn about me?

“Or course I am!” she half growled through gritted teeth. “They treat you like something they found on the bottom of their shoe when they do talk to you, and the things they say about you, even when you’re standing right there. Neither of them said two words to you during dinner, and they almost seemed relieved when you ran off for the bathroom like you did and just kept eating and talking like nothing happened! Why the hell aren’t you pissed about the way they treat you?!”

“I guess I’m used to it,” I admitted reluctantly. “There’s no use packing a sad about it, eh. It’s not like things are going to change until I can leave home for good. I just want to do better for Rae when she’s born.”

“I just… it’s not right,” she said before letting out a long sigh. The rest of the drive was quiet except for me giving the occasional directions until we reached the medical center.

~o~O~o~

Fairlie Medical Center
Fairlie, New Zealand
Friday, July 13th, 2007
2:46 a.m.

“You’re almost there, Mary. One last push,” one of the hazy voices around me encouraged. I couldn’t figure out whether it was the midwife, the doctor, or the nurse because I was so bloody knackered after thirty hours of labor that even the pain was barely keeping me awake.

Twelve hours ago, when the contractions were getting really bad, and much closer together, the doctors were worried that my size and low body weight would make anesthesia too dangerous, so they gave me a local, and a midwife held my hand as I pushed. Even then I felt like I was being sapped by a bone deep weariness and, even though I felt like I was on fire, I held on and kept pushing to bring Rae into this world.

That was when things started getting hazy, everything but the pain. I heard someone screaming about my temperature climbing. I thought I might have heard someone else scream, " Oh God, look at her eyes!" Still, I focused on trying to stay awake and pushing when I was told to, that was the only thing that I had the energy to focus on as I held on through the agony and fevered dreams for eleven hours.

I gave that one last push and tried to cling to consciousness as that hazy voice said, “Good work, Mary, you can rest now.” No, as knackered as I was, I wanted to see Rae first, I wanted to hold my baby. There was no crying, why was there no crying? The voices were hushed now, hurried, and the last thing hazy thing I heard before I could fight it no longer and passed out from agony and weariness was, "… a girl. Recording fetus delivered still…”

~o~O~o~

I awoke, somehow still completely knackered and aching, despite the feeling that I had slept for quite a while. I was groggy too, but I couldn’t really be sure if that was from exhaustion or whatever was in that IV that I was connected to. A pang of loneliness settled in my chest, and I scrambled to sit up in the hospital bed and find the call button. I needed to see Rae, to hold her, and probably feed her as well, given the discomfort that was coming from my swollen breasts.

It was as I was making that mad scramble that something white and wispy fell across my face. I reached up to pull it away, but that only resulted in a tugging sensation at my scalp as if it was… my hair? For a moment, all I could do was stare at the locks in my hand. My hair was brown, why…

“Kia Ora, I see that you’re awake,” a man’s voice said, snapping my attention to the door of the room I was in, where a large Māori man with short hair who I didn’t recognize, but who was dressed like a doctor, was watching me. I was just about to ask about my daughter when he spoke again. “I’m Dr. Mōkena, and you’ve been through quite the ordeal, Miss Shepherd. You manifested while in labor and it’s caused quite the stir here. We’ve never had a mutant in Fairlie before, at least, not that I know of.”

For a moment I just stared at him before shaking off my disbelief and summoning all the of the courage that I could as I brutally shoved aside the shock I was feeling at his statement. Yeah, this was a major cock up, but I could deal with this and it wasn’t important right now. Rae was the only thing on my mind, and I wanted to hold my daughter. I could deal with this, my parents, and anything else that came along so long as I had my baby girl. With that in mind, I drew on every bit of courage I had and demanded, “Where’s Rae?”

“Rae?” he asked in surprise. For a moment there was this look of confusion on his face, as if he wasn’t sure if I was talking about something he hadn’t been informed about or if I was a sammie short of a picnic.

“My baby,” I clarified as my hands shook and my voice trembled in worry. Why wouldn’t they let me see my baby? Was it because I was a mutant? Something was dodgy here.

A brief moment of realization lit up his face before his expression instantly turned melancholy and suddenly, a whirlwind of worry and dread touched down inside my chest. His next words were hesitant, and he glanced down the hallway as if wishing there was someone else who could deliver whatever terrible news he was about to impart. “Miss Shepherd… I’m sorry, but your baby… she didn’t survive. The sudden changes in your body chemistry and hormone levels, combined with a difficult birth…”

I was gutted. It was like someone suddenly ripped out my heart, leaving burning gaping void behind and ice was suddenly running through my veins. “No! You’re lying! Bring me my baby, you bloody egg!” I screamed in anguish as I tried to extract myself from the bed and the various medical equipment currently attached to me.

I was vaguely aware of Dr. Mōkena calling for the nurses and as I managed to get into a sitting position and pulled out the IV, I was pinned back to the bed by the doctor. I resisted, putting up enough of a struggle that it took three people to hold me down and given my small size and stature, that was saying something. All that I could do was scream myself hoarse as I tried to break free and find my daughter. “Give me my baby! I…” It was about then that I felt something being jabbed into my arm and, moments later, darkness claimed me.

~o~O~o~

When I awoke again, my arms were lashed to the sides of the bed with sturdy leather straps. I wasn’t sure if they were needed, because surely, the weight that I bore in my heart felt like it would make it impossible for me to ever lift myself off that bed. My baby, the one light that had ever shone into my life, was gone before I even got to know her. I hadn’t even got to hold her.

Now I had nothing. Only a hole in my heart and imaginary snapshots of what could have been my daughter’s life. I would have to go back to the farmstead and my same old life, but it would be worse now because I was a mutant and bore this emptiness within my heart. Maybe that was why they had me strapped down, they were afraid of the mutant. Or maybe they were just afraid that I would kill myself.

I couldn’t blame them. What did I have to live for anyway? Now that my light was gone, I could only see darkness ahead. I wouldn’t do it here though, there were too many people to watch me. I’d wait until I got home. I was a small girl after all, and accidents can happen when you’re riding horses. It wasn’t like anyone would miss me. Hell, my parents would probably celebrate once I finally carked it and was out of their hair.

For a long while I just laid there, eyes closed, hiding from the pain of the outside world in the darkness behind my eyelids and lost in my grief. Then I heard motion, the sliding of the door followed by footsteps approaching my bed. “Hmmph,” my mother’s voice venomously spat in a near-whisper, “it would have been better if she had carked it with that monster she birthed.”

“She’ll be right, Ma,” I thought bitterly. “I’ll try not to keep you waiting much longer.” I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing my plans though, so I opened my eyes and calmly looked at her standing over my bed. I didn’t care about her jibes anymore; I lost the one thing in this world that I cared for and I didn’t think I could ever care about anything else again. I said nothing, I just stared at her until she tore her eyes away from mine to look away.

"Hmmph. I told you that you weren't up to the task, if you had listened to your father and me, and had an abortion, you wouldn't be here right now. Look at you, you suck the life out of everything you touch. You couldn't even have a baby right.”

“You’re one to talk,” I replied back, uncaring of whatever consequences might come from it. What could she do to me that could possibly compare to what I had already lost?

*SLAP*

My cheek stung from the blow as my mother’s hand hovered over me, shaking with the rage that showed on her face and threatening to strike again. It meant nothing. That brief sting and the heat it summoned across my cheek barely registered in comparison to the grief that threatened to tear me apart from the inside out.

“You deserve to be a freak,” she said coldly as she glared down at me. “You probably caught this mutant thing from that boy when he got you up the duff, you bloody ratbag. You’re nothing but trouble and have been since the day you were born.” Then she stormed out of the room, leaving me to my heartache and grief.

~o~O~o~

It was two hours later when I was lost in depression, grief, and self-loathing that there was a knock at the door to the room and a woman I didn’t know entered. She was a tall, slender, and somewhat pretty woman in her mid-twenties with hair and eyes as brown as my own used to be, but she definitely wasn’t a nurse, judging by the black skirt and blazer and professional-looking white blouse that she wore. I guessed government, going by the clothes and the frown on her face.

“Kia Ora, Miss Shepherd. I just finished speaking with your mother, but I thought it best to come speak with you as well, eh,” the frowning woman said. I half considered telling her that I was a bit too ‘tied up’ to shake her hand but I just wanted to be left alone so I shrugged, hoping that she would finish whatever it was that she had come to tell me and leave.

There was an awkward moment where she waited for some kind of reply from me before she hesitantly spoke again. “Miss Shepherd, I’m Agent Wolfe with the Mutant Commission Office. We received a call from the clinic when you manifested. Now, normally, we would want to bring you to our Christchurch office for powers testing as soon as possible, but given the circumstances, we will give you until the end of the month.”

Of course, it was the MCO. I hadn’t really heard much about them before, other than what I saw on television sometimes. I knew they dealt with mutants, so I guess it was only a matter of time until one of their people came to see me. I couldn’t be sure if this was really legit or she was spinning a yarn, but at the moment I was still too gutted to care. I just wanted to be left alone.

“Choice as,” I said, my voice raspy from the tears I had been shedding near constantly since waking up. Hopefully, she’d read the room and leave if I agreed with her. And if she really was telling the truth, I wasn’t planning on being around by the end of the month anyway.

Agent Wolfe looked like she wasn’t sure whether she should believe me or not but after a moment she nodded and pulled what appeared to be a business card from her purse. “Right then, I’ll see you in Christchurch at the end of the month. This is my card, please call me if you begin to display any powers before you come to see us or have any concerns.” Then she placed the card on the bedside table, cast one last unhappy glance in my direction, and then left the room.

~o~O~o~

Fairlie, New Zealand
Saturday, July 21st, 2007
1:39 p.m.

They kept me in the medical center for a week. I think part of it was because they were worried about my depression and afraid I might do something drastic, but I got the distinct sensation that I was also a curiosity because I was a recently manifested mutant and they wanted to observe any changes that I started going through. Not that I seemed to be going through many changes, most seemed to have happened while I was in labor or were developing more gradually.

My hair and eyes had changed while I was still in labor, of course. My hair had gone from its usual dark brown to pure white and my eyes, which had also been brown before, were now a stunning blue but with horizontally elongated pupils that reminded me of the sheep on our farmstead. Something seemed to be going on with my ears, they felt odd and seemed to be getting bigger and changing shape. I could feel some discomfort around my tailbone too whenever I shifted position in my bed, but the biggest change seemed to be my breasts.

My breasts were getting noticeably bigger, and it was only partially because they were swollen with milk. The nurses told me that I should dry up in a few days, but that wasn’t happening, and I had to express milk every morning and night because my breasts were becoming uncomfortably full to the point of being painful if I didn’t. At least they only kept me restrained for the first couple of days or I would have been counting on them to use the breast pump for me and I felt enough like an animal on exhibit as it was.

They also had a psychologist visit me twice while I was there, but I didn’t like him. Dr. Cavanah was a total marnus who kept asking how I was feeling. As if it wasn’t obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes that I was gutted and grieving my daughter. He would also tell me things like, “It’s okay to grieve,” and, “Don’t be afraid to lean on your parents and the other people who love you for support during this trying time.”

First, how was some perfectly normal male supposed to have any idea of what I was going through, let alone help me through it? I was cursed and worthless, my parents had hinted as much since I was born, and in my grief, I was starting to believe them. I had made my mother barren, my own parents couldn’t bear the sight of me, and now I had killed my own child as well by manifesting. I was a monster, and now I was probably going to look the part too.

Secondly, I didn’t have much faith in his professional skills if he thought my parents loved me. Since my mother’s ‘visit’, neither of them had shown their faces at the clinic and even if he had been talking to them, it shouldn’t be hard for somebody who was half decent at reading people to see that they didn’t care for me beyond keeping up appearances. At the moment, I couldn’t blame them for hating me, but their actions didn’t exactly hide it well.

Their ‘care’ for me was on full display as we were doing the paperwork to register Rae’s birth. They wouldn’t have bothered if it wasn’t legally required, and since I was a minor, they shared in the responsibility of that and ‘burying or cremating the baby in an appropriate manner.’ I think Da wanted to originally just bury her somewhere in the paddock and be done, but things had to be done properly and legally. He was especially vocal about how much this was costing him as Rae’s tiny body was cremated.

My parents never let me see her, and they refused to even pay the modest fee so I could have a birth certificate for her. They said there was no sense having one since she would never grow up to need one and nobody in the world would even know that she ever existed, that she wouldn’t matter to anyone. She mattered to me. So, I cried tears that I thought long spent and mourned my daughter as Da bitched under his breath about how much this cheap cremation with a carboard box as her coffin was costing.

“All this for some worthless mutie spawn that never lived in the first place,” I heard him grumble as I watched the flames and tried to imagine my little girl’s face. “Even if she had, she probably would have been as weak and useless as you are. You better appreciate this, girl.”

“Stop packing a sad, you got off easy,” Ma hissed in an annoyed tone as I watched the flames, wept, and clung to the blankie I had been knitting for Rae. “You won’t have to deal with a sickly burden like I do, and the doctors said you can try again some day when you’re older. She didn’t steal your future kids away from you.” The accusation in those last bitter words was laid on so thickly that there could be no mistaking her true meaning, even if I didn’t already know that she blamed me for her barrenness.

I think she and Da were munted long before my difficult birth though. What kind of person hears that they can’t have anymore children and then treats the one child that they do have this way? Certainly not one that wanted to have kids or loves children. Or maybe they were right, and I really was a monster who deserved everything that was happening to me.

Either way, I think they only wanted kids in the first place because it was expected of them; get married, take over the farmstead, go to church, have a bunch of strong and healthy kids to help run the farm, and then finally retire and encourage the kids to do the same damn thing and care for them in their old age. They got me, one sickly girl who would never be fit to take over the farmstead one day, if I even lived that long. I was the antithesis to their entire life plan.

The flames died down and the director, a man with a slight build and graying hair, came to ask, “What would you like done with the ashes? We have a variety of urns that you can choose…”

“We don’t need an urn. I don’t care what you do with them,” Da interrupted, “toss ‘em down the nearest long drop for all I care.” Then he and Ma turned to leave, leaving the man with a sour expression on his face. I didn’t recognize him from my parents’ church, which is probably why they weren’t even pretending to show that they cared about me right now.

My teary eyes shot wide open at Da’s words, and I fought back the renewed tears that threatened to accompany the sudden pained tightness in my chest. No. They wouldn’t let me hold her, I never got to see her face, and my damn parents wouldn’t even let me have a birth certificate to acknowledge her existence. I would not be deprived of her remains as well. Even as Ma snapped, “Move it, girl!” I scrambled inside my small duffel bag for something to contain my daughter’s remains.

I found something, it wasn’t perfect, but it would hold Rae’s ashes since I didn’t have any money to spend on a real urn. Bowing my head, I asked the man who was still frowning at my departing parents, “Umm… Sir? I’m sorry, I’m a bit skint, so I don’t have the money for anything better, but… could you… put them in this?”

He turned away from glaring at my parents’ backs and took a dubious look at the baby bottle in my hand before his expression softened into sympathy. “Sure, lass. I’m sorry for your loss and…” As his voice trailed off, leaving whatever he was about to say unspoken, a glance back at my parents told me exactly what else he was sorry for. “Just give me a minute, and don’t let bitter folk like them keep you down. Grieve in your own way and then try to find a way to move on. You still have a lot of life ahead of you.”

~o~O~o~

Shepherd Farmstead
Southwest of Fairlie, New Zealand
Monday, July 30th, 2007
6:13 p.m.

Another nine days, and my fifteenth birthday, passed uneventfully and, for some reason, I hadn’t followed through on my plan to end my suffering yet. I wasn’t even sure why I hadn’t. Was it because I was scared to cark it? Or maybe I just didn’t want to give my parents the satisfaction after all? Maybe I was trying to find something to live for, now that the one light in my life was gone before it had even had a chance to shine. Most likely though, it was all of the above.

It could have also been that I was too lazy and lacked the energy to put out the effort. My days were spent in a mind-numbing pattern as I lost myself in grief, self-loathing, and despair, and everywhere that went, I kept Rae’s ashes with me. I would wake up in the mornings, pump my swollen breasts dry to ease the discomfort of being far too full, eat far less than I probably should have, feed and care for the horses, and then go out to the paddock to lose myself amongst the sheep. Eventually, I would return to the house to eat dinner and then quietly head to my room to milk myself again before falling into an uneasy sleep filled with nightmares and regrets.

There was something relaxing about getting lost in the flock during those days. In part it was because I wanted to avoid my parents. They had been especially angry with me since I came home from the hospital and it was probably a good idea to keep out of sight and mind so I could avoid their wrath,

This feeling of contentment would bubble up from somewhere deep inside me during those times too though, like I was where I belonged, especially if I was wearing a wool jumper. It was cold, and often wet, with it still being winter, even while wearing warm and cozy wool, but I didn’t really care. I was half hoping that I would get sick and cark it that way, so I didn’t have to put out any real effort.

Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. Not a single day went by with me feeling crook, which was something that I wasn’t used to. For the first time in my life, I actually felt healthy and fit when I would have welcomed death. It would have been funny if I wasn’t still gutted from the loss of my daughter.

My improving health wasn’t the only change that I seemed to be going through either. My breasts had grown by four cup sizes, my hips were filling out, and I had completely lost the pregnancy weight in my belly. The only way I didn’t seem to be growing was vertically and it was strange to be developing such womanly curves and still only be just under 142 centimeters tall. I had always had to wear children’s clothes before but with my developing curves that was going to be difficult now. The tail that had started growing from my tailbone wasn’t helping matters either.

Ma had reluctantly taken me to Fairlie this morning to find some clothes that would fit me decently before we had to head into Christchurch tomorrow. There were only three sets; none of them were a great fit and only the sports bra and panties were new, the rest were gotten at the op shop. I didn’t really care since I was used to getting secondhand clothes. I couldn’t even remember that last time that I had worn something new. Ma still complained about having to spend so much money though and, with how short her fuse had been lately, I was doing my best to avoid her until we had to leave tomorrow morning.

So, here I was, pondering my life and the pros and cons of ending it as I laid amongst the flock of sheep and tightly clutched the bottle containing Rae’s ashes in my hand. Sometimes I would talk to her, hoping that wherever she was, she could hear me. As much as my parents had always tried to drill the existence of God and Heaven into my head, I couldn’t believe in them now and never would again. If their God was cruel or uncaring enough to put me through all of this and take away the only thing that might have made my life worth living, then I would be better off believing in nothing at all.

As much as I loathed the thought of ‘God’, in my heart though, I still blamed myself for Rae’s death. If I hadn’t manifested… I was weeping again, clutching the bottle with Rae’s ashes firmly in my hand as I blubbered, “I’m so sorry, Rae. I only wanted to be a good mother to you, I would have done everything I could to make sure you had a happy life. I love you so much and I’m gutted from losing you. I… I’ll never forget you; I’ll keep you with me, always.”

~o~O~o~

Christchurch, New Zealand
Tuesday, July 31st, 2007
1:39 p.m.

“Hurry up and finish eating!” Ma snapped. “I didn’t pay to have that go to waste, and we’ll be late if we don’t leave soon.”

I didn’t really feel like eating, but I forced myself to finish my last chicken nuggets and the last of my fries before washing them down with my fizzy drink. I had been too depressed and lost in my own world to eat much since leaving the hospital and spending three hours in a car with Ma was enough to make anyone lose their appetite. Being nervous about my upcoming powers testing wasn’t helping matters either.

I had been told to eat something before the appointment for my testing when I talked with Agent Wolfe on the phone yesterday though, so here we were. Even hitting up Maccas for an unexpected treat wasn’t enough to help cheer me up. I was still gutted, still sick of Ma’s constant complaining, and still nervous about this powers testing.

I hadn’t been to Maccas in yonks. I could only remember going to Maccas once when I was like five years old, and we had come to Christchurch for a medical appointment. Just like then though, this wasn’t really meant to be a treat, we were eating here because the food was cheap, and it was on the way to my appointment. Ma had ironically insisted on getting me a Happy Meal, but I went with the chicken nuggets instead of a burger because eating meat had felt weird and made me a bit sick to my stomach since I manifested.

My tummy quivered in protest as I forced the rest of my food down. The chicken felt as weird and wrong as red meat, a heavy weight in the bottom of my gut that felt alien to me somehow, and I was seriously considering becoming a vegetarian as I grumbled, “I’m chocka block, let’s go,” and stood up and shouldered my bag.

The bag didn’t have much in it, just what I would likely need for this short trip into the city. There was a change of clothes and a towel, in case I got sweaty, and my knitting project and needles that I hadn’t touched since before Linda took me to the clinic if I needed something to keep myself busy. My breast pump and the bottle with Rae’s ashes were tucked protectively amongst them. I wanted to have the bottle in my hands to feel closer to Rae, but Ma and Da had threatened that if they saw me carrying it around again that they’d take it and toss the ashes on the dung pile.

Thankfully, the drive to the MCO office from there was short and Ma simmered quietly instead of outright bitching, leaving me alone with my thoughts, worries, and grief. When Ma parked in front of the big steel and glass building for the Mutant Commission Office, the clock in the car showed that we still had five minutes to spare before my two o’clock appointment. Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I reached out with a shaking hand for the door handle and opened the car door.

I was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other as we walked toward the big automatic doors of the building. Apparently, I wasn’t moving fast enough because Ma gave me a hard push through them as they opened. I froze in a fear that I couldn’t explain when I saw the front desk ahead of me, where Agent Wolfe was talking with another woman before they both glanced our way as I was propelled through the doors.

Ma grabbed me tightly by the wrist and half dragged me along as she marched toward the front desk. I could have probably resisted, but I was too scared and nervous to even think about trying at the moment. “Oi, she’s here on time, Wolfe,” she said with thinly veiled hostility as she hauled me over to the front desk.

Just like the last time that I had seen her, Agent Wolfe wore a frown on her otherwise pretty face as she nodded. She turned to smile at me, but it didn’t reach her eyes and it would have been hard not to see that it was being forced as she said, “It’s good to have you here, Miss Shepherd. Follow me and I’ll take you to the testing room and I’ll introduce you to Bill, he’ll be the one testing you today.” Then she turned back to my mother and said, “This is going to take a few hours, you can either wait here in the waiting room, or come back later. Diane here will be willing to answer any questions you might have.”

I nodded wordlessly, half glad to get away from my mother and half terrified about what the MCO and this powers testing might have in store for me. I took a deep breath, reached into my bag to clutch the bottle holding Rae’s ashes, and followed her through a door that led to a long hallway. She didn’t seem inclined to talk, and I was too nervous and depressed to try to strike up a conversation, so we walked in silence until we reached the testing area.

~o~O~o~

Angelica Shepherd watched her daughter leave with Agent Wolfe with a frown deeply embedded in her face. Not that she would ever call that thing her daughter. Mary was a curse, and had been since the day she was born.

There were complications during childbirth, complications that had nearly killed both mother and child and rendered her sterile, denying her the chance to bear strong sons and daughters to take over the family farmstead. Instead, she was left with a small, sickly, and weak girl who would never amount to anything, if she even reached adulthood at all.

She was like that since birth, requiring constant attention and medical care and eventually homeschooling since her immune system was too weak to allow her to go to school with normal kids. She was worthless, useless except for the most basic tasks that a small child could handle. Angelica expected her to die within the first year, but somehow, the girl stubbornly clung to life year after year. It would have been better if she had died.

As small and sickly as she was, Mary was an embarrassment to the family even before she became a pregnant teenager. She couldn't even wait until she was almost finished with high school before getting up the duff with some migrant boy. Then she lost the baby when Angelica was finally warming up to the idea of maybe having a granddaughter who was less worthless than Mary herself. The brat couldn’t do anything right. And now she was a mutant freak, and even worse, an obvious one. Even now she could imagine the gossip at church when word got out about that, and it made her seethe.

And yesterday, when they had gone to the op shop to get clothes for this trip, she had gotten her first good look at Mary since she left the hospital. Though she was still short enough to be a dwarf at this stage of her life, her body shape was enough to make her jealous. She had lost her pregnancy weight and had a body like that after little more than two weeks of giving birth? It was not fair, Angelica had been trying, and failing, to lose the extra weight that she had gained with the little freak for fifteen years.

The only good thing about Mary was the Child Disability Allowance that her chronic illness provided to supplement their income. For years now, she and Bert had been putting aside a little nest egg from that by buying the brat secondhand clothes and the cheapest medications possible, and those only when it was absolutely necessary. And now that one bit of good fortune might be coming to an end.

She had talked with the doctors about Mary’s mutation. They believed her to be an Exemplar due to how she was healing so quickly, and they thought that her health was going to turn around. When that happened all that extra money would go up in smoke. Maybe she should look into it and see if being a mutant counted as a disability, at least then the girl would still be worth something and make up for all of these expenses since she left the hospital.

She would have blown off this trip to Christchurch entirely if that bitch Wolfe hadn’t threatened her. Well, she hadn’t threatened her directly, but it was implied when they talked at the hospital. She had stated very clearly the possible consequences for mutants who were caught without an MID, and those who harbored them.

She continued to glare at Wolfe’s back until she and Mary stepped through the doorway and then turned in a huff. “I’ll be back later,” she snapped at the receptionist before storming out of the office. The question was, what was she going to do for the afternoon while she waited? Well, she was in Christchurch. Maybe she should go shopping. She deserved something nice after everything that she had been through lately.

She was outside of the office and had almost reached her car when a voice asked, “Was that your daughter you just dropped off?”

Angelica’s eyes narrowed as they focused on the woman who spoke. She was somewhat short and a bit plump, and dressed in a long black skirt, a grey woolen jumper, and a waterproof jacket and a pair of gumboots to ward off the rain that was falling. She looked average enough and was holding a pamphlet in her hand as she waited for a reply. “That thing is no daughter of mine, never was,” Angelica snapped at the woman.

The other woman tutted sympathetically. “You poor woman, I feel for you. I know what it’s like to lose a child that way. I’m Gabrielle, I’ve been through having a mutant manifest in the family. Here, take this pamphlet, my name and number are on the back if you want to talk about things, or decide that you need help.”

She almost didn’t take it but found herself curious and snatched it from Gabrielle’s hand before getting into her car to escape the winter rain. She sat in the car lost in dark thoughts for several minutes before taking a look at the pamphlet which proudly declared M.A.M.A in bright red letters. “Hmmm…” she hummed thoughtfully before beginning to actually read the pamphlet for an organization called Mothers Against Mutant Aberrations.

Have you had a mutant manifest in your family? Have your friends? Do you fear for your life and soul? Are you hesitant to do the right thing because evil wears the face that once belonged to your child?

It's very important to note that these mutants are not your children anymore. They stopped being your child when they 'manifested'. They are all controlled, a part of the mutant agenda. If you truly loved your child, then put them out of their misery and protect other families from going through what you have. Only in death can their souls be cleansed of the sins they are driven to commit.

If allowed to live they will try to control or kill normal people like you and me. They will attack you, your family, and your friends and neighbors. We must fight back against the mutant menace and stop them from spreading their genes, corrupting our children, and taking away our God-given free will. M.A.M.A was founded to help mothers like you do the right thing. And just like other mothers can help you to overcome your problem, you can help other mothers to do the same. Together we can make a difference.

Three hours later, after a brief shopping trip to try to cheer herself up, Angelica found herself once again outside the MCO office. A furtive look around showed that Gabrielle was still around and watching the entrance to the building from across the street. However, upon seeing Angelica leave her car she dashed across the street to join her. “Good arvo, have you had a look at our pamphlet?”

“Yeah nah… I’d like to know more about your organization,” she admitted.

They pair became absorbed in their conversation as Gabrielle told her more about M.A.M.A and how supportive they were for their members. They were so engaged in their talk that neither noticed when the doors to the building slid open twenty minutes later and a small body slipped through as Angelica inquired, “I’m all for stopping the mutant menace, but isn’t that what the MCO is for?”

“Psssht!” the other woman hissed dismissively. “The MCO here have their hands tied. They can’t do anything until she actually attacks someone. If you want the freak taken care of before that happens, then find a nice quiet and secluded place to stop on your way home for a rest stop so she won’t suspect anything. Take her for dinner before you leave, it’ll give me the chance to get some of our other members and some gear together to help you do the job properly.”

~o~O~o~

Agent Lauren Wolfe spent the afternoon watching Mary Shepherd being tested through the video feeds. Her frown was ever present as she watched the mutant girl go through the various tests that Bill was putting her through. Not all of those tests were for sussing out powers. She had set up some of those tests specifically for Mary Shepherd and those tests were created to not be obvious, at least not to the girl. She didn’t like what those hidden tests were telling her.

Mary Shepherd probably wouldn’t be here at all if Lauren hadn’t put pressure on that bitch who she called her mother. She was here to deal with mutants though, not their parents. Maybe she should have just let them skip out, then she could legally have paid them a visit with some backup to deal with this. Hindsight is twenty-twenty and all that.

While most of the people working at the Christchurch branch of the MCO were just there for a paycheck and didn’t care much beyond that, Lauren was one of the few who took her job very seriously. She believed in what she was here to do and would do whatever it took to do her duty. As the testing went on, she only became more certain that this was a matter that needed to be dealt with decisively, and as soon as possible.

This wasn’t something that she could trust Bill with though. While he did his job well, it was just a job to him. He had been willing enough to put the girl through some extra tests on her advisement, it wouldn’t be the first time after all, but he wasn’t the type who would be willing to go above and beyond when necessary.

As Bill wrapped up the testing and started processing the girl’s MID, Lauren took her phone from her purse and hit one of the numbers in her contact list. It was almost a minute before a familiar voice answered. “Lauren! How’s things, mate?”

“I’m having a mare today, Jimmy. I’m calling because I need a favor. There’s a mutant girl here who needs to disappear. Same deal as last time. If I send you the details tonight and work out a place and time for you to grab her, can I count on you to make the arrangements?”

There was a brief silence before Jimmy asked, “What about the family, they gonna be a problem?”

“Nah, these people couldn’t give a shit about their kid, they won’t come looking,” she assured him. “So, can you do it?”

“No worries, I’ll suss it,” he replied, “Same price as last time, mate.”

“Yeah nah, I got you covered. Chur, cuz, I’ll send you the details tonight.” With the deal struck, Lauren disconnected the call and placed the phone back in her purse. Now she just needed to talk to the girl before she left and arrange the ‘possibility of more comprehensive testing in Aukland’. It worked last time, and the old tricks were the best ones. Besides, she was pretty sure her parents would jump at the chance to send their daughter away for a few days if she told them that the MCO would foot the bill. And if she never came back, well, accidents happen, and they weren’t the kind to go looking for her.

~o~O~o~

Mutant Commission Office
Christchurch, New Zealand
Tuesday, July 31st, 2007
5:12 p.m.

I was completely knackered as I attempted to change out of the bodysuit they had me change into for the testing and back into the clothes I arrived in. I was also covered almost from head to toe in a thick layer of wool, which was making changing clothes very difficult. The bodysuit was bulging all over and nearly bursting at the seams. At least it was durable and made of a really stretchy material to accommodate unpredictable powers.

The wool was from one of my powers, it seemed that I could manifest wool from my body. A lot of wool. The problem was that I couldn’t reabsorb it, so I was stuck with it until I could manage to shear and shave it all off. At the time that we discovered that ability, I was being pelted by tennis balls from every direction and I sort of manifested the wool to protect myself on instinct. I would have thought having my whole body covered in wool would be hot, itchy, and uncomfortable, but it was actually kind of comforting. I almost wished that I didn’t know why.

After a few more minutes of trying to change and only getting more upset and frustrated than I already was, I decided to just keep the bodysuit on since I was probably going to have even more difficulty getting back into the clothes that I arrived in than I was getting out of the bodysuit. I shoved my clothes into my duffel bag and just worried about getting my cheap secondhand sneakers on as I tried not to think about what I had learned in this testing session, an effort that I failed at as I spotted my new MID on the bench.

I snatched up the ID card and clutched it tightly enough for it to start cutting painfully into the flesh of my palms and fingers before shoving it in the duffel bag with everything else as a mixture of anger and grief boiled within my chest. Deep within me I could feel a faint and indistinct feeling of guilt and sorrow rising to greet them in response. My spirit.

My MID displayed the codename Ewe and had me rated as Exemplar 2, Manifestor 3, and Avatar 1. It was the last one that was the problem. Given the positive test for being an Avatar, my physical changes, some of the things I had been feeling lately, and the whole wool manifesting thing, Bill the tester was pretty sure that a sheep spirit had entered my Hallow when I started to manifest and influenced my still developing BIT.

That, in turn, had caused the sudden shift in my hormones that caused me to go into early labor. Bill hadn’t told me that last part, but I was smart enough to connect the dots after what Dr. Mōkena told me at the clinic. That spirit killed my baby and now I was stuck with it. Unable to hold back the despair, grief, and anger any longer, I broke down and wept, heaving sobs that burned my chest with pain and loss that I had been trying hard not to show since I connected the dots.

There was a knock at the door and a carefully controlled voice asked, “You right in there?”

It felt like my aching heart leaped up into my throat and I took a moment to wipe my eyes and nose on some of the wool protruding from my wrist before shakily replying. “Yeah nah… sweet as… I’m just… having trouble with my clothes. I’ll be out in a minute.”

My eyes felt swollen and blotchy but after taking another minute to collect myself, I zipped up my bag, slung it over my shoulder, and opened the door to the hallway where Agent Wolfe was waiting. She was frowning again, or maybe still, I wasn’t sure if she was just having a bloody mare both days that I dealt with her or if she had something against mutants, but if she didn’t like mutants, why work for the MCO?

Whatever it was, she was all business as she said, “I just wanted to touch base with you before you leave, Miss Shepherd. Bill said the testing went well, but there were some… irregularities. We may have to call you in and send you to our office in Auckland at some point for more comprehensive testing. If that’s needed, the MCO will cover the expense, but you should be prepared for the possibility.”

I nodded somberly, not trusting myself to speak anymore than was absolutely necessary in my current state. She led me back to the waiting room with a heavy and awkward silence hovering over us. Ma wasn’t there yet and since I didn’t want to have an emotional breakdown in front of Agent Wolfe or the receptionist, I decided to go wait for her outside where I could get some fresh air, and maybe find a spot to cry in peace.

It was as I was passing through the automatic doors that I heard my mother’s voice say, “I’m all for stopping the mutant menace, but isn’t that what the MCO is for?”

Covering up the gasp that threatened to slip past my lips, I quickly darted behind a car to hide from sight as I heard another woman’s voice bitterly reply, “Psssht! The MCO here have their hands tied. They can’t do anything until she actually attacks someone. If you want the freak taken care of before that happens, then find a nice quiet and secluded place to stop on your way home for a rest stop so she won’t suspect anything. Take her for dinner before you leave, it’ll give me the chance to get some of our other members and some gear together to help you do the job properly.”

My other issues were briefly forgotten as I crouched there trembling and scarcely able to breathe as tears threatened to stream down my face once again. I knew that my parents resented me and treated me like garbage, but my own mother was standing there and casually listening to some stranger talk about murdering me? Surely, she didn’t hate me that much? My blood ran cold as she said without a hint of remorse, “Sounds choice, but we need to make sure we don’t cock it up.”

I practically hugged the car to stay out of sight. Bloody Nora, they were going to kill me! I had to get away before they realized I was there. I risked poking my head out for a second to have a squizz, but they were both still planning my murder in hushed voices and oblivious to my presence. Terror clutched at my chest as I quietly made my way down the street, using vehicles as cover.

When I finally made it to an alley and found cover behind a dumpster, I started to hyperventilate and curled up in a ball. I couldn’t stop trembling and my heart was racing as I began to properly panic. I don’t know how long I stayed there, but it couldn’t have been long. Every moment that I hid there the feeling that I wasn’t far enough away got more intense. They could still find me here, I needed to get away, far away, and find a safe place to hide.

The rain got worse as I ran aimlessly through the streets of Christchurch, darkness falling as I fled, taking random twists and turns to evade any pursuers. I could scarcely breathe and was hopelessly lost when I finally stopped in another alley and collapsed against the wall, my chest burning from the effort of running so fast and so long. I was tired, hungry, and scared as I collapsed to the ground and began to sob.

I unzipped my duffel bag and reached inside for Rae’s ashes, clutching the bottle desperately to my heaving chest. “I… I don’t… know what to do,” I gasped between sobs as I sat there in the pouring rain.

My rest was all too brief. I gave a startled jump in terror as a man’s voice called out, “Oi! What are you doing over there?!”

I scrambled to my feet and took off running again, ignoring the calls of the voice behind me in fear. I put three blocks between us in record time, but as I was turning a corner onto a quiet residential street I didn’t see a loose bit of stonework and twisted my ankle before falling to the ground. The bottle containing Rae’s ashes slipped from my wet hand, sailing through the air.

I tried to make a grab for it as I fell, but it was out of reach, and I grasped only air and raindrops. My heart seized in my chest, tears burning my eyes as I hit the ground. I could only watch in horror as the bottle fell through the air and hit the ground.

It landed with a *clunk* of sturdy plastic and I sobbed in relief, the air leaving my lips in staccato hiccups as I struggled to breathe. I scrambled forward on hands and knees to pick up the bottle and clutch it protectively to my chest once more. “I’m… s-sorry, Rae. Momma’s so… sorry.”

As much as I wanted to just lay down and cry myself to sleep right there in the street, I knew that I couldn’t stay there. I needed to find somewhere safe to sleep, somewhere to hide. I got to my feet, whispering tearful apologies to Rae as I carefully placed the bottle back in my bag and then ran into the night in search of a place to hide.

~o~O~o~

It was hard to tell how much time passed before I found a place to sleep for the night. I didn’t have a watch or a phone to keep track of the time since my parents had always insisted that I didn’t need them since I had no friends, only ever left the farmstead for medical appointments, and there were two clocks in the house. All that I knew was that I was exhausted, hungry, and emotionally drained when I found a house for sale that seemed to be unoccupied.

I didn’t go into the house itself, not after seeing the keypad by the door. I didn’t have much real-world experience to go on, but on television those usually indicated a security system of some sort. Fortunately, the garden shed in the backyard wasn’t secured. It had a place for a padlock, but right now the shed was just sitting empty and while the doors were closed, there was nothing securing them.

It was enough to keep the rain out and, for once, being so small was a blessing since it gave me plenty of space to stretch out and get as comfortable as I could on the ground. My wool helped with that since I was a little more comfortable with that thick layer of padding between the ground and my body. It was as I laid there, mentally and physically exhausted, clutching Rae’s ashes, and using my duffel bag as a pillow that I wondered, “Why didn’t I just go along and let them kill me?”

Ever since I was small my parents drilled into my head how worthless I was, how useless. Surely, the world would be better off without me, wouldn’t it? Nobody cared about me, even my own parents couldn’t find it in their hearts to love me. With Rae gone, it wasn’t like I even had anything to live for. So why didn’t I just give in, play stupid, walk into the trap that my mother and her new mate were setting up, and get murdered like a good girl?

Nobody would care if I carked it. Just like nobody seemed to care about Rae. NO. I cared. She was my baby, and I was the only one in this world who cared about her, who even knew her name. If I died, who would remember her, or even care that for a brief time she existed and had a mother who loved her?

I promised myself then that I would keep living. No matter what came my way, I would live for my daughter’s memory. Some day I would make sure that her memory would be something more than ashes in a baby bottle. Rae would have a proper resting place and a memorial with her name, so the world knew that she existed and that I loved her.

Tears filled my eyes again as I held her ashes close, my decision made. I cried myself to sleep that night, but now I had a reason to live. I might be down now, but I would never be out.

~o~O~o~

Christchurch, New Zealand
Tuesday, August 28th, 2007
3:32 p.m.

Over the past four weeks of living on the streets I lived aimlessly, focused only on survival. I never slept in the same place for more than two nights in a row, for fear of being found and caught by my mother and her new mate, or anybody who thought that somebody as small as I was would make a tempting target for robbery or violence. It was lonely and scary, but for the first time in my life, I was healthy despite being in a situation where most people would get sick.

Even though winter would likely be giving way to spring soon, the weather was still cool, and it was raining a lot. That made some of the places where I was sleeping at night very uncomfortable and on many of those nights, I had to manifest wool over my entire body to keep warm. At least my small size made it easy to get into some places that most adults couldn’t and that mostly kept me safe from other people. Backyard sheds and air ducts in abandoned buildings were my most common sleeping spots.

I spent much of my time during those cold lonely nights talking to Rae as I kept the bottle with her ashes close to me for comfort. I also finished knitting Rae’s blanket, sort of. The pink blanket became a kind of bottle-cozy to ward off the chill and protect the bottle from any future accidents.

I managed to learn some things about my powers as well, mostly through frustration at not being able to get rid of my built-in wool coat at first. Yes, it was keeping me warm at night, but I couldn’t reabsorb it and it was making it very hard to keep myself clean, and even relieve myself, on the few occasions that I could get access to a proper dunny. The first discovery came when I tried to shear it off with some old shears that I had found in a shed that I was sleeping in.

My wool wasn’t normal, though I guess I probably should have sussed that out earlier since it was coming from a mutant girl instead of a sheep. It was very thick and durable, and the shears weren’t working on it at all, though even if they had, I would have had an awkward time reaching some spots, even as flexible as I now seem to be. In frustration and near-panic I started to pull at it frantically.

Much to my surprise, I was able to pull the wool right off my body. It required some effort, like clothes that were soaking wet and stuck to my body, but with that one frantic pull, all of the wool on my body came off in one smooth motion as one big mat, as if I had pulled it all right off a sheep after a shearing. There was no trace of wool left on me, just smooth and slightly pale skin with nary a hair on it.

I also discovered that I didn’t have to use my whole body to manifest my wool, I could consciously choose where I wanted it to manifest on me, or not, and how much I produced. The most that I could manage at once was a full body coat that was roughly eight inches thick, but it was a bit tiring to manifest that much and after I peeled that off to try and experiment more, I discovered that I would have to rest for a couple of hours before I could produce more. Fortunately, this allowed me to create a full coat before bed to keep warm and then be rested enough to produce more in the morning if I needed to.

Unfortunately, things with my spirit weren’t going as well. I couldn’t help but resent her for contributing to Rae’s death and I didn’t think that would ever change. Even after a month and a half, I was still suffering from the loss, and grief and depression were my near-constant companions. My spirit could feel that, and the resentment that I held toward it, though I wasn’t sure if it was smart enough to realize why I was feeling that way. I could feel sorrow and guilt from it though, and that only served to fuel my own feelings, creating a vicious never-ending cycle.

In other news, I still had to keep milking myself every morning and night since my milk production hadn’t stopped like the nurses at the clinic had assured me. If anything, I was producing more and was leaking constantly. It seemed to happen at the worst times too, causing embarrassing wet spots. Like when I finally worked up the courage to try to sell some wool to make some money for food so I wouldn’t have to live off what I could find in dumpsters or steal from gardens and greenhouses.

There I was, talking to the lady who was selling wool jumpers that she knitted, nek minute I was dying of embarrassment when she noticed the wet spots on my too-tight shirt. At least she wasn’t staring at my ears and eyes anymore. The embarrassment was worth it though. I couldn’t be sure if she was being sympathetic or if the quality of my wool was really as good as she was saying, but she bought it, and I was able to eat my first real meal in almost a month and budget the rest of the money to last me a week.

~o~O~o~

Christchurch, New Zealand
Saturday October 6th, 2007
7:48 a.m.

If living on the streets for two months taught me anything, it was to sleep lightly and with one eye open. That’s what saved my ass. I came awake as soon as I heard the shuffling sound of the approaching footsteps of people who thought they were a lot quieter than he actually were.

Almost instantly, my eyes were open as I snatched up the bottle with Rae’s ashes and rolled to my feet as a woman’s voice slurred, “Wha’s tha Benji?” The duffel bag wasn’t important. If it came to having to run away without it, the stuff in there could all be replaced eventually. I couldn’t replace my daughter’s ashes though.

I should have known better than to sleep in such a place, even if it had looked abandoned, but that hadn’t really crossed my mind last night. I was having a mare last night; it was one of those nights where I was feeling gutted, the loneliness and grief seemed too much to bear. and the faint feelings that I got from my spirit in response only served to drive me into a spiral of depression that not even sleep would let me fully escape. I was feeling lost and after milking myself to relieve the painful pressure in my breasts I only wanted a dry place to sleep and the warmth and comfort of my wool.

Why did I have to sleep in an abandoned shop? Because I had been tempted by a broken basement window, long-faded signs that declared Final Clearance and Going out of Business, and a few racks of abandoned clothing that nobody had wanted to buy even on clearance. It was just far too tempting in my depressed state to make a comfy nest of clothes to sleep on and to have something other than one very worn and dirty set of clothes and my wool to wear. I felt like an utter muppet as I stared down the pair of people watching me and tried to act braver than I really felt.

The first was a man who looked to be in his twenties, or maybe thirties. He was tall and fit, with tanned skin and bleach blond hair, and he looked out of place in this run-down warehouse with his flashy and expensive clothes. He was living the skux life and I wondered what would have brought him to a place like this.

The girl with him couldn’t have been more different. She couldn’t have been older than twenty with long, bright red hair. She was far too pale, like she was really sick, and her eyes looked sunken and bloodshot with pupils dilated enough that I couldn’t see the irises as she seemed to stare at me without focusing. Her clothes were scant and revealing and the one arm that I could see from my position was covered in numerous small scars and a few fresh wounds. Where the man was healthy, confident, and bombastic, this woman looked ready to cark it, and like she wouldn’t care if she did.

While the woman hung on his arm and stared into space, the man looked me over with a smile that made me feel grotty as he stepped closer, and I was backed into the corner. I was scared and the fear that I felt from my spirit only seemed to fan the flames of my own, causing me to freeze up. “You’re on my turf, freak,” he said casually, almost as if discussing the weather. “If you want to sleep here, then you need to earn it, like Shelly here. I can…”

Whatever it was Benji was offering, I didn’t hear it because at that moment he was reaching for me, and I reacted. I might be small, but I still had exemplar two strength and speed and our vastly different sizes put me at the perfect height to land a blow between his legs with my empty hand that had him crumpling to the ground as the air left his lungs in a whistling wheeze. I didn’t give him a second chance at me as I rushed past his folded form to grab my duffel bag and knocked Shelly aside as I ran for the back of the store and the emergency door that led to the alley.

I kept running, not knowing or caring where I was going until I was out of breath and needed to rest against the wall of a building. After taking a moment to catch my breath, I put the bottle with Rae’s ashes back into the duffel bag, tucking it safely among the clothes I had found last night that had come closest to fitting me. Then I took a look around before realizing in shock that I knew where I was.

There, on the other side of the street in front of me, was the MCO office that I had been tested at over two months ago. Unconsciously, I took a step forward as I stared at the familiar building. Then my eyes went wide as a hand covered my mouth and I was pulled back into the shadows of the alley.

“Are you crazy?!” a boy’s voice hissed before I could even react to being grabbed and pushed back against the same wall where I had stood only a moment earlier. “What are you thinking, walking right up to the Wolf’s Den looking like you do?!”

“Wolf’s Den?” I asked in stunned confusion. The boy holding me in place looked a couple of years older than me and had silver hair and eyes. He was more than a foot taller than me (which was about normal) and looked to be very athletic as he backed away to pull off his red hoodie off and shove it at me.

“Here, put this on before somebody sees you!” the boy hissed before he registered my question. “That’s the MCO office, it’s the last place that you want to go if you value your life.”

I put down my bag and did as he asked, though I wasn’t really sure why he was so nervous. The hoodie was huge on me and fit more like a dress once I rolled up the sleeves, but he didn’t seem satisfied and pulled the hood up to cover my hair and ears. The hem was down to my knees, so it easily covered my still-growing tail as well. “Yeah nah…” I hesitated before asking, “but don’t people like us need to go there if we want to get an MID?”

“Ain’t got one, and I ain’t gonna get one neither,” the boy said with a frown as he crossed his arms. “You shouldn’t either if you value your life. A couple of years ago, not long before I manifested, a friend’s sister manifested in the hospital. Some MCO agent named Wolfe took her in for testing and everything seemed fine until a few days later, when they sent her to Aukland for more tests. She never came back. I’ve heard it’s not the first time either, that Wolfe has disappeared a bunch of kids over the past few years.”

It felt like my blood froze in my veins and my trembling legs suddenly didn’t want to support my weight. Agent Wolfe didn’t seem that bad, maybe a little grouchy, but a murderer? Then again, I never thought that my mother would try to murder me either. If I hadn’t run away that night… I slumped against the wall in shock as I gawked at the boy who just kept grumbling, “Even if the MCO didn’t get you, one of those M.A.M.A cunts watching the place would, eh.”

“I… why are you here then?” I wondered aloud. With his hair and eyes, he probably stood out nearly as much as I did.

“I saw you running this way, so I thought I’d stop you from doing something stupid,” he replied with a shrug. “Don’t go thinking that makes us mates or anything though, that’s rule two.”

“Rule two?” I asked, wondering if I had missed something.

“There’s three rules for people like us living on the streets, if you want to live for long. Rule one, avoid the MCO. Rule two, no friends or attachments. Rule three, don’t be predictable,” he recited as if it was something he repeated often.

I was about to thank him for the help, but before I could he vanished in a puff of smoke. Well, I guess that explained how he managed to grab me so quickly, but I didn’t even get his name. With one last wary look at the steel and glass building across the street, I shouldered my bag and dashed back down the alley in the other direction as fast as my feet could carry me.

~o~O~o~

Christchurch, New Zealand
Sunday December 16th, 2007
2:34 p.m.

It was a beautiful summer day, or it would have been if I wasn’t running for my life as I fled the people chasing me. Unfortunately, I had a pretty good idea about who was after me and how they had found me. I broke rule three, and maybe rule two as well, if Mrs. Conners counted as an attachment. She wasn’t really a friend; it was just a business transaction with her. I brought her wool every week and she gave me enough money to scrape by for a while longer. As much as I needed that money, that was a predictable pattern that the wrong people could, and obviously did, pick up on.

The ‘who’ was Benji, of course. I barely remembered my brief encounter with him in that abandoned shop, but he certainly remembered me. You could say that I made an impression during that first meeting, the kind of impression that requires surgery to fix and leaves a man talking in a higher register. He held a grudge.

Now, on top of having to try to avoid the MCO and Ma’s new mates in M.A.M.A, I had to avoid him too. He wasn’t making it easy for me. Over the last month and a half, I had a few close calls with him and his mates catching up with me after I bedded down for the night, including one where he showed up personally to gloat about how much pleasure he would get from breaking me. I managed to escape that time through a window that he and his friends were too big to squeeze through.

I lost my duffel bag in that encounter, and my breast pump and the clothes that had been inside. It was my growing paranoia and need to keep Rae close to me that kept her ashes safely with me. Her bottle, and the pink cozy I made to keep it safe and warm, were both securely inside a cheap fanny pack that I bought and wore even while sleeping, along with what little money I had and my MID. While having to milk myself by hand each night and morning was a literal pain, and not near as efficient as a pump, I could live without the contents of that bag.

The loss of my clothes had hurt though since I now only had the big hoodie and the singlet and stretchy stubbies that I had been wearing underneath it when they caught me with my pants down. I’d had to leave my shoes behind too and had taken to manifesting a thick coat of wool from the soles of my feet every day to protect them from cuts and abrasions. Now, my only clothes were torn, worn, and dirty, especially the big red hoodie that I had gotten from my nameless rescuer two months ago.

The color of the hoodie, and being so oversized, was probably calling a lot more attention to me than was safe, but it was warm, and the hood helped to conceal my hair, ears, and slightly wooly tail. The lack of the itchy discomfort that I had been feeling at the base of my spine since manifesting made me think that my tail was finally done growing at least, but like my big floppy ears and white hair, it would have been noticeable without the hoodie to cover it. Besides, it wasn’t like I had any variety in my wardrobe at the moment.

It looked like Benji was done playing games because when I spotted him and his mates earlier and bolted, they had guns this time and I heard gunshots ring out behind me as I ran. I had to take far too many twists and turns for my liking in my attempts to stay ahead of my pursuers and avoid their mates, who seemed to be waiting at every corner. I quickly took a right turn and cursed as I hit a dead-end alley.

“Bugger!” They were herding me the whole time and I fell for it like some stupid sheep. “This is your fault, somehow,” I grumbled at my spirit as I felt its fear spike along with mine. We still weren’t on great terms and its very presence still gutted me more often than not, reminding me of what I had lost, and why.

My eyes darted around, searching for some way to escape as Benji and two of his mates approached. Benji wore a cruel smile, and I could see in his eyes that he thought he had me this time. This just wasn’t my day. I should have stayed in what had passed for my bed last night after discovering that I was having my first period since getting pregnant with Rae, but I didn’t want to risk getting caught or losing out on the money that I would now need for tampons as well as food. For now, I was improvising with some of my shed wool, but it wasn’t very practical, a bit messy, and a temporary solution at best.

Taking a deep breath as my eyes darted around the alley, I manifested as thick a coat of wool as I could over my whole body, causing my oversized hoodie to bulge and ride up in the process. I had learned from experience that if my wool was thick enough it could cushion me from blows and even stop knives, but I hadn’t tried it against gunfire yet and I wasn’t eager to. Benji was still smiling as he pointed his gun at my head. “You’re mine now, cunt.”

When it happened, it happened fast. I was standing there, wondering desperately how I was going to get out of this total cock up, nek minute a wall of a man drops out of the sky and is standing between me and those guns. One of Benji’s mates said something but at the moment I was too relieved and stupefied to focus on any more than the word Tikanga.

Tikanga was a local hero, I had seen him on television a few times before I manifested, but I never thought that he would save my life someday. There he was though, big as life, a huge, handsome Māori man with long and luxurious black hair, thick beard, traditional tattoos on his face, and wearing only his signature grass skirt around his waist, a belt to secure it, various ornaments, and a rectangular cape over his shoulders. The rest of his impressive physique was mostly bare glistening skin that made me weak in the knees, or maybe that was the situation.

I collapsed to the ground in relief as the adrenaline from the chase and my situation seemed to vanish, barely aware of the fight that was going on in that alley. Benji and his mates didn’t have a chance against a guy who was bulletproof, could throw cars around, and fly. By the time that I was over my shock, it was already over.

I was about to sneak off before the police could show up, since they would probably want to question me, when Tikanga’s deep bass voice said, “Not so fast there, I think we need to have a chat, love. Let’s get you somewhere out of sight first though, eh?” Without another word, he scooped me up in arms that were bigger around than my entire body (without the wool) and flew me up to the top of a nearby building.

“W-what do you want to t-talk about?” I stammered as he placed me gently on the rooftop and I looked down toward the street far below. His chest had been so firm and warm, but I was now more concerned with the fact that there was no way for me to get away here. There was no roof access door and the only place for me to go was down.

“Wait here, I’ll be back once I’ve told the police what happened, and it’s probably better that you don’t have to deal with their questioning.” Without another word, he flew back downward, leaving me with no escape.

“Wait here, as if I have any other choice,” I muttered as I backed away from the edge and toward the center of the roof that I found myself trapped on.

~o~O~o~

I was waiting up on that rooftop for what was probably over an hour before Tikanga returned for me. Left alone with my thoughts, I could only dread whatever was about to happen and clutch Rae’s bottle in my hands for what little comfort its presence could give me. When he finally touched down on top of the roof, he gave me a long look before his gaze settled on my hands, where I nervously clutched the bottle with Rae’s ashes, still in its knitted pink cozy.

“Tell me your story, love,” he said after a moment. Then he just sat down, right there on the roof, and waited expectantly.

I wasn’t sure if I should do it at first, and I was so bloody nervous around him, but he just sat there patiently and waited as if we were the only two people in the world and he shouldn’t be out there saving lives that actually mattered. He didn’t move though, didn’t seem pressed to do anything but just sit there waiting for me to speak.

Since I figured that neither of us was going to be going anywhere until I told him something, I began to speak after the uncomfortable silence had stretched just a little too long. I started slowly and uncertainly, telling him a bit about my life growing up and my constant illness. He didn’t interrupt or ask any questions, just listened and occasionally nodded, frowned, or hummed in thought.

He didn’t judge me when I told him about the pregnancy and seemed sympathetic when I told him about manifesting and that it had cost me the baby. I just kept babbling along, sometimes through the sobbing that dredging up these memories caused, telling him everything that I had been through up until he put me on that rooftop. I hadn’t realized how badly that I needed to get all of this off my chest, to have someone besides me know and maybe care about me and my lost child.

Tikanga seemed sympathetic as he listened. There were even a few points in my story where it looked like this huge and intimidating man might actually get angry, like when I told him about what I had overheard outside the MCO office on the day I ran away. He was angry for my sake, and I hadn’t seen that from anyone since that night with Linda before I went into labor.

When I finally ended my story, tears streaming from my eyes as I clutched the bottle in my white-knuckled hands, he stood up and said in a gentle tone, “There’s someone I think you need to meet, will you come with me?”

He waited for my nod before gently picking me up in his arms. I was still too emotionally spent after my story to trust myself to speak and I felt even smaller than usual as he picked me up in a princess carry and held me in his massive arms. “This will be a bit of a flight, eh. I’m told it can get cold up there, do you think your wool will keep you warm enough, love?”

I once again nodded wordlessly, and without another word he leaped into the air. We passed over Christchurch, eventually making our way to one of the more rural areas where Tikanga landed near a small farmhouse that reminded me a little of the house I grew up in. There was no paddock, stables, sheep, or horses, but there was a large vegetable garden near the house and a pair of dogs that ran up to greet us when we landed, barking eagerly as if Tikanga was here often.

“What are you two yapping about, eh?” a woman’s voice called out as I was placed back on my feet. Something about the voice seemed familiar and I figured out why when a face that I recognized stepped through the doorway. She was wearing far more casual clothes than I had seen her wearing before, but there was no doubt in my mind about her identity. It was Agent Wolfe.

Time seemed to stand still as we both stood there and gawked at one another. Her face was impossible for me to read, she wasn’t frowning like the other occasions we saw one another, and it seemed like there were a dozen different emotions that played over her face before she seemed to finally settle on happy for some reason. My heart pounded furiously in my chest, and I was about ready to make a run for it when Tikanga’s large hand came down to engulf my shoulder and hold me still as his deep voice boomed, “How about giving us a chance to explain, eh?”

The words that came from her mouth only served to confuse me even more. “Jimmy! You found her?! How? I…”

Tikanga cut her off and I could hear the smile in his voice as he teased, “So this is the little lost lamb that you’ve been worried about for yonks, Lauren?”

“Of course I was worried, you big oaf! Just look at her, she looks so small and helpless, and she just vanished after her testing! And her mother was getting chummy with those fucking mutant hating cunts who watch our damn office like vultures! After what she’s been through, I couldn’t let her… I was afraid that she was going to be another Bridgette.”

I was very confused by this point. Agent Wolfe seemed genuinely relieved to see me but… “Why?” I sputtered. “You were always frowning, and I heard that you…” I couldn’t make myself finish that sentence. I was still looking for possible escape possibilities in case it was true, but I didn’t think that I could realistically escape while Tikanga was there.

“Make mutants disappear?” the massive man suggested. “I suppose that’s as good a cue as any to get down to business and explain some things to you, love. And while we’re explaining, Lauren can get my payment ready.”

Payment? What was going on here? Agent Wolfe just rolled her eyes, but there was a smile on her face as she replied, “Oi, fine you bloody hungus. Let’s go heat up the barbie then while we talk.”

It was strange seeing the usually stern-looking MCO agent smile, and more so having her and a known superhero tease one another so casually in front of me. That was the first unasked question of mine that was answered as ‘Jimmy’ half led and half dragged me into the house, following the MCO agent. “Lauren and I have been best mates since we were in nappies,” he explained. “Even when I was going to school in the states, we spent all of our time together whenever I was home.”

“When he graduated and decided to become a cape, I decided to work with the MCO so I could help people who needed it in my own way,” Agent Wolfe added. “Newly manifested mutants have it rough and I wanted to help where I could. About six years ago, I met Bridgette. She was from an abusive home and her parents hated mutants. I wanted to do something to help her, but by the time that Jimmy and I figured something out, it was already too late.”

After that, Agent Wolfe started looking more closely at her cases and keeping an eye out for any that might be abused or who might be in danger from their families because they manifested. Anyone who seemed to fit those criteria was given extra tests during their testing that would help to get a better read on their personality and general reactions to things like stress, raised voices, and abusive situations. I was sending up all of the red flags when Bill tested me, but even before that, she was almost certain that my parents were abusing me mentally and emotionally at the very least.

That was why she was always frowning when I saw her. She really didn’t like the way my parents, and particularly my mother, talked about me and treated me and she was worried about my safety. Which was why she suggested the ‘extra testing’ in Aukland since the next step in their usual plan would be to separate me from my abusers, so either she or Jimmy could send me somewhere they would never find me, if they even cared enough to look. When I disappeared on my own, Jimmy had already contacted people at his old school in the States to arrange to sponsor me.

Planning turned to concern when Ma stormed into the office demanding to know where I was, and she realized that I really had disappeared. Surveillance footage showed the conversation that my mother was having with her new friend and the general direction I had left in when I overheard them, but by the time that Agent Wolfe was able to act on that information I was already long gone. Now that I was found they were going to be putting the plan back into motion once Jimmy could arrange details with the school and they could make the travel arrangements.

I would be the fourth person that they arranged a disappearance for. The previous one was two years ago, so probably the girl who the silver-haired boy had told me about. They said that I would probably see her around Whateley Academy, the school they would be sending me to. They wouldn’t tell me any details since it was her story to tell but said that they would contact her to let her know I would be coming in case she might want to talk to a fellow Kiwi.

This was a lot to take in. On one hand, I was relieved and a little shocked and happy that these two people cared enough to do all this. On the other hand, I was gutted that my own parents didn’t and terrified of the thought of going to a strange school overseas, something that my spirit picked up on and only made worse.

I did my best to put those sad thoughts out of my mind and relax as I watched Jimmy enjoy his payment for making the arrangements with the school and for my travel to get there. I guess this was an old joke between the two friends. Jimmy ate like a horse and really enjoyed a good saussie or steak done up on the barbie. Agent Wolfe even had a special sauce that she would make just for him.

Agent Wolfe did eat her fair share, but she really couldn’t keep up with Jimmy, and she even did up some skewers for me using veggies from her garden since I couldn’t enjoy the meat with them. It was nice to have someone care and think about my needs. It made me smile for the first time since I manifested. That care, and the playful ribbing between her and Jimmy, almost felt like having a family, more than my own family ever did.

It was too bad it couldn’t last. It was bittersweet that when I finally had such a moment in my life, I already knew that it would be fleeting. I couldn’t stay here, the whole plan was to get me out of New Zealand, at least until I was an adult and wouldn’t have to worry about my parents anymore. They promised to keep in contact though and check up on me once in a while, so maybe we could stay mates.

~o~O~o~

Wolfe Residence
Christchurch, New Zealand
Sunday December 23rd, 2007
7:21 p.m.

I spent the past week at Lauren’s home while we waited for word from my new school and prepared for my trip. She had insisted that I call her by her first name rather than Agent Wolfe because we were in her home and I was her guest now, and not her assignment. Jimmy would pop in every other night to visit but mostly it was just the two of us when she was at home and not working.

I found out a lot about the pair as I got to know them both better. I was kind of surprised to hear that that they both came from well-off families since neither of them seemed like the type. They didn’t talk about it too much though except to say that they appreciated that they had the security to do what they wanted to do with their lives rather than work a job they hated to keep food on the table.

They were both kind and caring people and despite my protests, they insisted on getting me everything that I might need for school. New clothes, a phone, a laptop, suitcases to put everything in, and Lauren even got me a new electric breast pump. Whenever I protested, they said it was all part of Tikanga’s sponsorship and that the other kids before me had gotten the same deal. They were also going to try to find a sponsor family for me near the school, but if that didn’t happen, I could always stay in the dorms year-round.

When they offered to get me a proper urn for Rae’s ashes though, I turned them down. We had been through a lot together and it wouldn’t feel right to cast the bottle that had kept her ashes safe so far aside. At least, not until I could get her a proper memorial and that was something that I wanted to do for Rae by myself. Until then, I didn’t want to be parted from her.

Even having a good week with people who actually cared about me didn’t spare me the grief and depression that seemed to be my constant companions. I felt bad about that too, like having people in my life who cared should be enough to make me happy, and guilty that they both seemed to worry about me when I got like that. I missed the daughter I never knew though, needed to grieve for her, and sometimes I feared the thought of moving on and forgetting about her.

My musings were interrupted as a bright pink tear in space materialized in the air, not even twenty feet from where Lauren and I sat waiting on the porch. A pair of delicate hands emerged through the tear to pull at it, causing it to grow larger until a pretty young woman with equally pink hair stepped through. The moment that she spotted us waiting on the porch she ran up to wrap Lauren in a hug.

“It’s good to see you again,” she said as she embraced Lauren and then looked me over, “So this is the new girl, huh? Where’s Jimmy?”

“It’s good to see you too, Callista, thanks for doing this,” Lauren replied once the pink-haired young woman let her go. “Unfortunately, Jimmy is off doing the hero thing and saving the city so he couldn’t be here. He’s going to kick himself for not being able to see you both off. This is Mary. Mary, this is Callista, she was the first kid we helped to disappear, and she’ll be dropping you off in Boston to catch your train.”

“No worries, Lauren. You know I’d do this for you and Jimmy any time, it’s sure a lot easier than when you shipped me off on a plane five years ago. No checkpoints this way, and Jimmy dropping someone off at the airport tends to get attention. With Mary’s distinctive appearance it’s better if we can just avoid all that, eh?” Callista countered before turning her smile on me. “It’s nice to meet you, Mary, welcome to the family.”

‘Yeah nah… chur,” I managed to get out nervously.

We stayed a few minutes while the pair made small talk before Callista looked again at the sky and sighed, “I’ll have to try to come see you and Jimmy later to catch up, I guess. If we don’t go now, Mary will miss her train. Grab your suitcases, cuz, while I pop the portal.”

I didn’t get to see however she opened the portal from this side since Lauren almost smothered me in a hug, “You take care of yourself, Mary, and make sure to call me and Jimmy when you get to Whateley to let us know you got there safe. There’s money in the account we set up for you for uniforms and other expenses, but let us know if there’s anything you need, even if it’s just to talk.”

Tears stung my eyes as I hugged her back, reluctantly letting go a moment later. “Chur, Lauren… for everything.” I was too choked up to say anything more, so I gave her one last quick hug before grabbing my bags and following Callista through the portal that led to my new life.

 

The End
Read 1835 times Last modified on Monday, 29 April 2024 22:00
More in this category: « ElectroCute 2: 2 Cute, 2 Furry-ous

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Cybergirl007
1 month ago
Interesting story
A little on sad side
Hopefully further chapters are more light-hearted
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Amethyst
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Amethyst
1 month ago
Yup, this one was a lot more depressing than last week's story. I cried a lot while writing this. Hopefully, things are looking up for Ewe now that she's going to Whateley though.

*big hugs*

Amethyst
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