We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn't have expected.
For anyone else, there were no complaints about the weather today. Anyone out and about would see the nearly cloudless blue sky, the sun shining humid heat down upon the small town of Sweet Amoris. It was nearly summer now, and the usual bustle of the daily commute home from school or work had already died down. There were children running to and fro, chasing each other in carefree bliss.
All but one boy, a teenager no older than fifteen. There was panic written on his face, brow twisted as far as the muscles would allow. His actions were twitchy and quick, mimicking a hummingbird in urgency. He'd stop, look around and dart elsewhere, his chest heaving with his efforts, mouth open to pant properly as he willed his body to continue.
Despite the mild weather, his short dark blue hair was plastered with sweat to his face, his tanned complexion moist with perspiration and the slightest hints of a burn forming. Anyone who spared a glance his way would see nothing particularly amiss. Perhaps curiosity would cross their mind at the unfamiliar youth but take no further course of action. The boy would be off again before most would think to ask.
Finishing his search in the immediate area, he moved to the next pair of houses, checking under porches and any other dark hiding places. Desperation had already set as the boy picked up his pace, nearly falling to the ground as his knees wobbled and threatened to collapse under him.
Calling was useless. She wouldn't answer if he did, and knowing her if she heard him coming she would only run away again. With how tired he was, there was no way he could catch her if that happened and he'd lose her again. She wouldn't be found if she didn't want to be. She was good at hiding like that. Despite her few years of life, she had a long time to practice.
She was going to be in so much trouble when he got his hands on her. He'd been looking all afternoon and still couldn't find a trace of her anywhere. He had to miss all his afternoon classes because of her.
He debated calling home. His parents had no idea what was happening, and when he got home there would only be scolding for him for skipping school. He was only thankful that he told them in the morning of his plans to go to the park, his little sister in tow right after school. That would at least buy him a little bit of time to find her. Hopefully.
The brat better be thankful he was going through all this trouble for her. He didn't have to be running across half the suburban area for her. The more he thought about it the angrier he got.
In truth he only found out she ran away when going over to the elementary school to check up on her during break. That was when some classmates told him they hadn't seen her all day. It didn't take much to figure out what she had done. Usually it wasn't this hard to find her.
She usually didn't go this far. He'd been so vigilant in his search but came up empty handed and he was already seven minutes from the school, driving! Why the heck did she come out this far, anyway?
He wondered if going off the roads and into the forests would be better. She wouldn't go into the woods, would she? She loved to go into the trees and bushes, but she wouldn't risk getting lost, would she? What if he never found her?
This spurred the tired teen on despite his exhaustion, stopping only when something of interest caught his eye. The stop itself was less than graceful; a sudden motion that almost sent his body collapsing on the ground. It was a long shot, but it was a hiding place that most kids would love, right? He licked his dry lips, taking in a deep breath before pushing onward.
The tree house obviously belonged to a family. It was in someone's back yard. Cautiously moving closer he could see that, thankfully, the house had been empty of people for at least a few days; judging from the empty driveway and corners of bent mail sticking out of the box, anyway. That would at least have him avoid the uncomfortable motion of asking complete strangers if he could check their tree house for his little sister.
He jumped the fence with only slight difficulty. It was only after he landed hard on the ground, falling to his knees that he realized he should have checked for a dog. The family wouldn't just leave a pet behind, right? They'd take it with them or have a neighbour care for it or something. If there was, Lina wouldn't be in there. It didn't seem like anything was coming after him to bite his face off, though.
Cautiously, he proceeded, warily keeping out for anything alive. Stopping at the base of the tree house he took in a deep breath. He shouldn't get his hopes up too much on this place. After all, there seemed to be a million places this kid could end up. Even so, he climbed with his breath held.
Poking his head over the edge, he saw a mostly empty wooden playroom, a few scattered toys about. There were pictures, crayons and a couple of small chairs and something in the far corner, huddled beneath a blanket.
The mound moved in response to his voice. At once he could see the face of his little sister, the blanket casting a red glow on her face. At once he opened his mouth to yell at her for running away from school, but stopped.
Her normally bright blue eyes, easily the most striking feature on her face, were swollen and red. A few strands of her fiery red hair were plastered by dried tears to the side of her face.
He hoisted himself up into the tree house, and noticed immediately something was off. The red on her face wasn't from the blanket, but half-transparent hairs. Inching closer, he took the blanket away, with only mild resistance from Lina.
Triangular fuzzy ears poked out the top of her head, a shaggier mane of fur sprouting from around her neck, and her fingers were padded, nails long and curled unnaturally. She even had a bushy tail. Lina sobbed, her body shuddering with the contraction of her lungs. Anger that welled in his chest, threatening to spring up in screams of blaring frequency at her instantly diminished.
He couldn't scold her when she was so broken up like this.
"I'm sorry." She said, her voice shaking. "I can't change back."
Corte exhaled and held his hands out. Lina leaned away, but didn't stop him from pulling her into his arms. Instead, she welcomed the embrace, berrying her head into his shirt. "What happened?"
"Nothing. I was just walking to school and this dog came over. I went over to pet it."
"You know mom and Brandt don't want you touching animals." Corte said.
"I know. I thought it would be okay, though. But then I started feeling funny and I started to change." Lina was clinging to him now, her voice muffled as her head was still in his shirt.
"You have to try, Lina. You can't stay up in this tree house forever. Eventually the owners will be home and mom and your dad will be worried."
"It hurts." She whispered. Corte looked down at her, his expression twisting in alarm and worry.
"Hurts?" He repeated. "How does it hurt?" Lina didn't answer, merely shaking her head. She didn't know how to explain? Corte wondered if he should find someone to phone a hospital. He didn't know much about shape shifters, but he was sure that it wasn't supposed to hurt.
"Let's get you home, Lina. We'll get someone to help you." He said softly, trying not to show the panic in his voice. Slowly, he inched his way backward, struggling for a second until his foot finally slid out from under him and over the edge of the opening. Testing, it took a further few seconds until his foot found the slab of wood hammered into the tree.
Lina nodded and followed, waiting until Corte was halfway down before starting her descent. She was slow, and her movements were shaky. Corte wondered if he should jump down and be there in case she fell. This tree house was ridiculously high. Even with a kid her age she'd be afraid she'd fall.
Watching his progress, he got two metres from the ground before jumping the rest of the way down. "Alright, Lina. I'm down. I'll be here to catch you, alright?"
He could see her head move in a nod. She was still shaking, her knuckles on the steps white from how hard she was gripping them. It was a long three minutes before she finally descended to a distance where he could grab her. He lifted her off the ladder and started to make his way to the fence.
Corte was glad that it looked as though the hairs on her face were starting to disappear. Lina had only began to shift her body at the start of kindergarten. This, naturally, shocked both parents when discovered. It surprised him as well. Shifting was in the family, but he was told that it wasn't since his great-grandmother on their father's side that anyone in their family had been born with the power. Their mother's family had always been mundanes, so naturally none of them knew how to handle Lina's uncontrollable shifts.
There was one way to keep her from doing it, though. It seemed she only started to shift after touching some kind of animal. They used to have a dog named Tiggy running around the house. Lina loved him. When she started shifting into Tiggy, however, they had to get rid of the dog. It wasn't a happy situation for anyone. Lina didn't know how to shift, or for that matter, how to undo it. For now, her parents wanted nothing to do with the shifting. Classes for abnormals to learn how to control their powers didn't start until the third grade.
Lina loved being around animals, though. It was one of those things that would be hard, they couldn't just stop her when she wanted to pet a puppy or something. It also didn't seem fair that Lina had to limit herself just because no one around them knew how to teach her. It wasn't as though shape shifting was extremely common or anything, nor was it straight forward. He heard there were many different types of shape shifting, and depending on what type there were different ways to go about teaching them.
They were mostly silent on the long trek back to the house. Corte had been worried at first but it seemed like the dog features were progressively dissipating as they walked until she was finally back to normal. Ultimately, Corte would have to tell his mother and step-father what happened.
Immediately after walking in the door Lina ran past Corte and her parents, running up the stairs to her room. Corte sighed and turned to his mother and step-father, awkwardly explaining why he hadn't been at school that day. Unbeknownst to them, Lina had come out of her room again, and was eavesdropping on the conversation.
"She can't just be running off every time she pets something and starts to shift, Brandt!" The children's mother hissed.
"I know, Mary. But there's nothing we can do about it. She has these abilities and needs to learn to use them." Brandt said. He looked to his son, then over at the stairs. Lina shifted herself, hoping she couldn't be seen. She stood with her bum in the air, knees on the second top stairs, hands propped two stairs down and she peeked past the rail near where the stairs met the ceiling of their downstairs.
"I regret moving out of New York." He said with a sigh. "If I'd have known that my child would be born with shifting abilities I'd have stayed in a town with more resources."
"You couldn't have known, Brandt." Mary said. "You told me that neither you or your father had powers. It was unlikely Lina could inherit something from your grandmother."
"I'm just afraid she'll hurt herself. She doesn't know how to shift or to de-shift. She might end up running into serious problems."
"Ah, that's another thing." Corte said. His hand rubbed the back of his neck. "Lina did have trouble getting back to normal. She said... she was in pain." His eyes turned to his mother, watching the look of horror on her face.
"All the more reason she shouldn't be around animals and wait until she's older!" Mary said. "My poor baby... She shouldn't have to go through something like that."
"It would be a different story if one of us was a shifter." Brandt said. "However, the fact still remains that all of us are largely ignorant and new to all of this. We can't wait for her to start classes in the third grade."
"I have a friend at school who knows something about shifters. Or at least one that lives in the area." Corte said. "They said she is actually an authority and has videos on it and stuff. If we can get tapes for her, maybe we can help her learn on her own."
"I'm not comfortable with Lina only learning this stuff through some old tapes." Mary said, shaking her head. "Can't we just call this woman? Perhaps arrange some sort of meeting where she can teach Lina in person?"
"We could try. Until then, it shouldn't hurt telling Lina that she shouldn't be afraid of her powers or feel she's different from the other children. Her peers will be getting their own abilities around this age, or around puberty, if they haven't already."
"I can run over to the library and see if any of her videos are there." Corte suggested.
"Do you know her name?" Brandt asked.
"Uh, well, kinda. It's like Grace... something-or-other. If she wrote any books I can check those out, too."
"Corte, dear, would you like a ride?" Their mother asked. "You still look a little tired. The library is so far."
Lina leaned down more, watching as her brother and mother gathered their things and made their way to the door. Her father looked up at the stairs, chuckling when he caught her attempt to hide herself.
"You're not in trouble, Lina. You can come down." Slowly, Lina righted herself and took the steps at a delayed pace. Her eyes still itched from the tears and she rubbed them a few times. She ran into her father's open arms, squeezing his neck as tight as she could.
"You know this is normal." He murmured into her hair, petting it lightly as he tried to comfort her. "Nothing's wrong with you."
"So you'll tell me why you ran away from school?"
"I thought you'd be mad. I went to play with a dog." He nodded, walking over to the couch and set her down.
"How about we have a snack while we wait for Corte and your mother to get back?" Lina smiled and nodded enthusiastically.
"Can I help?"
Lina jumped off the couch and ran into the kitchen area, Brandt following behind her. He checked the cupboards and fridge, trying to look for some ideas. "How about a cheese and pickle party?"
"What's that?" Lina asked.
"Well, we can slice up some cheese and pickles. Then dunk them in the pickle juice and see who can make the funniest sour face. We can open a can of oysters, too."
"Oysters, cheese and pickles." Lina said. "You're weird, daddy."
He chuckled. "Perhaps. But I'm sure it doesn't taste as weird as it sounds, right?"
"Dad?" He looked down at Lina.
"Will I have to stop eating meat if I become animals all the time?"
Brandt thought for a moment, turning back to their snack as he placed the food on a plate. "No, I don't think you'd have to. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I turn into animals every time I touch them. I thought I might if I ate them, too." He chuckled.
"No, I don't think it extends to you eating animals, Lina. You don't have to do anything like quit eating meat unless you want to."
The next hour was spent preparing their little food party. Lina fetched the ingredients and Brandt cut the cheese and pickles. Lina wanted to help with that as well, and was instructed to hold the food while he cut. They sat in the living room and made kabobs with toothpicks. The house was filled with laughter by the time Corte and Mary returned. Brandt stood up when they walked into the living room.
"Did you find anything?"
"Yeah. They actually had a couple of her videos and a few books on shifting." Corte said happily, holding up the plastic bag.
"Well, let's stick one in the VCR and watch it, then." Brandt said, holding his hand out for the tape, which Corte promptly gave him after fishing in the bag for one. The TV was turned on, and the tape pushed in. The family sat on the couch, waiting for something to happen.
Lina was sitting inbetwen her father and brother, leaning forward, eyes glued unblinkingly to the TV. The tape started and a pretty woman started talking, introducing herself as the scientist Grace Kincade and introduced the audience to the topic of the episode. She was a little awkward, a bit monotonous in her tone at times, and often misspoke or paused, using filler words until she found what she wanted to say. That is, until she finally did reach the point when she became comfortable with the situation and became more flowing.
A sigh escaped their mother's lips. "Oh Corte, this is far too technical for Lina to understand." She muttered quietly under her breath. "She won't be able to get anything from this."
Her mom was right, of course. Lina didn't understand a lot of what this woman was saying. But she was talking about changing into animals, and that was all Lina needed to be interested. The woman was also really pretty, and her voice changed at various intervals when the woman picked up steam on the particular part of the lecture. That at least kept things somewhat interesting.
There was very little she understood even though she tried her hardest to. There were a lot of words that were unfamiliar to her. Lina was a little upset that she couldn't, wondering that if she was just a little older, if she would understand.
The tape soon ended and her brother and parents stood up from the couch. Corte gave them a look, glancing down at the bag with the remaining videos and the few books.
"Should I take these back, then?" Corte asked. "They're not much use to us if she can't understand. But maybe if we studied them and taught her..."
"I want to watch the next one." Lina said. All three of them looked at her.
"She can watch them, but I still don't want her shifting. Not if it causes her pain." Mary said. "We should wait until she's older, or find someone to teach her properly."
Brandt sighed and nodded. "Alright, Corte. Put in another tape for her. We'll start preparing dinner."
Corte took another tape out of the bag, taking the finished tape out of the VCR and putting it away. Instead of going up to his room, he sat back down on the couch as the new tape started playing. With a big grin on her face, Lina ran back to the couch, leaped on the cushion beside him before plopping down.
Lina watched all of the tapes. When she finished the last one she took the tape she liked the best and put it back in, rewinding it over and over again. She fell asleep on the couch that night, the tape running for the eighth time.
Over the next week watching these tapes was the only thing Lina seemed to do. She ate her meals quickly to get back to them as quickly as possible, and did her homework on the coffee table, as long as she didn't stare at the screen instead of doing her addition. At night Corte read her a chapter of the books before bed. She always laughed at him when he struggled on one of the words.
Eventually the tapes had to be taken back to the library. It wasn't much of a problem when the most played tape was found while on a shopping trip among a few of the others. They were immediately bought.
It was only a matter of a few months that Lina had been having issues with the emergence of her powers. But it felt like years to her. It was something she never realized could happen to her. Or like one of those many things mom or dad promised to explain to her when she was older. It seemed like that was how it was going to be again. But Lina felt dissatisfied with the underlying answer that seemed to be in their cautious words. They didn't speak honestly in front of her.
She didn't mind when she was forced to go outside and play instead of spending countless hours in front of the TV, playing the same group of tapes over and over again. She would run into the backyard in an area away from the windows. The more she watched the tapes the more she thought she understood. She was glad Dr. Kincade made it easy to understand the parts where she actually taught how to shift. It was all about concentration.
Lina wasn't sure if it would work. At first nothing happened. But by the end of the second week she felt something happen. She saw the transparent hairs on her arms grow dark and thick, growing all over her body. Her bones softened one by one, shifting, growing or shrinking. Her spine lengthened, growing a bushy tail behind her.
It got easier every time. She always had trouble shifting despite everything Dr. Kincade said or demonstrated on her various tapes. Lina never actually finished a shift before. She would always run into some kind of problem. Often she would be stuck for a little while until she felt something ease up. If her parents ever found out she would often get stuck halfway between they'd probably freak out.
It wasn't easy keeping what she was doing from her family. They always liked to keep an eye on her. The only time they didn't was when she insisted she walk alone to the park. Her parents were skeptical at first, but she was happy that Corte stood up for her. After all, he often went alone to the park at her age. After a few close calls with her mother almost catching her, Lina opted the park a safer place to practice.
She was alone. None of her family members had the same abilities she did. She was like a pioneer; an explorer delving into uncharted territory. Fraught with danger - whatever fraught meant - and at the end would lead to fame and untold riches. At least make a game out of it.
Being a pioneer was lonely, she thought as she looked around in her little hiding place. It seemed like all her life revolved around lately was her goal, and secrets. She wanted to run up to her mom and dad and tell of her accomplishments, get showered with praise of a job well done for her achievements. But none would come.
More like being grounded would be the end result. But that threat didn't stop her. It was actually fun to imagine getting her congratulations from Dr. Kincade instead of her parents or brother. She was a professional. She knew pretty much everything about shifting. Getting a compliment from her would be something worthwhile. Even if that were possible she was a long way off from actually getting that.
She looked around her pitiful little hide away. It was a concrete tunnel. That was it; just a plain concrete tunnel with no paint on the inside, and just big enough for someone of her size to fit comfortably inside sitting down. It reached a ways across in both directions, spanning halfway across the park. It was a toy, like any other. But it was also private, to a degree. No one cold see her unless they went to one of the sides. The far right end reached almost to the bushes, meaning if anyone came looking for her from the left, she would at least have an easy getaway. But then she'd just be in more trouble.
She recently found out Dr. Kincade had children. Both were around her age. Lina figured both of them were shifters like her. She wondered what it was like; having a parent that could shift, or a brother or sister that could. It must have been so easy for them.
Tears welled in her eyes, only wiping them away when they began to sting. They would never get grounded for touching animals or trying to shift. They would always have support from someone who knew what it was like, or had been through it before.
They were around her age, though. That meant if she ever got to meet Dr. Kincade she could play with her kids. Lina didn't know their names, or at least couldn't recall them; still, the thought of playing with them made her a little giddy. Her parents bought some more media about the woman, and a few of them were less technical. They made a few guest appearances. That was how she found out about them.
The boy and girl both looked strikingly like their mother with thick golden locks of hair being the most striking feature of each of them. The girl had large green eyes, but the boy had a golden amber shade.
Both of them seemed so happy to be around their mother. Well, why wouldn't they? Their mother was Dr. Kincade. She could teach them everything they wanted to know about shifting, and Lina bet anything she was a really nice mom, too. Not that she thought her mom wasn't.
They would probably be fun to play with, though. The boy seemed to be closer to Lina's age than the girl did. That was kind of unfortunate, at least in her mind. She was sure if they were they would be the best of friends. The boy had a wild and energetic look to him. He was probably like any other boy in her kindergarten class: Loud and disruptive and always picking on girls.
Lina never liked wearing dresses at the end of the week. There was always the custom of getting your dress flipped up if you did. She was sure just because he was a boy he did that at his school. Well, maybe he was a nice brother like Corte, just more willing to play in the dirt and get all muddy.
But she could see her and Dr. Kincade's daughter being the best of friends. They would play dolls together, oh and build blanket forts in the living room or under the stairs, have pillow fights and play house! There were so many things that she wanted to try at least once. But many things she could only do with a girl friend. Corte would play with her sometimes, but he'd often refuse.
But they could go swimming! Or have races down hills and spin each other around until they were dizzy and fell down.
A smile crept to her face as she imagined what it would be like if she played with them. They wouldn't look at her weird if they found her stuck in a shift like she was now. She didn't know his personality, but she could imagine the boy laughing at her, though, and boasting about his own mastery of the craft. Or maybe all of them would stay half-shifted for a while to make her feel better, and Dr. Kincade would help her to get unstuck.
She curled into a ball when the pain started to set in, wishing she could feel the tugging cease, the little snap that would allow her to shift back to normal. She tried not to think about it. Her parents told her that she would be able to start learning how to control her powers when she turned nine, but that was almost two years away. Two birthdays, two grades, it was much too far away. It was easier this way. She could do it on her own as long as she had help from the tapes, books and other such things. Then maybe one day she could ask her parents to see Dr. Kincade in person and show off her skills. The skills she learned all from watching her and following her advice...
The sound of something moving in the tunnel woke Lina. She bolted up to all fours and stared at the far end of the tunnel. It was still light out, so she hadn't been asleep that long. Corte was on his hands and knees, trying to figure out how to get his larger body into the tunnel without wrecking his clothes. He stopped when he noticed she was awake.
"So, you got yourself stuck again." He said with a sigh, letting go of his resistance and letting gravity do the work, plopping his torso to the cold bottom with a slight wince. He propped his head on his hands. "You've been doing this even though mom and dad wanted you to wait?"
Lina relaxed a little, ears, which had shrunken since she fell asleep drooped a bit. "Yeah..."
"It's okay, Lina." He said. "I know this means a lot to you. They're just concerned for you, that's all."
"I know." Lina sniffed, tears forming in her eyes. "But I don't want to wait that long. It'll take forever."
Corte chuckled softly. "Forever is a long time, Lina. Before you know it, you'll be my age."
Lina glared at him, sitting down and crossing her arms over her chest. What did that have to do with anything? That was a lot longer away than third grade. Was this supposed to make her feel better?
"You want me to help you?" Corte asked. Lina looked up at him. "I've been watching those videos, too, you know. At least I hear them whenever I go downstairs."
"You know how I can turn back to normal?" He nodded.
"Just concentrate. One area at a time. Think of your fingers. Then your hand, arm and shoulder." Lina closed her eyes and tried to do what he said. Fingers. They were easy enough to think about. Little wriggling things that she used to touch everything.
Slowly her paws lengthened, the toes thickening with the claws retracting to become more weak and human. The ears on her head migrated down to their original place, the hairs on her skin shrank back to their practically invisible state.
She had done it. This time there was no knotted feeling that loosened. It was just her willing her body to work for her. She looked up at her brother and smiled. "I did it."
"You did." He said. "But Lina, I would rather you didn't sneak out to the park again to do this stuff anymore."
Lina's face fell. "But-"
"Lina, please? For mom, dad and I?" Lina stared at him for a few minutes, lips pursed and eyebrows furrowed. She made so much progress over the last few months. Why would he want to stop her now.
"I don't want to."
"Lina." He tried his best to move forward but Lina jumped from her knees to a crouching position, threatening to run away at any second.
"No!" Her voice raised this time.
"What if we kept watching those movies together? We can watch them until you understand. Then maybe we can get someone to help you with your powers a little earlier than normal?"
She looked at him warily, eyes searching his face. He was usually trustworthy, but he was agreeing more with mom and dad than with her. "Why can't you help me?" She asked finally. His eyebrow raised.
"Me." He said flatly. "You want me to help?"
"You did just now. You said you watched lots of the tapes and you said you would watch more with me." Lina said.
Corte sighed. "I can't make any promises, Lina. Except that I'll try." Lina smiled. It wasn't exactly what she wanted, but it was better than him changing his mind completely and refusing to do anything. As long as it didn't involve waiting until grade three to finally learn how to do anything. She would take what she could get.
Crawling out the other end, she waited impatiently for her brother to finally crawl out of the tunnel. He groaned as he stretched, muttering about how he was getting too big for it. Lina laughed, taking his hand.
"Are you ready for dinner, Lina?" Corte asked.
"It's dinner already?" Lina said, startled. It was far from dinner time when she arrived. How long had she been in the tunnel musing to herself? How long had she been asleep?
"Yeah. You were gone for a long time. Mom was starting to get worried about you."
The next few months flew by for Lina. She got really good at transforming into one type of animal. It was one step at a time, even though she was impatient at times. Corte made sure to not let her get ahead of herself. Tapes and books always kept her satisfied when she got upset.
Lina was highly anticipating a new talk Dr.Kincade was going to have. She didn't exactly know what it was about, but anything new from Dr. Kincade always excited the girl. The expected date came and went, however, without much word. Still, Lina needed to be patient, as Corte kept reminding her. She kept watching the newest tapes, and rereading the first couple of chapters, insisting they be part of her learning how to read along with the regular books. She was getting good at memorizing some of the words.
Lina kept pressing, asking her repeated question more than once a week, and finally down to once a week. Eventually, with looks on their faces that Lina couldn't quite determine, paused after she asked. Her parents exchanged apprehensive looks to one another. Her mother shook her head slightly at her father before turning away to leave her husband to their questioning daughter.
"Lina..." He said, bending down on one knee. "Dr. Kincade... won't be doing that announcement you've been looking forward to."
Lina tilted her head to the side. "Why not?" There was a growing uneasiness in the pit of her stomach. Something was wrong. There was always something wrong when he talked to her like this.
"Well, she... retired, I guess you could say."
"To spend more time with her kids?" Lina asked, smiling. She had been working hard lately, according to any sources on her that her parents or Corte could find. Maybe she decided her family was more important.
"I guess you could say that." He sighed. "It means you won't be getting any more lectures from her anymore. You know that, right?" Lina nodded, her smile fading to a more solemn expression.
"I know. But if she's happier this way I don't mind. She's helped me lots." He smiled, picking her up as he stood to his full height.
"That she has. Hey, how about we go out for some ice cream? I have something to tell you about shifting."
"What? Tell me!" He laughed, setting her down. "Go grab your coat, sweetie." She ran to grab her coat and got her goes on. It took her a few minutes, having initially put them on the wrong feet and having to correct it.
"Well, we found someone from your school who is willing to help you with your shifting a year early." Brandt said, taking a hold of Lina's hand. Corte and their mother followed behind as they walked out the door. "She'll only teach you the basics, but it's better than nothing, right? You'll have a bit of a head start on your classmates."
She smiled. "Do you think if I get really good at turning into animals we can go see Dr. Kincade and I can show her how good I am and thank her? I wish I could be just like her when I become an adult." Her father gave her that same sad look despite his smile.
"Yeah. Maybe someday."