Mercy Falls, Minnesota looked different when you knew you''d be
human for the rest of your life. Before it had been a place that
only existed in the heat of summer, concrete sidewalks and leaves
curved up toward the sun, everything smelling of warm asphalt and
dissipating truck exhaust.
Now, as the spring branches shared seldom-seen firlls of tender
pink-it was where I belonged.
In the months since I''d lost my lupine skin, I''d tried to
learn how to be a boy again. I''d gotten my old job back at the
Crooked Shelf, surrounded by new workds and the sound of pages
turning. I''d traded my inherited SUV, full of the scent of Beck
and my life with the wolves, for a Volkswagen Golf just big enough
for me and Grace and my guitar. I tried not to flinch when I felt
the cold rush in through a suddenly open door. I tried to remember
I was no longer alone. At night, Grace and I crept into her room
and I folded myself against her body, breathing in the smell of my
new life and matching my heartbeat to hers.
If my chest caught when I heard the wolves'' slow howls in the
wind, at least I had the balm of this simple, ordinary life to
console me. I could look forward to years of Christmases with this
girl in my arms, the privilege of growing old in this unfamiliar
skin of mine. I knew that. I had everything.