To say the coach looked unhappy would be something of an understatement. Her creased, suntanned face had twisted into an ugly, pug-like scowl. She gazed down at her paper-strewn heavy metal desk and then back up at Christine. The freckled, auburn-haired high schooler was standing in front of her, staring at the office floor. The coach breathed a long dramatic sigh, and then spoke.
"Are you serious?" she asked.
Christine slowly nodded, shifting her stance. The coach sat back in her seat and shook her head.
"I have to say I'm very disappointed," said the coach sternly. "And...forgive me for asking again, but why?"
Christine considered the question.
"Well, it's...just not working out anymore," she managed, gaze still fixed downwards.
"Not working ou-...Christ, I am not buying this, Christine," said the coach. "What's really going on?" She paused. "You know, I heard Heidi Erickson recently quit track. When I mentioned it to Betty she just sort of shrugged it off. Is there something going?"
"I don't know what else you want me to say," said Christine, a hint of defiance creeping into her voice. She shrugged. "I'm done, end of story."
"That's not enough. Give me a reason why. A real reason."
"I just don't want to play on the team anymore, okay?" snapped Christine, looking up. "And if I don't want to play you can't make me. It's voluntary."
"I'm not stupid, Christine," said the coach. "Don't tell me it's just a coincidence that two of my best players - who happen to be very good friends - decided to quit all at once. If there's something-"
"It's our schedules, okay?" interrupted Christine through grit teeth. "With homework and SATs and...other stuff we had to make a choice."
There was a pause.
"Do your parents know about this?"
Christine's hands curled into fists. "Yes, they know about it. No, they're not happy about it, but they respected my decision," she said, putting emphasis on the last two words.
"There's more to college applications than academics."
"Christ, I-...yes, I'm aware!" snarled Christine, slamming her hands on the desk.
The coach leaned back, surprised by the high schooler's ferocity. Christine blinked. She gazed down at her hands. Her face reddened. She lifted her hands off the desk, bit her lip, took a deep, long breath and exhaled. "I'm sorry, coach," she said quietly. "I honestly don't want to leave the lacrosse team but I can't stay. Just trust me when I say it's for the best, okay?"
The coach stared at Christine for a few seconds.
"Fine," she said at last, shaking her head. "Could you at least wait until after the next game?" she asked. "We could really use you and it'd be nice to give you a proper send off, y'know."
"I...guess so," said Christine hesitantly.
"Okay, well, I guess that's it," said the coach, clicking her tongue. She looked the high schooler in the eyes. "I'm sorry to see you go, Christine," she said in a soft voice. "Not sure if we have a chance in the league now. It's going to be tough to replace you."
"Yeah," said Christine unenthusiastically.
There was an uncomfortable silence. Then, Christine nodded curtly at the coach, turned and slipped out the door. She stepped out into the empty school hallway, stopped, shut her eyes and sighed. Her nose twitched.
"Hi Kirsten," she said quietly, eyes still shut.
A tall teenage girl with messy black hair and piercing blue eyes wearing a dark purple T-shirt and shredded blue jeans stepped from the wall she had been leaning against. The newcomer folded her arms. Her thin lips curled into a frown.
"So, did you really do it?" asked the girl.
"Quit the team."
Christine groaned and turned to face Kirsten. She did not look pleased in the least.
"How'd you find out?" asked Christine. "Coach mention something?"
"Yeah," said Kirsten, taking another step towards her. "You remember how she was acting all pissy last practice? Well, I asked her if everything was okay and she told me you were leaving. I didn't believe it, but here you are," she said bitterly, gesturing at Christine. "What the hell?"
"Christ, do I have to go through this a second time?" murmured Christine, rubbing her forehead. "Look, Kirsten, I just don't have the time for practice anymore."
"Bullshit." spat Kirsten. "Did Melinda convince you to quit?"
"Wha-...N-No, not at all," replied Christine.
"Uh-huh," said Kirsten skeptically. "I don't get it, Christine. You're kicking ass. Melinda was kicking ass. Hell, you've been on fire for the last couple semesters. Before Melinda left we were on the path to state. We would still have a chance if you stuck around."
"Life isn't all about lacrosse," said Christine.
"Yeah, but you quitting...came out of nowhere. You're letting the whole team down." She paused. "Does it have anything to do with your new besties?"
"Melinda, Sophie, those three bimbos and the rest...seems like you hang with a whole new crowd these days. I guess you don't have time for the team anymore," sneered Kirsten.
"No, it's not like that," said Christine. She hesitated. "Well, to be fair, not completely like that," she added uncomfortably.
Kirsten stared at her. Christine felt horrible but tightened her lips and defiantly met her stare.
"Wow," said Kirsten, shaking her head. "I would say 'at least you have the guts to admit it,' but screw you, Christine," she said sourly. With that, she turned and walked away.
"Damn it, hold up," shouted Christine angrily.
"What?" growled Kirsten, whirling around.
"First, screw you for ambushing me like this," said Christine, stomping towards her. "I know how serious you are about lacrosse but you're treating me like I fucked your boyfriend or something. We've been friends since seventh grade for chrissakes." She hesitated. "That said I'm sorry for leaving the team. You'll just have to trust me when I say there's a very good reason for it."
"You and your friends don't have time for lacrosse anymore, I heard you the first time," said Kirsten wearily.
"No, I mean, yes, but...I can't just...look, there's more to it!" blurted Christine.
"More to it?" said Kirsten.
Christine froze. She silently cursed herself.
"What do you mean 'more to it?'" probed Kirsten, cocking her head.
"I, er," said Christine, frantically trying to come up with something to say.
"What's going on, Christine?"
"It...it doesn't really matter, actually," managed Christine lamely. "Just, um, the cost."
"Cost?" said Kirsten. "What do you mean? The school pays for everything."
"Yeah, I mean, no, not the cost," said Christine quickly. "What I mean is, I just..." Christine grimaced, and then continued. "I'm tired of playing. It's getting...boring," she said, wincing as she spoke.
"You don't like playing lacrosse anymore?" said Kirsten slowly.
Christine nodded awkwardly.
"You know what? Whatever, Christine," said Kirsten, disgusted. She waved a hand dismissively. "Have a nice life."
Christine's nostrils flared. It had not been a good day.
"Damn it, why are you so pissed off?" she shouted. "I said I was sorry!"
"Were you even listening to me, Christine?" growled Kirsten. "This latest move was just the cherry on the shit sunday you've been serving for months. I've barely ever seen you outside of practice, you dominate everyone on the lacrosse field but you don't seem to give a fuck about it, you don't come to football games anymore, you act all distant and cool...gah, it's like you're a whole other person."
"Nearly getting killed can have that effect, you know!" yelled Christine, immediately regretting it.
Kirsten blinked. She opened her mouth, shut it. A female student walked past the pair, giving them both queer looks.
"The dance," murmured Kirsten, her demeanor softening. "Yeah, shit." Then, she shook her head. "Look, I gotta get going." She paused. "Do you want to meet after school tomorrow?" she asked. "I don't know what you're going through, but...maybe I can help."
"Uh, yeah," said Christine absently, scratching her neck.
Kirsten nodded, then turned and walked down the hall.
"Shit," muttered Christine under her breath.
* * *
"No way. Absolutely not. Forget about it. Not. Happening."
Christine could not help but cringe in the face of Melinda's frantic, almost melodramatic denial. Her apprehension was in no small part due to the fact she knew what kind of power was lurking within the fit, green-eyed raven-haired teenage girl before her. It didn't help that she, Christine, shared that power. Strangely enough, it made her feel even more vulnerable.
"She's...a good friend," said Christine in an uncharacteristically timorous voice. She glanced around the school parking lot. "I think...I think she deserves to know the truth."
"And coach doesn't?" said Melinda, hands on hips. "Where do we draw the line, huh? We've been over this. We can't just reveal ourselves to someone just because they got their feelings hurt."
"It's more than that, Melinda," insisted Christine. "Kirsten is suspicious."
"Just because someone is suspicious doesn't mean they're a threat," said Melinda. "And she wouldn't have suspected anything in the first place if you'd been more careful."
"Sorry, but I'm not used to lying to friends," said Christine unhappily. "I'm not used to lying period. Look...how many club members are there now?"
"What? Uh..." Melinda, somewhat taken aback. "Nineteen. Why?
"...Would it be the end of the world if it were twenty?"
"You want to make her a were-"
"No, no, no!" said Christine, waving her hands. "I mean, you don't have to be a werew-...you know, to be a member, right?"
"Where are you going with this?" asked Melinda impatiently.
"I'm asking because I know Kirsten," said Christine. "Please, Melinda, I owe her an explanation." Christine glanced at the school and looked back at Melinda. "Please?" she pleaded.
Melinda frowned. She folded her arms and stared down at the pavement.
"I get where you're coming from," she said finally, unfolding her arms. "But it's hard enough keeping track of the members we already have. You can bring it up at the next meeting, but I can almost guarantee you the answer will be no. Yvette, Heidi and all the rest of the officers feel the same way I do."
Christine was silent.
"I'm sorry, Christine."
"No, no, you're right," said Christine gloomily. "It was hard enough quitting the team, but when Kirsten got in my face and everything...I don't know what I'm going to do when I see her again."
"Well, maybe she just needs time to cool off," said Melinda, shrugging.
"That makes two of us," said Christine. She rolled her neck, stretched her arms over her head and shuddered. "God, I need to go for a run. Clear my head. It's so easy to get worked up now. Every time I get angry I feel like I want to rip something's throat out."
"Not literally, Melinda," said Christine irritably. She hesitated. "Well...uh..."
"I know, I know," said Melinda, waving her hand. "You just-"
"-Need to get used to it," sighed Christine. "Don't worry, I'll be careful." With that she turned and started jogging towards the edge of the campus. "See ya!" she cried, waving.
Christine wove her way through the parking lot and onto the sprawling soccer field. She picked up speed, accelerating from a jog to a sprint. Her feet blurred as she ran, her long, ginger hair flowing in the air. The smell of freshly-cut grass wafted in her nose. Her aggravated expression gradually mellowed. Her lips curled into a determined grin.
The field gave way to a verdant forest. Christine slowed slightly as she exited the field and entered the woods, passing a worn metal sign forbidding entry. The air in the forest was cool and crisp. Lush deciduous trees grew beside towering evergreens. Christine maneuvered between the trees and brush with practiced ease, kicking up leaves and dirt with every step. Eventually, the ground began to slope downwards. Christine decelerated to a brisk canter, carefully making her way down the shallow dip. Eventually she reached the bottom, turned and starting running along the length of the dell. Suddenly, she stopped. Frowning, she sniffed the air, then shrugged and continued.
A few more minutes or so into the forest Christine approached a large pine tree. She bent over and started brushing away a pile of leaves, branches and other arboreal debris on the ground next to it, eventually revealing the dirty white lid of a plastic cooler that had apparently been buried there. She reached down and, grunting with effort, opened the cooler. There was a bottle of water and a small clamshell cell phone in a plastic bag lying at the bottom.
"Looks like I'm the only one out here now," muttered Christine under her breath. "Perfect."
The high schooler stood and started stripping off her clothes, starting with her green hooded jacket, then her jeans, T-shirt, and shoes. Christine shivered slightly as she stood there in her undergarments, but shook it off and discarded those as well.
"Alright," said Christine, cracking her fingers. "Let's do this."
Melinda had instituted semimonthly 'transformation clinics' soon after the incident at the dance near a park on the other side of the wildlife preserve. Owing to a variety of schedule conflicts not every member of the club could make every session, but Christine had attended all of them religiously. And it was paying off. While she still couldn't compete with Melinda, Yvette, Heidi, Cynthia or even Lily, her transformation was the fastest and smoothest of the 'second generation' of werewolves. She was even better than her brother, Phillip - a fact both she and Melinda loved to tease him about. Still, she hadn't quite gotten to the point where it no longer hurt.
Christine stood there for a few seconds, eyes shut. She started to shake. Sweat trickled down her temples despite the cold. She flexed and curled her fingers a few times. Then, claws burst from her fingertips. Her fingers and hands rapidly expanded and morphed into thick, hairy paw-like manipulators. The transformation traveled along her arms, her triceps, biceps then deltoids swelling with taut muscle. Her abdominals, already respectable for a teenage girl, grew firmer and tighter as sinew pressed itself against skin. A hiss of pain escaped Christine's lips. She opened her eyes, raised a trembling arm and gazed down at it. Thick, reddish-brown fur had sprouted along her forearm. She looked down at her chest and saw it too was already covered with fur, albeit beige colored. She grit her teeth, revealing sharp fangs in place of canines, as her body began to twitch uncontrollably. Disconcerting pops and cracks emanated from her limbs stretched and bent. Her feet elongated and her toes (which now also sported stubby black claws) grew larger and flatter. Suddenly, she lurched forward as she instinctively lifted her heels and stood - now quite stably - on her digits.
She was more than half-way done and it had only been ten seconds - possibly a personal record. Christine took a deep breath through her dark, leathery flared nose. Then, her eyes widened. She looked around the forest and spied something dart behind the trunk of a pine. Before she could do anything else a sharp pain ran along her entire skull. She snarled and clutched her head as her jaw violently jutted out in tandem with her noise. Her ears popped uncomfortably as they lengthened then narrowed into triangular points. A trickle of blood dribbled down her dark lips as her burgeoning fangs pierced her gums. She lifted her head and bayed softly, her transformation complete.
Christine immediately turned and ran in the direction of the tree. Sure enough, her keen ears picked up the sound of retreating footsteps.
"Dammit," growled Christine, her voice now a deep, resonant contralto.
She fell on all fours and accelerated, making a wide circle around the pine until she caught a glimpse of a figure. A figure with a very familiar scent.
Christine growled, frustrated and angry - mostly at herself for not being more careful.
"Come back, Kirsten!" she yelled, rising up on her hind legs. She hesitated. "I'm not going to hurt you!"
Kirsten looked back but did not stop running. Even from this distance Christine could tell she was terrified - not an unexpected reaction, reflected Christine sourly, shaking her head. She cupped her paws and yelled.
"Dammit, Kirsten, come back! I can run three times faster than you like this! Don't make me have to catch you!"
This seemed to have the desired effect. Kirsten slowed and finally came to a halt. She turned around, shaking. Christine stood there expectedly. She motioned at her with her paw. "I know how...how freaky this must seem, but I can explain everything."
Kirsten didn't move.
"Fine!" yelled Christine. "We can talk from a distance if it makes you happy."
"What...what the fuck..." gasped Kirsten in shock. "This...this is a t-trick or something, right?" she said more than a little hopefully. "There are...c-cameras and...this is some kind of reality T-TV show, right?"
"Did you see the whole thing?"
"Do you really think that was fake?" Christine hesitated, thinking. "Besides, check this out."
Christine grabbed the trunk of a nearby small tree and tore the thing from the soil. She hurled it into the air. It traveled a good twenty yards before landing.
"I'm a werewolf," shouted Christine, turning to face her again. "Yes, werewolves are real. I'm not going to hurt you or anything. I just want to talk - preferably at a distance where we don't have to yell. Besides the fact we're still pretty close to the school, it's irritating as fuck!"
Kirsten stood there, staring at Christine's lupine form. She clutched her hands together, rubbing them nervously. Her mouth opened and shut a few times.
"Look, I'll change back," yelled Christine, growing impatient. "Lemme get my clothes on, okay? Don't go anywhere."
A few seconds passed. Then, Kirsten gave a curt nod.
"Dammit," growled Christine, turning back to the cooler. "If Melinda was angry before..."
* * *
Wearing clothing so soon after transforming felt odd. A part of her mind kept insisting her shirt was too tight or that her pants were obstructing her nonexistent tail. Christine made one final attempt to adjust her bra in a way so it didn't feel like it was cutting off circulation, gave up and addressed Kirsten, who had been quietly watching her dress. The higher schooler had overcome her initial terror since Christine changed back but was still understandably wary. She had ventured closer - to within speaking distance - but looked ready to scamper away at a moment's notice.
"So...yeah," began Christine, suddenly at a loss for words.
"You're...a werewolf," murmured Kirsten. "Werewolves are real."
"Do I hear an echo in here?" growled Christine. "Sorry, sorry," she said quickly, shaking her head. "I'm a little emotional right now. Bad day and a side effect of, well, this."
"So...you're not going to attack me or anything, right?" she said slowly.
"Again, that's what I said," said Christine, rolling her eyes.
"But it's not a full moon," said Kirsten, looking up at the sky through the branches. "It's not even night."
"We can change whenever we want," said Christine. "We have to change if it's a full moon. Otherwise, it just takes practice."
"Yeah, we," said Christine quietly. "Three guesses on who 'we' are."
To her credit, it only took Kirsten a few seconds to figure it out.
"Melinda, Cynthia...all the rest," she breathed, eyes wide.
"Bingo," said Christine.
Kirsten's astonished expression soured a bit.
"C-Come on, Christine, how can you be so fucking casual about this?" she exclaimed, throwing her arms out. "You're a werewolf. Werewolves exist! Magic exists!"
"Well, we're still not entirely sure if it's actually 'magic' but yeah, close enough I guess," said Christine.
"How could you not be sure?" said Kirsten, confused. "You're werewolves!"
"Stop saying that," said Christine, though a smirk of amusement flickered on her face. "And...well, the thing is, we haven't been werewolves for that long. Melinda's the oldest and she's been one for just under a year." Christine waved her hand vaguely. "The way she tells it she got bitten by something on a camping trip with her folks and the next full moon she changed for the first time. She, uh, changed Yvette, Cynthia, Heidi and Lily and they were their own little clique for a while. Remember?" Christine paused. "You know that crazy shit that went down at the dance? It wasn't some psycho or football team playing a really effed up prank. One of the girls Melinda bit changed and went on a rampage. Long story. She's okay now - everyone is," added Christine hastily. "That was a...a unique situation. Werewolves don't normally go nuts like that."
Kirsten stood there for a time, apparently digesting everything Christine had said.
"And this is why I had...we had to quit the team - Melinda and me," blurted Christine.
"What?" said Kirsten, bewildered.
"It's why we quit lacrosse," said Christine. "We were doing too well. See, when you become a werewolf it...it's like you start taking mega-steroids. Did you ever wonder why Melinda got so good at the game so quickly? I mean, she is sort of natural at it," added Christine, feeling slightly bad for attributing all of Melinda's success to her lycanthropy. "Maybe she would have done fine if she just stayed 100% human. The point is it gives us a major advantage over everyone else. We talked it over and decided everyone in the club needed to quit school sports. It wasn't a popular decision but we stuck to it."
There was silence.
"Sorry I didn't tell you," said Christine softly. "But I hope you see now that I really couldn't."
"Y-Yeah!" yelped Kirsten. "Of course! Jesus! I totally understand!" She took a deep breath and exhaled. "Wow!"
"Yep," said Christine, smiling weakly. "Thanks for understanding."
The two higher schoolers stared at each other awkwardly. Christine rubbed her left arm. Kirsten cleared her throat.
"What happens now?" asked Kirsten. "I mean, I have a ton of questions, but what are you going to do?"
"Well, for starters I have to tell Melinda what happened here," said Christine, grimacing. "She's the big alpha, uh, leader of the club. She's not going to be happy."
"The club?" said Kirsten. "You mentioned that before. What is it?"
"The fantasy book club," said Christine. "Otherwise known as the lycanthrope club. Or werewolf club."
"Lot of stuff around school suddenly making sense now, huh?" said Christine, grinning.
"Yeah, I'm...kinda freaking out right now."
"I would be. So, after I contact Melinda we'll...I dunno, we'll have you come to the next meeting. Fair warning, there's going to be a lot of pressure on you to join the club."
"Join the club?" said Kirsten. She went white. "Y-You want to change me into a werewolf?"
"No! Of course not," said Christine. She hesitated. "Well, if you want to become one, yeah, I guess. If you did, you'd be the first person to decide to become one, come to think of it. But it isn't mandatory."
"But why would I want to change?"
"'Cause it's freakin' awesome, for one," said Christine enthusiastically. "Though it does have its drawbacks, I admit."
"Like not being able to play on a school sports team," said Kirsten.
"Yeah, yeah," said Christine, deflating. "That really sucks."
Kirsten was silent for a moment. She rubbed her chin thoughtfully.
"How many other werewolves are there?" she asked.
"Uh, twenty, no nineteen."
"That's perfect. And I'm guessing you all meet every full moon, right?"
"Yeah, out in the preserve. Where are you going with this?"
* * *
Coach Betty Daly could not help but shake her head at the ridiculousness of it all. She firmly believed in going the extra mile for her students, but this...
"Everybody's ready, coach!" called a voice - deep, powerful, but also somewhat playful.
Coach Daly smiled. At least she wasn't the only one who thought the whole thing was a bit silly. Still, they'd asked her and she'd agreed. If nothing else, this had to have some historical significance, even if no one would hear about it for a long time, if ever. She turned to the ad hoc playing field - really a large clearing in the forest with lacrosse goals positioned at some approximation of the regulation distance, a collection of faint lights demarcating the lines. In the light of the full moon she could see groups of hulking figures clutching lacrosse sticks standing in the field. All of them had glowing eyes.
"Alright!" she called, suppressing a chuckle. "I hereby...I hereby declare open the first season of the Lycanthrope Lacrosse League. Begin!" she blew her whistle.
Two figures that had been squatting in the center of the field started jostling over a lacrosse ball, one ultimately catching it with their stick. The two teams surged forward.
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Interesting. Will there be more to come soon?
This was basically a standalone so no.
It's an interesting take... Though, I'm a bit confused on the ending. Did they decide to turn the coach and the whole team or talk the existing members into doing an informal scrimmage? And wouldn't there have needed to a sort of "reveal" to the coach?
Betty Daly was Heidi's track coach. It's mentioned in Book II that she learned about the lycanthrope club after Heidi transformed during practice, so she was already in on the secret. She wasn't converted.
So, the coach already knew... but what then worked out the idea for the scrimmage... Was that something Christine and Kirsten suggested, and was it with those already turned or with any of those on the school team that weren't turned?
Uh, yes. She reached out to members of the club, organized them into two teams and got Mrs. Daly to referee. It's a bit silly, yes, but so is the story - I'd put it in the same category as "The Bet."
hahahaha its awesome
How did they get the coach or anyone to go along with this idea? Still a great story.