Authors: Nicole Loufas
Tags: #General Fiction
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons, whether living or dead is entirely coincidental.
THE LUNAM CEREMONY, BOOK 1
Copyright © 2016 by Nicole Loufas
Editing by Holly Kothe and KD Phillips with Indie Solutions,
Cover design by Murphy Rae,
Interior Formatting by Elaine York/
Allusion Graphics, LLC/Publishing & Book Formatting
Except for the original material written by the author, all song titles and lyrics contained in this book are the property of the respective songwriters and copyright holders.
All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in book reviews.
I pull out the top drawer of my dresser and unceremoniously dump its contents into the empty suitcase on my bed. I shove the drawer back into the slot and move on to the next. I’m not concerned with how or what I pack. The only thing running through my mind is where I will unpack. If it were up to me, my next home would be a dorm room at the University of Las Vegas, but my life isn’t my own. I don’t get to decide where I live. Hell, I don’t even get to choose who I love. My life is in the hands of fate, Mother Nature, destiny, whatever you want to call it. If you ask me, which nobody ever does, my life isn’t ruled by fate or the moon. It is ruled by my mother, Layla.
I empty the last drawer into my suitcase then move on to the closet. It’s almost empty; there is only one thing in there I would take. I run my hand down the pink taffeta dress I wore to my senior prom. Layla only let me go because she chaperoned. I didn’t get to go to the after party or even to dinner with my friends. Prom, my high school graduation, the letter I received from UNLV saying I was accepted into their class of 2019—all of those things, those human things, mean nothing to my mother. I was put on this earth for one purpose, to maintain my family’s bloodline.
My friends, if you can call them that, left for college months ago. I told them I was taking a year off to find myself. I was never really close to any of the girls at school. Layla said making ties to this world would only make it harder to leave. She was wrong. I may have been the “other” friend, but that doesn’t make leaving this life any easier.
“Mom, what do people wear to a Lunam ceremony?” Lunam is like a quinceanera, a bar mitzvah, and spring break all rolled into one night. The girls become women, the boys become men, everyone gets laid, and nobody remembers a goddamned thing.
“It isn’t a formal affair, Kalysia,” Layla yells from across the hall. She’s packing too. In a few hours I’ll be heading to a new life and she will return to her old one. She took a leave of absence from her job at the women’s prison so she could escort me to Lunam. The job is perfect for her. She loves to be in control of other people’s lives. It will give her something to do once I’m gone. After Lunam she will no longer be the boss of me. I’ll have my own pack. One I am supposed to lead. In less than a week I will be in charge of other people’s lives and I can’t even cook. I’m only eighteen, I should be worrying about midterms and homework assignments, not how long my pack will survive on frozen burritos. I could have pulled student loans and applied for housing. I could’ve had the life I want, not the one I was born into. I could have. I should have. I didn’t. I couldn’t do that to my mom. She’s given up so much for me. I owe it to her to go to Lunam.
“You ready?” Layla appears in my doorway. She looks stunning in a pair of old jeans and a light blue sweater set. She has wavy brown hair that goes on for days, and eyes so blue they look like gemstones have been jammed into her eye sockets. As a human my mother is beautiful, but when I saw her as a wolf, I thought nature could not have created a more perfect being. I was eight when she took me into the desert to show me what we are. Her fur was dark brown with small white tufts around her ears. It was the softest thing I’d ever felt. Her eyes were the same sapphire blue, the only marker of her human self. While most little girls heard fairytales about castles and princesses, my mom told me stories about witches and wolves. We call ourselves Lunam because we were born from the moon. Not really born—we were turned by Gaia, the mother of our kind.
Finding out I was part wolf was the coolest thing that ever happened to me. After seeing my mom turn, I was obsessed. I kept calendars in my room, counting down the days until my eighteenth birthday when I would have my first phase. I begged to hear stories about my mother’s Lunam and how she met my father. Lunam isn’t just a coming of age ceremony where I will phase; it’s also where I am supposed to meet my true love. I can’t even think about that without rolling my eyes. Phasing from a human into a wolf is more realistic to me than love at first sight. I’ve seen my mom phase; I know it’s real. I’ve never seen her in love.
When I turned thirteen I stopped keeping the calendars. I was more interested in makeup and boys. Layla’s stories began to feel like nothing more than fairytales. By the time I was fifteen, I ran from the room whenever my mother said the word Lunam. This prehistoric ritual was the reason I couldn’t go to school dances or have sleepovers with my friends. I wasn’t allowed a social life because I was born into a bloodline that an entire species depended on. A species I had no ties to. Layla left my father when I was four. She moved us to a small town in the middle of the Nevada desert. I have no contact with my father or Layla’s family. Now she expects me to give up my dreams, my life, for a family she ran away from—all in the name of destiny.
There were so many nights I cried myself to sleep, vowing I would never go to Lunam. I wouldn’t let Layla win. All of that changed last year when she told me I was the last living heir to her family’s bloodline. I tried to pretend the pain in her voice didn’t cause a knot in my stomach. I didn’t think anything would change my feelings about Lunam until Layla promised I’d still be able to go to college. Not this year or next, but someday. And with the promise of someday paired with the guilt of my mother’s legacy resting comfortably on my shoulders, I quit resisting. I started telling myself going to Lunam was the right thing to do. I may have my doubts; but I know Layla wouldn’t send me to Lunam if it wasn’t something she believed would benefit me and my future. I trust my mother has my best interest at heart.
I close my closet door, leaving the dress behind. “I’m ready.” I zip my suitcase without much effort. My entire life fits into carry-on luggage.
Layla smiles at me but doesn’t say a word. There have been a lot of silent moments lately. I will miss my mom, she’s all I’ve ever had, but I’m not sure she’s going to miss me. Layla is going to the Lunam ceremony with me; after that, she’s free. I won’t be her responsibility anymore. It doesn’t seem fair. I’m the young one; I should have the world at my feet, not her. But I guess she’s paid her dues. Eighteen years ago she had me, and she hasn’t made a single decision that wasn’t in my best interest since. My mother is overbearing at times, but she is also the most selfless person I know. I assume all mothers are to a certain degree. It comes with the title. You’re a mom; you give up your life, your dreams, your body, to give life to another human. I may be destined to produce an heir to my bloodline, but I am in no way ready to give up on my happiness or dreams for that to happen.