The Full Moon Feast of werewolves was one of Erin's least favorite events to attend, but unfortunately for her, she has never had the best excuse to avoid going since she became eligible to participate seven years ago.
She couldn't for the life of her understand why the clan Chief and his ancestors made the event mandatory for all adult werewolves; why didn't they just restrict attendance to married werewolves only?
Or to werewolves who enjoyed boring speeches about who was doing great in their human lives and which werewolf had finally found a mate in the slim pickings available in the clan? Why did she have to be involved in all of that, especially the "networking" sessions?
"Erin! What are you doing up there? You're going to be late!" Her mother called out to her from downstairs.
"Ugh!" Erin groaned and quickly applied a dash of pale pink lipstick to her luscious lips before dropping it into her heavy handbag that contained her laptop, notepads, half a dozen pencils, a pen, and her mini toiletries bag.
When she finally made it downstairs, her parents were already at the dining table, eating breakfast. One look at her and her mother let out an involuntary gasp, while her father shook his head slowly, although Erin could see a small smile tugging at the side of his lips.
"Why on earth are you dressed like someone going to a rock music concert on a Monday morning?" Bernice Brown asked her daughter. "It's your first day at work, so why not look professional instead?"
"Good morning to you too, Mom," said Erin dryly before lowering herself onto a vacant chair at the dining table. "Hey, Daddy. Running late too?"
"Nope," replied her dad. "Jonathan should be at the trading post already. That's what I hired him for. Now I can enjoy a leisurely breakfast with you and your mother before I go there."
"Splendid," Erin grinned.
"Don't change the subject, Erin," her mother snapped. "Your dressing…"
"Mom, please. It's an art gallery, not a law firm. I don't have to show up at work in a designer pantsuit."
"Still – "
"Darling, please. Leave the girl alone," Andrew Brown suggested to his wife with a pleading look in his warm eyes.
Bernice pursed her lips and said nothing further. Her attempts to make her daughter more ladylike have been met with stiff resistance since Erin was a teenager. What Bernice had assumed to be teenage rebellion had morphed into a way of life for her daughter who still dressed like a crossbreed of a hippie and an emo artist.
It was no surprise that at twenty-five, none of the eligible werewolves in their clan have ever shown even a slight interest in her. How was she ever going to find a mate if she continued like this?
Aware that her mother was shooting daggers at her with flaming eyes from across the table, Erin chose to ignore her and instead buttered a piece of toast generously before taking a big bite. She heard her mother's low growl of disapproval and she stifled a giggle. For some reason, Erin enjoyed annoying her mother, who by now has almost given up all hopes of ever making her the ideal daughter who would someday attract a worthy mate in the clan.
"Big day, huh?" Her dad said, trying to make conversation. "I bet you're excited about this new job."
Erin shrugged. "It's just an internship, but if I'm lucky and if the labor market gods smile on me, I might get a full-time position at the gallery. Although, I don't know if they'll need an additional art curator by then."
"Well, let's hope they do," her father smiled at her. "I wish you would get back to painting again. You never told us why you stopped."
Erin made a show of drinking her coffee to avoid responding to her father's last statement. She had never said it out loud before, but she had taken an extended break from painting six months ago after her 4-year relationship ended. It wasn't because she was in love with her ex, but it was mainly because she'd gotten so used to having Mike in her life and she had created a routine around her life with him, that when things finally ended, she hadn't known what to do with herself or how to continue with her life.
She'd met Mike during her sophomore year at the University of Chicago where she was studying to get a degree in Art History, while he majored in Creative Writing. They'd hit it off right away from the moment they bumped into each other at a mutual friend's birthday party.
They had been inseparable since then and had even moved in together after graduation. When Mike nailed his dream job at The New York Times, he'd asked her to move to the Big Apple with him but Erin had declined. It just hadn't felt right to her to pack up her things and follow him on his journey to live his dream, when all she wanted to do was to return to Fairbanks to live with her family. It still didn't make sense to her that she wanted to return home when all she had done since she was sixteen was to find an opportunity to get away from her hometown.
It was why she had chosen to go to college in Chicago instead of going to any of the universities in Alsaka. It was as if some unseen force had been pulling her to return home.
"Ooh, look at the time! I better get going," she said and quickly got to her feet. "See you guys later."