Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater

I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves. They were licking me, biting me, worrying at my body, pressing in. Their huddled bodies blocked what little heat the sun offered. Ice glistened on their ruffs and their breath made opaque shapes that hung in the air around us. The musky smell of their coats made me think of wet dog and burning leaves, pleasant and terrifying. Their tongues melted my skin; their careless teeth ripped at my sleeves and snagged through my hair, pushed against my collarbone, the pulse at my neck. I could have screamed, but I didn’t. I could have fought, but I didn’t. I just lay there and let it happen, watching the winter-white sky go gray above me. One wolf prodded his nose into my hand and against my cheek, casting a shadow across my face. His yellow eyes looked into mine while the other wolves jerked me this way and that. I held on to those eyes for as long as I could. Yellow. And, up close, flecked brilliantly with every shade of gold and hazel. I didn’t want him to look away, and he didn’t.

I wanted to reach out and grab a hold of his ruff, but my hands stayed curled on my chest, my arms frozen to my body. I couldn’t remember what it felt like to be warm. Then he was gone, and without him, the other wolves closed in, too close, suffocating. Something seemed to flutter in my chest. There was no sun; there was no light. I was dying. I couldn’t remember what the sky looked like. But I didn’t die. I was lost to a sea of cold, and then I was reborn into a world of warmth. I remember this: his yellow eyes.

I thought I’d never see them again. CHAPTER TWO • SAM 15°F They snatched the girl off her tire swing in the backyard and dragged her into the woods; her body made a shallow track in the snow, from her world to mine. I saw it happen. I didn’t stop it. It had been the longest, coldest winter of my life. Day after day under a pale, worthless sun. And the hunger—hunger that burned and gnawed, an insatiable master. That month nothing moved, the landscape frozen into a colorless diorama devoid of life. One of us had been shot trying to steal trash off someone’s back step, so the rest of the pack stayed in the woods and slowly starved, waiting for warmth and our old bodies. Until they found the girl.

Until they attacked. They crouched around her, snarling and snapping, fighting to tear into the kill first. I saw it. I saw their flanks shuddering with their eagerness. I saw them tug the girl’s body this way and that, wearing away the snow beneath her. I saw muzzles smeared with red. Still, I didn’t stop it. I was high up in the pack—Beck and Paul had made sure of that—so I could’ve moved in immediately, but I hung back, trembling with the cold, up to my ankles in snow. The girl smelled warm, alive, human above all else. What was wrong with her? If she was alive, why wasn’t she struggling? I could smell her blood, a warm, bright scent in this dead, cold world.

I saw Salem jerk and tremble as he ripped at her clothing. My stomach twisted, painful—it had been so long since I’d eaten. I wanted to push through the wolves to stand next to Salem and pretend that I couldn’t smell her humanness or hear her soft moans. She was so little underneath our wildness, the pack pressing against her, wanting to trade her life for ours. With a snarl and a flash of teeth, I pushed forward. Salem growled back at me, but I was rangier than him, despite my starvation and youth. Paul rumbled threateningly to back me up. I was next to her, and she was looking up at the endless sky with distant eyes. Maybe dead. I pushed my nose into her hand; the scent on her palm, all sugar and butter and salt, reminded me of another life.

Then I saw her eyes. Awake. Alive. The girl looked right at me, eyes holding mine with such terrible honesty. I backed up, recoiled, starting to shake again—but this time, it wasn’t anger that racked my frame. Her eyes on my eyes. Her blood on my face. I was tearing apart, inside and outside. Her life. My life.

The pack fell back from me, wary. They growled at me, no longer one of them, and they snarled over their prey. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, a tiny, bloody angel in the snow, and they were going to destroy her. I saw it. I saw her, in a way I’d never seen anything before. And I stopped it. CHAPTER THREE • GRACE 38°F I saw him again after that, always in the cold. He stood at the edge of the woods in our backyard, his yellow eyes steady on me as I filled the bird feeder or took out the trash, but he never came close. In between day and night, a time that lasted forever in the long Minnesota winter, I would cling to the frozen tire swing until I felt his gaze. Or, later, when I’d outgrown the swing, I’d step off the back deck and quietly approach him, hand forward, palm up, eyes lowered.

No threat. I was trying to speak his language. But no matter how long I waited, no matter how hard I tried to reach him, he would always melt into the undergrowth before I could cross the distance between us. I was never afraid of him. He was large enough to tear me from my swing, strong enough to knock me down and drag me into the woods. But the ferocity of his body wasn’t in his eyes. I remembered his gaze, every hue of yellow, and I couldn’t be afraid. I knew he wouldn’t hurt me. I wanted him to know I wouldn’t hurt him. I waited.

And waited. And he waited, too, though I didn’t know what he was waiting for. It felt like I was the only one reaching out. But he was always there. Watching me watching him. Never any closer to me, but never any farther away, either. And so it was an unbroken pattern for six years: the wolves’ haunting presence in the winter and their even more haunting absence in the summer. I didn’t really think about the timing. I thought they were wolves. Only wolves.

CHAPTER FOUR • SAM 90°F The day I nearly talked to Grace was the hottest day of my life. Even in the bookstore, which was airconditioned, the heat crept in around the door and came in through the big picture windows in waves. Behind the counter, I slouched on my stool in the sun and sucked in the summer as if I could hold every drop of it inside of me. As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air. This was what I loved, when I was human. I was reading when the door opened with a little ding, admitting a stifling rush of hot air and a group of girls. They were laughing too loudly to need my help, so I kept reading and let them jostle along the walls and talk about everything except books. I don’t think I would’ve given the girls a second thought, except that at the edge of my vision I saw one of them sweep up her dark blonde hair and twist it into a long ponytail. The action itself was insignificant, but the movement sent a gasp of scent into the air. I recognized that smell.

I knew immediately. It was her. It had to be. I jerked my book up toward my face and risked a glimpse in the girls’ direction. The other two were still talking and gesturing at a paper bird I’d hung from the ceiling above the children’s book section. She wasn’t talking, though; she hung back, her eyes on the books all around her. I saw her face then, and I recognized something of myself in her expression. Her eyes flicked over the shelves, seeking possibilities for escape. I had planned a thousand different versions of this scene in my head, but now that the moment had come, I didn’t know what to do. She was so real here.

It was different when she was in her backyard, just reading a book or scribbling homework in a notebook. There, the distance between us was an impossible void; I felt all the reasons to stay away. Here, in the bookstore, with me, she seemed breathtakingly close in a way she hadn’t before. There was nothing to stop me from talking to her. Her gaze headed in my direction, and I looked away hurriedly, down at my book. She wouldn’t recognize my face but she would recognize my eyes. I had to believe she would recognize my eyes. I prayed for her to leave so I could breathe again. I prayed for her to buy a book so I would have to talk to her. One of the girls called, “Grace, come over here and look at this.

Making the Grade: Getting into the College of Your Dreams—that sounds good, right?” I sucked in a slow breath and watched her long sunlit back as she crouched and looked at the SAT prep books with the other girls. There was a certain tilt to her shoulders that seemed to indicate only polite interest; she nodded as they pointed to other books, but she seemed distracted. I watched the way the sunlight streamed through the windows, catching the individual flyaway hairs in her ponytail and turning each one into a shimmering gold strand. Her head moved almost imperceptibly back and forth with the rhythm of the music playing overhead. “Hey.” I jerked back as a face appeared before me. Not Grace. One of the other girls, dark-haired and tanned. She had a huge camera slung over her shoulder and she was looking right into my eyes. She didn’t say anything, but I knew what she was thinking.

Reactions to my eye color ranged from furtive glances to out-and-out staring; at least she was being honest about it. “Do you mind if I take your photo?” she asked. I cast around for an excuse. “Some native people think if you take their photo, you take their soul. It sounds like a very logical argument to me, so sorry, no pictures.” I shrugged apologetically. “You can take photos of the store if you like.” The third girl pushed up against the camera girl: bushy light brown hair, tremendously freckled and radiating so much energy that she exhausted me. “Flirting, Olivia? We don’t have time for that. Here, dude, we’ll take this one.

” I took Making the Grade from her, sparing a quick glance around for Grace. “Nineteen dollars and ninety-nine cents,” I said. My heart was pounding. “For a paperback?” remarked the freckle girl, but she handed me a twenty. “Keep the penny.” We didn’t have a penny jar, but I put it on the counter next to the register. I bagged the book and receipt slowly, thinking Grace might come over to see what was taking so long. But she stayed in the biography section, head tipped to the side as she read the spines. The freckle girl took the bag and grinned at me and Olivia. Then they went to Grace and herded her toward the door.

Turn around, Grace. Look at me, I’m standing right here. If she turned right now, she’d see my eyes, and she’d have to know me. Freckle girl opened the door—ding—and made an impatient sound to the rest of the herd: time to move along. Olivia turned briefly, and her eyes found me again behind the counter. I knew I was staring at them—at Grace—but I couldn’t stop. Olivia frowned and ducked out of the store. Freckle girl said, “Grace, come on.” My chest ached, my body speaking a language my head didn’t quite understand. I waited.

But Grace, the only person in the world I wanted to know me, just ran a wanting finger over the cover of one of the new hardcovers and walked out of the store without ever realizing I was there, right within reach. CHAPTER FIVE • GRACE 44°F I didn’t realize that the wolves in the wood were all werewolves until Jack Culpeper was killed. September of my junior year, when it happened, Jack was all anybody in our small town could talk about. It wasn’t as though Jack had been this amazing kid when he was alive—apart from owning the most expensive car in the parking lot, principal’s car included. Actually, he’d been kind of a jerk. But when he was killed—instant sainthood. With a gruesome and sensational undertow, because of the way it had happened. Within five days of his death, I’d heard a thousand versions of the story in the school halls. The upshot was this: Everyone was terrified of the wolves now. Because Mom didn’t usually watch the news and Dad was terminally not home, the communal anxiety trickled down to our household slowly, taking a few days to really gain momentum.

My incident with the wolves had faded from my mother’s mind over the past six years, replaced by turpentine fumes and complementary colors, but Jack’s attack seemed to refresh it perfectly. Far be it from Mom to funnel her growing anxiety into something logical like spending more quality time with her only daughter, the one who had been attacked by wolves in the first place. Instead, she just used it to become even more scatter-brained than usual. “Mom, do you need some help with dinner?” My mother looked guiltily at me, turning her attention from the television that she could just see from the kitchen back to the mushrooms she was obliterating on the cutting board. “It was so close to here. Where they found him,” Mom said, pointing toward the television with the knife. The news anchor looked insincerely sincere as a map of our county appeared next to a blurry photo of a wolf in the upper right corner of the screen. The hunt for the truth, he said, continued. You’d think that after a week of reporting the same story over and over again, they’d at least get their simple facts straight. Their photo wasn’t even the same species as my wolf, with his stormy gray coat and tawny yellow eyes.

“I still can’t believe it,” Mom went on. “Just on the other side of Boundary Wood. That’s where he was killed.” “Or died.” Mom frowned at me, delicately frazzled and beautiful as usual. “What?” I looked back up from my homework—comforting, orderly lines of numbers and symbols. “He could’ve just passed out by the side of the road and been dragged into the woods while he was unconscious. It’s not the same. You can’t just go around trying to cause a panic.” Mom’s attention had wandered back to the screen as she chopped the mushrooms into pieces small enough for amoeba consumption.

She shook her head. “They attacked him, Grace.” I glanced out the window at the woods, the pale lines of the trees phantoms against the dark. If my wolf was out there, I couldn’t see him. “Mom, you’re the one who told me over and over and over again: Wolves are usually peaceful.” Wolves are peaceful creatures. This had been Mom’s refrain for years. I think the only way she could keep living in this house was by convincing herself of the wolves’ relative harmlessness and insisting that my attack was a one-time event. I don’t know if she really believed that they were peaceful, but I did. Gazing into the woods, I’d watched the wolves every year of my life, memorizing their faces and their personalities.

Sure, there was the lean, sickly-looking brindle wolf who hung well back in the woods, only visible in the coldest of months. Everything about him—his dull scraggly coat, his notched ear, his one foul running eye—shouted an ill body, and the rolling whites of his wild eyes whispered of a diseased mind. I remembered his teeth grazing my skin. I could imagine him attacking a human in the woods again. And there was the white she-wolf. I had read that wolves mated for life, and I’d seen her with the pack leader, a heavyset wolf that was as black as she was white. I’d watched him nose her muzzle and lead her through the skeleton trees, fur flashing like fish in water. She had a sort of savage, restless beauty to her; I could imagine her attacking a human, too. But the rest of them? They were silent, beautiful ghosts in the woods. I didn’t fear them.

“Right, peaceful.” Mom hacked at the cutting board. “Maybe they should just trap them all and dump them in Canada or something.” I frowned at my homework. Summers without my wolf were bad enough. As a child, those months had seemed impossibly long, just time spent waiting for the wolves to reappear. They’d only gotten worse after I noticed my yellow-eyed wolf. During those long months, I had imagined great adventures where I became a wolf by night and ran away with my wolf to a golden wood where it never snowed. I knew now that the golden wood didn’t exist, but the pack—and my yellow-eyed wolf—did. Sighing, I pushed my math book across the kitchen table and joined Mom at the cutting board.

“Let me do it. You’re just messing it up.” She didn’t protest, and I hadn’t expected her to. Instead, she rewarded me with a smile and whirled away as if she’d been waiting for me to notice the pitiful job she was doing. “If you finish making dinner,” she said, “I’ll love you forever.” I made a face and took the knife from her. Mom was permanently paint-spattered and absentminded. She would never be my friends’ moms: apron-wearing, meal-cooking, vacuuming, Betty Crocker. I didn’t really want her to be like them. But seriously—I needed to get my homework done.

“Thanks, sweetie. I’ll be in the studio.” If Mom had been one of those dolls that say five or six different things when you push their tummy, that would’ve been one of her prerecorded phrases. “Don’t pass out from the fumes,” I told her, but she was already running up the stairs. Shoving the mutilated mushrooms into a bowl, I looked at the clock hanging on the bright yellow wall. Still an hour until Dad would be home from work. I had plenty of time to make dinner and maybe, afterward, to try to catch a glimpse of my wolf. There was some sort of cut of beef in the fridge that was probably supposed to go with the mangled mushrooms. I pulled it out and slapped it on the cutting board. In the background, an “expert” on the news asked whether the wolf population in Minnesota should be limited or moved.

The whole thing just put me in a bad mood. The phone rang. “Hello?” “Hiya. What’s up?” Rachel. I was glad to hear from her; she was the exact opposite of my mother—totally organized and great on followthrough. She made me feel less like an alien. I shoved the phone between my ear and my shoulder and chopped the beef as I talked, saving a piece the size of my fist for later. “Just making dinner and watching the stupid news.” She knew immediately what I was talking about. “I know.

Talk about surreal, right? It seems like they just can’t get enough of it. It’s kind of gross, really—I mean, why can’t they just shut up and let us get over it? It’s bad enough going to school and hearing about it all the time. And you with the wolves and everything, it’s got to be really bothering you—and, seriously, Jack’s parents have got to be just wanting the reporters to shut up.” Rachel was babbling so fast I could barely understand her. I missed a bunch of what she said in the middle, and then she asked, “Has Olivia called tonight?” Olivia was the third side of our trio, the only one who came anywhere near understanding my fascination with the wolves. It was a rare night when I didn’t talk to either her or Rachel by phone. “She’s probably out shooting photos. Isn’t there a meteor shower tonight?” I said. Olivia saw the world through her camera; half of my school memories seemed to be in four-by-six-inch glossy blackand-white form. Rachel said, “I think you’re right.

Olivia will definitely want a piece of that hot asteroid action. Got a moment to talk?”

.

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