My parents divorced before I was old enough to know what it meant to lie to God about your matrimonial intentions. I was four, and my mother left my father because of his ‘indiscretions.’ So I was told. They said she kicked him out and hoped he would die slow, and he could take that whore of Babylon with him, for all she cared, and I guess that wasn’t much. She must not have cared for me, either, because she put me up for adoption a couple of years later.

My adopted family, whoever they may have been, quickly realized they weren’t ready for the responsibilities of raising a child, so they turned me back in, like an overdue book to a library. That started a string of unsuccessful ventures into foster homes across the great state of Louisiana, where the sun is hot most of the year, and the skies are so clear at night you can see every star in the Milky Way, and the moon, too.

My parents, for all I know now dead to the world, left me with a lifetime of insecurities, paranoia, and fear. I’m not even sure if my name was their idea or someone else’s. I still marvel at how I turned out, given the shifting sands upon which the foundation of my life was built. I managed to finish college, find success in sales, marry my high school sweetheart, and raise twin girls. We settled in Fouke Parrish and made a simple, happy life together. But I still flush red in a crowd, and I have my parents to thank for that.

I never knew my family history. As far as I know, both sets of grandparents were dead before I was born, and my parents claimed no siblings. Now, whenever nurses question me for insurance purposes, I can truthfully say I don’t know.

This last January, a nurse suggested I might want to know of any ethnically attributed diseases that might lie in wait for me as my years accumulate.

“Why don’t you send in a mouth swab to one of those dot com places that check your family tree?”

It was a fantastic idea, I thought, and I went home that night and ordered a kit.

Six months later, my life changed forever.

“Mr. R. Giroux,” the letter began. “We regret to inform you that we are unable to process your DNA test. There have been several complications.

“You requested an autosomal DNA test which checks maternal and paternal lineage. However, our technicians can only locate mtDNA, which represents your mother’s side. Following this line, we ran into further complications.

“Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Your mtDNA has 39, similar in every respect to canine DNA. We found your lineage to be 22% Native American, 16% Western European, 5% indeterminate, and 57% canine.

“Because these results are both impossible and inconclusive, we are refunding the price of your kit. We further ask that you not send additional samples for processing. While we do not necessarily believe you are perpetrating a hoax, we do not wish to run the risk of falling victim to what has become a common prank within our industry. We thank you for your understanding.

“Sincerely, DNA Dot Com.”

My wife and I read the results together. Lydia laughed, but nothing was funny to me.

“Oh, Rob, I understand you want to know your family,” she said, “but this was never about finding your parents or cousins or whatever. The most you could have hoped for was to learn about your family’s history, not identify specific names. Besides, you have a family of your own now. Your history starts here. Isn’t that enough?”

It’s difficult to explain to someone who has family of the empty spaces inside when you’ve got none of it. None. My wife and kids are everything to me, but there are places reserved for parents, siblings, relatives both distant and close, that can never be filled with substitutes. I did the only thing I knew and laughed with Lydia. Canine DNA. It would make for a great punchline at the parties I didn’t have the nerve to attend.

I wrote the test results off to sloppy lab work and hit the resume button on the remote controlling my life.

A week or so later I was mowing the lawn. A black SUV started down my driveway and parked. A woman, confident, I could tell, by the way she pushed her sunglasses up onto her head, walked over as I killed the mower’s blade.

“Robert Giroux?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said from my seat.

“My name is Susannah Giroux. That’s right. Not a common surname, is it? You and I have some things we need to discuss. Do you have a few minutes?”

In spite of her tone, her eyes were kind and familiar.

Lydia had taken the girls to their grandmother’s house for the weekend and was staying with them. The lady in my yard seemed harmless enough, though, so I showed her inside, to the dining room table, and we sat. She selected a paper from a folder I hadn’t noticed. Before showing it to me, she asked, “Do you know who your parents are?”

“As a matter of fact, no, not really. My mom gave me up for adoption when I was four, and my father left before that.”

Susannah Giroux smiled, the first one she had offered.

“Mr. Giroux – may I call you Robert? – if my information is correct, you and I are siblings. Please, look at these papers.”

Susannah Giroux produced letters my mother had written to my maternal grandmother. I had seen my mother’s handwriting before, so I knew it was hers. Everything was authentic. There was a letter addressed to an adoption agency in Louisiana, and other documents that I recognized as having been written by my mother.

I asked, “How did you come by all of these?”

“My grandmother had these papers when she died. It’s been years ago now. She told me to use them to find my family. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past six years.” She reached inside the folder and brought out another sheet. “Look at this one.”

I recognized the official lettering and raised seal of a birth certificate. It had my parents’ names on it, as well my visitor’s.

Everything was adding up: Susannah Giroux was my sister.

“This is some coincidence,” I said. “I just went through an ordeal with a website trying to find my family history, and now here you are. Did they sell you my information? Is that how you tracked me down?” I didn’t intend to be rude, but I couldn’t hide my skepticism. I was desperate for family; perhaps that made me easy prey for a scam.

“No, Robert. I haven’t spoken with anyone from a website. However, your interaction with them does shed some light on things. If you don’t mind, I can get into those details later. I do have another piece that might ease your mind.”

She took the remaining sheet of paper from the folder and handed it to me. It was another birth certificate. Same parents listed, and, as I expected, my name was typed onto it.

“One last shock for you, if I may, Robert,” Susannah said.

The last shreds of doubt were disappearing. I said, “Please, call me Rob.”

“Okay, Rob. Look closely at your birth certificate. What stands out to you?”

I looked. In box number nine, the typed lettering read ‘this birth: triplet.’

“Are you saying I’m a triplet?” I asked.

Susannah smiled again. She said, “The State of Louisiana says you are. Our mother had you and two girls, Laura and Christine. They’re waiting to hear from me. Now that I’m certain who you are, I’d like to send them a text. They’ll be on their way to meet you, if that’s okay.” I told her it was.

Susannah was tall, almost as tall as me. Where I was dark-headed, she was as blonde as Marilyn Monroe. But our eyes were the same, dark and worried; I noticed that the moment I first saw her.

When she finished sending the text, she said, “Look, Rob, there’s more you need to know.”

Susannah stood and looked out the window.

“Can we close the blinds?” she asked.

“Sure, I guess. Is something wrong?”

“No, not at all. I just want to be certain we have privacy. The things your sisters and I need to discuss with you are of a sensitive nature. I think you’ll understand when they arrive.”

My sisters must have been close; a second SUV turned in the drive as Susannah was closing the last set of blinds. I watched through the window in the door as the two of them stepped onto the walkway. Susannah and I looked mildly similar, but there was no denying the women approaching my door were my sisters. Each had dark hair, the same shade as mine, and a slight build, again, similar to me. They were both shorter than Susannah, but they were definitely my sisters.

“It’s lovely meeting you, Rob,” the first triplet said with a strong Australian accent. “We’ve come a long way and waited ages to find you.” This one, Christine, had shorter hair than our other sister, Laura.

“You look just like us!” Laura said as she hugged me.

As we were taking seats around the table, I overheard Susannah ask, “Were you followed?”

“I don’t think so,” Laura answered.

Susannah started, “I was just telling Rob about our family, how our parents scattered the four of us to all corners of the earth.”

They each looked at me, and I felt myself flush red. I do that, and I hate it.

“It’s okay, Rob,” Christine said. “We’re here to protect you and keep you and your family safe.”

I stood. “What do you mean protect?” I started for the door. “You know, this all seems too strange. Maybe we should do this when my wife gets home. If this stuff is true, you won’t mind if we take this to a more public place.”

Christine, younger than me by fifteen minutes (according to our birth certificate), stopped me at the door and held my wrist like a bear in a steel trap and said, “Please sit back down, brother. You don’t need to be afraid of us. Just hear what we have to say and we’ll leave you alone.” She wasn’t smiling, and her eyes – her eyes were glowing now, and red. I swear her eyes were red.

She finished her thought, “I promise.”

I took my place again at the table and listened as my eldest sister, Susannah, revealed a world to me that, until then, existed only in nightmares.

“We come from a line of werewolves, brother Rob. The Giroux name was once known in Europe, long ago, as belonging to Lycans. We were powerful, and we were feared. Kings hired hunters to wipe our kind from the earth, and our men took up the fight. But the slaughter had no end. Our ancestors fled to all parts of the world, including Louisiana, where our line originates.

“The balance of power among our kind shifted as our mothers wrested control from our fathers. Men couldn’t be trusted to maintain peace. Over time, they became disposable, used only to propagate the species.

“Our mothers, by whom we trace family lines, have maintained control over packs around the world in this way. But we never made peace with humans; we stayed hidden until, over the course of hundreds of years, our kind became the stuff of legend.

“Our mother and father, your mother and father, were in love. They thought they could set a new standard by which our kind could prosper. But Father was unfaithful. He tried to leave, but Mother wouldn’t allow it. By the time you were born, Mother was bitter; she wanted to dispose of you. Eventually, father hid us all. I was sent to Canada, Laura to California, Christine to Australia. He kept you here, in Louisiana, thinking he could hide you in plain sight, as they say. He seems to have been successful in that endeavor, as you are, for now, still alive.”

Outside, the sun was setting. I usually love evenings and starlight, but this new information made the night an ominous protector of things unseen.

“So what you are saying is I’m a werewolf? I’ve never been bitten by a dog, much less a wolf.”

Laura, seated to my left, put her arm around me. She said, “A werewolf bite kills. Lycanthropy is an inherited trait, passed from mothers to children. We have it, and so do you.”

“But I’ve seen a thousand full moons; nothing happens to me.”

Christine spoke up.

“Knowledge,” she said, “is the trigger. Something has happened recently to let you know who you really are.”

I thought of DNA Dot Com and their conclusion that I had 57% canine DNA. The pieces of this horrific puzzle were beginning to fall into place.

Cristine continued, “Once you became aware, the clock started ticking for you, like a bomb. When the next full moon rises, you will have a choice to make. Join your family and complete the cycle under the full moon, or let it pass as you stay hidden. If you fail to turn that first night, your chance is gone forever.”

“You would be unique among our kind,” Susannah said. “There are very few men left in our ranks, and those who exist do so at great risk. As a species, we try to stay hidden; the old ways die hard, though, and men are, mostly, not accepted. You would need

our protection. As your sisters, we would see to it that you are safe, always.”

“What about my wife, my kids?” I asked.

“They would be safe as well, though not directly under our care. With you gone, no one will have any reason to threaten them. You could look in, anonymously, from time to time, but your ties would need to be cut. It must be this way.”

Outside, the moon was rising. Within the week, it would be full again, and I would have a decision to make. I could see the yard, dotted with trees, and hear nighttime animals waking to do their business. An owl screeched nearby, and something else. Something else was in my field of vision, and I heard more than saw. There was a shadow, standing in the trees and moonlight. The shadow threw back its head and let out a howl that started low and rose in a full crescendo to drown every other sound.

Beside me, I felt the muscles in Laura’s body tighten, and her hand, which was still resting on me, pressed its nails uncomfortably into my shoulder. Her head snapped to look to Susannah, and in the back of Christine’s throat, a low rumble began. When Susannah looked at me and commanded me to turn out the lights, her eyes glowed the same red I had seen earlier in Christine’s.

“Hurry,” she hissed. “You’re not ready to see this.”

I tripped over a chair. I groped for the dining room switch. In the last moment before I cut the lights, I saw my sisters, my new, werewolf sisters, beginning to turn.

“Turn out the light!” Christine screamed. She had collapsed to the floor. Her body twisted in ways I couldn’t comprehend; legs bent in impossible directions, fingers, tipped with claws. Enormous fangs were descending from her smile, her beautiful smile, and I flipped the switch.

In the darkness, Susannah found me. Her transformation was not yet complete, and she seemed to have more control than her younger siblings. She gripped my arm with a clawed hand. I could feel fur – fur – as she edged close to me and whispered instructions.

“Get in the basement,” she said. “Lock the door. No matter what you hear, do not come back upstairs until morning.”

She was pushing me, almost lifting me off my feet, and carrying me by the arm toward the basement door.

“What is it? Out there. Is that a hunter?”

“Worse,” she said. “It’s Mom.”

I heard Laura and Christine, now fully transformed, growling and, for lack of better words, barking. Our mother was beating against the front door, and my sisters were holding her at bay.

“What does she want?” I asked.

“You’re the last male in our family. She wants you, Rob. She wants you dead.”

The front door splintered. Wolves screamed. Susannah’s body jerked violently as she continued to change. She looked at me, red eyes and fangs.

“Go! Now!”

And that was the last time I saw Susannah. I shut the basement door and fled downstairs in the dark. I found the furthest corner I could and hid there, listening as my sisters fought for my life in the house above.

I don’t know for how long my family fought, but the house shook like it was in the middle of a hurricane for what must have been hours. During every moment of the battle, the muscles in my body were tight, and the lure of power was staggering. I wanted to help my sisters but knew I was out of my element. For now, anyway.

I didn’t notice the noise settle and didn’t hear as wolves whimpered in defeat or howled in victory. I woke the next morning, stiff and still tucked away in the basement. I climbed the stairs to find the basement door shredded. Mom had evidently tried to get in. I had to step over a pool of blood that I hoped belonged to her and not whichever sister stopped our mother from finding me.

I walked through the house. It would have been just as well if my mom had succeeded in killing me, because Lydia certainly would when she saw the mess. Curtains were pulled from the windows, and feathers covered the floor from ruined pillows. Blood was pooled, here and there, and the front door was destroyed. My sisters were nowhere to be seen.

Lydia would return Sunday evening; if I could find someone to replace the front door and the basement door, the rest was cosmetic; she would never know what had taken place.

As I was sweeping glass from the dining room hardwoods, a familiar black SUV pulled in to my driveway. The driver’s side door opened, and Laura got out. She waved as she made her way to the porch.

She took my shoulders at arm’s length and looked me over. Our eyes were the same, but hers were filling with tears. She hugged me.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine, yes,” she said. “But Susannah is hurt pretty bad. Christine is taking her back home to help her heal. We can’t exactly go to hospitals, you know.”

We sat on the sofa.

“Look, Rob. Mom got the worst of it last night. She’ll be out of commission a lot longer than Susannah. You have four days to choose. I’m not going to ask you what you want; only you can decide.”

She took my hand in hers. I wondered at the claws I knew were somewhere in there, waiting for the moment to unleash their violence.

“No matter what, Rob, you’ve got three sisters who will always love you.”

I had waited my whole life for that kind of unconditional love.

“What happens now?” I asked.

“Well, if you complete the cycle, you’ll be one of us. We’ll probably go with Christine, to Australia. We feel safest there.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Honestly, Rob, we’ll have to keep our distance. Mom won’t care about you anymore, so you have nothing to fear from her. But there are others who might take an interest in you if we keep hanging around.”

A tear fell, and she wiped it away.

“You’d never see us again, Rob. I’m afraid that’s the choice you have to make.”

There was nothing left to say. I walked her to her car and hugged her goodbye.

“If you do choose to turn, I’ll be here, waiting. I’ll help you and take you home.”

We didn’t discuss the ‘if not’ option. Laura drove away into the hot Louisiana morning and left me to put my house back together before Lydia and the kids got home.