Q U A T R O
“Joanna! Good morning darling.” Was the first thing she heard when she got to work the next morning. Other rangers stood around a large wooden table, some with donuts in front of them and others with cups of steaming coffees. She was the only one who had none. Quite frankly, she couldn’t understand the benefits of having breakfast. She never had it.
Her doctor had made sure to let her know several times that she needed her breakfast because it was nutritious and healthy, still, she never had it. Food was scarce and she wouldn’t allow her son to starve.
“Morning.” She mumbled to the brunette, stepping aside to grab her coat and her boots. She sat in a bench and began to lace up her boots when a pair of red sneakers appeared in her line of vision. With a sigh, she stood up and placed her upper arms on her knees.
The woman, Clarice, smiled sweetly at her with a fake sweetness that could nauseate even the biggest of candy lovers. She knelt down in front of the mother and pouted, placing her hand on Joanna’s knee. Jo frowned deeply. She hated having her colleagues touch her.
“Jo, darling, how’s life?”
Joanna frowned, a little taken back by the question. She knew Clarice a little too much to know that she meant something else by this conversation.
“It’s fine, why do you ask?”
Clarice nodded, not looking particularly convinced.
“How’s that son of yours?”
“You know ━ My daughter told me that your kid talks to himself sometimes.” Without allowing Jo to continue, she proceeded. “She says most kids are scared of him because he’s a bit on the weird side, so, being the absolute sweetheart we all know I am, I decided to come ask you how you were doing because to be honest it can’t be too easy dealing with a kid who’s not normal. I’d die of embarrassment if that was my daughter. If you can’t afford we can always send him aw━━”
Joanna stood up before the woman could say anything else and the older woman tumbled towards the ground. Her mouth was agape but Jo didn’t notice anything, she was fuming. She grabbed Clarice by her expensive looking clothes and slammed her against the wall. Silence reigned down on them, as the others stopped talking to pry long ago.
“Let this serve as message to you and everyone else who talks about my son!” She nearly yelled out the words. “My son is fine the way he is and if you or anyone else has a problem, then I suggest you write a letter about it and shove it up your ass along with all your pretentious bullshit.”
She slammed the woman harshly and turned around, walking out of the building.
By the time she reached the ranger’s jeep, she was crying.
She hopped inside and started it but she only drove far enough so no one could find her. Hidden amidst the trees, she began sobbing so harshly that she was sure they could hear her from the park.
Then, as if somehow getting out of the damned car would bring control back to her life, she got out and sat down with her back pressed against the tree. She hid her face between her hands.
Why were people always so interested in tearing down such a small child? She, above everyone else, knew what people in this town did to children who weren’t looked after but Noah ━━ Noah was her baby. Noah was her whole life. Why would it matter if he wasn’t like other children? He was kind and the most intelligent person she had ever witnessed. Why did it matter that he didn’t talk?
While she was lost in her own thoughts, she felt something wet lick at her hands. When she pulled them away, the same wolf from the day before was licking them. At first, her first instinct was to remain calm even though she was freaking out. After a few minutes of him licking her hands and laying down on her lap, she realized he wouldn’t harm her so, tentatively she ran her fingers through his fur. He whined when she stopped.
“Would you like to know something? I like animals better than I like humans.” She smiled at him.
He nuzzled against her cheeks as if he was scent marking her. A common thing among wolves.
When she tried to pull away, he tried to stick his tongue inside her mouth.
“Oh god, I forgot you guys love doing that.” She laughed when he became insistent.
It had been one of the first things she had learned in training. If you were ever lucky enough to find a wolf who didn’t attack you, it was common for them to try and stick their tongues inside your mouth. They loved the smell that came from it.
By the time she stopped playing with the wolf, it was time to go home. She quite frankly felt exhausted even though she literally had done nothing. She tried to pull away from the wolf but at first he wouldn’t let her.
“I’ll come back tomorrow, I promise.” She mumbled into his fur as if he could somehow comprehend her. Still, he pulled away and sat down while she left.
It was 7PM in the afternoon when Joanna parked outside her house. The lights were on and she could see the outline of Chelsea’s figure in the kitchen.
When she opened the door and hanged her coat, she walked towards the kitchen and there was indeed Chelsea cleaning plates.
“I’m sorry I’m late. I had to grab something on my way home.”
She pushed the bundle closer to her chest and the teenager shrugged, looking a little bit displeased with the hours. Joanna understood her even though she paid her weekly.
“If you don’t need me anymore, I’m going home.” She mumbled, wiping her hands on an old cloth. “Noah’s already ate. He said 7 wasn’t dinner time.”
Joanna nodded and the teenager left, trudging towards the living room to grab her things and say goodbye to Noah, who never answered her. Then, she left, slamming the door on her way out.
When Jo went to find Noah, he was perched on the sofa with his hands folded over his lap, staring intently at the wall ahead of him. He made no sounds whatsoever.
His head snapped towards her.
“I have a present for you.” She mumbled, moving forward to kneel in front of him. She placed the bundle gently on the couch next to Noah and the latter looked at his mother once before peeking inside the blanket.
His eyes lit up slightly but still he didn’t say anything. Gently, he simply laid down beside the animal and cuddled him.
“This is Duke.” She whispered. The sleeping animal huffed for a brief moment and cuddled closer to her son, even going as far as laying his tiny head on Noah’s neck.
She could see that it bothered him slightly but not enough to push the animal away.
After a while, Noah fell asleep too and she couldn’t bring herself to touch them in anyway, feeling scared that she might wake them up.
She found herself wondering though, wondering how could people speak so poorly of a child who had so much love to give.
The only problem was, he had no idea how.
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