Chapter 1 ♕
I opened the metal gate and reached for the kitten that sat huddled in the corner. “Don’t worry” I said softly, while I picked up the small animal and pressed it against me.
And as soon as I scratched the kitten behind his ears he instantly calmed down. I closed the metal gate again and went back to the waiting room with the kitten in my arms.
There an old woman was waiting for me. Her trembling hands rubbed nervously around the handle of her purse. Mrs. Lawson had called several times last week to ask about her cat’s condition. I had heard that her husband died shortly after they bought Milo. Now the cat was all she had left.
So it was understandable that she had been upset when the kitten suddenly refused to eat. It turned out that little Milo had problems with his intestinal tract, but that was resolved with a small standard operation. However, he did have to stay for observation for several more days to make sure it wouldn’t return.
I had been busy with one operation after the other all week and therefore had little or no opportunity to receive my own clients. As a result, this was the first time I had personally come face to face with Mrs. Lawson. She seemed like a nice old lady. The kind who carries candy in her purse and says you remind her of her own grandchild. I feel a known twinge in my abdomen that I immediately suppress. It was neither the right time nor the place for that.
Mrs. Lawson had noticed me and came shuffling over to me with hands outstretched. The next moment she had taken the animal from me and was holding it against her face. Then she looked up at me gratefully. She lowered the kitten and I saw her eyes widen.
She was trying to hide it and I appreciated the intention, but it was already too late. She hadn’t meant to make me feel embarrassed. So I gave her a reassuring smile, while shaking my head as a sign that I didn’t mind.
For a long time now, I had grown accustomed to the sideways glances people gave me on the street. I had learned to deal with rude questions from people who just didn’t know any better. The only thing I struggled with every now and then was when people were right in front of me and seemed unable to look at anything else. As if my condition was the strangest thing they’d ever seen. But I found that hard to believe, because they were still just eyes.
The medical term for my condition was heterochromia iridum. What meant that my right eye was deep blue, and my left light green.
The old lady’s cheeks turned red. I didn’t want to embarrass her any further, so I reassured her that it was all good. Then I leaned forward and stroked the animal on it’s head.
I looked at her as she left the waiting room and then picked up a pile of documents from the desk to check my next patient’s medical records.
After an eleven-hour work shift, I was relieved when I finally was allowed to close up the practice and walk home. I rented a small wooden cabin from a old married couple on the outskirts of town. It had previously been a shed and was rather run down, but I didn’t care.
As I zipped up my jacket and buried my hands in my pockets, I stared up at the top of the hill. The shed looked rather frightening in the dark, certainly not cozy, or the way a home should look.
Once the door creaked shut behind me, I fell back against it and sighed exhausted. I walked down the narrow hallway to my bedroom, opened my wardrobe and changed into something a little more comfortable. My bedroom was small, and the only other separate room besides the bathroom. It held just enough space for a bed and wardrobe.
I took the elastic out of my hair and let my red locks fall freely over my shoulders. The length came to my lower back. I was in a constant battle over whether to cut it or not, but my adoptive mother had always expressed how beautiful she had found my hair, so up to this day I had not managed to get it over my heart to cut it off, even if it would be much more practical with my work.
It had been three years since the day I had to bury my adoptive parents, after they died in a car accident. I had loved them so much, that after the first few weeks of their deaths I couldn’t do anything but cry.
A part om me wanted to be angry for the situation they had left me in. After their death I had had to sell the house I had lived in for as long as I could remember and with the proceeds I paid for their funerals. Afterwards there was nothing left for me. So I had been forced to move here.
I wanted to blame them, but I just couldn’t. Because if it hadn’t been for them, everything would have been different. They were the ones who had saved me as a baby.
When I was just a few weeks old, I had been found by someone in the forest. Wrapped in nothing more than a blanket, I was left there. That person brought me to the orphanage where I spent the first months of my life.
There were countless couples who had wanted to adopt me, but from the stories my parents had heard from the caretakers, I had cried uncontrollably each time some of them wanted to take me. Only with them I had been quiet, sleeping peacefully in the arms of my new mother.
I had always wondered how anyone could have thought of leaving me, in the middle of nowhere. There just had to be something wrong with me. I had always blamed my eyes.
After spending the first few months crying, I decided it was time to move on. I took a side job at the local vet and worked as many hours as possible sweeping the floor and cleaning kennels. Eventually I had earned enough money to go to university and learn to be a veterinarian.
I decided to live cheaply. My dream was buy my own house and to open my own practice one day. I was happy with my simple life. I repeated those words several times in my head. Like a broken cassette tape that had to be heard.
As I walked into my kitchen to prepare my dinner, I thought about what shifts I could take over from my colleagues to get more hours this weekend. Lost in thought, I prepared my dinner on the stove and then sat down at the table. Thoughtlessly I put my fork in the tasteless boiled potatoes and craved a tender piece of meat.
After I finished my dinner and put the dishes in the sink, I went back to my room. I hadn’t realized it was already that late. In the practice, I was often the one who came first and the last to go home. As a result, I worked ridiculously long days, but some animals just needed more attention than others.
Completely exhausted, I fell down on my bed. The mattress was outdated and damaged, so I often slept badly. I stared at the ceiling for a few seconds and instantly suppressed any feelings that normally arose as soon as my head wasn’t filled with work or paying bills for a second.
Perhaps it was better that I worked such long hours, if I had not, I would have had too much time on my hands to think about how my life turned out. In addition, it was an added advantage that I did not even feel the mattress while I pulled the thin blankets up to my chin.
A yawn escaped from my mouth and eventually my eyelids became heavy and I was slowly carried away.
Before anything else, there was a sound.
It was low, growling and menacing. I looked around restlessly and scrambled back when I heard something. Panic shot through me and my breath caught in my throat.
I was completely petrified when a light was thrown on my surroundings out of nowhere. My gaze moved up and I saw that a moon had emerged from behind some clouds. When I looked around again, I saw that I was in a clearing, in what looked like the middle of a forest. Unfortunately, the light had portrayed more than just the trees.
Yellow eyes stared at me from all sides. I heard creatures growl loudly. A violent shiver ran through my life that eventually found its way out in the form of a soft whimper. I immediately went down on my knees and made myself as small as possible. I squeezed my eyes shut.
In my mind I called for my parents. My father’s strong arms and my mother’s words of reassurance. But neither was going to come. Because I had no one left. They were gone. I was all alone. Always alone.
I heard the growl approaching. They came for me. I was shaking with fear. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be alone. Then suddenly I felt a hot breath on my skin and made the big mistake of opening my eyes.
I stared straight into a pair of yellow eyes and screamed. The animal towered over me from my position on the ground, but I doubted even if I would not have been smaller still. The wolf looked at me with a look in his eyes where I could almost see the desire. He wanted to hurt me. I tried to get away, but the eyes followed me. They would follow me anywhere.
The creature opened its mouth to reveal sharp teeth that could easily rip me apart. My body was overcome with fear. I couldn’t move anymore. I watched as my end drew near. I simply just gave up. I even bared my neck to the creature so that my death could at least be quick and painless.
Suddenly he had disappeared.
I looked in astonishment at the new creature that had appeared before my eyes. It was not like anything I had ever seen before. He towered over me, holding the creature that had threatened me in his claw, his nails pierced through the creature’s skin. He looked over his shoulder, his eyes were blood red. I should be screaming, but I didn’t. I relaxed instead.
Because those red eyes were different.
My sleep was disturbed by a deafening bang. In a mixture of waving limbs, I sat up in my bed and looked around me disoriented. I had no idea what time it was or what the hell happened.
I cringed when my hearing was ravaged again with a loud bang, but this time I was able to place the sound. A gunshot. Immediately after the shot was fired, I heard the howling I recognized all too well. An injured animal.
For a second I sat in my bed like a frozen statue and didn’t know what to do. I immediately saw those red eyes again and felt calm, but then there was a second loud cry through the night, then my body made the decision for me.
What kind of person would I be if I left an animal to suffer.
Before I even realized it, I was already standing in front of my wardrobe, busy with the weary process of hoisting jeans over my ass. In my kitchen, I pulled out a flashlight from the top drawer and headed for the door.
“I hope I’m not going to regret this,” I thought to myself, before disappearing into the dark night and closing my door with a cracking sound behind me.