Their First Night
Lara and the wolf stand in the shadows of the hallway observing each other. Cautiously, he tilts his head down so that they are now eye level. The girl before him was a bit on the short side, probably around 5’2”. The other one was three or more inches taller. The shorter one was also full-figured, at least compared to any hunters he had come across. One does not normally see curvy women in that vocation. She watches him with large, curious eyes, and he found that he longed to know their color. Her full lips smile shyly up at him as she slowly raises her hand and holds it out towards him. Still keeping his distance he sniffs the air around her. He didn’t detect anything threatening about this strange girl. No gunpowder, no wolf’s bane, no poisons or silver. Just the comforting scent of vanilla and honey. Her scent. Fuck, she smells good…
Tara watches as the massive animal smells her sister’s hand and has a vision of the beast lunging forward and swallowing the young woman whole. Not caring for the sudden mental, she blinks the image away. Tara was past the point of done with standing in this creepy hallway with this giant, creepy dog.
She walks up behind her sister and shakes Lara’s shoulder, “Hey, you coming?”
Startled, Lara jolts out of her daze, “S-Sorry, did you say something?”
Groaning, Tara asks her again if she is coming downstairs. With a nod from the older sister, the two are off to continue exploring. The wolf follows a few steps behind, keeping a watchful eye on these newcomers.
Hearing the stairs creak above them, the two women turn to see the wolf standing on the landing watching them.
Uneasy, Tara tears her eyes off the wolf and continues her decent, “ Seems we have a shadow.”
Lara gives the canine a quick smile before following her sister, “Looks like it.”
“He is seriously giving me the creeps,” Tara tells her in a hushed tone. She didn’t care for the gooseflesh crawling up her arms as the wolf silently watches them.
“Oh? I think it’s kind of nice having a dog around. Mother never would let us have a pet.”
“That is not a pet. A pet is a Pomeranian or a Pug or something. That is a freak of nature, like something you’d see on Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Turn down exit 205 folks to see the world’s largest dog and his sidekick Gigi, the two-headed guinea pig.”
The wolf lets out an exasperated huff and scowls at the younger sister. Great, little twit’s got jokes. Just fucking great. Not that she has any right to talk when her hair looks like it came from the backside of a clown. How did they get in here anyway? They mentioned Drake and Orlov. Friends of theirs perhaps? No, they would have said something if either of them were expecting company. The housekeeping ad! Damn, forgot all about it. I certainly don’t remember agreeing to two! Damn it, Drake…
Having already had a good look at the formal living room, the girls turn their attention to the den. The decor here is more modern than the living room, and darker, being in earthy shades of browns and grays. There was a large L shaped leather sofa, a glass coffee table, and a good-sized entertainment center. While this room is less dusty than the living room, the air here is stale and the place is in bad need of a good cleaning.
Tara gazes around the room and nods, “One could get used to this.”
With a curious gaze, Lara looks over the artwork on the walls, “Everything here is so nice. All the furnishings are high quality, and the art looks authentic, not like that printed on canvas stuff you get at the department store. Some of these have to be hundreds of years old. I’m surprised this place isn’t kept in better shape.”
Letting out a girly squeak, Tara dashes over to the entertainment center, “Oh sweet, widescreen! We’ve got to invite Vicki and Alex here for a movie night!”
Lara turns her attention away from the painting and scowls at her sister, “Do you think it’s wise to make plans like that on our first day? We don’t even know if we’re allowed to have guests yet.”
“Why not, we live here now, right?” Tara asks with a shrug of her shoulders.
“We work here. Let’s find out the rules first before you decide to have a kegger.”
“Keggers are for losers. Movie night is where it’s at,” she gives Lara an exaggerated hair flip before walking out to go explore the next room.
The girls go across the entryway and pass the formal living room. Down the east hall, they find a coat closet reeking of mothballs, an office, and a large linen closet. All the rooms so far have the same dark wood floors, dark-toned Victorian-style furnishings, and dark-tinted walls.
“I’m sensing a theme here,” says Tara.
Lara looks at an old-fashioned typewriter on an oak desk in the office, “Oh?”
“Yup, dark. Dark, dark, dark. I think Boss Man might be a bit of a goth.”
Lara turns her attention to a cranberry-colored hurricane lamp, “I doubt that. This stuff is pretty old. Most of it is probably original to the house.”
“A stuffy old man then.”
She gives Tara a playful slap on the arm, “Come on, let’s look around somewhere else.”
They walk out of the office and look down the hall to see that it splits in two directions.
“I’m starting to think Jim Henson designed this place,” Tara says, brushing a purple and green strand of hair from her face.
“It’s a freaking maze. I’m half expecting David Bowie to show up wearing tight pants and offering me a glass bauble.”
Lara stares down the hall and says, “I was thinking more the Labyrinth of Crete.”
“I’ll take Bowie over a Minotaur any day.”
Lara looks back down the hall they came from, then pops her head back in the office, “Um Tara, shouldn’t this room be bigger?”
Tara copies her sister, looking down the hallway and then back into the office, “Now, that’s weird. This wall looks way longer out here. Maybe it’s an optical illusion? A trick of the light or something?”
“Maybe. It’s just… it looks like there should be another room here.”
“We’ll check it out more when we have more daylight. Come on.”
They go back out into the hall and Tara asks, “So, which way?”
They walk down the right hall to find an exercise room, a bathroom, and the door to the garage.
Tara opens the garage door and peeks inside, “Boring.”
Lara moves on and finds a set of wooden pocket doors across from the exercise room. She gently slides them apart to reveal a large dining hall. The room is elegantly decorated in shades of blue and silver, with intricately carved mahogany and rosewood furniture. Four long tables stand in the room’s center, each with eight tall-backed chairs. Four crystal chandeliers, one for each table, hang suspended from the ceiling.
Tara lets out a low whistle, then says, “Wow, ritzy. Cobwebs kind of make it look like the dining room in a haunted hotel. Oh, or maybe Dracula’s castle! Oooo!”
She wiggles her fingers in Lara’s face while making ghostly sounds. The wolf walks passed them, his tail brushing up against the back of Tara’s legs.
Startled, Tara jumps to the side and nearly knocks over her sister, “Shit! What was that?”
Whipping around she notices the wolf standing behind her and scowls down at him, causing Lara to bust into a fit of giggles.
Tara turns her scowl towards her sister, “Not funny. I completely forgot about the mutt.”
“Were you expecting a ghost? Dracula maybe?” Lara asks in between giggles.
“Just warn me before he pulls something like that alright? The dog is seriously freaking me out.”
“Oh Tara, honestly. There’s nothing freaky about our new housemate. See?” Lara strokes the thick fur along the wolf’s back.
Her touch sends a tingling sensation down the wolf’s spine. Annoyed, he gives a low growl and shakes her off, backing away so that he is just out of reach.
Tara rolls her eyes at her sister, “Oh yeah, nothing at all freaky about a big, angry dog.”
Trying not to feel hurt, Lara shrugs and walks towards the next set of doors, “Guess he hasn’t warmed up to me, yet.”
“You’d probably have better luck warming up a snowman. I don’t think he’s the cuddly lap dog type. You are missing out pal, Sis here gives great head rubs.”
The wolf huffs at the two girls, an uninterested look set firmly on his face. He trails along silently behind them, making sure to keep out of arms reach. He could still feel where the nice smelling one’s fingers ran through his fur, causing the skin on his shoulders to twitch. He wasn’t sure what bothered him more, the suddenness of it, or the fact that he didn’t find her touch entirely unpleasant. He did not doubt that what the annoying one said was true, he just had no intention of finding out. She was right about one thing, he was not a pet. The sooner these two figure that out, the better.
The next pocket door leads to a long narrow room filled with floor to ceiling shelves and cabinets. Each wooden shelf was packed with white china flatware and serving dishes.
Tara opens one of the cabinets to find it filled with musky linen tablecloths and napkins, “They have a freaking room for dishes. Who the hell has a freaking room for dishes?”
Lara examines another cabinet to find it filled with draws full of silverware, “I think they call this a butler’s pantry.”
“Rich folk even have a place to store their butlers. Guess we lucked out getting our own rooms. No maid’s closet for us, yeah!”
The wolf rolls his eyes at the younger sister. What could have possessed Drake and Orlov to hire these two on? They’re practically children. Strange, annoying, loud children.
They walk through a door directly across from the one they came in at and enter the kitchen. Up until now, all the rooms have been tidy, just dusty and stale from lack of use. The kitchen, on the other hand, looks like a war zone. The counters and sink are covered in mountains of dirty, grime-encrusted dishes. Old pizza and take-out boxes litter the large kitchen island and the wooden, circular table in the middle of the room. Behind one side of the L shaped counter is a breakfast nook, its table, and benches covered in old junk mail ads and empty foam noodle cups.
Tara walks across the room and opens the refrigerator, only to quickly shut the door.
Lara looks at her sister, concerned, “ What? What is it?”
“You don’t want to know,” she tells her, looking a little greener than when she came in.
Lara surveys the room around her and shakes her head, “Well, if we want to eat tonight we better get cleaning.”
Tara’s shoulders slump, “Damn. And, I was looking forward to a little downtime before tomorrow.”
Lara starts pulling out cleaning supplies from underneath the sink. Tara grabs a broom, dustpan, and trash bags from the pantry. The older sister puts on gloves and starts washing dishes while the younger cleans the countertops of trash. Meanwhile, the wolf sits in front of the basement door, watching the two as they rush about their tasks.
After some time, Lara rubs her hands to get the feeling back in them, suds dripping from her vinyl gloves and down her arms, “I have never seen so many dirty dishes! My fingers feel like prunes!”
Tara pops her back and groans, “You think you’ve got it bad! I’m pretty sure this mold is sentient!” She tosses the slimy mound of goo from the fridge into a trash bag.
They don’t finish until well after dark, but the kitchen now sparkles and all dishes have been cleaned and put away. Sweaty, dirty, and wiped out, the two sisters slump down at the kitchen table.
Head down, Lara stretches her tired arms across the table and says, “ I’m beat. I don’t think I can stand anymore, least of all cook!”
Tara leans her head back and stares blankly at the ceiling, “I think that mold winked at me.”
Lara’s head pops up, “What?”
Yawning, the wolf gets up from his nap in front of the basement doorway, stretching until his shoulders and back pop. He blinks the sleep from his eyes and looks around the now spotless kitchen. The shining countertops and freshly mopped floor nearly cause the canine’s jaw to drop. It even smelled clean, not like ancient take-out and stale pizza, but truly clean! And, they had done all of this in only a few hours! He hated to admit it, but Drake and Orlov may have been right. Maybe having these two around won’t be so-
“Hey mutt, you have a good nap? Get bored of watching us slave way?” Tara asks the awestruck wolf.
Then again, is it worth putting up with Mouthy here?
Lara flexes her sore, pruney fingers, “Were you expecting him to pick up a dustpan and broom with those thumbless paws of his?”
“Not really, but you have to admit the snoring was a little distracting.”
Insulted, the wolf glares at her and lets out a small growl. Tara glares right back at him, sticking her tongue out in childish rebellion.
Lara stretches her legs under the table, “Don’t know about you two, but I’m beat. Maybe we should head off to bed. I’ll check out our food situation in the morning.”
“Sounds good to me,” Tara gets up and walks to the door before stopping short and looking back at her sister, “Hey, Lara?”
“You remember how to get to our rooms?”
She thinks for a bit, then groggily shakes her head no.
Annoyed, the wolf huffs then walks over to Tara and begins nudging her out the kitchen door.
Freaked out, Tara jumps away from him, only to have the massive canine push her forward again, “Hey! Quit it! What are you doing?”
“I think he’s trying to tell you something,” Lara tells her sister, trying to hold back her giggles as she watches the two’s awkward tango.
Tara scowls down at the massive canine and asks, “What is it, boy? Timmy trapped in that blasted well again?”
The wolf grumbles at Tara and walks away to try his luck with the other sister. He grabs Lara by the sleeve of her sweater and pulls her from the chair and towards the door.
Lara tries in vain to shake him off, “What on Earth? Hey!”
He half drags, half leads her out of the kitchen and down the maze of hallways to the stairway in the entry hall. Lara has to practically run to keep up with the beast’s long strides.
Tara runs after them shouting, “Hey! Let go of her, you crazy mutt!”
“Tara wait! I think he is leading us to our rooms,” Lara tells her as she desperately tries to keep up with the wolf.
“You have got to be kidding me. Lara, it’s a dog, he can’t-”
He lets go of Lara’s sleeve and walks up the stairs. Once at the top, he looks back at the two girls and lets out a deep bark.
Lara looks up at the wolf, then back at her sister, “You were saying?”
“Now that’s just freaky,” Tara breathes out as she slowly follows her sister up the stairs.
Once they reach the top the wolf leads them down the long dark hallway of the West Wing. He slows down his pace to match the sisters, occasionally looking back to make sure they have not fallen behind. They turn left down a familiar hallway, the exterior wall covered in floor-to-ceiling windows. Lara stops and looks out at the breathtaking view of the estate grounds. The moon is just beginning to peek above the treeline, and the sky is filled with glittering stars. No glowing street lamps or car headlights hinder her view here as they did back at the shabby apartment they once called home. Here she could make out the red glow of Mars, and the constellations Andromeda and Aries. It was so quiet here. No car alarms or arguing neighbors. Just the wind through the trees and the soft panting of the dog at her side.
Tara walks up to her and puts her hand on her sister’s shoulder, “Hey Lar, you coming?”
“Sorry, guess I got a little distracted. It’s just… I would never have guessed a place like this existed. Not here anyway. And we’re living here now. It doesn’t seem real somehow.”
“Trust me, that nightmare mold was most definitely real,” Tara tells her, popping her sore back.
Lara looks down at her pruney and blistered finger, “Nothing good comes without a price right?”
Her sister shrugs and says, “Not like we didn’t plan to get jobs anyways. And this place sure as hell beats anything we would have been able to afford.”
Lara rolls her eyes at her sister’s reflection in the window, “Oh, so now you’re okay with living in Frankenstein’s castle?”
“What can I say, the down pillow convinced me to keep an open mind. Speaking of pillows, I’d like to be hitting that now. If I stay up any longer I’m going to pass sleepy and reach the walking dead stage.”
“You’re right, let’s get some shut-eye. I want to get up early and get to the store before the rest of the house wakes up.”
Tara cocks a brow at her and asks, “Trying to win them over with one of your amazing breakfast?”
“Maybe,” Lara answers with a cheeky grin.
The wolf’s ears perk up at the mention of breakfast. It has been some time since he had anything he would consider real food. With renewed interest, he grabs hold of Lara’s sleeve and pulls her towards their rooms.
Tara runs after them, “What the hell got into him?”
“I-I guess he thinks we should be in bed too,” Lara tells her, trying not to trip on the wolf’s legs as she rushes along beside him.
He lets go of her once he reaches her door, careful not to snag his teeth on the threads of her sweater. Lara looks over her arm and sees that while it is a bit damp her sleeve is no worse for wear.
Tara looks up at the door in front of them and scratches her head, “What do you know, Lassie’s got some brains!”
The wolf whips his head to the side and glares at the younger sister.
Smiling, Lara bends down and rubs his head, scratching the spot just behind his ear, “Thanks for the help-”
He shakes her off and slinks down the hall to the East Wing, trying to ignore how her sudden touch made the breath catch in his throat.
Tara watches the animal leave and shakes her head, “Weird dog.”