Madelyn

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-15-

Madelyn ran. She ran from them. She ran from the knowledge her parents had lied to her all her life, never telling her that her mother wasn’t really her mother.

When she got near the edge of her property, she slowed. Her little stream was just up ahead.

Her parents had owned this property before they died. Brian found it for them. Or, perhaps it was more like he provided it to them. She’d never asked about the previous owners of the property. Perhaps she should find out about them.

She stopped at the riverbank. Crouching down, she dipped her head low and took a drink. The cool water was refreshing after the hard run she’d just taken. When she’d had her fill, she moved a few feet away from the water’s edge and settled herself under a tree, laying her head down on her crossed forepaws. Sighing softly, she closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of nature. Birds sang and flitted from branch to branch, no doubt eyeing both the ground and the wolf that rested not far from some choice-looking bugs. Squirrels ran and chattered on the far bank.

As she rested, she thought back to before her parents died. Or, to when her father and her stepmother died. Letting out another heavy sigh, she pushed those memories aside and slipped into a light sleep.

***

“Maddy!”

“Yes, Mother?” Madelyn called back to her mother as she was playing with her toys in the sandbox.

“It looks like it’s going to rain, please come inside!”

“It’s still warm out here, Mother,” she said. “Please let me stay outside. If it starts to rain, I promise I’ll move to the porch to play.”

She watched as her mother slowly smiled and knew she’d won.

“Alright, but only for a little while,” mother responded before turning to go back into the house.

The 7 year old girl was nearly finished with her sandcastle when she felt the first few drops hit her head and hands. She tilted her face to the sky and felt another one, two three drops hit her forehead and cheeks. Giggling, she stood up and ran for the covered porch and sat down in her chair by the window to her parents’ study to watch the rain fall.

She’d been watching the rain for about 10 minutes when she heard voices in the study. Slipping out of her chair, she knelt below the window and stretched to look inside. Mother and Daddy were there, as was Uncle Brian. They were arguing about something. A sound behind her made her turn, causing her to come face to face with the big wolf that was always following her around the woods.

Gasping, she backed up against the wall as the wolf came closer and sniffed at her before his ears moved to attention. He was listening to the voices coming from the study.

“No, I don’t think you should send her away,” Uncle Brian was saying.

“She needs better schooling than the local schools can provide, Brian,” her mother replied. “And we have the resources to give it to her.”

“I will get her tutors, Marie. She needs to stay here,” Uncle Brian said.

“Why?” Daddy asked him.

“She’s safest here, Richard. You know that.”

She could hear Uncle Brian going through some papers.

“Here are some references to some of the best tutors I could find. Richard, Marie, you both know why she needs to stay here. She should not go anywhere else for any reason, not until the danger is past.” The room was silent for several minutes.

“Danger?” Maddy whispered, confused. She’d never known there was any danger for her, anywhere. What weren’t they telling her? She looked at the wolf, who was still listening to the adults talking. “Do you know what they’re talking about?” she whispered to him. He looked at her, cocking his head slightly, his eyes attempting to speak to her of things her young mind could not comprehend.

“Yes,” Mother finally conceded. “She is safest here, I will grant you that.” There was a long pause. She could hear pieces of paper being turned. “Brian,” Mother said haltingly, “how about a compromise?

“I’m listening.” Uncle Brian replied.

“If we hire two of these tutors, we will also send her once a month for one week for instruction by this school...” her mother paused a moment. “It is a boarding school, and they modify according to each student’s needs. She can spend one week every month there, getting more hands-on instruction by several more teachers, then come home for three weeks for instruction by your tutors.

Madelyn looked at the big wolf and whispered, “Why am I safest here, boy? I don’t understand it.”

She noticed the rain had stopped. For a moment, she thought about going inside to give Uncle Brian a big hug, but decided against it. Instead, she moved to her hands and knees and crawled slowly past the wolf, watching him the whole time, and then made her way quietly down the stairs. Once down them, she took off at a full run into the woods, knowing her wolf was behind her, as always.

She ran until she was panting, slowed some to catch her breath, then ran again till she reached a small clearing beside the stream that ran through their property. This was at the far edge of the property, further than her secret place was, and was a place she was sure her parents didn’t know she visited. Plopping down on the cool grass under a tree, she sat for a bit until she finally dozed off.

The wolf had followed her here and was watching over her from the far edge of the clearing. He sat as he watched her sleeping, wondering what she would look like one day, and how she would react when he came to claim her. He was so lost in those thoughts that he nearly missed the scent.

Madelyn awoke to the sound of the wolf growling. She could have sworn he’d called out her name and told her to run, but she figured she was just imagining things. Sitting up, she stretched a little and looked around for the wolf. Her eyes alighted on him finally and went wide as she took in the sight.

There was a boy on the far side of the stream. He was just standing there watching her, ignoring the wolf’s advances on him. She gasped softly as two men stepped from the woods behind the boy. The wolf moved between her and them and she took that as her cue to leave.

She ran through the forest, not slowing till she reached the clearing that contained her home, running straight into her mother’s arms.


***

He watched her from the shadows. The little wolf would be easy to take, with her senses pulled so closely around her. He could tell she wasn’t monitoring her surroundings very well. ‘Perhaps she’s hurt?’ he wondered quietly, to himself. He hoped it wasn’t the case, but he wasn’t going to take any chances and walked very slowly and quietly toward her.

He stepped lightly around the golden wolf, quickly administering a small puff of a drug that would set her into a much deeper sleep. Taking her into his arms, he quickly made his way off Madelyn’s land, his ears listening intently for any sounds in the forest around him, especially for the sounds of the other wolves taking chase.

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