Chapter 03 - Strawberries
Patricia had wandered off into the mountain range, high above the city and into the endless pine forest that covered a large majority of the pack lands. The crisp air was sharp against my lungs as I panted for air as I followed after her, following her scent that lingered softly through the trees and rocks that covered the steep slopes.
Halfway up the mountain she had stopped, standing atop of a cliff that overshadowed the nearby trees, leaving for a breath taking view of the mountain range and city tucked away in the hills below.
Her black hair fluttered around her as she looked off into the horizon, fixed on something unseen. Exhausted and relieved to have finally found her, I stood next to her but simply appreciated the view with her, enjoying the silence that the forest offered.
The sky was now a light blue, nearly white as the sun began to set before us, the clouds stained with pinks, oranges and yellows that were more vibrant that the ripest citrus fruits. The mountains range before us now cast in shadows, lacking light and blocked the light on the near by areas, if it wasn’t for the warm colour in the sky, the landscape would have looked as cold and harsh as the breeze that carved away at the stone.
“You shouldn’t be up here, it’s dangerous,” Patricia said, finally talking over the sound of the forest.
I shrugged, “No more dangerous than it is for you,” I hummed, rubbing my hands together as my body cooled off from the hike up hill.
“I think Nate would beg to differ,” she scoffed, taking my hand and looking at the ring on my finger, “it looks good on you.”
I smiled and looked at the ring. To be honest, I’d never expected him to propose – I figured it was a more human tradition that wouldn’t interest him, but everything about the night was perfect, including the square diamond ring that he proposed with, that stacked neatly with the promise ring he’d given me six months prior.
The diamond sparkled and reflected the reds and purples that now shone on us from the dusk sky, “thank you, did you know?”
She nodded, “yeah, he actually told me he wanted to propose after the uprising, but when you left, he carried them around with him day and night. Of course, he’d shown them to me before all of that, asked if I thought you’d liken them.”
“You weren’t wrong, it’s beautiful,” I replied, keeping the small talk between us rolling.
“Just like the Luna who wears it,” she said, looking up and meeting my eyes. Her eyes sparkled vibrantly, contrasting the whites of her eyes that were stained red. The bags on her eyes told me she hadn’t slept but I couldn’t tell if the red was from the sleep deprivation or crying, the thought making my heart ache, watching her in so much pain.
As she looked at me, her lip quivered and she burst into tears, clinging to my arms I caught her as her knees buckled. I sat us down on the banks of the cliff, wrapping her in my arms as she rocked back and forth as she gasped for air as the sobs wreaked havoc on her body.
“It’s okay,” I said, stroking her hair to sooth her.
We sat onto of the ridge, well into the night, until her crying halted and the cold ate away at our bodies – to the point where I picked her up in my arms and started to carry her down the mountain. Her body shook like a leaf and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the ice in the air or because of the emotional whiplash she was going through.
After all, she’d been so close to meeting her mate and yet he’d slipped through her fingers. Did he even know he had a mate? Or was he running from his other half, adamant on living a mate-less life?
’You’re still out?’ Nate asked, his voice relaxing me as it echoed through my head.
’Yeah, she was halfway up the mountain,’ I replied.
’How is she?’ he asked, sounding exhausted and tired – he had probably just gotten home, expecting me to have returned.
I looked down at Patricia who had now fallen asleep in my arms, she was easily the smallest of the Black brood, standing a good head shorter than myself and probably two or three shorter than Nate and his brothers. ’She will live, but I think she’s afraid to make the decision between her mate and her pack and family.’
’We don’t know that her mate had anything to do with it,’ Nate said, being the big brother, he so rarely acted as.
’And if he is, what then?’ I asked, I refused to lie to Patricia, and if what she needed was a one-way plane ticket out of the pack, then I would be more than happy to buy it for her.
‘Just come home,’ Nate finally said, his voice now heavy with guilt, ‘she can stay the night here.’
“He smelt like strawberries,” Patricia said softly, and I jumped a little, not realising she was now awake.
She nodded, and leaned her head against my shoulder, “the whole pack house smelt like freshly made strawberry jam, so rich and sweet, but it was only the pack house, the smoke, the fire, not a single thing out of the building smelt like him. No track, no trail, just him, in that single place.”