“Is she all right?” I hear Jackson ask.
“She is fine,” Grandma Meadows replies.
“She’s not waking up.”
“The connection is taxing,” the woman says. “You should know this as well as any of us.”
“But she—she’s been out for so long!”
“Give her time, Grandson. All will be well.”
Movement inspires my eyelids to flicker, my mouth to open, then purse.
“She’s waking,” Zachariah Meadows says. “Stay back. Give her her space.”
I open my eyes to find Jackson standing above me—his eyes dark, his lips turned down in a frown.
“Oaklynn?” he asks. “Are you… are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” I reply, expelling a deep breath. “Why do you ask?”
“You’ve been out for some time,” Grandma Meadows says. “Normally, the wolf settles quickly. Somehow, though… yours hasn’t.”
“Hasn’t?” I ask, blinking.
Grandma Meadows nods. “No. It hasn’t.”
I stare at her, long and hard, attempting to piece together what she knows, what she sees, what she believes.
Did she see, I wonder, the dark wolf?
In that regard, I cannot know. What I do know, however, is that she suspects something—and, because of that, I cannot let my guard down.
I push myself upright, only to feel my head swim a short moment later.
Careful, Pup, a voice inside me says. You are still adjusting.
Who— I start to think, then frown. Are you—
Your wolf? the voice asks. Yes. I am.
A presence stirs along my side; and though Grandma Meadows, nor Jackson or even Zachariah or Bernard react to it, I see the shadow of the creature beside me, standing on four paws, looking at me with dark eyes.
You have nothing to fear, my Wolf says. You need simply know that I am always here.
But you... I… I mean—
Jackson narrows his eyes at me and crosses his arms over my chest.
I lift my eyes to face him.
“Do you see it?” he asks.
“The Wolf?” I ask, questioning it more than stating it.
“That’s strange,” Zachariah says as he notes my distant stare. “Many do not see their Spirit Wolf so soon after they bond together.”
“Maybe her spirit is special,” Bernard offers from his place in the corner of my room.
“All Wolves are special, my son,” Grandma Meadows says, tightening the bandage around her hand. “Now then. I believe that’s enough chit chat. I can tell the girl is tired, and she needs her rest.”
“Yuh… Yes,” I manage. “Thank you.”
“Do not thank me, young lady. Your true tests of endurance are only just beginning.”
She narrows her eyes at me before turning toward the door. “Come, gentlemen. Let us leave her be.”
“More will be explained tomorrow,” Grandma Meadows says. “Goodnight, child.”
“Goodnight, Oaklynn,” Jackson says, before leaning down to kiss my cheek.
“Goodnight, Jackson,” I reply.
The men file out behind Grandma Meadows a short moment later.
As the sound of their footsteps retreat down the hall, and slowly but surely begin to fade, my wolf spirit blinks its dark eyes at me and steps forward.
It is then that I realize it has been waiting to speak with me.
Swallowing, I set my eyes on its slightly-translucent figure—which appears like red water rippling over a three-dimensional form in the dark space—and ask, Can you help me find out who killed my parents? And can you help me make them pay?
Yes, the wolf says, its eyes beginning to glow red. I can help you, Oaklynn Smith.
And though a part of me dreads the darkness dwelling within, all I can do is smile.
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