“Thanks for having us,” Tyra said at the door as we were about to leave.
Joseline smiled. “You are welcome anytime, and when Cedric doesn’t work, we could all eat dinner together.”
Tyra nodded. “Sounds great. I will continue to show Amalia around now.”
“It was really nice meeting you, Amalia. I hope you will enjoy your stay here.”
She pulled me into another hug, and I enjoyed her warmth and trust for a moment. I could get used to this friendly demeanor, but I doubted the majority will treat me the same. After hearing about their past, I understood why.
“Thanks for the tea,” I said and stepped away.
“Remind me to give you a package of it, so you can drink it whenever you like.”
Excitement bubbled up in me. “Thank you so much!”
“Next time then,” Joseline said with a small wave.
“Since Cedric started his job in the city, he isn’t home as much anymore. I think Joseline feels lonely,” Tyra said as we walked down the street.
“Is he working in a hospital?”
She shook her head. “He has his own little office, and since he is mainly selling his own medicine and herbs, he runs it as alternative medicine. He doesn’t need to examine someone properly to see what’s wrong, and that’s difficult to explain in traditional medicine.”
“I’m surprised he is even allowed to run it in the first place. And humans are seeing him, too?”
She laughed. “You would be surprised how open-minded some humans are. Of course, you lived with them for the past years, but not when they also had contact with wolves. They know something is odd with Cedric, but they feel pulled toward the energy they feel around him. They trust him blindly, but he also knows his limits. He doesn’t perform surgeries or any other life-altering procedures. He will always direct them to traditional doctors for that. Unless they are wolves.”
“And the wolves don’t mind sharing a doctor’s office with humans?”
She shrugged. “Foreign wolves only see a doctor when it’s serious, and then they don’t care about humans being around. So far, it all worked out fine, and Cedric can feel helpful. He hated to be stuck here with his rare wolf trait, unable to help anyone. In the city, he had the protection of the human community. Ancient wolves wouldn’t cause trouble in the midst of them. It’s too tedious.”
It must be a tremendous responsibility and blessing at the same time to have such power. My meager wolf trait of speed didn’t feel amazing compared to his talent. It’s fun, but not useful for others at all.
“Couldn’t Joseline work there, too?”
“She could, and sometimes does, but she had poor health since she was a child. She falls ill quickly and needs plenty of rest. There is only so much she can do, but she does all she can. Since she started gardening, she had been doing a lot better, but after the attack, things are tougher again. She is pulling through, though. Like a real trooper.”
I smiled. “She seems like an incredibly kind person. It’s so sad she got attacked. It wasn’t fair.”
“Well, what is fair in life, right? We can only do the best with the things given to us. But you should know that best, since you received your share of unfairness in the past as well.”
Was it unfairness or naivety that brought doom over us? I wasn’t sure.
“So Cedric wants to help people then. Jelto always told me the same. That’s why he worked in medicine,” I said, switching the topic. I didn’t want this conversation to move to my family’s tragedy.
“I guess so, yeah. When he was younger, he wanted to be a firefighter, but Jelto turned into a bit of a stranger since he met his girlfriend. He moved away from the village and started a life of his own. He rarely visited us or his parents. But he is still part of the pack, and we want him to be happy.”
We rounded a corner and walked past more houses. Everyone outside nodded when they spotted us, but the skeptical glances on me weren’t unnoticed. It was understandable for them to feel this way, but I didn’t like the feeling of mistrust towards me, anyway.
“I wonder if he is still angry at me. The last time I saw him, he seemed like he never wanted to speak to me again.”
She laughed. “Don’t worry. One thing hasn’t changed about him in all these years: he is holding a grudge for a long time. But he will come around, eventually. I promise.”
I didn’t feel so optimistic about it, but I hoped she was telling the truth. Jelto and I haven’t been best friends, but we had known each other for many years, and I would hate to lose a friend.
“This is where Jelto’s family lives,” she said and pointed to a house on the right. It was a medium-sized house with a clean front yarn and a red facade. “His father is a car mechanic, so if you have trouble with a car in the future, he can help for sure.”
I nodded. I wondered if I should buy a car as soon as possible. But I haven’t been driving in years. Maybe I even forgot how to do it. Besides, I had to focus on renovating my house first. A car had to wait.
We passed a few more houses and Tyra spoke about the people living inside, but it held little meaning to me when I didn’t see the people in question. We knocked on a few doors, but no one opened, and if they did, they claimed to be busy. I knew they didn’t want to speak to me and I claimed to be tired, so we would return to their house. There was only so much rejection one can handle in a day.
Before we reached her house, we stopped in front of a big barn, and a huge smile spread over her face. “So, this building is important to the pack. It’s our party place. But we also hold pack meetings here. You could say it’s some sort of community center.”
I looked up, astonished by the size of it. “This is a massive barn!”
“It has several floors! Maybe you can join a party at some point. It’s at least once a month, but usually more often than that.”
A laugh escaped me. “Your pack is truly into partying.”
“We like to have theme parties here to give it a nice spin, too. With so many people living here, it’s easy to have big parties. We all know each other and everyone contributes to the events. It’s a lot of fun.”
We walked back to her house and stopped in front of the door. “Also, you don’t have to be surprised if you see people roaming around the house. The alpha’s house gives them a feeling of security, especially when he is at home.”
“I don’t quite understand what you mean,” I asked. I couldn’t remember anyone from my pack mentioning anything similar, and I didn’t feel it either.
Her eyes widened. “Perhaps it was different for you because the alphas you had were direct family members, and your pack was quite small. But usually, the other pack members like to flock around the alpha, so they feel connected. And in case of an attack, they are ready to help.”
I shuddered. “Is that by choice? Because it feels a bit forced by some sort of magical bonding.”
She chuckled. “Don’t worry, it’s not forced. They can choose to stay away, especially if they don’t accept the alpha. But they also won’t feel the positive effect from their alpha in that case. Quite the opposite, even. Rejecting an alpha feels unpleasant, and most people would rather leave their pack than suck it up.”
"And yet you are worried about people starting problems and attacking Gunnar."
She leaned against the door and sighed. “They need a clean cut to move away most of the time. So they try to challenge the alpha, but if they don’t succeed, and they still can’t accept the alpha, they leave. Some others live with it because they don’t want to leave their family. But it’s often a long process, and after a failed challenge, Gunnar will have a big impact on the connection. Some might see him in a different light afterward.”
“I guess most are happy with him if they don’t feel uncomfortable enough to challenge him,” I said.
She nodded. “We would like to think that everyone is happy with Gunnar, but making everyone happy is near impossible to achieve. As long as we can keep the peace in the community, everything is alright, though.”
We stayed silent for a while, enjoying the silence for a moment.
Tyra pushed off the door and smiled at me. “So, I don’t want to be rude, but I need to finish the painting soon. You can walk around some more if you like.”
“Sure,” I said and wondered when I should talk about my departure here. I was back to being human now, and I had plans.
She waved at me with a bright smile and entered the house, letting the door fall close behind her. Suddenly, this place seemed too large and too foreign, and I got back into motion. I could try to find the pups to play with them if they didn’t mind.
I walked back to the field where we chased each other the other day, but I didn’t see anyone this time. Instead of going back to the house and staring at the walls, I went for a walk. I walked over the field and towards the forest, which was quite close to it.
I always enjoyed the trees around me when I lived in the park. They were everywhere. My family’s house is also close to a forest, but it’s something different when you live right inside it.
I didn’t know how long I had been wandering around when I went back. Maybe watching Gunnar creating a sword again might be fun or joining Tyra while she paints.
I was about to leave the forest when a couple of people came toward me. I squinted my eyes and tried to make out who they were, but only when they stepped closer, I realized it was Bertram with probably some other people from the pack. My luck couldn’t be better. Did I have some kind of Bertram magnet around my neck, or was I just very unlucky?