“I’m glad to see you again,” I said, as Jelto sat down next to me.
Tyra placed a steaming hot coffee in front of him. He smiled and thanked her, before turning to me. “I was worried when you vanished. But I heard what happened during the BBQ, and could see why. I wasn’t there that night, and we didn’t exactly part on the best terms last time we saw each other, so I felt reluctant to call you.”
I nodded, remembering the night when Jelto was so convinced I wasn’t a wolf. He almost started a fight with Gunnar. “I’m sorry I never told you about it. It’s embarrassing that I never realized you were a wolf. In my defense, my wolf senses were suppressed, but I still feel like I have betrayed your trust.”
He smiled. “Don’t worry about that. I’m a weak wolf, so it’s hard to spot me, anyway.”
“That’s not it. I wanted to be as far away from the wolf community as I could, and the park wasn’t a place I would expect a wolf to work at.”
“Yeah, the pack wasn’t amused about it either. Too many humans around.”
Tyra cleared her throat. “We don’t mind the humans or you being around them. We just would like to have you close.”
“It’s okay, I understand.”
I sighed. “I should have said something to you before leaving, but everything changed so quickly.”
He laughed. “I can imagine. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that you are an ancient wolf, and that I didn’t realize it.”
I took a sip of my tea, which had finally cooled down to a temperature that wouldn’t burn my insides. “I suppose we think the same about each other in that case. But I was more human than a wolf, and I never expected to return to the wolf community ever again. I was ready to live as a human.”
Tyra stood up, grabbing her cup. “I’m going back to work, but take your time, okay?”
She hurried out of the room, giving me and Jelto time to talk alone.
“I think you embraced that life very well, and I always thought you were happy, too.”
I smiled, even when my stomach felt heavy. “I was as happy as I could have been with the emptiness I felt since I lost my wolf. George helped me to forget about it.”
“George made you happy.”
My heart clenched, and I nodded. “He sure did. He showed me things I never thought I needed to see and took my hand when I thought the darkness was going to swallow me. All the small things he did for me to make me happy. George never knew what he was saving me from, but he also didn’t need to know. I suppose that is what you call unconditional love. He was better for me than I was for him.”
“That’s not true. George always spoke about you and how you made him a better person. You might not have been able to tell all of your secrets, but it was obvious to everyone that you loved and cared about him a lot.”
Remembering the last encounters George and I had, I couldn’t believe I was good for him, but it was a relief to know that he spoke so good about me. Even if I might not deserve that.
I fiddled with the hem of my cardigan, wondering if I should ask more about George, or if I rather don’t want to know.
“How is he?”
Jelto’s smile dropped, and I immediately wanted to take my question back. “He is hanging in there, but I can’t say he is doing well. I think his biggest struggle is that he can’t get in contact with you. He doesn’t know what you are up to, how you are. He is worried.”
I sighed. “I wish I could explain it to him somehow, but I don’t see a way out of this right now. George will always be a human, and I will always be an ancient wolf.”
It was much easier to ignore that fact when my wolf wasn’t present in the back of my head. But now that I could sense her again, I knew what I imagined my life to be, was nothing more than a dream.
“I probably can understand that better than anyone here,” Jelto whispered, his head hanging low.
I grabbed his hand and squeezed it. “Do you plan to tell her at some point?”
He shook his head. “Not for now. It’s not something she needs to know currently.”
I nodded. “If you plan to stay with her, I doubt it will be easy to explain that. Especially if your wolf might think differently.”
Jelto glanced at me from the side. “If you had the chance to stop being an ancient wolf again, would you take it and return to George?”
I sucked in a breath as my wolf howled in my head. She felt offended by the question. “No. I love George, and he is a wonderful person. But my wolf is me, and I’m my wolf. We are one. The feeling of loss I had felt all these years can’t be replaced by anything. I’m an ancient wolf, and I wouldn’t want that to change, as much as I loved a human.”
He nodded, a sad smile spreading over his face. “I guess I wouldn’t be able to imagine how it feels to lose my wolf. It’s easy to blame him for the secrets I have to keep, but he also wouldn’t stop me from telling her. I guess I’m too afraid to find out what she would think if I told her.”
I squeezed his hand one more time before pulling away. “You never know what might happen. I like to think that I did the right thing to keep it from George, even if I’m not too sure of it myself sometimes. Maybe there will be a time when you can tell her, and everything turns out fine.”
“I hope so. But what is your plan now?”
“I’m going back home,” I said and smiled. Excitement rushed through me. I couldn’t wait to see my home again and to claim my territory. I was itching to find out more about the ruins and why they seem to be important.
He sat up straight, his eyes widening in surprise. “You won’t join this pack?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think I belong here. I bring too much uncertainty into the pack, and I wouldn’t want to drag my family history here. It’s better if I figure things out first before thinking about a new pack.”
“I think you would fit in here fine, but I can see your point. Your home is the only thing that is left of your family.”
“Exactly, and I neglected it for far too long. Besides, my parents must have had a reason to banish my wolf from me. There must be a reason I was the only one to survive. I believe I can only find out more about that when I return.”
He smiled. “I hope you can find what you need to know. If you need help, you know where to find me. I would love to see the place you grew up in.”
“Thank you, Jelto. I’m happy to know that I have a friend like you by my side.”
“I should have reached out sooner, but I can be so salty sometimes. I wished I would have realized it before anyone else, especially because we’ve been friends for so long.”
“At least you know now. It feels reassuring to have someone left who also knows about my human life.”
“Mia, I know it’s none of my business, but when you feel better, maybe you could reach out to George and just tell him you are fine?”
I knew I should do that, just to ease his mind. But I was afraid to face him. “Maybe I will when I settle down a bit.”
He nodded. “I won’t push you. It’s all up to you, after all.”
Suddenly, a phone started ringing, startling me. Jelto fumbled with the pocket of his jacket and pulled out his phone, frowning. “I have to take this.”
He stood up and went outside with quick steps.
I took the chance to clean up the kitchen before Tyra would refuse my help again.
Jelto returned with a deep sigh. “I have to go. Work is calling.”
I dried my hands on a towel and pulled him into a hug. “It was nice to talk to you again, and I hope we see each other again soon.”
“Call me whenever you need me,” he said and patted my back.
He called goodbye to Tyra and left the house. It had to be very urgent if he had to leave so fast. I hope nothing bad happened.
After a long shower and a change of clothes, I joined Tyra in her atelier, enjoying the warm sun filling the room.
“Tyra, I don’t want to bother you with this, but when do you think I can leave exactly?”
After my conversation with Jelto, I realized I wanted to leave as soon as possible. There were so many questions I wanted the answers to.
She didn’t look up from her painting, but the brush haltered. “I can’t tell you that. We settled on the time when you have full control of your wolf.”
“How am I supposed to prove that?”
She shrugged. “Maybe we can lock you and Bertram in one room together and see what happens?”
I frowned. “Funny, Tyra. Hilarious even.”
“Let’s wait for one more night or two. If you can sleep in the guest room as a human for once, then maybe it’s time for you to leave.”
“Did you hear that? Stop making us sleep in the barn,” I said to my wolf. She just huffed and reminded me that if I had had the situation under control, she wouldn’t have seen the need to take over.
“Do you want to leave that badly?”
I could hear hurt in her voice, and I winced. “You know it’s not because of you. I need answers. We just spoke about it during breakfast.”
She whirled around, her eyes teary. “I will miss you so much! But I can understand you. I will talk to Gunnar later.”
I closed the distance between us and hugged her. “We will see each other again. I will not disappear.”
She nodded. “I know, but it’s hard still.”
True to their word: after two nights of proving I was in control of my wolf, they were ready to let me go. They weren’t amused to see me leave, but they also didn’t stop me.
I liked their company and their warmth. The feeling of family and connection. But that is not what I needed right now. I needed to go back home and find answers.
Why did my mother save my life? Where did that pendant come from? Did she expect something like that would happen? And if so, how?