My nightmare-filled slumber got interrupted by the constant ringing of the doorbell, combined with loud knocking. Startled, I almost rolled off the mattress.
I stumbled down the stairs and opened the door breathlessly, shielding my eyes from the sun with one hand. Squinting my eyes, I spotted a middle-aged man walking up and down on the pathway in front of my house, speaking on the phone.
He came to a sudden halt when he saw me and lowered his phone. “Ah, someone is there, after all. Did you order the container?”
He pointed behind him at a large container. I nodded, trying to shake off the grogginess that still lingered after being woken up like this.
“You ordered it until this afternoon. We are going to pick it up at six again. We also need a signature from you.”
He pulled a folded paper out of the front pocket of his blue overall, unfolded it, and shoved it into my face while remaining an arm’s length away.
The brightness of the paper hurt my eyes even more, and I didn’t even try to read what was written there. “Do you have a pen?”
He handed me one, and I blindly scribbled my signature onto a black line. I hoped it would be the proper place for it.
“Thank you. See you later,” he said and tipped his hat, before hurrying back to the truck.
I stared after him, finally adjusting to the bright sun. He glanced at me one more time, a frown on his face. I yawned and stepped back into the house, not even waiting for him to drive off.
Now that I got my wolf back, humans would perceive me differently again. I wasn’t used to it anymore, or even thought about it, but the reaction of the man showed that he was cautious of me. It’s another sign that I was part of the wolf community again, too different for the humans to fit in. That, or the different colors of my eyes, might be a bit off-putting for some people. I was used to it by now, even forgetting about it, but for outsiders, it might appear weird.
Still, how Jelto could fit in with no issues was surprising. But maybe his wolf really was too weak to be noticeable. I was an alpha. It would be shocking if no human would realize that anything was different. Painful for my pride, even.
I walked back upstairs and shuffled back into the sleeping bag, grabbing my phone from the nightstand behind me. It was only eight in the morning. I expected them a bit later than this, but I probably should have set an alarm quite early anyway. If he hadn’t waited and taken the container back with him, it would have pushed my schedule in the wrong direction drastically.
After scrolling through the news for a few more minutes, I got up and changed into different clothes. I just finished brushing my teeth when the doorbell rang again. I cursed under my breath, wondering if I forgot another early appointment I made today. Not everyone would be as patient as the man earlier.
I pulled the door open and came face to face with Gunnar.
A smile spread over his face. “Good morning!”
“Good morning. You are early.”
He nodded. “Of course. We have a lot to do, and I even brought more helping hands.”
Gunnar stepped aside, and Tyra came into view. Excitement bubbled up in me, seeing her again. It almost felt like years since I last saw her.
“Mia!” Tyra squealed and rushed up the stairs to pull me into a tight hug. “I missed you!”
I wrapped my arms around her and breathed in her sweet scent of vanilla and coconut, dwelling in the feeling of comfort and familiarity. “I missed you, too.”
She stepped away and scanned me from head to toe. “You already look thinner!”
I laughed. “It has been what? Two days? I doubt I lost much weight.”
“And yet you look like you haven’t eaten in weeks! Good thing I brought something to eat with me.”
She didn’t let me respond and pushed past me into the house. “Let’s finally take a look at this hidden gem.”
Gunnar smiled at me. “She was all excited to come here and see the house for herself.”
“I feel bad that it’s not looking so amazing right now.”
“I think that might make it even more exciting for her. She is a big fan of fixing old houses. When we renovated the houses in our street, she was involved in plenty of renovations, mainly for painting.”
“I could see why she would enjoy that. I have no eye for something like that, so I’m glad she will help me.”
He nodded, and I glanced behind him, now seeing the kids jumping out of the car, too. Freya held hands with Svea, and a broad smile spread over my face, seeing her in her human form again.
“Svea, is that you?”
She looked up at me, her blonde pigtails jumping with the motion, before she dashed towards me, jumping into my arms and rubbing her face on mine. I laughed, squeezed her gently, and put her back on her feet.
“Look at you! I knew it was only a matter of time before you could change back.”
Her face flushed as she played with the hem of her dress, a soft smile on her lips. I patted her head and looked back at the other two. “And you guys? How have you been?”
Freyr took the chance to explain the past days back in school in full detail, while Freya rolled her eyes dramatically. I was surprised by how talkative he was since they both never spoke that much to me when I was still at their house. But I didn’t mind, I enjoyed they warmed up to me.
“Come on, kids. There is a huge garden in the back. You can play there,” Gunnar called from the door. The kid’s eyes sparkled, and Freya took Svea by the hand again, dragging her after them.
I shook my head and chuckled. There wasn’t much to see in the garden, but maybe strolling through the long grass might be exciting enough already.
I turned back to the road, seeing another car parked behind Gunnar’s.
Jelto exited the car with a grin. “Surprise!”
“I didn’t expect that you would join, too. Thank you!”
He closed the door with a thud and strolled down the path, pulling me into a hug when he reached me. “It was pure coincidence that I saw the two of them leave while I visited my parent’s house. When I heard they would help you with the furniture today, I joined in. I don’t have to work today.”
I smiled. “You didn’t have to waste your day off renovating, though.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course, I want to help you. We’ve been friends for years now. It’s the right thing to do.”
Jelto walked past me into the house, and I followed him, feeling giddy. Initially, I wanted to do this all on my own, but having people around me to help felt a lot better.
When we entered, Tyra stood in the middle of the living room, looking around as if she already planned how she would decorate it. “There’s so much space, and the ceiling is so high. I always wanted a house with high ceilings.”
I laughed. “Tyra, your property is at least twice the size of this.”
She looked at me over her shoulder, pouting. “But our ceilings aren’t so high. This is beautiful. I can already imagine what we could make out of this.”
Gunnar joined us, clapping his hands once. “Alright everyone, I suppose we should start. The kids are busy playing outside. They raided your tent, by the way.”
I shrugged. “That’s fine.”
He grinned and crossed his arms. “You didn’t sleep in it anyway, right? Was it too cold now, after all, as I told you?”
I knew he only meant to tease me, but it still sent shivers down my spine. My hands started tingling as I tried to seem unfazed, remembering the wolf that attacked me last night.
“Are you okay?” Gunnar asked, the grin wiped off his face.
Everyone stared at me, and I laughed. “Oh yeah! It was too cold last night.”
He didn’t look convinced, but I didn’t get him the chance to question me more. “How about we start with the living room? You can basically throw everything away except the boxes.”
They nodded and immediately got to work. I was relieved I didn’t forget to put on a shirt with long sleeves, otherwise, they might see the result of last night’s fight.
Jelto and Gunnar carried the heavy furniture outside, while Tyra and I collected the lighter pieces. While we were busy cleaning out the house, pest control arrived and wandered around the house. Soon after, the technicians for the water and electricity joined, too.
With the house full of people, and the noise of the furniture being thrown into the dumpster, it didn’t take long for neighbors to check on the commotion. There might not be any direct neighbors, but the noise carried far.
Two older women approached the house while I threw chairs into the dumpster, and to my surprise, I recognized them.
I put on my best smile and greeted them, but they only stared back at me with open hostility. My stomach dropped as I waited for them to say something or, better yet, leave. I didn’t need people acting like I kicked their puppy.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked eventually.
The woman with gray short hair pointed her walking stick at me. “Why are you back here?”
“This is my house. Why shouldn’t I be here?”
“We don’t want cult members in this peaceful village!” The other woman added, her eyes wide. She looked like she had lost her mind.
I crossed my arms. “We aren’t cult members.”
The woman’s face turned red. “Your strange parents kept saying that, too. But something is wrong with your family! We were glad when you all disappeared, and now you are back. Who knows what sort of misfortune you bring?”
My pulse sped up as I clenched my teeth together so tightly I worried my teeth would pulverize. I took a deep breath, trying to remain as calm as I could, even when my wolf was pacing back and forth in my mind, wanting to be let out.
“They are humans. We can’t attack them. I’m angry, too, but you aren’t making it easier for me.”
She growled but stopped pushing against me.
“How dare you judge my family like this? You don’t even know us and we never did anything to you,” I said, my voice a lot more stable than I expected it to be.
“It’s good they are all dead,” the woman muttered quietly.
I stormed towards them, seeing red. “How can you say something like this? What is wrong with you?”
The woman stumbled back, gasping at me. I felt my body trembling, and I felt like letting my wolf roam free just to scare them away for real. But then someone wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me backward. Gunnar. Immediately, I calmed down and took a shaky breath.
“Is there a problem here, my love?” He asked, his voice sugar-sweet as he smiled at me. But I saw the same rage in his eyes I felt inside. He must have overheard the conversation.
Gunnar looked at the two women. “Do you have an issue with my wife?”
Their mouths fell open as they glanced back and forth between us. Gunnar pulled me closer, pressing a soft kiss on the crown of my head. My face flushed, my anger disappearing into thin air.
“No, we must have confused her with someone else,” one of them stuttered.
“Is that so? We just moved here, so we hope to have a good relationship with our neighbors,” he said calmly, his waist tightening ever so slightly, pressing onto the bruise that formed there from yesterday. But I bit my tongue, smiling alongside him, and even wrapping my arm around him, too.
The two women nodded and hurried away without uttering another word. We looked after them for a while, and I sighed when they disappeared around the corner.
“Can you believe that?”
My family didn’t deserve to be badmouthed. They were good people, and always kind to everyone here.
“Are you okay?” He asked, searching my eyes.
“I’m fine, hubby.”
He smirked. “You know, I could get used to you calling me like this.”
I pulled out his arms and rolled my eyes. “Not funny.”
He laughed, his eyes sparkling. “It never meant to be funny.”
I shook my head and marched back inside the house, a smile plastered on my face.