It was a late Thursday afternoon when I went to the park. It was the day before Gunnar and I would receive our bonding tattoos and I would officially be recognized as the female Alpha of the pack.
The sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon, and the hot summer air grew steadily cooler. Sweat formed on my skin from the walk, but I didn’t mind. It reminded me of the time I used to live here. I took in the peaceful atmosphere and enjoyed the noise of children playing somewhere not too far away. A dog barked in the distance and people laughed.
I smiled. Those are the sounds that used to offer me so much comfort and peace of mind. It still has a relaxing effect on me, even when the gaping hole that used to eat me alive wasn’t hungry anymore.
They changed a few things since I have been gone, and it’s been only a few months. The houses got new fresh coloring and the lights on the sides of the road have been replaced by new ones. Maybe finally they would actually offer a decent amount of light.
My steps led me to my old bungalow. A family just exited it, a small boy running out of the door and almost stumbling over his own feet. It warmed my heart that time didn’t stop for this place. I was worried my absence here would change something for the worse, but in hindsight, why should it? I was just a small piece in a much bigger puzzle.
The parents saw me looking at them and smiled warily. I nodded with a smile and continued to walk to the archery. I stopped in front of its gate and laughed. The lock finally got replaced. I glanced through the gaps of the fence and remembered the times George and I used to spend here together. The countless times of shooting arrows and pleasant little talks. The little compliments he would whisper in my ear whenever he had the chance, and the kisses we exchanged in the shadows of the trees.
A weight lifted off my chest when I realized the dark times of my last days here didn’t overshadow the good times. It’s been nagging me in the back of my head for a long time. I have always wanted this place to have a special spot in my heart. I felt like it was my responsibility to keep the memories, as I was the only one left with them.
Before I could dwell further on it, I continued to walk to the climbing wall. I didn’t know if George would be there, but I was hoping to find him somewhere. When I saw him on top of the wall, my heart skipped a beat. The afternoon sun colored him in a reddish tone, and I had to shield my eyes to see him properly. His laugh echoed through the air when he slowly deceased to the ground. I walked closer, trying to see him better. I did not know why I was so concerned about him seeing me. He wouldn’t know me.
I didn’t recognize the other people working with him. They must be new. A man punched his shoulder playfully, and George laughed again, removing his helmet. His light brown hair got longer since I have last seen him. It suited him. He brushed it out of his face and removed the rest of his equipment. I wondered if I should feel bad for bluntly staring at him, but I wanted to remember everything I could. This could be the last time I would see him.
He looked happy. His skin had a healthy tone, and I believe he even gained a bit of weight. The frown that used to be plastered on his face was nowhere to be seen, and the dark circles under his eyes were part of the past that hurt him so much.
A lump formed in my throat, and I swallowed a few times to get rid of it. The relief that washed over me was almost making me break out in tears. This is what I had hoped for, seeing George like I had met him all those years ago. Happy, carefree, and optimistic.
From the back, a blonde woman approached the two men, but she had only eyes for George. She placed a hand on George’s arm and beamed at him. He glanced at her briefly before easing out of her touch, so discretely, that it almost didn’t look like a rejection if you didn’t look at it closely. Her smile faltered before she put it back into place. Interesting.
“Amalia! Is that you?!” A shrill, yet deep voice called from behind me. Startled, I turned around and came face to face with Clemens.
I smiled and met him halfway. I already expected the bear hug that was about to follow, but the strength behind it still pushed the air out of my lungs.
He patted my back. “Look at you! It’s good to see you. How have you been?”
“Fine, thank you. How are things going for you?”
He laughed. “Wonderful! Are you back to see how things have changed? You missed a lot. How much time do you have? I would love to show you around.”
I glanced back at George, who was the one staring at me now. My heart hammered hard in my chest, and I gulped. “I have a few hours.”
Clemens clapped his hands together once. “Great. Just let me tell my assistant that I won’t be available for a bit, and then we are good to go.”
He pulled a smartphone out of his pocket and stepped away from me. I sighed, wiping away the sweat that had formed on my forehead. I knew he was still staring at me. It was almost as if he would burn holes into my back. With another deep breath, I turned around and met his gaze.
While we stared at each other, it almost felt like everything around us moved in slow motion. His two colleagues’ gazes fell on me too, after George didn’t respond to them for a while and I knew it was time for me to leave. I already pulled too much attention on myself. My wolf hummed in agreement in the back of my head. It was the first time she had shown her presence since I had entered the park.
I smiled at him and waved. Promptly, I received a glare from the blonde woman next to him, trying to get his attention by pulling at the hem of his shirt. But it was as if he didn’t realize she was there. It reminded me of the day we first met each other when George looked at me like I was the only woman roaming this planet. A cold shiver ran down my spine, fearing I destroyed the work the ancient mages had done. How should I live with myself if I was the one maneuvering him into a dark place of memories again?
A hand clasped my shoulder, startling me. “Sorry for keeping you waiting. Are you ready?”
I looked behind me, seeing Clemens beaming at me. “No worries. Let’s go.”
One last time, I turned back to George, who had a soft smile on his face now. With a swift motion, he pulled a necklace out of his shirt, placing it on top of the white fabric. I stared at the little silver wolf ornament, and a laugh escaped me. He placed a finger on his lips and winked.
“Is something the matter?” Clemens asked.
I shook my head and followed him, a smile stretched over my face. “No, everything is alright.”
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