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The Next Day

Jed and I were just sitting down to lunch when our new friend arrived, carrying a small armload of clothes. Jed went out to meet her.

She placed the clothes on the ground by our clothes line and stated, “I’m sorry for all of the trouble we caused. It won’t happen again, since we’ve been forbidden to return.”

“Then why are you here?” Jed asked quietly, as if he might startle her into running if he spoke normally.

“I volunteered to bring the clothes back to those they were taken from, but I don’t know who they belong to.” She explained, “I thought if I brought them to you then you could return them.”

It was right about then that I ran out and suggested, “You should eat lunch with us.”

She was debating what to answer when Jed smiled and said, “If you join us for lunch, I will do my best to return all of the clothes.”

She decided she couldn’t refuse. After we sat down, and Jed made her a sandwich, I inquired, “Who has forbidden you to come back?”

She looked around before quietly answering, “My father. He’s the leader, and what he says goes. He barely acknowledged that I got everyone home safe, and only focused on what else could have gone wrong.”

Jed looked at her sullenly. “Is this the same man who calls you unwanted?”

She grimaced. “I should not have told you that.′ she admitted, “But I didn’t know I would see you again.”

I spouted, “Just take my clothes and run, was that the plan?”

Jed laughed and rubbed my head. “Of course it was. Remember getting caught wasn’t part of her plan. None of the others got caught taking theirs. Then again the others had wolves steal their clothes.”

“Wish I had.” She replied under her breath.

Then she looked at Jed and I as if she was contemplating saying something else. Jed practically grinned ear to ear while he asked her, “Are they your pets, or do you have some other kind of control over them?”

She took a rather large bite of her sandwich. Her eyes darted from left to right and back again as she contemplated how to answer Jed. Eventually she swallowed her food, took a drink of apple juice, and then replied, “I’m not allowed to talk about the family. I can get into big trouble just for being here. I was only supposed to drop of all the clothes and run.”

Jed shook his head. “Don’t be silly, we can’t have you go back to running around naked.”

“I can’t bring them home.” She stated flatly.

Jed offered, “Maybe I can talk to your father, and explain that we won’t cause any trouble over Riley’s clothes.”

The girl shook her head wildly. “I don’t want to imagine my punishment for bringing an outsider in. No amount of clan position could protect me from my punishment. Not for disobedience of the ways at that level.”

Before Jed or I could ask any more questions, there was a knock at the door. Jed sent me to get it and I returned a short while later with the Sheriff standing right behind me. I had a good view of our new friend’s face as we approached. The closer we got the more her face grimaced in agony.

The Sheriff wasted no time getting to his point. “Jed, I hear there were a few problems last night, so I’m going around, and asking people what they remember.”

Jed smiled weakly at the Sheriff as he replied, “I recall that everything worked out fine, and without any casualties.”

The Sheriff cleared his throat and asked Jed, “Is there somewhere the kids can go while we talk?”

I quickly volunteered to go outside.. Our new friend rushed out the door by my side. It’s a good thing we were so young, because we managed to make it through together. While she was gasping unusually hard, I overheard the Sheriff ask, “Who’s the pretty little girl?” He paused a moment before adding, “Don’t recall seeing her around here before.”

Jed thought quickly and replied, “She’s a cousin from our Mother’s side.”

“What’s her name?” The Sheriff inquired, doubt oozing in his voice.

Jed answered, “Annabel.”

I moved towards her, and ushered her further from the door. Once we were a safe distance away I informed her of what I had heard. She scrunched her face up and admitted to me, “I don’t like that name very much.”

I assured her we would get her a name she liked if she came around when Warrick was home. “But for now,” I informed her, “We need to work with it or the Sheriff can cause us a lot of trouble.”

She asked in a whisper, “How will we explain the name change?”

I shrugged my shoulders before snapping my fingers as I informed her, “There’s always the identical twin option.”

She started to chuckle and then gasped and covered her nose instead. She stepped further into the back yard. I joined her, looking quite bewildered I’m sure. The girl now called Annabel scowled and exclaimed, “Are you telling me that you can’t smell the foul odor coming from that man?”

I shrugged my shoulders and stated, “He smells the same as he always does; a little musky. Grown up call it a manly stench, and more than a few of the women in town claim it’s one of the things that make him attractive.”

She shook her head and informed me, “Anyone who likes that odor needs their nose checked.”

“And maybe their brain too.” I added.

We laughed a good laugh, until the Sheriff suddenly popped his head out to say goodbye, and tell my new cousin that it was nice to meet her. She gritted her teeth and returned the compliment with a simple, “You too.”

After the Sheriff was walked out the front door, Jed called us back inside. We sat at the table where she hurriedly ate her sandwich. “I don’t think we had the talk he came here to have.” Jed noted cautiously, “First he warns me that after so much trouble was started by strangers; it’s not smart to be hiding a stranger in our house. When I told him we weren’t hiding her; he suggested, rather forcefully, that we bring her to the pre-party dinner.”

I explained, “Since the Sheriff only works the day time shift he always misses the full moon celebrations. A few years back some of the townsfolk suggested he switch shifts with the deputy, in order to be able to attend that month’s celebration. He insisted he was too set in his ways, and offered instead to do a dinner on high moon night, before his shift officially ends. There is a brief pause between the dinner ending and the night party beginning. The Sheriff uses that time to say his good nights, and we find places to relax and let the food settle in our bellies.”

As wolves howled in the distance she replied, “I told you I can’t come back, I shouldn’t be here now.”

“If you don’t come; I’m going to be faced with a lot of questions I can’t answer.” Jed informed her, “Which might lead to the Sheriff investigating, and there’s no guarantee he’ll stop at the town limits. He might even talk to your family, ask about the clothes, and whatever else he wants.”

The girl we now called cousin Annabel, stood up and declared, “I’ll see what I can do, but for now I must go.”

Jed through his hands up in defeat, she rushed out the door, and back to the woods.

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