Chapter 20 - Crystal (Part 2)
The afternoon was as heartfelt as the one she had yesterday, but this time she accepted her family’s support more. She didn’t want to before, too surprised and overwhelmed to deal with it, but without the initial shock, it was a more welcoming embrace of love and support.
Tiberius was still stand-offish around her family, and when she looked at him, his ears perked toward her.
She stepped up to him and scratched him behind the ear. “I’m okay. Are you okay?”
He huffed and wrapped an arm around her and pulled her against him. Heat flushed her cheeks as he drew deep breaths in and out for a minute before relaxing and pulling back. He nudged her with his nose to go back and enjoy with her family while he stayed in the corner.
These relatives didn’t stay as late as the ones that came yesterday, and after saying her last goodbye, she and Tiberius retired to her room to unwind, curled up on the floor with Mozart playing softly in the background.
When the sun set and they were ready for bed, Crystal cracked open “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and began to read aloud as she leaned against Tiberius’ side as he curled his body around hers.
The next week fell into a pattern of her going to the library every morning to work with Tiberius following and sitting in a corner, either watching her work or trying to carefully read a book without tearing the pages with his claws. After work, she and Tiberius would go home and spent the evening with her parents, or her brother at his house. They would curl up together on the floor before bed and read a little more of the book, allowing the messages to sink in and they would spend their dreams talking about the book and their hopes and dreams for the future.
She felt more comfortable telling him about her past and her feelings growing up. It was hard to open up to him, to allow him to witness the insecurities that clung to her like a second skin—unable to shed free of them.
Little by little, it became easier and he always listened, always validated her emotions, and encouraged her to let go of the past.
“You need to let go and forgive,” he told her in one of their dreams. “Holding onto pain is an unnecessary torture. Unshackle the chains that bind you, and let yourself be free of them.”
After work on Friday, she pushed herself to walk up to Tamarack’s house and knock on the front door. Hanging her head, she clenched and unclenched her hands at her side, and shook off the stress as she waited for the door to open. She glanced over her shoulder at Tiberius leaning against a tree with his arms crossed over his broad chest.
This was her idea and he, of course, couldn’t leave her side and stood back for moral support.
She wanted to move on. To put the past behind her. To let go and forgive like he said.
She was sweating bullets and tried to blame the humidity for it.
She thought she’d have a panic attack when Tamarack answered the door, but Tam was as shocked and nervous as she was when she stepped out.
She gave Crystal a quick awkward hug, apologizing again when she pulled away and Crystal looked down at her feet.
Taking a walk around the block, they spent the first few minutes in silence, staring at their feet before Tamarack finally said something.
Tiberius trailed two dozen yards behind to give them some space, and Crystal caught herself looking over her shoulder a couple of times to catch his eye. Knowing that he was there gave her courage and even though she fought to spit out the words that she would normally bite back, she pushed herself to say them.
“I’m still struggling,” Crystal confessed as they came to a stop at the path leading up to Tamarack’s house. Her words were for her former best friend, but she spoke them to the ground. “But I wanted to let you know that I am trying. I don’t know if we can ever be what we once were, but I hope I can put it behind us someday.”
Tam nodded, gave her another awkward hug, and wished her the best.
Crystal walked away and into Tiberius’ arms, snuggling into his chest and heaving a sigh of relief.
Some friendships weren’t meant to be and letting go was never easy. She knew she had to let this one go as soon as she was ready to forgive it.
Crystal’s family and relatives in the pack got together on Saturday for a picnic by the pond.
Everyone asked how she was doing and even though she was embarrassed, she assured them that she was trying her best.
“She hasn’t had a seizure in a little over a week,” her father bragged, which only inflamed her face even more. “I’d say that’s thanks to Tiberius.”
Everyone chuckled and toasted to Tiberius, who seemed to ignore them and nudged her hand with his nose to get her to scratch him behind the ear.
Taking her attention off herself and everyone around them and turning it onto himself as he smiled his closed-eye wolfy-grin, drew a smile of her own to her lips.
He really was something special.
In mid-scratch, his ears perked forward and his eyes shot open as he jerked his head away.
Looking up to the sky, she followed his gaze as a big black raven flew toward them with a rolled-up piece of paper tied to his leg.
Huffing, Tiberius rose into a protective stance over her as the raven landed in the tree over their heads and began to peck at the thing wrapped around his leg until it fell off and landed on the picnic table in front of her.
Tiberius’s throat rumbled light before he nudged her arm with his nose, looking at the paper before her.
All eyes fell on her as she reached for the paper and unfolded it to reveal a neatly written invitation.
Dear Crystal and Tiberius:
Please meet me tomorrow at the Garden Tea House at noon.
Sincerely, Madame Papillon