The intervening days found Hunter anxious for any sign Travis’ wife wanted to talk to him about their relationship, whether she agreed to take things further with him or not. But right now, Betty Hayton was telling him over the phone about what transpired yesterday with John and Travis’ wife from what she could see.
“Thanks for the tip, Betty. Tell your kids we say ‘hi,’ will you? All right, bye-bye,” he hung up the phone and shook his head, muttering indistinctly. He was getting tired of Betty calling him up every time she saw something new happen at house number 308, and made it a point to end the conversation quickly to keep her from going on and on about other things.
“Who was that?” Agatha asked him as she looked up from her crossword puzzle.
“Betty,” he replied with rolling his eyes, “told me about the Andrews boy going over at Travis’ place, apparently for a drink from what she could see.”
“Aw, that’s nice,” she remarked with a small smile and went back to her crossword puzzle. “I miss those days when their kids could come over to us for jobs and cookies. We used to do that too, remember that?” Hunter chuckled and stroked his chin in thought. Maybe if he could…
“You know, I’m going to nip on over to their place and have a quick chat,” he said and then got up from his chair. Agatha nodded as she was getting into her crossword puzzle now.
Minutes later, he was at the door of house number 308, having rung the doorbell. The door opened to reveal Travis’ wife and he blinked as he was expecting Travis instead of her.
“Mm, Hunter, what a nice surprise, what do I owe this pleasure to?” she carefully leaned upon the doorframe with her elbow against it, her forearm above her head and a hand on her hip in an attempt to strike a seductive pose in spite of her Muslim garb. This produced the effect of her breasts pressing against the navy-blue fabric, making them more visible than before.
“Let’s just go inside right now, shall we? The town gossip is keeping an eye on your place like a hawk,” he cautioned after a moment’s effort to keep himself from doing anything out of the ordinary. Without a word, Travis’ wife stepped back and then turned around to walk towards the parlor room from the entrance hall, leaving Hunter at the door. He walked inside after her, shutting the door.
“Who’s the town gossip?” she asked him when he came into the parlor room, finding her preparing a glass of champagne for Hunter. There was a slight feeling of amusement mixed with curiosity coming from her.
“Betty Hayton, she likes to dish the dirt on whoever catches her fancy to anyone who’s fool enough to listen to her.”
“And I suppose that Travis and I have caught her fancy?” she walked up to Hunter, giving him the glass of champagne. He felt the amusement grow within him.
“Pretty much, so uh, where’s Travis?” he hesitated before taking a drink out of the glass, tasting the bubbly alcohol.
“At work, so we have the day to ourselves,” she said as she watched him.
“So does that mean you’ve decided already?” he blinked, hopeful.
“Yes,” she spoke softly after a short length of silence, as if hesitating.
“… and?” Hunter pressed when she wasn’t forthcoming. Travis’ wife looked over to the fireplace for several moments, putting her hands together in front of her legs. Then she looked back at him.
“Do you still remember our talk about what I look like?” Hunter blinked again as he nearly forgot about that, it was irrelevant to him, as he considered he felt strongly for her enough not to care about what she looked like underneath the garment.
“Yeah, I do. I still don’t care what you’re gonna look like,” he replied and this caused a small flutter of amusement inside of him.
“Thank you, Hunter. While that means a lot to me, I still doubt it,” she said as she reached over to stroke his cheek, the amusement growing at the same time. “Come with me,” she took his hand, grasping it gently.
“I’ll drink to that!” he grinned as he let himself be led by Travis’ wife and downed the rest of the champagne. He set the glass upon a table stand at the entrance hall when they ascended the stairs up to the second floor. He couldn’t help but notice the old-fashioned-styled lamps here and there along the wall of the stairs. In the hallway on the second floor to the stairs to the third floor, there were ornately framed portraits that depicted men in fantastic armor and strange weapons. He slowed down to inspect them as they were crafted in fine detail.
“My husband made each and every one of them, and the frames were purchased from Hobby Lobby,” Travis’ wife spoke, letting go of Hunter’s hand as she looked at them with him.
“You don’t say… he painted them all?” he took a step back and counted the portraits lining the hall. There were ten in all and they also had a golden rectangle at the bottom part of the frames, names stamped into them. He walked over to the first one depicting a grinning bald man with green fire eyes wearing silver armor with a tattered black cape flying in the wind, holding an impossibly large sword with a blue-white double-edged blade in his right hand. The plaque at the bottom read “ULTIMA DEATH THE WISE”.
Hunter raised an eyebrow and moved onto the next portrait, this one showing a heavier-armored man than the last, this one having a ruby-studded red cloak, medium-length dirty blond hair with a flame-design bandanna, and glowing crimson eyes. He held a double-bladed pole arm in both hands, the blades being serrated-edged ruby with flames covering them. “GREAT RUBY DEATH THE MIGHTY” was on its plaque at the bottom.
“What’s with the ‘Death’ names Travis gave them?” Hunter asked Travis’ wife after he inspected the rest in quick order, frowning slightly. When she didn’t immediately respond, he looked at her.
“He didn’t give them except for Ultima Death,” she gestured to the first portrait somewhere behind them as they were at the end of the hallway with the stairs to the third floor. “But come, I will explain soon enough.” She took Hunter’s hand and guided him to the third floor. Here, Hunter noted a change, especially on the walls.
There were various animal skins hanging on the walls, decorated with feathers and tails. To Hunter, it was as if the Victorian theme prevalent in the rest of the house were replaced by Native American motifs. He thought he could smell incense on this floor, the scent made unrecognizable due to it being mixed with several others. He then noticed there were only two doors at either side of the short hallway, the end having a small stained-glass window that was curtained like the rest of the windows.
Travis’ wife took him to the doorway at the right, opening the door adorned with a wolf pelt. The room was dark, having only one oil lamp that provided dim illumination. As soon as Hunter’s eyes adjusted, he could see several wolf pelts hung up on the walls with a silk veil of pale pink at one corner, a makeshift mattress comprised of buffalo, bear and rabbit skins, and a couple of vases at either side of the bed containing incense sticks that wafted smoke from their smoldering ends. Hunter whistled at the sight of the room, shaking his head slowly in amazement.
“What kind of room is this?” he looked to Travis’ wife who walked over to the lone oil lamp sitting on a nightstand next to the silk veil.
“Our room for the time being, that is if you still desire me,” she spoke softly as she turned up the flame only slightly. He blinked at her reply and suddenly found the room starting to become hot.
“What’s that?” he asked to make sure he heard her right. Surely we’re not going to consummate our desire in such a room like this? He thought uneasily as he looked around as if confirming the strange surroundings. A brief wave of amusement washed over him immediately after he asked her.
“I said that this is our room for the time being, if you still desire me,” she faced Hunter with the oil lamp in her hands. Her golden eyes scrutinized him deeply as if she was finding doubt within his heart. The flickering flame of the oil lamp provided a surreal effect on Travis’ wife, the dancing candlelight playing back and forth along her navy blue Muslim garments. The effect made her look mysterious.
“Is that so? It’s just that it’s a very… peculiar room, no offense,” Hunter quickly added and he felt another wave of amusement, longer than the last, coming from her.
“If you like what you will be seeing, then you might understand,” she spoke softly, having a hint of merriment in her voice. Hunter only blinked as he watched her slip into the veiled corner of the room, taking the oil lamp with her. It illuminated the corner, throwing a large slightly-blurred silhouette of her form against the veil. He swallowed as he realized that he’d get to see what she really looked like underneath the burqa and the hijab at long last. He smiled in spite of himself that his fantasies were becoming true after so long.
“I told you earlier that I would explain to you about the names of the men in Travis’ portraits,” she said as Hunter watched her silhouette bend over as if tying a shoe. It became apparent that she was unraveling a long length of something he couldn’t make out.
“Simply put, they were some of his most-revered friends,” she said after a pause, tossing over the veil a large handful of balled-up gauze which landed at Hunter’s feet. He picked it up and inspected it, finding her faint scent of freshly-dug up earth on it.
“What?” he said, not quite understanding why she was wearing gauze on herself and what she explained at the same time. As if on cue, another wave of amusement happened upon him.
“That is the most I can tell you about the paintings,” she answered as she remained bent over, apparently unraveling some more gauze. Hunter’s confusion grew until he shook it off and refocused on watching her undress through the veil. He found that he could barely make her out within the silhouette, but only just barely.
In a short time, another handful of gauze was tossed over and Hunter let it rest at his feet as he put aside the stuff in his hands. He hesitantly sat down upon the bed of animal skins as he saw her straighten up and then turn to either face him or her back on him. It was hard to tell due to the silhouette. Soon enough, she undid the hijab from her body, letting it fall to her feet in a heap. He noticed she had rather pointed nails as he took note of the curves on her body and watched her take off her burqa, letting it fall from her hand to her feet on the floor.
As soon as she held up her head normally from the usual bowed position he always saw, Hunter could scarcely register what he was seeing at this point: a pair of triangles surfaced from the top of her head. When she grasped at the veil in front of him and pulled it aside to take it down, he could not believe it. As the collapsing veil billowed across Travis’ wife to land in a pale pink heap, he first saw her face as a wolf’s. In fact, her head was like of a wolf’s, complete with ears, muzzle, whiskers, black nose and lips. Her neck, shoulders, arms, hands, body, and legs were like of a human’s, only a little more muscular than the average woman with a certain bit of suppleness added. Her fingers possessed black claw-like nails, while her feet were digitigrades—like a dog’s, or more aptly put, a wolf’s but bigger to account for her form. They, unlike her hands, had true black claws. White fur covered much of her form, leaving the nipples on her breasts and what inner lips of her vulva could be seen bare. A swishing motion redirected Hunter’s eyes to her hips and thighs, seeing a white bushy tail wagging behind her.
“Do you like what you’re seeing?” her dreamy voice snapped Hunter out of his shocked staring, seeing her smiling with her intense golden eyes on him. His initial shock was now wearing off, but slowly. While it was wearing off, his mind slowly made connections.
The wounds he saw on Travis’ body with the odd bit of white fur came from her nails and teeth, the growling sounds he and the neighborhood heard almost regularly during nights came from her and possibly Travis, the strange paw prints he came across in the Dark Forest came from her feet, the impression she was wearing high heels came from her feet being digitigrades, the Muslim garments she wore came from her appearance, and lastly, the children turned out to be right about her being a werewolf. That also meant Travis could be more than likely one.
“W-were-werewolf,” Hunter could only blurt out, stammering as soon as his mind fully recovered. He tried to get away from her, only ending up falling onto his back clumsily upon the bed as he could merely crawl backwards due to his state of being still in surprise and disbelief.
“Mm, far from it, my love. Far from it,” she seemed to purr and he couldn’t help but feel immense amusement coming from her that seemed to counteract his trepidation. She chuckled softly as she walked towards Hunter and slowly got down on top of him. He couldn’t do anything as he was paralyzed in disbelief at what he was experiencing just now. The very appearance of her true form was unnerving enough to begin with. As soon as he felt her warm furry body settle upon him, he was faintly reminded of a certain dream he had with her weeks ago. Her muzzle was inches from his lips as her eyes looked into his and he swallowed before opening his mouth to speak.
“…What are you?”
“Patience, love,” she whispered, her golden eyes half-closed as she brought her muzzle in closer to his lips slowly, then tentatively licked at them. “Do you desire me?”
This galvanized him into action, true action, at last.
“Uh…” he mumbled as he tried to get away from under her, reaching up to get her off him. His hands ended up upon the sides of her stomach, then quickly shifted to her upper arms close to the shoulders as he registered the feel of her through his hands and where he had touched her. “S-sorry, but this can’t be real…” he said as he made more of an effort to get her off him. She rolled off him and laid on her back as he got up to his feet shakily. He was still shocked at what had transpired, as he couldn’t keep his eyes off her, still taking in her true appearance.
“I’m sorry, but what are you?” Hunter pressed and she looked at him with a calculating expression for a few seconds.
“That is something I cannot tell you without my husband being here with me, as it is a very strange tale to begin with. But know this, I am nowhere a werewolf your town’s children thinks of me and my husband. And he is not one either,” she spoke as she sat up slowly, looking up at him gently with a hint of expectation in her expression. “Now that you have seen what I look like, what do you think of me?” she tilted her head that made her look like a curious wolf of sorts.
“Can I get back to you on that? It’s…” he replied after several seconds of opening and closing his mouth. Travis’ wife blinked at his reply and crossed her arms just below her breasts.
“Hmph, maybe I was better off staying dressed after all,” she murmured in a mock hurt tone which Hunter registered a faint feeling of amusement coming off her. However, he didn’t catch on her sarcasm.
“Uh… no, don’t be like that…” he trailed off as he finally caught on, then willed himself to look down away from the sight of her to his feet. There, he was able to compose himself a little better for a few seconds.
“Look at me, Hunter,” a hand came into his view which tilted his chin upward and he found himself eye-to-eye with Travis’ wife up close and personal. He couldn’t help but feel the fine fur from her fingers against the underneath of his chin along with the points of her claw-like nails against his skin.
“I know that you have told me a few times that appearance doesn’t matter to you, so I will not hold it against you based on your reaction to what I truly look like. It is after all, a human reaction,” she spoke and brought her muzzle in close to his cheek, closed her eyes and then backed off a little bit. Unbeknownst to Hunter, she wanted to nuzzle him but thought better of it.
“Can-can I think about this and get back to you sometime?” he asked, swallowing. She looked into his eyes intently for a few moments and then nodded softly, whispering “yes.” Hunter turned around and exited the room, looking back at Travis’ wife at the door before making his way down to the front door.
Agatha looked up from her crossword puzzle at the sound of their door opening and closing, seeing Hunter walk into the living room with a shocked expression. She blinked and put down her reading glasses, concerned.
“Hunter? What’s wrong? Did something happen over there?” she got up from her chair and approached him. He didn’t respond immediately as his eyes moved from left to right a few times. She made to say his name when she caught the whiff of several scents on him upon walking up to him. She could smell alcohol, vanilla, lavender, cedar and cinnamon with freshly dug-up dirt being the strongest among these scents.
“What happened?” she pressed and Hunter looked at her as if seeing her for the first time, and this chilled her as that same thing happened weeks ago.
“I’m… I’m going to bed,” he muttered and went up the stairs to the bedroom, not bothering to take off his shoes. Agatha looked after him with a combination of confusion and a slight degree of fear. She then walked towards the living room window to look at house number 308 as if to look for any suspicious signs. As always, the house sat there innocently with the curtains drawn shut on every window.
Hunter laid on the bed from afternoon to night, still digesting what transpired at house number 308. Sometimes, it was like a dream and sometimes it was real whenever he kept replaying the event over and over in his head. The revealing appearance of Travis’ wife, the connections he made in his mind, the feel of her against his body, the small lick she gave him upon his lips, his hands on her, and her holding up his chin…
Eventually, his mind moved on from replaying events to drawing new connections. He realized that she couldn’t be able to use the straws without revealing her muzzle under her burqa, and the gauze she had must’ve been on her legs in case they were somehow revealed.
“Hunter?” Agatha’s voice snapped him out of his reverie and he looked at her from the bed, blinking as he found that the bedroom lights were on. He looked out to the window and found that night had fallen. Puzzled by this, he looked back at her, seeing her walk slowly to the edge of the bed and sit down next to him.
“Did something happen over there? I need you to tell me, please,” she spoke in a whisper, concern pronounced on her face as she tentatively reached out to his forehead as if checking he had a fever or not. He blinked at her touch and realized that she wouldn’t believe him if he told her what he saw. Surely he’d be laughed out of the house and probably the entire town of New Hamlet if she blabbed to Betty…
“No, nothing happened.”
“Then explain the smell of alcohol and perfume…” Agatha’s voice and expression hardened, which made his guts writhe in fear. He swallowed before replying.
“We only had one glass of champagne and that perfume was actually incense.”
“Champagne? Champagne?!” now Agatha was becoming suspicious, her voice rising. Hunter raised a hand to try and silence her.
“Please, nothing happened as you might think. We only chatted, you can find out for sure I’m telling you the truth,” he replied with a conviction, knowing for sure she would never believe him if he told her the exact details. Agatha frowned and thought visibly, her lips contorting slightly. After a moment or two, she sighed and nodded.
“I’m sorry, Hunter. It’s just that I’ve never seen you like this before. What did you guys talk about?” at that question, he frowned and shook his head.
“Please don’t ask me that again. You wouldn’t believe me anyway if I did.” It was her turn to frown now and she reluctantly let it go, getting up to undress. It occurred to Hunter it was already bedtime. As Agatha slept next to him, he remained awake as his mind slowly got over it all and he eventually went to sleep.
His dreams involved him and Travis’ wife fully revealed making love to each other in that room, a series of jumbled images that ended with a fleeting feeling of her pressing herself against him upon waking up at the morning.