Driving home to Old Forge from my apartment takes all day, but the six hours provide time to think. Leo woke me in the early morning with a request in my ear, and his warm chest pressed against my back. I felt around in my bedside drawer for a condom, but when I handed it to him, he held it to what little light could be found in the room and whispered Not this time.
We always used them, we have for years, but I didn’t deny his desires. I take a low dose pill to regulate my cycle, but I usually don’t rely on it for birth control. Our DNA isn’t that easy to overcome.
I didn’t tell Leo about the vision of him holding our baby or how I burnt it all down. Everything today is racing toward the finish line. It was our last breakfast, our last time together in my bed, our last road trip home. It wasn’t the time to add complicated images of me killing our theoretical children to his mind.
Leo and I stopped in Springfield for food and to let his car cool down. I parked next to him at the far end of the lot, swiped on some lip balm, and took a big gulp of water before getting out of my car and stretching toward the sky.
“You know what, you should marry me today.” Leo smiled and stretched out his long arms before wrapping them around me and burying my face in his chest.
I choked a bit and shook my head. “All I have to do is raw-dog you, and I get a ring? I see how easy you are.”
“You can be so crude.” Leo looked annoyed. I stood on my tiptoes to reach his mouth and kissed him lightly. “I’m serious, Al.”
“Oh, serious, like when we were in middle school, and you wanted us to get married at the water park or when you got your driver’s license and wanted me to pack a bag and leave with you for the open road?”
“Yeah, only now we’re adults, and tonight might not go our way.”
“And seriously, you are asking me to marry you in a Waffle House parking lot?” I pulled Leo toward the restaurant. “Besides, our Clan won’t allow it.”
Leo planted his feet and refused to move. “Fuck the Clan. We leave after tonight, and we don’t come back.”
“Sweetheart, it doesn’t work that way. We would be hunted and might never see our families again.” Leo nodded slowly in agreement. “You’re almost finished with your degree.” I laced my fingers behind my head and pulled on my arm muscles. “I’ll leave everyone behind for you if that’s what you need me to do, but tonight will be fine. You’ll be back on the hunt for sexy, tanned human girls on Monday.”
“I’m getting tired of all the dating bullshit.” Leo pulled his arm across his chest to stretch it out. “At least promise me here and now that you will be my midnight bride.”
“Of course, I thought that was a given.” I grabbed a hairband off my wrist and tied up my unruly locks.
“All this time together, but you never actually promised me, Al.”
“I promise you, Leonardo Nielson Kane, I may not be your first wife, but I will be your last. I give you my sacred blood oath.”
“Alright, that’s good enough for today.” Leo continued walking toward the diner. I could feel his anxiety. Time alone in his car was not therapeutic for him.
“You have to come with me, Henry.” William pressed into the bed. It sounded like he was rolling his shirts around something and stuffing the resulting tubes into his suitcase.
“Jesus, Will, stop badgering me. No. It’s done. I fucked it all up. There’s no point in chasing after her now. I don’t even know if I should.”
“I’m packing my car and leaving in an hour. Lila, her sister, invited me, so I’m going. I’ve got a room reserved. I can get one for you too.”
I shook my head and sat on the edge of my bed. I could smell toast from the kitchen and the fabric softener on the clothes William was stuffing into his suitcase.
“Nah, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“See, you are already thinking about going, just do it, come with me, talk to her, apologize for being a creepy old fucker and see if she’ll take you back.”
“Dude, I’m only four years older than you. Watch the old-man comments.” Will jostled the bed. I heard the sound of a zipper and assumed he was done packing.
“Yeah, yeah, but you’ve got the high IQ and the whole blind guy thing going on. You have an unfair advantage over the rest of us.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You think I have an advantage with women?” Will walked out of the room. His voice sounded like it was coming from the guest bathroom.
“Yeah, man, you can’t see what they look like, so they think you’re into them as a person, not just their body or their face. The rest of us get caught staring at their tits and other chicks walking around half-dressed. It’s not fair. Fifty percent of all the drama is totally gone for you.”
“She keeps a lifelong fuck-boy at her beck-n-call. How am I supposed to handle that?”
“He’s a problem. If it weren’t for the whole sticking his dick up my ass thing, I’d fuck him too.”
“I’m just saying he’s a really nice, happy, good looking guy. I doubt that’s beginner level shit he’s working with.”
“You are not helping me here.”
“Throw some clothes in a bag, grab those balls of yours and let’s go pry her away from that big fucker. If she wanted him, she’s already got him. There must be a reason they aren’t together.”
After our pitstop, we headed toward Lenox. The closer we got to home, the thicker the trees became. The trip wasn’t a difficult drive, but the wall of mesmerizing green along the highway could easily make you sleepy and slow to react. Leo insisted we stop again after an hour to break up the trip.
My last conversation with Henry replayed in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to scream at him. No apology I could imagine coming out of his mouth would be enough for me. The only problem with my anger was that Henry was right. I can’t expect him to ever understand my needs. I can’t choose a human husband and not keep a wolf lover on the side.
I called Lila and told her I was on my way with Leo and his car. She filled me in on all the drama around the compound and how everyone was pulling rank and age to help with my trip inside.
We were taught early not to discuss anything too sensitive over cell service. Still, I could tell Lila all about my drama with Henry.
“He actually listened in on your conversation with Leo?”
“There was more than just a conversation. This is Leo we’re talking about.”
“Hmm, that’s not a great start Alley Cat. He doesn’t trust you, but then why should he trust you? Anyone can see how much Leo loves you.”
“I love Leo too, but we aren’t in love. It’s totally different. I want to be in love, not just... contented.”
“Oh, so awful. To have this huge problem. I feel so bad for you.”
“Stop it. I know you don’t.” My sister’s condescending tone can instantly enrage me. This time was no different.
“Two good looking, generous men at your fingertips. No, I totally can’t fake any fucking pity for you at all. But you should hear Henry out. Give him a second chance to hang himself before you dismiss him completely. You sound deeply flustered by the man.”
“It’s not going to matter after tonight,” I whined.
“Don’t you start, Alerie. Everyone is working so hard to make sure you come out of this. I can’t hear that whiney defeatist shit from you today.” Lila was quick to anger but thoughtful.
“Henry was supposed to be my armor. Kate says I need to find someone willing to step in and take his place.”
“Then we find someone, it’s easy enough. Everyone here wants to help. I need to get back to the kitchen. I’m supposed to be making space for food deliveries and beer.”
“Alright, we should arrive in a few hours.” I hung up my phone and turned on the radio. Country and gospel stations came in the clearest. I opted for the country.
Leo’s car made the trip home only to stall on the turn right outside his parent’s farm. The small car could be pushed the rest of the way—it was ridiculous. The little import made it hundreds of miles but couldn’t survive the last hundred feet.
Leo hopped in my car after giving up on his, and we met his parents for sandwiches and root beer floats on their porch. I could tell Reg wanted to speak with his son alone. I didn’t protest when he offered to bring Leo to the Grove later. It was like we were in middle school again, and I left him for the night to go home and finish my homework before sneaking out later to meet him.
After all, I was possibly dragging his only son to his death.
My family home was busy with visitors and deliveries, but my parents were nowhere to be found. I dropped my bag in my old bedroom and laid my deep blue outfit for later across my bed.
Lila came upstairs to find me. I talked to her through the door while I showered. We always rinse, turn off the water, and then lather up to save hot water. Something that’s not a concern in city houses but vital in the country.
“When did you get in?” Lila asked, poking around inside my overnight bag.
“Not too long ago—took Leo home first. Hey, leave my bag alone, snoop.”
“I am not snooping. What’s this blue bohemian outfit for? It looks too small for you.”
“My witch friend made it for me. I have to wear natural fabrics into the White.”
“Your witch made it, hmmm. Is it magical, or are you magical?”
“Honestly, I don’t have any clue.”