Bonds And Commitments
A few howls from a distance rang through the pack grounds. I could feel heart pound with excitement as the white and off-white wolves made their way in the direction of the packhouse. The summer sun reflected off their coats, making each one shine bright. The epsilons, protectors of the grounds, gave them space to pass so that they were able to walk by.
I’ve been talking to Adrian for the past month through the phone, making sure he and the other wolves didn’t get lost on their way here. I wasn’t even sure how I had made the journey from Russia to Canada, and I was glad that they had taken such a heavy risk for me, and now they were here, just a little distance away from the front of the main building.
The wolves took a while to make it into the center and when they did, they bowed their heads low in acknowledgment of the high-ranking wolves that were sitting on stools at the patio.
The high-ranking wolves and elders who were present greeted them, before Halian, the alpha of the pack turned to gesture at me.
“Come greet your brothers,” he said, making the omegas that were watching through the window to stare at me.
Impatient, I slipped through the other park members so that I was now standing on the first stair of the patio. I locked eyes with Adrian’s yellow years. After all these years I could still recognize his wolf form.
“You made it,” I said, stepping down the stairs.
I did. Adrian said to me through his thoughts before letting out an excited bark as he wagged his tail. I couldn’t recognize most of the other wolves, but I noticed two of the smaller off-white ones shared a similarity to Adrian.
My sister’s step kids. He said. Mine isn’t here. Still too young to travel. I’ll show you pictures. I nodded, walking up to this alive before squatting and giving him a hug.
“You must be Adrian.” Adrian and I both looked up to see Ahote towering over us. He was cradling is stomach as usual. A sweet smile was plastered on his face, and I could see his curious eyes dart from us to the other Siberian wolves and then back to us.
“It’s great to meet you,” he said, staring down at Adrian. The appropriate thing would have been to get on Adrian’s level, but Ahote was physically unable to do so.
Ah, you must be Ahote. Adrian said, standing to sniff his legs. Ah, Alek told me about the pup on the way. Congratulations.
Ahote’s smile widened. “Thank you,” he said as his hand found mine and squeezed it. Adrian gave us one last look before approaching the high-ranking wolves, probably to ask questions about their stay for the week.
My bonding ceremony with Ahote was this evening, and I’m glad Adrian and the rest made it on time. The crowd that had formed filtered away since a handful of them had to prepare things at the riverside. Ahote and I, as well as Zeke and Kaya, were going to get bond together there. Something about Rivers and flowing spirts. I’m too sure. I had been too excited to listen to Ahote explain the religious significance behind doing it at that exact spot last night.
“We should be heading inside with the others,” Ahote said, taking a hold of my hand before pulling me in direction of the packhouse. I blinked. Somehow, I had blanked out in the middle of the crowd thinking about our bonding. I smiled, nodding at him before following him back into the packhouse to prepare for the evening.
“Should we begin?” one of the elders asked. I looked over at Ahote who was standing next to me. He nodded, giving me a smile before reaching out to take my hand.
“Yes,” he said, looking over at the elder who was holding a wooden tray. On it sat bonding bands and red string we were going to use to recite our vows to each other. I hadn’t said anything since the small procession of Peace River wolves had moved to the edge of the river for the bonding ceremony. I thought that if I spoke up something might go wrong. The wolves from my pack were now in their human forms. Their blond heads and out of place clothes dotted the crowd of first nations wolves. Zeke and Kaya were standing beside us, both in the heavy traditional attire, Ahote and I had been dressed in as well—off-white pleated tops and pants made of goat fleece and lined with blue thread. Ahote looked great in it. I liked how heavily beaded his and Kaya’s hairs were.
The elder smiled at four of us, stepping back a few times so that he was under the shade of the trees. Ahote approached him, and I followed suit, still holding on to his hand. A lot of memories flashed through my mind as an Elder from the crowd started the long recitation of marriage advice from his script in their native tongue. I thought of when I first meet Ahote. I thought about leaving my pack at thirty. I thought about how fearful I was that Honon would take all this away from me. I was at the finish line, and my mind was so much of a blur that I wasn’t hearing words, just waiting for the elder’s lips to stop moving so that Ahote and I could be bond.
I looked over at Zeke to see if he was just as impatient. He was. He caught my eyes and smiled, and just at that moment, the elder called them up first. I watched as Kaya and Zeke’s right hands were tied together. They had to hold their hands in a clasp, and I watched as the Elder prayed over it before undoing the string and giving both bands. Zeke had to take an extra oath of initiation, and I assumed I had to do the same when it was our turn.
“Ahote, Alek?” I took in a deep breath, going forward with Ahote, and the same was done with us. I didn’t breathe until the bands were fastened tight on each of us. I took the separate oath that made me officially a member of the Peace River pack. When I said the last words of the pledge, I had practiced yesterday with Lapu, cheers broke from the crowd.
Ahote turned, still holding on to his stomach as the other wolves in attendance started moving forward to congratulate us. I got a hug from Lapu who pulled me aside for a bit as Aponi approached Ahote with smiles and flowers. Lapu soon left me for Kaya and Zeke, and I was approached by wolves from my former pack.
“It’s sad to see you go,” Adrian muttered while he hugged me. He was in washed jeans and a long sleeve red top. His yellow eyes searched my blue eyes as he pulled away.
He spoke up, “I always hoped you would come back someday, but it seems like you’re happier here.” I didn’t miss the look he threw at Ahote before looking back at me.
“Yes,” I admitted, squeezing the hand he still had on my shoulder. I wasn’t going to see them in years after they left to go back to Russia, but I was happy here, and I was happy with the new path I was building for myself. I could see in his eyes that he was happy for me, but also sad that his hopes of my return would have to end.
“Don’t be sad,” I said, hugging him again. He laughed, patting my back before walking away. I watched him disappear into the crowd before turning my attention to other people approaching me. As talked to others, and along the way, I noticed Len in the far corners of the crowd. His eyes were fixated on Ahote and suddenly realized that all this must be hard for him.
“Excuse me,” I said to Hakan who was talking to me before slipping away to reach Len.
“Hey.” The teenager turned, his eyes going wide when he noticed it was me. “How are you doing?” I asked when he didn’t say anything and looked away again before turning to look at me with a deep frown. His expression said a lot of things. That he was sad, confused, and a little angry.
“How do you think I’m doing?” he asked, and I shrugged, folding my hands over my chest.
“I know it’s hard, but you’ll find someone someday.”
“That someone won’t be Ahote.”
The hurt in his voice caught me off guard. I didn’t have anything to say in response to that, so I ruffled his hair. The sound of the river flowing mixed with sound of traditional flute and drums being played made things less awkward. I wanted to ask Len if he would like to search the crowd and dance with someone, but he seemed in too much of a fowl mood even for that. So I just stood next to him, watching the other werewolves soak their bare feet in the river as the younger wolves chased each other and picked at the food left in open coolers.
“Don’t be so against them before you even meet them.” Was all I could come up with to say to Len. He didn’t respond, and I decided to leave him alone. I went to meet up with Ahote and Aponi. They were both talking to Kaya now, whose face makeup stood out from the distance. Elan was being held by Zeke, and I could see he looked a bit horrified to have a child in his hands. The child would sometimes stare at Zeke before turning his attention back to the toy he was swinging via its stuffed limb.
“This is good practice for when you get your own,” I heard Aponi say to Zeke when I got closer. She tapped Kaya’s stomach, probably as a response to Zeke’s uneasiness.
I moved to hug Ahote from behind, not interested in the parenthood preparation speech Aponi was giving Zeke and Kaya.
“Alek?” Ahote muttered, surprised. He looked over at me with wide eyes, before his expression turned to that of warmth—of love. He reached out to hold my hand and spotting the band on his wrist made my chest grow even warmer. I kissed his wrist, and I watched his eyelashes flutter as a deep blush flushed over his face.
At that moment, during the buzz of the celebration, I got to appreciate everything. I got to dwell on the fact that Ahote was officially mine, and that Peace River was now my pack.