An Old Feeling
It was the odd time in the year when the weather couldn’t decide if winter was really ending, or if it had a few more weeks to go. The light snow that had fallen earlier in the evening, and through the morning was starting to melt.
It was two in the morning, and I suppose I’m the only person awake at this hour. I let out a sigh, turning off the kitchen tap before moving to the freezer to take out some meat I wanted to defrost before this afternoon.
The garden out back hasn’t been touched for a while, but winter was coming to an end, so it made sense to weed it out. I’ll do that with some help in a few days. I didn’t manage the greenhouse, and Aponi didn’t let me anywhere near her plants.
A smile played on my lips as I took the iced chicken out of their nylon/cardboard pack. As I went about setting the meat on a metal tray I heard the kitchen door creek open. I turned, blinking in surprise when I saw who walked in.
Sorry, I needed some water. I—” the man trailed off as his eyes met mine. I stared at him, having a good look at the fair-haired blue eyes man. From the gossip and whispering from last night, I had caught that his name was Alek. He turned away, casting his gaze to the floor as he cursed under his breath. We didn’t say anything to each other, and no one made the effort to approach the other person.
It was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable.
“Water?” I asked, trying to break the awkward silence. Yes, water. He asked for water. I told myself. I went ahead to grab a cup to fill without even waiting for his confirmation. The sound of the water gushing out the tap and into the cup filled the void of silence that we left. I turned the tap off when the cup was full, turning to face him before holding out the cup. He blinked then said some apologies under his breath before walking over when he realized I was asking him to come to get it.
“Thanks,” he said as he took the cup from me. I smiled awkwardly at him as he drank the water. The atmosphere felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t know what to say — what to do.
It’s him. I kept thinking to myself. The man I confused with my scent. I felt a blush creep to my cheeks at the memory of someone coming over to tell me to mask my pheromones. My eyes looked him over. He looked too old not to have a mate. It was strange, but it’s not like I could just ask. It was embarrassing.
The man finished drinking the water and was now staring straight at me as he held on to the empty glass cup. I wasn’t sure if I should apologize to him. No, that would make things even more awkward and uncomfortable.
“Do you need help?” His voice shocked me a bit. I blinked before apologizing for spacing out.
“Sorry,” I repeated, looking away from him. “You said you wanted to help?” I mumbled, trying to change the conversation. I was soon at the kitchen sink again.
“Yes.” The sound of footsteps accompanied this confirmation, and soon he was standing by the counter beside me, looking down at the packs of meat. “I could help with this. I used to do this full-time back home,” he said with a small smile. I looked away from him, turning my gaze to the window. It was still dark, and the sun won’t be coming out till around seven in the morning. The days were getting longer as winter came to an end, but they were generally still short and ai wasn’t a fan of it.
“Can I help?” A sigh left my lips when I realized I had spaced out again.
“Yes,” I said, looking over at him before gesturing to the knife holder. “I’m sorry. I’m not myself this morning,” I muttered picking up a pack of chicken before tearing it open and letting its contents fall into the sink.
He laughed, and I wasn’t sure why, but it made me shiver a bit. His laugh was clear and smooth, and he sounded friendly. I looked over at him, watching as he got the meat out of the packs and sorted them out with precision. With him helping me I would be done before people started waking up for breakfast.
I looked away, smiling to myself. I’ll get time to start weeding the garden today, which will be a relief. Some time passed, and the sound of tearing cartons, and nylon was getting a bit repetitive. I looked over at the man again, watching as he continued to work. He looked strong — built like a hunter, and maybe he used to be one. It wouldn’t be far off. He did know what he was doing when handling meat.
“Where are you from?” I asked, giving the question little thought before it left my lips. Alek stopped what he was doing to look at me with a surprised gaze. I shrugged, looking away. “I was just wondering...” I trailed, picking at the chicken I was working on at the moment.
“Russia, but more specifically the Siberian mountains,” he said, answering me. I bit my lip, pausing what I was doing again before I looked over to him. He was staring at me as well, our eyes locked as we unsuccessfully tried to read each other under the orange fluorescent light.
“Oh,” I said, looking up at the ceiling. I had felt a drop of water. I’d need to talk to someone to fix the ceiling sooner or later. “You don’t sound Russian,” I commented, looking back at him. I heard him snort, and I raised a brow, wondering what that was for.
“What?” I asked, frowning a bit.
“What do Russians sound like?” he asked, folding his hands and backing up a bit until he was leaning against the brick red walls to his side.
I shrugged. “Clipped, heavy... Strong Rs and Vs?” I said, and I watched as the man rolled his eyes. He was still smiling, so I guess he wasn’t offended.
“Have you ever met a Russian before. How do you know?” he asked. I bit my lips before sighing as sucking in my lips.
“Well, no...” I started, and I watched as he rose a knowing brow at me. “But I watch a lot of television,” I tried to say in defense, but he just laughed.
I felt tingles again. He had such a nice laugh. So nice that he had me smiling too. It was strange. Here I was at four in the morning smiling instead of being a grouchy mess.
“I’ve never been outside Peace River — Okay, I’ve been to the town after ours for some supplies, but that’s all my traveling experience,” I said, watching as he gave me a look of concern. I guess my voice sounded a bit small and distant-ish. I tried to play it off by chuckling a bit, but the laugh didn’t even sound sincere even to myself. Looking away, I tried to focus on the sink in front of me. The kitchen went silent apart from the ticking clock in the background. Look at you. Making everything awkward again. I scolded myself as I looked out of the kitchen window. I could see some of the pack’s wolves moving about. If there’s anyone I pitied the most in our hierarchy of duties it was wolves that had to keep watch all night and day.
I’m not sure why I had said anything. It’s not like I would want to travel out. Leaving the pack house meant I could bump into Honon at any time. Sure, with how far apart cities were, it was a small possibility, but still a possibility. The rejection I received was hard, and I’m not sure how I would have coped if I didn’t have my son with me. I had a piece of Honon whether he wanted me to or not.
“You know, traveling isn’t always what it’s cut out to be.” The man spoke up, making me look over at him. My lips were sore from all the biting, but I couldn’t help myself. I had spaced out again, and I felt bad.
“You get tired, nowhere is ever home...” he trailed. I blinked a few times before looking away. I’m sure why he was telling me all this. Was he trying to cheer me up?
“I’ve been traveling for five years since I left my pack,” he continued, letting out a small sigh. I bit down on my bottom lip, not knowing what to say, but it seems like he didn’t mind because he kept talking.
“Loneliness...” he trailed, making me look over at him again. He had picked up a piece of chicken to clean with a knife. “You get so lonely if you travel alone,” he added. He didn’t say anything after that and the room fell back into silence. I wanted to ask him questions. I wanted to ask him why he wasn’t with his pack anymore, why he didn’t have a mate, and what he was doing awake in bloody four AM in the morning, but I didn’t have the courage to ask any of that, so I settled with not saying anything at all. The two of us cleaned up the meat and set them out on metal pans before washing up our hands. We were done. I could start getting ready to weed the garden before I had to sort of the kids’ ward later in the morning.
“Thank you,” I said, and the man just smiled. I left for the storage room, and I guess he headed back to his bedroom.
When I walked back into the kitchen with some of my tools I started looking around to see if I’d left anything in place. There was nothing worse than making a mess of your chores. Everyone would point it out, and I didn’t want to have extra duties added to my already packed schedule. As I checked off my to-do list in my head, I frowned a bit at the sound of someone coughing.
“Are you always awake at two in the morning?” The question made my frown deepened for a bit, but my features relaxed when I realized Alek hadn’t left. I turned to look at him, tilting my head to the side as I observed him. He was sitting at the kitchen island. His blond mane of hair draped over his shoulders. He was in pajama trousers and a grey snug shirt. I wasn’t too sure what he was still doing here. He looked like he needed some sleep, but here he was.
“It depends,” I answered honestly, dropping my tools by the counter before walking over to him with my hands in the pocket of my grey trousers. “If I have things to do at two in the morning, sure,” I added, watching him hum before pushing a bit of his hair back. Generally, I was a bit intimidated by bigger people — broad, massive people like him. They were often high ranking, and it was a bit ingrained in people with lower ranks to feel that way to a certain degree. But I didn’t feel that with him. He was big but childlike, and I’m not sure if that made all the difference. I licked my lips, moving to sit on the seat across from him. I could spare a few minutes to talk to him. Couldn’t I?
“Your name’s Ahote, right?” the man asked, and my brows knitted in a small frown as I wondered where he heard my name from. “Someone told me,” he added, answering my unasked question, and a small ‘oh’ left my lips.
“Alek?” I asked, seeing as we were taking turns to do this introductory thing.
He chuckled a bit, nodding before looking away. “This pack seems interesting,” he said, changing the conversation. With a tilt of my head, I followed his gaze to the small shrine by the door. “Lots of spirituality, lots of rigid roles — I’ve been here for less than a day, but I’ve noticed,” he continued. I didn’t know what to say to that. I didn’t know many other packs or any other way of doing things. I’ve been in peace river all my life, and our pack was the only one for miles.
“I feel kind of odd; like I stand out,” the man said, whispering and all I could do was chuckle. He said it like it was supposed to be some secret. He did stand out. Blond hair and blue eyes — a massive rouge with an accent very uncommon around here.
“What are you going to do?” he asked, making me look over to the tools I’d dropped by the counter.
“Gardening,” I answered, and he responded with a low hum.
“Can I help out?” he asked me, and I smiled a bit before nodding. I didn’t mind getting help. I was going to pester one of the kids to help me out anyway.
He stretched out on the wooden seat before leaning forward and smiling at me. My chest did something funny. I got up, heading for my tools without another word. Maybe I was overreacting, but the feeling was strange and worrying. It was like Deja vu. I’ve had this feeling before — when looking at Honon — at my mate.