A Knowing Gaze
Alek helped me out in the garden. He wasn’t very good at weeding, and for the most part, he couldn’t tell which ones were weeds and which ones were garden plants, but it didn’t matter. It made me smile, and I was happy to have his help anyway.
Slowly the pack grounds came to life. The wolves who were on grocery duties walked by the garden to get the old truck. The kids were awake and some of them had wandered to the backyard to chase each other. Older wolves had started pulling up chairs to sit outside in the morning breeze. Most of the snow from yesterday had melted, leaving the floor as a wet muddy mess.
“We’re done, you can stop now,” I said, getting up from the ground. The knees of my jeans were soaked in mud, and so were the gloves I had on my hand. Alek looked up at me, still kneeling by a bush of plants.
“Really? What are all these then?” he asked, and I laughed.
“They’re not weeds,” I said watching as an ‘oh’ left his lips before he got up. We had a little quarrel about who would carry the bag of weeds and tools. I ended up with the basket of tools while Alek carried the bag of weeds and followed me to where we made compost. I found myself shuffling away from Alek anytime I felt he was a bit too close. I wasn’t scared of him — I was far from that. My body just responded oddly anytime we were too close for comfort. The small pull and shiver I had felt back in the kitchen earlier in the day were still happening. They were more frequent, and it was more obvious it was because of him.
I was confused. I’m not sure why my body was reacting to him this way. Maybe my heat was clouding my mind, and maybe my wolf was just interested in feeling another pairless one in its presence. Or maybe I was just horny — that would be embarrassing.
“So many children...” My ears perked up at Alek’s words. I turned, looking away from the pill of vegetables I and another wolf was sorting out. A small smile made its way to my face when I noticed the group of kids that had been bothering him had left for the backyard. I had headed back to the Kitchen with Alek, and he had wandered through the hallway before coming back a few minutes later in a change of clothes. He had probably taken a shower. I could smell the thick sunflower smell from where I was.
“They’re all homeschooled,” the other lady that was helping me with the vegetables said. Her name was Kaya, and she felt like an older sister being about three years my senior. Alek slouched back on his sit, letting out a sigh that made my friend laugh and me smile. His mannerisms didn’t suit him at all. He was tall and broad. Childish attitudes didn’t quite look right.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to seeing them around. They’re good kids,” Kaya said, returning her attention to the vegetables. Unlike most people in our pack, her hair was short and cut like a bob around her face. She did her hair herself, and it was obvious from the uneven chops and split ends. We took the leaves and piled the stems at the corner. As always, they’d be added to the compost pile later today. “You’ll start wanting them around even,” Kaya added, grabbing another stem if leaves to work on.
“I guess,” the blond said with a side smile.
My face warmed up, and I blinked before looking away. No. I made to pluck a leaf from its steam, but I ended plucking it a little too close, cutting it and making it useless because if my shaking hands. I bit down on my lip, narrowing my eyes as I tried to concentrate. It’s the heat. I told myself.
“So...” Alek trailed, making me turn my gaze to him. “Do I just sit around until they’re done with the warehouse?” he asked looking from the lady with me, to me. My eyes diverted away from him immediately. Why does he keep looking at me? I wondered pushing stray strands of my hair out of my face. He can feel it too, can’t he? I asked myself, looking at him from the side of my eye. It seemed like I had zoned out for a bit. He was now talking to Kaya, and it took a while for me to zone back into the conversation.
“You could always help around. I don’t think there’s anyone here who doesn’t want a hand,” Kaya said, making me nod.
“Oh, I’ll be helping out when I can then,” he said, looking away from us and out the window. “There aren’t any other packs for miles, and this area is pretty much hidden unless you want to drive out into town. It seems kind of lonely. I’m guessing everyone just works all day, then they go to bed, then repeat the next day?” he asked.
Kaya hummed, looking back at the stack of vegetables we were working on. “We’re over a hundred in this pack. I don’t think anyone gets bored that easily here. We have hikes, the kids play games. We ride sometimes, go fishing...” she trailed, looking out the window as well. The kids were out playing ring and pin. I watched two, smiling at their enthusiasm.
“What are they doing?” Alek asked, making Kaya and I turn to face him.
“Playing,” I replied. Speaking up for the first time in the past hour. “Ring and pin. It’s supposed to hasten the coming of fall,” I explained, and he nodded before resting his head on the wooden table.
“There are a lot of objects flying around in the air. Are you sure they won’t hurt themselves?” Kaya let out an ugly laugh at his question, and I shook my head, trying not to cackle.
“Where are you from again?” Kaya asked, turning fully so that her back was resting on the counter’s edge. “You’re so... interesting,” she said, smiling in a way that exposed parts of her lips that she hadn’t gotten her black lipstick to.
“Russia — Siberia,” he said at a go, making Kaya frown a bit before sighing.
“I honestly don’t know where that is,” Kaya said, being honest.
“Up north,” Alek said.
“Europe or Asia?”
A small frown formed on Alek’s face for a bit, but it went away just as fast. “Both.”
Kaya nodded at his answer before turning back to face the counter. “How come you’re here — in Canada.”
Alek shrugged, leaning back on his seat. “I used to be a Kappa at my pack, but I guess I was restless. I cut ties and started traveling. It’s not like I had a family to stay back for anyway. No mate, no children, no siblings...” he trailed. The atmosphere felt awkward after what he said. I’m not sure if it was just me that felt this way, but no one said anything afterward, so I assumed that wasn’t the case.
“Oh, so you used to be a hunter?” Kaya asked. She didn’t bring up the rest of his statement and was probably avoiding it. “That makes a lot of sense,” she said, giving Alek a small smile. He smiled back, but I saw that it didn’t reach his eyes.
“You could talk to our pack’s hunters to see if they’ll let you follow them on trips. They hunt often since it’s a big commune, so supplies run out quickly,” Kaya continued. She only talked so much and so quickly when she was uncomfortable. I’m sure she regretted asking him why he was here in Canada. Alek just nodded at her suggestions, looking away from her from time to time.
Later in the day, the kids came into the kitchen to ask for water. It was hectic, and a little funny as twenty kids from the age of seventeen down to a few years of age squabble around the main housekeeper, Aponi as she distributed water in small plastic cups. My son, Elan stuck close to me since the older taller kids got water first due to being tall enough the reach the counter Aponi placed the cups on.
“Water...” Elan trailed, making me look down at him with a smile. He had Honon’s wide face and hooded eye. I ruffled his hair, muttering a small ‘soon’ before looking up. My blood ran cold when I noticed Alek was staring at us from his seat at the dining table. His gaze was fixed like he was deep in thought. I looked away, not knowing what to think. Elan soon got his water, and he stayed back in the kitchen with other kids his age while most of the older kids vanished to the heavens know where.
One of the older kids, Len, stayed behind though, offering to help us prepare what everyone would eat in the afternoon. He was sixteen and was like an older brother to Elan. The two stuck together often, and it was nice having someone I could trust around Elan.
Elan was now clinging to Len as he tried to talk to me as I worked. The boy wore plain trousers and a loose top. His dark brown hair stopped at his shoulders, just like my son’s, and he had a friendly smile that reached his eyes. Len eventually gave Elan a coloring book a pack of crayons so that he would stop clinging to him. We kept a lot of picture books and the like in the cabinet because of the kids. It was a way to get them to sit still instead of making a mess. A good lot of them were at the dining table or sitting at its feet as they colored, looked at picture books or scribbled in blank sheets of paper Kaya had given them.
I was rinsing out vegetables when Len gave me a compliment. “You look good today,” he had said and had just smiled a little before saying a small ‘thank you’ anyway. He made comments like that often, and I wasn’t’ sure what to make of them nine times out of ten. A frown made a way to my face when I noticed Len sent a glare at Alek before leaving the kitchen.
That’s odd. I thought. Len was almost never rude to anyone. I looked away from the door when it closed behind Len. My gaze moved to the dining table and was a little stunned to find Elan sitting by Alek’s side coloring. My face was flushed, and I was a little bothered by it. I turned the towel I had in my hands looking from Elan to Alek. It’s not like I could tell Elan to sit somewhere else because I wasn’t at ease. I bit down on my lip deciding to look away.
I’m overthinking things. I dropped the rag, walking to Kaya to help her out. The thoughts in my head were so many. They echoed together, refusing to be clear and make sense.
“Is everything okay?” Kaya asked me. I blinked, realizing that I had spaced out for a bit. I apologized before getting back to work.
I tried my best to keep myself out of my head for the rest of the day. I worked, leaving the kitchen for the Garden later in the day to do some more weeding. I helped with laundry, getting the kids out of trouble and sharing food during lunch. As much as people hated the ‘housekeeper’ assignment Omegas were assigned in our pack, I loved it, and I couldn’t really imagine being anything else
Alek got up and left for his room, but he was back in the kitchen in the evening. I could still feel his stare on me. It didn’t matter if I was looking at him or was wandering around minding my business. The feeling made a cold sweat form on my forehead, and it had my mind twisted in nerves. He could feel it too — the stir — there was no way he didn’t feel it too.