Forgotten Wolf

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6 Unexpected Visitors

TGIF? I think not.

After the second night of next to no sleep; not that I can remember the last time I slept well, I’m a functioning zombie. Barely at that, and it seems like anything that can go wrong is. Apparently I’m irrationally grumpy too as I am currently taking out my frustrations on a water spigot that just won’t stop leaking.

A truck pulling in snaps me out of my personal melt down over the defiant tap to see it’s Trish. “Fuck!” I groan as I glance at my phone, seeing it’s now four in the afternoon and I haven’t got anything ready for her.

“I was thinking up a smart ass thing to say the whole walk over here but seeing as that tap has you on the verge of tears, I think I’ll just hold onto that for later.” She pauses in the barn door, pursing her lips as she looks around before settling back on me. “Bad day?”

“Ugh, the worst! It seems like everything I try to do is fricken doomed today! Everything from dropping the eggs when I made breakfast to the fucking tap that just won’t stop, mother, fucking, leaking,” I yell, kicking the tap for good measure.

“I’m fucking exhausted and can’t get anywhere near a decent nights sleep, I’m so frustrated I could cry!” I flop down next to the tap with my back against the wall while I bury my face in my hands.

“I can see that, why can’t you sleep?” Trish asks, not hiding her concern.

“I don’t know, my dreams have been all over the place. I keep jolting awake, and even when I’m asleep the whole time, I’m whirled around trying to make sense of the dreams. I wake up more tired than when I went to bed.” I pinch the bridge of my nose in frustration as my tension mounts. “Also I lost track of time and shit’s not ready for you, I’m sorry. I’ll drop it off at the market in the morning.”

“Relax, you’ve got yourself all worked up. It’s fine, breathe, there’s lots of time.” I take a deep breath and force myself to relax at the reminder. “I’ll set up in the morning and when you get there well pull the pre orders and you can take off. Try and get some rest tonight, eh?” She waves and takes off.

I stare at the defiant leaky spigot and say, “Fuck it,” opting to turn the water off at the front of the barn.

Clearly I’m not capable of basic plumbing in this state.

So I pack up for the market tomorrow, eat some leftovers, shower and turn in before anything else can go wrong.

-----

After another restless night filled with fragmented dreams, I get cleaned up and head over to the market, half an hour late.

“Rough night?” I hear Jude say as he makes his way over. I simply nod and grab the crates and make my way over to Trish. Jude silently grabs a stack and carries them over with me.

“Shit dude, you look rough,” she says as I glare at her. “I take it you’re still not sleeping? Coffee?”

“Nope same old. Also hard no, that stuff is gross.” She shrugs at my insult to her beloved coffee.

At that moment, just to mess with me a little more, the rez’s dark SUV pulls up. “Ugh, for fuck’s sake, most is still in the truck I’ll get it out asap,” I say to Trish, hoping she’ll run interference.

“Sorry guys, I’m a bit behind today,” I huff out as I grab more crates.

My tension mounts as I wait to see who is in the SUV and can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when I see Chris isn’t there. Jace walks over beside me and asks what needs to go so I point and he grabs a stack. When we get to the booth, I turn to thank him but stop dead in my tracks as I take in his battered state. “What happened to you?!”

“A bit of rough training, no biggie, guess I should be focussing more on blocks,” he says, dismissing my concerns with a laugh. His right eye has the faint shadow from a nearly healed black eye, his eyebrow is split, as is his lower lip, and there’s a bruise on his left cheekbone.

“Wh-what does the other guy look like!?” I stammer, shock clearly evident in my voice.

“I got in some good return hits, don’t you worry about that,” he says with a wink.

Xavier scoffs behind him, “I must have missed it then because Chris looked fine this morning at breakfast.” Everyone snaps their attention to him, but he just shrugs and goes back to looking bored.

“Chris did this to you?” I ask, reaching up and gently tracing his cheek with my fingertips. A low growl sounds behind me, shifting my attention to Jude who is standing there, arms crossed and eyes glaring at him. Jace grabs my hand with his, brings it away from his face, and takes a step back.

“It’s really nothing, we’ve stepped up training a lot. There’s been some border issues, so he’s pushing everyone harder. It’s put him in a real mood, even for Chris,” Jace says as he frowns.

“You two really went at it last night, thought one of you was gonna break something,” Xavier adds as he grabs the first box from Trish to take to the SUV.

My eyes snap wide as I flash back to what Chris last said to me. “I’m sorry, I think this is my fault,” I mumble, chewing on my lip. Jace isn’t the only one to cock an eyebrow at that statement.

“What are you talking about, it’s not your fault,” he says, scrunching his nose in confusion. “It’s just Chris and his moody-ass self.”

“The day you showed me around. I bumped into him right after you took off for patrol at my truck. He gave me shit for making him wait, and seemed pissed I spent the afternoon with you.” Xavier and Jace exchange confused looks, clearly Chris hadn’t mentioned any of this.

“I may have panicked a little when he grabbed my wrist when I tried to leave. I pissed him off clearly, must have overstepped or something. At any rate I’m not allowed back. Maybe you weren’t supposed to take me around?”

“Well that doesn’t make any sense. He knew that you were coming and that I was taking you to the lake. I cleared it all with him, it’s just protocol.” He runs his hand through his hair as he considers my words. “I’ll talk with him and see what’s up; sorry about that.”

“That’s okay, no need to make it any worse than it already is. I’ll just have to skip midweek delivery.”

“He’ll cool off soon enough. He’s got a temper but he doesn’t hold senseless grudges, then things will go back to normal. Someone can swing by in the meantime and just pick up. Claire will have our asses if her supply is messed with, and I’m not telling Grandmother.” He swallows hard at that mental picture and Xavier nods in agreement.

“Whatever works for you, just let me know,” I say as I pass him a business card with my number. Trish finishes pulling their order and Xavier takes the last box to the SUV.

“I’ll touch base Wednesday, it would be nice to see what the elf’s natural habitat is like,” he laughs as I groan and roll my eyes. “Ladies” he says as he bows after paying; with a wave he takes off.

“Chris sounds charming,” Trish chimes in as we watch the black SUV leave.

“Why didn’t you tell me he gave you a hard time on delivery?” She asks, narrowing her gaze at me.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal. I panicked and made it worse, honestly it was like a five minute interaction. Nothing to worry about.” Her look tells me she isn’t persuaded at all.

“He left finger mark bruises on your wrist Jess,” Jude remarks. I just give him the most blatant ‘Shut up’ look I can muster and he shrugs it off and takes a sip of water from a bottle.

“I won’t be seeing him any time soon, so relax.”

They don’t need to know he’s haunting my dreams.

“To think, I told you to go out with him,” Trish exclaims as Jude chokes on his water.

I light up like a Christmas tree as the blush burns my cheeks. “Just remember this the next time I shoot down your match making,” I retort. “There’s a reason I don’t date.”

She frowns at this but has no comeback.

-----

The next few weeks go by smoothly in a new routine. I spend a chunk of market day with Trish and Jude, Grandmother comes the following week and apologizes for her feral grandson, who she deems an idiot. Ethan doesn’t miss a chance and gets a grab bag each weekend. He’s started hanging around listening to us chat. He still doesn’t talk, but occasionally nods or shakes his head in response to what’s being said.

Jude comes by once or twice a week for dinner. Sometimes we go out to eat, other times he brings something to grill. We just talk and hang out, being around him is effortless now. The distraction seems to be working some, as I’m getting a bit of sleep now, even with fucked up dreams off and on.

Jace has taken to coming by Wednesday nights to pick up their order. The first time was a fluke and he came when I made dinner so I offered him some. Now he always comes at dinner time, so make extra just for him. We talk about random things, he says training is going well, he has less bruises so that’s good. Apparently Chris is still in his mood, which makes me glad to not have to deliver.

-----

A month into this new routine, I’m working in the yard and look up to see Ethan walking up the laneway from the forest. “Ethan? What are you doing here?” He looks tense, eyebrows furrowed as he stomps his way over with fists balled; the kid is fuming.

I grab a water from the fridge and pass it to him. He takes it and drinks half of it in the first gulp. “Does anyone know you’re here?” He just shrugs, clearly not concerned.

“Hungry?” He nods enthusiastically. I grab some leftovers from the fridge and nuke them. He gladly takes them and immediately digs in.

“You stopped coming,” I hear him whisper.

My eyes snap to him stunned. I’ve never heard him speak before so I just respond, “Hmm?”

“You stopped coming,” he says a bit louder. “And you didn’t come to the market,” he trails off.

“Sorry little man, my neighbour needed help this past weekend, and I’m not allowed to deliver right now.” He furrows his brow as he considers my answer. “You look tired, you want me to call someone?”

Ethan shakes his head no, never raising his gaze to meet mine. “Well you should lay down then.” He gives me a smaller head shake no, then it’s my turn to frown. “You need to sleep, you can barely keep your eyes open.”

I take the empty dish, grab his hand, and lead him inside. He sits on the den couch to watch TV. “I don’t like what I see when I sleep,” he whispers. I nod, understanding all too well.

“I get it, I’ve been having problems sleeping too.” His eyes snap from the TV to me as he waits for more. “Bad dreams, but I found a way to hold ’em off.”

He’s now sitting on the edge of the couch listening. I grab a rope moon necklace from my room and head back. “A friend gave me this to ward off negative energy, wanna try it out?”

He carefully takes the necklace and starts to study it. The simple carved wooden moon has a milky white gem embedded in it. He slips it on and goes back to watching TV, but before long he starts to nod so I give him a blanket to curl up with and head out.

I pull my cell out and call Jace. “Hey, sorry to call out of the blue, but I thought you should know Ethan’s here,” I pause waiting for his response but there’s only silence. “Hello?”

“Hey sorry, was just wrapping things up. Is he okay?”

Something sounds off with Jace.

“Yeah, he looks exhausted so I fed him and he’s passed out on my couch.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“No rush, he looks like he’s down for the count. I’m gonna clean up and take a shower, I’ll leave the door unlocked.”

“See you soon,” Jace says before hanging up.

I clean up and jump in the shower. Before long, I hear the back door open and heavy footsteps echo towards the bathroom. “He’s down in the den but is still out like a rock,” I call. I hear a grunt in response. “Grab a beer, I’m gonna turn on the grill once I get dressed, dinner won’t take long.”

I twist my hair up in clips, then slip on black yoga pants and a scoop neck light shirt which falls off a shoulder. I head to the den, Ethan’s still fast asleep so I head to the kitchen. He’s standing with his back to me, staring out the window at the setting sun. I freeze; something’s off.

He turns around and my heart drops as I’m met with that hard hazel-eyed gaze that has been haunting my dreams for over a month.

“Chris,” I whisper.

Shit

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