I was in the woods again.
Trees shrouded in long shadows, as a faint glow of moon broke through the branches.
Smell of wood, sweet wild berries, dirt and flowers swirled on the swift breeze. Crisp air caressed my skin, leaving goosebumps in its wake, tangling my hair.
My feet padded on the ground, branches cracking, dust rising as I was running as fast as I could.
There was a shadow moving next to me. I caught sight of it from the corner of my eye. Loud howling and growling filled the air.
Shadow was breathing down my neck, and as I was reaching the end of the tree line, I saw a full moon. High on the dark cobalt and purple sky dotted with millions of stars, clear and bright. My breath hitched, and I stopped moving as I dived out and into the meadow again, surrounded by red flowers.
And there he was, waiting.
He spotted me, eyes holding my gaze.
The wind blew through the meadow, scattering red petals everywhere and that’s when we started moving, slowly circling each other, never breaking eye contact. The gaze of those two beautiful, glowing bi-colored eyes bore into mine, longing, searching.
One moment that shadowy wolf was right there a few meters in front of me, the next, powerful arms pulled me closer.
The shadow was now in a form of a man whose face I couldn’t see, just his eyes. The same eyes as the wolf.
I was flush against his massive body. The warmth was reassuring, protective. Safe with a strong sense of belonging. And we fit perfectly, just like that.
His fingers traced the skin on my arms, his touch gentle, caring, measured. Like he was afraid I might break. Treading carefully like I’m something precious, slowly placing his palms on both sides of my face, he leaned in, pressing his forehead to mine, exhaling softly.
His lips moved, but there was no sound coming out. I couldn’t read them, and I felt them getting closer to mine…
Suddenly, a blunt pain spread over the back of my head. The surroundings blurred with an echo of ringing.
I opened my eyes, staring at the ceiling of my bedroom. My legs propped on the edge of my bed, tangled in my covers. Hands grabbed air, lips puckering, ready for a kiss that never happened.
I huffed, disappointed, grabbed my phone from my nightstand, violently turned off the alarm and tossed it on the bed.
These dreams of me running and meeting the wolf have been reoccurring. Every time there was a slight difference at the end. This was the first time the wolf turned into a human. I should stop reading those fantasy rom-com mangas before bed.
But every morning there was this unmistakable feeling of emptiness in my chest, the longing and the desire to go back to sleep again.
To see those eyes again.
It was unsettling.
Scratching the bump forming on the back of my head, I got my ass off the floor and went to take a shower and wash my hair. Mina and I were going to Ivan’s house tonight. We’ll have a movie marathon or play games or something.
I was excited.
Maybe a little too excited at the prospect of seeing Ivan.
We spent a lot of time together. There were only few classes we didn’t take together. So over the week we got a lot closer. I think. He was fun to be around and to be honest to look at. Which was probably why my heart sped up, my breath hitched from time to time when I looked at him. I had no immunity to handsome guys. That was becoming increasingly clear.
Handsome, fun and charming.
I mean, I’m totally not developing a teeny tiny crush on my one and only new friend here. Right?
Putting some clothes on, I sat at my vanity table, did my skin routine, and dried my hair with a towel. Then I untangled it with a brush and put some oil on it.
My eye caught the photo frame next to the mirror.
“Morning, grandma…” I whispered, tracing fingers over the photo.
My remaining stuff came yesterday, so Mina helped me unpack.
This is it.
It’s really my home now.
I took a deep breath as I exited my room. When I stepped into the hallway, I heard voices coming from downstairs. At first I thought Lola was talking to Mina, but the other voice sounded deeper, masculine. It had a familiar note to it. I just couldn’t place it.
So pushed by whatever force, I slowed my descent down the stairs, until the conversation became more distinguishable.
“Yeah, I know it’s a bit worse this time around. I can make another adjustment for him. I don’t want to overdo it, though. It’s risky if he’s developing tolerance for it.” Lola said.
“I don’t care what you need to do, just fix it.” The man’s voice was firm, cold in his demand, but there was a tinge of worry in it.
Oh, someone he cares for must be sick and Lola must be that person’s doctor.
“We both know that’s not how it works.” Lola sounded sympathetic. A pause and then she added, “We’ve known each other for years. You know I’ll do everything I can.”
The man grumbled something, and I think he was pacing around the room, because I didn’t think those heavy footfalls were Lola’s.
“It’s just…” He started, sounding frustrated.
“I know.” Lola interjected. Then, a little softer, she added, “I know. We’ll keep it under control. It’ll be fine.”
The silence stretched for a few moments.
“So, how is the girl holding up?” The man asked.
“She’s holding up as well as she can,” Lola answered. Are they talking about...me?
Lola sighed, “You can ask what you really want to know, David. No need to dance around it.”
“Are there any signs of…” he lowered his voice so I couldn’t discern what he said and I was straining my ears, so much so that my dumb ass wasn’t looking where it was going. I missed the step.
Hitting your tail bone hurts like the dickens.
“Well, someone’s morning started rough.” I heard the man say, an amused note in his voice.
Footsteps rushed to the hallway, “Oh, Tara dear, are you alright?” Lola asked as she came out of the living room, warm dark-brown eyes set on me as I got up from the foot of the stairs.
I gave her an awkward smile. “Yeah, I’m fine. Can’t say the same for the floor.”
She smiled and pulled me into a hug, smothering me in the restless curls of her hair. “Good morning dear.”
“Come now, let me introduce you to someone.” She tugged my hand.
Standing in the center of the room, making it shrink with his imposing presence, was a tall man, clad in a dark grey suit perfectly molded to his impressive physique. Black hair styled away from his face, sporting a 5 o’clock shadow on his jawline. There was something familiar in the lines of his face, especially the deep set green eyes and the amused smirk playing on his lips.
“Tara, this is David, my long-time friend and our town’s mayor.”
The mayor?! Really? I mean, when I imagine a mayor of a town, somehow a picture of a sixty-year-old, balding, round man with a mustache and a monocle comes to mind.
But this man was in his middle to late thirties and could easily be on a cover of a magazine.
I reached my hand out, feeling a tad bashful, “Pleasure to meet you, sir. I’m Tara. Your town is beautiful, I must say. Have you considered advertising it? I bet it would turn a pretty penny as a tourist spot…” I barely stopped the deluge of verbal diarrhea.
Ah, yes. I couldn’t be normal for a day, could I? I couldn’t stop at pleasure to meet you. I had to go and start a pitch for a project.
The man, David, chuckled as he gripped my hand. “She’s as lovely as you said, Lola. Pleasure is all mine, Tara. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, sir.” Ah, I should have ended it at that here too. But, also not. Instead my mouth decided to run me to the ground today, confessing all my sins. They did say that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. “I hope whoever is sick gets better soon, sir.” David tilted his head, arching an eyebrow at me.
Shoot me. Shoot me now.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop…” I gave him a weak smile and hung my head in shame, face flaming. The desire to yeet myself to fiery pits of Mount Doom increased.
“No need to apologize, it’s all right,” his tone, tinged with amusement, “I was just about to leave. Glad I got the chance to meet you before I left. Now, if you’ll excuse me ladies,” David nodded at us with a smile and started for the front door. Lola and I followed him out to the hallway.
He turned to us just as he was about to open the door, “Lola, I’ll contact you later,” his gaze then landed on me, “Welcome to Blackwood.” At that, my ears perked up. That sounded eerily familiar.
I wasn’t able to dwell on that for long because he left in the next moment and Lola tugged me back to the living room.
“I’m so sorry Lola. I really wasn’t trying to eavesdrop on a private conversation,” I said, panicked.
“Oh, don’t worry about it dear, I know,” Lola waved her hand dismissively, her voice light. “You hungry?” She asked as she walked to the kitchen.
“Sure, I can eat.”
“Pancakes sound ok?”
Well, I hoped the pancakes would settle better in my stomach than the royal screw up I just had. Though I bet shame goes well with the side of syrup atop a fluffy dough.