Wolf's Lullaby

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Tantrum Throwing Imp

TARA


“What in the ever loving flying monkeys’ buttocks was that?!” That was the first thought that floated to my mind as I blinked the sleep away. I tried blinking a few more times, hoping the vivid images from the dream would melt away in sunlight streaming through my blinds, spilling over my upturned covers. Nope! They were still there, flashing behind my closed eyes. My face and my whole body felt like it was on fire. Primed and ready to spontaneously combust any minute now, I scrambled on my bed, my foot catching the covers and I almost face planted as I rushed to the bathroom.

Seriously, what was that dream?! I mean, I had those recurring dreams about the wolf and him turning into a human. But never this… intense. I never saw his face before, just eyes. So embarrassing!

Usually, it dissipated fairly quickly once I woke... but this time... The imagery persisted. It was oh so ingrained in my memory. Both mind... and body…

I splashed my face with cold water and took in my reflection in the mirror. My eyes snagged over the lines of my collarbones, up the side of my neck to my jawline. It lingered...my skin branded by the touch of soft lips, the cool rasp of twin metal studs on the side of his lower lip raising goosebumps as he peppered feather-light kisses up the column of my neck. The combination of those two opposing sensations sending shock-waves through my system. The warmth of his body enveloped me, fingers gripping my hips, pulling me closer, grazing up my sides to finally cup my face. Gentle...so gentle was his touch. Reverent almost. His lips hovered a breath away. He brushed them over mine in the sweetest whisper of a kiss, hitching my breath, sending my heart into overdrive, before he rested his forehead on mine, breathing in deeply. Savoring the moment, I opened my eyes briefly and met the familiar green ones, jolting me awake.

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!!” I squeaked, covering my face with my unruly hair. The heat rising in my cheeks reached nuclear proportions. I didn’t think it possible to blush from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes. For the dream, I blamed hormones. It wouldn’t be long now before my period. That must have been it. I stared accusingly at my lower stomach, “Damn you, you monthly tantrum throwing imp!”

How the hell was I going to look Philip in the eye again, without bursting into flames of embarrassment?!

Philip… God… Yesterday I returned the tray I broke. It took me hours upon hours of gluing and watching You Tube videos to put it together, but I was successful-ish. I think I took ten years off of my life before I gave it back to him, and died a few times when I saw his expression when he opened the box. He scowled intensely that I thought he was going to throw the box at my head, turn on his heels, stomp away, and never look back. I wouldn’t have blamed him.

I was so relieved when he didn’t…

The hug was unexpected though… My heart tripped on a beat at the memory. A phantom of the touch, a tickle of his breath on the crook of my neck, imprinted on my flesh. I…. I didn’t mind it one bit… not one bit. My thoughts turned back to the kiss, and I traced fingertips over my lips. Would it really feel like that?

Aaaand cue in the flushing again. Squatting, I held my face, trying to cool it with my palms, emitting some ungodly, unintelligible noises, when a knock sounded at the bathroom door.

Mina popped her head in. “T, you alright?”

I sighed, “Yeah... No... Do you have some sage and crystals, maybe?”

Mina’s eyes widened, like I caught her off guard, “Um... S-sage? C-Crystals? W-Why? No, I don’t! Why would I have those?!” she sputtered, and I laughed.

“Why are you flustered, you weirdo? I need them to meditate and cleanse my aura or something.” I flailed my hands around my head.

“Ah! Yeah, that,” she laughed, a bit strained, “No... use aromatic candles for that. But why? Did something happen? Are you stressed? Does your head hurt again?” she fired off, immediately going into mama hen mode.

“Calm down. I’m fine MinMin you worry too much. It’s nothing, I’m just joking, geez. I had a weird dream. Too much manga reading before bed.” Unconvinced, she stared at me, her expression haunted as if she played out who knows what sort of horrid scenarios in her head.

“Come here,” she waved me closer, taking something from the back pocket of her jeans as she went behind me. Something shimmered and swayed in front of my face before she placed it around my neck.

“There. A good luck charm.” Mina smiled as she inspected the necklace. “It looks good on you. Don’t take it off.”

I turned to my vanity, looking in the mirror. A delicate golden chain with a raindrop pendant, simple but beautiful, nestled in a dip at the base of my neck.

“It’s… beautiful. But…”

“No buts! Think of it as an early birthday present or welcome home present.” she laid a big smooch on my cheek, smiling.

“I love you too MinMin... Thank you.” I tugged her to me for a hug.

“Of course you do. I’m awesome.” She said, flipping her hair as she strutted to the door, and I couldn’t help but chuckle.

She stopped before reaching for the doorknob, turning and looking at me again with that haunted worry, “I... You are my best friend T… so I worry about you… You...” she looked... guilty. I knew what that was. She felt responsible for me. She always did… always so protective of me. And me getting hurt last week freaked her out.

“Don’t worry MinMin. I’m fine.” I said, reassuring her with a smile. But that ugly thing tightened in my stomach. The one I sensed when Ivan told me about their kiss. The kiss Mina said nothing about to me. Her best friend. If she hadn’t told me about that, what else was she not telling me? I was a coward, too afraid to ask her. So I pushed those nasty feelings through the door in the back of my mind, locking them up.

Twenty minutes later, we were ready for school and on our way out of the house. Daniel waited in front, leaning on his car, poking his phone. I’ve gone with them to school a few times over the last week. And I wasn’t a fan…

An uncomfortable, slithering feeling coiled inside my gut that had nothing to do with me being a third wheel. Daniel’s demeanor… It changed when it was only the three of us. Ivan’s constant nagging disapproval might have rubbed off. I came to dislike the guy, as I had the “privilege” to be more often in his presence.

As Mina stepped down from the porch, he lifted his eyes to her, a satisfied smirk on his face, before he whistled, “Wow! That’s my girl! See, I told you it will look great on you, babe!”

“You like?” Mina twirled a bit, a smile on her face as she approached him and he pulled her closer to him, kissing her. His hand holding tight on the back of her neck.

“Of course. Way better than what you usually wear. Because I picked it out for you. You don’t need the cleavage to be hot.” Sure, accurate. Mina could rock a potato sack, but whatever the grandma looking blouse she was wearing now, wasn’t her style at all. This wasn’t the first time he told her something like this. Last time he commented on the red lipstick she wore. Like it made her lips way too big, so a nude would fit her better, or that her hair color made her seem plastic, that she should color it back to her natural brown. Who died and named him her stylist?! What irked me most was that Mina complied with whatever he told her.

“Sure, but she has great tits. She should flaunt them. The girls like to play peek-a-boo sometimes.” I couldn’t resist the urge to sass.

“Ah, hey there T.” Daniel said, as his amber eyes slid to me, acknowledging my existence. Though the color of his eyes was warm, his gaze hid a chill of a tundra. He smiled, one of those charming smiles he showed the first time we met him. “But the girls are my privilege now,” he winked at me. Mina laughed and shook her head.

“Can you two stop talking about my boobs as if I’m not here and as if they’re sentient?”

“They are out of this world you know…” Daniel lowered his voice, hugging Mina even closer to him, whispering something into her ear, making her blush as one of his hands slipped into the back pocket of her jeans and the other angled her head so he could kiss her. The way he held her… It was… possessive, but not in its-giving-me-tingles kind of way. Not like Philip held me in my dream… Why the heck was I comparing these things?!

“Okay!!!! Too much PDA for me guys, now I need to wash my eyeballs!” Screeching, I scrubbed my eyes for a dramatic effect, also in an effort to drive away an image of a certain dark-haired behemoth from my mind.

Mina broke the kiss, turning to me smiling, as she disentangled herself from Daniel, and sauntered to the passenger door, “Ok, let’s get going, we’ll be late for school.”

We all filed in. Daniel started the engine and turned on some music.

“Ah, before I forget, Max is throwing a party this weekend. He invited us.” Daniel said, glancing at Mina as he turned onto the main road. Mina said nothing as she was typing a message on her phone.

“Babe, are you listening?” he said with a bit of annoyance in his tone.

“Hmm... Oh, yeah, cool. We’ll go.” I swear Daniel’s jaw ticked a bit. “Who are you texting?”

“Ah... Clara and Lila want to talk about the project we are doing together, sorry. T you wanna go to the party with us?” Mina turned in her seat looking at me. I looked from her face to Daniel, whose lips thinned and his grip on the steering wheel tightened. “Sorry babe she can’t go.” He said to which Mina frowned, “It’s couples only. Max and Sam are bringing their girlfriends. It’s basically a triple date night.” He explained, and looked at me in the review mirror, “Sorry T. It’s not that I wouldn’t invite you, but you would be the odd one out and I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.” he sounded apologetic yet the sincerity was severely lacking. Also, a reminder that I am very single kind of stung.

“Then I don’t want to go.” Mina said, turning in her seat, tapping on her phone.

There it was again, that jaw muscle jumping. “Babe, we have to go. He planned this for sometime. They are my best friends and they are really excited to hang out together.” he pleaded with her, his voice soft but the edge lurked in it like a blade in the dark as a small vein throbbed in his temple.

Before he got an aneurysm or something worse, I interjected, “MinMin you guys should go. You know I hate parties. Don’t worry about me. Have fun for the both of us. At least one of us should enjoy her youth. I’ll live vicariously through you from the comfort of my fuzzy blanket while I sip tea.” I gave her my widest smile as I squeezed her shoulder affectionately.

“You sure? You wanted to watch that new movie…”

“We’ll watch it next weekend, it’s not going anywhere.” I promised, and Mina nodded, “Ok.” At that, Daniel’s grip on a steering wheel loosened, and he smiled tightly at me. Disaster averted.

We arrived at the school’s parking lot shortly after, and I bounced out fast, partially because of the tension in the car, but mostly because my bladder threatened to burst. Mina kissed Daniel, and we started walking towards the stairs, me basically hopping to it, when he stopped her, “Hey, can you stay for a second, I wanna talk about something.” he gave me a brief pointed look, so I left the two love-birds, and as I dragged myself up the stairs, I glanced back at them. Daniel encircled Mina’s wrists as he leaned on the hub of his car. His expression serious, his posture tense. That niggling annoying coiling in my gut returned… I wanted to wait for Mina, but I also really needed to go.

Reluctantly, I entered the school and bee-lined it for the bathroom. After I did my business, I washed my face and splashed my neck a bit with water to freshen up. One peek in the mirror had me cringing. How in the electrocuted poodle hell did my hair frizz this much? Then I remembered the forecast said it would rain today, and the days grew warmer as it was already May. Humidity and all that. Tendrils of escaped hair from my topknot plastered themselves to my forehead and my nape, while the rest floated about my head. I looked like a wet rodent that had one too many drinks the night before and sported a major hangover. Now that the party was over, it was having an existential crisis.

Wiping my face with a paper towel, I took out my cherry chapstick and applied it, untied my hair and let it fall down my back to my waist in unruly waves, then brushed through it with my fingers till it seemed decent. I took a whiff of my armpits. Lord, praise the deodorant I sprayed this morning. I shall not go down in history as a reason for a mass extinction event occurring in this school if I lift my arms.

I glanced in the mirror one more time before I decided I looked presentable enough. As I was leaving, I accidentally bumped into a girl and her friend entering the bathroom. I apologized as I was stepping out but I heard them whispering excitedly something in the lines of ’Did you hear them? Wanna go see?’. No idea what that was about, so I continued down the hall, going to class. Which I was going to be late for if I didn’t stop dragging my ass.

As soon as I sped up, my cerebellum protested, so the tip of my sneaker snagged on the floor, and I was falling in slow motion. My arms flailed in the air, hoping to restore my balance or to fly off. With the imagery of my avian ancestors in the forefront of my mind, I pleaded with them for a helping wing or two, but to no avail as I got really close and personal with the school’s tiled floor.

The students still loitering in the hall around their lockers started snickering, making whooping noises, and laughing. And I laid there face down on the floor like a roadkill as they sidestepped me, hoping for the ability to cast an invisibility spell.

“What are you doing?” said a familiar baritone.

Gingerly, looking up from the floor, I caught sight of black Vans. I winced and bit my lip as my cheeks flamed. Gathering the few ounces of dignity I had left, I propped myself on my elbows, resting my chin on one hand, then looked up till I saw vibrant green eyes staring at me from half a meter away.

Philip crouched down, resting his forearms on his bent knees. He tilted his head as he regarded me with unveiled amusement.

“Oh, you know, appreciating the tiles. They have a very intricate design.” I said nonchalantly, making circles on the tile with a finger, meeting his amused gaze with a raised brow.

“Really?” He was barely holding in his laughter. The bastard.

“Yeah, see this crack here,” I pointed to one crack in the tile’s corner I circled a moment ago,” doesn’t it seem like all the paths in life we could take? See how it spreads. Doesn’t it make you contemplate all the possibilities given in life, for we are but a blip in this vast universe but given the chance...” I trailed off when he’s whole body started shaking with barely contained laughter. Sometimes… No, most of the time I couldn’t believe the crap that left my mouth… No brain to mouth shit filter. None. Mentally, I facepalmed myself.

“I see you don’t appreciate art.” I deadpanned.

Then it happened.

The guy guffawed.

He freaking guffawed! The melody of his laughter echoed throughout the hallway. And I just laid there staring at him like a brain dead idiot. Too mesmerized by both sight and sound to form a coherent thought or move my body. Did I suggested he should laugh more in front of other people? If I did, that was the stupidest advice I had ever given. I found the whole “sharing is caring” thing to be complete bull-crap at this moment. A selfish bitch; I admit it; I didn’t want to share.

“What?” Philip’s laughter stopped abruptly, and he was scowling at me now.

“Huh… Nothing.” I shook myself from the obvious brain damage he induced just moments ago. Philip gently grabbed my arms and pulled me up. I tried to ignore all the tingles that spread out from that small touch.

“Thanks.” I brushed my clothes off.

“You ok?” he asked, looking me up and down searching for an injury.

“Yeah.” I smiled, and we started walking down the hall in silence. He walked close, the heat radiating from his body made me way too conscious of his presence. The fluttering butterflies started a riot in my belly and I took a small side step to distance myself from him so they simmer down.

“Now, tell me if you would like to inspect anything more. Like for example, this finely crafted pillar with its magnificent edges. Or those fine-looking lockers. You can see the imprints in the material left generations ago. Or… Or what is your take on this particular piece?” He gestured to the fire extinguisher propped on the wall, raising a brow, a teasing smirk playing on his lips.

I rolled my eyes, but the corners of my lips twitched with amusement.

“What does it represent, really? Is it millions of extinguished hopes and dreams of the students in this fine establishment?”

I snorted, then giggled. “Shut up!”

Suddenly he bent down, getting to my eye level, his lips in a crocked grin, “See I can also appreciate art.” He tucked the lock of my hair behind my ear, then froze.

I blinked.

He blinked.

We both blinked.

Neither moving a muscle nor breathing. I stared at the vivid green of his eyes, framed by long dark lashes. This close, I could discern subtle shades of blue interwoven in green, and two adorable little beauty marks beneath his left eyebrow.

My eyes glided over his cheekbones, zeroing in on his lips, the shape of them, the way his upper lip was thinner than his lower one, the spider bite piercing… My heart hiccuped before it started galloping in the confines of my chest, pumping hot embarrassment through my veins. My face felt as red as Philips looked when his gaze darted from my lips to my eyes. We both pulled away, flustered, and I found my mint colored sneakers to be quite interesting looking in the hallway lighting.

“Sorry… um… you had... You had something in your hair.” he mumbled, not looking at me, scratching the back of his neck.

“Oh… Ok, thank you…”

The silence stretched for a few moments, but I composed myself, and find my voice, “Let’s go. We are going to be late for class, Crabby Pants.” I smiled sheepishly and tugged the sleeve of his leather jacket before I bounded for the stairs to our classroom.

“Lord.” Philip said after a few seconds as he climbed behind me.

“Huh?” I turned to him, confused.

“I shall only accept the nickname if you add the title in front. Lord Crabby Pants.”

I snorted and stopped two steps in front of him. “Well, such modesty, dear sir, I can’t even. Where are my manners?” I did a little mock curtsy. “My Lord. Then that means I can choose mine, right?”

“Sure, Shrimp.”

“Sure, Queen Shrimp... Wait, that makes me sound like fried sea food. I’ll stick to Lady Shrimp. I’m modest like that.” Philip shook his head, amused, chuckling as he climbed the two steps, standing next to me, bowing slightly. “Shall we get a move on then, my Lady Shrimp?”

“We shall.”

We walked in comfortable silence for a bit. Halfway down the hall on the second floor were some poor schmucks like us, still scurrying to their classrooms late, but they still threw curious glances at the two of us. Suddenly, Philip stopped in his tracks and tensed up next to me, his expression darkened and the few onlookers visibly flinched.

“What’s wrong?”

He turned around. “Shrimp, seems like your friends might have gotten themselves in some shit…” I followed his gaze and down at the end of the hallway I saw Mr. Hersh, the math teacher stomping up the stairs, fury clear on his face as a disheveled, pissed off and bloodied Ivan followed him. Dragging behind him was an equal -scratch that- even worse looking Daniel, who leaned on Mina heavily as she helped him hobble along towards the principal’s office.


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