Wolf's Lullaby

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Rapunzel's Conditioner

TARA


Instead of reading up on my chemistry notes to prepare for the test next week, I put my headphones on and doodled on the margins. Yesterday, I found a cozy little nook in the school library. An isolated desk at the back, close to the storage room, next to the huge arched window. It had the best view of the yard.

Bored out of my mind as I added a monocle to Mr. Floof - a fuzz ball I drew - now completing his distinguished gentleman look with a fancy cane, a top hat, and some mighty mustache I put down my pencil and laid on top of my book, staring through the window.

My phone buzzed. Mina sent me the message saying she’ll not be going home right away after school today.

The two of us… We still haven’t had a decent talk after my cataclysmic outburst. I didn’t want to push, waiting for her to be ready, though I apologized a few more times. We acted like usual, our conversations mostly about mundane stuff, but the tension, the strain, unsettling awkwardness was there, sitting between us like a nosy neighbor.

Sighing heavily, I focused on the sight outside. The weather was getting warmer, and the skies were clear, with the occasional stray cloud making its way over the azure expanse. Branches of birch and willow trees swayed on a gentle breeze, its breath dispersing the cotton puffs of dandelions peeking through the grass, And I followed as the fluffy seedlings rode the winds coat tails, appearing almost silver as the sunlight hit them, their movement in tune with the lilting melody playing through my headphones. Mesmerizing. Hypnotic, lulling me to sleep. I fought the drowsiness. Eyelids opening and closing but each time becoming heavier.

I had no idea when or for how long did I doze off. The music on my headphones stopped, but what made me crack my eyes open were the swirling shadows blotting out the sunlight bathing my face. The shadows slowly took shape as I spied a flock of birds -- no, not a flock, a murder of crows -- soaring from the direction of the surrounding forest. Their sleek black feathers shimmering with grayish blue hues in the light as one part of the murder settled in the crown of the trees in the yard.

I raised my head, a paper stuck to my cheek- I must have been drooling, how lovely, so ladylike- and I peeled it off, squinting at the trees. A shiver ran down my spine, the soft hairs on my arms raised to attention. I could have sworn the crows all looked in my direction as I moved. I blinked. In the next moment they took flight again, swooping low at breakneck speed, cawing as they flew close to the window, giving me extreme Hitchcock vibes, pushing my heart into my throat, before taking off in the forest’s direction.

A metal thump brought my attention from the sky to the windowsill. Intelligent gray-white eyes stared at me. The crow moved its head in that creepy way birds do. There was something familiar about it…

Making no sudden movements, I approached the window, tilting my head as I regarded the curious creature. It cawed at me, then resumed its head movements, not taking its eyes off me. Weird…

Then I remembered.

Corvy.

There was a crow that frequented our yard in Whiteridge. It loved to perch on our oak tree. I named it, but since I couldn’t discern if it was a boy or a girl, grandma suggested a gender neutral name. So Corvy it was. It came from time to time when I was six-seven years old. But then one day it stopped coming around altogether. Haven’t seen it since. Huh…. Guess this one looks similar. There was a sort of ethereal, haunting beauty to these birds.

A smile spread over my face. I tapped my finger on the glass, gently not to scare it. The crow cawed, then pecked the glass right over my finger, making me flinch and snatch my hand away, letting a tiny squeak out. At the same moment, a hand landed on my shoulder. I let out an unhinged shriek, garnering lots of shhh’s and glares from the handful of student’s and staff members in the library. I bowed my head slightly, apologizing,

“Oh, sorry for startling you.” A soft voice said, and I turned to the familiar petite blond. Vera stared at me with her blue doe eyes, an apologetic look on her face.

Exhaling in relief, I palmed my chest to slow down my rapid heartbeat.

“No, don’t worry…” I uttered, stealing a glance at the windowsill. It was empty. The crow must have flown away when I screamed.

“Here, this must be yours. It was lying on the floor next to your desk.” she said, handing me a pen with a pink sloth hugging the upper part of it. Ivan gave it to me as a welcome gift a week after I arrived. It must have rolled off as I took a nap.

“Ah, yeah. Thank you.” I smiled, taking the pen back. Vera sprawled over my desk, resting her forearms on the hard surface, with all the grace of a jungle cat, clasping her hands as she eyed my notes.

“Oooh, chem exam next week, with Mrs. Dolek…” she grimaced as she said our teacher’s name. The tall, raven haired, sharp featured lady in question, was a very strict educator. The woman always wore long, black elegant dresses- Morticia Addams would be green with envy- paired with a black parasol she used as a cane when in class. Students joked she liked to always be prepared for our funeral should we fail her class.

“Yeah… I heard her tests are so hard to pass.” I heaved a defeated sigh.

Vera leaned forward, lowering her voice more. “She gives questions outside the lessons we covered. But…” she leaned in even closer, looking over her shoulder, before she whispered conspiratorially, “I got you covered. I have some tests from last year. They might help.” My eyes grew wider, excitement ratcheting up, and I squeaked out a “Really?!” which once again garnered me disproving looks and hushes. One guy in particular narrowed his eyes at me and I smiled awkwardly, gesturing to my lips as if I’ll zip them shut.

“I’ll bring them tomorrow.”

“Thank you! You are a lifesaver!” I beamed, careful to lower my voice.

“But did you ever enter her office?” when I shook my head Vera huffed a laugh, “It’s full of creepy porcelain dolls. The woman brushes their hair and talks to them. Can you believe that?! So weird...”

I pondered that for a bit, frowning. “Rather than weird it’s sad… Maybe she has no one she’s comfortable talking to… We don’t know her, so…” Vera’s eyebrows shot up at my words, and she regarded me for a few moments with curiosity in her blue eyes. “Hmm… No wonder.” She finally said.

“No wonder what?”

“That you’d think that. You date that Constantinov guy.” she answered, nonchalantly waving her hand in the air.

Ah, yeah. The rumor.

It seemed to have spread like wildfire throughout the school. Those two girls that saw us leave the girl’s bathroom sure blabbed. Though I heard whispers, got some stares from people, my face still flamed at the mention. But the way she addressed Philip… I didn’t like it.

“Um... Philip is not weird… He’s just... broody, grumpy. But he’s nice too… when you get to know him.” I defended, cheeks still flushed.

Vera narrowed her eyes at me, tapping a finger over her pouty lips, before a sly smile split her face. “So you really are dating! I knew it! Brave of you, girl.” What does that mean? Philip was a major grump, not count Dracula.

“Oh, no he…” I readied myself to go into an in-depth explanation how Philip wasn’t scary, feeling protective of the grump, not caring to confirm or deny the dating rumor, but was cut off by the buzzing of my phone. It was so loud as it vibrated over the desk’s surface. I jumped to grab it, not even looking at the ID as I slumped in my chair, slinking under the desk, and answered in a whisper.

“Hello.”

“Hey, Doll, where are you?” a silky male voice asked.

Who?

I looked at my phone screen, frowning in confusion.

Unknown.

But there was only one person I knew that called me Doll.

Blondie a.k.a. Luca, Philip’s friend.

Yesterday I hunted Blondie down to ask what was up with Crabby Pants, since he was awol, and I worried. That worry trumped any embarrassment I had for trying to hound his friend. Blondie didn’t prove as elusive as I thought he would be. The long-haired pretty boy stood out like a sore thumb. I had only to follow the gaggle of giggling girls to one gazebo in the schoolyard. And what a sight I found.

Rapunzel let down his golden hair, long strands falling over his shoulders as he sat on the table in the middle, girls batting their eyelashes at him. He talked animatedly about something, pearly whites on full display, making girls titter as his hair fluttered in the wind like he was in a shampoo commercial.

Damn. I’ll have to ask about his conditioner, too.

The serene PG scene soon turned R rated as he lost his shirt, his pants hanging low on his hips, a band of his underwear visible. The girls hollered, whooped and whistled as he threw the shirt into the waiting hands of one of them.

I stopped short in my tracks, my face heating at the exposed tan skin, the expanse of hard chiseled muscles and abs galore. Blondie was built, and he was flaunting, flexing as some girls approached, running their hands over him appreciatively, while others took photos of his impressive physique.

Ugh…. Craparony. This is going to suck. I just hope he keeps his pants on.

How the hell were Blondie and Philip even friends? The two were completely different. One obviously thrived with attention, the other recoiled from it.

Blinking my synapses to life as one not easily deterred from her goal by a mere show of brazen nudity, I marched up to the gazebo, ready to shove my way through the throng of hormone fueled, horny girls. The task proved difficult. I found myself being smothered in hair, boobs and perfume, since most of these girls were taller than me in flats, but even more so as they all seemed to wear heels. One even stepped on my sneaker clad foot, making me curse her whole bloodline inside my head.

“Ladies, ladies, no need to push. There is enough of me to go around.” A deep velvety voice said just as I snagged over someone’s foot, diving headfirst through the crowd. I would have collided with a jean clad crotch had it not been for two muscular hands who stopped me by grabbing my shoulders. A choir of gasps filled my ears. There was a joke in there somewhere, but I was too abashed to come up with it.

Double craparony!

“Wow, you’re an eager one. You don’t play, going straight for the goods, huh?” Blondie said, and I could hear a smile in his voice.

Cringing, I bit my lip as he helped right me and braved a look at him. Amused, dark blue eyes stared at me. A smirk on his lips turning to a full toothy grin when he saw my face, recognition igniting in his gaze.

“Well, I’ll be damned, Doll. Didn’t know you were a fan.” he drawled, raising a brow, the smile never leaving his face, only changing shape to a flirty, crooked one, that I bet made lots of panties melt, but was doing absolutely nothing for me.

“Nope. No. No No. Dear God, no! Not a fan!” I hurried to rebut, making an X with my hands, vigorously shaking my head.

“Ouch. Denied. That wound’s me.” he placed a hand over his heart in mock hurt. I could feel other girls glaring daggers at me from stealing his attention and stopping their perusal and grope fest. “Then what can I do for you, Doll?” He asked, his hands on his hips. I wiped my clammy palms on my leggings, pulse kicking up a notch.

“Um… so… onto my business inquiry... Um... So, I was just wondering if our jolly friend is ok? I haven’t heard from him, and like I had this bug so...like...did my plague hit him or whatnot...” Blondie gave me a look like you-just-sprouted-a-unicorn-horn, a crease forming between his brows, though there was an amused glint in his eyes.

When he said nothing, I elaborated, “Philip. I’m talking about Philip. He ok?” His eyebrows jumped to his hairline, eyes widened, before a lazy smile stretched his lips.

“Ahhhh… Shrimp, right?” At his use of Philip’s nickname for me, I turned into a human torch, which just made him smile wider, smug.

Did Philip talk about me to his friends?

The thought made my heart somersault, and face heat even more.

“Tara… But you can call me T.” I answered with a tight smile. Not being a fan of him using the nickname. My ears rebelled at his tone and manner in which he said it. Like it didn’t belong on his lips.

“Well, okay T. Our boy is alive, just passed out with a fever. That plague hit him alright.” he teased. His suggestive tone poured over me like hot magma, and I wanted a hole to crawl into.

“He will bounce back in a couple of days. No worries. His phone is probably dead, though.” He added, tapping my shoulder reassuringly.

Oh… so I gave him my flu.

That insecure, dark part of me that believed wholeheartedly that Philip was avoiding me skittered to the back corner of my mind at his words. The tension I hadn’t noticed unknoting from my shoulders.

“Oh, hope he’ll get better soon.” I muttered, more to myself.

“Ah, I have no doubt he will. Especially when I tell him you asked.” At that I was back to face-flaming, fumbling around as the need to remove myself from Blondie’s teasing gaze ignited.

“Well, then... Carry on.” I turned to the girls stumbling backwards, leaving. But before I took the three steps off the gazebo, I looked back at Blondie. The girls were flocking again, their hands roving over him, when I called, “Hey!” He jutted his chin at me, raising a questioning brow.

“What conditioner do you use?” He blinked at me, before a ripple of belly laughs gushed out of him.

Not getting a sense he was going to answer me anytime in this millennium, I walked away.

So, here I was now, hiding under my desk in the library. Pondering why on earth was this guy calling me?

“Where did you get my number?” I asked, trying to keep quiet.

“Oh, a gentleman never reveals his contacts. I never kiss and tell.” Why did I not believe a word that came out of his mouth? Wait… why would he call me? Unless… My pulse picked up as some pretty horrific stuff came to mind, dropping my stomach to the floor.

“Is he okay?” I blurted out louder than I intended, but at that moment, I didn’t care. The pause over the line made dread slowly creep on me.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t he be?” Came the carefree response and I loosened a breath.

“Then why are you calling?”

“Where are you?”

“Library.”

“Got it.” And he ended the call. What in the trucker’s ass crack was that?

As I stared baffled at my phone, a throat cleared, pulling my attention upward to a scowling expression of that one guy who kept narrowing his eyes at me earlier.

I gave him a sheepish grin from my spot on the floor, but he crossed his arms over his chest, biting the inside of his cheek. “Out... Please.” he ordered sternly.

Without protest, I bowed my head, trying to hide my mortification behind the curtain of my hair as I hurriedly got up and packed my stuff. I ran to the door, all the while apologetically bowing, almost dislocating my neck. Vera was standing by the front door, waiting for me.

“Sorry, I got us kicked out.” I said, pushing the door open for us.

She pursed her lips, and for a moment I thought she was angry before she burst out laughing.

“Your face! The face you made when he found you! And the slink under the desk! Ah, my stomach!” she clapped me on the shoulder, bending at the waist still in a fit of hysteric laughter. It was contagious, wheedling a smile from me.

As the two of us giggle-snorted away from the library, smashing each other’s shoulders in fits of laughter, Vera’s hand accidentally connected with someone. Liquid splashed all over the place, as a cup flew through the air, books crashing to the floor.

“Oh, shit I-I’m so sorry, let me…” Vera sputtered, meeting a furious gaze of the guy whose coffee she spilled, ruining his shirt in the process as she rummaged through her bag frantically.

“Sorry…” I uttered, hunching down to pick up his books, wiping the coffee droplets off them with my palm. A sound of a smack snapped my head up. A paper tissue floated to the floor. The asshole aggressively swatted Vera’s hand when she tried to clean his shirt. He towered over her, nostrils flaring like a raging bull, a look of disgust on his face. “Don’t touch me, you filthy half-blood bitch. You fucking ruined my brand new shirt!” He seethed, making Vera shrink under his antagonizing gaze, trembling slightly.

The hell?! Who did this dude think he was? She apologized! It was an accident! It wasn’t even a pretty shirt! Also, did he just called her a mud-blood? That’s a random Harry Potter reference to use as an insult...

“I-I’m so sor…” She was cut off by him grabbing her by her shirt, his upper lip curling. Eyes wide, pulse whooshing in my ears, I stood up abruptly, my body moving before my mind caught up with it.

This dude was a psycho drama queen bully! All over some spilled coffee?!!! Really?

Anger overpowered my fear. With the books I picked up, I smacked him in the chest as hard as I could, trying to push him away. Apparently not hard enough. He didn’t even flinch or budge, just took hold of the books with his free hand so they didn’t tumble to the ground. The guy was like a boulder. My noodle arms could do no damage, even with the improvised weapon.

“She apologized.” I pried his hand off her shirt, mine shaking with both adrenaline rush and terror.

Meeting his dark gaze, I stood tall, swallowing hard. “I think you should go.” I dared.

A foreboding smirk appeared on his face. “Oh, or what? What are you going to do, twerp?” He nudged me, pushing me back. There was a sensation of static as his hand connected with my shoulder and he recoiled, frowning, clenching his hand. His surprised gaze scanned my torso. Not sure where he was looking. My neck or my boobletts. Yeah, God was not generous with those.

I found that highly inappropriate in any situation, but totally confusing in this one. Frowning, I clasped a hand over the necklace Mina gave me, taking a step back, eyeing the bastard with unveiled distaste.

“What the…” he started, his hand twitching like he wanted to reach for me again, but I raised my hand in the air, stopping him.

Fed up, a sudden surge of bravery pulsed through me, and I took a step forward. “Leave. NOW.” The words rolled with unrestrained force, and as I uttered them my vision blurred, ears ringing, a sudden wave of dizziness washed over me.

Fudge. I forgot my lunch today. My sugar must be down. A stand off on an empty stomach? Not a great idea.

But just as suddenly, it stopped, my vision snapping to focus on the asshole. He blinked, seemingly disoriented, looking behind me.

“Hey! What’s going on? Need something from the ladies, bro?” A familiar smooth voice asked, tone edged with a veiled threat, as a heavy muscled hand landed on the top of my head. Blondie gave me a wink and a smirk as I turned to him, still not releasing my head from the clutches of his oven mitt. The douche canoe looked in between us, sizing up the newcomer, and with an annoyed huff he left. My bravado crumbled at his retreating, cowardly back, knees almost buckling.

“What did he do?” Blondie asked, but my attention went to Vera’s shaky form. She was hugging her bag to her chest.

“You okay there Vera? Did he hurt you?” I asked, gaze trailing over her.

Her shimmery doe-eyes darted to me, nodding slowly, a shy smile appeared on her face, “Yeah, I’m okay. Thank you. I think I’ll live.” She chuckled, trying to lighten the somber atmosphere, and I got a distinct sense that she might have been used to doing that. This might not have been the first time…

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I’m gonna go now.” she beamed a smile not reaching her eyes.

“Do you want me to come with you?” I was uneasy leaving her by herself, but she shook her head. “Nah. Thanks again. I’ll see you tomorrow.” And she sprinted down the hall, disappearing around the corner, not giving me a chance to follow.

I really hope she is okay.

“Are you okay, Doll?” Blondie asked, patting me on the head, bringing my attention back to him.

“Ah, yeah. Good. Good.” Not going to confess, I almost shat myself before he appeared.

He narrowed his eyes. “Really?”

“Yeah. Do you know maybe the guy’s name and year or class?” I wanted to report the bastard.

Blondie shook his head. “No. But don’t worry about that. I have my sources. It’ll be taken care of.” A shudder run through me at the tone of his voice going a menacing octave lower, a dangerous glint in his eyes.

Not wanting to ponder the dark promise or any details of how it will be “taken care of”, I sobered and asked, “By the way, why did you call?”

The question made a lazy, shit-eating grin appear on his face. “Ah, this!” He said, producing a messy stack of papers, shoving them in my hands.

“What’s this?” Scanning the pages, I deduced that these were notes of some kind, but so poorly written. Illegible. Like an alcoholic raccoon in rehab wrote them while experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

“Class notes for Philip. I need you to come with me to deliver them and pay our sick friend a little visit.” Blondie announced, jacking up my steady pulse to a hundred.

Even though I wasn’t averse to the idea… Liar, you love the idea! A mental pillow with the inscription ‘thot be gone!’ shot the stray thought down.

I worried we would be intruding. “Won’t we bother him? I mean, he must be exhausted, he...”

“No. no. He’ll be so glad, trust me.” Blondie interrupted me, throwing his arm over my shoulders and gently nudging me down the hall towards the school exit.

“Ah, and it’s Ellevere.” He said, opening the door.

“What?”

“The conditioner I use.”

*****************************************

Hyelooo lovely Inkies!!! Thank you for reading.

As always if you enjoy the story hit that like button, comment, share and review. Any engagement is appreciated and it means a lot to me. It also helps with the contest the story is entered in.

How did you like the chapter? I know it'll probably need more work, I was half dead writing it... But anyway, any theories maybe to what is going on with our girl? How do you like our Rupanzel? And what about our poor pixie Vera? Feel free to share your thought's I'd love, love to hear them.

Thanks again and see you on the next chapter...which I hope will come soon... It's Tara and Philip chapter, hope you look forward to it XD🧡🧡🧡


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