Wolf's Lullaby

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Blackwood

TARA

After a four-hour flight, we landed in the city closest to Blackwood and exited the airport. Mina steered me towards a black van parked right in front.

A man leaned against it, hunched forward as he tried to light a cigarette. The lighter wasn’t working, so he shook it, tried a few more times, all the while cursing under his breath.

As we approached, he lifted his head, his dark eyes zeroing in on us. He looked… scary. His features were hard. If I was being honest, he looked a bit like a pissed off gorilla. He glared at me, his heavy brow looking more pronounced the more his eyebrows knit together. As we got closer, his mouth set in a grim line and his nose scrunched up like he had smelled something awful.

“Hey, Dragos!” Mina waved at him.

Dragos grunted in response with a firm nod. “Man of many words. Like always.” He either didn’t catch her sarcasm or he didn’t give a tiny rat’s ass. My bet was on the letter.

“Gimme that for a second.” She extended her hand, palm up, jutting her chin towards the lighter in his hands. He passed it to her. Mina fumbled with it for a second. It clinked and lit. Dragos nodded again, appreciatively this time, and got closer to her, lighting his cigarette.

“Thanks,” he said, his voice rough and deep.

Mina smiled, “You’re welcome. This is Tara. She is moving in with us. Tara, this is Dragos, he’s mom’s friend and our designated driver today.” I extended my hand to him, he just nodded at me with a grunt completely disregarding my friendly gesture.

Okay, no handshakes got it. Don’t want to lose an arm.

So I smiled uncomfortably as his eyes bore into me. Then I registered what Mina said.

“Driver? We are not taking the bus?”

“There are no direct bus lines to Blackwood. This is a private ride.” Mina explained.

Wow, so that place is that remote. I couldn’t find much information on it on the net either. A remote town with about 7500 residents, with no notable historical importance.

Dragos finished his cigarette, threw the bud into the bin, and bounded towards our bags.

“Get in,” he gestured with his head towards the van, before he opened the trunk to put our luggage in.

Mina and I filed inside and took the seat in the middle.

“Buckle up Buttercup, it’s going to be a long eight-hour ride!” she sing-songed, putting her seat belt on.

I made myself comfortable, taking out my mp4 and putting my headphones on. Mina fell asleep thirty minutes after we left the airport. In my comfort bubble, listening to music, I tried not to think about anything in particular. Just stared out the window.

My fingers skimmed over the rough back of my mp4 and I flipped it over in my hand. Staring at me was the blue police box painting I drew there years ago. The paint was chipping. I needed to redo it. This little device was my own personal Tardis. Yes, I was a big Doctor Who fan. With it, I could go anywhere, anytime.

So, I rode the wave of music on to some fantasy land, as the scenery changed outside the window. After a couple of hours, I guess the exhaustion and fatigue from last two weeks finally caught up with me and I drifted off to dreamless sleep.

The next time I opened my eyes, the sky was full of oranges, reds, deep blues as if painted with watercolors. Daylight slowly ebbed, pulling shadows in its wake, as we crossed a stone bridge heading towards a town nestled between hills, surrounded by thick forest.

My eyes grew wider as we got closer to the flickering lights of street lamps. I had to slap myself to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating from too much cheese chip fumes Mina ate. Those things were vile.

To be honest, I expected the town to be super dreary, but the image before me left me breathless.

It was like stepping through the pages of a book, right on the wide cobblestone streets, sidewalks lined with wrought iron lamps, concrete flower boxes and trees. The glow of the lamp posts lit buildings of different sizes and shapes.

Most white lined by black, dark red or dark green wooden frames with big bay windows and wide wrap around porches, gray or red slate roofs. Others, a mixture of wooden frames and stone. They looked more like wood cabins. A few were in art nouveau style.

A mash of different architectural styles that looked fantastic together, giving the overall feel of being in some fairy tale land or a movie set. I spied a few cute looking shops and cafes I wanted to visit the first chance I got.

I turned and smacked Mina on the shoulder, indignant, “Why the hell didn’t you tell me you live on the set of a freaking fantasy movie?!”

“Hey!” She rubbed her shoulder, then smirked. “It’s nice, right?”

“Nice?!… Nice?! It’s... I have no words, is what it is… Flummoxed. That’s what I am right now.”

“Sheesh, curb thy enthusiasm. It’s fairly boring once the buzz the aesthetics give you wears off. I’m sending mom a message we arrived safely.” Mina said, taking her phone out and typing on it.

I shut my eyes and crossed my fingers, “Please tell me we are going to Hogwarts on Monday?”

“Sorry to disappoint, but no. It’s high school. So basically a glorified zoo. Hormone fueled primates running around and all that. It’ll be just as fun.”

“So I should bring my stun gun and tranquilizer darts?” I heard a snort, glimpsing a smile on Dragos’s face in the review mirror. The moment he saw me watching, he scowled. So he had a sense of humor.

“Pretty much.” Mina answered, her face still glued to her phone.

“How come this place isn’t a tourist attraction?”

Mina stopped typing for a moment, her shoulders tensing up a bit before she shrugged. “People here don’t like strangers much. They like their peace and quiet. So no tourists.” I nodded, but thought it such a shame not to share this beauty with the world. Then again, what did I know about tourism?

Woods. They surround the town. I always had a strange fascination with them. But I only ever visited them in books or on screen.

My heavy heart did a little flip of excitement at the prospect of living in this beautiful place, all of my adventure cells lit up and itched to get exploring. Some of the knots in my stomach loosened as I took in my new environment.

It’s going to be fine. I’ll be fine here.

As we left the downtown of Blackwood we went uphill, driving through rows upon rows of trees. We took a turn suddenly onto a dirt road through the forest and a few moments later we stopped in front of a red bricked two-story house, with large bay windows on the lower story and round ones on the upper. It had a narrow black colored porch with an arch, big black wooden front door with a cast iron ivy leaves around the round glass on them.

“It has a huge patio in the back with a gazebo. You’ll love it.” Mina said while looking through her bag to find the keys while Dragos unloaded our luggage.

“So, no neighbors?” I asked.

“No, but if you continue down the road before we turned, there are a bunch of houses. Also, the school is on the hill beyond. It’s not far, it’s like a 20-minute walk. I usually go by bicycle or Ivan drives me. ” Mina opened the door but before she got in she turned to Dragos, who brought our luggage to the front door. “Thank you. Just leave them there. We’ll get them later.” Dragos put the bags down, turned to Mina, tapped his chest with a fist twice over his heart, then froze.

His eyes slid to me for a moment, holding a few seconds too long, and then, with a curt nod, he just left.

Weird.

He’s weird.

“Is he okay?”

Mina blinked a few times, then cleared her throat, shrugging, “Heartburn? Indigestion? Who knows?” She smiled slightly as she gestured for me to enter the house.

She took me upstairs to my room, right across the hall from hers. The room had a queen-sized bed, a nightstand on the right side and a big round window on the left, in front of which stood a small desk. On the wall opposite of the bed was a vanity table, and a dresser next to my very own bathroom.

“How is it? You like? “

“I love it, thank you!”

“I’ll help you decorate when your stuff arrives,” she smiled, crossing her arms over her chest. “Leave your bags now and let me show you the rest.”

Then she gave me the grand tour of the second floor. At the end of the hall was Lola’s room, and another bathroom. Mina’s room was much like mine, only her queen sized bed was full of pillows of which some had anime characters on them and plush toys which she had since forever. The walls decorated with posters of her favorite artists, as a dancer, she followed a variety of them.

Noticing a memory board over her desk, I came closer to inspect it. It was full of photos. Mostly Mina with her Blackwood friends. I noticed all were of a newer date. There were barely any older ones.

There was a photo of her with one fine looking blonde male specimen which I presumed was no other than Ivan Hoe. She wasn’t kidding. He was hot.

I smiled as I saw the picture smack dab in the center of the board. One of my favorite pictures of us, sitting on the swing in my backyard, back home.

We were five. Spent that whole day in my yard making mud pies, which actually ended up all over us instead of the pot grandma gave us, because it was more fun to throw mud at each other. Grandma took the picture of us that day. She asked us to sit and put flowers in our messy and sticky hair, calling us her garden gnomes. Hugging Mina over the shoulder, both of us gave her our brightest smiles on our mud covered faces.

A lump formed in my throat as tears pooled in my eyes, so I moved my gaze away from that photo, rubbing at my chest to soothe the pain as if it were a physical one.

Mina squeezed my shoulder, her eyes shone with understanding, empathy, “You’re gonna be ok T.” she stated. I nodded, swallowing thickly, trying to push the lump down.

Smiling, she gave me a bear hug. “I know it’s not an ideal situation, but I’m so glad you’re here. I missed you,” she whispered, squeezing me tighter.

“I know. Missed you too.” My voice trembled as I squeezed back.

She pulled out of the hug, placed her hands on the sides of my face, “We’re here for you T. This is your home now. So, welcome home.” She smiled at me and brought me into another hug.

The heaviness in my chest grew. Another wave of sadness washed over me, this time tears spilled down my cheeks and a small sob escaped me. She held me tighter.

That first night in my new home, Mina slept in my room. She said she worried I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, new bed and all, so she planned to tire me out. We chatted and watched a few episodes of some TV show. But I had an inkling she did it to distract me so I wouldn’t cry myself to sleep.

I’m so lucky. I totally love her.

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