I’ve been in the bath for hours, and it’s glorious. There were these things that went fizzy when I put them in the water and they smell amazing. Like roses and moringa. I just keep pulling the plug a little and refilling with hot water to heat it back up again. I even fell asleep before. I was never this relaxed where I grew up. I haven’t even been here for twenty-four hours and I’m napping in the bathtub. Those fizzy things alone are enough to make me reconsider leaving. Footsteps in the distance finally convince me to get out, even if only to get dressed to avoid fighting naked. Again.
Jeans, sweaters, shirts, singlets. You name it, and someone has added a multi-coloured stack of them in the closets and draws. I grab a pair of thick socks, jeans, a baggy sweater that feels like it’s made of clouds and joy and a pair of leather boots. It feels amazing to be clean and clothed again. I didn’t know how much I took those things for granted.
The footsteps are closer now and I can separate the sounds. There are two sets, one of them I can identify as Clayton. The other is a stranger. My wolf and I go on high alert, stepping out onto the porch to meet my visitors. A calming blankness envelopes me once again, a state I am beginning to recognise as kill setting.
The step out of the trees a minute later. Clayton stops immediately but the other guy, who didn’t listen to Clayton’s warning, rushes up the steps and thrusts his hand out at me. In hindsight, I recognise the action as an attempted handshake. In the moment it is a threat, and I respond in kind.
I take hold of his wrist and pull him toward me, throwing him off balance and putting him at the right angle. I slam my knee into his chest as I let go of his wrist. He goes flying across the small meadow, landing in a heap at Clayton’s feet.
Even I know that my eyes are glowing with my wolf, I can feel her pacing beneath my skin, but she doesn’t need to come out just yet.
The stranger rolls over, coming to his knees as he clutches his chest and gasps for breath.
“Well,” sighs Clayton. “That went well.”
Clayton pulls the guy to his feet, letting him lean against his shoulder as he catches his breath.
“So, this is Maurice,” he says, acting like nothing happened.
“H-hey,” gasps Maurice, and his voice is familiar.
“Speak,” I say, not realising that it is a command.
“Um, hi? I’m Maurice, uh, I’m not really sure what you want me to say right now?”
He continues to prattle on, which is what I wanted. I close my eyes, cocking my head to the side to better hear his voice, and a memory flashes past. I don’t see much, it’s the memory of the very small child I once was, but I do catch one thing.
“Momo,” I say, and Maurice lights up like the fourth of July.
Although I can’t be too sure about that expression. ‘The Fourth of July’ is just an expression to me, I’ve never actually been to one of the celebrations.
“You remember me!” He cries out in delight, rushing toward me again.
I shove him back down the stairs, not hard enough for him to fall, but hard enough that he knows to stay the hell back. Honestly, these people are so damn touchy.
“I remember a voice, and that nickname is attached to it, nothing more,” I say, trying to squash any unneeded affection. I don’t know these people and I don’t want them getting attached. I still have plans to leave at some point.
I feel a small pang of…something, as his face falls and I scent sadness from him.
“Momo here is my baby brother,” says Clayton, cutting into the sad silence that fell.
“Yes, the family resemblance is clear,” I reply, not really understanding why Clayton flinches.
“You weren’t wrong, she’s goes straight for the jugular, doesn’t she?”
“If I had gone for your jugular, you would be dead,” I reply to Maurice, uncomfortable that he spoke as though I wasn’t there. My ‘Father’ used to do that all the time. “Why are you here?”
I cut to the chase. The pointless chatter is wearing on my patience. My bath was far too enjoyable to have been interrupted.
“I was wondering if you wanted to come into the town,” asks Clayton, and then he rolls his eyes at Maurice. “Plus, I couldn’t have kept this idiot away if I tried. If I let him come alone you probably would’ve broken his neck.”
Maurice laughs, but his laughter fades when he realises that Clayton is serious and I’m not denying it.
“Why am I needed in town?” I ask, suspicious.
“Uh…” Maurice seems to run out of words, looking to Clayton to finish.
“You didn’t get to see anything yesterday, so I was just wondering if you wanted a tour. We could show you all the places we used to sneak off to when we were kids.”
I see this for what it is. They are hoping that taking me for a stroll down memory lane will change my mind about leaving. It is manipulative, but I have to admit to myself that I am curious. I know nothing about my time here.
“I will go, but it will not change my mind about leaving.”
“I know,” he says.