I awake to find the wolf's eyes feasting on me. Gooseflesh runs up and down my flesh just before a pang of hunger rips at my stomach. Last night he had brought me the haunch of a dead animal, I supposed a deer, but I had no fire to cook it with and my captor would not let me leave, so I haven't eaten since an unnamed hour yesterday. Sitting up, I push the putrid animal hides off of me.
"Good morning," He says this slowly, as if the statement is really a question to which I must provide an appropriate answer.
"Good morning to you too." I reply softly, still unsure why I can understand him, and why he can understand me. Two species should speak different tongues, but somehow his growls are decipherable to me. It feels alien and surreal. An air of dizziness looms over me.
"Are you hungry, little girl?"
Was I little? Perhaps to him. I say nothing, but nod.
"Yes, you should be. You didn't eat last night, silly thing." There is an edge to his voice that sounds almost offended I refused the raw meat last night. Nonetheless, he drops a hare at my feet.
"Th-Thank you." I manage, kneeling and wondering what I should do with it. A mistake in front of this wolf might be fatal and I don't want to offend him again, but when I do not start eating he verbally prods me.
"What's wrong with it?"
"It's—I can't eat—It's raw…"
I see the muscles underneath his beautiful, however viscously scarred, copper-tinted black pelt tighten with frustration. He swipes the rabbit up in his jaws and mumbles something about me not moving before leaving the den. I sit on the floor of the den and weep from exhaustion, hunger, and fear.
The sun is high and the mouth of the cave is bathed in warm light. My dress partially torn from my capture yesterday, I feel the chill of spring easily. The wolf returned sometime earlier with bitter roots, but I was thankful to have something in my stomach. He left shortly after that and hadn't returned. He didn't seem to care for my tears.
Who was "he," anyway? I have heard his name spoken when I was presented to his friends, but I can't recall what it is. I was too scared by the encounter—if you could call it that—to actually absorb anything other than the giant, talking wolves. I wonder quietly how many other fairytales have come alive while humans haven't been looking.
I inch towards the mouth of the cave, having no intention of leaving. Mama and Papa must be frantic with worry by now, but what can I do? If I leave, the wolves will track me down, but I can't survive on bitter roots forever, and I need to be kept warm, but not by rotting flesh and bones.
Blood flavors my tongue as I bite my lower lip. Hard. I am warding off tears. I am the oldest of three, I should be able to take the hurdles of life and stand strong for them. At least they are not here to see me cry. I dig my tooth deeper, a small drop leaving a trace down my chin.
Strength. I need to find my strength. Where is my center? Holding my breath, I close my eyes and remember the ballet halls in St. Petersburg. My old teacher, Madam Anna, snaps her fingers as her sparse pupils glide across the room, fluid as water. She reminds us we are flowers, so do not wilt. We must be beautiful, for there are no ugly flowers. Remember our roots, for all of our strength comes from our center, which directs how our legs meet our feet, and how our feet kiss the ground in completely controlled increments. Let the petals that are our arms open wide with grandeur as the flower blooms.
I slip my feet out of my boots and feel the cold stone against the bottoms of my toes. I begin slowly. An eleve, a releve, then a pada beau re. Repeat in the opposite direction. I am a flower, so I lift leg gently and place the toe to my knee, spread my petals, and bring my lifted leg around so that I spin in the opposite direction. The tatters of my wool skirt flutter around my legs. It's my comfort blanket in this moment when my world has broken into a thousand twinkles of glass.
My dance continues, the rock no bother as my feet have become calloused from years of dancing in hardened ballet slippers. I'm a bird, flying, before a rock comes from the sky and strikes me.
"What are you doing, girl?" Unlike the brusque voice of my wolf, this one is rather smooth, almost pretty. The sound reminds me of a batch of honey that has sat too long and become too sweet.
I turn to see the white wolf that accompanied my captor. The right rebuttal escaping me in the continuous awe that I can understand these creatures, I say nothing. The brilliant gold of her eyes assess me thoroughly as she settles herself a fair distance from me, feigning disinterest.
What do I say? This wolf has seen me dance and obviously disproves of my seemingly cryptic art. But why do I care? Because I could become her lunch if she finds me boring. Would she do that? Would the wolf who brought me here care? He didn't seem to act like he did.
"Wh-What is your name, wolf?" I ask, softly, finding courage in the fact that if I did not entertain her my show might close for good.
The wolf snorts. "Find your tongue. I can't hear you."
"What is your name?" I say louder.
"I am Tanya, little girl."
Aside from my wolf's comment earlier, it's been so long since anyone has called me a little girl, but I am in no position to correct Tanya. "I am Fania."
A sly smile crosses Tanya's maw. "I am so pleased to see you with Aleks. He is… troubled you know. You will bring him a kind of comfort."
My back stiffens. "Troubled? A kind of comfort?"
Tanya opens her mouth so I can see two perfect parabolas of sharp teeth. Slowly, she closes her jowls again. "I don't mean to suggest anything, my dear."
"Tanya!" My wolf, apparently Aleks, says as he approaches us, something furry in his mouth. My stomach tightens at the thought of another rabbit. "You're here."
I can see that Aleks' ability to converse has been significantly diminished, presumably by Tanya's mere existence. All he did was state the obvious, that Tanya is "here," but the she-wolf's eyes flicker with satisfaction and as she stands, her movements remind me more of a cat than any canine I have ever seen.
"Yes, Aleks. I thought I would come visit. I was sad when you were not here and I had to talk to the human."
"What did you have to say to me?" he asks.
"Nothing," Tanya replies with syrupy nonchalance, "I just wanted to say hello."
Aleks watches for a moment as she floats off, I wonder if the look in his one good eye is captivation. I think that, for a wolf, Tanya must be very beautiful. I am pondering this when Aleks drops the furry lump at my feet.
"Here," he says.
I kneel down to find that it is not a bundle of fur, but a cloth tunic. My heart begins to sink as I think of the poor soul who had to sacrifice this garment but luckily, no blood is to be found. I wonder if he stole it from a shop or storehouse somehow. My wolf has his ways, I suppose. Gratefully, I slip into my new attire, feeling a little warmer inside and out.
I still don't know her name. If we are to be together for as long as Oldof predicts, I will learn her name eventually. For now, she is my little girl. She is a tiny scrap of skin, anyway. I smell physical maturity on her, but her façade is smothered in a childish innocence. I wonder what she will be liked when her physique is altered.
My muzzle rests just behind her neck. I see her body shiver as my hot breath creeps down her spine. "Get up." I command.
Shyly, she lifts her head to look at me. I wonder how much her pathetic human eyes can see in the dusk that is waning to the night. Surely, she can see the only good eye I have, the other half closed and just as blind by a wound, now a memory left in the form of a scar.
"Why?" she asks.
"Leaving? Why?" She suddenly sits up very fast. "Are you taking me home?"
I offer a wolfish smile. I can be patient. "Something like that."
A/N: Well, I really hoped that I would be able to update weekly, at the very least, but school is coming to a close and with finals and such I will be writing to fill in the cracks. Thank you for those who are following this story, please bare with me! Summer is on its way and I will have plenty of time to write.