Solitude's Howl

Chapter IV

Forced Outing


Harper sat slouched, tapping a pen against her cheek idly while she listened with boredom to the lecture the philosophy teacher was giving. The classroom was theater seating so she sat high up in the back, and could get away with not truly paying attention.

The words on her note taking paper were sparse, only jotting a few things here and there before zoning out again. She wasn't really paying attention, and it seemed she wasn't the only one as some students in her row were dozing off or messing with their phones.

The teacher didn't really care to look up at the back that much anyway as she had her favorite students, the ones who contributed to the lecture and shot up hands and answers in the first rows. She couldn't recall ever raising her hand in the small amount of public schooling she'd had, almost like the action was as sin.

She snorted at her thoughts and shook her head, cringing a bit at the stiffness and bringing her hand to rub the sore muscles at the base of her neck. It was a few days after her she'd Formed and her body was still feeling the after effects, she expected it to sooth away completely by the weekend. It was Wednesday, no work and only school, and she just had this class to go before she was home free.

Harper rolled her eyes as she rested her cheek in her palm, watching lazily as a student in the front raised her hand eagerly to be called upon. From up where she was, Harper could see the girl's paper covered in writing from the notes she'd been taking. She flickered her grey eyes down to her own paper, almost laughing at the few words dotting it in various places.

'Body is just a vessel' and 'Mind is soul' and 'Boring, I want to go home.' along with various scribbles in the margins. She glanced at the large windows that covered the wall to her right, giving the classroom a view of some manicured grounds where she could see students sitting in the grass, against trees, on benches, talking, laughing, studying.

She then moved her eyes to the clock where it indicated it was 3:22, so only eight more minutes to go, no sooner as this professor taught until literally the last minute of class. To get your money's worth, she'd say.

For the last minutes of class, Harper only half listened to what the professor said, writing down the pages expected to read in the textbook before she dismissed everyone. She stood, stuffing her notebook and pens in her bag and slung it over her shoulder.

She descended the steps down the center of the rows, passing the professor's desk and grabbing the worksheet that was assigned, slipping it into her bag as she left the classroom and headed across the grounds towards the parking lot.

After unlocking the Jeep, she tossed her bag into the passenger seat, shuffling out of her warm coat and tossing it in the seat as well. She turned the car on and waited for it to warm up, watching others get into their vehicles as she did so. She blew a loose tendril away from her face as she put the car into reverse and backed out of the lot.


It didn't take her long to arrive home, and she made her way up the any steps to her flat on the third story. By the time she reached her door, she felt weak and out of breath.

"I really shouldn't be tired after that," she mumbled to herself while unlocking the door and shoving it open a little too hard, making it slam into the wall behind. She blamed the weakness on the after effects from her forest trip.

Harper moved about the room, leaving her bag on the floor near a brown overlarge armchair and flopped down onto the green cushy couch with a tired sigh as she felt around for the remote. The room was dim with the curtains closed, making it seem later than it already was, but with autumn in session, darkness came soon anyway.

Flipping through the little channels she had, she settled on the news before relaxing into the cushions and resting her eyes closed as she listened to the TV on the lowest volume setting.

She almost jumped out of her skin when a ringing blasted through the semi-quiet room, she shot up into a seated position and blinked her tired eyes until they settled on the device atop the low coffee table a foot from her. She glared at the phone as it rang again, the screen lighting up blue. She grabbed the handheld off of the receiver and stared at the screen. It read 'Henry Cormack' followed by a number she recognized as her boss' Linora Cormack.

She let out a breath as she pressed a green button and held it a little ways from her ear.

"Hello?" Harper greeted.

"Oh, Harper is that you dear?" Linora's kind voice came from the other line.

Harper sat back into the couch as she answered, "Yes, Mrs. Cormack."

"I know it is your day off. But I was wondering if you are too busy?"

Harper glanced around quickly, knowing where this was going and stammered, "W-Well, um… n-not rea–"

"Great dear! You see, my niece was working the store for me today as I had an appointment, my arthritis has been flaring up…"

Harper stifled a huff and resisted telling the woman to get on with it. She wasn't in a patient mood at the moment, seeing as how she found herself abruptly woken from a nap she didn't realize she'd taken.

"When I spoke to her, she told me she locked up, but when I asked if she'd closed the gates, she seemed to had forgotten those. I would go myself, but Mr. Cormack and I have dinner reservations planned. I know it's silly dear, and I know you seemed under the weather yesterd–"

"Do you want me to go close the gates, Mrs. Cormack?" Harper cut her off, trying her best to conceal her impatience.

The line was quiet for a few seconds before Linora responded, "Yes, dear. If it is not too much. There are too many valuable items in there that I couldn't bear to be stolen."

Harper leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees as she ran a hand through her hair while answering, "Alright, I'll head down there now."

"Oh! Thank you, Harper. I really appreciate it."

"Goodnight, Mrs. Cormack."

"Goodnight, dear."

Harper set the phone back on the receiver, sighing tiredly before she stood slowly, placing a hand on her lower back when a pang traveled up her spine. She pressed both hands and pushed her spine further in, arching her back inwards, and waited for the pops.

"You think your arthritis is bad," she spoke sarcastically to the phone, and then laughed at herself, shaking her head as she looked around for the keys to the shop.

She pocketed them once found and pulled on a black coat that was thrown on her bed, she tugged on some black knitted boots as well. When she made it to the door, Harper saw that it was much darker than when she arrived home, she back tracked a little to lean and look at the time on the DVD player, 5:17 it read.

Slept longer than I thought, she mused as she locked her apartment door and headed down the flights of stairs.


Harper flicked off all the lights in the antique shop after she checked to make sure everything was in order. She went to the front and pulled the gates together before slipping through to lock them, proceeding to do the same for the door.

She walked over to her Jeep and hopped in.

She contemplated going home, but she was already out and she figured she'd get something to eat.

Harper was found not too long after sitting outside a small restaurant that served sandwiches, finishing up her meal, she stood from the metal table and dumped her trash in the garbage, moving out and onto the sidewalk. She made for her car which was only a few feet from her, but her eyes drifted a few storefronts down the sidewalk, the coffee house The Bean was there. She watched a few people walk out with their cups and the smell drifted to her.

She decided she'd get some. She never passed up an opportunity, making the drink at home was never the same unless you bought those expensive espresso makers which she would never be able to afford.

Since I'm here already, she told herself.

The service wasn't horrible this time and she got her desired drink. She immediately went outside, it was always crowded in that place and it seemed even more so which was strange to her since it was a weeknight. But when she was back outside into the cool night she heard some beats and strums.

Her grey eyes traveled across the street to the park, she could see a bunch of people gathered around something. Curious, she walked along the sidewalk to get a better view.

She stopped when she was directly across the park entrance, and she noticed some instruments set up, their owners playing them while people sat on the grass and benches to watch. She cupped her drink between both of her hands and brought it to her lips, blowing lightly as she observed and listened to the scene from a distance.

"Hey, you made it!" a deep voice said from behind her.

Harper turned suddenly and her eyes widened at the sight, the cup slipping from her hands and smashing onto the ground, spilling its contents between them.

It was the male, The Male.

Harper gathered her senses as she looked down at the cup, cursing under her breath as she stepped away from the mess and watched the male do the same.

"Woah," he said, shaking his head and giving her a sheepish look. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

Harper only stared, her eyes drifting from him to the mess in shock. She watched as a sudden grin came over his face.

"It seems like Hazelnut Latte does not agree with you."

Harper blinked then and shook her head. "W-Why are you here?"

Why was he here, what were the odds!

He raised a dark brow. "What do you mean?"

This wasn't supposed to happen, was this some sort of sick joke by some unseen force? Yes, that's what it was, some sick joke.

"Hey, are you alright?" The male broke through her mind conversation.

Harper blinked again, focusing her sights on his concerned face. "Huh?"

"You, it looked like something was wrong. Like you were in pain… or something."

She rubbed her forehead a bit before murmuring, "I'm fine."

"You sure? You don't look like it."

"Probably because you won't shut up," she thought to herself angrily.

"Excuse me?"

"W-what?" She looked at him with wide eyes. He looked offended, his brows drawn together and his green eyes narrowed. She swallowed; apparently she'd said that last part out loud.

"I think you just told me to shut up." He said slowly, crossing his arms.

"Did I?" She huffed a small nervous laugh while she rubbed her arm. "I-I don't r-recall."

"You just said it."

"You probably heard wrong."

"I don't think so, my hearing is quite good."

"Mine's better."

"I'm sorry?"

"Nothing," Harper blurted before explaining hastily, "I didn't tell you to shut up, I told someone else to…"

"Someone else…" the male repeated before looking around. "It's only us here."

Harper glanced at him. Bad luck indeed. She decided that she'd had enough, her heart was racing and she was sincerely out of her element. She just wanted this to end, this not date that she was not on.

"Us, and my invisible friend," she said seriously, hoping she'd creep him out and he'd walk, no, run away from her.

The male quirked a brow, he seemed unsure on how to respond to that and Harper mentally patted her back.

"Your… your invisible friend," he said slowly with hesitance.

"Yes," Harper replied more confidently. "You can't see her because… she's...you know...invisible..."

The male only stared, studying her face for the longest time, making Harper fidget under his gaze.

Why isn't he leaving?

"What's her name?"

Harper's eyes snapped to his in confusion. "Whose?"

The male smirked, making Harper narrow her eyes. "Your friend, what's her name?"

Damn.

She thought maybe she should just walk away to her car, but she had a feeling he'd just follow her. She could do it though, let him try and stop her. Hopefully he'd even try and stop her from closing the car door and then she'd get to smash his fingers like they do in the movies. No, she wasn't that cruel... necessarily...

"Covert Cassy," she blurted suddenly, realizing how very stupid that sounded.

She glanced at the male to see him tilt his head, eyeing her with a strange expression before his shoulders began to shake a bit. And then she realized he was chuckling quietly.

"You're a strange one," he finally said as his chuckling subsided, smiling down at her.

Harper bit her lip. "Right, so it's been fun." She turned and started walking away down the sidewalk and toward her car. Home, sleep, rest. That's what she desired at the moment.

"Woah!" She heard him call from behind along with his approaching footsteps. "What do you mean? Where are you going?"

"Home," Harper said over her shoulder.

"But what about the date?"

Harper paused, giving him a glance when he came to stand in front of her again, looking a bit anxious at her leaving. She finally let out a tired huff and spoke seriously, "I'm not comfortable with this, I don't even know you."

He surveyed her before responding, "That's what a date is for, to get to know each other."

Harper crossed her arms. "Well, maybe I don't want to get to know you."

The male took in her words before letting a sly smile grace his lips. "I don't see why you wouldn't."

"I've no interest in getting to know anyone I've randomly met, especially a cocky human like yourself." Her eyes widened and she fought the urge to slap a hand over her mouth. She didn't just say that! She swore her anxiety had a mouth of its own when provoked. She knew her canine presented itself more dominantly when she became stressed, but she was usually alone when it occurred.

He tilted his head, narrowing his eyes at her words. A look passed over his face, suspicious and shock, but it was gone before she could place it.

"Humans," he stated, his green eyes looked between hers for an explanation as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his dark blue jeans.

"Well that's what you a-are isn't it? You're a human, I-I'm a human." She gestured between them before waving her hand frantically in the direction of the park where the musical gathering was. "And there's a bunch of humans o-over there too! Heh... just tons of us humans... everywhere... like cockroaches..." She wanted to take her tongue out and stomp on it over and over again.

The male remained silent, and Harper dared not look him in the eye. She really just wanted to go in her car, bang her head on the steering wheel, and go home and proceed to do the same to all her walls until she passed out.

"You really are strange, aren't you?" he finally said with amusement. Harper released the breath she was holding and looked at him in exasperation.

"Very, I'm very, very strange. In fact, I'm so outrageously strange I should be admitted to a psyche ward immediately. I really am a danger to society." She quickly spun on her heel began speed-walking away again, a shaky exhale leaving her lips.

Harper paused when she thought of something. She pulled her wallet from her pocket and fished out a five-dollar bill, hurrying back over to where he was standing and pushed it into his hands, noticing the look of confusion he held.

"It was interesting meeting you, Barnaby. But I'm gonna go home, I think as my 'debt' has been paid."

"It's Blaise, actually..." he corrected and caught her wrist when she turned to walk away, placing the bill back into her hand and closing her fingers over it. He didn't seem to take note that she had froze stiff, staring where his hand had touched her.

No one touched her, ever, she was never in situations where that happened.

It burned, the backs of her fingers where he curled them, his hand was exceptionally warm. Almost too warm.

"I told you I don't want your money," Blaise said before continuing in a gentler tone that had her fixing her grey eyes on his green. "I only wished to get to know you. Look, we really seem to be continuing to get off on the wrong foot." He stuck his hand out between them, and Harper dropped her eyes to it. "I'm Blaise."

Harper slowly took his hand, and it was immediately enveloped in warmth that was such an opposite from the frigid air outside, it was too warm, it just was. He curled his fingers around her smaller hand when she caught his eyes, he smiled again at her.

Harper bit her lip as she darted her eyes from his hand to his face. "I'm Harpy… Harper! Harper!" She cringed at her slip and felt her hand shake with his chuckle.

"Nice, to meet you, Harper." Blaise replied with a smirk. "Now, there's live music playing in the park. Care to join me for a walk? See that band? They're local, very good if you ask me. You might like them."

"Um… I mean um, sure…" She caught herself as she glanced up at him, watching a pleased grin spread across his face.

It was just the park, nothing big, and it would get him out of her fur she suspected, so she accepted.

She pulled her hand from his and took a step back, he took in her hesitance so he didn't try to near into her personal space bubble anymore. He nodded his head for them to go, crossing the street, and entering the lit up park.


It wasn't that bad, she noted about an hour into it. They'd walked around the park, he talked mostly, asking her simple questions like what she did at work and school, nothing too serious before he suggested settling down in the grass to watch the band. Harper though, had mentioned that she'd much prefer to sit a good distance away.

Her ears were tingling with the volume of the band, he didn't mind sitting further away than everyone else though.

So there they sat, he with his back propped up against a tree with his legs spread out in front of him while Harper sat with her knees drawn up, ankles crossed, and arms hugging her legs.

Blaise watched the band while Harper watched the people; some were up and dancing with each other, taking advantage of the slow acoustic song at the moment.

He wasn't too bad, she decided.

For a human.

She still wasn't comfortable around him though, or with the current situation really. But she didn't plan on this happening again so she'd humor him. Plus, it was the most conversation she had in a long while. Sometimes she'd forget how little she actually spoke. At school she didn't bother to really, unless directly spoken to and a response was required. And at work, it was just a few sentences here and there, nothing big.

Lonely, in both worlds.

A small sacrifice.

"Are you from the West?" Blaise asked suddenly, Harper turned her head to look at him curiously.

"What makes you ask?"

"Your lack of accent, you have that mellowed out way of speaking. You pronounce your R's, so not north east, don't have a drawl, so not south or Midwest anything."

"Florida doesn't have a drawl, at least I don't think." She'd lived in the hot humid state for a few months some years ago. It was not a place she desired to return, preferring the cool, northern states and their forests.

"They're just weird then." He smirked.

Harper gave a small smile as she turned back to watch the people. "Yes, I'm from the West."

"Which part?"

"North."

He chuckled deeply. "Not going to give me any specifics, huh?"

"No, don't think I will." No, that was as far as she was going to go in terms of talking about where she was from.

Alright." He nodded, leaning back into the tree and draping an arm over his bent knee. "Why the big move?"

Harper didn't look at him, but a frown marred her features as she stared at the ground in front of her. A stab from the memories pierced her heart. "Family issues…" She told him, which wasn't a lie. Not really.

She could feel his eyes on her, but she didn't turn her gaze to him. "Bad territory for a first date. Okay, favorite fruit?"

She almost burst out in laughter at the abrupt turn of the conversation, she smiled though and shook her head. "Pickle, and it really isn't a date, more like a forced outing."

He laughed at that. "Pickle, really? That's not a fruit. And forced outing, ouch. Am I holding you down? Keeping you there?"

"Pickles are cucumbers which have seeds which means they are fruits. And no, not physically, but the guilt you've laid upon my shoulders is."

She knew he was smirking, she could feel it being directed to the side of her face. "Guilt? What guilt?"

"If I'd left, I'd feel bad, or at least semi-bad. Guilty for leaving."

"So let me get this straight, you're not here because you want to know me better, but to make you feel better?" he asked with mock offence.

"Correct."

"I really should feel insulted, and I have a feeling you'd like it if I was, but unluckily for you I'm not. I find that extremely amusing."

"Wonderful, what's yours?" she replied blandly, glancing sidelong at him.

"My what?"

"Favorite fruit."

He made a show of thinking. "Cherry. I love popping cherries," Harper shot her wide eyes over to his, stunned, her mouth half opened, and no words. He grinned. "Into my mouth, I mean." When she raised her brow higher, he laughed. "Damn, that doesn't really help that innuendo does it? Honestly, cherry is just my favorite fruit…" He said soberly, before adding slyly. "And popping them is my favorite past time."

Harper shook her head. "That is bad territory for a first date."

"Forced outing," Blaise corrected with a smirk, his eyes twinkling with mirth.

Harper grinned then, her canines pressing into her bottom lip. "Forced outing," she agreed.

She heard a twang from the speakers, she looked over to see the people getting up and dispersing as the band packed up. She glanced behind her to see the shops closing up as well.

"Well, I think this forced outing has come to an end as I really should be getting home," Harper said as she stood and started brushing off her dark jeans and pulled her coat tighter around her.

Blaise stood up too, doing the same. "Yeah, suppose it is getting late. I have quite the drive back anyway."

Harper moved her eyes to his. "How long a drive?"

"Three hours, maybe less if there's no traffic," he told her casually.

"Three hours? You… drove three hours to meet me?"

"Yes, little lady. Flattered?" he leered with a raised brow.

"No," Harper lied turning away and busied herself with buttoning up her coat.

"That blush on your cheeks says otherwise." He chuckled.

Harper froze, and then huffed.

Werewolves don't blush.

Blaise shoved his hands into his pockets as he watched her. "So, I know on dates I'd usually walk you to your car, or house door if I was driving. But, as this is a forced outing, I'm not sure what to do. Do I release the metaphoric chains and say 'You're free to go'?"

Harper breathed a small chuckle, her lips tugging into a side smile as she looked at him in amusement. He gave her a wink and it did something to her stomach, made it flutter, and she could feel the heat in her cheeks.

Perhaps it's gas.

"How about we just say goodbye and be on our way?"

His expression turned wry. "Just like that? No 'see you again. Here's my number, call me sometime'?"

She felt nervous at that, as clearly that was what happened on 'dates'. She thought this was over, get to know each other like he said, and be done with it. It's what he said!

"Or my favorite; want to come back to my place?" He leaned and arched his dark brow with a smug smirk. Her eyes only widened more and she felt trapped to the spot she stood. He grinned a toothy grin at her obvious unease. "I'm only playing around. Well, I have a feeling you're not going to give me your number, so how about I give you mine? That way, when you want to see me again, and I know you will, you can just give me a call."

She started rubbing her arm, and swallowed. "Um… alright." She wouldn't give him a call, but it was better to let him think she would.

He brought out his wallet from his pocket, and unhooked a tiny pen the size of her palm from the inside, he jotted the number down on the back of a card and handed it to her. Harper released her arm and took it, placing it in her coat pocket and glanced at him.

"So, guess this is goodbye, huh? I thank you for putting up with me for the little while, now you can sleep guilt free." Blaise winked again, and Harper didn't really know what to say.

But she cleared her throat and tried. "I don't… I don't really do this… go out… with other people…"

"I figured," he replied wryly.

"I… thought it would be worse than what it was."

Blaise chuckled. "Wow... I'm pretty sure that was a disguised compliment."

"I was… surprised," she finished lamely.

"Well, I'm just full of surprises. Maybe if you give me a call sometime, I could continue to show you."

"Maybe…"

No.

"Alright," he gave a sigh as he glanced around the park. "I should go, it was nice meeting you again, Harpy."

Her eyes went to his, and he smiled a crooked smile. "You as well, Barnaby."

He threw his head back and laughed, throwing her a grin before turning from her and leaving the park for the streets.

Harper watched him until he was no longer in sight, she glanced at her surroundings and noticed it was indeed late, so she let out a sigh and made her way to her car.

No, it wasn't as bad as she thought it would be.

Maybe even… pleasant.


Author's note: Slow going I know, but that's how it has to be. I'd love to know what you thought in a Review. Thanks for reading!

Sombrette