Solitude's Howl

Chapter VII

Dirty Blood

She woke again, not knowing what time or day it was. She had been in and out of consciousness for some time, lucid only long enough to stare at her surroundings before deciding she'd much rather slip back into the darkness of sleep. She remained in the spot where she first collapsed, in the center of her living room. The carpet scratched against her sore, unclothed skin. The T.V. still ran, still on its loud setting she had initially put it on. She kept most her movement to a minimum as her bones protested wildly each time she tried to shift around. However, her dry mouth and thirst was becoming too much and she needed to do something about it no matter how much she preferred to lay on the floor unconscious for who knows how many days.

Harper struggled to lift herself, her muscles would not cooperate and felt numb. Her arms shook, tired and weak. The amount of pain that racked her form brought tears while she gripped the edge of the couch to push herself up onto unsteady legs. Never before had she felt that way after a Change. Pain was always expected, but one would get used to it after so many times. That was, if they Formed regularly, which Harper didn't. The pain she felt was always more than normal, she knew and expected it. But this time, it was at a whole other level.

After managing to stand, she looked around. The room remained the same, exactly how she rearranged it before she changed in the middle of the room. The couch sat pushed against the door with the brown armchair leaning against it, and the coffee table was pushed aside as well. The drawn blue curtains kept the room dark aside from the flashing lights coming from the television, but Harper could see light trying to break through the windows, telling her it was daytime.

She turned her focus on getting to her room, deciding she would shower first in hopes of feeling a little better.

Around an hour and a half later found her struggling to move to furniture back to where it originally sat. She still ached, the shower was of no help. Her hips hurt the most and each step caused her to clench her teeth. When she saw herself in the mirror after the shower, she grimaced. She lost weight, a good amount by the look of it. Her skin abnormally pale and stretched over her bones, bruising blotched her body here and there from Forming, along with redness on her side from rug burn. Her appearance sickened her. She sneered at the mirror before hobbling out to change into a large grey sweater and dark leggings which she remembered fitting her tighter.

Back in the living room she made to fix the mess and as she limped over to the coffee table she caught site of the blinking receiver for her phone. The number eight blinked rhythmically, letting her know she had messages. It was rare for her to have even one message so seeing eight surprised and worried her. Pressing the button to play them, she listened while trying to slide the coffee table back into the center.

"Monday, 1:28 pm. Harper, it's Linora. You were scheduled to come in the shop for lunch today, I'm looking at the clock and it's closing in on 1:30 and I haven't heard from you. I know we had some words the other day, but I would appreciate it if you would call, letting me know if you are able to come in or not. Please call me when you can, I think we should have a chat."

"Monday, 9:45 pm. Harper, it's Linora again. I'm just callings to remind you that you're scheduled to close tomorrow. I am expecting you to come so I hope to seen you at four. Bye, bye."

"Tuesday, 4:32 pm. Harper? It's me Linora. Dear, I'm not sure what's going on. If this is due to our last talk, I understand but I don't appreciate your lack of communication. If you would at least call letting me know that you aren't coming in I would..."

The rest of the messages were much the same, all from Linora. They went up until Wednesday, the day it currently was. Expecting the last message to be another from her boss, she moved to stop the machine, only to let her finger hover over the button when the voice belonged to another, startling her.

"Wednesday, 9:24 am. Hey, it's me, Blaise. I called a couple of times but I keep getting the machine so I guess I'll just leave a message if it's the only way I can talk to you." There was a pause and then a sigh before he continued. "Look, I'm sorry for what I said, I don't usually snap like that. I'm outside actually, by your car. I took the day off to fix I'll be out here, if you want to talk."

She stared at the receiver for a moment before sliding her gaze to the cable box where the time showed 12:47 pm. Harper glanced at the door, then moved to try and slide the armchair back in its place. With much huffing and wincing she managed to get it a few feet away from the couch. Out of breath, she collapsed into the chair, pressing her face into the cushion and maneuvering her legs to hang over the armrest.

A sharp knock startled her eyes open after they apparently slid shut on their own accord. She slowly turned her face to see the T.V. again, realizing she'd fallen asleep for about a half hour. Another harsh knock had her struggling to sit up, but she managed and hobbled toward the door. Harper halted once seeing the couch still seated against the door. Her shoulders sagged, and she winced at the three loud knocks, then jumped at voice following.

"Harper, open up. I know you're there," the frustration in his voice evident. "Come on, it's about your car. Let me talk to you."

Her feet slid along the carpet, closing the distance to the door. Her hands weakly gripped the armrest of the couch and she leant back, tugging. It moved a bit, giving her a few inches between the door and couch. Her shoulders already ached from trying to move the armchair so it was all she was able to accomplish after another weak attempt. After unlocking the deadbolt, she cracked the door open the few inches the couch would allow, watching as the male's frustrated, pinched brows lifted in surprise once seeing the door open.

Blaise had been ready to pound his fist against the door one more time, but held it in the air once he heard the door creak open. His arm dropped, and he waited for it to open further, but it didn't. Through the couple inches, he saw Harper's face, though most of her features were cast in shadow. Something seemed off about her eyes, something seemed off about her. But he couldn't pin it through the narrow opening.

"Hey," he said quietly.

He watched her swallow, following the movement down the column of her throat, taking in the pained twitch in her lips.

"Hel–" she cut off her rasping reply, wincing, and tried again with a whisper of, "Hi..."

An awkward moment went by as he waited for her to open the door further, inviting him in, or simply so he could speak to her face to face, for talking to her through the small crack was odd and bothered him. And yet still, she did not.

He cleared his throat. "So, can I come in?"

Harper's eyes widened for a second, and she glanced over her shoulder, into her flat before lowering her gaze toward the ground. Her lips moved without sound as she struggled to give an excuse.

Blaise saved her from trying. "Or you could come out here?" He jutted a thumb over his shoulder toward the stairs leading down to the parking lot. "You can see your car. It's fixed. I put everything back together." He offered her wane smile but received nothing in return.

She was eyeing the stairs behind him nervously. Blaise turned, looking at them to see what had her attention. He wasn't sure why she had that expression. They were just stairs.

"Harper?" he said when she gave him no response.

She snapped her gaze up, opening her mouth again in that way the told him she wanted to say something, but had no words. Again she looked back into her flat, more, at something specific to her side right behind the door.

"Is something wrong?"

"Just...just hold on," she whispered.

He waited as Harper disappeared behind the door, it remained open, but after a thump, it began to sway, threatening to close. He could hear strained breathing coming from within. A gasp, a huff, like she was struggling with something. Again something thumped the door, and he pressed his hand against it to keep it from shutting. Slowly, he made to ease it open. He was curious as to what she was doing, but the door stopped after a couple inches, just how she left it. Something was preventing it from opening fully.

A frustrated sigh came followed by Harper's reappearance. She looked at his hand on the door, then behind her again.

"Push it?" she said, still in that whisper.

Blaise tilted his head in confusion, but shrugged it off as he gave the door a push. It took a bit of strength to move whatever was barring it, but slowly the door opened until there was enough room for him to slip through, which he did without waiting for her consent.

Harper started once he closed the door, opening her mouth and closing it nervously, eyes darting around from place to place. She wrung her hands before her. He saw that it was the couch that had kept the door shut. And when he looked around the living room he noted a lot of the furniture seemed to be pushed towards the walls in some way, only the coffee table seemed to be in place. Odd.

The flat didn't have much light for the dark curtains were drawn over the windows. But even that wasn't enough for him not to be startled by her appearance. His eyes snapped over her features, sunken cheeks, wide sad eyes, chapped lips, and her sweater appeared to be simply hanging on her shoulders.

His hand blindly slid next to him along the wall, checking for a switch. Once he felt it, he flicked it on and the ceiling light flickered for a moment before remaining steady. Immediately she winced and closed her eyes at the intrusion. Blaise was silent. Mostly in awe at how different she looked. So weak and sick. Bruising blotched her very pale skin. He could see some under her jaw, by her ears, some on her chest, dipping underneath the loose neckline of the sweater, and from what he could see of her hands, almost all her knuckles were colored with blues, purples, and greens. Even her hair, held in a haphazard ponytail, limp without shine.

Blaise let out the heavy breath he was holding in a huff, and looked around the disarrayed room once more in disbelief.

"What? H-Harper what the hell happened?" He rubbed the back of his neck roughly, a habit when he was anxious and asked, "What happened to you?"

Harper gazed at him with the same amount of anxiousness, doing the same thing with her mouth as she struggled to find words.

He took a step towards her. "Did someone do this to you? Did someone break in?" It seemed the most reasonable thing, what with the furniture and her beaten appearance. Maybe that's why she barred the door?

"Huh? N-no." She shook her head at the rasp in her voice, cleared her throat with a grimace, and curled a hand around her neck. "No."

"Then what's all this?" He gestured to the room before sweeping a hand back to her. "What happened to you?"

"Nothing..." Harper murmured, shifting her gaze away.

"Bullshit nothing. Have you looked in a mirror?"

Her brows pinched and she shot a glare his way, making her look slightly less frail. "Yes."

Blaise sighed, shaking his head. " I didn't mean it that way." He regarded her for a long moment, making her eyes shift. "Are you sure nobody did this to you?"

"Nobody did anything to me," Harper replied blankly. He couldn't tell if she was lying. "I'll get you the money," she said after, and turned to walk toward her bedroom.

"I told you I wasn't going to charge," Blaise called after her, but she ignored him and kept walking, hobbling more like. He recalled she had a slight limp when he had first came over to fix her car a couple days ago. It was much, much more apparent now and he watched as she extended a hand toward the hallway wall to help her walk.

Someone clearly did something to her. He was sure someone had beaten her. There just was no other explanation. None that he could think of. But then again, he had no idea what she did with her days so...

Blaise let out a deep sigh and fell back to sit on the couch. His nose instinctively twitched at the soapy scent she seemed to surround herself with. He'd bet it was forever imbedded into the couch's dark green fabric, probably even the carpet as well. His green eyes gazed around the room again, trying to piece together the reasoning for the furniture to be moved the way it was. But it was a fruitless attempt. A quick glance down the hall showed her room door slightly ajar and he could see her moving around inside, but he stayed put. From the little he'd figured out about her, she'd probably have a heart attack if he walked in her room.

Normally a thought like that would humor him, maybe even cause him to act his usual sly self and walk into the room just to irk her, but he just felt subdued since seeing so weak. So he slid his eyes away from the door and dropped them to his lap where his hands rested. His fingers had grease stains on them, they always did in some way. He rubbed them against his dark jeans.

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. Harper made no sense to him. Her personality, her mannerisms, and now, looking like someone who just tumbled off a cliff, she acted as though there was nothing odd. Or more, as though he wasn't seeing what he was really seeing. Gone was the girl whom he'd had a pleasant date with at the park. And it was nice, she was a nice person he found. She had the capacity to be that person. But each time he saw her since, she was just not that person anymore. She was guarding something about her so deeply, she would not give him anything to grasp. And he because of it, he couldn't pin her.

Blaise wanted to pin her, to say yes, she is this person. But he felt like he only knew just an ounce of who she really is. She constantly threw him off, and it unnerved him. The right thing to do would be to just deem her crazy and leave her alone like she clearly wanted. A part of him though, wanted to be her friend, since she didn't seem to have any. Even more so now with her all alone, dealing with...whatever it was she was dealing with. A sickness? She certainly looked ill.

He rubbed the back of his neck again, frowning. His caught sight of something swaying on the edge of the cushion near his knee. He reached for it, bringing it closer to see. At first he thought it was strands of hair, but he knew it wasn't long enough be her hair at the length of his index finger, too coarse and too straight. He realized it was a tuft of fur. Black at the ends, blending into a deep chestnut-brown. 'Like her hair color' he mused, eyeing the tuft. He looked back at the couch, and saw that all along the edge of the cushion there was similar fur, like something rubbed against it.

"Here," her quiet voice startled him. He'd been so focused he hadn't heard her return. Blaise looked up, seeing her holding out a stack of bills. A pretty thick stack.

"Do you have a dog?" he asked instead of taking the money, which he had no intention of doing.

She looked confused and shook her head slowly, eyeing him carefully. She pushed the money closer.

"A cat then? You don't seem much of cat person. Or maybe you do, being the recluse that you are." He gave her a humorous smile, then dropped it once he realized he had probably just insulted her. She didn't seem to be though, only continued staring at him as if he was odd.

"No...I don't have any pets. They don't seem to like me very much. Here." Harper practically shoved the money under his nose and he had to lean back to avoid it.

"Yeah. I'm not so good with them either. Except my own dogs, but I've had them since they were born so that might explain it."

"Maybe..." she muttered, shaking the stack exaggeratedly. "Take it."


He smirked at the ire flaring in her grey eyes. His smirk faltered when his own green caught sight of something red trickling down from beside her ear. He stood abruptly, causing Harper to inhale sharply and stumble back in her surprise. He caught the hand holding the money to still her, and used his other to reach toward her.

"You're bleeding," Blaise murmured. His fingered slid along the train of blood, it was dripping from a small wound just above her ear. He brought his hand back, finger shining with the crimson liquid to show her.

Harper was staring up at him, shocked at his closeness. He was in her personal space, a space she let no one breech. So close she actually had to tilt her head back some just to see his face. 'Looks wasted on a human...' she thought, which startled her and she blushed, harshly shaking her head to get rid of those musings. She peered up him to see if he noticed, only to be shown his finger coated in red. In blood.

'You're bleeding' he had said, then touched her skin.

Blaise jumped at the sudden gasp and horrored expression that appeared on Harper's face as she looked at his finger.

"No!" she said in a strangled cry, shocking him when she snatched his hand started scrubbing the blood with the sleeve of her sweater. "No, no, no!" she whispered hysterically, as she did. Her movements were harried, hands shaking over his.

Blaise was simply in shock as he watched her. Mostly, his shock was that she had touched him on her own accord, but slowly as he continued watching he dumbfounded at her actions. Her scrubbing was burning his hand and he tried to pull away.

Harper looked up at him, her grip on his hand tightening to a point he didn't think possible, one; for a female, and two; for a female so weak as she appeared at the moment. He swallowed at the wild look in her eyes.

She started tugging him toward the kitchen and he followed numbly, a thought passing in his through his head that made his heart sink into his gut.

Harper pushed his hand under the faucet and shoved a bar of soap in his hand. He glanced at her, and she was watching him nervously. Her skin, her sunken eyes, the weight loss, the bruising, her weakness, and now with how she was reacting toward him touching her blood...The word HIV rang through his head like an alarm.

"Wash your hands!" Harper said frantically when he only just stood frozen.

Blaise stared at her for another long moment, then blood now smeared on her grey sleeve. He wanted to say something, he just didn't know what.

He turned the faucet on and started scrubbing his hands with the bar of soap. Harper hovered at his side, watching anxiously. He could feel her nerves radiating off her. When he was through he shut off the water and reached for a paper towel from the roll resting on the counter.

As he was doing that Harper limped over to the living room and bent shakily to pick up the money she had dropped. She turned to see him staring at her from his place at the sink. She held out the money again.

"I think you should go now..."

Blaise walked over, keeping her gaze until he stood before her. He glanced at the money.

"I'm not taking it."

She opened her mouth to protest he said it again more forcefully, "I'm not taking it, Harper."

"Fine..." she whispered, lowering her eyes away from his stare. She stepped away from him and looked pointedly toward the door.

Blaise took the hint and slowly made his way toward it. He grasped the doorknob, holding it for a moment and glanced her way to where she stood watching.

"You're sick... aren't you, Harper?" he asked quietly, not quite able to meet her grey eyes.

Harper tilted her head slightly, her eyes glazed over as she took in his words and the meaning behind them. Looking at her bloodied sleeve, she answered just as quiet, "Yes, I'm sick..."

Blaise swallowed thickly, nodding. "I'm... sorry."

He shut the door behind him gently, leaning against it for some time before making his way down the stairs toward the parking lot. As he descended he felt very heavy with the weight of what he now knew. 'Poor girl' he thought solemnly.

Just like that, everything about her made sense. He pinned her. He understood. And he wished for once that he stayed ignorant.

Update 9/26/13 Please Read! About this story... I've been struggling with it, but what I think what has happened is my writing style has changed from when I first wrote this so I'm really not happy with the writing in this story. There's things about it that I hate but I keep posting because I know people read it and I don't want to leave a story floating. Basically I think this story and the writing is lame :P

SO what I'm trying to say is, I feel like I can't fix what I messed up in this story. It's too far gone and I don't have the patience to try and re-write and still make everything consistent. HOWEVER - I am going to write this story again, but it will have a pretty massive change to it. The Main Character Harper Banes is still going to be...well the main character and the male character-Blaise-will still be in there too. But the story will have a different focus. What brought on this decision is a short story I wrote called Blue Moon, which is on my profile. It's rhymed prose and in First-Person but the rewrite of Solitude's Howl won't rhyme and will still be in Third-Person. Blue Moon shows a bit of an idea of the route I'm going to change the story to, the concept of it anyway. SO check it out if you're curious.

As of now this is the OLD VERSION of Solitude's Howl, and when I publish the NEW VERSION I will post a heads up in a re-post of the last chapter of this version to alert those who are still wanting to read the story. The next update to this story will be the alert that the new story is published, so keep an eye out.

Sorry to those who have been reading, following, waiting for so long only to have me quit this story. But hopefully you'll be up for the re-written version which I hope will be a much better read than this one.