The story of the wolf girl has been told many times before. So many times, that it's nearly a legend, or perhaps folklore would be a better word for it. But no matter what the word, it has passed through many mouths and ears for years. Though none of those stories ever spoken are like the one I'm about to tell. I knew the wolf girl better than anyone had. And my story starts years earlier than all those other legends and folklore. My story is the real story.
I lived in a town that went by the name of Cherry Oak. The name comes from the rare trees that grew around here; a mixed breed of cherry blossom and oak trees. They grew huge like the oak trees, but covered the town almost always in cherry blossom petals. No matter the weather or season, you could find the petals in the streets, and they littered our little town, of a population of maybe only two hundred.
Cherry Oak sat right next to the ocean. Back in the older days our little town was really important; it was used for trading and docking ships and giving sailors a place to spend the night. But that was years ago when the only way we could stay alive as a town was to depend on the things that came from the mainland. But the people here began to learn how to live on their own, growing their own farms and fishing for their own food. Slowly, the ships began to come less often, until they didn't come at all. Every once in a blue moon, a ship will arrive in our docks again bringing us some goods from the city, but not as frequently as they used to. And we all got used to living isolated from the cities. We liked it better away from the city. It was quiet and peaceful here.
I had lived there ever since birth. I knew nearly everyone in town. Everyone had a certain sameness about them, like a family. But every family has their black sheep, and ours was Darcy. No one in town really talked to her. She kept to herself often. But I would see her walking around the streets sometimes, and she would often catch my gaze. She had this thing about her; she just made people look at her, though she really did nothing to ask for it. She was exceptionally average looking. She had a sort of beauty to her that wasn't really known, with long auburn hair and huge green eyes. We crossed paths frequently, but we never spoke a word to the other. As I was leaving the bakery, she would enter; we would pass on the streets, hover about at the annual festivals. But we never spoke, face to face. Though I didn't need to speak with her to know all about her. The town spoke for her.
Everyone said she was odd. And it was evident that she was nothing like the rest of us, but I had always thought that odd was a little harsh, until I had a chat with the butcher after she had been in earlier that day.
I had been sent by my mother to get a fresh pound of beef for the festival that was to be held the day after tomorrow in honor of my turning 18. I really didn't see the need in the whole town celebrating my aging, but it had been tradition in the town for years, so who was I to turn it down. I walked into the small shop and approached the counter and rang the bell for service. Only moments later, a man in white clothes that were slightly stained red approached me. He gave me a smile from behind the counter.
"Ah, Tristan. Your mother told me you'd be stopping by today. I have your meat precut, fresh as anything." I glanced at the red stains on his clothes.
"Great." He glanced back at me from where he was gathering the food.
"Aw come on kid. I told you, it's just the how the food chain goes. They eat the grass, we eat them. It's science really," He turned around and placed a slab of meat on a scale to measure. "'Sides, you're gonna be 18 in a few days. Time to toughen up, you're gonna be a man now." I had a mixture of feelings about turning of age. I didn't know whether to laugh or get offended at his words.
"Well Dave, you're the manliest guy I know. So I guess I better take your advice." He gave a hearty laugh as he took the meat off the scale and placed it in front of me.
"Damn straight. Besides, its better this meat is going to humans rather than mangy beasts. 30 coins should cover it." I reached my hand into my pocket to get the coins out as I looked at Dave with a confused brow.
"Aye. That odd girl comes in here every once in a while and buys food for the wolves. It should be a crime, feeding those beasts. She was in here just a bit before you." I placed the coins on the counter.
"Wait, you mean that Darcy girl?"
"Is that her name? I don't really know her. But I know what the town says about her. She's completely bonkers from what I know. She goes all the way to the edge of the forest near sunset and feeds those wolves. She talks to them too. And the sky, and the moon, and even the grass. She'll talk to anything. I keep saying that someone should put her in the asylum, but they don't see the need in it if she isn't doing any harm." I had grabbed the bag of meat from the counter and began to turn away. Dave was an alright guy, but she sure did let his mouth get the best of him. I gave a slight chuckle.
"Alright Dave, whatever you say. I'll see you at the festival."
"It is doing harm though!" he continued. "It's letting those things closer to our town. Soon they won't be scared of us anymore, and they'll begin attacking us Tristan!" He was calling to me being as I was so close to the door. "You remember when they attacked you, don't you?" I paused for a moment. My attack was something I had been so determined to erase from my memory, that when people bring it up, I almost forget it actually happened.
"I try not to."
The festivals that are held in honor of a child becoming an adult are never as prestigious as the annual holiday festivals, but nevertheless, they're always a good time. Each family in the town gives something to the honored child; be that food or something they might need to live on their own. It always ended up being a lovely night. There were always games and music, and it always ended with a big feast. Mine was nearly over by the time everyone was sitting around the big bonfire in the middle of town with the moon shining above our heads. It was nearing the winter months, and so the nights were growing to be colder and ever colder. But even when the frost bit around us, the fire was keeping us warm. That was the main purpose originally for the big bonfire in the town center. It was used years ago before houses got their own fireplaces. But it was still a nice place to sit and relax.
Since our town was so small, traditionally everyone in town showed up. And everyone I knew did make an appearance, but there was one person who I didn't really know, that I was not sure if I was happy or sad that they didn't show.
We were all sitting in a circle around the fire, and by that I mean myself, my family, and some friends of the family. My father was next to me, going on about the first time I ever caught a fish on my own, when I noticed something peculiar. Just beyond where my father was sitting, behind a house nearby, I saw someone move behind it. And without me knowing it at first, I spoke, more to myself than anyone else.
"There's someone over there." I didn't point, but everyone seemed to follow my gaze, and everyone saw her, right before she ran off. My father began to laugh.
"Aw, that's just that wolf girl. Don't worry about her."
"You mean Darcy." It annoyed me to no end when people used nicknames. My father waved off my comment.
"Whatever her name, don't give it a second thought. You know what people say about her?" I shrugged. I personally didn't know much about her, but I made it a habit to never say things about people that might not be true.
"Dave told me that she feeds the wolves meat."
"Oh there's so much more about her than just that, dear." I looked over the other side of the bonfire to see it was Heidi who spoke, a friend of my mother's. "I heard that she thinks she really is a wolf. Or that she wanted to be one anyway."
"I thought she was raised by wolves." My older brother, Matthew, piped in.
"Whatever she is, or wants to be, or was raised by," my father interrupted. "She's a freak. People say she only comes out at night, during a full moon." I knew right off the bat that was ridiculous. I had seen her plenty of times during the day.
"I bet she feeds those wolves because she wants them to run rampage on the town." Matthew said. I didn't give much thought to Matthew's input. He had a tendency to let his mouth run without restriction. I furrowed my brows at him.
"And why would she want that? She lives in this town, same as all of us."
"She has no reason to stay here. She doesn't have any family." I stared at him a bit shocked.
"No dear," my mother said for the first time in the conversation. "She lived with her grandmother, but she died a few months ago, sadly."
"Sadly? Ha!" My father gave a few chuckles, though they didn't seem very sincere. "That old bat was just as crazy, if not crazier, than her granddaughter."
"Thomas, respect the dead." My mother said. It was evident that my mother was the most sensitive in this group, that is, aside from me. My father ignored my mother and turned his attention toward me.
"That loon used to go on about great spirits and would do crazy voodoo magic at home. She would say that we needed to respect the land that we live on or we would pay the ultimate price, or some other crazy stuff like that. Totally off her rocker, if you ask me."
"Well then it's a good thing no one asked you." My mother snapped at him.
"Quiet Abby." Even though I wasn't looking at my mother, I could feel the gaze from her icy blue eyes pass right in front of me to my father. Though my father was too thick minded of a man to feel it. "I bet she's praying to the moon or something right now. I mean, it is almost a full moon tonight. Maybe she's even singing." My father then began to mockingly howl. Everyone who was sitting around us began to laugh, aside from my mother and myself. I didn't find the whole situation as humorous and entertaining as they did, and I found myself wondering often whether or not I should find it entertaining. I saw no pleasure in mocking someone for being different than I am. They continued to go on a laugh about Darcy as I slowly slipped away to my house and into my bed. It didn't take long for sleep to comfort me from the events of the day.
I was awoken the next day by howling. Not my father and his friends playing up some stupid joke, but real wolf howling. It was a sound I quite enjoyed, despite my history with wolves.
The days following the coming of age festival are not ones that anyone looks forward to. The day after is when you are required to begin to look for a job, if you hadn't already secured one. I, luckily, had. I was to work down at the bakery with my Aunt Kasey as a simple stock and register boy for now, but my aunt had promised to teach me how to bake eventually.
The day was going slow, and I had virtually nothing to do until a customer came in, which was rare, living in such a small town. Each time I heard the chime of the little bell above the door a sigh of relief came over me, finally giving me something to do. At near midday a familiar face popped through my door. She was shorter than me, brown eyes, and hair the color of milk chocolate. I smiled as soon as I saw her.
"What are you doing here?" I asked from behind the counter, with a smile I couldn't hide.
"Well, Mother wanted cookies. And I've found it's best to not argue with a pregnant woman." I chuckled. Felicity and I had been friends ever since we were small, and she was the only person I knew that I was certain I trusted.
"Sugar I suppose. Those used to be her favorite, but who knows what those raging hormones have done to her taste buds." I walked over to the cookie shelf and began to place them into a bag. Felicity's mother was about eight months pregnant.
"Oh come on. It's going to be worth it once the baby is here. Only one more month to go." She sighed.
"Don't remind me. So how's the job going?"I twisted the top of the bag and handed it to her.
"Easy. But slow. And oh so painfully boring." And just then, I heard the chime of the bell above the door again. As soon as I looked from Felicity to the door, I felt all my air get sucked out of me. It was her. She and her big green eyes were standing right in the bakery, only feet from me. She hovered around the shop for a bit, looking at the different cookies and cakes that we had to offer. And I couldn't take my eyes off her.
"Do you or don't you?" I looked back at Felicity.
"Huh?" I hadn't heard a word she said. She rolled her eyes slightly.
"Would you like to do something after you shift is over?"
"I don't get off until 9pm." I heard Felicity say something, but I had no idea what it was. My attention was back on her. I saw that she had picked up a few items, small pastries it looked like. It was then that she started to turn and walk towards me. She placed the pastries on the counter in front of me, but I didn't look away from her until she spoke.
"Will this cover it?" Her voice was small, like she was a mere child trying to pay for her food. But it also had a very sweet ring to it. I looked down at her small hand. It looked dirty and had visible cuts on it. But in the middle of her palm was a little pool of coins. I looked back up into her eyes.
"Yeah, that should be fine." I made my hand into a cup shape, and she dropped the coins in, and I was acutely aware, perhaps too aware, of the seconds that our hands spent touching.
"Thank you." She was out of the shop and out of sight within moments.
Once Darcy was fully out of view again, I looked back to Felicity, who was staring at me with a wicked grin.
"What?" I asked.
"What was that?" She asked as she laughed. "You got a little thing for wolf girl over there?" I looked at her defensively.
"No. I've just heard so much about her that she bites at my curiosity. Have you heard anything about her?" Felicity leaned over on the counter.
"What haven't I heard about her, is a better question. Let's see, I've heard that she feeds the wolves, wants to be a wolf, was raised by wolves, thinks she actually is a wolf, that she hunts with the wolves, that she only eats meat, that she howls at the moon. You name it, I've heard it." I had grabbed the broom while she was talking and began to sweep up behind the counter.
"You think any of it is true?" I saw her shrug out of the corner of my eye.
"I don't know. All I know is that she's really weird." I paused for a moment and looked at her.
"You ever talk to her?"
"Why would I?" I felt my brow furrow slightly.
"Then how do you know that she's so odd?" Felicity stood herself up straight again and looked at me a bit offended. My question had come out ruder than I had wanted it to sound.
"Everyone in town thinks she's a loon. If it were just a few people who thought so, I wouldn't be so inclined to believe it. But it's the whole town, Tristan. And her grandmother was as crazy as you can get, so that probably doesn't help with what people say about her." I went back to sweeping as there was a slight silence between us for a moment. "I should get back to my mother. Thanks for the cookies." I heard the sound of coins hitting the counter before I heard the chime of the bell above the door again.
In the days that followed I found myself thinking about Darcy more than I should have allowed myself to. There was something captivating about her, and it struck my curiosity oh so well. I soon realized that asking people in town about her would get me nowhere fast. I'd made the decision that the next time she came into the bakery that I would try to talk to her. Perhaps I shouldn't bring up the wolves though, since everyone associates her with them. I would just simply talk to her like she was no different than anyone else.
I had planned on talking to her, but she hadn't come to the bakery in weeks. With each passing week, I grew more and more curious about her. And my shifts seemed to be growing longer with each passing day I spent standing there with nothing to do. However on one of my days off I did see her. I was passing by the town square when I saw her come out of the butcher's shop with a bag of meat in her hands. I stopped walking once I saw her, and simply stared. I took in her features for once, trying to figure out what made her so unforgettable. Her auburn hair was long and wavy, though stopping just above her waist. Her clothes were exceptionally normal; she wore a simple white dress, much like ones I've seen other girls wear before. She had a blanket draped over her shoulders and along her back since it was growing colder now. Her feet were naked. Come to think of it, I had never seen her wear shoes. Perhaps she didn't even own a pair.
She began to walk to the end of town, the southern end where the forest wasn't too far away. As I watched her walk, a million and one things coursed through my brain, and I took a moment to consider each one. And even though I came up with a million reasons to just walk away and pretend that I hadn't seen her, I didn't listen to the sound of reason. Instead, I did something that I never expected I would have ever done. I followed her.
I felt so many things that were wrong. I shouldn't be following her; this is an invasion of her privacy. And if I follow her, doesn't that make me just as bad as everyone else in town? But with each scenario I gave myself, I somehow pushed it away by just thinking about how crazy it drove me to know virtually no truth about this girl.
I followed a ways behind her, clinging to trees and the shadows every once in a while just to make sure that she didn't spot me. I did eventually plan on talking to her, when she got to wherever she was going. Or maybe she knew I was behind her, and she was simply taking me into the woods so I would get lost and never find my way out and get eaten alive by those wolves. No, no, I won't associate anything with the wolves with her until I know the truth. That would make me just as low as everyone, as Felicity, and as my father. And that was something I had vowed to myself that I would never in my life be like my father.
We had been in the forest now for perhaps a half an hour and I could see by the shadows the sun was casting over the trees that it was getting to be dusk. I worried that I would lose sight of her at night and never find my way home. But it wasn't much longer until she stopped, right in the middle of the forest, and sat down cross legged. She pulled the meat out of the bag, and began to tear it apart, throwing some in one direction, some in another. It was evident that she was feeding something, though I would not allow my mind to come up with answers until I knew the real one. She threw a slab of meat my way, and it happened to hit my leg. Though I didn't make a sound myself, the sound of the meat hitting something other than the ground or a tree made her look in my direction. I was hiding myself behind a tree, hoping that she didn't come closer. I didn't hear her footsteps on the crushed leaves on the ground, so I figured that I was safe. But it was very evident that I was nowhere near safe when I heard a slight bark come from not far beside me. Thinking on my reflexes, I stumbled away from the sound and out in the open, where it became very evident that she saw me, on the fact that she spoke.
"Tristan?" I had no idea she had even known my name. Though maybe I should find it weirder than she didn't seem surprised or panicked when she saw that someone had followed her out here. "What are you doing all the way out here?" I looked over at her, at her face this time. There was something about the way the setting sun was nearly setting her hair on fire with a reddish color, or the way that her eyes were glowing of their emerald gaze, but something seemed slightly enchanting about her right now.
"Uhm," I didn't want to lie to her. But it wasn't exactly an easy thing to tell someone you have been following them since midday. Her pale lips suddenly birthed a small smile.
"You followed me, didn't you?" She had a playful ring to her voice, something that made it easier to answer her truthfully.
"A little bit."
"Can I ask why that is?" She crossed her arms, but still had a slight smile. I heard a howl off in the distance.
"Can I answer that somewhere that's not here?" Without a word she turned around and began to walk off. At first I thought that I had offended her. But I realized not when she spoke, still with a playful ring.
"Come." I followed behind her, closer this time and without hiding.
When we emerged from the forest, I needed to check I was alive because the air was taken out of me. We came to a cliff edge that overlooked the entire ocean, and it looked even more enchanting with the sky in a swirl of pinks and oranges in the setting of the sun. There was a ledge that stuck out more over the water than the rest of the cliff. Darcy walked over to it and sat down. I followed shortly behind.
"So," Darcy said after a moment of silence. "Why exactly did you follow me all the way out here?" I stared at the ground and picked at the grass as I answered her.
"I didn't want to falsely judge you."
"Care to elaborate? And don't do that," She pointed to my hands pulling on the grass. I looked up at her, as her eyes stared into me. "You're pulling the earth's hair out. I'm sure you wouldn't like it if someone plucked all your hair." She playfully pushed my brown hair away from my eyes. I pulled my hand away from the grass.
"Well you must hear the things that people say about you in town." She giggled, though it didn't reach her eyes.
"Why must I?" I looked at her confused.
"So you haven't?"
"Oh I have. But there's a difference between hearing and listening." I will admit that Darcy definitely thinks and speaks differently than anyone I've ever known.
"Of course. Haven't you ever heard someone talking, but didn't quite listen?" I thought back to the day that Darcy came into the bakery while Felicity was there. I heard Felicity talking, but I wasn't listening at all.
"So you just don't listen to what people say?"
"Why should I? Their words don't change anything." She stared at me with her big green eyes, with nothing but a wry smile on her face. This girl was so mysterious, and so unlike everyone else, so unlike everything that I've come to know as normal, but under no means in my mind does that make her weird. Simply different.
"So, then you wouldn't mind setting some of those rumors straight." She looked out over the sea into the setting sun as a howl was heard from up in the mountains.
"What difference does it make? No matter what's wrong or right, true or untrue, those people are still going to think and believe whatever their mind wants them to. I don't see the sense in it." She leaned back in the grass, her small hands caressing the earth. I caught sight of a few of the scratches and cuts along her hands and arms.
"What are those from?" I pointed to her hand. She looked at her palm for a moment then giggled.
"Wolves are much simpler than humans. When they're displeased, they will let you know. As opposed to humans, where we wear masks to hide our true feelings."
"A wolf cut you?"
"He was only doing what was instinctive to him. I had invaded on his territory too much and he grew frightened, and merely defended himself. I have many cuts and scars similar to that. Those I deserved each. If a wolf is angry, it has a reason to be." Her eyes were stones of emerald burning in the setting sun.
"It sounds like you understand the wolves better than humans." She laughed slightly.
"No one understands humans. We're all too different to make one judgment." She sure was right about us all being different. But I just didn't understand what made the wolves so special to her. They were merely animals.
"Darcy, why the wolves though? They're just animals." She looked out over the ocean once more, the sun now merely an orange line along the horizon, the sky a tainted pink and yellow. I saw a smile creeping up on her lips, one bigger than she had before. She then looked at me, her glowing eyes, her smile digging into my soul. She started to get up, and halfway up, she grabbed my hand to pull me up with her.
"I'll show you." She began to run before I was fully up off the ground, nearly dragging me before I got up and she pulled me by the hand back into the forest.
I didn't like the idea of being in the forest at twilight. Darcy might not be afraid of the wolves, but I had seen those scars on her arms. Those were no mere scratches.
She eventually had stopped running, and let go of my hand as well. We walked a bit, me blindly, until Darcy stopped all together. She turned to me and placed her finger over her lips, telling me to be quiet. She crept ahead slightly, and hide her body behind a large tree, with her head poking out looking beyond it. She then looked back at me with a smile, and motioned for me to come up to her. Quietly I tip toed my way over and stood behind her. She pointed to a mound of dirt on the ground that then began to move before I realized that it was a wolf. It was sleeping, and beside it was another. And then another. They were all sleeping, except for a few who I suppose were keeping watch. But even the ones awake were lying down. I felt myself get nervous before I even looked over each wolf.
"See?" I heard Darcy whisper. "Look at how beautiful they are. And how peaceful they look," I didn't see, but I felt her move her head to look at me. "Just because something has the ability to harm you, doesn't mean they will." Before I knew it, Darcy was not in front of me anymore. Instead she was creeping herself over to where the wolves laid. I grew panicked. If they attacked her, I wouldn't know how to help her.
But they didn't attack her. She walked over slowly, and made her way to the closest wolf, whose eyes were opened by the time she got close. The wolf lifted its head slightly, like it was about to run away, but it stayed. Darcy extended her arm to the wolf's nose, allowing it to sniff her. After a few moments, the wolf barked, and I saw a smile wash over Darcy's pale face. She sat down next to the wolf and began to pet its head, then motioned for me to come over. I didn't want to. The wolf might know Darcy, but it didn't know me.
"Oh come on. You'll be fine, I promise." I don't know what in me made me believe her words so firmly, but I cautiously and quietly walked over to where she was. I heard the other wolves that were gathered around begin to get up, and bark and a few even growled. "Put out your hand to him." I mimicked what Darcy had done just moments before, and allowed the black and brown wolf, with eyes the color of gold, to sniff my hand. I looked at Darcy while the wolf investigated me. She was watching the wolf sniff me, with a smile that was small, but very sincere. Just looking at it made me smile myself.
The wolf barked, and I didn't know if that meant that I was in or out. But by the sound of all the other wolves backing down and growing quiet once again, I figured that was a good sign. I sat down on the other side of the wolf, petting him every once so often, though my eyes were on Darcy.
"How…?" I stared at her with a confused smile, and I didn't really know what to put at the end of my sentence. She giggled slightly and looked up at me from the wolf.
"This is Vectis. His name means 'brave' in Latin. He's the leader of the pack. So as long as you're alright to him, the other wolves don't have a complaint." Darcy was looking around at the other wolves, which lead me to question what their names were, but I mostly just looked at her. She had such a connection with wolves that it would make sense that she might want to be a wolf. Or that she howls with them or really any other rumors I've heard. And I couldn't stand it anymore.
"Do you want to be a wolf?" It more or less exploded out of me, like something I had been dying to ask her for years. She looked at me, her green eyes glowing in the bleakness of the forest. She didn't look offended, yet she didn't wear her smile.
"Let me ask you a better question. Do you want to be a human?"I felt that this was some sort of trick question, but I tried to answer it the best I could.
"Well it's the only thing I've ever known. And it seems to be working out well so far." She tossed me a wry smile, not the sweet sincere one I've been seeing.
"So everything is wonderful in your world? No problems with your family? No love-hate relationship between you and your father? You're not having any hardships with your female friend? You're not working long hours in a bakery for small pay, just so you can begin your own life? Is this what you're telling me?" I didn't really have words for her at first. Mostly because I hadn't realized how many things I had going on in my life until she spoke them out loud. But my pride was biggest of my emotions.
"What, have you been spying on me?" She gave a short humorless laugh.
"I don't need to watch you every second of the day to know these things, Tristan. The wind carries messages, and you'd hear them too if you listened hard enough. And just as the people in town talk of me, they talk of you as well." I furrowed my brows tightly at her. Vectis next to me was beginning to growl. "Oh Tristan, your anger is upsetting the wolves. I'm not meaning to upset you. But you came here to find out the truth about me, no? Well, maybe before you try to figure me out, perhaps you should figure yourself out first." So many things were running through my head that it was hard to hear myself think.
"What do they say about me?" She squinted her eyes slightly.
"What does it matter? They're only words."
"Just please, tell me." She began to pet Vectis again to get him to settle down a bit, as she looked at me.
"You don't think I'm crazy like they do. And they don't see that as normal. The town doesn't like independent thinkers, like you and I, Tristan. In their eyes, you're just as crazy as I am." I looked at the other wolves around us. They seemed unsettled, like they were listening to what Darcy and I were saying. I had never made the connection before, and perhaps I should have. My father hated the fact that I thought differently, Felicity just the same. I felt so blinded. "That's why I want to be a wolf." I looked back to Darcy. She was looking down at Vectis, who had calmed down and laid his head back down onto the grass.
"So it is true? You do want to be a wolf?" She looked at me, her hair a glowing red, with green eyes that could burn you alive.
"Why wouldn't I want to be? Wolves are the superior species, if you look at the things that are important. Wolves don't mock others for being different. They don't knock another down for have a different view on things. And if one does get knocked down, the others are always there to help him back up. They're a family. They look out for each other and protect each other," she looked up at me, "and that's more love than I've ever known."
In my time I've heard some pretty hard stuff to deal with. When I found out that my grandmother had cancer and died a month later. When I found out that after seven months of pregnancy that my mother lost my unborn sister. When I found out that my best friend accidentally cut off his hand while chopping firewood and lost too much blood before anyone got there to help him. I've heard a lot of devastating news. But I was the kind of guy that always knew what to say. This time, I was speechless.
But then, I suddenly wasn't.
"I never got a chance to thank you." She looked up at me with confused, glossy eyes.
"I never got to thank you. Properly, anyway." She shook her head in confusion.
"What are you talking about? Thank me for what?"
"Saving my life." Her confusion suddenly washed away, and her face went almost blank, but it had an emotion behind it that I couldn't describe.
"So you do remember." I remembered it alright. I remembered it like it happened an hour ago.
I was only ten years old. My grandfather, before he died, had a small farm of only sheep and chickens. He was to watch me for the day, and I enjoyed going to his farm because I loved to play with the animals. I hadn't been to visit him in a while, and I had grown considerably since the last time I had seen him. My grandfather, however forget to get the chicken feed that morning, and needed to run out quickly and buy some. The store wasn't far, only about a five minute walk away. The only problem was that he had already let the sheep out to roam and graze, and it would take a lot of effort to get them back in the barn just to let them back out again when he got back. So, he decided that he would leave to quickly get the feed, and I would stay and watch over his sheep for him while he was gone. It seemed like a simple task. He would only be ten minutes. And I had been by myself plenty of times before. It seemed easy.
So my grandfather took off and left me to watch the sheep. I sat on one of the posts of the fences around the farm, trying to keep an eye on the sheep. And only minutes into my guarding duties, did I see it. From the edge of the forest where two gray eyes peering onto the farm. It slowly emerged from the woods and onto the mainland, making it visible to everyone with working eyes. A gray and black wolf was creeping its way onto the farm, eyeing one of the sheep to make a meal out of. As it grew closer and closer, I acted before I had the chance to think about what I was doing. I ran out to the sheep that was closest to the wolf, and covered it with my entire body, realizing that at any second I should feel fangs and claws ripping at my back, but I felt nothing. I turned around quickly to see that the wolf was no longer going for the sheep, but much less biting a girl. I stared at the girl, I had seen her around before, but never knew her. But there she was, with blood slowly dotting her white dress. I'm convinced that she would have died, had a truck not backfired and scared the wolf, who ran back into the forest.
Frozen where I was, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if I should go over to the girl or scream for help. Perhaps both. I saw the girl slowly get up, a tear in her dress on the side of her stomach, which no longer concealed her stomach, revealing three long gashes from the middle of her stomach to her side. She only stared at me for a moment before running away. It was then that I saw my grandfather running up to me and hugging me tightly, asking if I was alright, and that someone had seen a wolf going for my grandfather's sheep. That was the first day that Darcy and I had ever interacted.
And now here she was, sitting on the other side of a wolf, petting its fur and letting me get into her head.
"I still can't believe you did that for me." The moon was now in the sky, a full moon, as if it had been perfectly planned. Vectis stretched himself out, and then got up, along with the other wolves, who were slowly making their way away from Darcy and I. She looked at me, repositioning herself now that there was no wolf to lean on. She had moved herself slightly closer to where I was.
"Well, I knew you weren't going to move, so I had to do something." She pulled the blanket around her shoulders more tightly around her. At night the temperatures dropped even colder. Without really thinking, I took my wool and leather jacket off and placed it over her legs.
"Here. You'll freeze to death out here in this weather with just a dress on." I saw her shiver a bit.
"Thanks." Off in the distance, the howling could be heard. More than one howl, it was the whole pack. A chorus of beautiful voices like no other. It filled the night sky.
"What did it feel like?" Darcy looked up at me, eyes confused, then understanding what I asked.
"It was the most painful one I've ever gotten. Probably the biggest too. It burned at first, and then it stung, and then it was a mixture of the two. The scars are still there too." Before I could say another word, Darcy began to lift up her dress to show me the scars. When I realized it was up, I was embarrassed to look, but my curiosity got the best of me, and my jacket on her lap covered most of her anyway.
She twisted towards me slightly so I could see the entire claw mark. It looked even bigger than I remember. Three distinct lines, that seemed to catch the moonlight, danced their way from her stomach to nearly her back. They didn't look as if they had been fatally deep, but they were so long, and it sent shutters up my spine just thinking about how it might have felt.
Without a moment's hesitation, I slowly extended my hand and gently caressed the lines below my finger tips, tracing each one from her stomach to her side. She didn't seem to mind, considering that she had lifted up her entire dress to show me, but after a moment I became acutely aware of the fact that I was touching her stomach, in a somewhat sensual way to add. I retracted my hand, and she laid her dress back down.
Even once her dress was down, I stared at the area the scars were underneath her clothing. I looked up at her, with sympathetic eyes.
"I'm so sorry," her emerald eyes were locked on my brown ones. "It was my entire fault that you got attacked. I'm just, so sorry Darcy." A small smile crept onto her lips.
"It's not your fault. You didn't make me leap in front of you. I did that on my own. I got these scars on my own. And believe me, they weren't my first."
"It's just, that was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me. In my entire life." Her eyes lingered on the moon before turning to me again.
"That's just how I was raised. To think of others first and yourself last. I wasn't raised by wolves, you know." I couldn't help but smile as she giggled to her own comment. The chorus of wolves was slowly drowning out, as one by one each wolf stopped singing. The wind whipped through the trees and blew Darcy's hair, revealing a small scar on her forehead. Even her scars were beautiful in the moonlight.
"Uh, on that subject, if you don't mind me asking, whatever did happen to your parents? I only ever remember you with your grandmother." She gave a small humorless huff, and pulled my jacket up higher on her as the wind blew once again.
"Would you believe it if I told you that the infamous wolf girl was an orphan? Fits the role nicely, don't you think?" The wind blew once again, even harder than before. It shook the trees and made the cherry blossom petals flutter down. Darcy huddled herself into my side, in which I thoughtlessly put my arm around her to make her warmer. Once the wind ceased, our hold on each other loosened.
"What happened to your parents?" She pulled away completely out of my hold and I removed my arm as she fixed her hair slightly from the wind.
"My mother died when I was six. I would tell you how, but no one, not even my father ever told me. He always said that she just died. But people don't just die. And when we had her funeral, there was no casket. There was no body," Darcy wasn't looking at me while she spoke. She simply stared ahead of her and moved her fingers though her hair. "I think she killed herself. But I'll never know for sure. Because two years later, my father died." She paused for a moment, and then gave a sigh. "However, that one isn't a mystery to me. He was very sick for a long time. He couldn't take care of me anymore, so I went to go live with my grandmother. But I still visited him every day. But then one day, he wasn't there. And I never visited him after that. So, I was forced to live with my grandmother. And I will openly admit, my grandmother was as loony as everyone in town says she was. She was in an asylum for at least two years, if I remember correctly. And if you ask me, I think she snuck out of it. She was something of a witch, even to me, her own granddaughter. She was always coming up with different potions and concoctions. She would pray and chant spells. It was really terrifying sometimes. That was no loving home to go to every night. My grandmother hardly even acknowledged my existence half the time." She looked over at me, before getting up. "And that's where the wolves came in." She left her blanket on the ground, and draped my jacket over her shoulders. I got up shortly after her. We walked almost all the way to the edge of the cliff again, though this time we stayed in the forest. She learned herself against a tree as she spoke.
"I had just had an argument with my grandmother the first day I met the wolves. I had planned to run away and never come back. I packed what I thought I would need to survive on my own into a small bag and set out. I ran into the forest. But I ran so much, and it was such a hot day that I grew tired quickly. Before I had even known it, I collapsed and fainted. I only came to by the sound of growls and barks. I saw the wolves, and figured that this was my end. That I was going to die that day. But I had packed meat in my bag, and that was all they really wanted. So I gave it to them, and as they ate I pet them, and they didn't seem to mind having my company. And that was how it was set. From then on, I brought them meat, and they gave me, well, love." She laughed with no humor. "Pretty pathetic, isn't it?" She looked at me from where her gaze was over the ocean.
"It's not pathetic. It's just what works for you." I stepped closer to her.
"I just wanted someone, something, to love me. To care if I was alive or dead. And after being starved of love for most of your life, you'll do anything to get it." Again, without thinking, I ran up to her and grabbed her hands in mine. Her eyes catching fire in the moonlight, making her look more beautiful than I had ever seen.
"Come live with me." She blinked her eyes a few times, in sheer confusion and shock.
"Live with me. We'll give you a real place to stay, food to eat, we'll love you, I'll love you." A small smile slithered through her lips once again. She reached her hand out and placed it along my cheek.
"We both know that your father would never allow that."
"I don't care. It doesn't matter what—"
"You're right. It doesn't matter." She had placed her finger over my lips to silence me. "Because I don't belong in your world, Tristan." She removed her finger and placed her hand once again on my face. "I've never belonged here." She pulled her hand away from my face, and the other away from my hand, and turned and walked to her little ledge along the cliff. I followed shortly behind. From the opposite end of the cliff, the silhouette of the wolves could be made out. Darcy grabbed my hand and pointed with her other at the wolves. "You see them? That's where I belong. Even before I found the wolves, I belonged with them."
"Then I'll live out here with you." She turned to look at me, a sad gleam in her eyes.
"Oh Tristan. You don't belong out here. You belong back home with your family, with your aunt at the bakery, and you belong there with Felicity. I belong with dirty paws, filthy muzzles, and matted fur. It's just…how things were meant to be." My grip on her hands tightened ever so slightly.
"But, I want to belong with you."
"As do I. But we…were just never meant to be." I felt all my feelings at once. I felt like I had just won a race, but won it a few days too late. In this case, maybe years, too late.
"If I really can't make you stay, then, can you just spend the night with me, please?" I hated to sound like I was begging, but I wanted more time with this girl, this unusual girl that fascinates me to no end. I saw a dull smile cross her lips.
"Of course." She pulled me by the hand to the base of a tree, where I sat with her head resting on my shoulder and my arm around her. We sat there together, watching the moon gleam over the ocean, and every once in a while hearing a howl that nearly shattered the sky it was so lovely. But nonetheless, no night can last for an eternity, and no boy can stay awake forever. I fell asleep that night with my wolf girl in my arms.
I was awoken by a howl. It was nearing dawn from the pinkish orange color of the sky. The sky was the same color as it had been hours before, hours before when I was with her. I didn't need to look down at my arms to know she was gone. My jacket was draped over me, and there was no one but me and the air. Slowly, my mind began to think everything through. I had acted so recklessly last night. My mother must be worried sick about me by now. I knew I should be getting back to town, but I couldn't motivate myself to pick myself up. It wasn't quiet her leaving that struck me as such a hard hit, but to realize that it took me this long to realize how I really felt about her. I knew there was always something different about her, about how she would catch my attention anywhere she was. I feel so blind.
Eventually, I made myself sit up, the sun now rising in the sky. I slinked my arms into my jacket and made myself get up. However, in the process of getting up, my eyes caught something on the tree that I had been laying on. It was markings, that looked foreign at first, but then I realized they were letters. A sharp rock lay near the bottom of the tree. Someone had carved words into it while I slept. It read "I will never forget you." And as if on cue, as I read those words, I heard one single howl. Beside myself, I felt a smile on my face. Wherever she is, or whatever she is, I hope her wishes come true. I hope she is happy. I began to walk away back to town, when I paused and looked out over the ocean once more. "I'll never forget you either, wolf girl."
I never saw Darcy again.
People came up with so many reasons to explain her disappearance. Her house was left just as it was, so she didn't come back into town after she left the forest. Some people think she might have killed herself; that she might have jumped off the cliff and into the ocean, so no one would ever find her body. I find that one hard to believe and so unlikely. Though, that one I did hear from my father and Dave, so it's most likely just what they wanted to happen. Others said that she had finally become a wolf. After I had gotten back to town I had learned that the full moon that she and I saw was a blue moon, which are a rare sight and don't appear too often. Though it's been a long running myth in Cherry Oak that during a blue moon, that if someone makes a wish, and they want that wish enough, that it will really come true. Perhaps she did finally become a wolf. I personally have no thoughts on what really happened to her. It doesn't matter to me what happened, as long as she's happy out there. And if her wish really did come true, then I have no shame in saying that I fell in love with a wolf.