The sound of my paws beating against the ground as I ran was the only thing I heard as I travelled through the forest, distancing myself from my home. I had done something wrong again, and what frustrated me wasn't the fact that I had been shouted at –because I hadn't been. I was more frustrated with the fact that my father had simply let it slide like he always did, always would.
Shouting was something I could ignore. The thing that was so hard to ignore though, was the unbearably heavy silence that swarmed around me. That silence was like a hundred daggers hanging from the ceiling, just waiting to be dropped. Sometimes I wondered what would happen if those daggers did drop, but I could imagine that it'd do me more damage than it would do him.
Trees flew by me in the opposite direction I was heading, like cars passing each other on the highway. The only difference was that unlike the drivers in their cars, I felt something for each bit of nature I passed. The scent of the healthy trees, the delicious smell of a rabbit running through the underbrush, the sound of leaves rustling as they brushed against my body. Such serene details could soothe the soul of any creature and of any beast.
Lights flashed ahead, my brain sending a message to my paws and I skidded to a halt. It was a traffic light, I realized, and I knew I was entering a town. I began again at a much slower pace, wondering if it would be fun to scare a few of the locals around here. I tossed the idea aside. My father wouldn't yell at me again. The only thing that would make him get angry would be if I killed a human, but I wasn't about to soak my hands in blood over such a minor issue.
It would go against everything I was raised to believe in, and that belief still held solid ground even if my morals were engraved in my body by the man that made me furious to think about.
The forest gave way to backyards, fences protecting their yards from intrusive animals and unwanted burglars. At this hour, most people were sleeping peacefully, so I wasn't too worried about getting caught. However, I still listened carefully to my surroundings. It was better safe than sorry.
Laughter and lazy walking caught my attention. Slurred speech told me that there were a few drunks walking around on the streets. I crept up to the side of the fence, ducking low into the shadows –thankful for my dark coat of fur –and peered across the street. Three teenage boys with beer bottles held loosely in their hands turned the corner and out of sight behind a tall, solid wooden fence. I lopped across the street, and turned my head around the corner.
They were heading up the pathway into the second house down, stumbling when the porch light was suddenly turned on, and in a second the front door swung open and an older woman rushed them inside before slamming the door shut behind her, the loud sound echoing out into the quiet night. A dog barked a few houses further, shushed by their owner. I could hear the woman raging about the 'fun' her son had that night and warning the other two that it would come back to their parents. I sent them my pity before I moved on.
The streets were deserted. Curtains were closed. Cars passed by only every once in a while, their headlights giving me plenty of time to disappear, giving them the impression that whatever they saw was a dark dog or shadows on the street. A few cars were parked at the twenty-four hour grocery store, and another couple at the pharmacy. I trotted along the street, following promising scents and usually ending up with zilch.
I crossed the concrete bridge that went over a river and came across the high school. It stood tall and proud in its skin of red brick, faded to a dark orange over the years, and every window peered down like eyes staring at me in the darkness. But these eyes themselves were the darkness, as the building was vacant and quiet inside, the teachers and custodians having long left. I circled the school, and ended up lying by the riverside, the occasional light wind smelling strongly of duck and geese, hinted with the faint scent of a swan.
The breeze picked up, and I was engulfed in a scent so strong it overrode that of duck shit. The new scent made my head spin, but in a good way. It was unique, like nothing I'd ever smelt before, but it was most definitely female.
The scent itself was faint, maybe a week or two old. Or, perhaps, it had travelled a long distance in the wind, but as I put my nose to the sidewalk I picked it up again, following it back to the road where it was indeed stronger. After pursuing it, I found a fresher scent at the ice-cream parlour. I followed it to a small café, where I saw a light in the back room.
A woman was locking up the back room, and I watched for a moment. The scent itself smelled youthful, with the slight mixture of vanilla and coconut. The woman in the café was, at the very least, twenty years older than I was, immediately letting me know that this wasn't the girl I was looking for.
I ran up and down the street, searching for the main source of the scent. For me, it couldn't wait until morning. I had to find her now. I ran faster, harder, finding the scent in millions of places, different places, similar places, places that I assumed were doused in her scent because they were her usual hang-outs. But I never found her. Perhaps she didn't actually live in the town.
I left town on instinct, and scavenged the roads on the country, always searching for her. It took me another night –during the days I had slept in the forest, hidden from the hustle and bustle of human society –but finally, I found her scent once again in the country side. I had been crossing the road when it had consumed me and my body once more.
I followed it in one direction to a small house with a new porch. After walking around the house I found that it wasn't hers, and I looped back to the original location where I had found the scent, tracking it in the other direction.
The house I came across was larger than the last. With an easy leap I jumped the fence that surrounded the yard, and found myself face-to-face with a sleeping Rottweiler-mixed with another breed. German Sheppard, perhaps. It opened its eyes lazily and got to its feet. I was bigger than him, but he didn't seem to care. He didn't even look threatened. He looked at me, trying to comprehend what I was, but in the end he just barked once and walked away, cuddling up to the west side of the house, which would provide shade for him when day broke again.
A great watchdog, I thought, amused.
I strolled up to the house, using her scent to confirm that she lived here. Her scent graced the metal dog dish, so I assumed she fed him regularly. I rose onto my haunches to look into a window where there was light flashing across the ceiling. The TV was on.
Although I couldn't smell anything through the window, I recognized her in an instant. She was the one I had been searching for, the one whose sweet scent was the fragrance that I couldn't get enough of. She had mousy brown hair, and soft pink lips, like the petals of a pink flower. Her eyelashes weren't long, but they kissed her pale cheeks anyway as she slept silently, her mouth partly open.
She was sleeping on a crimson-coloured couch, her arms wrapped under her head with a golden pillow between them. Her left knee was at her chest, despite the lack of space on the narrow area, while her right left was straight; a blanket was draped lazily over her body. She turned her head away from the light of the TV and I felt my heart beating rapidly in my chest.
I touched the window with my nose, leaving a wet, steamed area for a second. It evaporated quickly though, in the heat of the summer night. She captivated me to the point where she was the only thing in my line of vision.
She was beautiful.
She was perfect.
She was mine.