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The Return (Part II)
By the time we awaken, it is dark and the sound of sirens echo in the distance. In the human world, ears would be peaked and eyes would be alert. But I am no longer in the human world –having being forced away from it earlier this afternoon- and so the warning sound no longer bothers me.
Instead I roll over into Reinder’s shoulder, smelling the old, comforting scent of his trusty leather jacket underneath his black overcoat.
“Mmmmm.” He groans, wrapping his huge arm around me and pulling me closer. I nuzzle into him; content, for now, to be at peace. Soon we will have to face reality and the consequences of our reckless actions. But for the moment, I can’t be bothered to move from the forest floor. We stay like this for at least ten minutes, floating in and out of consciousness and contentment until the sirens grow louder. Then the fir trees are flame, lit by the flashes of fierce red and blue.
“Time to go.” Reinder huffs and we spring to our feet. I should have known. Running out of the high school canteen and skipping lessons would raise alarm bells. I forgot how seriously humans take things – there was a search party looking for us.
Reinder holds his hand out for me to take, but instead of gripping it I run ahead. Time to play. He sees the challenge in my eyes and he nods, grinning. For a second I lose my breath; all oxygen absent from my body at how stunning his smile is. Then I tell myself to ‘get a grip’ and not to lose this game. I haven’t seen my mate in three months and I fear I’m getting rusty – I cannot give him the satisfaction of beating me now. He will say that I am sloppy, am too human. No, that cannot happen.
I dart ahead, running between trees so that he cannot get a firm hold on me as his target. I stay just within view, enough to make the game fun. A hundred metres behind me I hear him chuckle – a sound that sends shivers down my spine. I cannot believe that I nearly gave him up. I no longer care what will happen to us for our lack of obedience. Just one day with him is worth any punishment our pack master deals us.
I listen closely to the ground, knowing Reinder will be holding his breath so that I cannot hear him. His footsteps are so light – surprising, given his gigantic size- that the sound is almost imperceptible even to my werewolf ears. No wonder he is such an excellent hunter. His prey never stand a chance.
The sirens grow louder and I realise the police cars must be in the forest. A new form of alarm starts ringing in my ears. Surely they’d search for us on foot, hold a meeting, hand out flyers? But not this. Something more serious must have occurred. Something in the forest that doesn’t involve us. I must warn Reinder.
I start running, forgetting the game. All I can think of is Reinder and keeping him safe, despite there being no immediate or direct danger. I am more scared of what he will do rather than the danger itself. He’s not good with the human world and their social ways. The last time we met the police, Reinder nearly got himself arrested because he wouldn’t let them search him. Luckily I persuaded them he’d had a terrible day at work and they let him off. Now we might not be so lucky. I need to get to him before the police do.
I run blindly into the dark depths of the forest, feeling bare earth shift beneath my feet and branches claw at my skin. I sprint on, pushing the imminent echo away and listening only to the sound of adrenaline in my ears and the thud of my heartbeat, each stroke slamming my chest forward.
A strong arm catches me, pulling me by the waist to the side of a large tree. At first I growl but then recognise the light eyes staring into mine. Reinder. He presses his other hand over my mouth, ensuring I don’t scream. Then he takes his hand away and replaces it with his mouth, kissing me quickly, urgently in the darkness.
Humans are closing in on us but we don’t stop. Then he slows, tenderly whispering into my ears.
I feel a nervousness about him now, a tenderness that wasn’t there before.
For a split second, I think I taste the saltiness of tears and the coppery warmth of blood, and I blink my eyes open to look at him.
Before I can breathe once more he is gone and I am left wondering if everything was an invention of my yearning imagination.
“Hi there.” A voice calls from behind a flashlight. The white glare blinds me and I blink into it, using my hands to shield my eyes.
“Hello.” I say, coughing to clear my throat, eyes ravenously searching the depths for Reinder’s silhouette, the new situation a mass confusion.
“What are you doing in the forest all alone? Didn’t anybody tell you?” Flashlight man says, stepping forward. The police dog at his side sniffs the air and whimpers. Disbelief flickers across the policeman’s face at his canine’s reaction. The dog’s butt is in the air and his front legs are on the floor, backing away from me and trying to cower behind his master. The thing is scared. I would be, too, if I smelt my stench. The poor animal is confused by the familiar, safe scent of human and the dangerous stink of wolf.
Some part of me hopes that the dog isn’t scared of me; that he’s scared of Reinder’s scent, which means that Reinder is still here. With me. But I know that’s not the case – Reinder is gone and I don’t know for how long we will be appart. Maybe I did just imagine our meeting.
I push away the stabbing pain at the centre of my chest, squashing my subconscious that is screaming at me. It is telling me that Reinder has rejected me, that he never came back for me and I am still here alone. I woke up alone, in the forest, weary from a masochistic dream.
“Pardon?” I ask when I realise the policeman is still shining his light on me and I haven’t answered his question.
“Haven’t you heard?”
“Heard what?” I prepare myself for a snarky comment about how I’m the missing schoolgirl and then he’ll march me back indoors, haven’t to explain to a very angry
principal and very curious student body about why I decided to flee the canteen. And I don’t think they’ll accept my answer of the food tasting bad.
“These woods have been closed for hours. You need to evacuate the area.” There is no room to negotiate his statement. He seems frustrated and bored now, and annoying him wouldn’t help. But I am still confused – has he not been sent here to find me? And where –why- did Reinder go? A small, irritatingly insightful voice in my head tells me that the two are connected.
“Why?” I ask, playing dumb. The officer sighs, exasperated.
“Look, I’m not meant to say anything, but...they found a body.” He leans forward, leering at me. I know this tactic; it’s a method some human adults employ to scare others into submission. The officer expects me to scuttle away from the forest with my tail between my legs. Well, it’s not a full moon and I’m intrigued instead of petrified.
“Oh. Where?” I tilt my head sideways, curious.
“Miss, you need to leave.”
“Please go. Now.”
“There you are!” Another voice says, adding to the conversation. I roll my eyes and find a tall police officer striding towards us. Then my eyes widen, taking in the sight.
Reinder is dressed in a chief policeman’s uniform, his face serious. The other officer jumps in surprise, eyeing Reinder with suspicion and reluctant respect. I try with every muscle in my body not to crumple to the floor over laughing.
“Hello officer.” Reinder bellows. The officer nods and his dog whimpers more. “This is the teenage girl we were looking for before our secondary mission.” (Reinder’s mouth twitches –threatening serious laughter- at the word ‘teenage’.)
The officer nods and backs away, Reinder holding his arm out to me for support as if I am terrified of the dark forest. I play along as the damsel in distress, whimpering into his strong grip. I will get him back for this later, knowing –without looking at his smug face- that Reinder is finding this hilarious. The other officer trudges off into the forest, obviously bored having being put onto patrol duty. His dog scampers away.
Reinder and I walk slowly until we are out of the human’s earshot. Then I whirl around, slamming my fists into his strong chest. Unfortunately, my mate knows me too well and catches my wrists before my hands make impact and instead of injuring him, he pulls me into a breath-catching kiss.
Finally, I pull away and laugh at his uniform.
“What did you have to do for this? Actually, I don’t want to know.” I giggle. Then I remember something more serious, the reason for Reinder’s escape and distraction. “A body?”
Reinder nods, all playfulness drained from his features.
His eyes widen as I hear a branch snap a few metres behind me. I whirl around and nearly faint, the blood evaporating from my head. Never did I expect to see what I saw. I thought those eyes were long gone.