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Lil' Red and The Love Sick Wolf
It should have been an easy trip to Grannies’; I’d only been making it since I was nine. I simply drove two miles outside my hometown of Greenville, Mississippi, parked at Deerwoods Lodge and walked along the path in Deerwoods Park for a third of a mile. I veer left at both of the forks in the path and then arrive at Grandmother’s cabin. It should have been that easy…but it wasn’t.
It started with my annoying alarm clock waking me an hour late, then my red Subaru not wanting to start. I finally pulled up to the last red light before making it to the rest stop two and a half hours behind schedule. I had phone Grannies’ but she hadn’t picked up. Frustrated I tossed my phone to the passenger seat and it rolled off into the floorboard.
Great. The light turned green and I turned into the parking lot. I was the only car in the small drive. I opened the door and had just straightened up when the first raindrop fell onto my exposed neck. I looked up and saw the darkened sky closing in on the last patch of clear blue.
Of course. I pulled the rubber band out of my hair and it fell to my shoulders then reaching back into the car I pulled out my signature red Ole Miss jacket. My brother attended the college—much to my father’s dismay—and I proudly supported his school and their colors. I loved red; it seemed to be in every aspect of my life. First my last name, Redferne, which originated from 7th Century England, though my father, was pure redneck. And my mother had named me Robin, after a beautiful red breasted robin appeared at her window during her pregnancy with me. I pulled the jacket over my head and felt slightly eased by the familiarity. I shut the door and locked the car, as I quickly moved towards the entrance of the park. I pulled the thick red hood up over my head as I entered the shaded dirt path, hoping the canopy of trees above me would help keep me dry. I walked ahead, keeping my feet on the path, carefully stepping over pine cones and burrows. A warm wind whistled through the tall trees, sending pine needles swirling at me. I zipped up my jacket and persisted onwards when a branch broke to the right of me and I turned startled. I stared up into the terrified chestnut eyes of a baby deer. He stood a good four feet away from me but within perfect view between trees. I smiled easing a little as he did and lowered his head to finish his dinner. I looked ahead scanning the woods for his mother. When there was another sudden snap this one was louder and came from above me. Through the gray haze of rain and shade I saw a dark figure up in the tops of a tree and then heard a cracking noise as a limb broke from a Dogwood that outstretched over the path. I watched completely frozen as the large limb barreled towards me, breaking smaller branches as it came. I felt a weight around my stomach that I had mistaken, at first, for fear, and then my feet flew out from beneath me and I landed on the wet ground harshly. I coved my face as the branch crashed to the path, sending up mud and debris at me. I coughed and stood trying in vain to wipe the mud off my jeans. I straightened up and found a new pair of chestnut eyes. I screamed grasping my chest.
“I’m sorry!” He blurted out, “Don’t have a heart attack.”
“Well don’t give me one then.” I barked back as Hunter sighed, standing in front of me. I steadied my heart as I stared across at him I’d known Hunter James Wolfe my entire life; he’d lived next door to me my entire life. Almost every picture of me ever taken adorned Hunter in the space next to me. His tan skin, ashy blonde hair and wide strong chest always seemed to still the spotlight from little, meek me. We’d been best friends up until last year when we’d decided to date. Now we were just awkward.
“What are you doing here?”
“I saw your car thought I’d walk with you make sure your…o.k.”
“Why wouldn’t I be o.k.?” He looked down for a moment.
“I don’t know…” His brown eyes shot up at me again, “I mean that-“he looked back at the remains of the large branch.
“Ya well…” my voice and insult died off, “Thank you for that.”
“No problem. So you mind?” I followed his eyes down the path and sighed.
“Ya know…thanks for the help but I’m good…Grannie’s is just down the path.” He nodded his brown eyes sad but I ignored them.
“See you later I guess.”
“Ya.” I lied and turned away not really sure what else to say to him. I heard his footsteps, on the sludgy path, fading as he walked away. Hunter and I had been so close once, but then he’d trusted me with a secret, a secret that scared me away. My fingers found the sterling silver necklace Hunter had given me two Christmas’s ago. It was a long and skinny sterling-silver charm strung on a silver chain, with tribal symbols etched all the way down to where it came to a point. I was constantly running my fingers over the strange design as a nervous habit. I’d just come to the first fork in the path when I heard running on the wet path. I turned around.
“Hunter go aw-“I stopped the path was vacant, only remains of my footprints in the tan mud. I turned back.
Ok…you’re losing your mind. The rain dissolved to a light drizzle and thanks to the bounty of leaves I’d stayed pretty dry. I turned left and walked on only for a moment later till I heard the running sound again. I decided it must be an echo of a runner in the distance and kept walking. I moved forward, adjusting the band of my moist jacket when I felt something change in the humid air.
“Robin Redhood.” My body froze in the middle of that step. This time it wasn’t an echo, it was a real person behind me; a person I’d know anywhere. Slowly I turned to face him, looking up to cold black eyes instead of warm brown ones. In comparison to Hunter, he was a polar opposite. He had long black hair, pale skin and thin arms that oddly still looked strong and threatening. He was Conan Channing, my ex boyfriend before Hunter. Unlike before, my heart wasn’t just beating it was trying to escape my chest, I suppose to try to escape from Conan. And unlike before, I didn’t stop to ask questions I turned and ran, because things weren’t just awkward between us; they were deadly. Conan put the crazy in crazy ex boyfriend. I heard the familiar sound of running behind me and felt every terror I’d felt over him returning as I ran, nearly slipping with each step in the slick mud. The running behind me suddenly stopped but I didn’t. Through I felt a tightening in my chest and my heart was still trying to jump out of me I ran; ran for my life.
“Robin.” I felt tears as he called out my name, “Robin. Stop, Robin!” I bit my lip as I pushed onward and then realized it wasn’t Conan but Hunter’s voice I heard. I turned to look over my shoulder, there was no longer a pale boy chasing me but rather a tan one standing a far. I stopped grasping a breath as I completely turned to face him. Before he had looked slightly defeated to me, worn out and sad now I stood weary and he seemed to be strong and full of energy.
“Conan’s back?” he nodded his mouth slightly ajar, though I knew he wasn’t short of breath. “Why—why didn’t you tell me?!” I grabbed my knees, dang I am out of shape.
“That’s why I came…to offer to walk with you.” I went to argue but was too preoccupied with fear. We stared at each other for a moment and then I walked over to him and slipped my dirty hand into his, looking up to him. He knew I was scared, I didn’t have to say anything; he knew how dearly Conan terrified me, because we both knew what he was capable of.
“I won’t let him hurt you, I promise…” He ran his hand down the outline of my left cheek and then his warm chestnut colored eyes fell to my necklace and I thought a saw a light ignite in them. He smiled as I merely stared, too scared to even think straight.
“I’m glad you still wear this.”
“Always.” I whispered knowing that I wore it because despite his secret, Hunter had always been in my heart and always would remain there. I wore the necklace as a reminder of that fact.
“How touching!” Hunter stepped in front of me, while I jumped, just as Conan’s voice rang out. I placed my hand on his back and peered over his shoulder and saw Conan. He stood like an eye-sore in the path a head of us; a being of cold, stark blackness against the warm sleepy woods. I felt Hunter tense under my hand, his wide chest and strong arms forming a barricade in front of me.
“Leave her alone, this is between you and me, Channing!”
“No, Wolfe, this is all about her, she’s the prize, and she always has been.” A sound escaped him, a sound I had heard only once before. It had been when Conan and I were still dating and I’d introduced the two of them, it had also been the last day of our relationship. The sound was a snarl, a rough and rigid sound known only by large animals terrorized or fearful. The sound was coming from Hunter, my best friend. Conan crouched lowly, slightly mimicking Hunter’s stance and the sound repeated. Only this time it didn’t just jar a memory, it brought back a feeling; a sickening sensation that wasn’t just in my gut, but seemed to control all of me. It was a mix of fear and disgust and doubt and mostly disbelief; disbelief in the truth that I wasn’t standing with regular boys, or even human boys for that matter. Both Hunter and Conan, despite their outlandish differences, had one colossal similarity; their secret.
The hazy enclave of Pine Trees, which we stood under, was suddenly luminescent as lightening streaked over head and a braying thunder boomed right behind it. I felt my teeth chattering, despite my wet clothes I was shaking from fear not the temperature. I already had a hatred of thunderstorms but adding violent ex-boyfriends into the mix was basically my worst nightmare. In between the flash of light I saw Conan’s smile fade into a grimace as black hair pulled from his scalp and covered his back, it raced quickly down his spine and surrounded his waist, his head tilted to the side with a strange transfixed look in his sharp, black eyes. And there was a snapping sound as he fell to all fours, on newly transformed legs. His neck bent and twisted forward and closing his eyes his face morphed into a snout. I was completely transfixed by the display that I barely caught the sight of light brown hair creeping down the nape of Hunter’s neck. I gasped when Conan, now a giant black wolf, roared and lifted off the ground. Hunter didn’t have enough time to morph and thinking fast he pushed me to the right. I landed roughly in a patch of Hydrangea bushes and watched Conan grab Hunter by the neck with his teeth and pull him backwards. I stood completely terrified for not just my life but for Hunter’s as well, as they rolled over one another, knocking into to tree trunks and through bushes as they went. I moved forward, but found I was helpless.
Do something! Do something! I pleaded with myself; I had to come up with some kind of plan or something. You can’t just stand here and let Hunter die! The thought brought icicles into my heart and I even felt crippled just thinking about it. Hunter wasn’t just my best friend; he was so much more than I’d ever admitted aloud. He was-
“Run!” I saw Hunter’s head suddenly appear from behind an area of black fur. There was blood smeared across his head and I felt tears come to my eyes, I prayed it wasn’t his. “Run Robin.” He squirmed but also seemed to be successfully lifting Conan off of him, “Run now!” I didn’t want to, I wanted to stay, but I was weak and incapable—I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t do anything, but obey his wishes. I turned trying not to think about the blood smeared on him and ran. Branches and trees whizzed passed me, I ran crunching on pine cones and pine needles, splashing into puddles of water and leaping over mounds of mud. I thought about veering off the path and into the park in fear of endangering any of the other cabin owners, but the woods was rough terrain and I wasn’t sure how well I could run on the forest floor. I came to the second fork in the path and instead of running left, stayed right; I wasn’t about to put my grandmother in danger. I ran, passing trees and animals all different blurs of forest green and browns and then there was a flash of black at my right, running along side me. Fear wretched my heart and I felt like my lungs had stopped working. No. I tried to run faster but I couldn’t breath and if Conan was moving next to me that meant Hunter was gone. And if that was the case, then it was already over anyways.
I stopped abruptly in the middle of the path, and lowered my head breathing heavily my blonde hair now dark and dripping fell into my face and I pulled back my drenched red hood, letting my hair blow out. The clouds were beginning to move away and a thin ray of light filtered in through the web of tree branches. It fell on to the ground in front of me, reflected off the puddles and caught the gleam of my silver charm.
The secret Hunter had told me wasn’t that he was a werewolf, or even the truth that I went to school with more werewolves then humans. The secret was the werewolf weakness, Hunter had entrusted me with his kind’s most guarded secret. I should have felt honored at the time, or at least cared for since he’d only told me to protect me. But instead I was scared, in his confession not only had he told me how to protect myself but also…how to kill him. And the secret was simple, it was silver. A werewolf’s biggest weakness was his skin; it was highly susceptible to silver. My fingers found the familiar pointed shape of my necklace, Hunter hadn’t given me jewelry two years ago; he’d given me a weapon.
“Robin Redhood!” I lifted my face to him, glaring up into his cold hungry eyes. He stood in only basketball shorts, his chest and feet bare, half naked he looked even more daunting, even more fabricated. As if guessing my disbelief in the fairytale creature in front of me, he appeared in one swift fluid motion to the right of me, only inches away from my body. The wind from his movement blew my hair back and out of my face, he sneered looking down at me through the slants of his eyes. I ignored him looking straight ahead, I couldn’t be scared, couldn’t let fear distract me.
“Going to grandmother’s are we-“
“I’m not afraid of you.” I cut him off roughly.
“Oh what big courage you have!” He laughed completely amused by himself.
“The better to kill you with.” I muttered and no longer cringing in fear but rather maddened with anger and sadness I ripped the necklace from my neck, snapping the chain, and plunged it just below his collar bone. I retreated back as he howled and fumbled with the chain trying to pull it out, but the charm was completely emerged in his skin and it was already bleeding immensely. His eyes lifted to me for a moment, wide cold and scared. I wasn’t sorry for my actions, he wasn’t the boy I’d mistaken for as a good person, he was evil, and he was a killer. I backed up again, as he fell to his knees, his dark eyes empting as slowly his skin turned bloody and seemed to boil. He fell face down into the thick mud and didn’t move again. I stepped back afraid to turn from him yet, all I could do was look down at his motionless body and know that just down the path I would have to find another.
Hunter! My chin quivered and I hiccupped a breath as I felt my lungs close on me again. The rain had completely stopped and the clouds were moving far from the sun, but my face was wet again, I didn’t feel any warmth and I didn’t see any light. All I felt was the darkness Conan had brought; a darkness that hadn’t receded even after his death. I finally turned, gathering the last of my strength and stopped, looking up one last time to a pair of chestnut colored eyes. I didn’t believe the image in my mind, it couldn’t have been real. Hunter stood before me, a trickle of blood running down the side of his face and his shirt in shreds hanging off his body, but he stood there, just staring at me. I shook my head, a noise similar to a sob but also similar to a hello escaped me and I fell to my knees. Warm arms caught me by the waist and we lowered down together. I leaned against his chest, listening to his quickly beating heart. I gripped his warm arms. He was alive; he was really here with me.
“You did it, Robin.” He said proudly pulling me closer to him.
“No more big bad wolf.” I whispered into his chest, breathing in normally for the first time that day. He pulled back his deep brown eyes slightly apologetic as he looked into mine. He leaned down and kissed both of my tear stained cheeks and rested his forehead against mine.
“No more strange boyfriends for you.” He smiled and despite everything that had occurred, I found myself smiling too.
“You right,” I slid into his arms again, “I’m good with the one I’ve got.” His head fell into place against mine. Then a thought occurred to me and I sat upright. “What am I going to tell Grannie?” He laughed.
“Not the truth obviously.” He said a smile still lingering on his lips.
“I’m afraid so, Red.” I nodded and stood as he did, our hands locked within each other’s, I leaned against him avoiding Conan. That was the last secret, what was going to be done with Conan’s body? I knew it wasn’t something I could understand, it was something Hunter would take care of. And for once I wasn’t all to concern with what secrets I knew and which ones I didn’t, all I cared about right then was the boy whose hand I was holding.