The Shape in the Shadows

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The sound of the howl was still resonating in my ears, chilling my blood when I woke the next morning. Fate had intervened, the confrontation was over. I could move forward, at last. Gavin's wedding was not a concern of mine. I wasn't concerned about deflecting questions over the wedding this weekend anymore either. It was the last thing on my mind. The chapter of Gavin Williams was finally closed and a new path beckoned. A path that beckoned forcefully to me this morning. I had to see evidence of the wolf! A footprint, a trail. Anything!

Upon dressing and doing my morning hygiene duties, I told my mother I was going to take a walk in the woods. I stood with hesitation at the head of the trail leading into the woods at the side of my house. It wasn't just what awaited me in the woods that made me anxious, but what waited for me on the other side of those woods, as well—Broderick Cooper.

I stepped slowly on the worn path, careful to not trip on any tree roots or get my clothes snagged on thorny bushes. I thought of the howling I had heard last night and how the sound echoed from this vicinity. The memory brought a sudden fear and a cold sweat. Passing the pines and scrub oaks, I walked into the vegetation and thickets, stopping as I came to a bubbling creek. I put my hand on the dogwood tree that stood beside it as I took in the view. There was nothing here that gave proof to the wolf's existence. Puzzled, I turned back to view the path that had dipped and twisted and had led me to the creek. Only a handful of times had Natalie or I traipsed through these woods, yet here was a well-worn path leading straight to the creek that divided our properties. I studied it for a few minutes and came to the ultimate conclusion that someone made regular trips to this very spot, creating a path. Looking up I could clearly see my secret sitting spot on the roof of my home—a perfect shot from where I stood.

I stepped onto the large rock embedded in the creek and made a quick plan of attack to cross. The water was shallow. A moderately sized rock rested dry, perfectly between the larger rock I stood on and the even grander rock that jut from his side of the property. I cautiously hopped onto the center rock and to the other side.

"Piece of cake, Jules," I congratulated myself for not slipping and landing in the creek.

I then gasped at the equally worn path from this side of the creek that would lead me to his house. Swiftly through the woods, I ran to the edge of the leafy shadows and onto the soft green grass of Broderick's side yard.

Subconsciously, I walked along the edge of the woods to the front facing road, and started down the broken sidewalk to Broderick's front door. Now, more than ever before, the pull to him was undeniable as I knocked on the front oak door of his two story brick home.

I prepared for the door to be slammed in my face, but then Broderick stood in the doorway smiling from ear to ear. The surprise of my presence was clear in his expression. "Jules!"

Smiling, I gave a resigned sigh, a small lift and drop of my shoulders; I was finished running from him.

"Would you like to come in?"

I laughed nervously at his eager bearing. "Thanks."

He closed the door behind me as I stepped into the foyer, and stared at me for a moment in disbelief. He cleared his throat. "Come this way. You have to meet my Grandmother, Evelyn."

In a formally set living room, most of the furniture looked to be antique and I felt it was only meant to be appreciated not actually used. The frail, old lady sat in a floral winged-back chair reading a book.

"Grandma," Broderick began "I'd like you to meet our neighbor, Jules Taylor. She's the one I've been telling you about."

"Hi," I said pleasantly, trying hard to disguise the desire to know exactly what all he had been telling her.

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