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Part 31: A Wolf at the Door

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I slept fitfully.  It might have been the absence of Valentine’s arms around me or the loss of his heavy, solid presence in the bed, but I think what really kept me awake half the night was an overwhelming sense of loser-ness.

That’s what I decided at 3:17 am, after I’d rolled over for the hundredth time to stare angrily at the glowing red digits of the alarm clock on the nightstand on Valentine’s side of the bed.  It was a view that Valentine’s hulking body usually blocked.  So, just seeing it reminded me he wasn’t there. I swore the numbers flashed accusingly at me, every time another minute blinked forward.

Wading up the pillow that still smelled of him, I threw it at the clock.  I’d hoped to knock the annoyance to the floor, but I only managed to tip the lamp and push the clock to a slightly crooked angle.  Now it looked like it was giving me a mocking, sidelong glare.

My whole life in a nutshell, I thought ruefully.

I flung myself onto my back and let out a sigh.  Frowning at the ceiling, I wished I were the sort who went for runs.  I thought maybe if I could go for a long, pounding jog or something, I’d be able to physically work out what my brain couldn’t. 

Why the fuck did I suck at adult-ing so much?

A bright white light from the moon shone in through the curtains and I heard a strange, lonesome howl.

I sat up.

We had timber wolves in South Dakota.  Sighting them was rare as they tended to stay in Yellowstone and all the hunters told me we “had no breeding pair” which was apparently significant. Coyotes, on the other hand, we had in spades.  They were the state animal, after all.

Somehow I knew this wasn’t a coyote.

I scrambled to the window and looked out.  Silvery light made Robert’s backyard into an eerie photo negative of some Norman Rockwell tableau.  The perfectly mowed grass seemed fringed in white, like a summer frost.  The moon illuminated odd angles of the garage roof and the neighbor’s shed.

An animal padded into view.  I wasn’t a ranger, but this creature looked bigger than I expected a wolf or a coyote to be.  Rangy and broad shouldered, its fur was the color of rust.  When it turned and its yellow gaze seemed to find mine, I saw a streak of white at the temple that reminded me of someone.

“Mac?”

Somehow I expected werewolves to be scarier.  Not that this wild animal didn’t look capable of tearing the throat out of a deer or… a person, but, if that truly was Mac, he didn’t look anything like anything I’d ever seen in movies or on TV.

In fact, he looked a little… cuddly.

I pushed opened the window, which had been closed for the air-conditioning.  The sound of crickets greeted me.  Mac-wolf watched me with his head cocked curiously, like a domesticated dog.  He stood up on his haunches and sniffed the air, like tasting my scent.  Somehow, it seemed as if he continued to stretch upward, almost as if he were gaining mass.  His shape changed as well, fur growing thinner, some darkening until they became patterns of ink on skin.

In a minute, there was a naked tattooed man standing in my backyard.

Mac’s usual topknot was gone, and his auburn-red hair hung in front of his face, like a ragged curtain. He flipped it back with a cheerful, “Hey, Alex.  Feel like running with us?”

Was that safe?

Plus, I couldn’t quite stop my eyes from drifting down the scarred, hard planes of his taut body to that rusty patch between his legs.  He walked toward my window, confidently, with a swagger, as if he agreed that what he had was worth my open-mouthed stare.

Sadly, in a minute, most of him was out of view and he leaned an elbow on my windowsill, “I’ll only bite if you ask me to,” he smiled, his long canine teeth flashing in the moonlight.

I’d been thinking about a jog, but running with wolves?

“I don’t know, Mac.  I mean, aren’t you guys… dangerous.”

“Totally,” he nodded, like the world’s happiest dude-bro.  “That’s what makes it fun.”

I thought about it for exactly two seconds, because you know what?  Fuck adult-ing. 

“Yeah,” I smiled.  “Let me get my shoes.”

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