Three; Strangers aren't nearly as strange

It’s warm out but with the gentle breeze surrounding me it’s a pleasant warmth, one that won’t cause my cast to fill with sweat. My ear buds are in place as I lay on my back, my good arm flopped over my eyes as I listen to the audio book I just downloaded. When I was around 8 or so I discovered this amazing tiny clearing in the woods behind my house, ever since I’ve used it as my personal reading space. No one ever bothers me out here. Today I’m listening to a book since propping myself up on my elbows doesn’t seem like it would be very comfortable. The nice thing about the audio book is that I can turn it up loud enough to tune out my thoughts.

Luke and I never made it to the park. Katie found me just after my final class and asked if I knew what was up with him. Apparently as she returned from the field trip he sped out of the parking lot. That left me with no ride home seeing as I told my dad I didn’t need one and there was no way I was calling my mother or any other family member. Since Katie’s mom worked until Katie got out of cheerleading practice that wasn’t an option either. Somehow she talked me into letting Hunter give me a ride back.

Hunter. The new new kid. Katie’s new boyfriend. Who as her best friend I should give a chance but something about him seriously weirds me out. He kept asking about the wolves. And while I haven’t seen them in years and I never hear them I know they’re out there. I’ve always been a little protective of them when someone brings them up. They’re peaceful and have never bothered anybody. But he just kept asking questions. His interest in them was too intense and I was more than happy to hop out of his Jeep when he pulled into my driveway. When he asked if he could poke around the woods I told him it was private property and they took trespassing very seriously. Actually my grandmother owned most of the woods as the land has been passed down through the family, so I wasn’t technically lying. We mainly lived on the outskirts to keep people from trespassing.

There’s a pause in the narrative and I hear something snap. Probably a bunny. A few moments later there’s another pause and I hear a slight whine. I hit pause on the book and remove my arm from my eyes. I sit up slowly start to look around me and freeze. There, sitting only a few yards away is the gray wolf I saw as a child. Her fur is a little lighter but I know it’s her.

She’s watching me, her mouth is open slightly and I swear it looks like she’s smiling. But that’s crazy. She lays down slowly and I decide to remove the ear buds from my ears because I’m in complete awe and also totally freaked out that she’s sitting here, well laying here, watching me. My nerves feel like an Oyamel tree in December. She raises her back a bit and starts to crawl forward. Towards me. “I’m hallucinating.” I whisper to myself. “I have to be.” She stops and tilts her head to side like she’s studying me. “I know you’re the wolf I saw as a child.” I say softly to her because this is so bizarre and I have no idea what else to do but sitting here silently isn’t going to work for me. It just isn’t. “I know you won’t hurt me, you… for a long time I thought I dreamt it but now I know. You encouraged your pup to go to me. I think you wanted me to pet him. His fur was so soft.” She straightens her head and starts crawling towards me again. “Please, please don’t bite me. I don’t think you will but I thought I’d ask on the off chance you understand me.” I say as I lean forward slowly and hold my hand out. Slowly, carefully she stands and takes the last couple steps forward. Her nose is cold and wet as she sniffs my hand. When she’s done she licks it and then turns her attention to my cast.

All of her trepidation is gone as she walks over to my cast that’s currently resting in my lap. She sits next to me and places her paw on it whining softly. She licks my cheek. Though I know she won’t hurt me I know she’s a wild animal and this is freaking me out so badly I’m about to pee my pants. “Uh, thanks.” I swear she winks. What she does next me convinces me the painkillers I took when I came home somehow magically worked and I’m hallucinating. Because there is no she’s actually laying down with her head rested on my knee. A quick short bark startles me.

I look to my left and the black wolf is there. He doesn’t look happy. I chance a glance at the gray wolf and it looks almost as if she’s rolling her eyes. Without raising her head she gives a quick bark back. “Black wolf that looks like he could very easily destroy me in two seconds, I have no idea what’s going on. She just showed up and you know the whole don’t make sudden movements around wild animals thing that was beaten into me as a child has prevented me from getting up and going home. So. If you could not erm, attack me, or her I would appreciate it. I’ve had my share of injuries for the year.” I’ve completely lost it. The black wolf suddenly drops to it’s side on the ground. It’s body is shaking and it’s mouth is open, tongue out to the side. Is it… “Are you laughing?” This is so not happening. “Ok, clearly I am having some sort of serious mental breakdown, so I’m going to very slowly with no sudden movements stand up.” Maybe I did hit my head when I fell out of the tree and it’s just taken three weeks for symptoms to show. Carefully I move my leg, the gray wolf sits up and watches me. Slowly I collect my iPod and my blanket and carefully start walking back towards my house. I check behind me every few seconds to see if they’re following me but they aren’t. I think I see a flash of gray fur but I can’t be sure. Through the back window I can see my parents.

“How was school?” I’m barely through the door when Mom pounces.

“Fine, I’m kind of-”

“What’s that?” She’s staring at my cast. There’s paw-shaped mud print.

“Nothing.” I lie and brush past her, “I’m not feeling so great so I’m going to go lay down.”

“All right honey, if you need-” I shut my door and take in a deep breath. If it weren’t for the mud print on my cast and the gray hairs sticking to my jeans I wouldn’t believe what just happened. I can’t call Katie because she’ll think I’ve gone completely mental so I grab my phone and call the only person I can.


“Grandmother have you seen the wolves before?”

“Of course Lenore, what’s the matter?”

“Did they ever… approach you?” There’s a long pause before she answers.

“No, the wolves have always kept their distance why?”

“No reason. I’m sorry to have bothered you Grandmother. Goodbye.”

“Lenore wa-” I toss my phone on my bed after hanging it up. The research I’ve done on the wolves hasn’t mentioned anyone being approached by them before, nor is there any reason for me to believe they would ever have cause to. But they did. Twice. I have this sneaking suspicion that there is something obvious that I’m missing that is causing this to happen but I can’t figure it out.

“Humpty.” Dad calls outside of my door, it’s his new nickname for me. I flip my notebook closed to answer the door, rather than dwell on mysteries I can’t solve I prefer to work on one’s I can. Like what’s going to happen when I invert and divide by four. “There’s a boy at the door for you.” His eyebrow is raised awaiting an explanation.

“Does this boy have a name?”

“Luke. I take it I should tell him you aren’t home?” It takes me a second to realize a dark look must have passed over my face. I’m tempted to say yes but it’s either now or have him bother me at school tomorrow.

“I’ll be right out.” I sigh.

“Is there anything I should know about this boy? You’re mother is out there practically arranging the wedding.”

“That’s not funny.” I push him lightly out of my way and quickly walk out there where sure enough Luke and my mother are sitting and chatting away. There’s some sort of helmet sitting on the coffee table.

“Of course, we were just going to have leftovers so I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.” Mom is beaming, Luke looks ridiculously pleased.

“Funny how you ditch me and then turn up at my house.” I narrow my eyes. “Especially since I never gave you my address.”

“I came to apologize, and Katie told me where you live once.”

“Ok, well, you’ve done your job feel free to leave.” I make a shooing gesture with my good arm towards the door.

“Lenore,” Mother has that be-nice-or-else tone, “don’t be rude.” I don’t know why she’s always been interested in my love life, but she is, and one of these days it’s going to drive me insane. “Luke came by to take you to dinner, isn’t that nice?” Today just may be that day. My sanity is already on the brink of snapping and this is probably enough to completely destroy it.

“Not hungry.” I lied.

“Yeah,” Dad snorts, “that’ll be the day.”

“I’m sure you want to get out of the house, and your father and I could really use some alone time.” Bile comes up in my throat. I know that’s code for ‘your dad and I want to have sex’. “Go get changed.” She orders.

“There’s nothing wrong with I’m wearing.” She gives me this look the kind that says you’re entirely delusional and if you don’t shut up and do what I told you to your dead, it’s the ones her clients get about what to say and what not to stay when on the stand. “You know,” I say looking at my dad, “most fathers wouldn’t be ok with their daughter being sent off to do God knows what only God knows where with some boy they and their daughter don’t know.”

“I love you, but I miss the days when I was married and didn’t have a seriously unbalanced kid making alone time with my wife impossible.” My appetite is gone and may never come back.

“Hey.” I jab a finger into his chest. “That was entirely your fault. If you could learn how to throw a water balloon like you aren’t trying to strike somebody out none of this would have happened.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Have I ever told you how snippy you get when you take a break from photography? Just like your mother when she hasn’t had caffeine.”

“First of all,” Mom says and I know Dad is in for it and I don’t bother hiding my grin, “I do not get snippy. Secondly, it is your fault our daughter had to have her bone surgically placed back into her arm and missed a few weeks of school. It is also your fault she’s had such difficulty using her camera.”

“Woman does have a point.” I sigh. “If only there was something that could hold a camera up into place, an object with three legs….” I trail off.

“You know,” Luke interjects, “I think I may have seen something like that before…. I believe they called it a tripod.” Suddenly him being here isn’t quite as bad.

“Imagine that.” Dad says with fake interest.

“I’m pretty sure I saw one in the window on my way here… where was it? Oh, yeah, Shutter, the photography store.”

“You know,” I smile turning back to my dad, “I think I saw it too.” Dad sighs and pulls out his wallet.

“I don’t like you.” He says looking directly at Luke. He pulls out his credit card and holds it out. “Just the tripod.”

“I’m low on film too, some of my rolls got crushed when I ever so clumsily fell from the tree.” I shake my head and give him a smile like it was just so silly of me.

“Fine.” I lean up on my toes and kiss his cheek taking the card from him. “Thank you Daddy.”

“Loraine, go change.” Mom orders again.


“Leaving me stranded and then having my mother force me into going to dinner with you isn’t exactly helping whatever case your trying to make. Unless you’re trying to prove you’re a jerk, in which case, you are doing a commendable job.” I am never like this, so rude and a bit snarky.

“I really am sorry about earlier, there was an emergency and I didn’t have your number.” We were in my car, he was driving of course since I couldn’t. One look at his two-wheeled death trap and Mom handed him my keys. My fall from the sky had her suddenly over concerned about my safety. Or at least I thought, and then she decided to let a strange boy drive off with me.

“I had to get a ride home with Hunter.” I confess recalling our conversation on the way home and how he just couldn’t get the hint.

“Why did that sound like bugs just crawled up your skin?”

“Because I’m a horrible best friend.”

“I… what?”

“Since he is now dating the ever loquacious Katie, my best friend, I should give him a chance. Try to find something to like about him so that when I see him with my best friend I don’t have the sudden urge to drag her away. Alas, I fear this may be an issue.”

“Did something happen?” He is very clearly annoyed by this thought. Inside I nearly faint with the idea he would be bothered by something happening with Hunter.

“I don’t know. Not having photography in my life as dominantly as it usually is has me a bit on edge, so it was probably nothing.” I normally wouldn’t be explaining this to him, but I’m trapped in my vehicle with him, he’s behind the wheel, and it’s been a very strange day.

“But…?” He prods.

“He just too keen an interest.” Luke’s eyes widen a bit. “In the wolves. They live in the woods behind my house.” I clarify. “I kept trying to change the subject but he wouldn’t get the hint, and then he wanted to go snoop around. I told him the people who owned the wood hated trespassers, but I’m not entirely sure how long that’s going to keep him out.” I can’t talk to Katie about this, my parents think I’m obsessed with the wolves as it is, and talking to Gram is out of the question since I hung up on her earlier. So while he forced me into this I was going to force him to listen.

“I see.” He says pulling into the parking lot of the best pizza place on the planet. Garlic knots here I come.

“People rarely see the wolves around here.” I open the door and get out of the car. “Ok that’s a lie. They never see the wolves. They don’t hear them, and until recently I was pretty sure they left the area entirely.” He opens the door to the restaurant and it would be my luck that Katie would be working tonight. She works maybe twice a week during the school year as a hostess. I never see her here unless I come here specifically because she’s working.

“Hey guys.” She’s grinning ridiculously wide.

“Katie.” I narrow my eyes. It’s her fault I’m here.

“Table for two?” Luke nods and Katie glances down at the seating chart in front of her to see where she can put us. She grimaces and looks at me guiltily. “There’s only one table open that I can put you at.” She says apologetically. She never takes that tone unless she knows it’s something I’m going to absolutely hate and quite possibly want to kill her for.

“I’m sure it’s fine.” Luke says. I don’t even ask Katie what the problem is, I’m about find out anyway. And since tonight is so not going as planned I just shrug and follow Katie and Luke. Katie places the two menu’s down.

“I’m sorry, I love you, don’t hate me.” Katie says quickly walking away.

“Is she ok?” Luke asks looking after her with a concerned expression.

“No, something completely horrible is about to happen to me and she knows it. And with the day I’m having I’m not really surprised. Just one more thing to add to the list. I’m sure it won’t top it but-”

“Welcome to Grimaldi’s, I’m Brian and I’ll be taking care of you… this… evening.” This, had I been informed before sitting, would have warranted an entire change of venue. The blonde hair and brown eyes that I used to love now make me sick.

“Man was I wrong.” I mutter. Today has to be some sort of cosmic joke. Because if it’s not, I’m going to completely lose it.

“Lenore.” Brian smiles unsurely. “I, uh, meant to call you.”

“It’s really ok that you didn’t. In fact, I would appreciate if you lost my number.” He shouldn’t be standing here and I didn’t want to hear whatever excuse he had for being here. “I’ll have a Shirley Temple.” I say and then look at Luke.

“Coke is fine.” Luke says. Brian jots down our drink orders.

“What happened to your arm?”

“Nothing, I’m wearing this as a fashion statement.” I pat my cast and force a smile onto my face. “Pretty, no?”

“Red has always been your favorite color.” He says softly, “I’ll go get your drinks.” He walks away and I have the urge to pick up the parmesan shaker and chuck it at the back of his head just because I’ve been wanting to throw something at him for the past few months. But I don’t.

“So you know him?” Luke asks, I pick at a loose string on the bottom of my romper and ignore him. I was so not getting into this with Luke, especially not here. “You were saying you having a bad day?”

“Not bad.” I finally say. “Strange.”

“Good? Bad?” I shrug.

“Both in a way, there are a few things I’m still not so sure about.” He nods and glances over to where Brian went to get our drinks. “Remember how I was talking about the wolves?”

“Yeah, you said until recently you thought maybe they had left. What changed?” He looks like he’s trying to reign in his interest, almost ask like he’s only asking to be polite because of what I said about Hunter. I find it incredibly sweet.

“When I was little I was at my grandmothers playing at the edge of the yard, and I saw a wolf pup, it was with it’s parents and it’s mom nudged it towards me, I pet it.” He gives me one of those lethal soft smiles. “And I never saw the wolves again until today.”

“You saw them today?”

“Yeah, I was reading in the clearing behind my house and the gray one, the female approached me. I know it was the same one I saw before, I don’t know how I know but I do. She came over and… anyway, then the black one, the male came.” He’s silent for a few moments, like he’s trying to figure something out.

“They approached you?” I nod. I am not going to tell him about the eye roll, or the laughing, because I am not insane. I’m not. “What did they do?” He asks just as Brian brings our drinks. There are two of those little plastic swords in mine with three cherries on each, just they way I like it. I pull the swords out and without even asking Luke if he wants them drop them into his drink.

“Are you guys ready to order?” Brian asks trying to mask his annoyance at my complete disregard of whatever it is he was trying to do.

“No, we’ll need a few minutes.” We haven’t even looked at the menu. “Garlic knots would be good though, marinara on the side.” I don’t even look at him as I order. I just look at Luke. “Unless you want something else?”

“Those sound good.” He grins.

“I’ll go put that in.” Brian sighs walking away.

“Ok, so I know you don’t want to talk about it, but it would be really nice if you would clue me in as to what is going on between the two of you.” Luke says leaning in towards me from across the table. I take a sip of my drink.

“We dated. He graduated. He dumped me and left for school.” I say. “Now he’s back. No idea why and I don’t care either.” That’s the cliff notes of the cliff notes. “We should probably decide on what we want though.”

“And what is it that you want?” He asks keeping his voice low.

He isn’t asking about anything on the menu, at least on the printed one.
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I'm honestly not trying to wait a month between postings. The next one should be out sooner.

Also- anyone know how to change the color of the ch. title? I keep looking on the layout editor and try as I might I just can't find it.