Chapter 8: To Forgive
This would be the first time I had spent the night at kates since we got together. Her mother never seemed to allow us to sleep together, saying "I would taint her perfect little girl". It was almost amusing how strict and protective Eve could be with her daughters, but it was understandable.
The sun had now gone down, allowing the brilliance of the shining stars above to illuminate the valley with the help of the moon. I sat outside and watched as the moon slowly lifted itself up in the night sky, taking its place to watch over us. I let myself get lost in thought, with the melodies of the crickets chirping echoing across the plains. I let out a sigh, laying down on the ledge that protruded from the leaders den which allowed you to see almost the whole valley, it was a crazy view.
It felt good to be back to the real world with my friends, and most importantly Kate. Thinking back to the woods in my dream, I could still remember the almost deafening silence that had surrounded me. Compared to now it was like a highway of sound. The eerie feeling found its way over me again as I thought of my dream. For some reason I couldn't seem to shake it, my mind always returning back to the thought of it.
What if the creature was real, and still around in these woods? I pondered this before dismissing the possibility. If something like that was still around we would have noticed, right? There was the possibility that we just never came across it but that was unlikely. I shook my head clearing all my thoughts for the time being. I didn't need to worry about that stuff right now. For now I needed to focus on the things around me, like Kate and Lilly and Eve with Winston. They were here to help me and make me feel better as family.
When this thought crossed my mind, I could feel my guilt coming back. They had put their lives on hold to help me, spending every night watching over me when they could have been doing something else. I closed my eyes letting out another sigh, trying to relax. I knew they didn't mind but it still bothered me.
My attention was brought to the sound of approaching footsteps coming from behind me, faint but there. I didn't turn to see who it was, figuring it had to be Eve or Kate. I was a little surprised when I heard Lilly's voice break the silence.
"May I sit with you for a while?" she asked, walking over to stand beside me and where I was laying down at. I waved my paw gesturing for her to take the spot beside me as I wiggled over to make more room for her.
I didn't say anything back to her as I turned my attention back to the night sky, looking at the moon. I noticed Lilly was now looking up at it too, her eyes shining with the reflection. A minute or two passed with silence, neither of us deciding to start a conversation. I didn't really mind it too much though, I was used to just lazing about with Lilly since we were young pups. A thought crossed my mind as I was watching her, flashing back to when we took a walk in the woods and she had told me about Garth..
I remembered that she said she wasn't happy with her situation with Garth, that she was thinking of breaking the marriage. Remembering this I turned back to Lilly, who was still intently staring at the stars above. Clearing my throat to get her attention, which worked because she quickly snapped her eyes to my face. Her violet eyes dilated from looking at the moon for so long quickly enlarging to adjust to the dark, her nose slightly twitching as a small breeze blew past.
"So…..How have you been holding up?" I asked crossing my paws to make myself comfortable, as i propted myself on my elbows. Her eyes never moved as she swayed her head slightly to move her hair back into place. I could still see her hidden eye that was peeking out from under the tuft of fur that rested in front of it. Her emotionless face now showing a cheerful smile, causing her front fangs to show slightly.
"Much happier now that you're awake again" she said pushing my shoulder playfully with her paw. I just smirked at the statement, readjusting my body again.
"Yea, sorry to have worried you guys like that, i didn't think anything bad would happen from just picking up a flower" I said, my grin fading into a more serious like expression. Lilly's expression changed a little as well but she kept her smile.
"Yea, you're always trying to do something nice for others, and getting hurt in the process" she said lowering her head slightly. I placed a paw under her chin and lifted her face back up to match mine.
"Hey don't worry, I'm fine and perfectly healthy" I said, tapping her nose with my paw causing her to giggle. I resumed crossing my paws in front of me, resting my head on top of them. For someone who had been asleep for so long, I was worn out and just wanted to sleep. "So how are things with you and your significant other?" i asked, continuing the conversation. She paused for a moment before realizing I was talking about Garth. She didn't reply right away as if she was trying to figure out what she wanted to say. Judging by this, it wasn't going to be a simple reply.
"Him and I separated about a week ago…." she said, looking away to stare at the valley that rested below us, which showed no signs of life. I froze at the answer she had given, not expecting that. I know she had said she was going to try and break the marriage with Garth, but i didn't think that it was going to be that quick. My mind buzzed with the newfound knowledge as I wondered what else I had missed will being out.
I could feel my eyes slightly watering as I focused on Lilly, her answer still echoing in my ears. I had promised her… I had promised the day before I found that flower that I would be there with her.. that i would be right there with her when she did it. I told her that she wouldn't have to do it alone, that we would all be there for her. I felt a tear run down my face, assuming that my eyes could no longer hold or contain the emotions that were swirling around inside of me. How could I have done that to her? When she needed me there the most. I curled my paw slightly, causing my nails to find their way into the dirt that laid on the rock we were on. Lilly, noticing my sudden change in mood, scooted a little closer, lifting her paw to wipe the tears that now had freely started to fall as I began to break down and cry.
"Humphrey, what's wrong?" she asked, her eyes full of worry and concern. I didn't even know what to say to her. There was no way I could just forgive myself for something like this.
"Lilly im so sorry….i should have been there with you,... like i promised i would be" i said, my voice breaking up as i tried to talk. Without thinking Lilly jumped to her feet, pulling me into a tight embrace and squeezing me.
"Hey,..NO….don't you dare blame yourself for what happened to you. It wasn't your fault, there was nothing you could do!" she said, almost yelling at me. Her tight embrace caused the sound in my ear to be even louder than it actually was.
"But if i wouldn't have picked that flower.. If i would have just left it… I would have been there for you. But instead I let you do it alone, I can't forgive myself for that" I said, the words coming out in a choked whisper mixed with tears. Her embrace did not change as she continued squeezing me, her face resting on my shoulder. She was warm and her fur was still as soft as ever as it forced itself against my darker less refined coat.
"Humphrey it was only because of you, that I had the courage to go through with it. It was your words that helped me make a decision, no one else." she said, carefully pulling away from me and stopping, with her face in front of mine. I noticed that her fur on her shoulder was matted down and darker than the rest, most likely due to my tears. I tried to look down but she just forced my face right back up to look at hers.
"I couldn't have done it without you, so don't ever say that you didn't help me" she said removing her paw from my face and placing it back on the ground. I gave a small sniffle trying to clear my slightly runny nose as I looked up, seeing the moon looking back down at me.
"Lilly…" I started, but was unfortunately cut off by another voice. Me and Lilly turned to see Eve standing at the entrance of the den, Kate beside her as they both looked over at us. Eve saw my tear soaked fur and irritated eyes, before flicking her eyes over to Lilly and then back to me. She let out a small sigh as she walked over to us and sat down.
"Everything alright dear?" she said, looking at me with a gentle smile. I quickly wiped my eyes, trying to clear what tears still remained and looked back to her. I softly smiled and gave a nod as I turned to look at Lilly. She just smiled at me not saying a word. Eve continued to eye us for a moment before standing back up and walking back into the den.
"Come on, dinners about to be ready you two…" she said her voice trailing off as she walked around the corner and disappeared. I turned back to Lilly, pausing to think about everything that just happened. I wasn't sure how to act now, especially with the state my head was currently in. she just giggled as she booped my nose, standing up and heading for the den. I just watched as she walked away towards Kate, who was still staring at me. Lilly stopped as she passed Kate looking to her before nodding in my direction and continuing into the den.
Kate returned her attention to me, causing me to drop my eyes and look away. I didn't really feel like telling her what just took place. It would be embarrassing for both of us. I stood up and walked over to her, giving her a lick on the cheek making her smile. She turned and followed me as we made our way into the den side by side.
I followed Kate as she walked me through her parents den, to where they ate. I had never been this far into their den before. I dont think ive ever been in a den this big before. Kate just laughed as she watched my face grow in amazement walking to the dining area. We had passed a few cubbys dug into the sides of the tunnel, each being different sizes. After a few more seconds Kate stopped beside one of the openings and smiled. I looked at the room, noticing it was almost completely empty other than a few pinecones and a few flowers.
They were the same kind of flowers that Kate wore in her hair. I looked to her as she nodded leaning in to whisper into my ear. "This is my room" she said before leaning back and winking at me. My eyes widened as I gathered what she was trying to say. My eyes darted from her back to the cubby hole, with her just smiling back at me. I inched forwards just enough to stick my head in and look around. All I could smell was the scent of Kate as it aerated the room.
"What's going on over here" a voice said behind me causing me to jump and hit my head on the entrance to the cubby, making my yelp as i quickly backed up and turned to see the unknown person behind me. I shook my head trying to shake the pain as I opened my eyes to see Winston smiling. My heart almost skipped a beat when I realized it was her father.
" I can explain sir, see i was just…." I said my voice full of anxiety as I tried to explain the situation. He just laughed as he watched me struggle to find the words to explain myself.
"Humphrey, calm down, i'm not mad. If Kate gave you permission to go in i'm not going to stop you" he said standing up and continuing down the hall. Kate followed behind him, licking my nose and giggling before walking away. I just stood frozen as to what had just happened.
I quickly made my way down the tunnel catching up with them as we entered a much larger room that formed a circle big enough for ten or twelve wolves. I looked around, noticing Lilly and Eve sitting next to each other with a dead caribou a few feet away from them. The pack leaders always got the best caribou from the prior hunt to themselves and their family, but I never thought I would see the day that it included me. It was so fancy not having to be at the feeding grounds fighting for a piece of meat.
I took a seat across from Eve as she just smiled slightly tilting her head. Kate followed me over to my spot and sat beside me with Winston going over to sit with his wife. Eve got up and walked over to the caribou before ripping into it with her claws and fangs ripping sizable chunks out of it. She picked up the pieces and placed them individually in front of everyone but me.
I watched as she picked up my piece and walked over and placed it in some type of goo of some sort, rolling it around in it covering the whole piece of meat. She then continued to pick it up and bring it over to me, placing it right in front of my feet. I looked at the goo, that now discolored the crimson meat to a more blueish purple color. I slowly turned my gaze to Eve who just smiled and walked over to her spot, taking a bite from her meat.
"What is this stuff?" I asked, trying to be polite. I didn't want her to think i was ungrateful or anything, i just didn't see why she only did it to my piece. She chewed her meat for a second before swallowing it and clearing her throat.
"That's medicine dear, it will help fix the damage inside your body that hasn't healed yet" she said, before continuing to naw on the meat in front of her. I looked to Kate who was carefully chewing on her food, observing me and my new found food. I gave an unpleasant smile before leaning down to the piece of meat and sniffing it. The medicine smelt horrible, but I could still smell the fresh meat that resided just below that smell.
Deciding I didn't have much of a choice, I ripped a bite out of the meat and began to chew it. I immediately felt my body begin to gag trying to force the meat down. It was an acquired taste, to say the least. Not wanting to make a scene I carefully sat and forced piece by piece down till my helping was gone. I felt a shutter go down my body as I swallowed the last bite. "I never want to eat that again" I thought to myself and looked over to Kate who was chewing on the bone from her meat. I smiled as I watched her fight to get all the meat from the crevices on the bone.
Soon enough everyone was done with their pieces and it was time for bed. That was something I was looking forward to all day. I had been so tired all day, I couldn't wait to lay down. I paused to think about where I was going to sleep, I hadn't even thought about it yet. "Mam where am i sleeping tonight?" I asked, causing Eve to stop walking. She just smiled and nodded for me to follow her, the girls ears peerking up as they followed to satiate their curiosity.
"We have a guest room you can sleep in for the night, if that's okay with you?" she said as we walked up to another opening not too far from where Kate had shown me her room. I looked into the cubby that was not much larger than my own den. I looked to Eve and nodded, receiving a smile inreturn. "Alright everyone off to bed, girls that means you. Let Humphrey get some rest" she said as she began to walk away.
"Good night, get some sleep. Just holler if you need us for anything" Lilly said as she walked past me heading up the tunnel, presumably to her own room.
Kate following her sister lead began walking to her room, stopping to give me a quick kiss. I treasured the moment spent between us as I stood there enjoying her company. "KATE!" a voice barked down the tunnel causing us to both jump. We both laughed as Kate quickly licked my muzzle before scampering off to her own room. I just smiled as I watched her walking away until she turned and disappeared.
I let out a sigh as I turned to my own personal cubby and walked in finding a comfortable place on the floor to lay down. Making myself comfy, I shifted my weight a little before closing my eyes and quickly drifting into a deep sleep with Kate on my mind.