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A Fall Evening

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There's a chill breeze through The Jungle tonight.

I don't mind much. My hammock is slung in one of the warm currents rising from the floor of the hollowed-out building, and I am lazy waking up tonight.

The Tail Wolves and the Four have already long headed out.

Professor Isabella and Abalone are below, figuring something out on Abalone's tappety-tap that is making all three of them very happy.

I can hear Grey Brother and Head Wolf moving through the ropes and platforms above me, making their rounds of the Free People's current home.

It took Head Wolf months to recover fully, and I'm glad he's realized what an asset a reliable beta wolf like Grey Brother can be.

My nephew Mowgli is just waking up on the cub platform beside me, protected from falls by barriers Abalone, I, and finally Head Wolf himself personally tested.

My old draconian companions are his now, as they were my brother's before me. Betwixt raises his head and says firmly, "We are a family dragon."

Mowgli laughs.

Athena, my beloved owl, nestles beside me in the hammock. She has never belonged to anyone but me.

Grey Brother and Head Wolf come down the nearest rope walkway onto the platform beside me. Head Wolf and I exchange a morning kiss while Grey Brother says "Good morning" to Mowgli.

A few leaves, caught between green and brilliant orange, float down from some open window above. Mowgli laughs, enthralled, and reaches for one.

I look away from Head Wolf for a moment and tell my nephew, "'Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.'"

Head Wolf chuckles deep in his throat and rubs the side of his face against mine. "Despite all your uniqueness, you are a good Mother Wolf," he tells me. I feel my face flush at the compliment, and his slight chuckle as he feels the heat from it.

I don't know if I'm the alpha female in The Free People now, Head Wolf's favorite of all favorites. I'm not sure I would want to be that, honestly.

But whatever I am, I'm content here with my friends, my lover, and my nephew.