"It's alright, bitch pudding."
"You knew, Anja...you've always known."
The pub was quiet, the doors locked, the last of the late night stragglers ushered out and sent home, either stumbling down the street singing a drunken off-key serenade to the stars or being tucked safely into cabs Tom had called for the ones who lived too far to walk. There was an odd sense of anticipation in the air, but I didn't have a clue what it was about...and none of the guys, not even Ewan, was talking. They just exchanged looks every now and then, none of them bothering to clean up the pub or even clear the glasses off the tables. It was making me nervous.
It was all making me nervous.
It had been like this for days - that odd feeling of something in the air, a series of strange events, nothing huge or blatant, just little things that rubbed that part of my conscious that prickled up when things weren't quite right. That little part that makes you look out the window when you aren't sure what you're looking for, expecting to see something but not knowing if you'd recognize it if it was there.
But I had one more reason for looking. Everyone else was. Not a single one of them, Tom nor Chris nor Ewan, could pass a window without looking outside.
Tom was the worst.
Tom, my demon lover. He'd always had this thing with the night sky, an illicit romance of sorts, or maybe it was me that was the illicit one in our dirty little threesome. The sky had him first, I knew. He belonged to her.
Her and the moon, they shared him like sisters that squabbled over a man until the only feasible solution was to both have him. And sometimes they shared him with me.
And now he was standing at the window staring up at that black and white night like a hotly desired bed partner, his face an alabaster mask of anticipation in the quicksilver glow of the moon through the clouds. I slipped my arms around his middle and laid my head against his back, alarmed for a moment by the rapid thump of his heartbeat, thudding so fast and heavy that it was like listening to it through a stethoscope.
Something's going to happen tonight, I thought.
He was rubbing my hands on the flat of his belly, nodding slowly, never taking his eyes off whatever it was he was staring at. I didn't realize for a while that he'd replied to something I'd only said in my head.
Looking back on those last days now, I realize I should have seen it coming. Something, though there was no way to be sure what. The strange series of events leading up to that final night began with my boss calling in sick, something he never did - had never done in the years I'd worked for him.
I'm taking a few days, he said, his voice sounding oddly...off. I'm not sure when I'll be back. Take care of things for me.
I agreed, no questions asked. Mr Laing had often told me he might have to depend on me one day to do his job. Apparently this was it.
That was a week ago.
A couple of days later I found Tom in the back room of the pub, watching a news story about some girl in New Mexico that had turned loose a bunch of wolves from a game preserve. She'd gone missing immediately after, and her grandmother was asking for a search to be organized. When I asked Tom why he was so interested in the story, he just shook his head, his face a worrying combination of confusion and delight that made my stomach feel cold inside. "The wolves," he'd finally said. "They're free now."
"Do you know that girl?" Her picture was on the screen, a dark haired teenager with blue eyes. She seemed oddly familiar, in a way I couldn't quite identify.
Tom stared at her for a long time.
That night Emma's caretaker at Stonebrooke called. She'd been drawing a lot, the woman told Tom; I could hear her voice coming through the phone, easily picking up the concern in it, the edge of nervousness and uncertainty. "She's covered all the walls in her room with these drawings."
Tom sat down, covering his eyes for a moment with one hand as he asked what the drawings were of.
"Wolves," the woman said. "All of them...wolves. Except for one of the moon, which is strange."
"The way she drew it...it has one hand, reaching out."
"And where did she hang the moon drawing?"
"In the corner of the room...and the weirdest thing is...all the wolves in the other drawings are looking toward it."
A day later, Eric went missing.
Meteorologists were warning about atmospheric shifts and inclement weather, something to do with the moon, but I didn't pay much attention to what they were saying. Tom kept track of that stuff, he would tell me if there was anything to be concerned about. He knew more about the moon than anyone, being that it was his lover and all...my jealous little self didn't really want to know what they had going on, so I turned a blind eye to their thinly veiled romance, pretending I was the only one in his heart. I knew better. I didn't need to have it shown to me.
Until the night that damn moon decided to flaunt it in my face.
The Medialuna, they were calling it. Happens sometimes, just a regular run of the mill lunar event, no big thing. It wasn't going to end the world or cause any tsunamis, just a mildly unnerving light-and-dark show and maybe a little rain. And when it started, I knew by the sheer joy on Tom and Chris's faces that it meant something to them.
Chris left for a bit, returning with his girlfriend Eva. She seemed just as happy as the boys, excited and fidgety, constantly touching the collar around her throat. Chris had put it on her months ago and I'd never seen her without it.
Ewan was chain smoking, laughing and being his normal rowdy self, but nobody was getting annoyed with him for it now.
And Tom...he was just smiling at me, his eyes all bright and happy, giving me a look that said something good was about to happen. He wasn't looking at traffic or the street or people walking by as he stared out the window. He wasn't waiting for anyone. But he was definitely waiting...for what, I had no idea, and nobody seemed to have any intention of telling me.
Chris turned from the window, letting the curtain fall back across it as he looked past me at Tom. There was a nod, then they both broke into wide grins. Ewan threw his head back and fucking howled - in retrospect, I suppose that should have made me a little bit apprehensive about following Tom outside, but I did it anyway.
"After you, boss," Chris said, opening the door.
Tom went out, and after a long moment of hesitation, I took a deep breath and followed him.
He was standing at the curb, looking up at the moon as it slowly emerged from behind the heavy clouds that had been hiding it all night. His eyes were closed, the metallic silver moonlight bathing him in an ethereal glow that made him look like a spirit that had taken the form of a body, as if reaching out to touch him would only result in your hand passing right through him. But when I came up beside him and he reached out to slip an arm around me, I could feel him - solid, flesh and bone, my Tom. He was smiling. It was serene and happy and for the first time since I'd met him there was nothing sad or scary behind it, just the pure smile of a truly happy man whose life has just declared that it finally makes sense.
Behind us, Chris came out, pulling Eva along close behind him. They looked up, their faces alight with smiles like Tom's, their arms going around each other as they joined us at the curb.
Ewan came out laughing, tossing his cigarette away, grinning gleefully as he looked up.
There was nothing for me to do but look up too, although I had no idea what I was meant to see.
Show me. I know I'm the other woman, but we share him, right? Show me what he's seeing, I want to understand.
When it happened, it was sudden and quick, but I wasn't a part of it.
The moon burst from behind its silvery curtain of clouds and in that moment, Tom looked down at me. That smile, that sweet, beautiful smile suddenly changed, though my brain didn't comprehend what was going on until the change was no longer subtle. His teeth elongated into fangs and I watched in something like dumb shock mixed with calm acceptance as he dropped to the ground, his hands now paws, his back stretching into the long straight spine of a shaggy black wolf. It was fast, and by the time my comprehension caught up, it was over.
I didn't step away. There was nowhere for me to go...two golden wolves suddenly stood behind me, a white wolf growling and yipping to my left. Chris and Eva were gone. The white wolf was bouncing like a playful puppy. Ewan.
When I turned back to the creature beside me, it was looking at me, and I heard Tom's voice inside my head.
You knew, Anja...you've always known.
I nodded. I had known. From the moment I'd first met him I'd known. He wasn't like anyone I'd ever met before...and now I knew why. If I had paid a little more attention maybe I'd have seen it coming.
We could always do it, we just had to wait for this - the wolf tipped its nose to the sky, pointing to the moon - to give us permission. Like a trigger. It flipped the switch and set us free.
You too, baby. I bit you, do you remember? Early on. The first time you slept with me.
I nodded, finally understanding. All that marking, the claiming, the biting, the territorial jealousy. He'd known from the start that he was taking me with him.
It hurts, but only for moment baby. Just let it happen.
I dropped to the ground just as quickly as he had, my whole body working on some plane above my control. I felt my bones shifting, changing shape. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't pleasant - and when it was over he stood beside me, licking me to comfort me. The moonlight was glinting off his shiny fur and I realized I was seeing him through new eyes, eyes that both were and weren't mine. He nudged his nose against my neck and whined, and in that moment I knew this was how we would fulfill our vow to each other.
Mated for life.
We ran, pads tapping silently on the darkened streets till we were outside the city. We made our way through the hills above San Diego till Tom led me to a cave where he'd made a den for us, a comfortable place to sleep and escape the rain. It was roomy and warm, with plenty of space for pups, later. He turned and looked at me, and as I let him move around behind to mount me, I could see the lights of the city far below.
Down near the piers, a block from the ocean's edge, the front light of the pub twinkled in the fading moonlight.