After compromising with Mom and Dad, I got ready to take us to our cabin. Without internet or WiFi, it would be the ideal place to sit down and talk.
Dad told me about Ashley. She was one in a lengthy line of loving the prestige of being in a relationship with someone who wore a badge. I wanted to prove him wrong. Plus, I did not follow in his footsteps, so why did I have to worry. It was my life and he couldn’t tell me what to do. Not the brightest speech I made.
Every opportunity she had, she filmed our world and put it up for the people to examine. It could be a brief story about family or how traumatized she was to find out there were no bullet wounds. Without specific details, people were not interested, and it showed when they didn’t watch.
The arguments grew to be too much. They never stopped, and I got sick of it. No romance, funny mishaps, or time spent being together. None of that ever happened.
That’s what led us to the cabin. Peace and her full attention for what I needed to do. After bringing our bags in, I put them by the door and stared at the fireplace for a minute. She pushed her way by me and stood right there.
“Uh. Hmm. It seems my baby isn’t working. You’re buying me an extra one.” Ashley smiled at me and put her finger under my chin.
I sighed because I knew that was coming. It shouldn’t matter anymore after this, though. “Ashley, I will leave the bags here because we need to sit down and talk.”
“No. You’ll put them away.”
OK, I can do this. Deep exhale out. “After this weekend, we will not be together.” Right now, if I had my way. “We are done. We will no longer be together. Do you understand?”
“You did remember that I definitely must have internet connection so that I can post my life. People absolutely want to know.”
I yelled her name.
“You do not need to yell. I am right here after all. Besides that, I am not a working class citizen.”
“Stop and listen, Ashley.”
She sat on the sofa, crossed her legs, and put her hands on her knees as if she wanted to impress someone. All of that while she sneered after glancing around the area.
“Ashley, you and I don’t have a relationship. You may be fascinated with my life, but only because you find it amusing enough for people to watch.”
She looked up at me. “Hmm. What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know what that means. At first, it was something you did. OK. But we need not record every single little damn thing in our lives. I told you again and again to stop. Borderline picking you up and throwing you out the damn window.”
“Everybody is curious what happens in our lives. I must provide the details. This is the age of recording everything. Now pick up our bags so we can leave and go somewhere that doesn’t allow mangy mongrels. Now go.” She shooed me away.
It took everything in my power not to pick her up and find out if she would fit inside the chimney if I threw her up said object. “Get your own bags and get out.”
“Good. It’s about time. I am not a… a… hill billy you know.”
That was it. I couldn’t take it. I picked up her five bags, opened the door, and threw them out.
To say she opened her mouth wide was an understatement. I could’ve sworn her tonsils were in plain view.
“How dare you? Those are custom made to my specifications. It took an eternity for them to get it right. You threw them out as if they’re garbage? Like your—”
“Say it, and I pick you up next.”
She huffed and puffed at me while she stood there with her hands clenched.
I slammed the door shut on her and waited about fifteen minutes before checking to see if she left. I wondered how she would get back to the city without a car. Not my dilemma, but it made me curious.
Things didn’t go as planned, but I should’ve known better. Too bad I had to leave Titus with Nathan. He would’ve loved to come up here, but the fewer distractions I had the better. Not that it would’ve made a difference.
I got the fireplace going. Funny how the dancing flames made me hungry. It brought a certain amount of peace.
I brought along some sandwiches. So all I needed was a good pot of percolated coffee. The old-fashioned kind of coffee. Dad got me hooked when I turned eighteen.
I went upstairs to get to bed. The loft was the perfect space with the down comforter and king-sized mattress. It never felt so good.
A weight on my body woke me up. I opened my right eye and noticed two brown ones looking at me. His tail whipped back and forth.
“Titus? What are you doing here?” I sat up and heard someone snoring. I knew that snore.
“Never mind.” I uncovered myself and climbed down the stairs. “Yup.”
The only thing to accomplish the impossible task of waking up baby brother was Titus sitting on him. It didn’t matter where.
After that, he lifted his head. “Oh. Hi. Mom sent me. I brought food.” I left him to peek in the kitchen. Bags full of food on the counter and even more in the fridge. What did she think, I brought an army up here?
“Nathan. Nate Nate.”
“What. What.” He sniffed and yawned.
“Mom did know that it was going to be just me. So why all this?”
He shrugged. “I’m gonna shower. Titus did his thing. He’s good. Be back.” He turned around and left.
“Well boy, how about if we go for a hike huh? You would like that especially with the possibility of a squirrel. Huh?”
He danced in place and barked before sitting as he whipped his tail so hard it thudded against the door. I got my gear on, and wondered if Nathan bothered to bring Titus’ backpack. I found it on the bottom along with the portable water bowl. Huh, he even brought along a bag of liver treats. Well, I had my bag and Titus had his. I left a note for Nathan on the door and it was off to the wilderness after that.
“Oh my, I so missed this.” I took in all of the smells and the sounds. Nothing could replace it.
I walked along the river. There was something soothing about the noise of the water as it passed over the rocks or any obstacles for that matter. The path of the water washed away all of my stress as I pictured Ashley flowing down with the current. I would take this over traffic any day.
We went a little bit further and saw a moss covered tunnel. Titus lay down next to a log on the right side of it as he watched. Something had to be there. I took a few steps forward when someone slid out of it.
Moss covered chin and lips didn’t make for a good landing. May have been soft but gross in my opinion. “Are you OK?”
She lifted her head and spit something out. “Sorry, but there is moss in my mouth.”
“Ew. OK. Can you stand?”
She stood. “I am Sanne.”
“S-A-N-D? or S-A-N?”
I put out my hand for her to grab. “Hi. I’m Tressa.”
She grasped it and shook it. “Where am I? Do you have a location?”
“This is Angelmoor Mountain. It’s quiet up here if you come in between fishing season. What happened?”
“Oh. I am not sure. One minute I was sleeping and the next I end up in the tunnel. I am uninjured.”
It sounded funny, but for the lack of anything else to go by, I took her word for it. “How about if we go back to my cabin? You can get cleaned up there if you want.”
I waved for her to follow and started back. Titus sniffed her until we started moving then sneezed. It could’ve been the moss and whatever else lingered in that tunnel. He stayed by my side all the way.
Once back, I looked at the door and the note was gone. A folded blanket and a pillow sat on the sofa.
“Oh, I’m sorry. The shower is up the stairs and in the only room with a door up there. You’ll see a king sized bed and to the right of that is the shower. Take as long as you like. Anything you might need is in there.”
She nodded and jogged upstairs. Titus followed her all the way up. It made me curious but not worried.
Yeah, every lecture I ever got in my thirty-year life span went through my head about strangers. There was something about this woman though. She didn’t feel threatening. Not a good thing, no, but she didn’t give me any sign that she had malicious intent.
Titus was curious about her and she didn’t say or react in a negative way with his presence. He always growled and stayed low as he watched Ashley but didn’t do that with Sanne. I took that as a good sign.
Dad always told me to trust my gut and my gut told me she was OK.
I looked in the fridge to see what kind of food got dropped off. Mom’s famous mac and cheese casserole, four BLTs, five red apples, two oranges, a ready made salad, and strawberry Jell-O.
The casserole and other stuff we could have later. I went with the BLTs and apples. Sure enough, we had a bag of tortilla chips in the cupboard. Bottled water from the fridge and we were set for lunch.
She stood in the doorway. “Thank you for letting me get cleaned up. I scraped my chin though. It stung but it will heal. What are you doing up here?” She laughed.
“Oh. You’re welcome.” I looked at her chin and it did get scraped. The moss didn’t provide a soft landing. There was a first aid kit in the bathroom but maybe she didn’t feel she needed it. “As for what I’m doing here, I’m enjoying a bit of a vacation.”
“Yeah. I know. Spring break and I choose to come here for a vacation. It worked out though I think. There usually isn’t too many people up here during this time. If you go about ten more miles down the road, there’s where you might find everybody. It’s an entire recreation area with hiking, fishing, rafting, and staying in log cabins and such. No hunting though. It’s an animal preserve”
She nodded. “Do you know where I might find a place that would people that dealt with… strange things?”
That got my attention. “Strange things? That’s a pretty vague description.”
“I am not sure how to describe, and seeing as how this isn’t my home, you hold the advantage over me.”
I got it. I didn’t like what she implied, but like she hinted at, she was the stranger. “We have a lot of different people here. Some that work in the typical nine to five jobs. Some in the not so typical nine to five jobs. Then there’s everybody else that lingers on the borderline between a normal job and the jobs that require a bit imagination to understand.” That was about as vague.
She smiled and laughed. “How about if I just ask if you know anyone that deals with something that changes forms?”
We made progress. I noticed her shifting eyes to the table. I forgot about the food. I shook my head as I pulled out the chair.
We sat across from each other. The light gave her hair a sort of orange glow.
I bit into the sandwich, and like I expected, there was cheese in it. As for the question, “I don’t know if anyone studies that. Why do you ask?”
She put her sandwich down. “Well… uh… this is a different world than mine. You’re the only one here.” She cleared her throat. “My mate is a lycanthrope.”
“Lycanthrope? What’s a lycanthrope?”
“The most basic meaning is that they are werewolves and I need to know of any weakness they may have. Not because I want to kill my mate but because there is something far deadlier that we have been fighting against.”
Huh. “If we were in the city I could help you more. About the only thing that may come to mind would be guns, knives, arrows, poisons, a sudden beheading.”
She nodded. “Wolfsbane repels them when in wolf form. The weapons must be made out of silver and the hunter must be able to use them at a moments notice while the hunted is in human form. However, this new breed is impenetrable and does not transform. Almost impossible to kill unless you can get close enough to sever their head.”
I nodded. That almost made them impossible. There had to be a weakness. Every animal had one.
“I was hoping that while I was here, I would find an answer.” She looked up at me and tilted her head. Almost like Titus when he wanted something.
“I’m sorry. I just don’t know. Unless you dump a jar of fleas on them to distract them I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
Her head straightened up and she smiled. “Thank you. That might not be such a bad idea. Just enough of a distraction. Thank you. We had forgotten about that I think. Everything needs food including parasites.”
We finished our meal and she waited by the door. Nathan barged in.
He nodded towards her. “Guess who I had the pleasure of picking up?”
I groaned and noted his sarcasm. They hated each other form the get go. “Leave her out there. Maybe she’ll run when she sees a rabbit or something.”
“Titus?” Nathan smiled.
I shook my head. “Chances are she’ll call animal control. Then what?”
“I got connections. Titus. Here boy.”
He appeared from somewhere and stood in front of Nathan. He opened the door and Titus growled from the doorway.
Ashley screamed so loud, the next thing I knew, birds squawked in return. I got to the doorway to see flocks of them fly up in to the air. As for Ashley, her so-called personal suitcase fell apart when she tried to run. I couldn’t stop laughing.
I grabbed Titus and pulled him inside. Nathan left to get him a liver treat. I closed the door and tried to regain my composure. “I am so sorry. Just someone I found out was not meant to be.”
She smiled. “I understand. Sometimes princesses are in their own class and cannot look passed their own beauty.”
“OK. So now where were we?”
“You gave me an idea. It will be hard but not difficult to gather those parasites. First though, I must return to the tunnel.”
“Do you know where you’re going?”
“If I go in wouldn’t it lead me straight back where I came from?”
I shrugged. I had no idea.
“I will enter running and hope I end up back home. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself. It’s that this is not my home.”
“I understand. That won’t guarantee you would end up where you came from.”
“I understand. It is the only chance I have. The only chance we have.”
“What’s going on?” Nathan stood to the side of us while he scratched Titus’ ear.
“Uh. Nate. Uhm… I’ll be back?”
“I hope so. If you don’t, you know what I can do.”
“Yeah. I know. Just be patient. I don’t know how long this will take.”
He nodded and opened the door. “I reserve the right to call Dad.”
I laughed. “Do you remember how far you’ll have to go in order to get to a phone that will reach the city?”
“I reserve the right.”
We both laughed. “OK. All right. Fine. Like I said, it may take time.”
“Roger dodger.” He saluted.
I shook my head as I left. The birds seemed to find their way back. Not only did I hear them, I saw a few of them as well.
We must’ve been a couple of feet from the tunnel with it in plain view when I heard Ashley whine and whimper. “There she is officer. Her mean dog ripped me apart and tore open my suitcase.”
The officer didn’t look at her instead looked at me with one raised eyebrow.
I pointed to Titus as he lay next to the tunnel. The officer looked back at Ashley. “Ma’am, unless you have proof that can’t be disputed like a picture or witness to the attack, there’s nothing I can do.”
“Uh huh. I got a witness. I got a witness right there. That blonde thing in front of the tunnel.”
“Blonde thing? Excuse me ma’am. My name is Sanne and I am not a thing. I am—”
I put my hand on her shoulder and shook my head. It would take ages for Ashley to understand, in the meanwhile, the entire universe would know of her existence.
“I did not witness the canine behave in such a manner as you have explained to the authority.”
“See? Told you that flea bag did it. She even said so.”
How did I even put up with this woman? “Officer, even if he did bite her he has had all of his shots.”
“I have received no evidence to say that dog attacked someone. I will leave now. Good day.” He nodded and left.
“Ashley, what are you doing? Do you even know? Or are you just being a pain?”
She smiled. “I like being a pain and causing trouble. It’s fun.”
Oh God, strike a lightening bolt on me so I can die. I looked at Sanne and she stood in front of the entrance.
“You reminded me of something very basic and I thank you for it.” Sanne backed up a few steps and re-entered the tunnel running. A flash of light and she didn’t come back.
“I will sue you for a million dollars plus and there isn’t a thing you can do to stop me. Oh and, I will find a way to get rid of that flea bag.”
“God, please forgive me for what I am about to do.” I moved so Ashley had no choice but to stand in front of the tunnel. I pushed her in and a flash of light later she too disappeared.
“Titus. Come here, boy. Time to go home.”