“What the hell are you doing just standing there in the dark?” I asked sharply.
“I’m a wolf, I don’t always need the lights on. Besides, I thought I’d better keep an eye on you in case you decide to sneak out again.”
“Are you really going to blame me for that after everything you’ve put me through?”
“I’m not making out like we’ve done everything right, but what you did to Jamie wasn’t cool. He’s just a kid, this is all new to him, and you played with his emotions.”
“Don’t look at me. What about when I was in the basement? Did you agree with Jackson who wanted to try and pressure Jamie into doing something he wasn’t comfortable with? What was that anyway?”
I could tell from his expression that I had hit a sore spot.
“I have spoken with Jackson about it. He has some…antiquated motivational techniques. But I care about my little brother and I don’t want to see any harm come to him. I’m not going to let that happen again,” he said brusquely.
“So what, you’re going to keep tabs on me the whole time?”
“If I have to. Millie, you know how important this is to us. If you’re going to stay here then I want to know that you’re serious about this. If you’re doubting yourself then you might as well leave now so we can find someone who actually wants to be here.”
“I thought you were supposed to be the easygoing one,” I muttered. Logan looked at me askance.
“You know, I used to be. I never used to have a care in the world. I thought that everything was going to work out for the best and all I had to do was meet life with a friendly attitude and nothing would go wrong. Jackson had the whole brooding leader thing figured out, and Jamie was the studious one, so I thought I’d be the fun one. And, for the most part, it worked out fine. I enjoyed life, had my fun, didn’t think too much of the future because what was the
point of worrying? Everything was going to turn out fine, and then the attack by Ishmael happened. Did Jackson tell you where I was?”
“No, he didn’t.”
“I was in the arms of a woman. I’d turned away from what was going on outside, shut myself away from the world and closed myself off in a little hut of paradise. I knew my parents were disappointed that I wasn’t doing anything greater with my life, but there wasn’t really anything more I could do. And then I felt the ground rumble and I heard Ishmael and his army storm forward. I heard the cries of people as they died. The woman I was with clung to me in fear and suddenly life didn’t seem so fun anymore. I rose and stepped outside, ready to meet the challenge, ready to defend my home and my family, ready to play the role of the hero, but I saw carnage outside and before I could even shift I had two wolves on me, tearing me down, snapping at me with their jaws. I felt their hot breath against my skin. I writhed and struggled to stay away from them but they soon had me pinned down, and it was only a matter of time. That’s when Jackson and Jamie came to me. They ran up and rammed the wolves off of me, sending them flying. They pulled me up and we looked around. The camp was a mess. Ishmael had swarmed over everything and torn it apart. Bodies lay on the ground, the smell of blood filled the air, and we knew we’d lost. And I would have lost my own life if it hadn’t been for my brothers.
I owe them my life, and that’s not a vow I take lightly. I realized that it wasn’t really any good me being the fun one. It didn’t help anyone. It couldn’t even save the woman I was with, and sure I can crack a joke here and there, but life isn’t the same anymore. It’s not like I can just let everything go and pretend that it’s alright. Something like this has to change you, it has to, otherwise it’s as though it never happened at all, and that’s not fair to the people who lost their lives. So I’m sorry if I’m not as you expected, but I’m sure you can see why.”
I felt the pain in his voice and my heart went out to him. He was struggling with his identity. He had failed to protect his people and he had almost died. Now, he was struggling to find his place in the world, still struggling to find the person he was supposed to be.
“I can’t pretend to know exactly what that’s like, but I do know what it’s like to struggle to know yourself. Honestly I’ve been wondering who I really am inside because I’ve played so many roles over the years. Since I’ve been by myself I haven’t had anyone to remind me who I really am, and different people want different things. Sometimes it’s easy to slip into another role, to become another person for a night or two, and by the end of it I’ve been so many people I’m not sure who I am anymore, but then I always remember the important things, the things that informed my development. Believe me, sometimes I didn’t. I remember my childhood, I remember the pain and the isolation, I remember all the times I felt so alone in the world, like I didn’t matter, and I remember the way I used to dream about being someone else.
My point is Logan that I don’t think we ever truly lose who we are. There are certain fundamental things about us that we just can’t lose. Sometimes that’s not for the best either, but it means that we always return to our roots, even if we’re shaken. You’re the same person you’ve always been except you’ve lost a great deal, and that means you’ve been shaken too, but in time you’ll be the same person you’ve always been, just that maybe you’ll be a little wiser. There’s no need to be hard on yourself though. I think Jackson and Jamie are going to need you to be the fun one because they’re going to need to see the light in life, and you’re the one that can provide it.”
Logan had a thoughtful look on his face as he pondered my words. “I guess maybe you’re right, although I don’t feel like that person now. I suppose it could take time. I guess it’s not easy living here either, always wondering if Ishmael is going to show up.”
“Do you think you can fight him off if he does?”
Logan sighed uncertainly. “Maybe, if we see him coming and he doesn’t bring all his soldiers, but given what he did to our home it’s unlikely.”
“I can’t believe he’d really be so determined to carry on an old blood feud,” I said, shaking my head.
“That’s just the way some wolves are. It’s difficult for them to forget. If he does though, you need to leave and go somewhere else. It won’t be safe for you and you don’t deserve to be a part of this. We’ll distract him so that you can run.”
“Okay,” I said, hoping that it wouldn’t come to that.
“I think you should go and talk to Jamie now,” he said. I’d been somewhat dreading this since I had never intended to return after I left. It was one thing to make a mistake and feel guilty about it, but quite another to face up to that mistake. I nodded somberly and left him to his own devices, knowing that I had to face Jamie sooner or later, so it might as well be sooner. The more I got to know each of the brothers the more affinity I felt towards them. Even though in many ways we were different I was beginning to see similarities between us, and in some ways I thought they might be the only people in the world to truly understand me.
It was a strange thought for me to have found companionship with people who had kidnapped me, but as I learned more about their plight I could understand why they did it, and although I didn’t agree with them I could understand their desperation, and they had made efforts to be better people. My life was empty, and I felt as though I might as well fill it with these wolves, learning about their culture; it was truly fascinating, and yet I was still undecided whether I could be the mother to the new generation. The very fact that I was here showed that they all believed I could be that person, and perhaps I should have listened to that opinion rather than my own doubts, for the wolves were more perceptive than I was, but I still wasn’t ready to commit to that, and while I didn’t want to waste their time I hadn’t ruled it out either.
I found Jamie standing on the porch, looking out to the horizon. The stars were still twinkling and the moon was beautiful in the sky, shining like a silver coin. In the distance the crests of hills rose, and the treetops hid the landscape from view. Beyond this place was the entire world, filled with people who had their own problems and their own agendas, people who were struggling with life, people who were searching for happiness. While I was standing there, removed from that world, it was easy to feel content and happy in myself. An odd feeling of calm filled my heart as I was away from the Rainbow Bar, and I wondered if all this time it had just been a toxic environment that had influenced my outlook on the world and kept me captive.
Sometimes we didn’t recognize the prisons that held us. This cabin had been a prison only a short time ago and now it didn’t feel like that at all. I had willingly spent my time at the Rainbow Bar, but by spending time there I was accepting a certain standard of living, one that wasn’t going to give me any opportunity for growth. I kept telling myself that I wanted to change, but I never did because I was so convinced that the only place I fit in was the Rainbow Bar. Now that I was away I saw that there were other options for me, that I didn’t just have to stay in that place and make the same mistakes over and over again. All it had taken was a short break and I wished I had done so earlier, and I knew that I would never have done so if the wolves hadn’t forced me out here and taken me captive. What they had done was a sin, a crime, but it had also shown me that I could have a life outside of what I knew.
I slowly walked up to Jamie and placed my hand on his arm. He didn’t turn around to face me, but kept gazing out towards the night sky. I stood beside him and let the silence settle between us for a few moments until I felt the time was right to speak.