Page 1 of Wolf's Mate

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I’ve just finished putting some red nail polish on my toes, when I hear a knock on the door. I don’t even lift my head. I can guess who it is by the sound of the voice. Also, this house is huge enough to accommodate five families, but unfortunately, only one, or perhaps, half of one, lives here.

“Come in!” I shout, blowing softly at my reddened nails.

I know no one will be seeing them, but that’s not my concern right now. I’m mostly doing them so I can take focus from other, much more important things that are happening to me right now, and the red nails are among the few things I can control.

“Are you decent, sweetheart?”

I see my father covering his eyes with the palm of his hand, as he steps in the doorway. I chuckle to myself. He’s like a vampire, who can only come in if you invite him. Otherwise, his feast of blood might not be open for the night.

“Yes, I’m decent, dad. Come in,” I repeat.

He uncovers his eyes and walks in. When he talks like this, he makes me feel like I’m still in high school. But, I guess daughters always remain little girls in the eyes of their parents. Especially their fathers.

I glance up only a little, as he keeps walking over to the bed, a little ceremoniously. As always, his hand brushes the photo frame on the nightstand to my bed, the one that is encasing the loving face of my late mother, his late wife. It’s been ten years already, and it’s not true what they say. Time doesn't make it better. The wound is still as fresh as it was ten years ago, when we got a call from the hospital that she was in a car accident. It was a hit and run. Whoever did it, didn’t even stop to check up on her. They just drove away, leaving her there alone, in pain, on the road.

I shudder at the thought, like I always do. I wonder if she called out to me, to dad. What were her last words, her last thoughts? And, most importantly, how come no one helped her? It still hurts, and I’ll never get used to the lack of her presence, but eventually, you realize you need to move on, even if everything reminds you of that pain. You just have to keep going, despite everything. If pain is all you see, you just become that pain. You incorporate it into your existence, into your very essence. That is how you continue.

My dad sits on the bed next to me. He’s already dressed to the nines. I see he’s wearing the Dormeuil Vanquish II suit, which he recently got on some auction. He’s been spending more money on frivolous things lately, but what are you supposed to do when you’re a widower, but you’re still not old enough to kick the bucket? I remember he mentioned that this particular suit cost him $95,319, and the reason why it’s so expensive is simple. It’s made of five of the world’s most pricey and rarest fabrics: royal Qivuik, Ambassador, Dorsilk, Kirgzy White, and Fifteen Point Eight. The mayor is throwing a gala tonight, and anyone who is anyone is invited. No wonder he wants to wear it for the occasion.

“That looks very nice on you, dad.”

“You think so?” he wonders, straightening out his shoulders a little.

I see it’s been immaculately pressed, and smells of lily in the valley. Gina probably had the honors of taking it to that special dry cleaning place, over in Woodlington. Dad only trusts those guys with his expensive suits. So did mom.

“Are you sure I can’t convince you to change your mind and come with me?” he asks, seeing I’m not replying.

“Seriously, dad. Like, more than 90% of people there will be old. And, by old I mean older than you.”

“Thanks for that,” we both chuckle. “Yeah, I guess it’s just one of those fundraisers that are fun only for those who actually get the money in the end.”

“I thought you were giving money this time.”

“Eh, with me it’s always a little bit of both,” he winks at me.

His hair has gotten grey, and the lines on his face are deeply set. And, it’s gotten worse in the last five years. Still, he’s wearing his contacts now, instead of glasses. Mom tried to convince him to switch for ages, and he only listened to her when she was gone.

“Will it be a quiet night at home for you?” he asks.

Sometimes, I mind it. Because, I’m not a little girl anymore. No matter what he thinks. But, at the same time, I understand. I’m all he’s got left. Just me, and a shitload of money that is piling up in some Swiss bank account, that no one will really get to spend apart from me and him. And, it looks like neither of us is all that eager for that luxury.

“You’re all packed, I see.”

He looks around and notices the suitcases in the corner. I sigh. I know he wants me to stay here. He feels like this is the only place where I will be 100% safe. Or maybe, that’s only because he’ll be able to keep an eye on me almost all the time. Fathers and daughters, I guess. He always wants to be my protector.

But, I keep telling him that this is how life goes. Kids move out. This is good. I need my own space. I’m starting a new job as a personal assistant to Mrs. Lindbergh, the lady who owns Modern Fashion magazine. He knows that job is a dream come true, and it was hard for him not to interfere. All he needed to do was make one phone call and the job would be mine. That’s the good thing about being the daughter of a multi-millionaire.

But, that’s also the bad thing. You never know if you got something because you deserved it, or just because someone wa

nts something from you. It’s a world of favors. A world of I scratch your back and you scratch mine. A world where you need to be wary of what others tell you to your face, because they might be saying the exact opposite behind your back.

I guess my mother taught me differently. She never came from money, and she had to work hard for what she had. Even when she and dad hit it big, she never forgot where she came from. That takes a lot of character, and she had it. She told me to always do my best and rely on my own resources. Money will only get you so far. But, your own skills can take you all the way, wherever you want to end up.

So, I made him promise not to interfere, and as far as I know, he didn’t. I still got the job, but now, I can be proud about it.

“Yup, all packed,” I smile. His smile is a little sour. “Don’t be sad.” I pinch his cheek. “Not like I'll be moving away to another continent.”

“I don’t think I’d be able to handle that,” he tells me, and I know he means it.

“That’s why I’m moving only a few streets down, silly. I need to spread my wings and fly out of the nest. It’s high time, don’t you think?”

I wrap my arms around him, not waiting for him to reply. He hugs me back, and we remain like that for a moment. His eyes are deep, pensive. I wonder what he’s thinking about. Is it the gala or something else?

“I’ll wrinkle your suit,” I pull back, making sure he still looks presentable.

“You’re the only one who’s allowed to do that, kiddo.”

“Have fun, tonight,” I wave as he heads to the door, then suddenly stops.

“How about we have breakfast at that little French bakery, before you start unloading tomorrow?” he suggests.

I will order a latte with a chocolate croissant. He will have bagels and black coffee. Mom always had something different. She liked to try out anything new that they baked. She was just like that.

“You mean the boulangerie?” I tried pronouncing it as mom would, and we both smiled at my unsuccessful attempt at it.

“Yes, that’s the one,” he nods.

“I’d like that,” I speak, and I feel my eyes water a little.

Seeing him like that, I want to tell him that I’m not moving, that I’d stay with him and nothing would change. I regress back into my childhood, back in the good old days when his arms were the safest place on earth, and no matter what happened, my mother’s voice would soothe me. In those days, everything would turn out alright eventually. Unfortunately, the present day wasn’t like that. It was occasionally fun, occasionally gloomy. But, you had to go on.

Despite that inner feeling, I stay where I am, for the time being. He nods, as if he expected me to say something else, then silently walks out of the door. The house is vast and empty, as usual.

I look at my bare feet. The nail polish is scraped in more than one place. But, I’m too lazy to fix that. I lie down on the bed, letting the softness of the mattress envelop me, like a pair of loving arms. I think about my new job, and how exciting it will be. My hopes are soaring.

I close my eyes, and drift off to sleep. I dream, but I rarely remember. Maybe, it’s for the better.

I don’t know this yet, but this will be the last time I’ll sleep in this bed. This will be the last time I feel safe…for a long time.