2.24. Bitten, Not Born
“No, no, no, no!” Fauna giggles as she shrieks, “wet!” She punctuates her protest with a cackle.
“Is it too cold?” Dominic swings Fauna back in forth in the water, “do you want to go back to the beach?”
“No! Stay here!” She kicks up a spray of water.
Dominic glances up at Lark, looking for some sort of guidance.
Lark’s tired response is filtered through a smile. “It’s a game, Dom. Like everything else. Complaining is half the fun.”
It’s leisure day--the hottest on record--and the Bees have swarmed the beach. Lark and Dominic are trapped in an endless game with the twins, while the older children search elsewhere for relief from the heat.
Bjorn and Fenrir have settled on swimming. “Ugh,” Bjorn protests theatrically, “it smells like wet dog out here.”
Fenrir frowns, but knows better than to take the bait. “I bet I can make it further from the shore than you,” he calls after his older brother.
Bjorn ignores him. “Where’s Raven?”
Far away, it seems, well beyond the boundary that had been set by the adults. Raven--excited by Dominic’s permission to windsurf--has decided that rules don’t apply when adventure awaits.
The moon, far off on the horizon, is her target. It peeks above the waterline, giving the impression that it is floating up from the sea. The wind carries her forward, but she’ll never reach it, that place that feels like it should be home.
Raven finally makes her way to the last of the buoys, and her heart begins to beat a little faster. She drops the sail and the board glides to a rocking halt. She slips off the board with no hesitation, but she isn’t prepared for how cold the water is.
She’s a speck. There are things smaller than her, yes. But there is so much more that is bigger: the ocean, the moon, the sky, the planets, solar system, galaxy, universe. All infinitely expanding to incomprehensible sizes at immeasurable rates, while she’ll only reach a size modestly larger than what she is right now. But that’s not what she thinks about. Instead, she meditates on the shark that is undoubtedly lurking below her, waiting to strike.
Raven dares it to.
While the days are long, night falls quickly, bringing with it a chill more characteristic of Aurora Skies. When it becomes too dark to swim, the family congregates near a bonfire that Dominic sets. Bjorn and Fenrir toss a frisbee back and forth.
“Can you catch it with your mouth?” Bjorn taunts before throwing the frisbee.
Fenrir frowns as he catches it. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Like Honey does. I mean, that’s how dogs catch them, right?”
Fenrir narrows his eyes and tosses the frisbee back.
“Mo-ooom!” Bjorn protests.
Lark, her attention focused on the twins at play, ignores her son’s whining.
There it is again. It happens constantly now: Fauna grabs a toy, turns it over carefully in her chubby hands, and then it disappears only to return seconds later.
When Lark was a child, her father tried to teach her how to play the piano. He had the lofty goal of ensuring each of his children was competent with at least one instrument. He didn’t factor Lark’s clumsiness and poor memory into his lessons. So all she recalls about that time is her dad, frustrated, setting an old wooden metronome while trying to help her reach some semblance of a melody.
The metronome rings in her ears as she counts out the beats of Fauna’s ritual: one, two, poof. One, two, poof. One, two, poof. It’s a waltz, she realizes.
“Simoleon for your thoughts,” Dominic says as he sits down on the towel next to her.
Lark looks at him and blinks, the cadence of the waltz still resonating. “Fauna is going to be okay, right?”
“Of course. What is this about?”
“Sometimes,” she sits up as she thinks about what she’s going to say next, “I think Bjorn and Flora have it the easiest.”
Dominic tilts his head and furrows his brows, but says nothing.
Lark ignores his prodding look and reaches for her phone. No new notifications.
“Waiting on something?”
“I texted Nikolas this morning and he hasn’t responded.”
Dominic’s jaw clenches. “That bothers you?”
“He didn’t drop off Fenrir last night. It was just Karl and his girls. Karl said something about Nikolas going for a run. I texted him a question about Fen and he hasn’t responded. It’s--just not like him, I guess.”
He flutters his eyes, a gesture that she knows is his attempt to stifle an eyeroll. “Are you jealous?” She can’t help but grin.
“No,” he says too quickly, “I mean--yes. A little. I’m unsure as to why you’re waiting in anticipation for a text. From him.”
“I have a bad feeling. That’s all.”
“Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand,” Dominic inhales through his nose, “that he will never not be a part of our lives.”
“My fault for getting knocked up twice. Or yours for not killing him when you wanted to.”
Dominic’s nose wrinkles. “I never intended to kill him, Lark.”
“Hmm. Maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part,” she flashes a mischievous smile. “C’mon,” she stands up and reaches her hands out to him, “it’s almost time for the fireworks.”
Across town, a single light is on in the tiny apartment above Maeve’s Magic Box.
Inside, on a faded rose couch, Nikolas lays sleeping a dreamless sleep.
And then he’s not. Consciousness comes suddenly but wholly, his wits intact saved for a gap in his memory from the night before. He surveys the room: chipped pink walls, decorated with ornate paintings. Dim candlelight casts haunting shadows from the musty furniture. The room is covered in dust, but through it all, Nikolas can smell her.
At a small table sits the redhead. A book is open in front of her, but she doesn’t seem to be reading it. Nikolas slowly sits up, watching her. A minute or two pass, her eyes moving only to blink, and then he clears his throat.
She looks up, her back stiffening. “You’re awake.”
“Apparently,” his voice is scratchy, “Where am I?”
“My apartment,” she says through a yawn, “you’ve been asleep for awhile. I was about to give up on you waking up, and just go to bed myself. But then I thought, ‘Sadie, you don’t know this guy. He could be a real dog, you know?’ Thanks for not attacking me again, by the way. I don’t think my heart could take another round. You nearly scared me half to death.”
“How…” he trails off. His memories are always a little fuzzy the day after a full moon, but he can hardly remember anything from the previous night.
“You don’t remember last night?” She stands up from the table and makes a few cautious steps towards him, “You were being terribly forward.”
“No. I remember smelling something. Your scent--I, um, remember following a trail, and then nothing.”
“Sunlight charm,” she grins, “I learned it to protect myself from vampires, but it works pretty well against other supernatural critters as well. But I should have known better than to go out on the full moon by myself. Especially since I had just found out there are some wolves on the island. I mean, what a surprise, right? Anyway, that knocked you dead out and back to your human self.” A drawl--which Nikolas can’t seem to place--becomes especially pronounced in her last few words.
“You’re not from here.”
“You caught me,” she holds up her hands, “I’m from Riverview.”
“Never heard of it.”
“No one has,” she chuckles, “but it’s fun to be here. There’re some mages in Riverview, but no werewolves. I’ve always wanted to meet one.”
“So happy I could help,” Nikolas grumbles, “how did I end up here?” He glances up and down. She’s voloptous but petite--no indication that she’s capable of moving a musclehead upstairs unaided.
“Magic,” she winks.
“Of course. Well, I’m sorry if I scared you,” he leans forward, “Sadie, you said?”
“That’s right. Sadie Vines. Nice to meet you, Nikolas.”
He stiffens. “How did you know my name?”
“Your driver’s license. I checked your wallet and emailed myself your name and address with the subject ‘Police: In Case You Find Me Dead.’ I didn’t know if you were a murderer or not, you know.”
Her paranoia hangs in the air for a moment, it’s only competition a buzzing housefly. And then a guffaw from Nikolas breaks the silence. “Really? You emailed yourself because you thought I was going to kill you?”
“Well, I didn’t think you were going to kill me. I just registered it as a possibility, you know? I’ve never met a werewolf, Nikolas. I don’t know if they’re the murdering type.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Murdering type? So do you always start conversations with accusations of intended homicide?”
She clenches her jaw. “Are you always so condescending?”
“Only when someone deserves it.”
Her cheeks grow pink and she bites her lower lip. “Deserves it? All I’m saying is I don’t know if werewolves are dangerous when they’re transformed.”
“Sorry you don’t have enough info to racially profile, but I hope you do realize how ridiculous you sound right now.”
“You wanna talk about ridiculous? You came sprinting after me last night, half wet from Maker knows what, sniffing at me like an unneutered dog. And when I told you to back off, you snarled at me. And now you’re treating me like I’m some kind of paranoid idiot for having a pinch of caution about trying to help you,” she holds up her hand when he moves to interrupt her, “yes, help you. Do you have any idea what happens to werewolves in other sectors? There are hunters out there, and I couldn’t just leave you lying on the street so some random person could skin you for that fancy pelt. And I couldn’t let you run around the island unchecked.”
“I don’t need your help, and I definitely don’t need a babysitter.”
“No, what you need is some common sense.”
“I’d say the same about you--you’re the one going around shooting off magical roofies. How long was I out? Twenty hours? What kind of effect does that have on a person?”
“And have you ever looked in the mirror when your transformed, mister? You hardly looked like a person--you were slobbering,” she shivers as her face softens from anger to fear, “And those teeth. You realize I’m alone here? I’ve never lived alone, and now I’m by myself in a place I don’t know with unfriendly people and some werewolf that thought I was a snack. Or would acknowledging that cost you your moral high ground?”
Nikolas stomach wrenches. He leans back in his seat and sighs “I’ve been told before I’m--I can be frightening.”
Sadie shoots him a haughty look as she crosses her arms across her chest. “That’s putting it mildly. Anyway, you’re awake now, and I’ve found a spell for a ward in that book,” she gestures to the table, “so if you decide to never come back here, that’s fine by me.” She blinks, and a tear rolls down her cheek. She curses under her breath as she wipes it away.
“Wait. Please,” he takes a breath, “You’ll learn this about me--if you ever give me the time of day after this--that I need to apologize a lot. Like constantly. I just don’t like to be wrong. I’m sorry.” He had to brace himself to say those two words, but they came with a rush of pride. A year ago, he couldn’t have made himself say them to the woman he loved, much less a stranger.
She sits cautiously on the sofa, resting one leg under the other. “I don’t, either. But I don’t think I was wrong this time.”
“You weren’t,” he admits, “You said you’re new in town? Why’d you move to Aurora Skies of all places?”
“It’s different,” she sniffles, “pretty. Seemed like a good place to open my shop.”
“How’d you know there’s a pack here?”
“Oh, that,” she rolls her eyes, “I met another mage yesterday and figured it out. He came in to buy some wolfsbane. And his attitude! Ugh. I could just feel the arrogance rolling off of him.”
The corners of his mouth twitches. “Dominic?”
Her bright eyes widen. “You know him?”
“It’s a small island.”
“You’ll have to tell me the whole story one day.”
“You wouldn’t believe me it if I did.”
“And what about this,” Sadie reaches out and nearly touches the crescent shaped scars on his arm, “bitten, not born?”
“Yeah,” Nikolas scratches the back of his neck.
“I bet you have a lot of stories to tell,” she shifts closer to him. A sweet smell, akin to wild berries, floods his nose.
Unsure of how to respond, Nikolas simply nods. Sadie, red creeping over her cheeks, averts her gaze. It’s a short lived attempt at concealing her wants, and their gaze meets again.
There’s a precipitous moment before a couple’s first kiss, the instant when the small act of leaning forward and brushing lips feels like it could easily be a crime. But in this moment--with no verbal confirmation or clumsy request--the couple connects.
In fewer than twenty-four hours, they went from meeting in a manner evocative to the opening scene of a horror movie, to a meet cute-esque argument, to this. The thought tickles Nikolas, but his observations fade and are quickly replaced.
Across the island, fireworks burst into the air. They thunder and crackle, and then the lights and sounds dim.
Sorry for the length between updates. Some changes at work made my semester particularly busy, then personal stuff intervened in the early summer.
I’ve also decided to start working on some non-sims writing projects in earnest. I read through a bunch of old chapters, and I want to thank you for how kind you all have been, even when I can’t seem to make up my mind about plot threads. Re-reading your old comments is really helping motivate me.