But, the Wolf
They found her, naked, curled into a protective ball – not quite the fetal position – nestled in between the great roots of a giant tree.
“We’re so glad we found you,” they said. They didn’t ask how she’d come to be there; they simply accepted her return. “Here, put this on.”
It was her cape, of course, the red one she hadn’t worn since childhood. (And she was quite obviously no longer a child.) She wanted to shred the thing, but conceding to the cold and their false modesty (for they were looking at her nude form, all of them) she wrapped it around her, at least enough that her soft, pink parts were hidden from the public eye.
“Were you miserable?” they demanded. “Alone with that creature?”
“No,” she said. “He was quite lovely, really.”
“But he swallowed you. The woodsman saw it.”
“No, he saw what he wanted to see. The wolf protected me from Grandmother’s dark beliefs and black magic.”
“But he had such big teeth, such demonic eyes – surely you were afraid?”
“No,” she said. “He made sure I was warm and dry and well fed. He made sure no danger approached me. My sleep was untroubled.”
She didn’t tell them that the wolf’s fur was softer than any of the mink coats the old women lusted after, winter after winter, but never dared to make or buy. She didn’t tell them that his thick tail would loop around her wrist when she was frightened, or that he would curl himself around her when the nights were freezing, or below.
She certainly didn’t tell him, that he wasn’t really a wolf at all, but a werewolf, in full control of both form and faculties.
And she absolutely didn’t tell them that it was possible she was carrying his child. Or children. Or pups. (Would they be pups? Would it matter if they were?)
She wanted to run back to his – well, lair wasn’t really the right word. Cave? Home? Den. Yes… den. Den connoted a safe and cozy feeling, and she had been both, and more.
“But the wolf,” she asked, her voice trembling because of her worry for him, “is he unharmed?”
“We couldn’t find him,” one of the hunters said. “It’s like he never existed.”
They took her to her mother’s home, where she found the woman much diminished. Her father had long since disappeared into the forest. Maybe he’d found a she-wolf companion – they said these things ran in families – but more likely, he’d found a bottle, and a river, and a rock, and would never been seen again.
She’d have liked to have words with him. About not telling her that his mother was a dark witch who wanted to lock her up til she was thirty. About not telling her that the forest creatures weren’t always dangerous. About not telling her to think first and slash out with her knife second.
She’d cut him. Not her father, but the wolf. She’d drawn his blood while he never drew hers. Well, not with a knife. But she’d been a virgin the first time he’d lain with her, and that kind of bloodstain was better earned.
A week passed, then a fortnight, then a month. On the day after the full moon, he came to her door in human form.
“I love your daughter,” he told her poor, insane mother. “I wish to marry her. She’s carrying my child.”
Her mother approved; the date was set. After the old woman was well asleep, he went to her bedroom.
“I love you,” he gave her the words he’d shared with her parent. “I’ve missed you.”
“But, the wolf?” she asked, her hand curving protectively around her belly.
His eyes flashed amber for a moment, then soft brown replaced them. “Oh, the wolf… he loves you too.”