By J. J. Keeling
He couldn’t understand why she had taken the risk. She knew, but it was as if she ignored the facts. He had only wanted to protect her. That had been his only wish since before they were introduced. He remembered asking his friend to introduce them. Things didn’t go according to plan after that. She wound up dating the friend. Maybe if he’d been a little more engaging with her. Maybe if he’d been a little more subtle. By the time she broke up with the friend, he was dating someone else. He still wanted her, but he wanted to do right by this girl he had come to care for. But the girl didn’t understand. She didn’t believe. She could never understand like her. But why didn’t she listen? Why did she insist on being brave?
She had seen him in a state that no other had ever seen. Not seen and lived. She knew what he was. She knew what he was capable of. She told him she wasn’t afraid. She told him that she had no fear of him. Many times he had sought to protect her from the world, drunken assholes who wanted a piece or were about to run her over in the street. Even friends who took advantage of her, he tried to protect her from them as well. All he wanted was to preserve her. She seemed to understand him like no one else could. From the moment he laid eyes on her, he wanted her to be the one. Every time he walked into the room, he could see her eyes shine, her demeanor change. She knew what she was toying with, didn’t she? She knew he loved her, even at times when he rightfully should have put those feelings aside. She knew. Why did she insist on playing with fire?
Maybe it was God’s way of showing him how truly accursed he was. To have him love one who understood him, knew what he was, didn’t care, and then take her away. She had said that if he would hurt her, she wouldn’t want to live, for her trust in him was so great that if he went out of control and was capable of hurting her, then she would not have any reason to believe in love. She trusted in love to protect her. Love. What a stupid chemical reaction. It screws up all the chemicals in the brain. And the withdrawals are worse than any drug he’d ever taken. Was this some sort of cruel cosmic joke? Were the powers that be having a good laugh at his expense now? He tried to warn her that love wasn’t enough to keep her safe. When he’s changed, he sometimes loses himself. He wished now that he could change and never change back. He felt less remorse that way. The remorse would probably kill him. He wished he could die easily. Like she did.
The cops had claimed it was a freak attack by a pack of feral dogs. They didn’t realize it was only one, a really big one. They wouldn’t have believed him if he’d told them. No, it was my fault. I killed her. I turned into a big hulking wolf man thing and gnawed on her neck. Then I ripped her open like a Christmas turkey and gutted her. I didn’t mean to, really. I was just pissed off and she kept insisting that she was able to calm me down. She trusted me and I let her down. What was the next step? He wasn’t even a suspect. If he had been, if they’d thought that the canine DNA they found could have come from a man, would they have arrested him? Would they have charged him with murder? Maybe that would have been better. At least he would have been able to atone for his crime. Instead, he had everyone’s sympathy. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear what happened. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Didn’t they know that he didn’t deserve their condolences? Of course not. How could they? They didn’t believe, those who had heard the rumors. They just thought he was a weird wild guy. A shaman who took a little too much peyote. A little bit crazy from all the weirdness in his life, his time in the gulf, living under the thumb of his stepfather. Well, at least he would give him a royal ass chewing like he deserved. No, not like he deserved. Much, much less than that. Nothing could be enough. Nothing short of joining her. He remembered as the box went down how he had wanted to jump in there and be with her, go with her on her journey to the other side and offer some sort of apology when he got there. But he couldn’t do that. He had others to think of. Another girl to take care of. Would she ever understand what took her stepmother away? Would he let her down, too? Would she know when to run?