I put the plate on the top of the fence, balanced precariously, ad pulled myself up and over a little further down so I wouldn’t knock it off. My noisy climbing had not been acknowledged by the creature lying in a pitiful huddle against the foot of the fence. I took the plate and set it on the leafy ground, quickly forgotten. She was larger than a dog, I guessed her head would reach my elbow when she was on her paws.
She had pale sandy fur, silvery in the light of the moon, which was out in full force now. It made the small forest look eerily ethereal, silver trees lit by shafts of slanting white beams. The wolf started and was on its paws in the same second as waking, having smelled my presence.
I could see it was truly Willow because of the eyes. They were black, not her human green colour, but the way they widened and the look in them were familiar.
The wolf gave me a brief look and shot into the trees. I couldn’t think of it as her yet. I turned slowly to look at where it had disappeared, and barely half a minute later Willow walked towards me from the exact same spot. She was wearing a pair of jeans with tattered hems and muddy knees, and a black plain t-shirt which blended into the gloom of the twilight easily. Her feet wee bare, and I winced at how the icy hard ground must feel, but she carried a pair of beaten trainers in her hand. To my surprise, her face looked angry.
“Ruby!” she snarled, and I blinked. What did I do? Didn’t she like chicken or something? Or was she upset that I had disturbed her nap?
“What are you doing out of the house?” she demanded as she pulled the shoes onto her bare feet one at a time, keeping her eyes on me. I looked down at the plate resting on the folded blanket and she sighed and rolled her eyes. “I’m fine, my coat keeps me warm. I don’t need them.”
But I saw her eyes flicker hungrily to the chicken. I smiled and offered her the plate. She put it back down impatiently, saying, “Later. I’m sorry I dropped the ball on my watch, okay. But you can’t come out at night, Ruby. Not in the dark. You have to get inside now.”
“It’s when they prefer to operate,” she hissed through her teeth, her hands balled into fists. “There are no suspicious eyes at night.”
I understood at once and a little shiver ran through me but it might just have been the cold, which was numbing my hands and face.
“You think T-”
“Vampire!” she suddenly spit through her teeth, her nostrils flared as she glared over my shoulder. I could see nothing but moonlight in the trees.
“One of them, coming this way.”
She edged in front of me, glancing at the trees where she had disappeared before and shaking her head.
“I don’t have time to change back,” she said in a resigned voice. I knew she couldn’t fight much better than me in human form.
“Get out of here, run!” I shoved her in the back and she growled without turning her head. I knew she wouldn’t move. “Do you know who it is?”
“No, I can’t tell. They’re not close enough for me to catch a proper scent…”
Okay, then. I took a steadying breath. Was it a friend or an enemy?
I focused my eyes through the dimness and finally saw what Willow had caught the scent of. Something pale moving at a steady smooth pace inconceivably in our direction.