--Chapter Six: Shadows
It was Saturday, September 30th and Michael and I were at Warky’s getting ice cream. It was a routine that would soon end with the seasonal closing of our favorite ice cream get-a-way, but we didn’t care that much.
It was awfully cold and extremely damp for September. I only had on a thin, long sleeved shirt, deep red and jeans and thin socks and my Chuck Taylor’s. Michael was better dressed. Thick sweater and his black Pembina Hawks jacket over black jeans.
The two of us were sitting in an awkward silence and staring off into space as if we were waiting for October to come over the hill.
“Ollie. It’s going to rain.” Michael’s tone was flat and sad.
I glanced at him. He seemed content with his milkshake, but was looking at me sourly. I looked away and up towards the sky, dark clouds loomed overhead towards the North. “That sucks.” I pouted and turned back to him slowly.
“I’ll walk you home.”
“How chivalrous of you.””
“Why thank you Ma’am.” A faux western accent mocked my comment.
“Oh Michael.” I giggled.
Together we walked away from the cold, green picnic table and sauntered across the quiet highway intersection and walked along the sidewalk on the opposite side of Rock’s.
Michael slung his arm around my shoulder as I shivered. He was awfully warm and I smiled and leaned against him. It was times like this that I wondered if I could ever date him.
I wonder if we would be that couple everyone knew was going to happen. I wonder how many girls would want to kill me.
“Great fun.” I said aloud. It was completely unintentional and Michael had heard me.
“What’s ‘Great fun’?”
“Go-karts.” I spat. It was the first thing that came to mind.
“Geeze Ollie, you don’t need to spray it.”
But I hadn’t, it was starting to rain. Tiny droplets marked the sidewalk beneath us as we approached the bridge by Dairy Queen.
We groaned in unison and made a bee-line for the park and a picnic shelter, to shield us from the now downpour. Michael had his coat over us and I was grateful for his hockey days.
It had gotten dark far too quickly and my stomach flipped violently as my nerves reacted. This scene was all too familiar and I froze on the cement road only a few feet from the shelter. My body slowly shut down, my mind was a constant re-run of that horrific nightmare. Michael turned to me, his expression alarmed.
From the trees around us we heard low growling and the snapping of twigs and the crunching of fallen leaves. Crimson eyes peered out at us from behind black fur that shagged around their faces, shiny white, drooling fangs curled below their jaws and bore in a grimace. They were like giant wolves, black and oily, long talons emerging from mud soaked paws. Thick muscled limbs protruded from broad bellies and large chests. They had ivory horns behind jagged ears and ridged shoulders.
Michael’s arms enveloped me, shielding me from the deformed creature. A scream caught in my throat, and I clutched at Michael praying silently to some deity to save us.
“Death by Deformed Wolves Escaped From Nuclear Testing Lab.”
The joke didn’t work and I felt Michael’s muscles tense and spread across his chest. It was as if he was determined to fight off the creatures, but I didn’t want him to move.
His eyes trailed down to me looking up at him, his jacket drooping over my head. There was fear plastered all over his face, but his eyes were dead, intensely empty. I shivered, fear shutting down my limbs, muscles, everything.
“I’m sorry Michael.” I whispered, slamming my face into his chest, damp from the rain. This is all my fault. I knew this was going to happen and now we’re going to die. I’m so sorry.
One of them lunged and I watched from the corner of my eye as it came. It was larger than I thought; it’s head almost the size of my upper body. It looked like it was laughing at us, mocking us.
“GET AWAY!” I managed to scream and the smirk disappeared. It stopped dead before us, ears perked and it snapped its teeth together viciously. Now I knew, it was toying with us. Didn’t your Mom ever tell you not to play with your food!
Michael’s arms tightened around me, squeezing my breath out and his balled up fists dug into my back, wrinkling my shirt. I heard his heart stop, his breathing accelerated and his head rests on mine.
“You’ll be okay Ollie. I promise.” He was breathless, just panting out the words. I knew what he was talking about, but I pinched my eyes shut, just wishing that it would go away. It felts like an eternity before I heard the snapping stop, and Michael’s body went soft and his head snapped straight up.
I could hear fighting, snarling, screaming. Is it in my head? When I opened my eyes there were two figures laced in a human versus creature battle. But many of the wolves were already down. The two humans moved noiselessly, as if they were dancing on carpet.
“Let’s go!” Michael cried, and he presses his hands against the small of my back and we were off running. I felt like I was flying, tears streaming from my eyes and I was clutching Michael’s jacket around me.
After two blocks of running we were on Parkhill, lost among fancy houses and kids playing in the rain.
“What the hell were those things?” Michael cursed, slowing to a walk and put his hands on his knees catching his breath.
I couldn’t speak; my voice was still back at the park trying to escape. I felt just horrible. I’d put Michael in danger this time, for a daydream that I couldn’t have possibly had known was about to happen, but yet it had. My whole world had almost come to a crashing halt, and if it hadn’t been for those two figures clad in black, there never would have been a shred of hope towards escaping.
“Ollie?” His arm tugged at the jacket I was holding, it was raining extremely hard now. “Ollie? You okay? You aren’t hurt, are you?”
“I thought all the scary stuff happen on Hallowe’en!” I said, my voice squeaking and fresh tears cascading down my flushed cheeks.
“Early, nothing new. I just – I don’t know – Should I call the cops?”
“Michael, I really don’t think they’d believe us.”
“Who knows. I’ve seen wolves in town before.”
“I’ve never seen a wolf that looked like that.”
“True. That was horrific. I thought we were going to die. I was ready to say my good-byes.”
Blinking, I felt feeling come back to my body, my heart restarted and I leaned against Michael. The cool rain hit me hard and tried to recall his words. “Were you going to … fight … them?”
“Well.” He was blushing, crimson painted cheeks beamed through the rain. “Maybe.”
“You’ll be okay Ollie, I promise.” I repeated his words back to him, worried that I’d almost seen him commit suicide.
His arm tightened around me and I could feel him laughing nervously. “Let’s just get to your house before we freeze.” His tone was flat, but it came out steadily. I was shaking however, and my clothes clung to me from the wetness.
Inside my house it was warm but hollow still.
“Your Mom’s not home?” Michael asked dripping in the foyer.
“No. She’s in Winnipeg with Sabrine.” I smirked and without a second though I shook out my hair, as if I were a wet dog.
“Now, do that in slow motion.” Michael teased.
I couldn’t resist, I swung my head back and forth slowly, dramatically, making non-seductive faces, and I was laughing. “I’ll go get towels.”
We were sitting in front of the fireplace in the sitting room when my Mom finally got home. I was wearing sweats and a t-shirt lying on Michael’s stomach. He was wearing my Mom’s old track pants and a t-shirt that was obviously too small for him. It was warm and I was practically asleep when I heard the front door close.
“Don’t you two look comfy.” Sabrine stated smugly.
“We were attacked by wolves and ran all the way home in a downpour. Don’t tease me.” I growled, sitting up in the process. I turned to look at Michael, but he was so far past a deep sleep. I stopped to admire the softness of his features as he lie there silently, fighting with his nightmares or dreams, and how peaceful he looked after such a terrifying day.
Marley broke my thoughts. “Wolves?” She paused at the table as her legs stiffened.
“What movie were you watching?” Sabrine laughed.
“No movie. Just ask ‘Sleeping Beauty’ over here.” I jabbed my fingers into Michael’s side and his hand swatted me away, his eyes protested before opening.
“What?” He whined.
“Tell them about what happened in the park.”
“You mean the wolves?”
“I think he just did Olivia.” Marley stared me down; her flat gray eyes stared in disbelief.
“Wow. That’s some scary stuff.” Sabrine slid gracefully into a dining room chair, her eyes watching Marley.
“Did you call the police?”
“No. I didn’t think they’d believe us.”
“Where are his clothes?”
“Are they done?”
“Maybe.” I scrunched up my nose.
“Well go get him dressed and take him home. I think – I don’t – Sabrine?”
“I’ll take Michael home Ollie. Go get his clothes.” She smiled that same Aunt-like smile she always gave me, as if to say ‘Do as your Mother says’.
I only nodded and slipped downstairs and pulled Michael’s jeans and shirts out of the dryer. They were incredibly warm and smelled just like Bounce. I piled them into my arms and went back upstairs. Michael was sitting on the couch, eyes slowly drooping.
What time is it? I searched the room for a clock. It was just after eleven. I hadn’t realized that it was so late. Rain always confuses the hours.
“Here you go.”
“Thanks Olls.” He muttered and moved down the hall to the bathroom to change.
“Olivia.” My Mother’s stern voice lingered behind me, and in instinct I turned to look at her. “Are you hurt?”
“No. Michael pretty much protected me.”
“Did he get hurt?”
“Not that I know of.”
Michael came back just as if his name had been called.
“Great. He’s ready. C’mon Mike, I’ll take you home.” Sabrine stood effortlessly, her eyes inspected his clothes ad body. Then they were gone.
“Yes Ma- Mom?”
“Can you describe them?”
“I blinked, subconsciously walking over to the kitchen dinette and sat down in Sabrine’s now empty chair. I pondered for a moment and then shook my head. “It’s fuzzy.”
“How did you get away?”
I was about to tell her when I realized she was selectively taking questions and noting them, I knew exactly how we got away but at that moment I didn’t trust myself to say anything. I shook my head and lowered my eyes shamefully. If Marley knew something about the wolves, she’d never tell me.
Marley’s eyes appraised me for a while, silently questioning my sanity again. My stomach twisted and I knew that tomorrow, things were going to change significantly around home and with Michael.
My Mother ushered me off to bed, while Marley watched my every movement with the scrutinizing ability of a detective. I climbed across my bed and lay my head against the soft surface of my cotton pillowcase and closed my eyes so everything was dark. All I wanted was a dreamless sleep, something that would never disturb my thoughts for the day to come, and my wish was granted.
Sunday morning I rolled out of bed at two in the afternoon, my head felt light and disconnected. I stared down at my feet for the longest time, focusing on the black nail polish that shined on my toenails. There was no sun breaking through my window and I could hear the light patter of rain against the grate by my window.
More rain. “Great.”
As I stood up, the floor seemed to bulge beneath me, twisting. It took me a while to find my bearings before I moved down the hall and got into the shower, straight hot water shot at me from the silver showerhead. I stood there, the water scalding me until my skin was read and splotchy. But it felt good and everything came back into focus; yesterday, the past year, the unknown – everything was right where it should be.
I stepped out of the shower and dried myself off. The air was steamy and I couldn’t see too clearly through it so I opened the door. Cold air rushed around me and I shivered.
That feels amazing.
“Oh, Olivia. You’re up.” Sabrine materialized in the bathroom doorway. I screamed bloody murder and clutched my towel to my chest. “Sorry.” She cringed.
“Dammit Sabrine! You scared the hell out of me.” I snapped, narrowing y eyes at her from under the towel wrapped up on my head.
“I said sorry.” She shrugged.
“Well, whatever. What are you doing?”
“Yes. I’m practically living here now, so I have to do my chores.”
“Well, okay.” I brushed past her and into my bedroom, rummaging through my top drawer for panties and a bra. I found a pair and pulled them on under my towel and dressed quickly in my cold room. I donned jeans and a t-shirt, leaving my feet bare. I brushed out my blonde hair and pulled it back into a ponytail. My face was still red from the shower, as well as my arms and feet, but I still looked pale.
I’m not even going to bother putting make-up on today.
The phone by my bed began to hum and I picked it up after checking the call display: MICHAEL.
“Hey Ollie. You’ll never believe the nightmare I had last night. You were there and we were in the park and wolves attacked us.” Michael continued describing his dream and I realized that he didn’t remember that it was real. I shuddered at the memory; it was better if he thought it was a nightmare.
“What do you think Ollie?”
What was I supposed to say? No Michael. That actually happened. Don’t you remember? You told me that I was going to live while you were about to give up your life. And then my Mother was acting all weird and Sabrine – what did she do to you to make you forget? What is this? Someone is going to tell me, whether they want to or not.
“Creepy. I had the same one.”
After an hour conversation about dreams, he finally hung up to get ready for work. I sulked upstairs and eyes Sabrine and Marley working at the table.
“What do you mean?” Sabrine didn’t look up.
“To Michael. How did you brainwash him? He thinks yesterday was a dream, but I know it’s not. What the hell?” I was screaming by now.
“Relax Ollie. Maybe he just did what normal people do. He’s in denial or something.” Sabrine cooed, her eyes still averted.
“You’re kidding.” I glared with a scoff.
“No. Just leave it alone.” Marley snapped, she however, was looking straight at me. “It’s what normal people do Olivia Jade.”
That hurt. “Whatever Marley.”
“Nothing. I’ll be in my room if you’d like to wrap me in a straight jacket.”
“I’ll take up that offer.” Sabrine laughed.
I snorted and jogged down the stairs. I really didn’t care what they said, and as I lay on my bed I tried to recall yesterday, only shadows emerged from my conscious mind.
Michael wasn’t sitting next to me on Monday morning, he was at some sort of sports meeting until ten after, all for the hockey team. I didn’t think about it, but it was there in the back of my mind, the urge to confront him about his ‘nightmare’ but it was too late.
I moved silently from English to Art, surprisingly agile enough not to collide with other students. I sat down in my usual spot, no need to re-arrange the tables. Skylar was at my side within a second, her black hair hung loosely around her round face today, no gel anywhere. She actually sat right next to me without the need to make a scene. No need to move and cause a scene Ollie, it’s okay.
“Hey Olivia.” She seemed exhausted.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, suddenly by-passing all the ‘hello’ nonsense.
“Tired. I had a rough weekend.”
“What happened?” I was getting overly curious.
“Nothing I care to talk about.” Her tone was final and I took the hint. “How was your weekend?”
I blanched and shook my head, she understood and we were silent. I closed my eyes and hung my head over the table.
“Is she alive?”
Alex! And to think, I was going to call in sick today.
I lifted my face and my eyes opened slowly only to glare at him. He was wearing all black and it startled me, his hair was wet from the rain and it glistened under the light. He wore a long sleeve, black, shirt and black jeans, but it looked completely normal. To me however, it struck an odd resemblance to the figures that saved my life in the park only two days ago. His piercing green eyes followed mine and I stopped on his face, slightly tanned and smug.
“Yes I’m alive.” I snapped.
“Oh, well that’s good to hear.” Alex smirked.
I dropped my eyes and went back to ignoring him as best I could. Though, I felt his eyes dig into my face and I was about to scream. It wasn’t until I heard a chair approach the table did I look back up. Sara was sitting by Skylar and Alex shifted closer to her and Skylar sat as close to me as possible. I thought he blew her off?
“So, Olivia,” Sara was looking at me, scrutinizing my reaction, “is Michael available?”
My jaw tightened and my left hand balled into a fist, my uneven nails dug into my palm. “Why do you care?” My eyes wandered back to Alex and Skylar who were eyeing each other carefully, from the corner of my eye I saw Skylar glaring at Sara.
“Because I need a date to the Halloween dance on the 27th, three Fridays from now, and Michael is just so gorgeous. Well, I want to go with him. Does he have a date?”
The dance? I don’t think I even knew about that. Why is she asking me? Why doesn’t she just ask-
“Well, basically, what I’m trying to ask is. Are you going with him?” She sounded annoyed, not nearly as peeved as I was.
“I don’t know. We didn’t talk about it. He probably has to work.” I groaned. “God, Alex rejects you so you move on to Michael –” Oh shit! I said that aloud.
Her eyes narrowed and her lips were twisted into a look of disgust.
“I was trying to be nice about it, but I can see that it’s not going to work that way.”
“Nice?” Skylar’s wry tone cut through the tension. “Please Sara, you’ve been plotting to steal Michael from Kat since Grade seven. Just because Olivia’s new -”
“Shut up Skylar. No one was talking to you.” Sara hissed.
“No. But I believe my name was mentioned.” Alex said dryly, but his lips pulled up at the corners.
“Yes Alex, she did mention you, why don’t you two go together.” Sara added kindly, there was no hint of falsehood in her voice. “I’ll talk to Michael myself. Thank-you for your time, Olivia.”
The way she said my name had be recoiling, I tucked my head to my chin and watched as she moved back to her large group of friends, two were looking at me, their expressions were painful. Maybe they were the better side of her clique, after all, they hung out with Skylar all the time.
“Hey, Ollie?” Skylar’s muse of a voice hit me again and instantly I was looking at her.
“What were you thinking just then?” Skylar asked shyly. Alex cut her a sharp glare that stunned me, but she didn’t even flinch or seem to notice.
I recalled my thoughts. “You two are better than her.” I repeated, verbatim.
I turned my head to look at Alex and he was smiling, his green eyes clouded with some foreign emotion.
“Oh.” Skylar went back to sketching something on flat paper. I went back to doodling the wolves from the park, trying to expose them and all the while; Alex sat quietly watching us.
I had just left my art class, Sara had left before me and Skylar, who walk in-step silently. Suddenly my head pounded, the menacing headache that I was coming to expect. I stopped and leaned against a locker and let the images come.
It was Michael and Sara standing outside the gym, her back was pressed against the white, faux-brick wall and he had his body angled towards her. Her eyes were serious and Michael looked disgusted an all at once the mood changed and he looked like a kicked puppy. I gasped, I’d never seen him that way before, and almost instantly he was looking in my direction, eyes pleading. I wanted to reach out and comfort him but the images vanished.
“What’s wrong Ollie?” The way Skylar asked, it was as if she had seen what I had.
“Michael!” I cried.
“Let’s go!” She pulled me down the hallway at lightning speed, pushing all grades of people out of her advance. But by the time we’d arrived at the gym, we were too late.
Sara had cornered him and fell into the exact position I’d seen her in before, her arms crossed against her chest; looking superior.
I stumbled closer, trying to catch the conversation and when I turned to look for Skylar she was gone. I looked back at Michael and Skylar was at his side, claiming his attention. I released the breath I was holding and watching silently.
Michael and Skylar were talking and Sara watching in annoyance, but Michael’s face was pained.
I strained my ears to listen.
“Skylar, but out.” Sara snapped.
“Easy Sara.” Michael coaxed. “Now, Skylar, what did you just say?”
“Olivia wants to talk to you. But she’s sort of embarrassed.”
Thanks Sky! I glared.
“Well, can it wait Skylar?” Michael begged.
“Yes Skylar, I’m sure it can wait.” Sara cooed, her voice sweet yet rough.
“But Michael…” Skylar trailed, her eyes on my face, apologizing.
I didn’t know what to do, so I did what I always did. Spoke my mind.
“Michael!” I waved as if I hadn’t been there the whole time. “Okay. Have I got news for you.” I cheered and slung my arm around his waist.
“Ollie?” Michael blinked. “Were you there the whole time?”
“Possibly. But that doesn’t matter.” I waved.
“Ollie.” He stared. “I-” He stopped, eyes averted elsewhere. I turned to find that the brunette I’d run into Friday in the parking lot was coming our way.
Vivian? She was standing next to … “Alex!”
He automatically looked at me and gave me a little wave, her dark eyes snapped up to my face without hesitation. That look on her face said: “you have got to be kidding me”.
“He’s with her?” Michael scoffed.
“Michael?” Sara cut in. “Do you want to go to the dance with me or not?”
I was still gaping at Alex when I realized how her sentence had ended; she’d already asked him. What else had she said before I had butted in?
“Well, if I don’t work. I guess so.” Michael sighed.
“Just take it off. See you at seven thirty.”
“Sure.” He grumbled.
I glanced up at him in a haze. “You’re going with her, to the dance?”
“It looks that way.”
“She told me you said she could.” And with that he turned on his heels and walked into the gym, leaving me with Skylar.
What just happened? I looked over at Skylar who shook her head and turned to leave. Suddenly I didn’t feel like going to gym class.
I walked back the way I’d come and Alex caught my eye. Vivian was smirking devilishly, her almond eyes glaring horrifically in my direction. I was suddenly very self-conscious and fixed my posture. Well, this wasn’t expected.