I slept through the night, my dreams plagued by the scene of Spike and the other wolf fighting. Someone nudged my side, waking me and making me instinctively snap at the possible threat.
Spike was backing away from me quickly. I relaxed and put my head over my crossed front legs, whining. Spike came closer again, touching my face with his nose. I pulled away and didn't meet his gaze. He lay down beside me and licked my ear, trying to get my attention. I ignored him.
He got up and stood in front of me. He slapped the ground with his paw and sat in front of me, showing me he wasn't going to leave me alone. I could tell the rest of the pack wouldn't be able to hear us if we spoke mentally.
What's wrong? he demanded.
Doesn't matter, I replied.
Look, I'm just slightly annoyed, okay?
What about? he asked. I rolled my eyes. Ingrid, if you don't tell me what's wrong, I can't help.
I blew the air out through my nose in a wolf equivalent of a snort.
Ingrid, please tell me, he begged, lying down in front of me, licking my chin.
Spike, I just... I could tell you didn't want me to show my love for you earlier, around the pack. I just don't understand it. Why does it matter?
Because... He didn't have a response for that.
Just as I thought. I stood up and walked away from him. He pushed against my side, trying to get me to calm down and stop.
I kept walking and eventually Spike stopped, getting the message I didn't want to talk to him at that moment.
I'd got home last night, went up to my room, pushed my school bag off the bed and lay underneath the covers crying after the sun had come up.
"Ingrid, you're going to be late for school," Mum said loudly as she passed my door on the way downstairs. I didn't answer, and she probably heard my quiet sobs, as she opened the door and came in, shocked to see me crying. She shut the door and rushed over, sitting on the bed. "Darling, what's wrong?"
I tried to get my breathing under control before replying. "Just boy problems," I murmured against my pillow.
"'Boy problems'? I didn't know you had a boyfriend."
"I didn't tell you, did I?" I said, knowing I hadn't.
"Who is it then?" she asked.
"Spike," I whispered.
"Really? Oh. What's he done to upset you?"
I ran through the night's events, including the conversation we'd had before I'd come back here. She sat patiently, carefully listening to everything I said.
"Well, maybe he wanted to protect you from being teased because of a relationship with someone of a lower status? I don't know much about wolf society, and even less about yours', but maybe that's what it was. And perhaps he didn't tell you because he thought you'd be angry about him protecting you; you have got angry about it before."