(photo by aarrgh)
(Part of Project Unicorn: A Lesbian YA Extravaganza, updated twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays with a free, original, never-before-published YA short story featuring a lesbian heroine. Also, every story is a work of genre fiction [Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Post-apocalyptic, etc.].)
“Wolves of Leaving”
by Sarah Diemer
“Do you love me?”
I stare. Her eyes are downcast, mouth working but silent, fingers rubbing at her right shoulder where the wound is healing, the ugly, jagged bite that Alpha made a few days ago.
Cadie should never have challenged her. She should have known better.
“Love…” My voice trails off, and I clear it. “I care about you.”
She glances at me fast, eyes raking over me. “Not love.”
“I need…I need time.”
“Is it because I lost?”
I’m silent. No. It’s not because she lost. Everyone loses against Alpha. Everyone always loses against Alpha. I curl my fingers tightly, nesting them into my palm, staring down at my hands.
“It’s because we’re fifteen,” I finally tell her. “And Momma was fifteen when she made her decision, when she came to the woods. And I think that fifteen…”
“You’re not brave.” She’s standing now, standing over me, lips up and over her teeth. “If you were brave, you’d tell me you love me, you’d come with me.”
Come with me.
I scrabble up, brushing the pine needles from my legs, staring at her. Staring.
“Got your attention.” She’s grinning.
“If we leave the woods, the pack, they’ll find us, hunt us. They’re never going to let us leave,” I tell her in hushed, tight words, looking over my shoulder. What if Alpha is listening right now? She’s everywhere, isn’t she? “Cadie, you can’t be serious.” It’s more of a plea than a statement, really. Cadie, please don’t be serious.
“You say that because that’s what they tell you. We don’t know because no one ever leaves,” she whispers, stepping closer, whispering into my ear, breath hot against my skin. “Juniper, we could be faster than them, cleverer. You know she’d send Danny, and he’s an idiot. We can outwit Danny. We’ll be wolves by day, and we’re faster than him. We always outrun him on the hunts, anyway.”
“The pack sticks together.” I whisper what I’ve whispered every day of my life. Every day. Always.
“We’re a pack, aren’t we?” She asks me, then, and she steps back, searching my face. “You and me, baby. We’re a pack…” Her eyes are bright, tear-filled.
Do you love me? is what she’s asking.
We’ve been together a moon. It’s been intense. I always thought she was smart and courageous and pretty, and those three things are important, but Momma made her decisions too quickly, and I don’t want to end up like Momma did. I won’t. So I’m not going to promise Cadie anything. Not yet. Not now. I want to wait.
But I don’t want to wait to leave.
I want to go, want to go so badly it eats me from the inside out, teeth sawing against my muscles in the dead of night when we run together, when Alpha snarls at us, at me, when I remember what she did to my mother.
How I have never, and will never, trust Alpha Wolf.
Cadie looks at me, breathing fast, chest rising and falling as she gathers my hands in hers. “We’ll stay out of sight. By the time Alpha finds out, sends Danny after us, we’ll be too far ahead. We can do this. Together, Juniper. Don’t be like them, spending their whole lives in this forest. Come see the world with me.”
What did Momma look like, still human then, when she stood at the entrance of the forest, Daddy’s hand holding hers, trees ready to swallow her whole? Was she weeping, was she smiling, did she make the decision with all of her heart, or did she wonder if she should?
I gulp for air, I close my eyes.
I’m so tired of being afraid.
The decision is reached in silence: clasped hands; a small, tight squeeze. And then we’re running, changing, and paws devour the earth as we aim for the edge of everything we’ve ever known.
Out from beneath the trees, I dare to look up.
There are stars, forever and ever.
If you enjoyed “Wolves of Leaving,” you’ll love “Our Lady of Wolves.”
Sarah Diemer is an award-winning author of lesbian young adult (YA), speculative fiction. Her debut novel, The Dark Wife, the YA, lesbian retelling of the Persephone myth won the 2012 Golden Crown Literary Award for Speculative Fiction, and was nominated for a Parsec Award (first two chapters of the audiobook). She writes her lesbian adult fiction under the pen name Elora Bishop, including the Sappho’s Fables: Lesbian Fairy Tales series, which she co-writes with her wife, author Jennifer Diemer.
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