This is another short story I wrote some time ago - it’s a little bit longer and a little bit darker. Enjoy, and feel free to comment!
Wolf in the ‘Hood
The weather was cold, dark and perfect. It was as likened to the atmosphere as if it had been created for a film, where the solemn figures gathered below seem unable to shed more tears than the clouds above. Each member of the dreary scene had their heads bowed low and spoke in hushed voices; their words were nearly lost in the wind, which howled as mournfully as a weeping wife by her husband’s graveside.
It was something Tala supposed she should be doing—but she didn’t. She just stood silently, distanced from the others who had joined her on this grim day, and stared at the bold words of the tombstone above the soft earth. She didn’t move when she was approached, with obvious caution, and offered hasty condolences; she didn’t move when the heavens finally opened up to allow sheets of icy cold rain to soak the ground, forming muddy puddles around her ankles. She just stared as the rain caused the tombstone’s words to glisten:
JAMES CHRISTOPHER O’CONNOR
LOVING HUSBAND, SON AND FRIEND
MAY HE REST IN PEACE
The storm raged on, causing the rest of the party to seek cover beneath the nearby canopy. But Tala did not move, and nor did Jacob. She glanced down, allowing a small smile to dance across her lips for just a moment at the sight of her faithful dog sitting beside her. His long coat was hanging limp, weighted down by the rain, but his eyes were bright as he leant comfortingly against her leg.
The soft slap of footsteps on the muddy earth announced someone’s imminent arrival; moments later, Tala found herself cloaked beneath the unsought for shelter of a large umbrella. She shook her head slightly, sending droplets of water flying from her hair. Jacob crouched closer to her side, accepting what little protection the umbrella offered.
“Tala,” the voice began. The young woman suppressed a sigh at the sound of her mother’s lecturing tone, but turned obediently towards Sylvie. “Do you really think it was appropriate to bring the dog, dear?”
“I told you, Mum,” Tala replied, a bite of impatience entering her voice. “Jacob is… He’s all I have left now. Besides, I organised the damn funeral, I can bring who I want!”
“I know, dear,” her mother soothed; Tala scowled at the patronising tone. “No one will say anything to you directly—they don’t wish to upset you any further—but everybody has had something or other to say about it. After the way that James was killed, well…”
“It wasn’t Jacob, Mum,” Tala said firmly, trying to indicate that the conversation was over. But Sylvie was insistent.
“You say it wasn’t him, Tala, but do you really know? Frankly, you’ve been plain uncooperative with the police; it’s as though you don’t even care,” she concluded with a contemptuous sniff.
“Excuse me for wanting to forget that my husband’s throat was ripped out by a vicious animal!” Tala snapped. The murmur of voices coming from the occupants of the covered enclosure halted. She could just imagine them, leaning out into the rain, hoping to hear more of the heated conversation between the newly-made widow and her mother. Tala took a deep breath and scratched Jacob’s head, taking comfort from his warm, steady figure.
“Oh Tala,” her Mum whispered, her eyes softening for a moment. “It wasn’t fair for James to have been taken from you so soon after your wedding. You two deserved all the happiness in the world.” Tala nodded, hoping she was finished—but no. Sylvie straightened up and quickly added, “But I wish you’d explain to me your dependence on this animal! If it were me, I’d want nothing more to do with it!”
“It wasn’t him,” Tala growled through gritted teeth.
“Yes, so you keep saying, but… well, just look at it!” Sylvie exclaimed; Jacob’s tail wagged at the indirect attention he was receiving. “It’s a wolf! Haven’t you ever read Little Red Riding Hood?”
“Oh Mum, grow up,” Tala muttered, before adding indignantly, “And he’s not a wolf. He’s a Siberian husky; they’re a very proud and handsome breed.”
“Very well, say what you like,” Sylvie replied, waving her hand carelessly, “But to me, it’s nothing but a mangy mutt. And as long as it’s under the same roof as you, I’ll be afraid.”
“Mum, what happened to James was a tragic accident. But it doesn’t mean that every dog owner in the city should start treating their pets like murderous killers.” Jacob gave a small whine beside her, shaking water from his pelt; Tala stroked him absentmindedly as the silence between her and her mother continued. She held back a groan when Sylvie continued.
“James hated that dog, didn’t he?” the older woman said, looking slyly over at her daughter.
“Mum!” Tala shouted, stubbornly stepping away from her. Sylvie tutted as Tala allowed the rain to quickly soak her through. “Look—James was a cat-person, we both know that, but he didn’t hate Jacob. He always said he was a very loyal dog, and that I was lucky to have him.”
Sylvie’s lips pursed—never a good sign—and she opened her mouth to resume her argument, but Tala, noticing the departing cars of their family and friends, interrupted.
“I’m tired, Mum; I’m going home. I’ll ring you tomorrow, okay?” Without waiting for an answer, Tala spun on her heel and left; Jacob followed obediently at her heels, his tail wagging softly.
As Sylvie watched her only daughter being swallowed by the relentless downpour, she heaved a deep sigh that caused her entire body to tremble. She didn’t trust that beast. Her son-in-law’s life had been ripped from him in an instant by a vicious mongrel, and whether it was Tala’s pet or some stray from the streets, Sylvie could not rest easy knowing that Jacob was living with her daughter, sleeping on her bed, alone in that empty house. Tala could defend it all she liked, but Sylvie saw the brutal glint in its eyes, and didn’t trust it one bit.
Dabbing a tissue along her cheekbones, Sylvie aimed her umbrella against the wind and slopped awkwardly through the mud toward her car.
* * *
Tala shivered, drawing the blanket tightly around her shoulders. The rain pounded loudly against the windows and each clap of thunder made her jump with fright. She shook herself; she was being silly. She used to love listening to storms, especially when she was safely inside, tucked away from the howling winds and wintry drops of rain.
She blew gently on her hot tea, gripping it firmly to warm her fingers. Taking a small sip, she closed her eyes and allowed the sounds of the storm to wash over her. Her body slowly relaxed and she stretched her arms out, feeling the joints pop. Maybe she’d sleep here on the couch tonight. The bedroom was so far away…
A sudden flapping sound caused her to sit upright; her tea mug hit the floor and stained the carpet a murky brown. Tala swore softly, but lay back down into her comfortable position; she’d clean the stain later. By now, she had recognised the fluttering noise; it was just Jacob, coming in through the large doggy-door that she’d insisted James build at the front entrance. Jacob loved it, being able to come and go as he pleased.
Tala waited, listening for the sound of his claws as they clicked against the wooden floorboards, but his soft steps were being muffled by the storm. She craned her neck, looking for his black and white tufted tail.
“Jacob?” she called quietly. After a few moments, she raised her voice and crooned, “Come on handsome. Come to Mummy.”
Finally the wailing winds fell silent, and the downpour eased to a placid shower. Tala sat up straighter, thinking that Jacob had wandered off through the house, and was preparing to fetch him when a new noise rose above the softer sounds of the deadening storm: a long and monotonous growl.
“Jacob…” Tala murmured, no longer calling, just thinking aloud. She pushed the blanket down to her waist and poked her feet out from its warmth, but she never had the chance to stand up. A startled scream left her lips as she was pushed down by a suffocating weight. Her eyes were blinded by a black and white blur as her voice became muffled by thick fur. Kicking her legs out, she managed to bring her head away from the heavy mass and opened her mouth to shout, but the words died in her throat as Jacob pounced forward…
…And licked her roughly on the face, his tongue reaching from her chin to her forehead.
“Jacob!” Tala exclaimed, her stern words losing impact as she allowed a giggle to escape her lips. “Now isn’t the time for your games. You’re too rough!” She ran her hands through his long fur, causing his tail to wag in a steady rhythm against the couch with a soft thump, thump, thump.
Still chuckling quietly, Tala relaxed into her chair, pulling Jacob into a tight embrace, despite his dripping fur. Another low growl reverberated from deep within his throat; startled, she looked down.
“Exactly what are you growling about, huh?” she whispered to him. Then she saw the small piece of blood-stained cloth hanging from his jaws. She reached out and tugged it gently from his grip. She stared at it for a long moment before realising it was a piece from James’s shirt. The pale blue one which he’d worn to work on the day he’d been killed.
Tala slowly tore her eyes from the cloth and its vivid red stain, which seemed unusually bright in the darkness of the room, and stared at the solid form of her loyal husky beside her.
“Oh, Jacob,” she said. His deep, dark eyes looked back into her, giving her the feeling he was looking into her very soul, demonstrating the intensity that labelled the dog as ‘man’s best friend’… or perhaps more appropriately, a woman’s.
Tala’s eyes narrowed playfully and a smile stretched across her face. “Did I forget to pick this up? Did you collect this for Mummy?” She pulled him forward to kiss him between the ears, laughing as his tail waved happily.
- Love The Bad Guy