I was feeling so conflicted… happy because the disguise was working, my wolf didn’t know me! Then angry because the disguise was working, my wolf didn’t know me! Shouldn’t he know me? Regardless of how I looked, didn’t his soul sing for me the way mine did for him? Couldn’t he feel me beneath the surface?
I looked in the mirror at the face that was mine but not mine. The hair colour wrong, my eyes the wrong shape, my lips too thin. The ring I’d bought to hold the spell sat heavily on my finger, the clear stone a dull red, as if it had drained the colour from me.
A dull beep sounded, the alarm on my cell phone telling me my break was over. I washed my hands and went back out to the bar, the smile on my face not my own, but sufficient to pacify the customers when I poured a beer badly.
“Poppy, this is a bar not an ice cream shop,” my boss would joke, the wolf pup at ease with my blonde self.
The regulars quickly learned not to order a beer from me, I served a lot of spirits, made a lot of tips. Life was good. I’d stopped running, taking a break from the marathon game of hide and seek I’d gotten caught up in. Yes, hiding in plain sight had been the best idea I’d had in a long time.
The first night had been the toughest, watching him walk in, feeling his regard, expecting him to say, “Gotcha darlin’.” But he hadn’t. He’d said, “Whiskey and water please,” and barely looked at me.
The next night he’d said, “Whiskey and water please,” and looked at me with a frown.
The next night he’d said, “Whiskey and water please,” and smiled at me, with just a hint of his big bad wolf teeth.
The next night he’d said, “Whiskey and water please,” and watched me with his wolf eyes. I’d set his drink down and he’d asked, “What’s your name darlin’?”
“Poppy,” I’d replied automatically. Not my real name of course but I couldn’t be anything but red.
“Thank you Poppy,” he’d smiled and I’d nodded nervously and moved away.
Now he smiled at me, I felt his eyes on me, but he didn’t know me. Now he would say, “Poppy darlin’, you know what I like,” and grin at me. He would brush his fingers against mine and tell me my hands were too delicate for this job.
At the end of the night he would growl, “You should run away with me.”
“I can’t tonight, I’m rostered on for tomorrow,” I would joke with a flip of my blonde hair. He would stare at me, looking puzzled for a long moment and I’d think, ‘this is it, he knows who I am.’ But there was no ‘Gotcha darlin’.
He would just say, “Maybe tomorrow darlin’.”
Then I would watch him leave, memorise his profile, wonder if I’d see it in the shadows when I walked home. I would finish my shift and call goodnight to the pup. I would walk outside and slip the ring off, breathe a sigh of relief as I was me again. I would listen as I walked, I would watch. But there was no howl of discovery, no familiar face peering around a corner, no thrill of the chase.
There was just the silence and the loneliness, the knowledge that he wasn’t looking for me anymore. I would go home and look at myself in the mirror, the real me, with red hair and dark eyes, the me that he didn’t need. And I would wonder who I was. Was a Red without her Wolf still a Red? Or was she just a girl, staring into a mirror, unseen by anyone but herself.
“Who am I?” I whispered and nobody answered.