Three wolves walk into a bar. There’s no punch line, that is literally what is happening right now. I know they’re not really wolves, but that’s what I see. Everywhere. Him. Tate of the unpronounceable last name which in effect, rendered him unfindable. If I was inclined to look for him that is. He had shot his name at me with a hint of Irish in his voice and it sounded like Fwa-lawn and how the hell did you spell that? Not that I was looking for him.
For all I knew he could be here anyway. A few of the men were the right build but none of them had asked for whiskey is his voice. Because while they might all have the same face, they retained their own voices, their own habits, their own manners. And I knew I hadn’t heard his voice, no accidental touches had sent a tremble through my fingers. But he could be at Dulcie’s end of the bar.
I should just ask her if she’d seen him, but what if he was sitting right there, how did I explain that every man I saw looked the same. I tapped the gold band of the ring I wore, wondering not for the first time if transferring the spell had altered it somehow. I didn’t know how else to explain it. The first time it had happened I had blamed the fact that I was missing him, hadn’t seen him for a couple of days, had tried to ration away what I was seeing. But when every man looked exactly like him? I had to admit something more was going on. The spell was still working since I was still Poppy, but why was I seeing The Wolf everywhere?
I sighed as I served another drink, smiled and exchanged greetings with a regular I recognised through his voice and the shirt he wore. I couldn’t even tell the bears from the wolfs from the hunters from the witches any more. Hell, the place could be full of pirates and I’d have no idea.
“Time for your break Poppy.”
I nodded acknowledgement without looking, it was too strange looking at the pup and not seeing his face. I went to the kitchen and threw a sandwich together, grabbed a bottle of water then went back out to sit at an empty table. I always preferred to sit and people watch and since I had started seeing him everywhere I found it even more interesting. I had to listen extra hard and I became more aware of the nuances of people’s personalities.
As I ate my sandwich and sipped my water I listened for a certain voice and was entertained by the conversations flowing around me. With only a few minutes of my break remaining, I found myself staring at a particular wolf. Well they were all wolves, so why did this one keep drawing my gaze. He was too far away from me to hear his voice but his body type was wrong for my wolf anyway, so it wasn’t that. I picked up my empty plate and bottle and took a path to the kitchen that took me past this new man.
I paused for a second as the reason for my fascination became obvious and I guessed I had heard his voice and just not realised. Because it was his voice that was drawing me. He sounded like my wolf had when he’d told me his name. My mind raced, I could ask him about the name, maybe he would have an idea of how to spell it. And then what? I shook that thought away as I resumed my course to the kitchen. I would think about that if this stranger could help me.
Ten minutes later I was frustrated and annoyed. The stranger hadn’t ventured to the bar for a drink. He was nursing a beer as he worked his way around the room, an easy smile on his face. I had tried to catch Dulcie before she went on her break to see if she had spoken to him but it was just too busy. Now that I had the idea to ask about the name, I was impatient and anxious.
I heard the soft song of his voice and looked to see him down the bar, smiling at Dulcie. I wished I could see what he really looked like under his wolf visage because Dulcie was giving him her full treatment. Flirty eyes, sly smile, shoulders back, and what I’m sure was a soft purr in her voice as she asked what she could get him. only I wasn’t close enough to hear that. I saw Dulcie shake her head, touch her hand to his where it rested on the bar then they were both looking my way.
He nodded at whatever Dulcie said, his eyes locked on me, then it seemed like I blinked and he was standing before me.
“Hello I’m Rand,” he said in a thick Irish brouge. “I was hoping you could help me.”
“With what?” I said abruptly, something about him setting off my internal alarms.
“I’m looking for my brother. Goes by Tate.”
It could just be a massive coincidence, right? “I’m not sure.” I shrugged. “Do you have a photo?”
He grinned and it was surreal. “No need darlin’, he looks just like me,” he said and pointed to his face.
I had to bite back a laugh since I would be the only one in on the joke that right now everybody looked just like him. “Oh. Well sure.” I shrugged. “He used to come in here but I haven’t seen him in a few days.”
“A few days?” Rand’s grin faded and he leaned towards me. “How was he last time you saw him?”
Angry, annoyed, hurt. “He seemed fine.” I managed a small smile along with the lie. “I ah, he said goodbye,” I said awkwardly.
Rand frowned at me in confusion. “He always did have good manners.”
“Well yes he did. But he said goodbye. Like he wasn’t coming back.” As I said them, the words struck true for the first time. He had said goodbye, told me to find him if I wanted to. That had been a week ago.
“Shite! How on God’s green earth am I going to find him now,” Rand muttered to himself, his words echoing my thoughts.
I had to be able to find him, he had given me a name, that had to mean something. I’d thought to ask the stranger with the Irish lilt about his name, here was my chance.
“Rand?” I waited for him to look at before I asked. “How do you spell his name? Maybe we can google it?”
“You think I haven’t tried that? No the name is too common.”
“It is?” He nodded and I shrugged and admitted. “I didn’t know how to spell it to search.”
“Tate?” he said giving me a strange look.
“No, the last name,” I explained with a shrug.
“How did you try to spell it? he asked.
“I didn’t,” I said with a laugh. “It sounded like Fwa-lawn but I have no idea how to spell that.”
He chuckled, then tilted his head back and laughed. “Aye, Faolan is it,” he said when he stopped.
My eyes narrowed into a glare. “Is that not your name then? Aren’t you brothers?”
“We are but it’s not,” Rand answered with another grin. “I’m sure he has a reason for using a different name darlin’, don’t fret.”
Don’t fret? Was this man serious? He had given me a false name and now his brother was here looking for him. If he hadn’t been able to find him using Tate’s real name, what hope did I have with a fake one?
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