In The Woods Somewhere
Terror was the only thing he was aware of as he rose up out of black nothingness. It raged inside of him until it lurched him from unconsciousness and his body spasmed in a pathetic expression of fight or flight. Suddenly, he was aware of his body, or at least the shape outlined and filled by pain, bone-deep agony that settled in his chest, burned and sent angry bolts of pain through his body with every breath. His head throbbed like mallets were falling onto his temples in time with his heartbeat.
He was hot on the inside and freezing on the outside. His teeth chattered. He tasted blood. He forced his eyelids apart through the thick crust that fused them together. There was soft, white light above him. He blinked a few times until the light came into focus and, through his pain fogged mind, he finally formed coherent thought.
He looked around at the starry sky above him, obscured by a thick canopy of trees swaying in the gentle wing. The rustling leaves hummed throughout the still, dark night. It should have been soothing and yet he felt no peace. He forced himself to take slow, deep breaths and tried to find some information in his head even as his screaming body proved an awful distraction.
Mark. His name was Mark. He was 26, healthy so he wasn’t dying, most likely. He was in the woods. They were in the woods. Who was ‘they’?
Him and Amyah.
Before a clear image could be conjured up in Mark’s head, he had a mission and he shot up. His wail cracked the silent night as pain tore through his torso. He grasped his chest only to wrench his hand away when the contact stung. As he fought to breathe through the pain, he looked down at his hand. In the darkness, it looked dipped in ink but as he twisted it back and forth in the dim moonlight light he could see the hue of red. He looked down at his chest. His shirt hung loosely off his body and the blood drenched fabric was ripped to shreds. He pulled the collar of his shirt and looked down at the wound. The blood was somewhat coagulated around 4 long gashes running parallel to each other, diagonal from shoulder to ribs. It was bad but it didn’t matter.
“Amyah!” he screamed out into the darkness as he looked around, searching into the darkness for his girl and finding nothing. He took a deep breath, braced himself and started crawling to his feet. He grunted through gritted teeth and stars burst in his vision. As soon as he got to his feet, his head felt light . He stumbled and fell into the nearest tree. He held himself up until his vision cleared and the pain eased enough that he could move. He counted to three then pushed himself off the tree, starting a slow hobble into the unknown.
“I’m coming baby! I’ll find you…”
Mark had heard of a pregnancy glow but no one has warned him just how achingly, tangibly real it was. If the road ahead weren’t so empty, he would have surely crashed by now, unable to keep his eyes off the beauty in the passenger seat, his wife, swollen with their baby. Her seat was reclined back and she sat with her hands folded daintily on the crest of her belly, idly tracing circles. The sun would be setting soon and the warm light that fell upon her made her deep brown skin glow gold. Her lashes fluttered with the weight of threatening sleep over light, hazel eyes. When they’d gotten the news, she’d cut her hair and what had been a curtain of bouncy, loose curls was now a tight afro, glistening with product, showing off the sharp peak of her cheekbones, the tiny birthmark by her ear. It had to be luck as Mark had certainly not earned her.
“Mark...” she started, her voice a low rumble from disuse during the quiet car ride, eyes still on the rolling countryside. “Are you really ready for this?”
“Babe, we’re almost to the cabin,” Mark laughed. “And this baby is coming whether we’re ready or not.”
“You’ve never seen me change. Not even normally and this is gonna be worse.”
Mark sighed and reached across the center console to grip her thigh. She was right. He’d seen her before and after, briefly in the moment before she disappeared into the woods with the promise she’d be back when her hunger was sated or the full moon had dimmed, but never during. But then again, he’d never seen her give birth before either. First time for everything.
“Amyah, don’t worry. I understand that-”
“You don’t understand!” she snarled. “You couldn’t possibly understand so if you got any fears that it's gonna be too much for you, that you gonna panic, that you gonna run, it’d be safer if you ain’t come.”
Mark blanched. He took a breath, reminded himself how viscous hormones were and spoke calm and evenly. “I love you. You are my wife and I’m devoted to you one hundred percent. There is nothing in this world that would stop me from supporting you and seeing our baby come into the world.”
She turned to him, head tilted, eyes glazed with tears. “You not scared?”
Mark squeezed her thigh and laughed. “When it comes to you, baby, I’m fearless!”
Her eyes were unfocused, staring off into nothing for a few moments. She shook herself and met his eyes with a smile, that beautiful, gap toothed smile that stopped every rational thought in Mark’s head.
“It’s gonna be ok,” Mark said. “Now get some sleep. It’s gonna be a long night.”
Hot tears poured down Mark’s face as he hobbled aimlessly through the darkness. He had no idea where he was but, more importantly, he had no idea where his Amyah and his baby were. The last he could remember, their little one was still in her body but with every passing moment, the chances that his baby had entered the world and was out there, somewhere, in this endless black hell grew. How long had he been bleeding in the mud, lost in the woods. Hours? Days? His body was heavy with guilt and shame and he wanted so badly to fall prone back into the earth and die. But he was a husband and a father and he’d be damned if he didn’t fight till the death to do it right.
Something caught his eye, something floating in the darkness an indeterminate distance away. He stumbled to a stop and narrowed his eyes at it, two glowing yellow spots trained on him. Eyes. Two glowing eyes.
A bone chilling howl ripped through the silent woods, rattled Mark’s bones like a thunderclap. The beast’s mournful cry rang through the woods and Mark could hear the rustling of bushes and leaves as prey fled. He turned and ran, all but ignoring his body's screams of protests as he weaved through the trees trying to escape the beast whose breath he swore he could feel on his neck. He was perfect prey, weak and wounded and slow. Why not just lay down and be devoured with his dignity instead of dying in a panicked, pathetic frenzy?
He heard another sound, one that grew louder as he continued further into the darkness. It was a shrill whine and he focused on it.
A baby’s cry.
Mark grit his teeth and snarled as he pushed his body further into an awkward, painful sprint. He couldn't die yet. Not yet. Not while there was still a chance.
The old, plantation style mansion that Amyah’s family owned was unbelievably beautiful and it made Mark even more resentful of the sour mood as he couldn’t enjoy the stay. He sat in the windowsill of the guest room he and Amyah were sharing, running his finger over the intricate siding, staring out in the big, green yard surrounded by thick forests and prayed time would move a little faster. One day into a two day stay and he was more emotionally exhausted than he’d been in a while.
He heard the bedroom door open. Amyah walked in, her jaw tight, slammed the door behind her and started unbuttoning her shirt.
“We’re meeting in 30 minutes,” she said. Mark looked over at her. She looked up and immediately her eyes darkened, her brow furrowed. “You shouldn’t have come,” she snarled.
“I didn’t say anything!” Mark threw his hands in the air.
Amyah shook her head, now struggling to undo the buttons with shaking hands. “You don’t gotta. You sitting over there, looking at me like I’m a goddamn monster, like we all monsters-”
“I never said that. But you gotta admit this is a pretty monstrous thing to-”
“I told you what this was and you chose to come!” Amyah stomped over and loomed over him, staring down her nose and making Mark feel microscopic.
“I didn’t expect it to be like this! This is-” Mark turned and gestured out the window, though he quickly aborted the motion when he noticed the preparations going on in the yard. A few of Amyah’s relatives, warm, friendly men, were holding a man down, tying his arms and legs to stakes in the ground. There was a bag around the man’s head, maybe for dignity but it only made the display more morbid.
“Fuck... they’re really- You’re gonna kill an innocent man!”
Amyah rolled her eyes and marched to the other side of the room as she finally got the final buttons loose and tore the blouse off. “He ain’t innocent. We had a trial! He can’t be trusted to keep his mouth shut. Letting him live puts all of us in danger. This ain’t for fucking fun! ” She kicked her shoe off and sent it flying into the wall, leaving a small dent. She stiffened, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Amyah…” Mark stood up and took slow, tentative steps towards her. “Is it really worth killing someone?”
Her eyes snapped to meet his with a violent gaze that sucked all the air from Mark’s lungs. She’d never so much as shoved him and yet, at times like these, he could feel her fingers wrapped around his heart, poised to squeeze. He’d never felt like that before and, if he was honest, it was one of the things he adored about her.
“Are you asking me… if my people…” She ran her tongue across her teeth and took another deep breath that rumbled with a low growl. “You don’t get to come here and insult us and our traditions and what we do to protect ourselves. You oughta be honored to be allowed here! We do this shit to protect ourselves from being wiped out. These are my people! This my family! You expect me to abandon my family just for you?” Her teeth were bared and there was a growl in her voice.
Mark swallowed. “I guess not.”
They stared at each other for a long, silent moment. Amyah clicked her tongue and slowly closed her lips over her teeth. She dropped her head and took a breath. “You’re not a threat to us. You have no connections, no reason for anyone to believe you so…” Her voice was steady and low. “If you are not not able to be with a member of the clan, you can go. No one will hurt you.”
“No, no, no, baby!” Mark took her shoulder and ducked his head trying to move into her frame of vision. “I’m not gonna leave you. I can’t. I love you. I’m scared and this is a lot for me but it’s the situation, not you. I love you!”
With her gaze fixed on her feet, Amyah placed her hand on his. Her engagement ring glinted. It was eye catchingly sparkly, new enough that it still garnered cooing and congratulations. “When humans find out, they do awful things to us.” She said in a near whisper. “They kill us and they cut us open and they stuff us and they cage us and they torture us. We’ve had barely a hundred years of peace that we can’t risk.” A tear escaped her eye and Mark quickly swiped it away.
“Don’t cry. Please, don’t cry.” He cooed. “You know I would never hurt you, right?”
“I know. But that’s just us. We’re just...two people.” Amyah shrugged and chuckled humorlessly.
“Two people who love each other though, right? And that’s something.”
Mark smiled pleadingly and finally Amyah smiled back, gripping the hand on her shoulder. They inched closer and closer to each other but just before their lips touched, a horn sounded from the backyard. Mark jumped and went to the window. Outside, one of the younger relatives was proudly blowing into a horn. Already, hulking, shaggy beasts that looked inappropriate in the daylight were gathering in the yard, forming a circle around the bound man.
“I have to participate,” Amyah said sternly and started towards the door.
“Are you not changing here?” Mark asked. Amyah stopped with her back to him, her hand floating over the doorknob. “You could put your clothes up before-”
“I’ll change downstairs.” She pulled the door open. “I won’t make you watch.” She stepped out and slammed the door shut.
Mark stood alone in the room and stared at nothing for he didn’t know how long. He heard another blow from the horn and looked out the window. A hundred or so wolfish beasts surrounded the poor, defenseless man, all blending into one undulating, carnivorous mass. He couldn’t identify his Amyah in the crowd. He closed the curtain.
The baby’s cry was getting louder and louder. Strong lungs. The baby must’ve gotten them from it’s mother as Mark was painfully wheezing, his throat dry and burning, nasty coughs ripping through his body so viciously he couldn’t tell if it was saliva or blood on his lips.
He stopped when the crunching of leaves underfoot began to obscure the direction of the crying. He focused on the sound and examined the small area he could see. A nearby bush rustled and Mark stepped towards it. The cry got louder, clearer. Mark rushed forward, pulled back the bush and looked down at the writhing form on the ground. All at once, the adrenaline in his body drained and left him dazed and confused.
It was a fox, a big, red fox twitching on the ground, it’s head turned up, black eyes gazing pleadingly up at Mark, it’s mouth wide and it’s teeth bared as it wailed. It’s lower half was drenched in blood. One hind leg was stripped of flesh and while there were gashes in the bone, it was unbroken. Mark sighed and made a move to leave but the fox cried out at him once more and he stopped.
Mark knelt down and started searching the ground for a stone, mostly blind as he couldn’t pull his eyes away from the creature, from it’s wound. A creature too small to move the creature to its home couldn’t have done that much damage. But what could have scared off a large predator so much it abandoned it’s meal?
Mark found an acceptable stone, the width of his two hands. He lifted it up above the fox’s head, took a deep breath and slammed the stone down, plunging the forests back into an eerie silence.
He climbed to his feet with much effort, head pounding, vision blurring. He braced himself against a tree, squeezed his eyes shut and gripped his head until the dizziness eased. When he opened his eyes, he saw them again. Those eyes, glowing yellow eyes, now bigger and brighter, accompanied by heavy, monstrous breathing, slow and laboured with a resonant growl that made his body vibrate with terror and yet, he couldn’t run. He was still. The creature was still. They stood there in a strange stalemate.
He knew those eyes, knew them deeply and intimately and only now did his thoughts and memories congeal through his injured, sickly mind enough for him to recognize them.
Retrieving her and their baby from this dark, dank hell had been his only goal since he’d come to and yet, now, he felt nothing but terror. No relief, no excitement, no love, none of the feelings he felt when he looked into the eyes of his girl. At first, he was confused but then again, of course he felt nothing. This wasn’t his girl. His girl was soft and kind and brown-skinned and sweet smelling and petite and lovely. This was the snarling beast she left behind in the woods when she returned home to him, no different than the one that had been stalking him like prey through the forest, driven by nothing but hunger and the full moon.
Mark leaned up against his truck, arms crossed, grinning stupidly as he stared at Amyah. It took great effort to listen to her speech, which Mark did feel appropriately guilty about as he knew what she was saying was both historically important and important to her. But the way she swayed back and forth as she nearly skipped up and down the porch of the old, dilapidated cabin, the way her full, glossy lips curled up into a light, thoughtless smile, the way the light filtered through the orange leaves of the thick canopy overhead and covered her face in dancing shadows, it was difficult to do anything but stare.
“...so when the plantation burned, this was the only building that survived. So ever since then, women of the clan come here during the final full moon of their pregnancy to give birth.” She stopped and leaned on the railing, staring wistfully at the old wood. “It’s a way we reclaim our story and our space. It’s also just practical. Far away from anything, quiet, sturdy…” Amyah looked up and immediately looked away with that shy little smile she always got when Mark gave her “googly eyes'' as she said. She motioned for him to come and Mark scurried up the stairs next to her. Amyah tapped the wood, drawing Mark’s attention to a long line of initials carved into the wood, circled by hearts.
“You see how in some of the sets of initials, they both have the last initial G?”
“That’s your last name, right? Garoul?”
“It’s not exactly a last name. It’s the clan name. It’s the same for all of us across the entire United States. Where they’re the same, they’re both clan members. Where they’re different, the partner is a human.”
“There’s a lot of them.” Mark wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close. “That’s a good sign for us then, huh? We’re a time honored tradition!”
Amyah sighed as she curled into Mark’s side. “It used to be highly favoured. They thought bringing humans into our family would be a form of protection and maybe even lead to acceptance. Humans can also take care of the mother during birth. It happens during a full moon so, otherwise, you’re just on your own.” She pulled out of his grip and started pacing up the porch, examining the cabin, running her fingers over tiny details. “The practice fell out of popularity though.”
“Why’s that?” Mark trailed behind Amyah.
“They betrayed us. And they didn’t keep us safe.”
Mark ran in front of her and took her hands. “Hey! You know that’s not me, right? I’m gonna protect you and love you and cherish you to the bitter end. No matter what!”
Amyah’s eyes widened. She shyly ducked her head into her shoulder. “You’re sweet,” she whispered. She took a deep breath and looked down at where their hands were joined. “I’ve spent this whole year waiting for you to finally leave me.”
“Well it’s not gonna happen!” Mark laughed. “Baby, I’ve learned so much more about the world in this year I’ve been with you then the rest of my entire life. And it’s been kinda scary, yeah. But it's a part of you and I love you so I’m not going anywhere! I wanna spend the rest of my life with you!”
Amyah looked up at him, wide eyed and Mark felt himself flush. He coughed, scratched the back of his neck and chuckled awkwardly. “I didn’t mean to say that… until I actually had a ring in my hand.”
For a while, they stood there, speechless and giggling and awkwardly shuffling back and forth. Amyah finally shook herself and straightened up. “I need to hunt tonight. You should stay in the cabin. I… I want you to see me...changed.”
Mark grinned and pulled her close. “Really? Like, on purpose this time?”
Amyah pressed her face into his chest and curled into herself. Muffled in his shirt she spoke. “Yes. On purpose this time. Just for a little bit.”
There was light in the distance, a warm, dim light and Mark hobbled as quickly as he could towards it. The pain in his chest was getting worse. Beads of sweat poured down his face, his stomach churned, he zigged and zagged as he fought for balance and his vision blurred and exploded with stars. Most likely, his wound was infected and his stamina was waning. If he fell, he didn’t know if he could get up and he would most certainly be prey. If he could just get to his truck in time, before his consciousness gave way…
He stumbled through the bushes into the clearing and cried out in relief. There in front of him was his truck and the cabin, where a candle flickered in the window. That relief turned to a chilling horror when he noticed the clearing was silent.
It had never occurred to him until now but the horror of the ravenous beast lurking in the woods and the absence of any crying filled Mark with an awful nausea. When he was young, he’d watched his dog give birth and shortly after, his Dad scooped up all the puppies in a box and stole them away from their mother. “Gotta be careful,” Dad has said. “If they’re weak, some animals eat their young.”
Time was ticking. At any moment the beast could lunge for him and even if he made it to his truck, he risked passing out and crashing before even reaching the hospital if he waited too long. He knew what had to be in that cabin and it would be masochistic to go in and see for himself what his negligence had done. But the past nine months of his life had revolved solely on the expectation that he was to evolve into something amazing, something important, something strong: a father. And if there was a chance at all…
Mark crossed the clearing and scaled the steps of the cabin. The door hung open on broken hinges. Mark stepped into the dark one room cabin on quivering legs. It was silent and his shaky, laboured breaths were painfully loud. He picked up the candle from the window sill and held it out in front of him. The wooden floor was stained with a trail of blood splatters and he followed it to the bed in the corner of the room, a king sized mattress on a metal bed frame, soaked in blood. On the end of the bed was a baby blanket, a gift from Amyah’s mother, stained red, lying in a small, twitching pile. Mark braced himself, reached out a quaking hand and snatched the blanket away.
Underneath, staring up at him with big, beautiful, hazel eyes, was the most perfect creature Mark had ever seen. His baby, his daughter, blemishless, fat and strong.
Mark shuddered with the force of the sobs that ripped through him. He dropped the candle, quickly wrapped the baby up in the blanket and clutched her to his chest, unbothered by how it aggravated the pain. The baby reached up towards him. Her pudgy hands grasped the air as she softly cooed.
“It’s ok now. It’s ok. Daddy’s here. Daddy’s got you.” Mark scurried out of the cabin, never taking his eyes off his little girl, laughing and crying as he professed his love. “Daddy’s little girl. You’re ok. You’re so perfect.”
Mark reached the truck when another terrible howl, this one far too loud, far too close. He jumped into the driver’s seat and blindly fumbled around with one hand, searching for his keys. Light began to flicker in his peripheral vision and once he finally got his keys in the ignition and started the car, he spared a glance. The cabin was beginning to flow from the inside as flames spilled out the door, catching the drapes, growing steadily as it consumed the old wood.
Illuminated by the smoldering cabin and the car lights was the beast. It’s eyes were trained on the car. It’s teeth were bared and while it’s snout was just stained red, it’s back half was drenched and matted with blood. It took a step toward the car and Mark slammed his foot on the gas.
He glanced into the rearview mirror as he sped away, just in time to see the beast collapse before it disappeared into the darkness.
She worked precisely, elegantly on dressing the shallow wound on Mark’s arm. Her gaze was steely and focused and in the dark room lit only by the bedside lamp and the moonlight piercing through the gauzy curtains, they glowed. With every tilt of her head, the iridescent fabric of her bonnet caught new light. It was the blue one, the one she “accidentally” left at his apartment every time she stayed over for the past six months of casual hook ups. It was only recently she’d admitted, in the daze of afterglow. “If I like a guy, he gets the privilege of the blue bonnet. That’s not many guys.”
“You don’t look scared.” Her voice, just over a whisper, knocked Mark from his stupor. Her tone was cool and unbothered, something Mark was just now learning was more practiced distance than genuine apathy.
“I-I mean I was at first. That’s a pretty scary way to wake up.,” Mark said with a forced chuckle.
Amyha’s nose twitched. “I’m sorry. The closer it gets to a full moon, the harder it is to control.” She waited a moment, then added. “I had a nightmare.”
“I get it. It wasn’t your fault. I’m not mad or anything.” He watched her face, still screwed up tight. “It’s just a flesh wound.”
Amyah snorted, trying and failing to keep a smile from wiping away her semi-permanent scowl. “You’re not funny,” she said through tightly pursed lips.
“I think I’m funny.” Mark put on a dramatic pout and Amyah finally let her smile form and laughter pour out of her. Mark grinned, though less out of comedy and more out of wild infatuation.
Amyah secured the gauze, scanned her work, then sat down on the bed, a good foot away from Mark, her head down, picking at invisible lint on her pajama pants. Mark slid up next to her.
“I’ve never been a supernatural believer kind of guy. I believe in what I can prove and perceive. But this is something I have definitely perceived. And I’m… confused and shocked and really curious but I’m not scared. Certainly not scared of you.”
He placed his hands on her cheeks and tilted her head to look at him. Her bottom lip quivered and she gazed up at him with big, wet eyes.
“There’s so much you don’t know, though.”
“Then tell me. I wanna know everything about you, baby! I really like you.”
She blanched and immediately fell forward with a flustered groan, hiding her face in his chest. Mark chuckled and wrapped his hand around her. “We’ve got all night and then the rest of our lives after that.”
She sniffed and pulled her head from his chest, turning away to quickly wipe her eyes. “Ok. I guess the first thing is…” She took a deep breath and turned back to him, her face once again stoic and strong. “I will never hurt you on purpose.”
Mark heaved open the basement door. He wasn’t even 40 yet and still he could feel his age in his bones as he pried the door open. It was wood on the outside, steel on the inside, had cost him a painful amount to install but it was worth it. As soon as the door was open, he could hear groans and snarls from downstairs. He stepped down the first stair, pulled the door shut and started on the 5 locks.
“Daddy’ll be right there, babygirl!” he yelled over his shoulder. Once the locks were done, he trotted down the stairs into the basement.
The room looked bigger than it actually was due to the white walls, painted with colorful flowers and doodles. Painting the room had been a treat, a great use of the previous summer. In the center of the room was a king sized bed with purple bedding and a pile of stuffed animals, draped in a sparkling pink princess canopy. Amy lay in the center of the bed, curled in the fetal position, wearing unicorn pajamas and a thick metal cuff wrapped around her middle that connected to the wall with a chain, just long enough that she could make it to the half bath in the corner if she wasn’t too weak.
He’d designed the room around what he could remember being taught about his late wife’s development. Transformations first manifest involuntarily during the first few periods and those first few years are uniquely violent and painful. The body needs protein to transform and maintain that form, especially during pubescence. He’d started construction when Amy began developing and asking questions, around twelve years old, and once it was finished, they practiced sleeping down in her special basement room. She used to bubble with excitement at the prospect of womanhood, used to bound down the stairs with her stuffy clutched to her chest, singing about her sleepover with Daddy. Now she was a young woman weighed down at all times by suffering or the dreadful expectation of suffering to come.
“Alright. Let’s get your medicine.” Mark went straight to the medicine cabinet, stocked full of a years’ supply of water bottles, medications and feminie products. He began collecting her regular dosage of PMS relievers, painkillers and sleep aids.
“Nooo!” She shrieked and her voice slipped into an inhuman growl before melting into a girlish sob. “I’m hungry!”
Mark grabbed a bottle of water, went to the edge of the bed and pulled back the canopy. Amy writhed on the bed in another fit of cramps and her body pulsed with the force of its attempt to change. Her knuckles twisted and popped at awkward angles. Coarse fir sprouted out of her skin and receded. The muscles of her clenched jaw shifted as sharp fangs tried to grow. He waited out the fit, knowing better to touch her now and risk a finger. Finally, her body relaxed. She panted, tears and sweat mixing together on her cheeks. She was all but limp in Mark’s arms as he sat her up, put the pills in his mouth and washed it down. Once the pills were swallowed, she messily gulped down the rest of the water bottle. Holding her in his arms like this, close enough to admire her carmel, baby smooth skin and loose curls and big, innocent hazel eyes, he could pretend she was still his baby and not rapidly hurtling towards womanhood.
Once the bottle was empty, she let out a sound halfway between a groan and a howl. “I’m hungry, Daddy. I need meat! Please, please, please! It hurts!”
“I’m sorry, babygirl.” Mark laid her down against the pillows and wiped the sweat from her forehead. He regretted not raising her vegetarian. “We don’t want you changing.”
“Why?” Amy sobbed as Mark stood up. “It hurts! I want it to stop! Why can’t I make it stop? I’m hungry! Why, Daddy? Please.”
Mark stopped at the bookshelf. He stared ahead at the book he wanted and took deep breaths until he was sure he could trust his voice and that the tears in his eyes were gone. He picked up the book and went to sit in the rocking chair by the bed. “It’s dangerous, Amy. I lost your Mom because of what happens during full moons. But I’m not gonna lose you.” He reached through the canopy and put his hand on hers. “I am gonna protect you from all the scary things that could happen to you because you’re my little girl.” Mark bit his lip to keep it from quivering and whispered. “I’m so sorry you have to be different, babygirl. I know it’s hard. But I’m here and I love you so much.”
She lolled her head to the side, her big, sad, tear glazed eyes sunken with dark circles, her face flushed from crying, pale from iron loss, and managed a tiny smile that washed away every rational thought in Mark’s head. “I love you too, Daddy.”