[A short story about a wolf going on a journey to save her cub for @wolfgirldeadprincess]
Reya was the first of the litter to master her human form. Sahi was not surprised, for she saw much of herself in the small ball of fur: bright blue eyes, tawny fur dusted with flecks of black at the tips, and a headstrong personality and paws so large she would need time to grow into them. Sahi had been the same as a pup, confident and determined, able to bend her body to her will long before any of her siblings.
She of all people understood how difficult the secluded life of their kind was for one with such an active mind and vibrant personality, especially one who had not yet come of age and chosen her place within the framework of the pack. The woods were a solitary place, and Sahi feared her daughter would soon lose interest in the world shown her and seek the world beyond: cities where dangers lurked around every corner. Vehicles that could strike her down. People who would kill her out of fear or mistrust. Laboratories that could exploit her out of greed or abject curiosity. And friendships that might mean Reya would forget those she left behind.
To keep Reya from feeling stifled in her limited environment, Sahi never discouraged Reya from asking questions and exploring the world around her. Although Reya was always one to stray further from the safety of the pack than the others found acceptable, Sahi never did anything to stop her beyond the general admonishments of a mother to her cub, keeping her from clear danger and prodding the pup gently to stay with her siblings, Nani and Kai.
“Something is different about Reya,” Sahi’s mother said one day, watching Reya chase a butterfly in her wolf form and then shift seamlessly into a young girl, long golden hair curling down her back, to follow the insect when it flew up a tree. “That girl is just like you.” The elder woman chuckled. “All the trouble you gave me growing up will be repaid tenfold with this one.”
Sahi glared at her mother. “I came back,” she said, the retort sounding tired, used.
Her mother smiled, unphased by Sahi’s narrowed eyes. The fire of the argument between them had died out long ago. “Let me say my piece, and have done with it; if you give the girl freedom, be prepared for her to take it.” She put her withered hand on Sahi’s shoulder. “Sometimes, letting go is the only way to keep hold of what you love most.”
Sahi put her hand over her mother’s, thinking again of herself and how similar her daughter was growing to be. “I know,” she said, and she did. One day, a time would come when Reya left this place far behind.
“Knowing and doing are two very different things,” her mother warned, wrinkles framing her aquamarine eyes as she smiled gently.
As Reya grew older, it became more difficult to convince her to stay in the forest with the rest of the pack. She shifted restlessly from her wolf form to her human form and back again, and her lessons at home were no longer enough. Sahi struggled to find material to captivate her daughter and told Reya of the outside world, hoping the information would be enough. Yet in her heart she knew it would not be; it had never been enough for her either.
“I want to see the other world,” Reya begged, and Sahi knew that hearing tales was one thing, but seeing with one’s own eyes was quite another.
“It is too dangerous for our kind,” Sahi said, her tone conveying finality.
“You lived in the outside world!” Reya accused, her voice trembling with restrained emotions: anger, desperation, hope, yearning.
Sahi ran delicate fingers through her blonde hair. “Please,” she said, her turn to beg. She did not deny her daughter’s allegation. She had known Reya would discover her past eventually; it was no secret. Yet some small part of her wished Reya had not. The part that secretly hoped Reya would be different from her, just this once. But it was too much to ask, nothing but a wish hastily cast to the stars in hopes they might answer.
Reya glared at Sahi, and Sahi couldn’t help but smile and embrace her daughter, for looking at Reya was like looking into a mirror containing her younger self.
“Promise me you will stay with me,” Sahi said.
Reya hugged her back fiercely, but she did not say the words Sahi so desperately needed to hear.
Sahi awoke, and she knew in an instant that Reya was gone.
That morning, Sahi cried in her bed, inconsolable by even Nani and Kai, until her mother came for her.
“You must let her go, or you will lose her,” her mother said, echoing her words from ten years prior.
“She could be in danger,” Sahi argued. “I need to find her.”
“Reya is as good a wolf as she is a girl. You will not find her until she wants to be found, or have you forgotten so quickly?”
Sahi wanted to yell at her mother that her own past did not matter; all that mattered was Reya, here and now, and Reya could be in danger. But words would not save Reya.
Sahi shifted, her wolf form more adept at picking through the bouquet of scents in the air, and jumped out the open window, loping into the dense woods beyond the house and leaving the bitter scent of tears and heartache far behind. She followed Reya’s scent to the edge of the forest, through a small town, and still the scent led her further away from the pack and safety. When she reached a big city, Sahi could no longer risk her canine form, yet her human nose, although stronger than an average human’s, was not skilled enough to pick apart the layered scents of the large metropolis to find her daughter.
“I won’t let anything happen to you, Reya darling” she promised the air. “I’ll find you.”
Sahi continued the search until she could hardly stand, until every scent blended together, and every blonde woman on the street began to look like Reya. In the midst of sirens blaring and horns honking, Sahi screamed her frustration to the traitorous wind filled with too many smells and sounds, fresh tears falling.
Sahi returned from her daily search, haggard. She still knew nothing more of Reya than she had three years ago, and the uncertainty was agony. She stumbled through the doorway to her bedroom, making no effort to be quiet now that Nani and Kai no longer lived under the same roof.
“You are in more danger than Reya,” said a voice from the shadows.
Sahi jolted so violently at the noise that she nearly fell over, grasping at her heart.
“What do you want, mother?” she demanded, her mood souring more by the second.
“This distraction is dangerous,” her mother said matter-of-factly. “Snap out of it.”
“Reya is still out there, and she needs me.”
“Does she?” her mother questioned. She was too kind to point out that it was the other way around, but the air seemed to scream it anyway.
Sahi huffed, shifting into her wolf form and showing her mother the back of her furry head, ears pressed flat to her skull.
“I’ll only say this once more: you hold on too tightly. Sometimes getting what we want means we must let it go.”
Sahi trotted off with another huff. She slept in the woods that night, and many nights after.
Sahi sat at a cafe and watched as Reya stepped from the crowded sidewalk, clutching the note in Reya’s neat hand as if to be certain she wasn’t dreaming. At the sight of her daughter, tears leaked from Sahi’s eyes, and she did her best to wipe them away before Reya saw.
Not quite fast enough, Reya noticed and took her damp fingers. “Hi, mom.”
Sahi sat quickly, a little awkward, unsure how to act in front of the girl who both was and was not the daughter she remembered. “Do you want a coffee or something?”
Reya shook her head. “I’m here to see you because you finally stopped looking.”
Sahi tried to laugh through the tears that threatened. She was only half-successful, and a fat tear leaked down her cheek to drip from her chin. “I never forgot you, and I always worried,” Sahi said. “But I offered you freedom, let you believe in the world beyond, and as a mother, that is my gift to you. Now freely given.” With a ragged sigh, she gave in to the inevitable, releasing the breath and with it the last of her anxiety.
“You’ll always be my mother,” Reya said. “I will always love you, no matter where I go or where I end up.”
“I understand,” Sahi replied. “Make this freedom your own and be well, my darling Reya. I trust you to make your own choices, whether or not they lead you back to me.”
Reya stood and wrapped her arms around her mother, and Sahi vehemently returned the embrace.
“I love you,” Reya whispered into Sahi’s hair.
Sahi marveled that her daughter was the same height and softly stroked Reya’s fine golden hair, simply nodding. She refused to say goodbye, for this was not the end, and the word seemed too final. Instead, she waved as her daughter slipped away, disappearing into the crowd. Sahi tossed a few bills on the table and stood herself, feeling lighter. A smile touched her lips as she blinked away the last of her tears, for she knew that if her daughter was anything like her, Reya would choose to return one day.