Shreya would have further reassured Ellie on her concerns, but Ellie shrugged her off. She pushed for Shreya to tell her the truth. It was time to finally open the door of no-return.
The truth, it weighed heavy at the tip of Shreya’s tongue. What would be the best course of action? To let it soar, whispered past her ear? In this position, with Ellie in her lap, she could hold her back, and keep her from bolting while she tried to explain herself.
The justifications for what Shreya did were scant. Self-serving, bordering on cruel. But everything that developed between them wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Their story would’ve come to a grinding halt before it could take off.
Don’t let this end like this, Ellie had once implored her in so many words. Ellie begged for her forgiveness. Shreya gave it. Would Ellie do the same? Would her promises of it’s about you and me, forget about where we’re from and there’s nothing you can say that’ll make me feel any less hold true?
Shreya held to it. Even when Ellie illustrated her bigotry time and time again, Shreya held on. She didn’t flinch as Ellie condemned herself and then Shreya’s people in the same breath. She supported her, hugging her close as she cursed Shreya’s very existence.
Everything Ellie spoke of haunted Shreya with its familiarity. Her family had done the same thing before. Shreya had been responsible for many a Rowan Vestergaard in her life. They weren’t always little girls—their appearances varied in size and shape—but they were similarly naive. Shreya had done the luring, the sweet talking before her parents showed up to finish the job.
Ellie’s feelings about wolves weren’t without merit. There was truth and grounding in her statements, and Shreya had just enough self-loathing to admit that. Had she been proud of her heritage, Shreya would’ve made Ellie regret her spew of hatred. She would’ve forced her to choke on it. That’s what her community would’ve expected from her: take down the enemy, make an example out of her.
Perhaps, Shreya was something of a masochist. She had to be one for opening her heart to someone so intent on breaking it.
Monster to monster, will you listen to me? Will you give me a chance?
“You’re not scared, are you?” Ellie asked. She placed her hand over Shreya’s. “You’re gonna be fine. I did it. I survived, and you can, too. Talk to me.”
“Before I do, there is something I want to give you.” Shreya leaned to reach into her pocket.
Shreya bought herself some more time. She prayed the delay would embolden her and give her the strength she sorely needed. Just going to scrape up a few minutes more. She worried that Ellie would call her out on it, but Ellie was at full attention (if the stiffness of her back said anything) waiting for her gift.
“What is it?” Her impatience flared in her tone. She turned around to face Shreya, her movement clumsy. Giddy. She scooted back a little on the bed.
“I made you this.” Shreya opened her palm to reveal two identical bracelets.
Ellie picked one up delicately, as if its threads would fall apart if she wasn’t careful. She ran her thumb over the raised, intertwining pattern. “We’re gonna match.”
“Yes,” she said. She’d prepared a speech for this moment that unfortunately, eluded her. It was hard for her to remember it with Ellie looking at her so full of wonder and awe. Shreya cleared her throat. “The colors… I chose violet because—”
“Because we’re so violet it hurts!”
“You are so violet it hurts.”
“Nuh uh,” she denied. “That’s you.”
Shreya squished Ellie’s bottom lip. “Treeno told me you are the violetest girl in Stockbrunn.”
Ellie batted Shreya’s hand away. “And he told me you’re the violetest woodsdweller ever! Viiiiolet. Look at you giving your girlfriend a present. That’s really violet of you, Shreya. What can be violeter than that?”
“Hm, if it is a problem, I can leave. I am certain I can find someone else who likes me for me.”
“Ha, good luck finding somebody who likes you more than I do.” Ellie leaned closer. Her words ghosted Shreya’s lips. “And if you do, they’re going to have to fight me to get you. I’m not letting you go so easily.”
Shreya smirked. “Confident.” She pushed Ellie back, gently. “I think I was talking before you interrupted me.”
“Ooh, rejected. Ouch. You wounded me.” Ellie clutched her chest. “If only there was a fair maiden here who could heal my shattered heart. A kiss would do it. Two kisses. Maybe, three. Who cares? No one’s gonna be counting.”
“Hold on. Show me your wrist. I can tie it on for you,” Shreya said. Ellie behaved, surprisingly not taking the chance to pull Shreya in for a peck. She let Shreya knot the bracelet over her pulse point. It had some slack to move, too small to be able to drift down her arm.
Shreya continued with her explanation, “I chose black to represent soil. It gives life. Helps new starts to grow. And today, I hope we will start something new.”
“Wouldn’t brown make more sense?”
“The most richest soil. We will see what comes of ours.”
“And the white strings stand for purity.”
“Wrong. Focus, Ellie.”
“White hot burning love!”
“That…was near the answer. It is for lightning. The white hot flash of electricity,” she said, grateful that she didn’t stumble through the pronunciation. “Violet, black, and white intermixing. I thought it suited us. What do you think?”
“It’s beautiful. I love it. I’ll never take it off.” Not that she could. It would require taking a knife to the thinnest strings. “I really do love it. It makes me feel—ugh, I wish there was a better way to say this, but it makes me feel special. It makes us feel so…real. And I know that sounds silly, since it’s just a bracelet, but it’s really not just a bracelet. I don’t know where I’m going with this, heh…”
When Ellie finished, she interlaced her fingers with Shreya’s, palm-to-palm as she held her hand. She pressed her wrist to hers, their woven bracelets touching. Soft affection brightened her eyes, a warm smile meant only for Shreya on her face.
I don’t want to say goodbye to this.
“You’re breathtaking,” Ellie said. “Fall with me.” She laid down onto her back, slow and careful most likely due to her head injury. She pulled herself further down the bed to give them both enough space so their feet wouldn’t be touching the headboard.
Shreya followed. She planted her hands and knees on either side of Ellie, still holding herself above her.
“Come down,” Ellie urged.
I don’t want to lose you.
Shreya met Ellie in a kiss she reveled in. It felt like it had been ages since they had the privacy and time to give to each other like this. Soft at first, it soon deepened. Shreya could taste Ellie’s need on her tongue. She was as desperate for her touch as she was hers.
Heat coiled in Shreya’s stomach, the spring tightening as Ellie’s hands roamed her sides. Weeks of longing had left her quivering. Shaking with a warmth for Ellie to cool. Refusing to let it show, Shreya broke away and lowered her mouth to Ellie’s neck.
Ellie gasped at the contact. She gripped Shreya, hard. Her response spurring her on, Shreya licked a trail to her collarbone. She didn’t go down further than the still-closed third button of Ellie’s shirt, but the open topmost ones were fair grounds for exploration. Shreya buzzed from Ellie’s thrill.
A breathy giggle. Ellie’s hands moved to her shirt. Shreya rose to watch her. Blushing a furious pink from nerves and/or excitement, Ellie looked away as she undid the rest of her buttons. One at a time, they revealed more of her skin, but Ellie clutched her shirt closed in their place. Shreya could only see slivers of what she was most interested in.
“Close your eyes,” Ellie said. “You can, um…you can do it, but don’t look.”
Shreya heeded her concern. She took her time to learn her by feel, mapping her with light touches of her fingertips. Ellie shuddered. She tensed at certain spots, and relaxed in others. Added pressure made her yearn for more, leaning up for a fuller touch.
Ellie’s hands returned to Shreya, securing her. Shreya’s whole body ached. She leaned down to kiss her, missing at first until Ellie guided her to her lips. Ellie’s hand smoothed over Shreya’s back, tracing downwards.
“Stop!” Shreya jolted upright. She backed away, her blood rushing in her ears.
Did she feel it? Shreya studied the worry on Ellie’s face.
“I…I, um…oh, shit. Shit, I forgot. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
Shreya tried to calm her breathing. “I am. I need a moment.”
“I’m horrible.” Ellie turned to fix her shirt. “I wasn’t thinking. It won’t happen again. I should…I should go for a walk. I should give you some space.”
“You are not horrible. It was an honest mistake,” Shreya said. “I forgive you.”
“Thanks. Sorry for killing the mood.”
“It is okay. It was going to end eventually.” As soon as I stop running. Shreya got off of the bed. Her legs shook, full of jitters from the abrupt stop. Ellie remained seated, her face forlorn. “Do not be sad. This has been a happy day.”
“Except for the part where I told you how I hate my father’s guts.”
“And that does not lower you in my eyes. I have problems with mine, too. That does not make us monsters.”
“I don’t know, Shreya… You have to admit that it’s fucked up that I wish he had died in his accident.” Ellie sighed. “Now I’ve really, really killed the mood. It’s deader than dead. Great going, me.”
“The reason for that wish is mercy. You do not want him or anyone else affected by his tragedy to suffer. How is that monstrous?”
“Because he disgusts me.”
“Because you love him and it hurts you to see him like that.”
“These are a bunch of excuses,” Ellie said. “You don’t have to bother with them. This is who I am, deep down. I’m the kind of person who’s capable of this. So…yeah, this is what you’re getting into. I’m not as fun as I seem.”
“I already knew that. Everyone has more than one side to them, and I accept all of yours. I am still here. I will never leave you.” Shreya told her what she wished Ellie would say in return.
“Me, neither. You’re the best thing that—”
“Stay there.” Shreya stopped Ellie from getting off the bed.
“What’s this? Got another present for me?” Ellie asked. She sat on the edge and leaned back on her hands. “At this rate, you’re blowing that peafowl feather out of the water.”
“It’s an expression. Never mind. Just show me what you want to show me.”
“I want to tell you about my secret,” Shreya said. She fiddled with her bracelet. “Do you… Do you promise you will stay?”
“Yes,” she said. “Are you going to show me your scars? I’ll admit that I might look away a little bit, but that’ll only be so I can stop myself from wanting to hunt down your Elders. I hate how much they rule your life.”
“I have to hear you promise me.”
“Haven’t I promised you a thousand times already? I promise you.”
Shreya gripped the top of her hat.
She just had to trust in Ellie.
All of her words. All of her affirmations.
She’d reassured her countless times that she had nothing to worry about.
Shreya’s hand trembled.
“Don’t forget who I am,” Shreya said.
She pulled her hat off. She dropped it to the floor.
Ellie laughed. Not out of humor, but out of something else.
“Joke ears,” Ellie said.
Shreya moved her hair aside to show her the space where human ears would’ve been.
Ellie choked. “You’re an animal. This whole time… You lied to me.” She covered her mouth. “This can’t be happening. No, no, no. You tricked me? How could you…?”
“I never lied about my feelings. I am still me. I still love—”
“What are you?” A low and bitter growl of a question.
Tears clouded her vision. “I am a…a…”
“Tell me what the fuck you are!”
Ellie stared at her and didn’t say anything for a long time.
A wolf. A wolf. A wolf. Those two words echoed in the room.
Ellie stood up. She snatched her boots from the floor and headed for the stairs.
Shreya didn’t know whether to give chase or let Ellie come to her senses on her own. Would she ever do the latter without Shreya’s intervention? Sometimes, people needed space to themselves after shocking events. Time to calm down and reassess the situation.
Or would she go home and stew in her hatred, never to see Shreya ever again? If this was going to be the last time they ever saw each other, could Shreya let everything end like this? Ellie reacted with a cold silence, a brutal non-reaction that shook Shreya to her core.
Shreya had to make a decision.
A/N: Here we are, folks! We made it to the ~*~big reveal~*~ and I’m scared. Voting ends this Friday, March 10th at 11:59 PM EST.
This chapter included a poll from January 11th. The question was “when Shreya’s identity is revealed, will it be on purpose or by accident?” We had 20 voters. 7 voted for an accident and 13 voted for it being on purpose.
We also got to see the results of our Chapter 45 poll on if Shreya’s truth will be revealed, or if she will make up a lie. 32(!!!) of you voted for the truth to be revealed. New record achieved and we had a 100% result! So if anyone else cried from this chapter, that’s on you. 😛
See you on Tuesday for Chapter 47.