She waits for him in a copse of trees just beyond the creek, amid shadows of cedars that rise from the decaying tangle of their fallen kin. Sleek and petite, she moves with a lithe certainty that scarcely disturbs the fragile tendrils of new growth struggling from the forest floor. She is built for speed but has reached the limit of her endurance, and seeks cover in the dusky coolness of the woods. She is vulnerable here, but the miles she has covered today have taken their toll; she sinks to the loam with a soft exhale of relief and is still. A tiny pulse beats a frantic rhythm in the white curve of her throat, belying the ease of her repose. The tender pink shell of her ear catches a sound in the distance and she stiffens, instantly alert. An eternity of heartbeats passes as she waits; is he here? She raises her head to the wind but it carries no scent of him. Tension drains from her stance and she moves toward the enticing whisper of the creek. As she drops her head to drink, her own reflection gives her pause. In the bottomless caramel depths of her eyes swirls the instinctive wisdom of her lineage, flickering with the deep sadness and unremitting terror of the hunted. Even if she manages to elude him this time, he will never abandon his desire to possess her. He sees subtle movement at the tree line, and it takes every ounce of willpower he possesses not to bolt from concealment. To reveal himself now would be foolhardy. She is fast and can easily outrun him, but he has been tracking her for hours and she is tired. Tall grass and a favorable wind direction should get him close enough to take her. His lips curl back over gleaming teeth into a ferocious smile, and a soft, satisfied growl escapes. This time he will have her. Adrenaline floods his veins like molten madness, consigning domesticated niceties into fiery oblivion. The primal drumming of his heart pounds in his ears, but he imagines he hears her muted footfalls through the undergrowth. He watches her through slitted, cunning eyes as she slips from the shelter of the trees. He readies himself, muscles contracting, forged by bloodlust into rigid bands beneath his skin. He snarls, leaps and begins to run. As he closes in, the tantalizing scent of her panic urges him to greater speed. She is almost his….
I look up from my laptop and watch the old man twitch in his sleep, smiling at the staccato chuffs, rumbles and snores as he dreams. We’ve been together almost fourteen years now, and even fourteen more still wouldn’t be long enough. I’ve seen him go from vibrant youth to frail geriatric. He’s lost most of his teeth, his fur is patchy, his skin is fragile and he’s gotten more than a little cranky, but I love him with all my heart. The phone rings twice before I can grab it, and he raises his head from his pillow in obvious annoyance. Grumbling under his breath, he heaves a sigh and sinks back into his bed. I finish the call, then reach down and gently skritch his chin. He opens one eye in tacit acknowledgement of my affection, then drifts off to sleep again.