The werewolf had stood on his haunches, looking around for any sign of trouble. He had been taught that you could never be too sure. When he didn't see or hear any sign of danger, he picked her up, attempting to be gentle with her, though his wolf arms are awkward when it comes to carrying anything. He walked like that—in his wolf form, with her in his arms—until he got back to his house.
He had to duck his head to get through his door. His wolf form was a little over seven and a half feet tall, which made coming inside while he was shifted difficult, but it had to be done.
Inside, he laid the unconscious young woman on the couch, tucking a blanket over her. He shifted into his human form in his bedroom, hurriedly finding some clothes to put on. He dressed, then went to his sister's room, taking some clothes from her closet for Nymeria to wear. He was sure his younger sister would understand.
He felt awkward while he was dressing her. All he could think about was how bad it would look if she woke up while he was trying to dress her. The young woman was freezing, though. She needed clothes, and to be tucked into the thick blanket on the living room couch. There, he could light a fire to ensure she stayed warm. There was no way she'd have made it all night if he had left her out in the cold.
As far as he could tell, she didn't have any life-threatening injuries, but the way he had found her troubled him deeply. He didn't want to go to his room and leave the poor girl to wake up in a strange house by herself. Instead, he sat down in the chair across the room and leaned back.
His younger sister, Selene, had texted him earlier that day to say that she wasn't going to be home, so he didn't have anything to worry about on that front. He was still scared of what the young woman's reaction would be to waking up in a strange house with a strange man, but he hoped he would be able to calm the young woman if she became upset. He waited for what felt to him like all night, though it was only an hour.
She stirred quietly, groaning from the pain she felt all over. She looked around with caution, attempting to determine where she was. When she noticed she was in a house, she jumped up on high alert, ignoring the pain she felt. But she swayed on her feet and fell back onto the couch.
Lukos leaned forward and held a hand in front of him, hoping he was looking friendly and not threatening. "Hey, hey. Careful now. Someone really did a number on you. I don't think you're in any condition to get up."
She jumped at the sound of his voice. She hadn't even noticed him sitting across the room.
"My name is Lukos," he said, still holding his hand out. "I found you in the forest. You were unconscious and freezing."
She looked at him as if she didn't understand what he was saying to her. Her head to one side and her eyebrows furrowed. She must have understood eventually because she did start speaking, though her speech was slow and she didn't speak in full sentences. It seemed like it was hard for her.
"Men… in forest. Bad men…" Tears started running down her face as she tried to recall everything that happened, and Lukos felt his heart ache for the poor girl. "They take my sister… they did… bad things. They did same to mother… they take my clothes," she had gestured at herself when she said that last line. "But I fight them. Try to run. They catch me… did bad things… then… they beat me. And I sleep. I thought… I died." She cried then, and Lukos had wanted nothing more than to cry for her–and to kill whoever did those things to her and her family.
"So, these men…" he had said, taking a breath to steady himself. "They… assaulted… your sister and mother, they killed them… and then… they assaulted you and beat you?" He asked.
"Sí,¹ they did. Eran monstruos,"² she told him.
"Okay… what's your name?" Lukos had asked her.
"¿Mi nombre?³ Nymeria," she answered.
"Okay, Nymeria. Do you know what the men looked like? I could take you to the police," he offered.
"No," she said. She looked scared again. "I saw them… no hay policía.⁴ Police… bad man."
"One of the men was a police officer?" He asked her.
"Sí,"⁵ she responded.
"Was he… like… a really tall… beefy-lookin' man?" He had asked her suddenly.
"¡Sí, es el!"⁶ She exclaimed in a panicked voice.
"Ugh! I fucking hate that guy!" He almost yelled, angry.
"He's bad," she agreed.
"So… Nymeria. You don't want me to take you to the police… Do you have anywhere that you'd like to go? Any other family members?" He asked her.
"No," she said sadly. "No tengo a nadie."⁷
"No one?" He asked her. His heart was breaking for her at that moment. Nymeria shook her head no while tears fell from her sad brown eyes. She wiped at them, strands of her long black hair falling from behind her ears as she did.
"Well…" Lukos said, thinking. "You could… stay here at my house until you feel safe enough to leave," he offered. "There's an extra bedroom upstairs, and it looks like you wear about the same size clothes as my sister, so I could easily get some for you. It's an option for you… only if you want that, of course."
"Your sister?" She asked. She looked down at herself then, seeming to notice, for the first time, the comfortable, warm clothes that she was wearing. "This… her clothes?" She asked.
"Yeah, um…" Lukos answered. He had felt embarrassed and guilty at that moment. "You… uh… you didn't have clothes when I found you… just torn cloth. And you needed to warm up, so I had to get some clothes on you… Um, I know, that's weird. I'm sorry. I just didn't want you to end up with hypothermia," he blurted. All his words had come out one-after-another, with almost no pause between any of them.
"No, no," Nymeria said, smiling slightly. "Is… not 'weird…' so much," she said, watching his face as intently as if she was studying him for her class. "Es simplemente diferente. Creo que es dulce."⁸
"Oh, um…" he stammered, rubbing the back of his neck. "Thanks."
"It's not… trouble?" Nymeria tried asking him then, confused and exhausted.
"What do you mean?" Lukos questioned.
"To… stay here?" She asked.
"Oh!" Lukos exclaimed. "No, no. It's no trouble at all. As I said, there's an extra bedroom upstairs, so you'll have plenty of privacy. And I can get you some clothes and whatever else you may need. You can stay here as long as you need. It's no trouble at all."
"Eres muy amable. Gracias,"⁹ Nymeria said, her eyes tearing up with a mix of joy and fear. "Will the bad men… come back for me?" She asks.
"No, I don't think so," Lukos answers. "As far they know, they left you to die, right?" Nymeria nods. "They might wonder if you're alive… in a few weeks when they realize there have been no reports of anyone stumbling over your body in the woods. But for now, I don't think you have anything to worry about."
"That's good," she said. She looked relieved for the first time at that moment.
Then, Lukos stood and started to walk toward his kitchen. He asked Nymeria, "Are you hungry? I can make you something to eat."
"Sí, por favor,"¹⁰ she said, holding her stomach. She hadn't even noticed that she was hungry until he had asked her. She stood up carefully then, and said, "Can I help? You've been so kind. Quiero ayudar."¹¹
"You can… keep me company?" He suggested. "I don't really think that you need to be doing much of anything—except resting—right now," he said. His voice had sounded so commanding when he said that, and it reminded him of his dad. He hated when he sounded like his dad.
"Okay…" Nymeria said, pulling up a chair and sitting down as Lukos started cooking for her. "I did have… weird, um… What do you call it? El sueño."¹²
"A weird dream?" He asked.
"Yes! Dream…" she said.
"What was your dream about?"
"I was… sleeping. Um, not sleeping… But… not awake?"
"Sí,¹³ that's it!" she answered.
Lukos noticed that she was getting better at making whole sentences, so he waved off the way she was when she woke up as a mix of English being her second language and the grogginess from where she had been knocked unconscious. "Okay, then what?" He asked her.
"Umm, it was weird. There was a big… um. A big…" she trails off for a moment thinking. ¡Un gran lobo!"¹⁴
"A big wolf?" Lukos asked, his body tensed up momentarily.
"Yes, the biggest!" Nymeria said, holding her arms outstretched as if showing him how big it was. That had made him smile.
"What did the wolf do?" He asked.
"That's why it's weird!" she said. Then she said, "It stood up! And then… ¡Y luego me rescató!"¹⁵ Nymeria exclaimed. Her eyes were wide when she said that, and she had been giggling a bit, obviously amused at the idea of a giant wolf rescuing her from the woods inside her dream.
Lukos had looked at her then and smiled. Nymeria, who, despite everything bad that had happened to her, was sitting there in Lukos'—a complete stranger to her—kitchen and telling him about a dream she had. He took a deep breath before speaking to her again. He had realized he needed to do more than simply offer her a roof over her head. "Nymeria," he said. "When we're done eating—and I know this may be a lot to ask—would you… be willing to dye your hair? My younger sister has a bottle of red hair dye in her bathroom, I think… And maybe we can try cutting your hair a little shorter? Or you could just try putting it into a new hairstyle? The bad men will have a much harder time finding you if they can't even recognize you."
"They won't find me?" She asked him.
"They could still find you, but it would be much harder for them," Lukos explained to her.
"I will change my hair." Nymeria nodded, though she sounded a little bit sad about it.
"We don't have to cut it," Lukos said. "And we don't have to dye it, either. It's completely up to you, Nymeria."
"I want to," she offered. "Sería la opción más segura,"¹⁶ she admitted–more to herself than to him. "It's just hair… It can grow back."
Lukos smiled, then gave Nymeria the food he had just finished cooking. She ate it all eagerly before telling Lukos, "Muchos gracías.¹⁷ You have done so much for me."
"I have just done what any decent person would have done for you, Nymeria," Lukos responded to her. He yawned and stretched then, glancing at the clock. It was a little past 3 A.M. "Oh, wow. It's so late," he pointed out.
Nymeria looked at the clock then, and said, "Oh, you're right."
"Would you like me to show you the bedroom that'll be yours?" He asked her. She nodded.
Lukos led her upstairs, showing her where his room was in case she needed him for any reason, showing her where Selene's room was and explaining that she just wasn't home at the moment, showing her where the upstairs bathroom was, and finally, showing her the spare bedroom that she would be using. He took some extra clothes from Selene's room—in case Nymeria wanted to take a shower or just change—promising her that he'd go to town and get her some clothes of her own the next day. Then he left her to get settled in the bedroom. He went back to his room and flopped down onto his bed, sighing deeply. He rubbed his temples and tried to sleep, though his mind was all over the place.
⁶Yes, that's him!
⁷I have no one.
⁸It's just different. I think it's sweet.
⁹You're very kind. Thank you.
¹¹I want to help.
¹⁴A big wolf!
¹⁵And then rescued me!
¹⁶That's the safest option.
¹⁷Thanks so much.
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