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Wolf Slave 11 – Alex Ankarr
It seems enough, for Hotstaat says, ‘Then go choose a book, and come sit by me and read to me.’
‘What manner of book might you prefer, sir?’ Penn does ask, for it seems wisest not to annoy the man with ill-choices. But he gets an impatient gesture of the hand in reply, and so moves off to make a decision himself. Better not to annoy with ill-received questions, also.
Out of a library of thousands and tens of thousands of books, to make a choice for a first impression upon a new owner, for a first reading… Damn, it’s not going to be easy. The classics, Penn decides: and fiction, definitely. Out of all safe choices, it’s surely the safest. Dickens, Voltaire, Tolstoy… His eyes run over them as he walks down the stacks. Then his eye falls upon Jane Eyre, and he picks it up. Mostly because he’s right by the appropriate shelf, and he can’t afford to aggravate Hotstaat by keeping him waiting any longer. This is it, this is the one.
When he goes to sit down by Hotstaat – as invited, not as if he would take the liberty off his own bat – he begins to announce his choice of book, mention its history, and seek approval of his choice. Or at least he would, but even as he begins he gets another impatient shooing-at. ‘Just read,’ Hotstaat says, journal on his lap and staring at the fire.
So Penn just reads, and he just reads for a good long time. By the time he has come to the point of the French child, Adèle, and Rochester disclaiming parentage of her because, after all, she is not a werewolf, and if she were his child then she would most assuredly be wolf-born – well, he has almost forgotten that he has an audience.
He remembers, though, when Hotstaat interrupts the flow of his narration, turning his head and speaking to him abruptly. ‘Annoying child, simpering miss, isn’t she?’ he says to Penn. ‘One can hardly blame Rochester for wishing to disown her. Do you remember, Penn, when we were that age? I am sure we were never half such little moaners and complainers. You might have whined a little for attention when you were in a snit: but you did not continue excessively, and when you were comforted you paid heed and quieted yourself.’
And Penn is transfixed: so much so that he cannot clear his throat to speak, not even when Hotstaat abruptly rises from his seat, and exits the library with a smooth despatch that leaves him gaping. The reading is at an end, then, at least as far as this late afternoon is concerned.
That is what he thinks, left sitting there with a great gape on his face, and quite a number of thoughts chasing each other through his head. One is that Ree’s hair has darkened quite a lot, since they were kids together. Another is along the lines of well, well, so it is Ree after all. He is Ree. Another says, well, there’s a piece of my childhood gone. From beloved childhood friend to distant master, and isn’t that just the way it goes.
He remembers clutching a hold of his Ree’s neck, as they’d torn him away, the day he’d had to leave with his mother. He remembers wetness on Ree’s cheek, his lips clamped together, sturdily being a little wolf-man. Well, they’ve certainly come a long way from those days.
© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013 All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.