He was a lone wolf. After those first few times seeing him, Hawk figured he had to be. The animal certainly was big enough to survive alone. Obviously strong, stealth. Even though those eyes were beautiful, eerily golden, they seemed defiant, alpha-like. His thick coat was very dark, even black, but still Hawk called him Ghost. The name came from how fast the wolf could move because he would appear out of seemingly nowhere, standing and silently watching. And then, be gone. Just like that.
Ghost had been hanging around the cabin for a number of weeks now. He wouldn’t come close, but Hawk did not mistake that for being timid. He didn’t even think it was caution. The wolf was fully aware he could rip out Hawk’s throat long before he even aimed his gun, much less squeezed the trigger. So, no, it wasn’t any form of fear on the wolf’s part.
Hawk actually had the belief the wolf was trying hard not to scare him.
And, honestly, it truly had been tense that first time Hawk saw Ghost. Hawk had finally been able to bring down a small deer and had dragged it to the cabin where he gutted and cleaned it. There was still snow on the ground and it had been Hawk’s first real kill out there all by himself and he had not been careful. Young and fucking stupid, his father would say. Not that he really cared anymore for what that ass hole had ever thought. Still, the blood trail he left could have been followed by a blind man.
Ghost really had been fierce that day, baring his particularly sharp canines, growling and howling, doing a little dance all around the perimeter as if he would attack at any moment. Except he stuck to the edge of the woods, never coming all the way into the small clearing where the cabin and Hawk were. As nervous as Hawk had been that he had unwelcome company, he eventually went about his business of butchering the deer. If Hawk was going to die, then he would die. But if the wolf let him live, he was going to need the meat. He offered the entrails to the wolf, not that he looked hungry in the least. He just figured if he shared the bounty, he might end the day alive.
And he did.
Hawk wasn’t sure if the wolf ate the offering or not, he never saw him do it, but the mess was gone the next morning.
When Ghost showed up a few days later, Hawk once again offered him raw meat. This time the wolf sniffed at it, picked it up, seemed to nod in Hawk’s direction, then it loped off into the deep woods.
Huh, Hawk remembered thinking. I just might have made a friend.
For the next several days the wolf continued to visit but stayed to the edge of the woods. He seemed to be watching Hawk’s every move as he chopped wood for the fireplace, did minor repairs on the cabin and attempted to hunt small game.
Ghost even followed when Hawk checked his traps. Unfortunately, Hawk really had no idea how to be a trapper. His old man had the traps hanging in the barn, so Hawk had taken them. The small amount of money he was able to find wouldn’t last long so trapping and being able to offer animal hides for trade, would be his only means of support.
Day after day, the wolf would come and sit at the edge of the forest to the point Hawk searched for him each morning. He would nod in acknowledgement, and the wolf seemed to do the same. Most of the time Hawk would go about his chores of surviving another day in the wilderness but sometimes he would just stand and stare at the wolf. He was simply gorgeous and something amazing to gaze at. Hawk was even finding himself wanting to get closer. What did his fur feel like? Would those shoulders really come to Hawk’s waist? But each time Hawk would try, Ghost would disappear.
After they were well into the third week of the wolf being an off-and-on-again companion, and after yet another disappointing string of empty traps, Hawk stopped and regarded the wolf. He, too, had stopped and was standing about ten feet away, the closest he had ever come.
It was probably just a symptom of his isolation, or maybe he really was as crazy as his old man had kept telling him, but Hawk began to talk to the wolf as if he could understand.
“Well, Ghost, another tripped and empty trap but not any blood as if it were set off on purpose. It’s almost as if the animals know what this is and how it works. Do you think something like that is possible?”
The wolf only turned to him, cocked his head to the side and sat.
“I’ll take that as a no.” Hawk chuckled. “I have to tell you, though. This is mighty suspicious. I haven’t gotten anything in my traps. They’ve been like this since I came up here which is a little problematic because that deer I took won’t last forever.”
Ghost chuffed as if in agreement.
“I’ve certainly seen plenty of fox. Maybe you have, too? That tells me there’s game. Hell, these tracks tell me that.” Hawk sighed. “However, I won’t fill my belly by continuing to stare at bare traps.” Hawk shook his head. “But I might just as well pretend they’ll yield something in the future and reset them.”
Which Hawk did. He walked from trap to trap and reset them, being careful to wipe away his scent on each one, even though he wore thick gloves, explaining every detail to the wolf. When he arrived back to his cabin, he turned to see that Ghost had once again stopped at the entrance to the forest.
“Come on. There’s still meat. I’ll share.” Hawk wondered if he stood his ground this time, if he could somehow get next to the wolf. Something in him strongly yearned to simply touch him, look closer into those golden eyes, feel his breath on his face.
Ghost took a step, glanced around quickly before taking a few more. He watched Hawk as he very methodically padded toward him. Hawk’s heart was beating hard. He wasn’t sure what the wolf had in mind. Probably not the same thing Hawk did although he didn’t think the animal meant him harm. He also didn’t look hungry. But a free meal was a free meal.
Except the wolf stopped and sat about halfway. After a few moments, Hawk smiled. It was clear Ghost wrote his own rules and Hawk’s desire to be nearer to the large animal was not going to be granted this time. If ever. When it was apparent Ghost was not going to give him another inch, Hawk turned, walked over to the large tin lock box near the front door, undid the lock, reached inside and pulled out another venison slab covered in cloth. He unwrapped it and took unhurried steps toward the wolf, holding the meat out in front of him.
“Like I said, Ghost. This deer was small to begin with and I had to go pretty far into the woods to get it. I’m just lost as to why, even though there seems to be game, I can’t find it in this part of the forest.”
He stopped ten feet from Ghost, keeping his eye on the beautiful animal, then laid the chunk of meat down on the melting snow.
“But no matter. I’ll still share.”
Amazingly, the wolf seemed to chuckle, shaking his head. Hawk couldn’t help but believe Ghost just might have been amazed Hawk had once again given him meat.
Or fucking stupid.
But Ghost still walked up to the offering after Hawk stepped back and sniffed the piece of venison. He had glanced up at Hawk with what Hawk thought looked an awful lot like gratitude. Then he picked up the chunk and trotted back into the woods.
Hawk had been disappointed he hadn’t gotten closer but wondered if indeed the wolf actually understood that Hawk was sharing not from bounty but from poverty.
That thought truly hit home when the next morning there had been two fat rabbits lying dead on his doorstep. Hawk had quickly scanned the forest’s edge to find the wolf. Sure enough, Ghost had been there watching him. With what he knew had to be shock on his face, Hawk pointed at the rabbits, trying to ask the wolf if he had provided them. The wolf seemed to nod. Then he turned and once again
disappeared leaving Hawk to contemplate the fact that the damn wolf looked like he had smiled at him.
Hawk nodded then, too, picking up the unexpected welcome gift. “Thank you,” he called out, hoping the wolf was still within ear shot. Not that he thought Ghost would understand him, but he was getting the impression the wolf comprehended a whole lot more than really should have been possible.
And it made him happy. It meant he was no longer alone.