Farewell to a Wolf
Life was perfect. Career, girlfriend, house, motorcycles, perfect. I had everything I’d wanted. Finally.
Things were working out. Life was working out. The course was set and all I had to do was keep steering the ship straight. Isn’t it funny how you can so easily forget how quickly things can go off course? How the slightest wind can push you off to one side or the other and just blow up the whole damn thing?
When it really came down to it, it was my fault. I had been the one to set things in motion and steer it all to hell.
Yes, she’d made her own decisions, but she wouldn’t have even had the notion if it hadn’t been for me.
It always came back to me.
I was an expert at sabotaging my future – myself. However much I had been taken off-guard when the end of our relationship finally came, I knew that it could all be traced back to one day. That one incredible day we had shared together, that had inspired her instantly, only I hadn’t seen then how it would end. I hadn’t known then that it would bring me here: sitting alone in my car after a six-hour drive, staring at a placid, picturesque lake, and knowing that I would never have that perfect life back, no matter how much I wanted it.
Had her life become perfect after leaving me? I wasn’t sure; probably never would be. But oh her smile had shown me all I needed to know.
I’d only been in the small parking lot for ten minutes – stuffing my brain back in place after the long drive, and there she was. She and one of the other handlers, riding past the lot on some ATV, heading the other way across the large compound. Her face was tan, glowing under the early June sun, her lips stretching in a grin as she laughed at whatever her co-worker had just said. I could feel my heart falter then, and I knew coming here had been a mistake.
I had no right to intrude on her happiness now, especially since we hadn’t seen each other since January. A lot could happen in six months.
The ATV disappeared around the corner and I’d left immediately after, not wanting to stay there any longer. I’d seen all that I needed.
I left the sanctuary and drove to the park near the lake – we’d come here last August, for a trip together, because she’d had an interview at the sanctuary. I should have known then. There was so much I should have known.
I stared out at the lake, her smile echoing across my heavy heart. I’d come home from Europe with the best intentions. If my best friend and his so-called ex-girlfriend could reconcile their relationship, why couldn’t we? We’d been so close to our final answer – I’d bought the ring in April last year, but the summer happened and she upended her life – chasing this wild dream I’d somehow set her on.
Then it was October and she’d landed the job and moved to this remote wilderness and how was I supposed to propose when we’d barely been making the long-distance thing work anyway? So the ring sat in my nightstand drawer, mocking me. Yet somehow that didn’t stop me from wearing the ring she’d given me … on that ring finger.
She’d stared at it in shock the first time I’d worn it out, but she’d never asked me about it outright. No one had. Everyone just assumed. But then she left. I hardly had answers after that.
She came home for the holidays and the New Year, and then we ended.
She returned my house key and we said our goodbyes on my front porch the night before she went back to the wilderness. I left the ring for her in the drawer, but couldn’t bring myself to take off the token she’d given me just yet. Somehow I was still hoping she’d change her mind, and that we’d work things out.
It had been a pipedream.
I’d left for Europe four days later and all I wanted to do was sink into my misery and wallow in the frozen tundra of a Canadian winter. But I pushed on. What else could I do?
Then it was March. April. May. June.
I stared at the lake, hating the sixth month on the calendar because it meant the year was halfway over and I had nothing to show for it. I thought that coming to see her would change her mind – change how she felt about us – about me.
It only made me realize that she’d moved on, and I hadn’t. And I desperately needed to.
My phone chimed with a new text and my chest tightened – was it her? Had she noticed my car in the lot earlier? Wanted to see just what the hell I was doing coming all the way up here into the wilderness?
I grabbed the mobile from the console between the front seats, my mood instantly deflating again.
“Make it to Gville?”
My best friend, checking to see if I’d finished the drive.
“Yeah.” I replied. “Already saw L. We’re done. Didn’t even get out of the car.”
I pressed send then silenced the phone and stuffed it into my bag. I didn’t need any sympathy from him, or anyone.
I gazed at the water for another minute more before I slid out of the car and went to the rocky beach. The air was brisk – the sunshine in the sky the only hint that it was actually summer.
I inhaled deeply, closing my eyes then trying to exhale everything I felt.
I was done here.
I was done with this part of my life.
I was moving on. This trip was the closure I needed.
The sun warmed my face beneath the wind’s icy touch and I opened my eyes. I pulled the small box from my hoodie pocket. As I opened it, the pale jewels glinted in the bright light, bouncing rainbows everywhere as I plucked the ring between my fingers.
It was time to let go.
I hurled the ring out across the water and watched it disappear with a tiny splash. In the distance, a wolf howled.
I jammed my clenched fists into my hoodie pockets, hating the poignancy and irony of the moment. She’d left me for the wolves, because I’d shared them with her. And they had taken her completely.
I blew out a sigh when the howl ended, not knowing if my eyes were watering with actual tears or just because of the wind. I didn’t care.
I turned away from the lake and got back in the car, ready to drive another six hours and to have all that distance between us.
I had to move on, and now I could do just that.
It may have been a bittersweet ending, but it was an ending nonetheless.
And that was all I needed.