Things felt… strange today.
Maybe it was because everything had been starting to feel normal recently and that, in itself, was weird. Perhaps it was simply because today was a day that usually brought nothing but an overwhelming sense of dread for me, and yet now I felt strangely empty without it. In its place were sadness, and a longing to catch a glimpse of fluffy whiteness, or to hear the sharp wrap of knuckles against my door, waiting for a gift with a tag, with a name, with… anything.
It was strange that normalcy to me meant the presence of supernatural creatures on my daughter's birthday.
Brittany was at school, John was at work. And I was left with my thoughts of the girl that had saved my daughter's life. The girl whose name I hadn't heard for almost a year now. I didn't even dare speak it to myself.
I forced myself to stop thinking in such a way. Things had gone almost back to normal since that day in Times Square. Brittany no longer cried in the night when she thought we couldn't hear, she'd even begun laughing again. And we had all seemed to grow stronger as a family.
At first it had seemed that all Brittany would – could – do was work. She's almost completed her senior year with flying colours, something John and I couldn't have imagined possible a year ago. And she had managed to get a full scholarship to Julliard.
I wasn't surprised. Of course I knew she was a phenomenal dancer. But at the same time, I couldn't bring myself to watch her anymore. Every time she danced it filled me with an immense sadness. It seemed to be the only time she was incapable of keeping her walls up.
And of course, as soon as her walls came down every movement she made seemed to become filled with this startling electricity, it was so intense. It felt almost as if it had been engrained into her, it was that powerful. People couldn't not watch her when she danced. I mean, she was good before – really good. But now… it was like every time she lost herself to a rhythm, she had to move like her life depended on it. It was almost as if she was calling, praying for her to come back.
It was like some kind of ritual dance to the gods.
A noise brought me out of my reverie.
I felt my heart thud against my rib cage, threatening to snap bones once I realised that the noise had come from outside.
I all but sprinted to the door, hoping to catch a glimpse of white fur. But once I had made it outside and found the source of the noise, my shoulders sagged before I even looked inside the trash can that was rocking back and forth slightly.
If it had been the wolves there would have been something on the step. And the wolf would have been sat across the road to make sure I had gotten the gift.
This was probably just some stray cat. I glanced inside to confirm my suspicions, cursing my body for betraying the little hope I had left, and saw…
A stray cat. It dove out at the site of me and went streaking down the street, leaving me to deal with minor cardiac arrest, as well as my bitter disappointment at being right: the wolves wouldn't be coming this year.
I trudged back inside, not knowing if I could look at Brittany tonight and see the heartache I was bound to find in her eyes. She hadn't said anything but I knew that she was hoping the same as me, that there was some chance things might go back to 'normal'.
Even if she hadn't said anything when she had opened her presents this morning, even though she wouldn't say anything tonight when she came back to a simple shake of the head in answer to her enquiring gaze. I knew she wouldn't sleep tonight, her last hope vanishing silently. Because we were too scared to talk about it, about her.
I made my way into the kitchen and had to stop, had to blink slowly, at least three times before I believed what I was seeing.
Because on the table…
I was sat at the kitchen table, still staring when Brittany came home. There had been mysterious gifts before but never inside my house and never… well, never this.
"Hey mum, what's… wrong?" She had noticed the item on the table.
She didn't let me see how much it had affected her; her walls were up, her face impassive. But she couldn't fool me; her eyes seemed incapable of leaving the object in the middle of the table in front of me.
I saw her hand lift out towards it for a second before falling back to her side. I could see that she was itching to reach out, catch a glimpse of the tag, the handwriting.
"Did I ever tell you about the night you were born?" I interrupted her.
She looked confused for a moment, her eyes peeling themselves momentarily from her gift, towards me, then back again just as quick.
"Yeah. Dad told me. There was a crash. It was a miracle that I survived."
I chuckled, the sound shaking along with my hands.
"A miracle is certainly one way to describe it." This grabbed her attention, her confused expression not changing in the slightest as she switched her focus to me.
"I remember sitting in your room, waiting for John to finish speaking with the doctor. You were so small, so fragile. I knew whatever they were telling him couldn't be good. You had yet to even cry." I felt my eyes stinging as I thought of that night, how I was so unsure about my darling daughter's life that I couldn't bring myself to name her.
"I was sat, watching your tiny chest move up and down as you lay in the incubator when she walked in." I rolled my eyes good naturedly, looking back I could almost find her attitude amusing, almost. I saw Brittany's stunned expression and nodded my head.
"Oh yeah. Sauntered in, she did, like she owned the place. Walked right up to you and picked you up out of the incubator, the wires just melted away. I won't lie, she was scary, even though she couldn't have been more than seventeen." I roll my eyes again, this time at myself.
"But when she looked at you, I knew that she wouldn't hurt you, more like couldn't hurt you. She looked at you as if you were her world." Brittany had sat down at this point; I don't think her legs could hold her up even if she wanted them to. I tried to ignore the tears already building up in her eyes as I continued.
"She told me in no uncertain terms that you would die soon. She could save you but only if I made a deal. She would collect you on your seventeenth birthday. It was strange, when I said yes, she kissed you. And there was this blinding light. The next thing I knew, she was gone and you were crying."
I wondered if I was the only one's drawing the parallels here. She was gone and Brittany was left behind, crying. Brittany was clutching her pearl necklace, her hand having subconsciously moved there as I spoke.
"What- what does that have to do with th- this?" she hiccoughed, pointing to the fluffy white toy.
"Well. Everyone had come running once they heard you crying. And I tried my hardest to explain that I wasn't crazy, what I was saying had actually happened. No one believed me of course. Even when I pointed out the fluffy white wolf toy in the incubator they passed it off as a gift from a nurse. But I knew better…"
I paused as Brittany reached out to the cuddly toy that looked almost brand new; she gripped it in her first and brought it towards her.
"I wanted to forget it had ever happened. I wanted to believe that I had gone temporarily crazy. So I threw it away."
Brittany looked up at that, her red rimmed eyes pinching in confusion once more. She held the toy tightly in her lap, I watched as her thumb gently stroked the wolf's fluffy head.
"Brittany, I haven't seen that toy in eighteen years. I came in here today and found it on the table."
I saw it then, what she had been doing her best to hold back all these months. I saw hope blossom in her eyes, it was clear that she couldn't control it, and I don't think she really wanted to.
Her eyes dipped back down to the toy in her lap, gently lifting the tag to read the inscription she had been yearning to read since the moment she'd set eyes on the toy.
I hadn't read the tag, there was no need to.
There was no possible way I could ever forget those words that had been engrained into my memory so many years ago.
As Brittany read, I recited them in my head.
To my Brittany, Love Santana x.
And then she began to cry.
AN: Thanks for the amazing reviews. Don't think I rushed this chapter or anything. It was always going to be this short. So yah, I guess this is it then… Bye!
Oh yeah, and the sequel will be called Blinding, so look out for that! ;D