Frankie, Celine, and the Wolf

It wasn't complicated in the beginning. She loved to be with him, he loved to be with her, and they needed nothing else. They walked, they ate, they played, and they slept within reach of each other.

After a while, the excitement of young love grew into the security of deep love. They felt safe to venture from each other's arms. They once again noticed the sun, the wind, the flowers, and a life beyond their tiny cottage.

They built a modest farm -- potatoes, legumes, leafy vegetables -- and an enclosure for their chickens and cows.

There was only one thing missing, he told her. "We need meat."

"We do?" she said.

He would return from hunting trips with a carcass of deer or a line of rabbits. He'd skin them, roast them on the spit, and feast on their meat. Celine hated even the smell of the dead animals. She preferred the food produced from their own land.

It was while tending their garden she first spotted the large black wolf. With silent steps, she moved toward the patch of thick grass where Frankie lay sleeping. She nudged him, her eyes never leaving the wolf. Frankie sat up and nodded. "He seems to hang around. I kind of like him. He makes me feel safe. I think of him as security for when I'm away." Frankie could see the fear in Celine's eyes and reached his hand out to her. "He's completely harmless. He just looks mean."

"Harmless?" she said, her eyes fixed on the wolf.

"Completely," Frankie said, his eyes closed again

As the weeks passed, the wolf became more brazen, taking his sleep closer to the house. Each day he was a little closer. She screeched one day when his shadow appeared suddenly outside her door, and that caused him to growl. She looked over at Frankie, who remained calm.

"He's completely harmless. Trust me," he said.

Then Frankie started going away for longer hunting trips, and during one of his sojourns, the wolf let himself into the house and made himself at home. He didn't harm Celine. He did, however, growl from time to time when he was hungry and showed her every one of his large teeth, lest she think he really was harmless. It scared Celine. She made sure he was always fed.

As the months went by, Frankie's absences became longer. It reached the point where Frankie was hardly there any more -- just Celine and the wolf. Each time she was right at the end of believing she would ever see Frankie again, he would return and fill her heart with so much hope that she couldn't keep it all inside. She would cry extraordinary tears of happiness. The wolf would become tame again, and she'd believe Frankie was finally going to stay forever.

"Will you stay forever?" she would ask as she held him tight.

"Of course," he'd say.

Then he'd disappear again, leaving her alone with the wolf. She would go outside every morning and evening and call Frankie's name, but he never answered. She felt fear each minute of every one of those days, never sleeping because the wolf never seemed to.

One morning, tired and hungry, she cooked breakfast for herself and the wolf. It was the breakfast that Frankie loved -- eggs sunny side up, and tomatoes sliced then fried. She gave the wolf his portion first and then started to prepared her own. The wolf gulped his and then glowered at Celine. When she slid her portion from the heavy pan onto her plate, the wolf growled. He wanted more. Sighing, she placed her plate on the floor and yanked her hand from his greedy mouth. She then realized that she was starving. She lifted the pan and held it in her hand wondering what she could cook in it. Her garden was depleted and needed time to grow again. She would have eaten even a dead deer at that moment.

She thought of going to the door and calling Frankie, but she had called so many days and nights, and she was tired of hoping. She tried to listen for footsteps approaching from the forest. All she heard was her stomach begging for food and the wolf slurping. "Shhhhh," she snarled as she struggled to listen for steps outside. He glanced at her, but carried on gobbling her breakfast. The sound of him eating seemed to clamor until it smothered and surrounded her, filling every corner of the house, and echoing from wall to wall. In her mind she tried to wander away from it -- to hear any other sound at all, but everywhere she went it followed her, trapping her, cornering her.

She looked at the wolf, him half-contented as he ate her breakfast, his tongue lashing at the food that covered his mouth. A slob had taken over her life and turned her into his stooge. He'd made her subject to his every passing whim. He'd stripped her of her self-esteem, her poise, and her pride. She thought of the next meal when she would sink even lower as his demands became more insistent. In the window, she saw her reflection -- a scowled face and slumped shoulders. She didn't even recognize herself. She was once so beautiful. She heard a growl, but not from the wolf. It came from inside her. It rose until it transformed into a low groan in her throat, erupting into a roar.

A swing of her hand followed, and the cast-iron pan met the wolf's face and sent him sliding along the floor towards the door where he lay motionless. With an anger and strength that she had never imagined inside her, Celine dragged the wolf outside and left him there. She looked toward the woods and remembered how she'd called Frankie's name for so long, but the feeling of hope turned to acid in her gut. She marched inside, slammed the door shut, and vowed never to open it again.

In the weeks that followed, she sneaked outside only to plunder her garden for food before rushing back inside to safety.

One day, a knock on the door caused Celine run to the furthest corner of the house and wrap herself in a blanket. After a few minutes, she called out, "Who is it?"

"It's me, Frankie."

She pulled the blanket tighter. "Is it really?"

"I know what happened with the wolf. I'm sorry, and he's gone now forever. I sent that big old thing scurrying."

Celine wasn't sure. Maybe it was the wolf pretending to be Frankie so he could get back inside. She knew he'd be furious with her, so she stayed far from the door.

Only when nightfall came, did she hear his steps leaving.

He came back the next day and knocked on the door. Celine stayed away from the door and asked who it was. "It's Frankie," he said. But Celine wasn't sure and she didn't answer.

Every day Frankie would return and knock on the door. Each day Celine moved a little closer to the door. Eventually she sat against the door, her forehead resting on the wood. She said, "Is that really you, Frankie? Is the wolf really gone forever?"

Frankie said, "Yes, it's really me and the wolf is really gone forever." But she couldn't open the door.

The next time Frankie didn't even knock. "You think I'm the wolf, don't you."

Celine remained silent for hours, neither of them moving. Then she said, "I don't know."

"If I am the wolf, and you let him in a second time, you could never open your door again." Hours passed. The sun disappeared and re-appeared again. She said nothing. "If you open the door, and the wolf is out here," Frankie said, "that would kill your heart. Your door would be closed forever."

"Yes," she said and allowed the time to pass.

"But your heart is already imprisoned," Frankie eventually said. "Who will rescue it?"

She started sobbing. "I don't know."

Celine heard Frankie's steps disappear into the woods, then nothing more until hours later, when she heard the sound of axe against trees. For weeks, axe against trees. Trees falling. She took comfort from the sound. It seemed to go on day and night. When it stopped, she waited. For weeks she heard nothing. She startled one morning to the sound of footsteps approaching. She moved close to the door. A note slid underneath.

It said, "I will keep you safe. Come to me. I love you, Frankie."

His steps sounded clear and purposeful as he left. Then they faded into nothing. For days, she read his note over and over. It comforted her, and her appetite returned. She felt strong enough to go to the garden. She opened her door and looked around for the wolf, but something else caught her eye. In the woods was a clearing of trees -- a bright path that seemed to go on forever. Where the path started, the earth was soft beneath her feet. She took one step. Then another. As she took a third step, she looked back over her shoulder, but kept walking.

Each step felt a little lighter than the one before. Hours later, deep into the woods, almost no fear remained. When she saw the top of the house, she quickened her pace. A balcony appeared like in a dream. Through the open doors of the balcony, she could see a bedroom as large as her old house. She moved faster, her hopes rising with each step, her eyes taking in more of the house, every detail more perfect than she'd allowed herself to hope.

When she reached the top of the hill, the entire house lay before her -- a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Suddenly, Frankie appeared in the doorway, and her feet flew over the soft ground as she ran toward him. Each deep breath filled her with euphoria and she was already imagining a night in his arms. When she reached him, he held her tight.

"I need you," he said. "I can never lose you again."

She looked at Frankie. "How do you know the wolf won't return?"

"The wolf?" he said, taking her hand and walking her into her new house. "The wolf is nothing to be afraid of. Being alone is a lot worse."

She stepped inside and saw a room full of wolves -- dozens of them, and all sizes. She looked at Frankie. He smiled. "Think of them as security," he said. "So there's never any doubt that you'll always be mine, that you will never leave me, and that you will NEVER lock me out of our house again."

"Frankie?" she called to him as he walked away.

"I'm going hunting," he said. "Don't try to leave. They won't let you."

About the author:

Sean Dent is a freelance writer from Ireland, now living in Montreal. In 2000, he started to devote his writing to the area of fiction, he is re-writing his first novel (as yet unpublished), is working on a second, and recently started to write short stories. He has been published in Scrivener' s Pen, Virtual Writer, Palace of Reason, and Dream Forge. He also has a story upcoming in NFG. Following his acceptance of "Sorry Dad", Sean was asked to join NFG's editorial team. He is married with two sons and a stepson.