Wolf wakes to an empty bed, shouts erupting from the outside world, and a deeply imprinted feeling of loneliness that has been burned into his skin once he realizes Lir is nowhere to be found. First, he wonders if he wasn’t good enough. If his flirting with Lir was temporary, as his mother had predicted. Then, he thinks it impossible. It is so unlike the young man he has fallen for to leave like this without a word, a note, a warning or a slap.
He grabs yesterday’s clothes. They had once been intermingled with Lir’s underwear—and they still carry his scent—yet, now, they’ve been left to their own affairs, abandoned to the floor, like the dead body of a lamb. Wolf puts them on. Outside, rain pours from the sky. His attire isn’t enough to keep him warm, but Wolf does not believe this matters; what does, is a confirmation, a certain knowledge he wishes to acquire, where someone will tell him Lir is in a place Wolf can still reach with the right set of directions and lies.
His heart is uncertain once he makes it onto his front porch. His legs waver, as falling leaves do in the trees all around. Wolf hunches his back over, nervous wreck that he is, as he walks toward a crowd full of whistling voices. He does not notice his posture, until his shoulders start to ache. He pauses. His eyes widen with recognition—not for a familiar figure, but for a wheelchair. Lir’s wheelchair.
Wolf does not remember, when he pushes aside a young woman who damns him for always being brash. He does not remember, screaming incoherent nonsense about love and forever and promises that may or may not have been made in the past.
Wolf does not remember, ever feeling this empty, this sad.
A void is carved into a dent placed right in the mid of his body. It had already made its mark when his sister died thirty-nine moons past. Now, it crumbles, to pieces, to a place Wolf hadn’t wanted to accept existed within him. Denial. The loss of another. An unwillingness to accept their claims. To let go.
“He couldn’t even walk.”
“It had to happen someday.”
“But it’s sad. He was young.”
“Shut up!” Wolf’s throat is dry. It is like his lungs could show themselves out of his throat, and dangle from his mouth if he were to cough in this very moment. “Shut up,” he echoes. His words are the fallen whispers of cobwebs. They do their best to fill what must be filled within his aching chest. But it is not enough. “He’s not dead,” he says. And then, “Lir’s not dead,” Wolf repeats the phrase for reassurance, good measure, and luck. Because it’s true. Lir cannot be gone. Lir would never die. Not like this, in silence, when no one is watching.
His lover was made for great and better, and the best of things, and disappearing in the middle of the night is just the beginning of that, not the end.
And Wolf will find him.
Wolf will help him.
Wolf will do it all, because these people are just cowards, they don’t deserve Lir. They don’t deserve to be speaking on his behalf.
Lir is alive. His heart is still beating. Out there, somewhere.