Those usually warm, light brown eyes are now coldly staring at me. It’s hard to look away when she catches me in her gaze like this. I can see my bright orange eyes in hers. One time I decide to wander off a little, and she never lets me forget it. Ok, maybe a few times. The point is, I think I’m mature and capable of finding my way to the lake. She hasn’t sent me a lot, but I’ve gone enough to know that she purposely sends me on a longer route than necessary. What’s that about?
“Yes, I’ll be a good boy and follow her wherever she goes,” I reply with a toothy grin.
“Aderran, I’m serious. I expect you back by midday,” she says, stepping closer to me. “And despite what you think, I do trust you. I just want you to be safe.” She cups my face with her hand and rubs my cheek. Her soft smile subtly exaggerates the faint fine lines around her mouth and eyes.
“I know, but I want to learn more about the things around me. Sometimes I feel like you’re keeping things from me. Sometimes I think I remember something, and then everything feels…fuzzy. Whenever I ask, you never answer, and it’s frustrating.”
“I know you’re frustrated, but-“
“You’ll tell me later, I know.” She purses her lips and frowns at me. “I know that look. Come on, furball, let’s go.” She gives me a low growl but still goes ahead to lead the way. Barrel in each hand, I follow.
The good thing about being led along is that I can let my mind wander and focus on my surroundings. The crunch of the leaves and twigs beneath my feet, the slightly warm breeze across my face, the streaks of light breaking through the trees heating my skin. I look down at my arms and legs, more toned and darker in some places. This very moment is something that I’ve always wanted. I even let go of the frustration from earlier. I don’t know too much about where I came from or why I’m here or why Mother is so secretive. I’ll learn in time.
I must have been too consumed with my thoughts because I didn't notice Baolarah stop. I open my mouth to yell at her for holding me up, but I look at her and catch her gaze fixed on something ahead. I follow her eyes and see the last thing that I want to see.
Only, this one looks a little different. A little bigger male, maybe? His fur looks more worn, and the intent in his eyes is different. When I annoy Baolarah, I know that she’d never actually harm me. This beast looks like it could swallow me whole. Never diverting her eyes, she stands taller and her fur puffs up. She quickly flicks her front paw back, and I don’t need another hint. I backtrack, and just as she lunges forward, I make a run for it. Are there more like her? It’s hard to think of any of that right now because I’m kind of running for my life.
I go back the way we came, and in no time, I’m back at the clearing. Leaning against a tree to catch my breath, I notice smoke coming from the roof. This is odd, considering Mother usually waits until I get back to cook anything. And isn’t that partially the reason I was supposed to get the water in the first place? I walk back to the house to tell her what happened with Baolarah when I hear her talking. Who is she talking to? Surely, she’s not talking to herself. But then again, I wouldn’t put it past her. I sneak up to the window and peek in.
Mother is talking to someone. Not only is she talking to someone, but there’s also more than one someone. They’re…men? She didn’t tell me that there were more men around than me. Are there other women also?
I can’t focus on trying to hear what they’re saying because I’m too busy staring at them. Their skin is a little darker than mine, their faces a little worn; they’re probably the same age as Mother. They have their hair tied up away from their faces. Judging by their size, they’re probably taller and stronger than me. One of them looks different. He’s a little like me, maybe the same age? If I knew how old I was. His skin is a little darker, almost like how my skin is darker in certain areas. Does he spend a lot of time outside? His wavy hair is down instead and passes his shoulders, tied low. He’s standing instead of sitting, shoulders squared while his arms are crossed. Speaking of, they’re huge. I’m not sure who’s more intimidating, that thing Baolarah was fighting or him. And his face is set to a frown; I guess whatever they’re talking about isn’t interesting. Or maybe his face just looks like that? It seems the men sitting are of some importance while he isn’t as covered as them. They’re dressed better than me even when my clothes are clean. Their shirts are white and clean with matching pants and boots.
Should I go in and tell her what happened? Should I casually walk in and pretend I haven’t been staring in for who knows how long? Should I just wait for them to leave? I don’t have to think of what to do because a pair of angry brown eyes are on me, and now everyone is looking at me. So much for being sneaky.
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