The tiny wolf scrambled to keep up with her brothers and mother as she trudged through snow that reached up to her chest. She felt her legs go numb as she tried to walk in mother’s paw prints. She gave a wail of protest as the blinding snow swallowed the dull shadow of her mother in a whirl of gray and white. The wolf pup felt the snow clumping in her paws, stinging them. The pup cried out as the ground gave way under her small gray paws, sending her tumbling into darkness…
Sakura woke with a shudder that passed through her fur and rippled the pale gray peltage. Sakura still felt the loss of her family afresh. She remembered whimpering pitifully in a paw print of her mother when she had lost her brothers and mother in a blizzard. Then warm shapes, pulling her gently around them, soft as living furs. She remembered waking in a warm nest, the clumped snow washed off her. In this new family, she felt cared for and loved, but even so, her family was still gone. Her brother had been found not far away, howling and almost unconscious.
Sakura couldn’t stand sitting here alone with her thoughts. She could never outrun the memory of looking at her beloved brother, hearing his wailing of fear, his gaze staring at her, though she knew he could no longer, and never again, see her.
* * *
The girl ran her hands through caramel hair, her pale cheeks stained with tears. She kept repeating in her head how he couldn’t have been dead, how he was faking. But she knew her beloved Champ was dead, his age failing him and crippling him. She knew him as her little black lab puppy, still gnawing and jumping with mischievous innocence. She remembered him chewing furniture and eating both human and dog food, his impatient yips when she tried to teach him to roll over. But she knew that it was all memories now. So she had kept running from the house, until she had reached the dull gray sea, almost reflecting the hazy, blue-less sky that shone no sun. She had taken refuge on a rough, bark-like rock on the edge of the cliffs. She had cried there all morning, feeling as if there was to be no happiness again.
Suddenly there was the crackle of twigs. The girl whipped around to see a large pale gray wolf slide out of the pines bordering the cliffs. The girl quickly grabbed a nearby rock, ready to throw if the wolf lunged. But the creature’s eyes were not aggressive or hostile; the golden depths seemed to be filled with grief and sadness. For a moment the girl saw her own liquid brown eyes reflected there, and for a moment she saw a pulsing light of rainbow colors there. Can you really see your own soulful self in an animal’s eyes? She remembered a similar feeling stirring when she met the brown eyes of Champ, but she never saw anything like this.
Then the wolf dipped its head as if respectfully. The girl was in awe. She felt no need to fear this creature. She dipped her head in a response. She felt mesmerized by the golden depths of the eyes.
* * *
Sakura saw the girl staring her in the eyes, drawn by something. Sakura felt something else though, a pulsing emotion of sadness. She closed her eyes and saw darkness, but still the girl, with a blue and purple bubble of sadness around her. The wolf saw a strange dog in the girl’s eyes, and the sadness intensified, like a growing fire. Then she heard the girl gasp, as if whatever she had been staring at in her eyes, the connection had broken. Sakura knew that the dog had been important to the girl. In fact, it reminded her of someone…
* * *
The girl watched the wolf leave. She sighed, knowing the moment couldn’t last forever. She slumped back on the rock, wondering what to do.
Then there was more rustling. The wolf returned, gently guiding along a handsome black wolf. The girl was painfully reminded of Champ, with his smooth black coat, his warm brown eyes, and his slightly flopped ears…
The wolf nodded and nuzzled the black wolf ’s ear. The girl guessed they were talking. The black wolf walked toward her, his brown gaze unwavering. He’s blind, she thought. But when he stumbled and she caught him, she knew she would take care of him and love him as much as Champ.
The two creatures, girl and wolf, looked at each other, brown meeting gold. They knew they had solved a problem together, and Sakura knew her brother would be cared for. The two spirits departed, one holding the young wolf, the other holding pride, and they disappeared in the mist, knowing they could heal in peace.