As I go about my decorating, I catch a whiff of the delectable scents coming from the kitchen. Carefully, I hang the wreath on the door, and then I hurry off towards the alluring smell. Sevastien has been working so hard to get everything cooked in time- I wish I was more help in this category, but unfortunately, cooking just really isn’t my forte. I can make a couple killer spicy dishes, I learned those when I was first getting involved with him so I could make dinner for us both. That’s where my first-class rabbit stew recipe came from, you know! Just trying to impress the guy I was falling head over heels for. Maybe you might find that a silly reason to learn a skill, but frankly, I don’t care what you think about it.
I peek around the corner to get a look- sure enough, Sevastien is tending to the turkey for dinner. I don’t interrupt- the last thing anyone wants is to get burned by a scorching hot bird!- but Light above, it makes me feel so hungry. It takes all of my willpower not to go in and look for a snack right this instant- I know I’d be getting in the way. Sev let me try the sweet potatoes not too long ago- my favorite dish of the season, by the way- and they were everything I could hope for. I step back away from the kitchen before Sevastien notices me lurking, though I’m sure he probably did notice already, and step outside. It’s not actively snowing, but it’s cold enough that yesterday’s snow has stuck to the ground, leaving a blanket of white against the floor of the woods. Luckily, I’ve got a sweater that Cani made me, and a scarf that Aldur sent for my… well, not my birthday, but Mama’s. It’s warm enough- it’s definitely more made for show than practical use, though. But it’s green, and gold, with little birds stitched into the pattern. I quite like it.
I pick up the box of decorations for the porch, and begin my work. It’s a new feeling, truth be told, being able to decorate my own home for the holidays. Last year, Sevastien & I were both too depressed to do much for Winter Veil- and I never really bothered for the Arathi house, since it was just me, and… it never really felt like home, anyway. Before I got that place, I’d been on the road constantly, and what was I supposed to decorate then? My backpack? My tent? Hah. Right.
I look to the doorway, and Morji is standing there, watching me. Her tail wags ever so slightly, and she looks out to the world beyond. Asking permission, in her own way, to come out with me. “C’mon, girl. Look- there’s still snow, why don’t you go play for a while?” I smile at the frostwolf, and she borfs low in response, before running out and jumping into the nearest snowpile. She rolls about and shakes her fur, sending the snow flying everywhere. It makes me laugh- she’s always been this way. I suppose some of that is just… in her nature, all things considered. In the summer she swims and hunts, and in the winter, she plays long and hard before taking a nap. How blessed I am, to have this sweet wolf in my life.
“Funny thing, how fate works out like that, isn’t it?” She asks, as She suddenly appears at the porch steps. “Losing your buddy like you did, and then being given a wolf pup to care for so quickly after… when the person who would have taught you how to raise her right was already gone.” I can feel a chill down my spine, and somehow, I don’t imagine it’s really from the cold. I try to stare Her down, and She stares right back. It is not a match I can win so easily, standing off against this shadowy apparition- and I don’t win it, forced to pull my gaze away lest I be lost to her insanity.
“It wasn’t fate. Just luck.” Finally, I reply, keeping my voice low so Sevastien doesn’t hear. The tinsel in my hands shakes and sparkles in the light as I shiver. “Can’t you fuck off? It’s a special day, and I’ve got a lot to do to prepare.”
She strides up the steps, and brings a hand to my chin, turning my gaze fully to her. It feels so real. I know that she isn’t there, not really. A figment my mind has created out of my own dread, but not real. So why can’t I figure out how to pull away? She tsks and shakes her head. “Oh, little bird. We’ve been over this, haven’t we? I know you’re quite stupid, but get it through your head. I’m only here because you invited me out.~”
I jerk away, and turn to hang the tinsel. “I’m not stupid,” I manage to grumble as I work, and it’s all the recognition I give Her, for the time being. Of course, that infuriates Her- as it would me, if I was trying to bother someone and they simply pretended I didn’t exist. The whispers begin to mount up in my mind- a jumbled, chaotic mess of commands, and suggestions, all with the same general purpose. Give in, they say. Let us take control, and be rid of this beast you’ve let in. You do not desire her- we are all that you need. I drop the free end of the tinsel, bringing my hand to my temple to try and relieve this massive migraine that’s forming so rapidly.
Sensing my moment of weakness, no doubt, She chimes in again. “Well, you’re certainly not smart… not as smart as your friends. Not as smart as Sevastien- definitely not as much as Lachlainn. Or is it… Uncle Lachlainn, now?” Of course, She knows the answer, so She doesn’t wait for one as I feel Her finger drag up my spine, over my neck… “Such a pitiful fool, you must seem to everyone. Especially him. Why do you even care what he thinks…? He’s a monster… but never mind that, now. Why don’t you allow me to help with that pesky headache, mmm?~” Her hands rest on my shoulders now, as She whispers into my ear, soft and sweet. “Just give me the reins, and I can make it all go away… just like that.”
I can’t help but be honest and admit this. This is not the first time, since She appeared, that the two energies seem to be at odds with one another. More often than not, they dislike the same things, and thus, sing the same tunes-- and yet, there is always this game they’re playing beneath the surface. Tug of war, but I’m the rope they’re using to play. I hate it. It’s just like how I hated the idea of Lachlainn treating me, and all of my friends, like chess pieces, just last year. I hate it so much, but at the same time, it’s so incredibly tempting, as it was, then. Just giving in. Not having to make the hard choices anymore. I feel Her hands creep forward, around my throat, as I’m paralyzed by the quiet screaming of the whispers. What am I supposed to do?
Amidst all the confusion, a bright whistling sound cuts through the noise. It catches me off-guard; the whispers, and Her, as well, I notice, are given momentary pause. I pivot on my heels to look for the source… and there’s nothing. Just Morji, playing in the snow drifts, completely unaware, and a cold breeze blowing through the trees. My jaw hangs slightly agape. It almost sounded like… music. I look around, and She’s disappeared entirely. I’m grateful for it, mind you- but what the hell was that?!
Well, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I simply hurry through my porch decorations and return inside. As I go to close the door, I hear it again… faintly, now, but there’s no mistaking the sound. It’s some sort of melody. I shake my head, and call Morji in before I lock the door up tight. Sev’s still in the kitchen. The house is nice and warm, and safe, and I feel so much comfort in that. But there’s so much work left to be done before Uncle Lachlainn arrives for dinner- so much decorating, so much food to be made! I look down to Morji, who has found one of her rawhides, and is holding it in her mouth as she looks up at me. My hand brushes through fur, and I smile. “Right. Let’s get to it, girl! We’ve got to make this perfect.”