The first time I saw her I knew. Hair the color of love, red spilling down her shoulders to her waist like a living cape, she laughed with her friends on their way home from school. I stood at the window and felt the beast start to shake within me; love at first sight is my undoing.
Later I found where she lived. I found her name, her family, her extracurricular activities, the sweet sixteen cheerleader. Some days I go to her after-school job and order meals from her, throwing them away untouched when I finally leave.
There will be a feast soon enough.
The hunters are searching. I watch the news as they report the latest findings and issue their warnings to those who have not yet gone missing.
I have seen her more and more frequently, even when I am not following her; I know this is a sign. She will not be like the others. Loving or living, I ask them; Live, they say, oh please let me live. They misunderstand the question. It’s not a choice, it’s the reason they die. Do they know the honor that I allow them, to let my love for them live on forever? One of them answered differently. –Love, she said, and my heart swelled to crack ribs until I saw her slowly unbutton her blouse. That one disappointed me. Love is not grunting bouncing absurdist puppets; a Loved One never gives herself freely. The harder they fight, the more passionate my devotion.
I left her cold and unloved at the bottom of a gully.
I have been watching this one for twenty-six days.
The moon is still gibbous but I can feel the pull as it swells to a great all-seeing eye. I can feel the song start in my throat, an acolyte’s reverence, but it is too soon. I will wait and when the moon is full, she will finally feel the strength of my ardor. She will know what it is to be chosen and idolized. When she feels the full crushing weight of the honor that I give her—immortality through my love—then the pain will be understood as necessary for the refining.
The moon loves the song of suffering.
Four days before the moment, four days until I bind her up in her cap of red. I want to touch her hair; I will let it spill through my fingers even after she has Become. I will take time with this one. My loving will take a great deal of time before the end.
Four days yet until the waxing moon culminates in our consummation, but there she is now on the side of the road. Poor baby’s car hood gaping wide, that hair lifted by the autumn wind. Will I stop? When she sees me will she know what destiny holds for us? I should drive by, but the siren tendrils gesture toward me, beckoning me, and I find myself pulling my truck up behind her. The slam of the door and crunching gravel warned her of my approach. When I see her lean out from behind the hood, I feel the fur prickle on my hands and the hot wet taste of copper runs through my mouth.
--It just stopped, she says, gesturing toward the car. --I don’t know what’s wrong.
When I speak I am afraid it will be a growl, but my voice does not betray me. –Where were you headed?
--My grandma’s. My parents and brothers left earlier, but I had to stay for after-school practice. Can you fix it?
--Maybe, I say, and summon up a smile that shows her my sharp, white teeth. It makes her nervous, this sweet child before me, but she does not drop those big watching eyes. I bend over the engine and study it but in reality am listening to her breathing, the slide of fabric as she folds her arm and shifts her weight. The thought of how she will sound in four days, this precursor now to the time we will spend together, very nearly undoes me. I am dizzy and grip the car and close my eyes, and then there is a jolt and I know nothing.
I cannot move and I cannot see anything around me, but I hear her voice.
--Four days, she says. –Four days. Then we’ll have some fun.
I am chained, bound in nylon cording. I can feel her move closer. –I love this, she whispers, and I understand. Wolves do not always dress as sheep when hunting; sometimes they dress as a girl with hair red as desire, red as love, red as blood.
Even before this wolf feels the first cut, he starts to howl with joy.