“Fuck you. I thought you trusted me, saw me as an equal. I’m good enough to be in your bed, but not to do my job, is that it?”
A week has passed since he shouted those words at me before turning and stalking away. I was concerned then, now I’m worried sick.
As I leave the forest and climb higher I wonder how it all went so horribly wrong. If I’d kept my big mouth shut, if I hadn’t voiced my doubts, I might not be here today, hoping against hope to find signs of life where so far I’ve encountered none—I slap a hand to my neck—except for insects, determined to eat me alive that is.
I stop to take a break and catch my breath. I’ve been on the go for almost eight hours, since first light, and know it won’t be much longer before I’ll have to find shelter for the night. I already left it too late to turn around and go back. Maybe that’s what happened? It’s possible he went too far and just kept going. It’s also possible he had an accident and has long since died…horribly and alone.
I push the thought away and think back to that final meeting. Had I been too negative? This is a sensitive and prestigious project. If we get it wrong we’ll lose our funding. And no matter how bad that would be for us, it would be even worse for those in our care.
Too worried and restless to stay still for long I push forward again, climbing the mountain, over and around boulders, checking my compass occasionally to make sure I don’t veer off course.
I’m not being honest. Of course I’m worried about the future of our work; we’ve come so far and achieved so much, it would be a crying shame if it all went wrong now. But that’s not why I suggested he shouldn’t go. He is as qualified as any of us to take this task on. His chances of success are as good or as bad as mine or anybody else’s would have been. I wanted someone else to go because I didn’t want to be without him.
An hour later I come to a stop. The view in front of me is breathtaking. The expanse of almost barren rock, the soft clouds reflected in the lake far below. This is nature at its purest, but it’s not what has my heartbeat speeding up and understanding dawning on me. I carefully move closer, making sure not to startle either Jeff or the wolves approaching him.
He must have sensed my approach and turns his head, smiling before he holds up his hand, indicating I should stop.
It all makes sense now. He did successfully release the wolf couple we raised to adulthood. The reason he didn’t return has nothing to do with me, or our fight, never mind any incompetence on his part. He can’t leave until he’s sure they’ll settle in the wild rather than follow him back to where they can only survive in captivity.
From now on, he won’t be waiting alone.
This flash was a little bit harder to write than most but that’s my own fault. A shifter story would have been easier, but I sorta accepted a challenge to write something other than that. I hope you enjoyed what I came up with instead.
As always, more flashes based on this wonderful image can be found in the Monday Flash Fics group on Facebook.