The fact was, I still felt out of place, even weeks later and with some pretty intensive training under my belt. I was getting more familiar with other members of the ætt, but I could tell I was still relying on Moon-Singer.
“Heya stranger,” Wren’s familiar, warm voice called out. She took a seat beside me on the wooden bench. I hadn’t even noticed her footsteps on the needle-covered ground of the woods near the grave of my father. Or maybe she had flown from the trees–I was so deep in thought, I couldn’t have told you. “I came to visit you.” She coyly put her arms around me and smirked at me. I still thought she seemed too openly affectionate for someone who supposedly had a crush on me. But I couldn’t help hoping Moon-Singer was right.
“I missed you,” I said honestly. “Lately I haven’t seen you outside of band practice.”
Wren grinned and–very uncharacteristically–blushed bright red. I would have second-guessed myself if her skin wasn’t so pale. “I missed you too,” she said happily. She teasingly punched my stomach. “Especially now that you’re getting ripped from all that training.”
“If that’s true,” I replied with a smirk, “It’s only a matter of time before I get myself a girlfriend.”
“Or a boyfriend,” Wren rejoined.
I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure my girlfriend won’t harass me as much as you do,” I said, tugging on the elaborate braid Wren had pulled her butt-length hair into.
“Oh?” She said, standing up and putting her hands on her hips. She seemed annoyed. “Your imaginary girlfriend? What’s she like, this imaginary girl?”
I stared at Wren. I was out of comebacks; I wanted to say, ‘you.’ “Well, you know…” I mumbled, scratching my arm and looking away.
She sat next to me again and gave me a pointed stare. “No, I don’t know,” She replied. “That’s why I asked.”
“How is school going?” I asked, desperate to change the topic.
Wren grinned. “I’m want to try and take the GED test this year,” Wren said.
“This year?! But, Wren… most people would be in school for another whole year. That’s kind of an aggressive pace, don’t you think?”
“Pah, everyone says the test is easy,” she replied. “I could probably take it now, based on the sample questions, only I want to do well. Anyway, I want get to Rushing-Creek as soon as I can. It will be easier to join your pack on missions if I live right next to the ætt.”
“You don’t have to join me on missions,” I replied. “Honestly, they’re kind of dangerous. I would prefer you didn’t go.”
Wren crossed her arms. “And you think I like you going? Why do you think I’m so keen to come along? Someone’s got to protect you, Silver-Dancer.”
“I’m not a baby,” I said, annoyed. “Despite what everyone seems to think. And I don’t need to be protected.” Especially not by some tiny four foot tall pixie.
“That’s not what I–it’s not that,” Wren said, hugging her knees and staring ahead. “I mean, it’s true that you’re not as experienced as the others, but that’s not really why I want to come with you. It’s just… the thought that something could happen to you, and I wouldn’t be able to help… or the thought, you know, that… that something would happen to you, and I’d have to sit around, wondering and waiting, and then I’d find out that you were… injured, or even worse… never getting to say goodbye, or having the chance to save you…” her words trailed off and she bit her lip.
“Wren…” I said. I resisted the urge to hug her and instead just took her hand. “I’ll be careful. I promise.”
Wren squeezed my hand. She blushed again and glanced away. “There’s, uh… that is… Rushing Creek is having… a Beltane festival, and… well, if you’d like to go together….”
“I’d love to go together,” I said, trying to keep my cool. “That is… that sounds nice, Wren.”
She smiled. “Good,” she said. She seemed relieved.