Updated: Sep 28, 2020
A full moon peeked out between thin clouds on an unusually cold, dark night in January. I watched from the ground below, time suspended around me as though the Earth had gone still. There were no crickets, no bats echolocating in the nearby woods, none of the usual sounds of night, just the flat, dark sky, stars hidden by clouds, and the moon and me--waiting. I pulled my cloak tighter around my shoulders. I wasn’t used to this place anymore, to the coldness of it, to the feel of the frozen ground beneath my feet. A shadow slid over the moon’s surface like oil slipping over water, barely a flash of a moment and it was gone, unlikely to be noticed unless a person was watching for it. He’s coming.
I could feel the moon’s pull on me, not yet painful but tightening, like a leash around my rib cage. Soon it would worsen. Then again, I wouldn’t need long-—this night would go far more quickly than I wished for it to; it always did.
A thud sounded from the forest but I kept my face turned toward the sky, pretending I hadn’t heard him. I wanted to relish in the anticipation of him approaching--to let him be the first to make contact. Would it be a soft kiss on the neck, like last time? Or a whisper of my name in my ear, like the year before? A shiver of anticipation slid down my spine and I pressed my cloak to my chest with clasped hands, hoping he hadn’t seen me tremble.
“Selene.” His voice was hot tea with honey, but his hands were snow-cold as he brushed the hair back from my neck. He pressed his lips to my skin.
So this year it was a combination of the two. I smiled, though he couldn’t see it. “Lucian.”
He trailed his fingers down my arms, then clasped one of my hands and turned me around to face him.
The sight of him was a soft explosion in my chest, too many feelings at once to name.
His golden eyes searched mine with an intensity that made my heart ache. “Are you well?”
“I am now.” I smiled again, and the creases of concern on his forehead smoothed.
He pulled me to him and pressed his lips gently to mine for a moment, then pulled back. “The night is ours, my love. What shall we do this time?”
His hair was roguish and messy, just as I remembered it, and long enough in the front that it nearly covered one eye. I wove my fingers through it, feeling its coarse richness, so wolf-like even in his human form. I wiggled my cold toes against the frozen earth, relishing that I, too, was human again for the moment. “Can we run?”
His lips quirked into a mischievous grin. “Last one to the lighthouse-—“
I didn’t hear him finish the statement; I was already running toward the woods. His laugh echoed behind me, dancing atop his heavy footsteps.
The night passed quickly. As I curled up with him beneath the trees, I suddenly wanted out of the sight of the moon, away from my reminder that this was temporary. “Can we move deeper into the forest?”
He didn’t question. “Of course.” He took my hand and gently pulled me to my feet. “I know just the place.”
I knew where he was leading me before we even neared it-–our place, the hollow we’d played in as children, before my desperate father had sworn me to the moon as a way to save my mother from dying. I was disposable to him... but never to Lucian. The first night I met Lucian in the hollow, I was nine and he was eleven, just reaching the age of maturity for his pack. It was his first Roam Night, the first time he’d been allowed to touch earth with the others. I had still been human, then. By the next year, when he came back to search for me, I’d already been changed.
I traced my fingers over the bark of an ancient tree. “It’s still here.” Our names, carved in crooked letters.
He was a Star Wolf and I was a Moon Child, him free to roam the earth only on a Wolf Moon and me free to return to my human family only when the moon was full. For one night our paths had crossed--and every year after.
He put his hands on my shoulders, turned me toward him. “So are we.”
Morning came, and as the moon sank, I sat up with a gasp, grabbing at the pain in my ribs. Lucian sat, too, and held me. There were no goodbyes, no statements that it was time for me to go--he would go soon after; it was the way of things. But I would be back within a month, granted my day of return during the height of the moon’s next cycle, and he would not. My chest ached with the loss of him while his arms were still around me.
“Same place?” he asked, his golden eyes staring into mine.
I nodded. Same place. Next year.