It was the middle of a Saturday afternoon. I sat in my favorite place on the couch, stretching my legs out on the chaise. Grabbing the remote, I turned on the TV, mounted above my fireplace. Netflix always seemed to have something I’d enjoy watching. Something caught my eye as I sifted through selections.
Ooh, that looks good.
Just as the trailer ended, my Ring doorbell sensed movement, spamming my phone with its crappy motion detection. I ignored it.
Probably one of the neighborhood kids walking past.
And pressed play, eager to watch the movie but my phone would not relent. One after the other, a flurry of notifications lit up the screen. I checked my phone to see what all the notifications were about. There was a man dropping off boxes, then ringing the bell and walking away.
That had to have been a mistake, I didn't order anything.
Confused, I rushed to open the front door, only to see him waving as he drove away.
There were two parcels. One, a bit bigger than the other. No return address on either of them. Actually, there was no other information except for my name and address.
Taking them inside, I put them on the kitchen island. Eyeing them with suspicion. Wondering if I should open them or call the cops. Paranoid thoughts swirled around my head.
What if they explode?
What if there’s that powder stuff in it that makes people sick? Anthrax!
Too many what if’s deterred me momentarily from opening the packages.
“This isn't a movie, Kataliah. You don't have any enemies.” I said out loud, grabbing a knife. Slowly, I slid the blade along the center seam of the bigger box, listening to it tear through the tape. I took a deep breath and flipped it open. Nervous and excited. I’d never received a secret gift before.
Slowly, I pulled the white paper out of the box. My breath caught. How did anyone know I wanted this? Inside was something I’d wanted but hesitated on getting, unsure if I had the green thumb gene and experience to take care of it. I read the card out loud.
“Haworthia Obtusa Crystal Light Blue Transparent Succulent Plant.” That was more of a mouthful to say. Who sent it and how did they know? I hadn’t told anyone about wanting it. I took the plant out and searched the box, looking for any kind of clues to who it could be. A sentimental card maybe? Nothing.
I’d need to do some research because there was no way I’d let this one die. Searching how to accurately care for this plant on Google and YouTube. Completely forgetting about the smaller box that accompanied it.
“Where’s a good place to put you?” I asked the plant, like it could actually respond back. Then again, I always talked to myself out loud anyway.
“How about…” I paused and looked around. My U-shaped couch took up a good portion of the combined living room and dining room space, leaving me with few options. I looked over to the table, shaking my head side to side at the thought. Definitely didn't want it where I ate.
“The bookshelf.” I smiled. The very top was perfect since it was empty, giving the plant all the space to itself. Watering it would be easy and the sunlight could reach it. So that was another plus.
After moving the plant to its new home I headed for the couch and resumed the movie, ever so often looking over at the plant as if it were going to disappear. Still, wondering who could have sent it?
About an hour later, I pressed pause, wanting a snack. Strolling back into the kitchen, I spotted the little box.
“I forgot about you,” I said smiling as I opened it. For the second time, my breath caught in shock.
“An Enchantment gift box? From Aphrodite’s? Who the hell…?” Was there a hidden camera?
Two gifts, two things I said I was going to get myself? I, for damn sure, knew I didn’t order it. Not yet at least.
Just in case, I used my phone to check my accounts for the purchases. Nothing. Well, nothing outside of the ordinary.
I needed to know what was inside. Tugging gently, the elegantly tied ribbon at the top of the purple box unraveled. A wide smile spread across my face. My favorite color. The box opened like a card, with an inscription on each side.
On the left it read Behold Enchantment and on the right Magic Lies Within.
I bit my lip as my excitement rose.
A small heart-shaped box sat atop a small square box with a tiny arrangement of lavender keepsake flowers adorned the top. It was so beautiful. Now I was even more curious as to who bought it. If nothing else, I would at least like to thank them.
I pulled the gold-plated knob on the smaller box and pulled out three black velvet pouches. The first held a dog tag, engraved with a black wolf silhouette. I turned it over and it read:
I am a wolf.
Quietly I will endure.
Silently I will suffer.
Patiently I will wait.
For I am a warrior.
And I will survive.
“What the hell does that mean?” I said, the words echoing in my empty house. No one else knew about the wolf I’d made friends with in my backyard. I’d been terrified and enchanted at the same time. Thinking back to the time it snuck up on me while I slept on the daybed out in the yard. I awoke, scared of it hurting me but rather, it laid its head in my lap and briefly closed its eyes. I know I should have been scared, but the wolf reminded me more of a huge puppy than a wild animal.
The next pouch held a double banded, heart-shaped diamond engagement ring. The last, a matching necklace.
Were those…real diamonds? My hands shook, and I nearly dropped the necklace. Taking a step back from the island, I forced myself to breathe. To think. What was going on?
Over the course of three days, more gifts came. None of the boxes had a return address. I was determined to catch the delivery man who somehow always seemed to disappear before I could get to the door.
Today was going to be different. I sat in my living room and waited, phone in hand. As soon as the alert went off, I jetted to the entryway and snatched the door open.
“Hi.” I gave the courier my best fake smile. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a question.”
“Sure,” he said, grabbing the parcels he’d left on the ground, handing them to me.
“Could you tell me where these boxes are coming from? There’s no return address on any of them.”
“I’m sorry ma’am. I don't know either,” he told me with a shrug. “I’m from a private delivery service. People use us when they have something important or time-sensitive. That’s all I know.” His voice sounded genuine.
That was no help. “What’s the name of your company?”
“The Rising Moon.”
I raised a brow in question, repeating his words in my head, I’d never heard of it. My shoulders slumped. I was no closer to the answers I sought.
“Thank you.” I told him, closing the door.
Just like the others, I used a knife to carefully open the box, revealing yet another jewelry box. The accompanying card read:
“My Oath To You”
When the snow falls and the white winds blow, I promise you won't be alone. All men should keep their word. I’m not going to swear an oath I cannot uphold and I have promised to take care of you.
“You have got to be kidding me!” I screamed, dropping the on the island and backing away. Totally freaked. I needed time to think.
My heart nearly pounded out of my chest. Did I have a stalker? Who the hell was it? I didn't know whether to call the cops or put up a damn sign outside my house, inviting them to just ring the damn bell.
My search for the Rising Moon delivery service came up empty. It was as if it didn't exist. So I did the next best thing. I called my parents, older sister, younger brother, and even my best friend, asking all of them if they’d sent something to my house accidentally. They all told me no. I didn't want them to worry so I dropped it, suggesting it was probably for my neighbor.
My serene backyard was where I went to think. My favorite place to sit was on the outdoor daybed, with a view of the woods. I sat there, waiting to see my wolf friend. As soon as the sun set, there he was, emerging from the woods. I sat up straight and watched him as he approached. He sat beside the bed, resting his head in my lap like he usually did.
“Hey, boy. It’s been a few days since you came by. I’ve missed your company.” Caressing his fur then lightly grabbing his face, I looked him in the eyes.
“Are you sending me gifts? Huh?” His big eyes just blinked. “You must think I’m crazy right? There’s no way it could be you, right?” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Leaning back on the cushions, I threw an arm over my head and blew out some air. The wolf climbed onto the bed, nudging me as if to say move over. All I could do was laugh for a moment before giving him the space he sought.
I lay there for a while, his head on my lap, stroking his fur. He’d already fallen asleep. I couldn't help but stare at him. Wondering what the hell was I doing, befriending a wild animal who appeared and disappeared in the woods behind my house?
This creature, capable of ripping me to shreds, laid there, sleeping peacefully. And yet, I felt perfectly safe.
In the morning, I awoke in my bed. Not remembering the wolf leaving or even getting up from the daybed and coming inside. What the hell was going on?
My doorbell rang followed by a light knock. I tried checking my phone to see who it was but it was dead.
“Damn.” I gave up and ran to the door. When I opened it, it was a man in what looked like a really expensive suit, his back toward me.
“Um, hello?” I said, trying to get his attention.
I couldn't believe who it was that turned around. It was my best friend, Chaz Clearwater, the boy who made my childhood the best it could be. “Where the hell have you been?” I cried, throwing my arms around him. He’d gone off to the military when we were kids and I heard from him only once. Always afraid that something happened to him.
His arms embraced me. Holding me tight.
He let me stay there, crying in his arms until I loosened my grip and pulled back.
“I’ve missed you Kataliah,” he finally said. “When I finally got back home, you were gone. You’d moved and your phone number had changed. I couldn't find you. I searched all over social media, knowing it was a long shot since you were always a private person but nothing showed up.”
I bit my lip. We’d moved closer to my grandma because she was sick and my parents couldn't afford to keep my phone on. Eventually, I got a job but it took a year just to get that and I didn't have any social media accounts. I didn't want random people in my business, just because.
Chaz ducked his head. “I have a confession but I’m not sure I should say it out here. May I come in?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, grabbing his big calloused hand, warm it always was, pulling him behind me and shutting the door.
“I’ve missed you too.” Pulling him in for another hug. His arms held me securely, close enough to feel his heartbeat.
I watched as he looked around the room. Smiling when he spotted the Aphrodite box I kept on the island. The purple flowers were my favorite thing to look at each day.
“I sent you those gifts.”
“Why?” I asked, frowning.
“Because,” he replied, smirking.
I stared at him, giving him a you-better-explain look.
“Can you bring them, please, Flower?” That had been his name for me, all those years ago.
“Sure.” I got the boxes and held them out to him.
Chaz took the purple gift box and shook the ring out of the pouch, staring at it for a moment.
“I know it’s been so many years and we haven't seen each other but I loved you back then and I love you now.” He closed the space between us, sliding his hand around my waist. He’d put the ring on his small finger. “I know we can never get the time we lost but I promise to make it up to you for the rest of my life.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks. His hand touched my chin, pulling my gaze back toward his. “I love you. I always have and deep down,” —he used his thumb to wipe a tear from my face —“you loved me too.”
His lips took mine. The familiar warmth of his body brought back memories of us when we’d hug or cuddle, always as friends.
“Kataliah.” He broke the kiss, backing away and dropping to one knee. “Will you marry me? I promise to be the best husband you could ever imagine.”
He may not have been the same boy I spent my childhood with but I knew him back then and he was right. Those feelings never went away.
“Yes,” I said, tears clouding my sight but I was beyond happy. He slipped the ring on my finger and kissed me again.
“I have one more thing to tell you. Please just listen carefully and don't freak out.”
I nodded, unable to speak.
“There’s a black wolf that’s been coming by to see you right?”
Again, all I could manage was a nod.
“What?” I frowned and shook my head. That made no sense.
“Flower, I’m a wolf shifter.” Chaz took a step closer, his words coming faster. “I always was but didn't find out I could shift until I was about sixteen. Back then, I was afraid to tell you. I didn't want to lose you. That’s why I went into the military as soon as I could. It helped me gain control and discipline. It was also how I found you. I’d searched far and wide, hoping to pick up your scent. Then one day, there you were. Asleep in your yard. I couldn't believe I’d finally found you. I wanted to tell you who I was then but I needed to see how you’d accept the other version of me.” He stopped, staring at me. Waiting.
My tears kept falling. Happiness and confusion twisted around one another.
“Flower, say something.”
I looked down at the ring on my finger, then back at the man in front of me. The man who’d always protected me growing up. The man who, as a wolf, could have hurt me, but didn’t.
“It doesn't matter. I accept all of you, Chaz.”
He wrapped me in his arms as we shared our first real kiss as a couple. I knew that this man would love and protect me with any form he was in, and I was content just knowing that.