The Werewolf

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Jess-Belle opened the door, something she’d never dared do on a night like this. It was easier than she expected, but a knot of fear still drew tight in her stomach.The little clock on the mantle chimed midnight. Moonlight filtered through the stirring pines. It a nice night, but no one in their right mind would be out. No one but Jess-Belle, and even she hesitated before stepping over the threshold. The door shut behind her very quietly.A dirt path led from the little cottage to the main trail and from there, eventually, to the paved road into town, but she didn’t take that. Instead she went the back way, into the woods, following a path so faint it was almost invisible. The tall trees with their old branches blocked out the sky but they couldn’t hide the silver-blue moon. Jess-Belle liked the way the moonlight gilded the tips of the pine needles and her long, filed nails. All the familiar rocks and streams and coils of underbrush along the path looked strange and new, as if the forest had taken off a mask for just one night. She was, of course, worried. Not about being out, but that Billy-Ben might not meet her after all. He too had never snuck out on Full Moon Night (even at her age Jess-Belle couldn’t help but think of the expedition as “sneaking out,” as if she were still a schoolgirl fearing her parents’ remonstrations), and he might lose his nerve. It wasn’t the idea of waiting all night that bothered her so much as the long walk back to a lonely bed and another month of anxious nights. She was too old for this feeling, but it was there anyway.She realized she was stepping softly. There was no reason to, of course. No one was around to–A dark shape appeared on the path. Jess-Belle clapped a hand over her mouth to stop her scream and hunched down in the hollow of a tree, waiting for the flare of panic in her chest to burn out. The shape was just a few feet away, crossing the path and leaving a rustle of pine needles in its wake. It was a strange thing, hunched and misshapen. Was it coming closer or going away? She couldn’t tell without peeking. Mouthing a prayer, Jess-Belle leaned around the corner…She almost laughed. It was Granny Mim, the fisherwoman from the other side of the hollow. escort avcılar Her strange silhouette was due to the shawl over her head and the pack on her back. Whatever she was lugging it was big and cumbersome and it bent her double. Jess-Belle watched the fisherwoman amble off and counted two hundreds breaths from the last time she heard the old woman’s steps, and when she was certain the coast was clear she came out again.She cocked her head after Granny Mim. What was that old coot doing sneaking around on Full Moon Night, hauling God-knows-what through a neck of the woods half a mile from her creek? It was none of Jess-Belle’s business, of course. But what if…No time to wonder now; the scare had made her late. Assuming Billy-Ben was really coming, of course.She followed the trail through the oldest part of the forest and up the hillside, to the place where the trees broke and the clover grew in as soft as a feather bed. She flopped down on it just like she’d done as a little girl and looked at the night sky. The moon was like a big yellow eye. It was strange to think she’d never seen it this way before. What have you been up to on nights like this, she wondered, when I haven’t been around? Have you been keeping secrets? A shadow fell over Jess-Belle at the same time a hand touched her shoulder. She grabbed the arm and rolled over, yanking the intruder off his feet, and for a second the two of them rolled down the grade together, one tumbling over the other. When they landed Jess-Belle was on bottom, chest heaving from the struggle, and on top of her was a surprised young man–barely more than a boy–whose unruly blond hair was dotted with clover leaves from the fall. He held up one hand in a gesture of truce. “It’s me!” said Billy-Ben.”I know.””Then why’d you pull me off my feet?””You scared me. You had it coming.”For a second they stayed like that, with Billy-Ben sprawled on top. His other hand had landed just under her left breast. When he noticed it he blushed and rolled over, dusting off his shirt and breeches. Jess-Belle propped herself up on one arm and looked at him. In the moonlight he looked even younger than he was. She saw him swallow hard before he spoke.”I’m escort bahcesehir sorry I snuck up on you, Mrs. T–“”Call me Jess-Belle. Not Mrs. Turner.””Jess-Belle,” Billy-Ben said. “Right. I’m… I didn’t mean to scare you.””Yes you did,” Jess-Belle said. Then she snuggled up to his side. He jumped as if a bee had stung him. “You knew just what you were doing.” “Reckon I did,” he said, then went quiet. From the top of the hill they could see almost the entire valley and, distantly, the few faint lights of the town. Everything was still, as if the night was holding its breath. Jess-Belle slipped her hand into Billy-Ben’s.”Did you make it out okay?” said Billy-Ben. “I was worried…””About the werewolf?” She snarled, then giggled like a schoolgirl.”‘Course not,” said Billy-Ben, sounding almost defensive. “I meant did you have any trouble with Mr. Turner?””Mr. Turner is never home on Full Moon Night.”Billy-Ben blinked. “Why?””He’s the werewolf.” Jess-Belle looked Billy-Ben in the eyes. She held the look as long as she could before cracking up. Snorting between giggles she said, “I’m just teasing, Billy. It’s because he closes the shop in the town so late and he doesn’t want to walk all the way home after sundown on nights like this. You know how folks are: superstitious.” She laid her head on his shoulder again. “There’s no real werewolf. That’s an old folk’s story.””‘I know that,” Billy-Ben said, but there was a tremor in his voice that suggested relief. “I wouldn’t be out here if I believed, would I?” He dared give her body a little squeeze, as if to prove it. “But Mr. Turner must believe it, if he doesn’t want to walk home on Full Moon Night,” Billy-Ben added, after pondering the matter for a moment. “Maybe,” said Jess-Belle. “Or maybe he’s just got someone else he wants to spend nights like this with. None of my business. How about you, Billy? Did you have any trouble getting past your ma?”Billy-Ben rubbed the few wispy blond hairs on his chin and said, “Ma’s never home on Full Moon Night neither. She’s always out…” He stumbled for a second, then said: “She’s out working her still.”Jess-Belle sat up. “Why Billy…are you telling me your old ma is out moonshining?”Billy-Ben shrugged. beylikdüzü escort “It’s the one night ain’t nobody’s around to catch her.” Jess-Belle giggled. Soon she couldn’t stop. “Don’t you laugh at my ma,” Billy-Ben said, but Jess-Belle shook her head between giggles.”It ain’t that I’m laughing at her. It’s just, well, your ma’s stuff really is moonshine, isn’t it? Full Moonshine!” And she pitched herself on the ground and laughed as loud as she dared, and in a minute Billy-Ben was laughing too. Then he surprised her by producing a flask from his back pocket. “It’s what’s left of what she made last Full Moon Night,” he said. “I snuck it.””Why you little devil,” Jess-Belle said. The polished flask gleamed. She took a sip and it burned all the way down. Billy-Ben reached for it but she pulled it away, teasing. “I don’t think you’re old enough for this.””I’m almost eighteen,” Billy-Ben said, sitting up a little straighter.”Then you can almost have some,” Jess-Belle said, tipping the flask a couple inches short of him and letting a few silvery drops fall onto the grass. Then she sat on his lap and draped one arm around his neck, dribbling some more of it into his mouth. He licked the burning liquor off his lips. She ran a hand through his hair. “I remember when you were just as little as a Junebug and rambling into my schoolhouse every morning.” Her lips were less than an inch from his. She smelled the liquor on his breath. “How long ago was that now, Billy? I know how many years it’s been, but how long, really?””Not sure what you mean…””It doesn’t matter. Look at the moon. You know what it means when it gets full like that? It means there’s nowhere else to go. Once it’s full it can’t get no fuller. That’s all there is.” She kissed him, tasting the liquor fire in his mouth. Her tongue darted against his. She wondered if he’d ever had a real kiss before. He was handsome, but he’d always been such a shy, bashful child that it would take an awfully determined mountain girl to get a kiss out of him. They lingered like this for a few seconds, and then the sound of something stirring in the brush made them both stop. Billy-Ben drew his arms tighter around her. “What’s that?””Some critter.”A branch snapped and something shuffled through dry pine needles. Billy-Ben swallowed. “What if it’s the werewolf?””There is no werewolf.””Course there ain’t. …but what if it’s the werewolf anyhow?”Jess-Belle squinted but couldn’t see whatever was out there.

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