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Stage 6 | Marisela Gomez

Sequel to Karen Russell’s “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” By Marisela Gomez

The parents howled and each gave me one last bite. They were the sweetest bites that I have ever received. I can still feel the sting of their teeth marks on my ankles and I take pleasure in them. They turned away and crawled back to their half-eaten bull moose. I stood there waiting for them. I had hoped that they would invite me to stay. I wanted them to offer, at least, some moose. It’s not like I wanted to eat it. I doubt that my stomach could even handle raw meat, but the thought would have been nice. The nuns never taught us proper etiquette on how to share a meal with our werewolf parents. I guess St. Lucy’s human culture had no place for family. Its concern was to eradicate the wolf with lessons and ammonia. It was the culture our parents wanted for us.

I took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of my pack. The scent that I used to crave during stage one to remember who I was. I smiled and told my second human lie, “Thank you for having me. I’ll visit again sometime.”

My mother looked at me with her sad eyes and returned to her meal. I walked out of the cave and back to the blue elm tree. The woodsman, my guide through the forest, was no longer leaning on the tree. Instead, there was a note with messy writing nailed to the bark: Couldn’t Stand the Smell, Find Your Way Back Home.

I read the note a couple more times. I folded it in half and placed it neatly into my picnic basket. I should have thrown it away, but for some reason I felt that it did not belong with the fallen leaves. I picked up the skirt of my dress, and I moved forward through the forest. I do not think that I had moved more than twenty feet, when I saw Mirabella dragging a spotted fawn into the opening of a sinkhole, next to a large elm tree. I moved an inch backwards, but the crunch of the dry leaves gave me away. She crouched forward and barked at me, protecting her food, just the way she had once protected me.

It took her less time than my parents to recognize me and she wagged her invisible tail. She moved quickly and tackled me to the ground, growling my name, TRRR, as she licked my face and took quick bites. I had not realized that I had dried tears stuck to my face until her licks took them away. It was strange. Her body was still the same small body as the last time that I saw her, but it was fuller. I wanted her to continue, but I remembered my lessons. A proper girl would never allow anyone to lick her face.

“Stop it, get away from me!” I said, pushing her away. She bit my ankles as I stood up, shaking the dirt off my dress. It was at that moment I realized there was a Stage 6. It was a stage that Sister Josephina never got around telling us.

Stage 6: It is common that students acclimate to their new culture, but some will reject assimilation. The outcome is that these students will not be able to fully integrate into both cultures, but will efficiently appear to belong.

I looked at Mirabella and her wild pelt and envied her. I would never have allowed myself to tell her that I wanted to join her. That I wanted to lick her wounds and hunt with her. She took a bite of my left hand and pierced through my white glove as she dragged me to her fawn. She let go of me and pushed her fawn closer to me. Inviting me to take the first bite. This time I felt the tears that spilled over my eyes, and she licked them. I wanted to ask her why she was not with the pack, but I knew the answer. I could smell her. It is as if her bones were engraved with the powders and soaps of the nuns. I bet that the pack would have recognized her, but their noses would have rejected her. At least they were kind enough to allow her to live nearby. I could not afford their compassion, so I backed away. I took off my white gloves and placed them on the ground; the only gift that I could give to my littlest sister.

“Stay, Mirabella!” I said, as she kept moving forward to me. “Stay! I don’t want you!” She wouldn’t stop moving forward, as always, she thought it was a game, so I kicked her. She whimpered and tucked her invisible tail between her hind legs. “Stay!” I said, as I picked up my basket and the note that had spilled over, and I ran forward. I ran home. I ran away.

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