Her bedroom was beautiful and she adored it, more than Clear, more even than Christmas.
Because it reminded her of home.
Not the elegant townhome she shared with her socialite mother and United States Senator father in DC when her father was at work. Or their gracious, rambling home in that very city.
Their real home.
The cabin in the mountains.
She glanced around her room and saw, amongst her plethora of toss pillows in the middle of the bed, her wolf. Like her Christmas lights did, every night, all year long, the sight of her wolf made her smile.
Her father had it made for her and given it to her the first Christmas she could remember.
She was two.
And she slept with it every night since she was two.
It was a stuffed animal the exact replica of her wolf, the one who had, very unfortunately, died the same night as her parents.
She’d known it was her wolf the minute she’d seen him (she did have a stuffed animal to prove this fact).
And she’d loved him with an inexplicable and unfathomable depth from the moment her eyes fell upon him.
Even though he’d died, he’d never left her, not once, not in all these years.
She knew this because he came to her in her dreams.
She turned her head and saw in the corner her Christmas tree. It was smaller and not perfectly decorated. The multi-colored lights were wonky because she put them on. The decorations didn’t match because they came from her mother and father’s belongings of which she had practically nothing. This was because Gregor had sold them, given them away or tossed them out with a thoroughness that was astonishing. Therefore, she truly had nothing but those decorations. They were the decorations her parents bought during their marriage, were given by friends or had taken from their childhood homes. They were the decorations that hung on the tree in their beloved cabin, long since destroyed in a forest fire (yet another precious thing Sonia had lost).
Over the years, because she figured her parents would want her to do so, Sonia had added sweet but mismatched decorations that she’d found and fallen in love with. All of which were far from perfect but definitely perfect on her tree.
It was this tree she sat beside alone every Christmas morning and opened the presents friends and neighbors had given her.
This was her real tree.
She turned on the lights of the tree and the one by her bed. She carefully moisturized her face (so as not to destroy her manicure) and lay on the covers (so as not to destroy her pedicure) and read until her nails were dry and she was sleepy.
She then, as she did every night without fail, rubbed lotion into her feet then a different lotion on her hands and finally almond oil into her cuticles.
She turned out the bedside light. Her gaze went to her little Christmas tree and again, this time with a deep contentment, Sonia sighed.
This was her absolute, most favorite time of year.
Because every night, from the day after Thanksgiving until the day after New Years, she’d sleep in a room bathed in Christmas lights.
And she’d remember a time, long ago, when she was loved.
* * * * *
She opened her eyes and saw her “puppy” standing by her bed.
In her dreams since the night her parents died, she’d see him standing beside her bed, staring at her with his intelligent tawny eyes. But she knew in her heart he was there to look after her, to keep her company, to keep her safe, to protect her.
Not every night (regrettably) but most nights after her parents died.
Over the years these nights came fewer then fewer, until now he only came a few times a year.
But always, one of those times was around Christmas.
“Hello puppy,” she whispered in her dream.
He sat, so huge was her puppy and he appeared somehow regal.
She grinned at him.
He watched her.
“Is my handsome wolf coming tonight?” she asked.
Her “handsome wolf” had started coming later, years later, when she was in her late teens.
He was an entirely different kind of dream.
She hated to admit it because she loved her puppy, but she liked those dreams even better.
Her puppy growled.
Sonia blinked, slowly, dreamily.
When her eyes opened, her handsome wolf was there, she felt him.
The covers slid down her body, she turned, looked up and saw him.
God, he was handsome.
And he was huge.
His naked body slid in bed beside her, mostly on her, and she took his warmth and his immense weight gladly.
She looked in his clear, blue eyes.
“Hi,” she breathed.
God, he had a great smile.
Her arm wrapped around him as her other hand went up, as it always did, to touch his beautiful face. Her fingertips in his thick hair, her thumb glided along his dark eyebrow then down, over this sharp cheekbone then down, along his full bottom lip.
She watched, fascinated (no matter how many times she saw it) as the tawny spikes shot out of his pupils and the normal sky blue color of his irises was forced out and the warm, glittering, deliciously hungry tiger’s eye took over.