Wolves Raised by Girls
When my sisters and I fled the city, we carried armfuls of toile, tulle, velvet, silk, minks, purses stuffed with pearls and rubies, ivory combs in our hair and gold coins sewn into the linings of our gowns. We stumbled through the snow towards the forest and the caves and collapsed there panting, hidden away we hoped from the revolution. I woke to paws pressing my chest, a nose searching my ear. I screamed to my sisters, but the mother and her pups needed warmth, not food, and curled up with us, their fur and our furs together. In the morning we draped the stone walls with our brocades, fastened our jewels around the wolves’ necks in offering, dandled the pups and groomed them with our ivory combs, glittered our diamonds into their fine coats. And then when the mother did not return from her hunt, when we found her body stripped to red and heavy with poacher’s bullets, the little ones keened, wrapped themselves around our necks like ermine stoles. My oldest sister fed them at her breast and no longer cried for her lost baby. The cubs grew strong on her milk and our pack learned to hunt together. The poachers began to thicken in the trees and instead of doe and hart we hunted men. We caught one, tied him with our bloody purse-strings, held a knife to his throat. His eyes rolled like a deer. He told us that rumors had spread of the forest where wolves’ stomachs spilled diamonds when sliced open, because they had eaten up all the disappeared heiresses. He did not recognize us with our shorn hair, the ripped and muddy velvet of our dresses. With the bounty for just one hide, he promised, he could give us more gold than we’d ever seen, enough to buy back the whole city, enough to make us queens. We laughed and fed him to our children. The bounty on us, we knew, was even higher, and gold meant nothing to us anymore. At night the wolves range out all through the forest, circling us, shining. They think they are protecting us, but we are the ones who protect them.
Michelle E. Crouch, erstwhile Philadelphian and co-founder of APIARY Magazine, now resides in Durham, North Carolina. Her writing has been published in Weave Magazine, Indiana Review, Gigantic Sequins, and The Rumpus. She received her MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and transcribes found diaries at mcrouch.com.