Stick to the path,

mother’s words echoed in my ears like an infection, bouncing around between my cerebrum and my cranium until my whole head throbbed for release. A journey through the woods where one doesn’t leave the path isn’t through the woods at all, but rather a half-sung teaser to a promising melody that pulls at the tail of my rose-red cape until my very bones rattle like diamonds in a bag.

“Rowan,” the trees seemed to whisper, their sycamore susurrations sweeping sleepily through my hair, beckoning me to strip of my man-made tethers and join them in a grassroots throng.

I’d always been an alluring boy, a land-bound siren with a song behind my eyes and a lyre between my thighs. Sometimes the temptation of the wood was too strong, but I had always preferred grass to cotton anyway, its effervescent kisses against my spine turning my skin to sugar cane that only encouraged them to lap at my freckles.

It was there, in the woods, off the path, where I found my skies.

And it was there that I first felt his eyes. Leeringly, from behind a grand old maple, I caught a quicksilver streak that lured me into a woozier tune. My legs felt like lightning, but colder, streaking through the darkness in long, powerful strides that crackled like pinecones under my toes. But the storm had only just rolled in.

The rain came in the form of our skins collectively crashing and creating a deluge of salty, sugary lemon water that seeped into the ground below my arched back. And the thunder, that caught like a wildfire against the leaves on my skin, barreled in a voice reminiscent of mine, but blended with smoke, fever, and the howls of my lupine lover. The clouds were my thighs, doughy and warm, tickled by the fur on his face, making me laugh in prepubescent delight.

But after the storm had passed, after the crackle of a mid-summer flurry blurred into no more than a memory, all that was left was a rosy peck on the wolf’s scruffy cheek and a bloody patch of grass.

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