Twenty minutes isn’t really that short, but when I’m full to the brim already, it’s no where near enough time for me to recollect myself. I’m looking forward to the next chance to be with Sialuk again, even if I’m too confused and scared to own that desire yet.
I feel like I want to scream, cry, or run, maybe even all three at once. The only outlet I really have though is the movie I’d been trying to escape in. I turn it back on, turn the volume up, and if I can’t process all my emotions, I at least try to disassociate enough that I’m not feeling out of control when Sialuk comes back.
It does not work, to say the least. I’m just pouring through the interaction with Sialuk in my head, feeling all kinds of feelings and managing none of them.
By the time she’s back, I’m still steaming and one-hundred-percent still in lash-out mode.
There’s pounding on my door so loud it blares through my loud speakers.
“You ready for dinner yet?” Sialuk calls through the door.
Part of me notices that she doesn’t barge in again, but the part of me that’s running the show lowers the volume and doubles down on the worst part of my interaction with Sialuk so far.
Listen, digging through all the layers of why I’m self-sabotaging this hard would take hours, so I’m just going to get through this bit of nastiness quickly but I won’t ‘sugarcoat’ it, a-la-Lucky style. Just know that I see in hindsight how awful I was being but I don’t want to hide that part from you, either.
“I’m not hungry,” I insist even though my stomach protests vehemently.
Sialuk does march in this time. I bury my face behind my tablet the moment I see the doorknob turning. If I can keep myself from engaging her eyesight, I can keep myself from getting even more wound up. I might not be helping myself get a meal, but I’m at least trying to keep myself from making it worse on purpose.
“Well, I’ve got a dinner date,” she says. There is no emotion in her tone. “And since we need to get to know each other better anyway, come along.”
I thank the sweet Earth that my stomach doesn’t rumble, giving me away. I wait a few moments, hoping she’ll get annoyed with me and leave me alone.
Nope. She just stands there.
“Are you still here?” I ask.
Trying to push her away with sass torpedoes the interaction right into the ground. She doesn’t speak. She takes my tablet away again with ease even though I’m clutching it.
“Hey! Stop it!” I remember being panicky about how she took away the one tool I had to keep my eyes away from hers. “Give it back!”
I tug on the tablet—because I’m a childish butthole when I’m hangry—but it doesn’t budge in her grip. She is unbelievably strong; must be a rock-climber or something to have that kind of grip.
After my pathetic attempt, Sialuk puts the tablet behind her back. She bends at her knees—the part of her directly in my downward line of sight—and I drop my head even lower. I’m staring intently at the fibers of my dull linen bedspread, trying to keep the conflicting ball of emotions wreaking havoc on my mental state from making me do something I’d regret even more.
Sweet Earth why am I lying about eating dinner?
Sialuk doesn’t try to force the eye contact; I see her knees straighten. Her voice has a softness in it that I haven’t heard so far, but it also isn’t tenderness or warmth.
“I thought the nature of our relationship was clear,” she says. “Do you need me to explain it to you again?”
My emotions swell with her words, but the surging tidal wave I’m expecting doesn’t come. I’m still overwhelmed, almost shaky, but I’m not lashing out.
“You can’t just show up and start ordering me around. You’re not my Alpha,” I say. And I do mean all of that, I think. I’m not sure if I’m so distressed because of how Sialuk’s been talking down to me—a little bit, but not like the Elders used to—or how I can’t place my reaction to her. It’s a bit of both, truthfully.
“You’re right,” she says.
I’m not sure what I’m expecting her to say, but it isn’t that.
“If I were Ojistah, I’d have learned from the bison’s fiasco with Jason that trying to make a cat fit in with birds is a waste of time,” she says.
She gets it. She says exactly what Jason does, but when she says it I know she’s relating with me rather than talking down because I can’t figure out what he did on his own.
Sialuk knows I have no real future fitting in with the ravens.
Knowing she gets this fundamental part of why the negotiations between the ravens and the tigers were happening relieves a tension I don’t realize I’m holding.
Sialuk actually gets it.
“Instead, I’d be trying anything I could think of to still profit off of you.”
My racing hope stops as if I’d run into a brick wall. My ears latch onto her words but my eyes stare unseeing at the sheets.
“Sell the first pictures to the press. Insist the tigers pay interest on keeping you as if you were some kind of loan. Demand your parents have another kid in the hopes it might happen again. The sky’s literally the limit for her.”
I hope I’m not shaking, but inside, I feel like I’m boiling. My skin feels raw, my eyes sting, my throat rasps, my hear thuds.
Everything she’s saying… she gets all of it. What I’m going through, what Alpha’s thinking, what the stakes really mean beyond just what I can see. What I’m angry about.
“But me?” she continues. “I’m not trying to micromanage every facet of your life. I’m just telling you to come eat. Would you prefer the Alpha treatment?”
There’s no bite in her words but they puncture my fragile control like fangs.
I cry. I want to say that I’m not that sensitive… but I’m hangry, and I feel like Sialuk is a blessing because she does understand what’s going on, but I’ve already ruined my first impression with her.
Before I can apologize, Sialuk’s hand comes into my blurry vision. She sets the tablet on the bed but far away from me.
“Come eat,” she says. Her voice is back to unemotional.
I sniff. “I’ll be out in five,” I say without hesitating.
Sialuk doesn’t comment or make threats about what will happen if I take ten instead of the five I’d said. She doesn’t try to catch my eyes again, either.
She just turns around and walks out. She closes the door softly behind her, but I have this gut feeling she’s waiting right there for me.
Waiting, waiting. Not hurrying me, not pestering me, not forcing me.
Waiting for me.
I grab a tissue and wipe the snot and tears from my face. I splash some water on my skin, but there’s no covering up the blotchy patches on my cheeks.
I stare at my reflection in the mirror. Red rims my eyes, and beneath the uneven color, my skin is flushed.
Sialuk is waiting for me.
It’s funny, she’d asked me if I wanted the Alpha treatment because she’d been trying to prove what an ass Alpha… Ojistah is.
But instead, all I’m really thinking is about how Sialuk is caring for me—in her own way to be sure—but it’s a way Ojistah never did.