Eaten By Wolves by Holly Grace

You are gone to the outdoor toilet, slots cut in the wooden platform where you hunker down; insides pour out uninhibited—stream, steam, dogs bark and donkeys bray. I roll over in bed, look for the torch. Did you take it, did you really go outside? I thought you went. Ten minutes pass. Usually you're back by now.

The snow lies, a layer of freezing crunch, covers all the mountains that lie behind. The bath-tub beside the garden path is half full of flakes, and the kitten with the emerald eyes feels like a tiny bag of bones beneath her shock of misty fur. It is the shock of winter, being born into snow, and she doesn't get any bigger day after day. I don't think they feed her. Maybe I should feed her—but maybe it is right that winter gives and winter takes away.

I'm staring at the cracks above the brick oven that is built against the wall. They once burned fires to keep our room warm in the evening. They don't any more. Is it because they don't like us? We don't speak their language, and isn't it wrong that you take your electronic book and sit at the breakfast table, just reading, unable to speak to the father? I doubt they have seen the electronic book before.

The father gave me a padlock for our bedroom door. He could see your laptop on the chair, my laptop on the table. Don't you feel just a bit uncomfortable at the table with your electronic book? So pale, so blonde, so flimsy, while they gulp their tea and slurp down the porridge and dart outside to farm—in and out all day—the father sixty, the son nineteen. The son looks older than you, and you are twenty-five.

Fifteen minutes have passed, and I'm sure your torch is not here, you've taken it with you, your jacket too. You spent too long considering that jacket in the mirror, in the Kyrgyz market stall. Men shouldn't look so long. You had this tortured expression, this tension of the facial features, a slight grinding of the jaw. I told you it looked good, manly - your first leather jacket.

There is a little shrunken you that lurks inside, that doesn't feel quite big enough to fill a leather jacket. It needs the body to be seen - the good cheekbones, the broad shoulders. It needs to be admired. When you stand around, pacing in my field of vision, I feel the shrunken you demanding my attention, screaming for my eyes to fall upon you. It delights in its body being subject to the spotlight of my gaze. Is it because it knows I love you? Or would the gaze of any pretty woman do?

Today I got home from the village school and lay here staring at the cracks, feeling some sort of euphoria. I felt my heart beat inside, and for once I didn't fear the accelerated pulse. I felt the organs and muscle and bone, but not with the distant loathing of a girl who dreams of a soul distinct and eternal. In sheer comfort I sank down into my body, feeling muscle caress ribcage, veins encircling heart, brain at rest within skull. The body was mine.

I should go to find you now. You've been gone too long. He said the wolves didn't come into the village, and this bed is so soft and warm. Nothing like that could happen to you. I should check that you're safely reading in the kitchen, but I don't want to bathe you in the spotlights of my eyes as you so enjoy.

I hear your tongue come unstuck from the roof of your mouth, I hear the rising hum of uncertainty before you ask: "Where is this? Where did you put that?" I hear the wolf's tongue rasp across her lips, slither upon her teeth. Sentient she sits in the blackness that lies upon the whiteness of the snow.