Excerpt from Feral by Deena Metzger
As the Girl Slept
The woman elected to sit by her in the car for several hours with the girl’s head in her lap. The door to the woman’s cottage was only a few steps away. She didn’t go in. Instead she sat down on the back seat, lifted the girl’s head gently, placing it on her lap, feeling the girl’s dark hair cascading like skeins of heavy silk across her hands, then covering the girl with a mohair blanket she kept in the car.
Intermittently, she thought of undoing the belt around the girl’s waist or slipping the knife out of the sheaf, but she put those thoughts out of her mind. Better to remove the knife from her mind. Whatever reasonable explanation she gave herself, the truth was that she didn’t want the girl to disappear. She didn’t want her to awaken in anger or fear and so shapeshift into a bird and fly away. The girl might become anything, go anywhere, do anything. The woman… the woman… the woman wanted to go with her.
Only once did the woman allow professional thoughts to disturb the exquisite peace that existed between them. If someone came by… if she were discovered sitting with a naked girl in her lap… if she as a therapist were discovered with her naked client… if, on awakening the girl had thought she might have abused her… if…
If can be a dangerous word, she contended to herself, trying to banish it from her mind. She focused on the stars, on the coyotes howling in the hills, on the entire animal valley suddenly alerted. Somewhere in the brush, Timber Wolf added his glorious arpeggio to the chorus. A conversation in progress that the woman had never thought to understand. As the girl was asleep, she took the opportunity to apply herself but the stars remained silent, the wolves, dogs and coyote’s language was incomprehensible to her, and the night birds only sang their odd melodies intermittently. Failing to comprehend, the woman was unable to avoid the camber of her own thoughts.
She didn’t know what her responsibilities were nor could she distinguish them from her inclinations whatever they were. Everything was unfamiliar and unpredictable. She wanted to go with the girl and converted this, immediately, into ways she could entice the girl to stay with her. An about-face in her mind pretending not to be an about-face. A reassertion of a very different mind. A mind not unlike Carmela’s mind, certain, self-righteous, determined. A different kind of shapeshifting altogether. More like possession, a thought, the kind of though the girl might have had, flickered briefly through her consciousness, an ember quickly extinguished as the woman sank into the mindset of a strategist, not Carmela’s mind, but her own old mind, very familiar and, yes, treacherous. She was unnerved and alternately was blaming the girl, Carmela, her peers, her profession. Such habits of mind often afflicted her clients. She was skilled at helping them because she knew the pattern and so could confront herself; it was not right to blame others for her face in her mirror.
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