Mei smiled back at little Tod as he buckled up in her backseat then drove away from the school “How was your day?”
“Great! Is mommy home yet?”
“Just two more nights” He just continued to smile as he began to look out the window so she put in one of his CD’s and put her attention back on the road. Mei was his live in nanny, had been since he was four and it was the best job she had ever taken. Tod was the sweetest boy anybody could ask for and his mother paid her far more than any other live in nannies she knew, especially when she took business trips. She had grown so fond of Tod over the past five years she’d probably even watch him for free at this point. She loved him like he was her own. The nice room, comfortable life and amazing income were just perks now.
Elowen was more like her friend than employer as well. She was a wonderful, warm woman and while she worked a lot she was an amazing mother. She had never seen Elowen miss a single school event and when Todd was sick, if he wanted his mother she stayed home. Anytime Tod needed her she was there and Mei had never met such a driven working mother that was so good at balancing things like that or to put in better words, so good at telling her job to fuck off when her child needed or wanted her.
As Mei pulled into the driveway Tod gasped “Mommy’s home! Her car wasn’t there so she shut off the car and turned “I’m sorry baby she isn’t.”
“But theres someone in the house and only we live there”
“what makes you say that” He looked back at the house “Oh…I thought I saw her peeking out the window” her heart started thudding “Tod, are you sure you saw someone”
“Yeah…I mean…I really think so Ms Mei” She had been running errands all day and while they lived in a nice neighborhood it didn’t make it impossible for someone to have broken into their home. He was only nine, maybe he had been seeing things but it wasn’t worth the risk to her “Okay buddy, lets go to Mr Birch’s home”
“You think somethings wrong?”
“I don’t know but lets be safe okay” Birch was one of Elowens close friends, someone Mei knew wouldn’t mind if she came unannounced with Tod. She wanted to call Elowen through the car but Tod would be able to hear and she didn’t want to upset him. There might not even be a problem and her own fear might work him up for no reason. Once there she sighed when his car wasn’t in the drive way. She parked, calling Elowen who answered quickly “Hey Mei, i can’t really talk, I had to step out of a meeting”
“I’m so sorry to bother you Elowen, I really am. I just had to check if you came home early and were trying to surprise Tod”
“No, why would you think that” she sounded concerned “When I was pulling in he thought he saw somebody in the window. I’m not trying to be over dramatic, I’m really not but he seems so sure so I drove to Birch’s house instead of taking him in”
“what did Birch say?”
“He isn’t home”
“well stop apologizing to me, I’d rather you be safe than sorry when you’re alone there with my son. I’ll tell everyone I need to go back to my room for now and I’ll call Birch, I’ll make it a conference call” The line was muted a few moments before Elowen was back and calling Birch who soon answered “Hey, I’m surprised to be hearing from you. I thought you were still gone. Are you home already?”
“you aren’t the first person to ask me that. Elowen is on the phone with us, she’s at your place.” Mei explained again and he said “I’m almost home, just wait for me alright. I’ll take care of this Elowen, don’t worry”
“Thank you Birch, thank you so much. Sometimes I don’t know what I’d do without you and Mei.”
“well hopefully nothing is wrong, Bane is still inside isn’t he? I’m sure he would have taken care of an intruder huh Tod”
“yeah” Tod said cheerfully. Elowen felt better hearing her son in good spirits and she especially felt better that Birch was helping Mei with the situation.
They sat in the driveway until Birch and he made sure they were okay before letting them into his home. “I’m going to go check Elowen’s place.” He said.
“Just be careful, if someone’s in there, Elowen wouldn’t want you getting hurt.” Mei replied.
“Don’t worry, just lock the door and make yourself at home, I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Can Bane come over?” Tod asked.
“Of course, he’s always welcome.”
Birch left them there and climbed back into his car, calling Elowen as he pulled away. “Are they alright?” She asked when she answered.
“Perfectly fine, I’m heading over to your place to check it out and get Bane.”
“Maybe you should call the police?”
“I will if there’s anyone there, I promise. I have my gun in the car, so don’t worry.”
“Still, stay safe and call me after.”
They got off the phone, Elowen a bundle of nerves Birch readying himself to check her home. Tod was young with an active imagination so this may be nothing at all but he wanted to go in there ready for anything. He was glad Mei had come over instead of trying to go in there herself just in case. Birch decided not to pull into the driveway. He parked in front of the neighbors house, slid his gun into his jeans and approached Elownes home. He could already hear their dog Bane going nuts which could mean there was somebody there or it could be the animals frustration that he had seen Mei come home and leave.
Either way Birch went to the front door and opened it with the spare key he had. Whenever Elowen took her son on vacation somewhere he would always be the one to come feed their dog since Mei went everywhere they went. He had expected the dog but Bane still startled Birch a little when he near instantly jumped up on him “hey, calm down buddy” Birch whispered as he began to pet him “is there anybody else in there?” Bane ran in and Birch followed.
Once inside everything looked alright, he walked all through the home, checking every closet and under the beds. Nothing seemed amiss until he realized Bane had stayed in Meis room the entire time “is there something I’m missing?” he asked the dog who continued to sit. Birch stood there a few moments before asking “are we in here for a reason buddy?” Bane moved around a little bit before sitting back down in the same spot he had been in when Birch entered. Birch decided maybe the window. He checked it, finding it unlocked.
He knew it was possible someone had tried it and found it open. Nothing seemed missing but as frequent as he came over he didn’t live here so he could be missing something. In any case the house seemed safe for now. He locked the window, checked everywhere one more time then grabbed Banes leash before going back to his car with him. He started it up then called Elowen to update her.
“You didn’t find anyone?”
“Just an unlocked window. I’m going to have Mei and Tod stay a couple of nights just to make sure, but I didn’t see anything out of place, I mean as far as I know. I’ll be sure to go back and check again when they’re ready to go home.”
“Thank you so much Birch.”
“You know it’s not a problem, just focus on work and I’ll hold down the fort.”
She gave a little laugh and it had him smiling. “I’ll call them a little later then, you’re the best Birch.”
“You’re pretty amazing yourself, talk to you later.”
Elowen smiled down at her phone a few moments before returning to the meeting that had apparently ended. She couldn’t tell how her boss felt but he seemed to have gotten used to the fact that if her son needed her she was going to answer the phone or go to him and if he didn’t like it she’d find another job. It wasn’t likely he’d fire her since she’d risen so far up in the company and always worked hard but she still knew one day it might bite her in the butt. She’d figure it out if that ever happened though.
Tod ran to his dog when Birch returned home. “is everything okay at the house?” Mei asked. “Your window was unlocked but I couldn’t find anybody inside. If you’d like to be sure you two are safe you’re welcome to stay here with me. I already told Elowen I’d off so you don’t need to check with her”
“I suppose for at least tonight. Hopefully Tod was simply seeing things”
“yeah” Birch walked over to the boy and his dog “do you have home work?”
“why don’t you do it quick then maybe you and I can play some video games”
“sure!” Birch looked over at Mei “If you’d like Mei I can handle Tod the rest of the day. You can go out and have some fun. I saw some of your friends on Facebook had wanted you to go out with them but you had to remind them Elowen isn’t home”
“are you sure?”
“I don’t have any plans”
“Okay, thank you, if you decide you need me to take over though just call me. I’ll come back as quickly as I can. I will also stop back at the house to pick up things for tonight and in the morning”
“I’m sure it will be fine. You already checked the house”
“I don’t know, I’d hate for you to go back alone so soon and something happen.”
“well, I guess we can sort it out when I’m on the way back”
“alright, have fun” Mei sent a text to Elowen. She knew it was most likely okay but she still wanted to be sure Elowen wouldn’t mind her taking an unscheduled afternoon off.
She got a text back immediately so messaged her friends before going and getting ready. She gave Tod a hug goodnight and thanked Birch again before heading out. “Want pizza tonight, Tod?” Birch asked.
“Yeah, can we have pineapples on half?”
“Of course.” Birch went ahead and ordered, getting bread sticks and cinnamon twists as well. He hung up when he had everything he wanted then locked his front door and went to quickly change out of his work clothes. Tod was still working on his homework when he came back, Bane curled up next to his chair barely glancing his way. “Do you need any help or anything?”
“Maybe a little. I don’t understand this math problem.”
Birch pulled up a chair and began helping Tod. He took the time to make sure Tod knew what to do instead of just helping him quickly so they could play something. They finished his homework just before the pizza arrived which surprised Birch since normally it took much longer. He guessed it must be a slow evening for them. He paid the delivery man and brought the pizza to the table. He received a hug from Tod “I’m so happy I’m hanging out with you tonight. Mei would of made something healthy again” Birch chuckled “Mei and your mother just want to make sure you’re healthy. I can spoil you because I know they take such good care of you at home”
“Yeah…is my mom coming back soon?”
“Hopefuly it wont be too much longer” Tod smiled “you miss her a lot too huh” Birch fought down a blush “yeah, well, she’s my friend” Tods smile grew a little which could either be because he was now grabbing a slice of pizza or the nine year old realized the feelings he had for his mother. He wasn’t sure it was appropriate to talk about with her son so he didn’t try to. Hopefully it was that Tod realized and would approve if anything did finally happen between them. Birch was a straightforward guy but he still didn’t know what happened with Tods father and worried she might be too wounded from her past to have any desire to be with anybody again.
As far as he knew she never dated and she was far too warm, along with beautiful for nobody to of asked. Elowen just worked, spent time with her son and the few friends she had. She never so much as mentioned a guy being attractive and given the fact nobody spoke of Tods father made him even more concerned with what may lay in her past. Weather he died or was an abusive prick or his worst fear had raped her and made her swear off dating the last thing he wanted was to let her know how much he wanted to be more in her life than a friend and have her push him away because she couldn’t handle a romantic partner in her life. Sometimes he wanted to ask Mei. If anybody else knew she would but still, would Elowen get upset about him prying?
They got her settled in so late that evening he didn’t ask when she returned to his house but when the next night came, his last chance to ask her without Elowen being around he took it as soon as Tod was sleeping “Mei, care to have some wine with me and talk?”
“sounds serious, sure” They went into his kitchen where he grabbed them each a glass then began looking through his wine “My curiosity is peaked, whats up?” she asked as he looked. He sighed, looking over at her “I just…I wanted to ask if you knew anything about Tods father” he couldn’t tell if she was shocked, horrified or a mixture of both “why would you ask about that?”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked”
“why are you asking? Someone was in Elowens home weren’t they?”
“No there wasn’t, what would that have to do with Tods father?”
“Birch I’ve always liked you but you have to be straight with me. Why are you asking?”
“because I want to be with her, thats all. I just felt I should know first if shes been through anything traumatic I mean his father has never been mentioned one time and she doesn’t date, she doesn’t even mention being attracted to anyone. I I’m sorry for asking” Mei sighed “jesus you scared me Birch.”
“seriously, what is the deal with his father?”
“The deal is he’s a monster, a literal monster and I never want to hear you ask about him ever again understand? Don’t you dare hurt her or Tod that way. Elowen has already moved twice to keep him away from her son.” Mei shook her head, lifting her hands a moment in an obvious storm of emotions “I can’t have you asking Elowen about this so lets get on your computer. I need to show you something” He took her to his computer and he waited as she typed something into the search bar. What came up took him back and he asked what even he knew was a stupid question “what does this news article have to do with Tods father”
“he’s the one who was doing this. He’d kill people by slowly removing their organs or simply just playing around inside them, doing everything he could to also keep them alive as long as possible” Birch read the article then said in horror “but this says he was never caught…how”
“Tods father is a literal monster. Elowen didn’t know until she became pregnant. He finally told her, showed her what he was and she accepted that until one day she founds him hunched over a dead body, innards in hand. He confessed everything to her, begged her to stay and run off to a different world with him where they could start over but being Elowen she couldn’t just act like he wasn’t a murderer, even if he was claiming he would stop for her. She figures if he could have stopped for her and their son he would have before she caught him”
“He didn’t take that well”
“He tried to kill her Birch. She moved, changed hers and Tods names and when he found her she did it all over again. I promise you after that scare at the house if you bring up Tods father she will be gone and we will never see her again…I mean she might take me. I know all this because once we got close she told me and asked that if he ever did kill her that I do everything I can not to let him get his hands on Tod and corrupt or hurt him”
“How can she even stand to be friends with me…I’m not human”
“she didn’t suddenly become a racist Birch, she’s changed her name twice and she cant be completely honest about her past. Damn it Birch she’ll kill me for saying this but she loves you too. She’s not an idiot, neither are Tod and I but she wont be with you if she cant be honest with you and the more people that know the more likely she is to be found by him again. Her mistake the first time she changed her name was getting romantically involved and telling the truth about herself. You and Elowen just cant be and you can’t bring this up”
“But I’ll protect her”
“You can’t promise that Birch. She’s fine being single, especially because that comes at no risk of having to uproot Tod now that hes old enough to realize he has to leave his entire life behind.”
“I can promise it, Mei, because I mean it. I’m not letting him have either of them and I’m not letting her just disappear.” He sighed. “She’s become so important to me, it’s like…it’s like finding a part of yourself you never knew you were missing.”
“You all know what I can do, but he doesn’t. If he steps into this house, he won’t be leaving. I’ll discuss everything with Elowen once I know she and Tod are safe. Doesn’t she know what it would have felt like waking up one day to find her gone? I won’t let some creature ruin their lives again.”
Mei swallowed. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m a monster too, Mei, just a different kind. I’ll lure him out if I have too or hound him to the ends of the earth because if I don’t then he won’t stop, he’ll just keep chasing them until he has them cornered. He’s a predator and a killer and he won’t stop.” He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. “Even if she hates me, I can’t let her fight alone. I just can’t.”
Meis phone going off startled her. She grabbed it “it’s Elowen…well…I guess now I should say Nadja”
“Nadja” Birch repeated. Mei nodded, a few tears streaming down her cheek “I’m so scared she’s going to hate me…she’s like a sister to me but I do want her safe…I don’t want her to have to be afraid anymore”
“It’s all going to be okay, I’ll make sure of it. What is she saying” Mei wiped her face and checked her messages “she’s just reminding me to pick her up at 10am tomorrow”
“we will all go”
“she’s going to know somethings up right when we get her”
“I know and thats why I want to come too…Nadja though…that sounds Danish right?” mei nodded again “yeah, her dad was from the Netherlands”
“they died in a car accident when she was a teenager. She doesn’t really have any family since her parents weren’t close to anybody they were related to. One of her friends parents allowed her to come live with them so she didn’t have to go to foster care or anything.”
“I see, so her parents did die”
“sh’s lied to you as little as possible you know. Most everything you know about her is true”
“I believe that…what’s Tods name?”
“well his birth name is Cailean but even if she does get to a safe point in her life I think she’ll leave it as Tod. It’s the name he knows”
“Cailean and Nadja” Mei shifted uncomfortably “I’m going to go to bed okay” she stood and Birch said “Hey…even if she’s mad at first…when I get rid of her ex I know she’ll forgive you”
“I hope you’re right”
When Elowen landed the next day she was elated to be home, especially knowing both Birch and Tod would be coming to the airport. She was practicly glowing with happiness until she saw Meis face “whats wrong?”
“I know that face Mei” Tod hugged his mother, taking her attention “Mommy”
“Hey hadnsome, I missed you so much”
“I missed you too.”
“did you have fun with Birch and Mei”
“Yeah!” he said excitedly. “good” she stood up straight and looked over at Birch “You’ll have to let me thank you in some way” she hugged him and he gently held her until she pulled away “Lets go” Once in the car Elowen asked “Do you need some time off after that break in scare Mei? I understand if you do. You look so tense”
“well…we kind of need to talk…Birch and I figured we could take Tod out to buy a new toy set then we’d go home and talk while he plays in his room”
“yay!” Tod exclaimed gleefully.
“Birch, is everything alright?” Elowen asked as they browsed toys.
“I just want to wait until we’re back.”
She could see the determination on his face, could tell he was thinking hard about something. She was afraid of what that meant. Had she done something wrong? Had Mei? Surely it couldn’t be Tod. She shook her head. He would have come out with it right away if that were the case, and Birch had never lost his temper with any of them. He was so patient and kind. She was surprised when he reached over and took her hand and gave her a small smile.
“Don’t worry, it’s just important and not something I want to discuss in public.”
It felt so good to hold his hand it almost hurt. Once they were finally home with the toy open and her son shut in his room the three adults sat on her couch. Mei was sitting beside Elowen while Birch took up a seat across from her. “I’m sorry about the tension you’ve felt about this talk. Your life has apparently had enough tension in it. Please, just listen to me before you react okay?”
“Okay…” she looked at Mei again and in her heart she knew Birch knew. Hers sunk as she listened “I know that your ex is a murderer and that you caught him and hes one of those if I cant have you nobody will types but you don’t have to be afraid anymore Nadja, you or Cailean. I’m not human either and I can protect you. I promise I can. I refuse to lose you and Tod. I’m happy to keep calling you guys whatever names you prefer but I love you and Mei says you love me too…I get why you haven’t gone out with me and I get why you’ve kept stuff to yourself. I know you’re really only thinking of Tod but please don’t run, allow me to love and protect you”
He could tell she was processing “Mei…why” Elowen finally said “he started asking about Tods dad and I panicked” It about broke him when she started to softly cry “we could all die. I ever make the smallest blip on the radar as myself and he finds me.”
“I know I…I’m sorry”
“It;s okay, I don’t hate you I promise” now Mei was bawling so Elowen hugged her a few moments before wiping her face again. She looked Birch in the eyes, seeing that same determination “you really want to get involved in this Birch? You should think about if we’re really worth it”
“I dont have to think about it. I knew the second she told me I wanted to protect you guys. I love both of you and Mei has become a good friend too. I can’t even picture my life without you”
“I just don’t want anyone to get hurt. I just want him to leave me and Tod alone.”
“It’s okay, Elowen.” He moved to sit next to her and wrapped his arms around her. “I’m not letting him touch any of you. He can try, but he’ll have to come through me.”
“I love you, I really do so much.”
“I love you too, so don’t run away, it’d kill me.”
“That means I’ll have to explain to Tod.”
He shook his head. “You don’t have to worry about that right now. You can explain everything to him when he’s a little older, I know he’ll understand.” He kissed her forehead. “You’re a wonderful mother, Elowen, you know that right?” She nodded and he leaned back and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Everything’s going to be alright.”
“I really like this name by the way, Elowen. I’d just like you to keep calling us Elowen and Tod, even after Tod knows”
“alright, is it okay if we draw him out on purpose? I’d rather just knock him out now”
“lets wait, I promised Tod I’d let him go to summer camp. I’d rather him be nowhere near me when my ex finds me. I’ll pay in cash so he wont have any leads as to where Tod is. He of course also doesn’t know his current name”
“alright, I’ll take two months of bliss before I have to deal with him”
“and you’re sure there was nobody here?”
“I’m sure, just a kids imagination. He always wants you home so bad”
“I know, I hate I ever have to go but I make such good money I hate to quit.”
“Well, if you ever feel like staying home, you two can always move in with me.” She opened her mouth and he shook his head. “You don’t have to worry about answering now. I just want you to know you have the freedom to move in whenever you want, if you ever want to. Mei too, I have plenty of room.”
“You’re too kind, Birch.”
“It’s easy when it’s you.”
Even though she knew Birch wasn’t far, Elowen still spent two months looking over her shoulder. She knew what her ex was capable of and she didn’t want him surprising them. The only thing that kept her from going into a full panic and running was the fact she had Birch, Tod, and Mei with her. Tod was oblivious to the fact his biological father could be around and she appreciated Birch and Mei keeping it that way. She wanted him to be able to grow up happy, without having to move all the time. She knew it was unfair. Summer Camp seemed to come up far too quickly and she couldn’t help but reiterate to Tod that he should never go off alone and that if anyone approached him he didn’t know, he should run and get help.
“I promise mom, I’ll be so good. Thank you for letting me go this year”
“I’m sorry if I’m over protective at times” Tod hugged her “you’re a good mom. I know you just love me” She watched him join the group of kids he’d be there with. Birch stood beside her, waiting patiently for Elowen to be ready to walk away. “He’s going to have so much fun Elowen”
“I know, this will just be the longest we’ve ever been apart and I’m nervous about…you know.” Once she couldn’t see Tod any longer she finally made herself walk away, knowing the counselors here were more than capable. When they got on the road Elowen said “I cant believe you even did this drive with me”
“It was fun” her heart trembled “you know…if we make it through my ex…I think I’ll be ready to talk to Tod about us living with you”
“Yeah, you’ve been so great…please don’t let yourself get killed”
“You’ve never seen me in action. I’ll be fine, I’m not even worried Elowen. We’ll be great, especially if Mei got everything set up that I asked her to while we were driving Tod here”
“I’ll text her and see how everything is going” It took about twenty minuets for her to text them back “No problems here. Just drive safe you two. I’m done and out with some friends”
Elowen was nervous as they headed back to her house. Birch had explained the best place to lure him out was somewhere that smelled mostly of her. It would mask his scent and allow him to ambush her ex. “Remember the plan?” He asked as he took her hand.
“Yeah, just go out and sit in the backyard and try not to panic.”
“You can do it, baby, I know you can. I won’t let him touch you, I just need him out in the open.”
“I know, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
She had to do this, especially for Tod. He was so young and he deserved a stable childhood. “Where will you be again?” She asked when they finally pulled into her driveway.
“In the tree. I’m going to walk a block down and come in the back way.”
“Okay.” He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her lips. It helped her calm down and gave her the strength to let him leave her.
Elowen walked toward her home, trying not to shake as she entered. If he wasn’t already there he would be soon. With the help of Meis friends multiple posts had been made about her and last time he had swooped in scarily fast. Elowen made a quick cup of coffee using her keurig, poured just a splash of creamer in it then went outside as though she just wanted to relax on her porch and enjoy the weather outside. “Birch wont let him hurt you. It’s going to be okay” she told herself, now looking at her phone. Her min wasn’t really registering anything on it but she wanted to look busy.
Birch had gone through so much trouble getting her home ready for this set up. She didn’t want her ex to get wise to the fact she was waiting and make Birch take bigger risks later. Elowen could still see that body, those eyes, all that blood. She was getting sick to her stomach so tried to actually look at her Facebook. She knocked over her coffee she was so startled when she heard his heavy breathing. She looked up, a scream caught in her throat she was so terrified.
Her ex was about to say something when what she guessed was Birch.ran long claws quickly across his throat, causing blood to gush. He was giant now, standing at least ten foot tall and his body, what on earth was he? His head resembled some sort of bird, maybe a rooster. As Birch wrapped his long tail around him and slammed him into the yard she could see wins and jesus how long was that tail. Her thoughts were all over the place. She was shocked when he ex was still able to shift, not quite gone yet.
Birch hissed as he attacked, claws slicing into the infuriated monster. The creature tried many times to get past him, wanting Elowen more than he wanted to save himself. He could hear Elowen’s racing heart and knew this must be terrifying for her. The monster’s nails cut him and he drove forward, snapping his teeth down on its throat. The monster thrashed in his grasp, scraping at him with his claws as he tried to free himself. He squeezed harder, feeling the crunch of bone and cartilage as he crushed the monster’s throat and broke his neck. He didn’t let go until his body went limp, then he let it drop to the ground.
He shifted back and turned to Elowen just as she slammed into him, her arms wrapping tightly around him. She started crying and he held her tightly, doing his best to comfort her. “It’s okay now, baby, everything’s okay.”
Elowen looked past him at her ex. His body had shifted back and it was hard to believe it was really him. For a moment, she could almost see who he had been before everything and she briefly wondered what could have made him into a monster. “Is he really dead?” She asked. “Is it really over?”
“Yes, you’re safe now, you and Tod and Mei.”
She started crying again and he understood. He had just killed somebody in front of her and not just anybody. Somebody she had once loved, someone she shared a child with before she found out he had been the one killing people where they lived. Even though he had intended to kill her too, the shock of his death and the fact he was dead at all had to be hard. “let me get you inside.” He picked her up and took her to the sofa since it was nearest. “let me handle calling the police. Want me to turn the tv on?’”
“No, they will come right away and I’ll have to talk to them too. I want to make sure they know everything so you dont end up in jail”
“I have his claw marks on me and with dna they will tie him to the murders. He’s also on your property when you haven’t been together for some time. The police will believe us honey” he hated how stressed she now looked but he was right, calling the police is what they should do. Everything only took a few days to sort out before they were completely off the hook with the police. Elowen couldn’t believe she could actually have a normal life now and an amazingly happy one at that. Birch was such a good man and had more than proven his devotion to her and Tod. She knew she was lucky in so many ways. Lucky to have survived her ex and lucky to find such a brave, amazing man to share the rest of her life with.
~ The End