“Ouch, my back…!”
One month later, the long European winter was finally approaching its end, and people were starting to shed layers of clothing one by one. A giddiness in anticipation of Easter holidays had begun to infect students and teachers alike, lending a joyful air to the season.
Cécile thumped the small of her back with a rounded fist and staggered to a faculty room in the center of the U-shaped main building.
An elderly teacher, who had been teaching at the school ever since Cécile was a student, was already sitting inside. He smiled at Cécile. “You look about ready to collapse. What’s the matter? Getting a little old for this, are we?”
“Not right now, please…” Cécile stumbled to her own seat and slumped onto the desk.
“What’s wrong?” the old teacher asked, a touch of concern in his voice.
“No, nothing. It’s just…”
“Those books were so very heavy.”
The old teacher suddenly rose from his chair, preparing to flee the room. “Oh, so you mean… Well, it’s probably best if you ask one of the female teachers, especially one of the younger ones with more energy. Ha-ha!”
Cécile glared at him balefully. “I said, they were really very heavy!”
“Well, good luck!”
Every day for the past month, from sunup to sundown, Cécile had walked to St. Marguerite’s Library to collect enormous quantities of books, then delivered them to that dollhouse, repeating the process over and over again. The student who lived there, the mysterious Grey Wolf Victorique, had not bothered to attend class even once, and had said nothing to Cécile other than ordering her to bring her books—books, sweets, and frilly dresses. Victorique’s basic living needs were clearly different from that of the average person.
Cécile, for her part, had grown slightly more used to the sound of that intimidating, husky voice in the inky darkness. But as for that girl herself, it was a different story. Even when Cécile tried talking to her, she hardly ever responded. Cécile realized it wasn’t that the girl was ignoring her deliberately, but rather that Victorique possessed not the slightest bit of interest in other people. It was as if she had caged a wild little wolf that was not at all used to being kept by a human being.
Cécile could only keep praying that the wolf would at least not weaken and die… And that was all she could do.
And so several months passed.
The season shifted into the warm days of spring. Colorful flowers blossomed all over campus, and the trees grew thick with rich green leaves, transforming the gardens into a landscape completely different from the bleakness of the previous winter.
Before she knew it, Cécile had grown accustomed to caring for the strange little girl, who spoke not a single word and treated her as if she didn’t exist. Nevertheless, she continued to spend her days quietly delivering those three sets of things to the gingerbread house during her breaks from work. And all the while, she thought about that solitary, fearsome wolf cub, as if she were a little rose thorn that had pricked the palm of Cécile’s hand.
Feelings of worry for Victorique never ceased to occupy a corner of her heart.