Holy fricken crap, guys. chapter one and already 30 reviews? i love you all so much. you all really make this worth while (even after my thumb drive decides that its going to spontaniously reformate itself and deletes all my work.)
not only that, but apparently, W is for What got nominated for a SKOW award! thank you to whoever nominated me! that makes me so happy, i could squee!
a couple of answers to questions:
no, mar is not marla. mar is marguerite, the life witch.
yes, june actually is part vampire (and not just recessed, she accidentally bit her father when she was two), but because she can switch forms, each form takes on the advantages and weaknesses of that form. ei: when she's human-formed, she gets hungry, but she can go out into the sun. when she's vamp, she's not hungry, but the sun'll kill her.
anyway, stuff's starting to rev up.
see you next chapter!
When I woke up the next Monday, the sun was shining a soft orange glow over my bedroom. I yawned and stretched, enjoying the quietness of the morning. Getting up, I pulled my pajamas off and tucked them under the pillow, making my bed in the nude. After putting on some clean underwear, I quickly dressed in a beige pencil skirt, nylons, and a soft pink blouse. I grabbed my work shoes and quietly made my way to the kitchen. Jess was still asleep and likely would be until noon. Her work as a vampire slayer usually kept her up to all hours of the night, but I had a day job, and never needed much sleep.
Grabbing the bottle of pills that we picked up from a Walgreens after Hy's, I downed two sans water and threw the pills in my bag. The ringing in my ear was a lot better this morning, but I knew how super bacteria were made, and wanted to finish out the bottle.
I opened the fridge and frowned at the lack of food in it. Making a mental note to go shopping, I stuffed my shoes into my bag sitting by the front door before going to the bathroom. I brushed and braided my hair, and after a quick brushing of my teeth, I applied a coat of mascara and pink lip gloss, bringing the latter out to throw in my bag.
Noting how it was still cold out for March, I grabbed my winter coat and shoved my feet into my faux fur lined boots.
I opened my door and closed it softly, locking it behind me.
My stomach growled pitifully.
"Hold on," I told it as I pushed the button to the main floor, examining my reflection in the metal wall to make sure I was fully human-looking. "I'll get you something to eat in a second."
A few minutes later, gratefully cradling the java I had picked up from a local coffee shop, a bagel and a club sandwich tucked safely away in my bag, I made my way up the starting to bustle streets. The sun peaked over the buildings, bathing the whole city in a yellow glow.
I passed a small park like always, but today, there was something in the park that made me pause.
Looking like a Greek god come down from Olympus, James tossed his head back and laughed. I wondered what he was laughing at. Two dogs, a whip-thin black lab who looked as though she had some greyhound in her, and a little Jack Russell terrier bounded up to him, the lab holding a lime green football in her mouth. He smiled again, and rubbed the lab's head, grabbing the football before whipping it off across the park.
I really, really wanted to just keep walking. My face was burning just looking at him. Of course, my imagination took over, and I imagined us going on dates and laughing and dancing and doing all that great stuff that couples did. Only he wouldn't care that I was half and half.
"Just like my favourite cup of coffee," he would tease me, and I'd laugh and then…
I placed my cold knuckles on my hot cheeks. Now that's going a little too far.
My inner super woman steeled herself. Today was the day. I was going to be brave and take my destiny into my own hands and ask out James.
But how to approach him?
"Hi," I practiced, then frowned. Too informal. We only knew each other from the restaurant.
"Hello," I tried out instead, and made a face. Now I sounded fake.
"How about I throw the stick and you fetch." Gag me. That didn't only sound stupid, but desperate.
"Is that a mirror in your pocket because I can totally see myself in your pants," I said just for fun.
"Thank you, dearie, I made them myself."
I blushed from my neck to the roots of my hair, and turned with a horrified expression. Sure enough, there was a little old lady sitting on the bench beside me, smiling at me. I wasn't sure what was worse, the fact that she had heard me practicing my introduction to James, or that I was standing there, gaping at her like an idiot. The latter wasn't my fault. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but the only thing that was going through my head at the moment was Good God, those are awful pants.
"You are very skilled, ma'am," I finally forced out with a smile.
"Thank you. There should be more nice young people like you." She creaked up from the bench and patted my hand kindly before waddling on.
I had to giggle helplessly at the random encounter.
At my name, my head snapped up, and I watched as James jogged over to me, his two dogs right on his heels.
"H-hi," I stammered, going with my original greeting.
"What are you doing out so early?" he asked.
"Going to work," I said, angling my coffee cup in the direction of downtown. "How about you?"
"Just got off work, actually," he said. "I'm running the monsters or else they'd keep me up all day." He picked up the football and whipped it off again, while I tried not to drool. He was so fluid, and athletic, and perfect. The lab went tearing after the ball while the jack russell bonded along behind her, barking at the bigger dog as if she were herding her.
James chuckled. "I don't know how Tessa can stand that. She's much more patient than I am. Luce! Cut it out!"
The smaller dog immediately stopped barking and trotted back to him, receiving an affectionate pat on the head.
I took a deep breath and plunged right in. "Hey James?"
"Yeah?" he asked, looking at me with raised eyebrows.
"I was wondering – "
"Hold that thought. Beth! Over here!" James began to wave at someone behind me.
"Beth?" I asked, my heart plummeting to my toes at the obviously feminine name. Sister, sister, sister, sister, I chanted in my head hopefully.
"Yeah, my girlfriend," he said, crushing all my hopes in two little words, as a short girl with a pair of earmuffs over her blond bob came up to us and gave him a hug. His girlfriend.
"Who's this?" she teased, digging an elbow into his ribs. "Dating someone else on the side?"
"No, no, no," I denied, holding up my hands. "We j-just know each other from the restaurant."
She laughed. "Don't worry. I was only teasing you. Hi, Lucy," she said in a higher pitched, excited voice, squatting down in front of the dog. The two were obviously glad to see her; their tails were wiggling so hard, their butts were moving.
"Anyway, June, you were wondering…?" James looked at me expectantly.
"Uh, if you could hold my coffee for me for a sec," I said, holding it out to him.
The queen of quick saves, I said to myself wryly, as I pretended to dig through my bag for my lipgloss. "This weather wreaks havoc on my lips." I added a fresh coat of gloss, then dropped it back into my bag.
"Mine too," Beth agreed with me as she stood and James handed me back my drink. "Hey, you have really cool eyes!"
I lowered my gaze to my cup instinctively.
"Oops, sorry," she apologised. "James is forever telling me that I have no buffer between my brain and my mouth."
"No, it's okay," I replied, looking up with a smile, although inwardly, I was wailing But what about our inside coffee joke, James?
"I've never really noticed before," James said, also peering at me curiously. I was starting to feel like one of those monkeys at the zoo. "One of your eyes is brown."
"Actually, only the left side of my left one is brown," I explain, immediately falling into geeky mode like I always did when embarrassed. "The right side and my right eye are blue. It's called incomplete heterochromia iridium. It's actually genetic. One of my brothers has it too. Which makes it hard to tell whether it's dominant or recessive because two out of five is close to both the one out of two ratio of dominant inheritance and the one out of four of recessive inheritance. Anyway, I had better keep going," I rushed on quickly, inwardly appalled at myself for blathering on like an idiot. "I still need to get to work."
"Where do you work?" Beth asked politely.
"Oh, just at the art museum down town," I replied.
"Oh, the one that put on that fabulous concert last year?"
I half winced. The concert was grand, but afterward, a demon attacked and knocked down half the theatre. We played it off as an earthquake in the papers, but it still rankled a little. That was my concert, stupid demon.
"Yeah. Anyway, see you later!"
"Have a good day at work," James said, waving back, still smiling sunnily, before throwing the ball for his dogs again. "Hope you girls drop by the restaurant again soon."
"Will do!" I yelled back with a wave.
My morning was officially shot.
I trudged down the street, not even caring that my coffee burnt my tongue.
"Girlfriend! Idiot, idiot, idiot," I berated myself as I climbed the stairs into the museum. "Of course he'd have a girlfriend. This is James we're talking about. Mister nice guy. I don't know who came up with the saying 'nice guys finish last' because it's crap. Pure, utter crap. More like 'cowardly women who wait until it's way too late finish last.'" I sighed as I turned my key and opened the front door. "At least I didn't actually ask him out. How embarrassing would that have been?" I gave a small giggle of relief when I played out in my head how that conversation would have happened.
"June, just the woman I wanted to see!"
Mr. Richter, my boss, jumped up from where he was sitting at his desk as I made my melancholy way towards my office in the back of the museum.
"Yes, Mr. Richter?" I asked, sighing heavily.
He cocked his bald little head at me. Despite the mood I was in, I had to restrain giggles. He looked quite a bit like a turtle in that pose, with his milky blue eyes blinking largely at me behind his thick round spectacles.
"You look like your dog just died, June," he noted. "Anything wrong?"
"No, no," I said, giving my hand a wave. "I just had a bad morning, that's all."
"Ah, well. You know that Egyptian exhibit that's supposed to come in the day after tomorrow?"
"Yeah?" I replied, as he followed me into my office. I hug up my jacket on a post, and pulled my shoes out of my bag before hanging it up along with the jacket.
"Well, it arrived early. It should really be catalogued all in one go, and I had dinner plans with Mrs. Richter tonight…"
I sighed again, and slipped off my boots and slipped on my shoes. I was really too nice. In this case, I guess, nice women do finish last. Finish work, that is.
"Alright, I'll do it. Enjoy your dinner with Lizzie."
"You're a dream, June. Remind me to give you a raise."
"Oh, Mr. Richter?"
He paused in my doorway. "Yes?"
"Give me a raise," I said, grinning cheekily.
His eyebrows lowered, but I waved my hand. "I'm just joking. It's from a movie. Never mind. I'll see you later."
"Lunch time," came an announcement from my door. I had spent the morning in the basement storage categorising all the things we had received, and I had just sat down to eat my sandwich when I looked up to see Jess leaning against the doorjamb.
"Am I buying or are you?" I asked suspiciously.
She placed a hand on her chest. "You wound me deeply. But if you're offering…" She gave me a sunny smile full of straight white teeth.
I giggled, shaking my head, and stood. "Fine, oh ye with little disposable income. Your teeth look good, by the way."
"Really?" she asked, swiping her tongue across them. "I only used, like half of the box of those Crest whitestrip things."
"I wouldn't use anymore else they could be used as a fog light."
She pouted. "Meany. Oh well. I'll save the rest of the box, then. I mean, I drink enough Coke that I'll probably have to whiten them again anyway."
"So where do you want to go?" I asked, grabbing my coat.
"I dunno. Where do you want to go?"
"I'm not picky."
We spend several minutes on the front steps of the museum telling each other that we didn't care where the other picked, before I threw up my hands in disgust.
"Fine. Let's go to Ming's, then."
"Fine with me."
We ended up at the Chinese restaurant and managed to find a table. The waitress poured us a glass of water and we told her we were going to have buffet. She nodded and told us in broken English that if we wanted anything else to just ask.
Jess and I grabbed our plates and lined up.
"So, I almost asked out James this morning," I said conversationally.
"What happened? Did you chicken out?" she asked, scooping a big heaping amount of chow mein noodles onto her plate.
"No I didn't. Well, actually, kinda," I admitted, taking some chicken balls and putting them on top of my rice. "But it wasn't like you think. He has a girlfriend."
"Taken or gay, I always say," she sighed dramatically, taking some sweet and sour pork and pouring sauce all over her plate.
"You don't always say that," I said absently, chomping on an egg roll as we waited for the line to move forward.
"Whatever. Was she hot?"
"Cute, yeah, but way too short," I said. "You're tall; you know how it is for us to find guys. Especially when they're being stolen by all the short cute girls."
"I'm taller than you," she said, restarting a familiar argument.
"Nu-uh," I protested, shaking my head and reaching back to steal three more egg rolls.
"Well, I am 'cause you slouch so much," she said. "Stand up tall." I straightened my back and neck, rising up at least three inches to my full height, a full inch above Jess' head.
"See?" I said, sticking my tongue out at her, and slumping down into my comfortable slouch.
"You should stand up tall all the time."
I shrugged my shoulder and headed back to our table. "My muscles are used to my non-tall position."
"Anyway, sorry your boyfriend didn't work out," Jess said, as I drowned my meal in soya sauce.
"Whatever. It only took me, what, two years to gain up the courage to ask him out? Nothing compared to some of the crushes I've had," I said, before forking a mouthful of food. Jess could play around with those chopsticks, but I didn't have the patience. "There was this kid in elementary school, Shaun Levine. He was popular, and I wasn't, but that didn't stop me from crushing hard from a distance."
"How long did you like him?"
I nodded. "Six years. Grade four until grade ten."
Her blue eyes went wide. "Wow. And you didn't tell him?"
"Nope. He was popular, so he normally always already had a girlfriend. Plus, I guess I didn't want him to think of me weird. It took me three years to admit to Mar that I had a crush on Peter. She was actually the one who told him to ask me out, and even then I debated on saying no. Now I kind of wish I had said no, but bygones are bygones, right?" I pursed my lips, stirring the soya sauce so that it coated more of the rice. "I seem to have a pattern: taken, jerkass, taken…"
"You have relationship issues," Jess stated bluntly, before sipping her water.
"I have men issues."
"Speaking of men, are you coming to the Union tonight?"
"Meh," I said, making a face. "I have to work late, but yeah."
"Why do you have to work late?" Jess asked, wiping some red sauce off her chin.
"Because I'm far too nice, and Mr. Richter takes advantage of me," I said, only half-joking. "Our Egyptian exhibit came early and I have to receive it and make sure it's all there."
"Sounds boring," Jess said, leaning down to catch a noodle that was sliding out of her chopsticks.
"Hey, that's my job you're talking about," I replied, scraping the last bit of food off my plate. "You done?"
"Yeah," she said, pushing her plate away. "That was good. Thanks. And it might be your job; doesn't mean it's not boring."
"Maybe I like boring. You make my life exciting enough, so to have something simple, like a day job, is nice. Besides, I find it interesting, so there," I said, pulling out my wallet.
Doodoo doodoo doodoo doodoo DOOT DOO! Doodoo doodoo doodoo doodoo DOOT DOO!
"That'll be Calc," Jess said, pulling out her cell phone.
"Does he know that your ring tone for him is 'Batman'?" I asked with a raised eyebrow as I paid for our meal.
She laughed silently and put a finger to her lips, obviously trying to hear what he was telling her. "Yep. No prob. Bye."
She snapped her cell closed. "Sorry, I have to drop you off and run."
"What's he doing calling you in the middle of the day?" I asked. We walked out to her car, parked out front of the restaurant.
She frowned, worry creasing her eyebrows. "That's not all unusual. I don't know when that man sleeps. I guess he's been doing it for a few years now, but it can't be too healthy."
"Is that concern I hear in your voice?"
"Of course," she scoffed, but a hint of a blush crossed her cheeks. "He pays my checks. I can't have him collapsing on me."
I refrained from saying anything, but smiled internally. Wait until I tell Mar.
It was nearly nine o'clock when I reached the last crate.
"This must be the vase," I said, the only item on my list that wasn't checked off. All of the items had been placed in our doubly secure holding section in the basement of the building, of which only five people including myself had the two access codes to.
I pried the top off the crate, and there, nestled in a mixture of straw and moisture reducing peanuts was a beautiful ceramic vase depicting Egyptian wheat gathering.
Wearing a set of latex-free gloves, I gently picked up the vase to inspect it for shipping damage. When I lifted it, however, there was a clink from inside.
"Uh-oh," I said, my voice sounding loud in the dead storeroom. "Clink is bad."
I gently reached into the vase, and my fingers touched something foreign inside. I gently pulled out a large gold and turquoise bracelet.
"Wow," I breathed, setting the vase back down in the crate in order to examine the trinket more closely. It was gorgeous, and barely looked damaged.
"Probably a fake," I said, rubbing my thumb over the large light blue stone engraved with something that looked like a wine goblet and two little beans. Unfortunately, although I appreciated the art, I wasn't fluent in Egyptian. "It looks too well preserved for an antique."
If it was a fake, it was a very good one. The gold was blackened slightly in the creases, and it just seemed to have the right weight.
I knew it was wrong, the bracelet wasn't on the list, and I should have had it checked out immediately, but it was quite a beautiful piece of jewellery and it wasn't about to crumble to dust.
I slid the bracelet onto my right wrist and held it up to the light to admire it. The gold and turquoise made my skin glow nicely, and I did enjoy the look of chunky bracelets in general.
I tried to slide it off my wrist.
"Hmm," I hummed, frowning. "It wasn't this tight putting on."
Five minutes later, my hand was chaffed and sore, and I was well into the realm of panic.
"Crap, crap, crap," I swore, as I twisted the bracelet, trying to get it over my thumb, but by now, my wrist was red and swollen. I needed to run it under some cold water. I debated about which was worse, a little water damage, or having to break it to get it off my wrist.
I decided on the latter and hurried my way to the bathroom. I tried cold water and when that didn't work, I slathered my hand in soap. The bracelet still refused to budge.
By now, my swearing had intensified.
"Merde, merde, merde, m-m-merde, m-m-merde." I realised I was hyperventilating, and closed my eyes.
"C-calm, June, calm," I told myself. "If you can't pull it off your normal wrist, then make your wrist smaller."
I closed my eyes and concentrated on my wolf form. Immediately, I dropped down to four paws, my clothing falling in heaps around me. I shook my forelimb (still wrapped in pink blouse), but the bracelet didn't come off. I yanked at it with my teeth, but it seemed to have shrunk again to fit my wolfy paw.
"Crap, crap, merde, J-je sssssuis niqué!" I cried, turning back into hybrid, and pulling up my hose from where it had fallen to my knees. Reaching into my mind, I called out another figure. Bird, I thought. Nothing happened. It was as if that part of my mind had been turned off.
I tried for several minutes to activate my shapeshifting ability, but nothing. It was as though it never existed.
I was so past panicked that I was surprised I was still functional.
"C-calm blue ocean, June, calm blue ocean," I told myself, doing my breathing exercises from speech therapy classes. "It's because you're freaking out that it's not working. Okay, okay. Calm. Solutions? Take it tomorrow and get it cut off then welded back together. Yes. Yes, that'll work. Okay. You just have to fake it out for tonight."
I locked up the museum as I exited, setting the security systems. I hugged my coat closer to my body, trying to avoid detection, especially from the dark figure lurking around the corner. I'm sure he wouldn't bother me, but with my nerves like they were, it was bad.
I half-jogged home, and didn't feel safe until I was in the lobby of my apartment.
"June," Jessica said, opening the door to our apartment before I even had my key in it. "I've been waiting forever." She cocked her head at me. "There's something different about you," she mused. "Did you get your hair done?"
"No?" I said, feigning ignorance. "Can I come in now?"
"Sure. But change quickly. Mar's waiting."