In the intervening days, Caitlyn was more confused than shed remembered ever being. She was, in the words of her boss, wandering around like a zombie. Most days at work, she tried hard to maintain a human appearance, but twice already this week shed transformed back into a centaur without realizing it, once nearly destroying a stall in the womens lavatory in the process.
She wasnt entirely sure why he had unnerved her so much. He was cute, he was suave, he was smart, and for some reason, he seemed to actually like her, and that led to more consternation than she knew how to handle. Was he a weirdo? A psycho? Chasing her on a dare? Did he have ulterior motives? She wasnt a catch; she wasnt some guys dream girl; she was sure of that at least, she was trying to convince herself she was sure of that.
Her mind swirled with possibilities, and on Thursday, she very precisely, neatly, and obliviously slammed her head into the middle of the doorway of her apartment building when returning from work. There was a loud thud.
Yaaahhhh, dammit, she cried, holding her head. She ducked, wincing, and stumbled inside. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow...
The concierge, a pleasant, clean-cut, dark-skinned man in his mid-twenties with a mild African accent, startled from his workday ennui. Are you okay?
No, she said, doubling over and holding her head.
Should I call an ambulance? he asked, biting his lip.
No, she repeated. She slowly stood back upright and lowered her hand. Its not bleeding... It just hurts like hell.
I am sorry to hear that, Miss Camberley.
How many times have I told you to call me Caitlyn? I hate that name.
Often, Miss Camberley.
The only reason I havent changed it is because I cant afford the paperwork, okay? If I should have any name, it ought to be Stockwell, like Mom and Ellen. So until then, call me Caitlyn.
Yes, Miss Camberley.
She glared at him, but the look on his face was somewhere between apologetic and terrified, and she softened.
Any mail for me, George?
No, Miss Camberley.
She turned away and walked toward the elevators. She hated the elevators. But she hated the stairs more. Of course, shed been a centaur for the last three hours now, so that left her with options, however meager. She winced. This time, she was going to fit, and not have to apologize to anyone else.
She gritted her teeth, took a deep breath, and pulled. Her body began to retract. Her forelegs disappeared into her waist, and her midsection shrank. In a few moments, there was only a normal human woman standing barefoot in the lobby wearing a miniskirt, blouse, and jacket.
She let out a sigh. I wish it didnt hurt so much, she said.
Does it hurt when you change? asked the concierge.
No, my head. Its only a little uncomfortable to stay like this, like when you have to use a bathroom and cant. But Ill be damned if Im gonna use up an entire elevator myself again.
Ah, he said. My brother William is a winged dragon man. I did never seen him return to his human form after he changed. I did wonder how it felt.
Youre best off staying human, she said. Anyway, my elevators here.
She walked inside the elevator, and the doors closed.
For some reason, they were playing a horrible elevator-music version of the Girl from Ipanema, which left her plenty of reason to drown in her own thoughts. Ellen... she hadnt talked to her sister in nearly a month now. Of course, what was she going to say? She was just a lowly secretary at a large, faceless investment company, while Ellen was a hotshot lawyer down in Virginia. Caitlyn was stuck as an ugly mutant horse, while her sex-bomb of a sister got to stay human. Caitlyns art degree was only good for an endless supply of doodles, a depressing number of them on the backs and margins of her student-loan bills, while Ellen had nearly already earned her first million. She felt like venting, and her cell phone nearly came out of her pocket, but there was no sense calling her mother; she knew how Caitlyn felt all too well. Caitlyn decided to call tomorrow, after the date was over. That would at least be news, a reason to call the woman besides the usual gripes.
The doors opened again on the seventh floor, and Caitlyn walked out into the hallway. She passed Kat going the other way, cheetah-lion-man still in tow. This had to be a record: Nearly a week and Kat was still with him.
Hi, Kat, how are you two doing? she asked.
Kat giggled. Awesome, she said, hugging his arm. How about you?
Another day, another dollar, she said, shrugging. So you two really hit it off, huh?
Kat looked up at him dreamily. Hes tall, hes handsome, hes rich, and hes amazing in bed. Whatd you think I was gonna do, leave him?
Caitlyn smiled. Well, actually, yes. Kats track record with guys was legendarily terrible but it was good to see her happy. Kat might be a ditz, but she deserved happiness as much as anybody else.
Well, Im glad you two are doing so well. She nodded politely, stifling a growing feeling in her lower body that she needed to change back. Soon.
We sure are. Were heading over to his place for a romantic actually Caity, you still have a key, right? Can you watch Muffy for me this weekend? He wanted me to come meet his family this weekend, but I wasnt going to leave Muffy by herself.
Caitlyn raised an eyebrow. Since when were cats unable to spend a weekend alone?
Alright, alright, yeah, yeah, Ill watch Muffy. You two have fun.
Thanks, Caity! cried Kat, and bounced over to her with a giant hug.
Okay, okay, let go. You gotta get going, and I gotta change back soon.
Ohhh, okay, said Kat. I dont know why you change so often.
Caitlyn shook her head. Neither do I, she muttered under her breath.
She waved as Kat and her arm candy disappeared down the hall. That girl was something else.
She sighed, walked toward her apartment, opened the door, and all at once remembered that tomorrow she had a date with Wils. But with Kat gone, now she didnt need to meet him, did she? But if she didnt meet him, then what? He didnt seem all that bad. And maybe shed need him as an excuse on another weekend. But this could actually turn into a date, couldnt it? She wasnt ready for anybody. No way. Not until she was human again. Which meant she couldnt see him. Or anybody else. Not now. But she had to meet up with him. He seemed to like her. And he was cu useful. Her mind reeled, boggling at the options. Stay? Go? Go? Stay? There was no way she could
And suddenly she realized that her concentration had slipped and she was changing back, her body mushrooming, growing
And her head slammed into the top of the doorway.
When she came to about a half hour later, the concierge and two paramedics were standing over her. Hi, she said weakly, uh, I dont suppose you guys could accidentally kill me so I dont have to decide what to do tomorrow?