Which was all well and good, thought Caitlyn as she lay sprawled across two matresses on the floor in their spare bedroom, but it didnt make them especially good house-mates, as their late-night thumping made it nearly impossible to get any sleep.
Christine apologized profusely the next day, saying that the sex drive was the single biggest down-side of being a satyr, and that theyd try their best to keep it down the next night, but that she shouldnt be too surprised if the noise happened anyway. It was a happy life but sometimes a frustrating one: Theyd learned the hard way that if they wanted to get anything useful done with their time, the only way to do it was to avoid getting too close, because as soon as they even caught sight of each other, well
This, of course, was far more than Caitlyn wanted to know, but Christine was obviously trying her best to be friendly and helpful and hospitable, and it was hard to argue with that.
Caitlyn discussed this all with her mother on the phone early Tuesday morning, and against her better judgement, she was talked into staying with them for the remainder of the week. But they did a reasonably good job of keeping quiet the next night and the next, and she felt relaxed and safe there too, so life settled back into a routine of sorts: To work in the morning with Christine, home with her too, dinner with the couple, sometimes a movie (or a half a movie), and then theyd quickly disappear, leaving Caitlyn alone with the rest of the apartment. Which suited her just fine: This turned out to be the quietest week shed had in ages.
* * *
On Saturday, Caitlyn boarded the train to Long Island to visit her mother; there were few other places she felt safe going to, and she didnt want to stay indoors. Christine worried at first whether Caitlyn would be safe on the train, but Caitlyn reassured her coworker that whoever had broken into her apartment was probably after her stuff and not her specifically.
The little white house had looked the same for years: Two stories of narrow building surrounded by a wide moat of grass and a border of picket fence, still the most modest house on the street. Caitlyn and Ellen had shared one bedroom, and their parents had shared the other, and it had been an idyllic life for the four of them until Caitlyn turned eleven. A few days after her birthday, her father went off to work and never came home. A week later his empty car was discovered, its front end crushed, hidden a few miles from his office behind a Seven-Eleven. Bullet casings lay on the seat, and there were blood-stains that matched his DNA. They said it was a carjacking, and he was probably dead, but the police never recovered any more than his shirt. Though she had tried many times, Caitlyn now barely even remembered what he looked like, but she could still hear his voice, that gentle, soft warm baritone, singing in a language shed never learned as he put her to bed at night. She cursed herself for falling to sleep so readily when he had sung to her; just once shed like to hear how some of those songs ended, or even what they were, but shed never had the chance to ask.
Fourteen years later, the centauress that his eldest daughter had grown into was standing on the steps of the house he and his young pregnant wife had once scraped and saved to buy. Caitlyn knocked gently. Her mother was in the middle of baking, a huge pile of cookies and cupcakes and even a few whole cakes for a raffle at church. Caitlyn ended up getting quickly dragged into the work, after which she and her mother stood and made small talk while nibbling on orange-tinged sugar cookies. They eventually fell silent, as they often did. Caitlyn missed the days when they could so readily talk about anything.
Her mother bit her lip. Caitlyn, honey, can I braid your tail?
Caitlyn glared at her. This wasnt the first time her mother had asked that. Sharon was almost obsessed with Changed people, and relished any opportunity to interact with them, especially her daughter. Caitlyn felt sorry for her a lot of the time, and wished they couldve traded bodies, but it wasnt likely to happen any time soon.
There was another long pause. But you look so good with your hair and tail br
Her mother sighed.
So how have things been going with that boy youve been dating? she asked. What was his name? Will?
Wils, said Caitlyn. I havent really been dating him. I met him in a bar, and we went on one, well, barely half a date.
Thats good for you, you know, said her mother. You need to get out more. Meet some more boys. You never did much, even before you
Mom, can we drop this subject, please? There wasnt much need to talk about it: Theyd only had this conversation eleven million times by Caitlyns count.
Sharon grimaced and munched on a cookie.
Im not trying to
I know, said Caitlyn. Just drop it.
Her mother nodded, and drank a little milk. So when are you going back to your apartment?
I dont know. It doesnt feel safe right now. I havent been able to get in touch with Kat, and until I know whats going on with her, I dont really want to go back there. The last thing I want to do is have some kid high on M turning me into a chicken or a block of granite. Did you see the thing in the paper about those kids in Boston
Yeah, its pretty funny, isnt it? Its not the first time Boston had molasses running in the streets, you know.
Uh, last time, the molasses was running on the streets, Mom. Theyre gonna try the kids as adults.
Any word about whether theyve watered it down enough for those gondolas to start moving?
Caitlyn shook her head. The news guy says itll be at least a month before that happens, and even so, thats not the same as having cars going down the streets. But at least theyre making a hell of a lot of money on the tourists right now.
Her mother laughed. Yeah, I was almost tempted to go there myself. I hear some of the desserts the restaurants are making out of it are to die for. Do you think Bostonll be able to do what Detroit did?
They fell silent again for a few moments.
Caitlyn, why dont you just leave?
Because I like the city, she said, and snagged a lemon-drop cookie.
But its not safe there. You said so yourself. You know, your grandparents in Indiana
I know, I know! Its not gonna happen, okay!? Just... no.
But your bodys designed for
Caitlyn glared at her with The Look of Death. Dont say it!
Her mother fell silent. The old wooden wall clock ticked several times, and the sound of Caitlyns own teeth crushing the lemon-drop cookie seemed to be the loudest noise in the room.
I am who I want to be, okay? Its my choice. Not my body's.
The clock kept ticking.
So are you staying the night tonight?
No, sorry, Im headed back in about an hour. Christine and Rob are taking me out to dinner tonight. Thai. They talked me into it. Ive never had Thai before, so I figure Im gonna give it a try.
Well, alright. Thai can be good eating. Your father and I used to well just be safe, okay?
I will, Mom.
And... well... um...
Caitlyn laughed. It was the same question every time she got close to leaving.
Yes, you can ride me in the park before I go. But you still cant braid my tail.
Her mother chuckled. I will one of these days, mark my words.
* * *
The trains were running late, and when Caitlyn arrived at Christine and Robs apartment, the city had already switched from the shimmer of daylight on the skyscrapers to the neon glow of sunset. This probably helped to explain why Caitlyn didnt notice anything special about the shadowy figure standing in front of the apartment building until she was nearly on top of it.
Thought Id see you here, he said, tipping his hat.
Wha she said, pausing and turning to look at him.
I was pretty peeved when you didnt show yesterday, he said.
Wils! she said, and turned bright red. Oh, my gosh, Im sorry, I
Relax, relax, its okay. I heard from your concierge what happened, and talked him into telling me where you were staying. I wouldnt have shown up for a date after that either.
Im still sorry, she said. I Ive been going through a lot of stuff lately. Sorry. Its not your problem.
So be sorry if you want then. I wish youd have called me, though. I was worried.
I I didnt think
Sokay, he said. But I guess with the Kat out of the bag, you dont need me showing up on Fridays any more then?
I... uh... Very funny.
I also did some digging this afternoon and found this, he said, and held up her purse.
She boggled. Where how
Your concierge said your purse had been stolen during our last walk, and I thought Id help you get it back. I called in some favors at a couple of police stations this morning, and it turns out they caught the guy the next day trying to get your ATM card to work in a half dozen different machines. The idiot didnt even think that you mightve disabled it.
She laughed weakly and took the purse from him. She opened it and looked inside.
It looks like most of your stuff is still there, he said. Anything missing?
My brush, and I think I had more than ten bucks in here. But its good to get it back anyway.
Thought so, he said, nodding.
Thanks, she said, looking up at him and at once disappearing into his mile-deep eyes.
Youre welcome, he said.
He laughed. So do you want to get some dinner?
I my friends are taking me out for Thai. Ive never had it before.
No? How do you feel about spicy?
It can be good.
Mind if I join you, then? Im feeling a bit peckish myself, and some fried noodles would do me good right about now.
She looked down at him. He was handsome, debonair, smart, and actually seemed to give a damn about her. Well... yknow, Ive had worse dates. Okay. But dont expect to hold my arm.
As long as you dont step on my feet when were dancing, its a deal, he said with a wink.
Hey, I never said anything about danc
He put his finger to her lips. Are you hungry or do you want to argue?
Fine. But if you make another weight joke, that finger is mine.