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:iconphantom-inker: More from phantom-inker




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November 5, 2007
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“This isn’t fair, you know,” said Caitlyn, growling at Wils.

“Life isn’t fair.  Deal with it.”  He smiled up at her sweetly.

They were sitting in the Thai restaurant, and — well, three of them were sitting, at least.  Despite Caitlyn’s arguing, Wils wouldn’t let her change back, saying that if she wasn’t going to act like herself, then he was leaving, so she was stuck as a centaur.  This wasn’t the first time any restaurant had had to accommodate, and after Henderson v. Linsky most places tried hard to accommodate these days, but the best that the restaurant could do left Caitlyn laying on the floor, her head about six inches lower than Wils’s, and her hindquarters sprawling where another table would have been, which was highly embarrassing.  She hoped nobody would trip over her.

“So how do you know Caitlyn?” asked Wils of the other two.

“From work,” said Christine.  “Capital Mutual Investment.  We’re both on the third floor.”

He nodded.  “And what do you do for a living?” he asked Rob.

Rob shrugged.  “Actually, I’m a pediatrician,” he said.  “I specialize in Changed children.  Keeps me busy.  You’d be surprised how many doctors don’t want to treat a kid who’s cold-blooded or has fangs and claws.  It’s really kinda sad —”

“But it makes him good money,” said Christine, smiling up at him.

“Hey, no hanky-panky at the dinner table,” grumbled Caitlyn.

“No?  Bummer,” said Wils slyly.

“Very funny.”

“So what do you do for a living?” asked Rob.

“Me?  A little of this, a little of that,” said Wils.  The others looked at him darkly.  “Okay, I guess I’m not gonna get away with that, am I?  Well, lessee...  I was a cop just after college.  My degree was psychology, but I haven’t used it much.  I got bored with the cop thing after a couple of years, so I did some security consulting for a while.  I was a subcontractor in Saudi Arabia after the Ramadan War, and made a pretty penny doing that.  These days, I work part-time at a small magitech company on the Lower East Side.  I’m officially supposed to be an operations manager, but half the time I’m just making phone calls to make sure stuff arrived safely.  My boss does most of real work.  It’s an easy job, it pays well, and it leaves me with a lot of free time.  Could be worse.  And, well, that’s about it.”

“Wow, sounds like you’ve been around,” said Christine.  “What’s the company make?”

He laughed.  “Mostly cleaning supplies,” he said.  “Ever heard of SpotsOff?  That’s one of ours.  Did about twenty million in sales last year.”

Caitlyn had never heard of it, but Christine nodded.

“So what do you guys recommend here?” he asked.  “Their Pad Thai any good?”

“Everything’s good,” said Rob.  “It’s hard to go wrong.”

Caitlyn shrank a little.

“Don’t worry,” said Christine.  “We’ll order something for you.  I’ve seen some of the kinds of stuff you like.”

“Thanks,” said Caitlyn, but she didn’t look reassured.

“So you two are dating?” asked Rob.

“Yes,” said Wils.

“No,” said Caitlyn.

“Well — I’m slowly breaking her down,” he chuckled.

“I dunno, Caity,” said Christine, sipping a beer.  “Your boyfriend’s kinda cute.”

“He’s not my boyfriend, not yet, anyway.”

“What, do you have some kind of initiation ritual?” said Rob.

Wils chuckled.  “With her, it’s an Olympic sport,” he said.

“Very funny,” grumbled Caitlyn.

“Okay, no more grumpy,” said Wils.  “What do you want to talk about then?”

Caitlyn paused.  In reality, all she wanted was to flee, to go home, to escape the embarrassment of being here and being a monster and being with this strange guy in front of these two people who were judging her every last breath and all the other people in the restaurant watching and looking at her and every single one of them was inconvenienced by her just even being there —

“I need to powder my nose,” she said.

“Again?” said Wils.

“I have a bladder the size of your head,” she said, “and it’s full.  Yes, again.”

“I’m coming too,” said Christine.

Wils and Rob exchanged glances.  “That was more than I needed to know.  Yikes.  So how ’bout them Nicks?”

*  *  *


The girls came back about fifteen minutes later, and Caitlyn’s hair and tail were each tied back in a ponytail.  She looked a bit more upbeat, but the way she was nibbling on her lip suggested she was still very nervous.

“Hi, sorry about that,” said Christine brightly, looking up at Caitlyn.

“Sure,” said Rob.  “You two feeling better?”

Caitlyn nodded and sat down.

“Is this because I wouldn’t let you change back?” asked Wils.

Caitlyn shook her head.

“Are you sure?  Look, I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad.  If you really want to change back, go ahead.”

Caitlyn shook her head.  She wanted desperately to change back or run away or worse, but she’d made a promise to Christine.

“Did anybody see that documentary on the Change last week?” asked Christine, trying to shift the subject a little.  “I can’t believe the History Channel pulled Spielberg out of retirement for it.”

“Me neither,” said Wils.

“Wait a second,” said Caitlyn.  “You weren’t there when — ”

“We have a TV set in our bedroom,” said Rob hastily.  “We had a — private showing.”

Caitlyn nearly commented, but let it drop.

“So, Wils, what do you think caused it?” asked Christine.  “I mean, everybody has a theory.”

“I still say it was an accident,” said Rob.  “I think they just didn’t know what they were doing.”

“But what about the boats?” asked Christine.  “Eyewitnesses reported a half dozen small black boats shooting up the river toward the university only half an hour before it happened.”

“People boated on that river all the time,” said Rob.

“In November?” said Christine.

“So do you think it was terrorists?” asked Wils.  “That’s what DHS keeps saying.”

“I don’t know what to think,” said Christine.  “I mean, the facts are obvious, but the rest is so fuzzy.”

“Maybe they wanted it to happen,” said Caitlyn, and the others turned to look at her.  She stuttered.  “I — I mean, what if they were trying to do this?”  Yeah, what if they were trying to ruin my life?  They’d sure succeeded.

“That’s just crazy,” said Christine.  “Who’d want this?  Monsters and mythics and furries and freaks walking the streets, magic drugs wreaking havoc on kids, and potions and spells and garbage like that?  I hear there’s even a few dragons in Finland now.  Japan — geez, have you seen the pictures of Japan?  Life was a lot more predictable when all we had was science.”

Wils shrugged.  “Well, there are some benefits, if you think about it.  I hear tell Detroit’s racing to be the first to make a flying car now.  Caitlyn’s a lot stronger than I am, and faster.  She’d make a hell of a cop.  And have you ever watched the Changed Basketball League on TV?  Blows your mind.”

Caitlyn glared at him.

“Or not.  But the point is, there are benefits.”

“Unless you end up like that one woman with the detached head,” said Rob.  “Did you see her on Marty Fuller last night?  Said her left arm is twice as strong as her right just because she uses it to carry her head all the time.”

“But even there, it has benefits,” said Wils.  “She could — whoops, has anybody decided on what we want yet?” he asked as their waiter sidled over to the table, bobbing anxiously.

They all quickly scrambled to pull up their menus and pretend like they’d been looking at them.  The men both ordered extra spicy, and Christine found a nice mild chicken platter for Caitlyn.  A few minutes later, the waiter disappeared.

“Alright, so where were we?” said Rob.  “Yeah, so I think it was an accident, my wife still can’t decide, Caitlyn thinks they did it on purpose, which is completely ludicrous if you look at the facts — ”

“I didn’t say that,” said Caitlyn.  “I just said it was a possibility.”

“Anyway, that leaves you, Wils.  What do you think?”

Wils didn’t answer for a moment, and the bustling restaurant seemed to grow quieter.

“If I knew, I’d tell you,” he said, and his voice was deep and solemn.  Caitlyn turned toward him, and he looked deadly serious.  “I don’t guess.  This new world’s complicated enough without guessing.  Facts only.”

No-one said anything.

And then, as if nothing had happened, he grinned.  “Well, then,” he continued brightly, “anyway, did you hear that Zombie Panic is actually going to use real zombies?  Apparently several of the actors had reanimation clauses in their wills.  Joan Rivers’ head is even doing a cameo.  Gotta love Hollywood these days — movie magic’s not just a phrase anymore.”

Christine chuckled.  “I’m good with that — just as long as there are no zombie sex scenes,” she added, and the others burst out laughing.

The food arrived quite a bit more slowly than any of them had hoped, and a fair portion of the rest of the conversation was puddle-shallow entertainment news, but it was far easier for Caitlyn to join in the conversation during that part.  Eventually, Rob had to get up and talk to the manager, after which the food finally did arrive, and it was delicious — or Caitlyn was so hungry by that point that anything would’ve been delicious.

They walked home afterward, leaving a moderate tip at best, and as they approached the apartment building, Caitlyn stopped.

“Go on ahead,” she said to Rob and Christine, and the other two nodded.

Wils looked at her oddly.  “Did I do something wrong tonight?”

“No...  I just...  Wils, you’re a great guy, you’re cute, you’re smart, you’re loaded...  but...  I don’t know.  You scare me sometimes.”

“Sorry,” he said.

“You come on so strongly, and it — I don’t know how to handle it.  My life’s a crazy train wreck already, and the last thing I need is a roller-coaster relationship to add to my mixed metaphors.  I just don’t know what to do with you.”

“Sorry,” he said.

“So...  look, you’re fun to be around and all, but can you tone it down a little?  I mean you —”

“Nope,” he said.

“What?”

He shrugged.  “I am who I am.  I figured that out a long time ago.”

“But, I mean, I do kinda like you, and I’d like to get to know you better, but I just don’t know how to deal with — ”

“Sorry, I’m not gonna change,” he said.  “I am who I am, take it or leave it.”

“But I can’t — ”

He turned around.  “Look, I was really liking us, but apparently you weren’t.  I’m damn sorry it didn’t work out, ’cuz you’re a real catch.  But if you ever want to give it a shot again sometime, gimme a call.  You have my number.”  He started walking away.

“Wils, wait!” she said.

“Sorry,” he said, not turning back.  “But keep in touch, y’hear?”

Caitlyn sank to the ground as she watched him walk off, and the only thing she could think as he left was that she was going to catch hell from her mother over this.
Mega update this week! Not only part 7, but also part 8! Enjoy! :D

As always, if you like it, please please please comment. I'm a total sucker for comments, and they really do help keep me working on this.

Part 6 is here, and part 8 is here. The introduction and author's notes are here.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconcatgoyle:
(whistles) Chased him off... for now. Poor girl.
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:iconmadjackaldelta:
MadJackalDelta Nov 13, 2009  Student Writer
Zombies and magic too? Wow. This story's getting more interesting by the second!
Reply
:iconcheshire-shadow:
Such a shame that I only discovered this two days ago. Had I been around earlier, I would've had the joy of reading it sooner. :D
Reply
:icondahnza:
Dahnza Nov 11, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Rob was quick to disregard Caitlyn's opnion wasn't he...
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Nov 29, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Probably no quicker than anyone else would've been. Caitlyn's a bit neurotic, and I think she'd convinced herself the world was out to get her. But really, could you blame her after all that'd happened to her?
Reply
:iconehryn:
Ehryn Nov 11, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Yeah, just went to your page to watch you and realised you'd already written the epilogue, silly me! Even so, I'll enjoy working through the chapters :heart:
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Glad you're enjoying it! :)
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:iconshayshayni:
You rock. I love the complexity of the characters. Wils in particular compels me to read on because I just want to know what the hell is up with that guy! :heart:
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks! I try to keep my characters interesting and unpredictable, more like just people than characters.

...and yes, he's an odd one, isn't he?
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