Swipe. Swipe. Nyen had been fiddling with her phone for a solid hour. Her eldest sister, Kyrah, had directed her to this fire forsaken app. Draggin’ Tail created for people that worked nights or suffered from insomnia, but under the layers of dropping eyed desperation, it was a dating app for those like her. Nyen felt her shoulder blades twitch right under the human flesh she wore most days the moment she not only admired the beauty of his face but found the words Kyrah had clued her in on. Under the heading of Drinks, Nyen read ‘Only fire.’
Hovering her thumb over the message, Nyen flexed her jaw as it ached to stretch into that majestic maw. Kyrah had been teasing her the moment she left the mountains about the point of having left. Nyen spent most days working as one of two female welders within five hundred miles and sleeping alone in her California King bed that took up the majority of the loft. Often her nightmares, or dreams, lead her into her true form, this space served its purpose. Even now, the depths of her anxiety caused her skin to crawl and flesh-covered scales to rise. She closed her owlish yellowish eyes, and she did it, pressing her thumb against the screen and making the first contact.
Nyen was able to view more of his profile, including his name. Kered. The picture was a tall, muscular man leaning against a propane tank. The cap that topped his head bore his company’s name. The thick white ring that protruded from both nostrils confirmed his race through the runes carved into the bone nose-ring her squinting eyes could read struggled to read. His fair complexion was near porcelain gave that she was dusky in her fleshy coat.
Double tap and up came her text message window, Nyen frantically texted her sister.
Nyen: Found 1. I hit contact! Now what?!
Kyrah: Send a message. Stop being a - - Where she then proceeded to enter the emoticon of a chicken.
All Nyen could do in response was snort and resort back to the screen that shone with his image. “Kered,” she said aloud to herself before she thumbed out her first message.
She had waited for a full sixty seconds before she approached the phone with her fingers to close out the app when a response popped up beside a picture of his face. Oh, the blue eyes she could see now, so blue her chest thumped with hammer-stroke heartbeats weaving into a singular, dark rhythm.
Kered: Why hello, beautiful.
Nyen snorted again. Though this one was not the frustrated puff that her sister caused, this was a singing snicker. Males would be males, regardless of race or position in life.
Nyen: Flattery only benefits the flatterer, not the flatteree. - - How does fire burn?
So careful. Nyen refused to even banter with a male of which she was not one hundred percent certain.
Kered: In one’s belly. So what is a female of your stature doing on an app like this?
Nyen’s canary colored eyes gave an exaggerated roll. Kered’s passive answer, then his maleness still glaring through the screen, made her feel young. She was young, though, she was the one that convinced herself she would be an old hag rather than find a mate.
Nyen hesitated before rapping out her reply.
Nyen: Like kind and the sort. I am particular.
She gave herself an ‘ugh.’ Nyen could barely convey her tone when she spoke, let alone through a text medium. Oh, how she would rather be up there than doing this right now, she thought.
Kered sent a series of emoticons, all of which were silly before he finally responded: I am a particularly, peculiar male. It seems like luck shone her light on this early night.
Staring at the phone, Nyen’s breath escaped in a wistful sigh. How quickly exchanged messages changed emotion. This particular male not only seemed to be full of humor, but full of poetry in turn. Speaking the old language always struck her as beautiful, but picturing in her mind’s eye his face if he had spoken them aloud made her anxious all over again. The different sort of anxiety, the kind that feels as if bugs were eating at her innards while heat emanated from her center.
Finding herself in instant awe as well as heat, Nyen responded bravely.
Nyen: Are you busy?
She sat there with her fingers over the screen, gripping the phone so hard that it made little crackling noises. Nyen forced herself to take a heated breath, and she loosened her grip the moment it vibrated in her grasp.
Kered: I get off work in an hour. Meet you at the Corner Hole?
Bumble bee eyes stared at the bright screen, Nyen held her breath so hard that she could hear the heavy patter of her heart. It is not as if she didn’t know the place. Perhaps they didn’t acknowledge one another, but like kind always stuck close in the net of land the city held, where mountains, oceans, and caves cupped the town into obscurity to most. She felt a nail narrow as she gingerly typed at the unsteady phone:
Nyen: See you soon?
Kered took a seat in the basement he in which he worked. Instantly, the heater he was installing was all but forgotten. He had plenty of human females that messaged him through the Draggin’ Tail app and got plenty of tail in the same fashion. But this was one of him; he was one of her. Kered found himself treating her like the rest, even after verifying. With one look, though, Kered had known. Her caramel skin, her given, short stature, the starkness of her hair that wrapped itself around her neck that bore a small tattoo of a rune. He narrowed in and onto the mark as she had done his piercing.
Watching the status notification go black, Kered could only hope she would show. “Nyen,” he said aloud before returning to his installation. For the next hour, he checked his phone every few minutes, leaving the basement quietly and the heater in need of attention, still. His first impression on this female would not be dishonorable. His apartment was two doors down from the crowded bar. At least he could scrub the grease and copper smell from his hands and make an attempt to control his short, curly hair. Kered did not own clothes that were not work clothes, so these would have to do. He had told her he was at work. Hadn’t he? He glanced at his watch and for a moment took advantage of his speed, taking the stairs in a jump rather than one at a time and planted himself on the floor. One more breath, one more burn to his strapped chest.
When Kered swung the glass door open and stepped onto the bustling sidewalk, he saw her. His crystalline blue eyes made immediate contact with her golden set. People bumped them both, nudged at each, and weaved through space between them. Ten or so feet parted the spellbound creatures. Had anyone paid much attention, they would have felt the sizzle from Kered, and the cool breeze come off of Nyen, but these sensations are only for them.