Hood

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5

He placed the first meat on top of the bread, followed by more meat from another animal. He looked at me. “So, uh, you like bologna, too?”

“I love all meat. Except for meat we don’t normally eat.” I shrugged.

He chuckled and finished my sandwich. I changed it up this time to give myself some variety. I shoved my hands into my pockets underneath my cloak. “How long have you been working here?” I asked Phillip.

“About a month now. I worked at another place before this.”

“Which place?”

“The little post office. It was just overwhelming and everyone is rude.”

I frowned. “Aw, did they hurt your feelings? Poor Phillip.”

He laughed a bit and shook his head. “I’ll be off soon.”

“I won’t be here long. I actually have to go to work today. I know, what a concept. Bills are weird.” I shrugged.

He nodded. “I’ll see you around then.” He waved a bit as I left the shop and took my sandwich with me after paying.

I walked towards the outskirts, smiling a bit as the lit up diner came into view. The signs were bright and beautiful, lighting the way to the building.

I walked into the back room, setting my sandwich in the fridge. This would be my lunch today.

I walked into the bathroom and changed into a white button up with back slacks. I tied checkered red and white apron around my waist, punching in.

“Shani, welcome back to the place where I live,” my boss joked.

I rolled my eyes and checked the next order. “That is why I don’t take up manager positions. I like my free time.” I gave her a playful smile and carried a tray of food to the respective table. “Here you go, sir.” I smiled at him and looked at his daughter. “And for you.” I placed her food down. “Oh, what have we drawn here? We have an artist I see. I will keep an eye out for your work.”

She smiled at me and looked at her dad. “I told you I was an artist!”

He chuckled. “Yes, darling, you’re wonderful. Now eat your food before it gets cold.” He looked at me. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. My name is Shani if you need anything else for the evening.” I took the tray back to the kitchen.

I was the only girl around here who wore pants instead of a skirt. Maybe that’s why I was such an outcast. I practically begged my boss to let me wear pants. I hated skirts and I did not want to shave my legs if I could help it.

This was the one place I could be myself. Nobody hated me. Nobody knew about the town secrets. I could breathe here.

I continued to take trays to and from the tables, making sure to clean up after the customers.

I stopped at one table, getting my pen and pad out. “What can I get for you, sir?” I looked at the man and tilted my head. “Really?”

Phillip smiled. “I needed to eat some good dinner tonight. I thought, why not visit that girl at her job?” He looked around. “I like it here. It’s very friendly. It makes you feel like you really know everyone.”

“It does. People are so friendly here.” I nodded.

“Alright, I will take water with the eggs benedict. I would also like hashbrowns with that.” He closed his menu.

I wrote it down and nodded, taking his menu. “That will be right out.”

I went to the counter and taped the order next to the others. Tonight was a fairly slow night but I never minded.

As orders were made, I continued to run them to the customers, finally getting to Phillip. “What you got there?” I pointed to the newspaper he was reading.

He folded it back up and looked at me. “It’s not good.”

“Let me see.” I grabbed the paper and saw the front page, losing my balance. Grabbing onto the table, I shook my head. “This can’t be right. No.”

“Is there a reason why you’re always in fights with people before they die?” he asked.

I looked at him. “No, don’t you blame me. Don’t you dare blame me for this. I did not kill this man. I didn’t. I swear. I was attacked by a wolf when I was going home and I fought him off but I did not kill this man.”

“Hey, it’s okay. I’m not assuming it’s you. I want to hear your explanation so I know not to believe the press.” He put his hand on the table, next to mine.

I sat down across from him, holding my head. It ached, blurring my focus. “I didn’t kill him. A wolf chased me to my house and I locked the doors. I swear.” I laid my arm onto the table, showing my bandage. “This... This is from an animal attack. There is no way I killed him. These marks match the teeth of a wolf. I was attacked by a wolf when this man died. There is no possible way. I was at the hospital when this man was killed. Just ask the doctors.”

He put his hands up in defense, eyeing my bandage. “Okay, I believe you.”

I pulled my arm back to my chest. “It’s been a rough couple of days. I’m sorry.”

Phillip nodded. “Is there any reason why someone would kill people you were near? This man was in the woods, beaten and bloody.”

“I’m easy to frame. Everyone believes the weird girl did it without proof.” This man was the wolf and I knew it. They were one and the same. Phillip could not know what I knew about werewolves.

He started to eat his food, not saying anything between each bite.

I stood and left him to his dinner as I walked back to the breakroom. I leaned against the wall, fearing what came next. Someone was trying to frame me. Every time I fought off some lunatic, someone killed them when I left them alive. Who was trying to frame me? Who was so persistent to get me locked up?

Someone in this town hated me. Someone here hated my guts and they wanted me to be somewhere that was safe from the city.

“You okay, Shani?” my boss asked as she came in.

“It happened again.” I threw the paper on the table next to me.

She looked at it, shaking her head. “This is getting out of hand. How do you plan to stop this?”

“I don’t know. I have no clue.”

I glanced at the paper again, seeing my face up in the corner of a picture of that man’s dead body. It was disgusting. I was always the first suspect, and always the only suspect.

My boss replied, “Let me know if I can help. The customers love you around here. We don’t want to lose one of our best employees over lies.”

I nodded, closing my eyes as I took a deep breath. “Thank you, Maggie.”

“Who’s the boy you’ve been talking to?”

I looked at her. “Phillip? He’s just a boy. He’s the only one who’s been talking to me since we met. Hell, he’s even chosen to believe I’m not the killer the town paints me as.”

She smirked a bit. “He’s cute.”

I choked on my words, shaking my head.

She scrunched up her face, crossing her arms. “What, he’s not cute?”

“No, he is. I just... He’s not my type.”

“And pray tell, what is your type?”

I threw my arms up. “Why does any of this matter? I’m not dating. I’m making a friend. I’d like it if you stayed out of my business. Thanks.” I left the breakroom, guilt beginning to gnaw at my insides. I should not have talked to her that way.

I continued to serve more customers, trying to distract myself from the fact that I was on the front page of the newspaper as the only suspect for another murder.

They had been popping up so much lately.

I knew I was possibly a werewolf that hadn’t bloomed—if you could call it that. I just wasn’t too sure why they wanted me dead. Was it possibly another werewolf that wanted me to be locked away so they were killing their own kind? They could have had a meeting and agreed to sacrifice their lives to get me locked away. They’d send their own members after me, then kill them off after the fight just to make it seem as if I was the killer.

It was one theory anyway.

The other theory was a possible werewolf hunter that was hunting the werewolves that attacked me, but he let me take the blame so he could fulfill his duty.

This was, of course, assuming that every human I fought was a werewolf. They could be. It was a high possibility.

I didn’t have a theory yet created for the idea for whoever was framing me if they were only killing humans.

If it was someone who hated my guts, they could be killing anyone I fought with just to make it that much easier to question me. It wasn’t as if anyone believed otherwise. It was always me, wasn’t it? I killed everyone even when I hadn’t killed a single soul.

I went back out and picked up Phillip’s dishes, looking at him. “I hope you have a good night.”

“You too. Don’t worry too much about the paper. They can’t prove it was you anyway,” he reassured.

I nodded slightly. “Thank you.”

After Phillip left, I took the dishes to the back. I helped Maggie clean up, looking at her as we closed down the diner. “I’m sorry for what I said. I’m just not used to any of this. Phillip is a good guy but that’s not how we see each other. He’s just the guy I buy sandwiches from.”

Maggie looked at me and nodded. “If anything ever happens that leads to him possibly liking you, take a chance. He might not be your type but you could end up liking him in the end.”

“If that ends up happening.” I laughed.

Maggie and I left the restaurant, locking up. She looked at me. “Let me take you home.”

“No, it’s fine.”

She lifted her eyebrows. “Shani, get in the damn car. You have a bandage on your arm and you don’t need anymore.”

I sighed, not in the mood for arguing with her for another second. Getting into her car, she turned to me, before I looked at her and asked, “What?”

“Seatbelt. We like to follow the law around here.” She gestured.

I rolled my eyes and put my seatbelt on, sitting back. “Happy now?”

“Of course. Now I know you won’t die tonight.”

“Until I get home and you don’t know what could happen to me.” I scoffed.

Maggie started the car and drove me home, parking. I saw a light on, knowing my brother was home. I looked at her and sighed. “Thanks for the ride.”

“Only took me a few threats but you’re welcome.” She smiled.

I got out and looked at the cabin. Maggie drove away, leaving me in total darkness. I walked into the cabin, hearing whispers.

I looked at my brother’s door and shook my head, walking into my own room.

I took off my apron, pulling my shirt out of my pants. I looked outside and watched the moonlight, wondering if something would ever happen to me. Was I ever going to turn into a wolf? Was this it?

I touched my injury, wincing at the pain that still lingered. I surely hadn’t become a werewolf yet because my healing abilities were as slow as a turtle in a race.

Werewolves were real and I had to learn about them to learn more about myself. If I was going to stop these murders, I was going to have to risk my own life.

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