Waking up the next morning my head feels stuffed, and my eyes are practically glued shut. Making a mental note to not fall asleep crying anymore. I’m not even sure why I cried myself to sleep, probably just an overload of emotions. Or the fact that I wish someone could comfort me. Today might be a good day to take off of school. Deciding that I deserve to stay home I stay in bed a while longer. Even though school just started, I think I really need this day all to myself. There is a soft knock on my door. So much for the day all to myself, I rub my eyes a bit more and with a loud groan, and I say “Come in.”
Mr. Collins walks in, gives me a look, and nods his head like his question is already answered. “So I see you are staying home today? Is there anything I can get for you?” He asks even though he knows I don’t plan on moving from this spot for a long time.
“Yeah, I just think it would be best for me to take a day to figure things out, you know? I don’t need much that I don’t already have in here. What’s that box you’re holding under your arm?” I ask raising my brow. The box looks just like a normal cardboard box, a little dirty and tattered. I highly doubt anything important is in there. I surely don’t think they put items they value in cardboard boxes.
“This is the only box your mom left with you here, besides your clothes. She said to give it to you one day. I don’t know what is in here just so you know. I’ll just leave it on your dresser. I’ll call your school to let them know you will be absent today. Try to have a good day Riley.” He says as he lightly puts the tattered old box on top of my dresser. He gives me one last look and a sympathetic half smile before he finally closes my door. As soon as I hear him head up the stairs I jump out of bed and grab the box with a little more force than I wanted, I don’t want to break whatever is inside. Sitting on the edge of my bed I open it. There is only... The stuffed lion with a note attached to it. I sit back against my pillow and pull my legs up tight to my chest, and start reading the note.
Riley. If you are reading this, then William has decided it is time to give you this box. I don’t know if you will remember but this was your lion. You called her Lynoll even though that is a boy name. You were rather an odd child, but I loved you until that day. I don’t know what happened. I was sleeping in the other room. I don’t want to ever know. All I know is you made life difficult for us. Ever since then we were on the run from weird people. I should have just let them have you. Then I wouldn’t have to run anymore. I left you with William and his family because I thought either they would help you forget what happened all those years ago or they would help you figure out what is wrong with you. Don’t look for me, I am happy now. I don’t have to run. Good bye Riley.
Just great I think to myself. I can’t even bring myself up to tear her letter or even cry at her hurtful words or her hatred of me. I just put it aside and look at the lion. Picking it up and setting it on my knees, I notice how soft it still is. After all these years it still feels the same as before. It doesn’t look the same though. There is blood on the paws of the lion and it is a bit dirty. It really just needs a wash. She has a fierce look in her eyes even though she is a stuffed animal. I wish I had answers. What made me change at a young age when they say it is impossible? Was something wrong with me even in the shape shifter world? Can’t things just be easy and not strange? Then I think about what I should do with the lion. Should I keep it? Or throw it away? What if I have a daughter and she is like me, maybe she would love the lion like I do, but now I am getting ahead of myself. I’d need to find someone who likes weird shape shifters.
Ding Dong The door bell rings with its musical chime. I’m not worried about answering it though. Whoever is there will leave when no one answers. Ding Dong. Again I will wait.
After a good 10 minutes, I decide to go and get something to eat since I didn’t have breakfast and it is close to lunch now, I’m starving and really thirsty. Walking past the front door which is dark wood, with clear glass in down the middle of the door with frosted vines around the edges of the pane, I notice something on the door step. Not just anything but flowers? I think they must be for Emma. I decide to get them since it looks a bit chilly outside, I don’t want them to die. They are a beautiful arrangement, and they look expensive. There are a ton of lilies and a few other flowers I don’t know the name to, in a million different shades. It is probably the most beautiful flower arrangement I’ve ever seen. Walking with it in my arms, I smell them. It is so calming. Looking closer I see the tag with them that says my name. How weird. I’ve never gotten flowers before in my life. Setting them down on the kitchen counter I remove the thin lightly tinged blue plastic that is around them to keep them safe. Opening the note it says “Get better soon Riley.” Knowing who’s writing that is now, I know they are from Evan even without him signing his name.
knock knock knock
Jumping out of my skin, I try to steady my breathing as I go to answer the door. As I round the corner I see Evan standing there. He looks at me smiles and waves. Sometimes I wish the door had no glass or else I could have hidden and pretended I was still sleeping, but since he has already noticed me I go open the door. “Hi.” I meekly say without looking directly at his face. Looking in the driveway I notice he drives some sort of bike. Then I start to wonder what it is like being on one.
“Hey. I see you got the flowers. I hope you like them. I didn’t know what kind you liked.” He says with a grin, still standing outside.
“They are beautiful. I don’t know why you got them for me though.” I say and I sound very confused because I am really confused. Why on earth would he get me flowers? I’m not anything special, well besides a shape shifter.
“Because of what went on yesterday. I thought it would be nice and well my mom suggested it would be a good idea. May I please come in?” Well obviously they are only pity flowers and not like I have feelings for you flowers. With a heavy sigh I open the door wider to invite him inside.
“Thank you. Nice pajamas.” He says with a smirk as he walks inside and takes off his shoes.
Looking down noticing I do indeed have my pjs on still. At least they are cool and not something skimpy. It is just a normal t-shirt and some pants with whales on them. “Yeah, uh thanks. So, why aren’t you at school?” I ask walking towards the kitchen to retrieve my lunch which is just a simple bowl of cereal, an apple, and a glass of tangerine juice. I sit down at the island with my food and the beautiful flowers in front of me. I pull my one leg up on the seat and I start eating without offering to get him something.
He stands for a moment looking around, and then sits on the stool beside me. “I wanted to check in on you. You look upset. Well I mean your eyes anyways. How come yours have two colors in them?” He asks looking hard into my eyes then I notice his eyes travel away from my eyes to look at all my features, which makes my face turn red so I look away.
“How the heck would I know? I just figured out why this happens to me. Does that mean yours don’t have two colors?” I ask taking a bite out of my apple. It is crisp and delicious. Sweet and a bit tangy. It is probably the best apple I’ve ever had.
“Not that I know of, I mean I can’t really see my eyes every time they change. But no one has ever mentioned it. Did you talk with Emma and William yesterday? Oliver said you texted him. Well, he told Alex anyways and then Alex told me.”
“So they are pretty tight now I guess. I’m surprised Oliver didn’t tell me they got so close. Yeah, I told him it is okay what he said then he called. We worked it out.” I take a sip of my juice before I continue, “William and Emma both sat me down and talked even though they didn’t know much about what I am and what I can do. They said I’d need to talk to you and your family about that if I wanted to know more. This morning William gave me a box that my mom left with me. It had in it the lion I had as a kid, the one I turned into when I was 5 apparently. I still think it is a little freaky.”
“I think they have a connection. It is nice. As for Alex and Oliver, I think Alex needs someone to talk to, about you know that kind of stuff. Maybe they will start dating. Wouldn’t that be cool? You never did tell me that story, about you becoming a lion. My parents think you changed was because you needed to and that’s why it happened when it did. That you were put in a situation where you needed to change or else you’d get hurt.”
Taking a nice long sip of my juice, I clear my throat and explain my dream to him. “I guess. I would have gotten hurt. Why didn’t it happen before though? When he hit me? How do I even find out who that was? I don’t remember his name. And Lillian left a note for me saying she doesn’t want me to contact her. She said she loved me until that day and that now basically she is glad to have ridden me from her life. I am no longer her concern and she can be happy.”
“One day you’ll find out who it was, have you googled it?”
“And what would I put in as the question: “Weird little girl changes into a lion and attacks a man who was going to hit her?” Yeah I think it would be very likely that would pop up.” I say rolling my eyes.
“I guess you have a point there. Plus who would go to the police or the media claiming a child morphed into a lion or that even some woman had a lion in a bedroom. I guess the idea was pretty farfetched, sorry. Did he see you change?”
“No, I don’t think so. I was hiding in the closet when it happened. How does it happen? I don’t remember it hurting.”
“No it doesn’t hurt. It is hard to explain, our bodies turn kind of translucent and then we just change. It’s kind of fun to watch anyways. And I’m sorry about your mom too. That must be hard news to find out.”
“Oh, that does sound kind of weird. Thanks, I mean I don’t miss her much or anything. I guess I’m just hurt by her actions. Oh well... The Collins are really nice. I love living here with them. Even though I’ve never actually told them.” I start thinking distantly about what it would be like to see someone change then I start to wonder something else, “Is there anything else we can do?”
“Actually yeah, there is a bit more. We can only change into something we’ve seen. This explains why you could change into a lion, since you had seen one a week before at the zoo. There are only a few shape shifters who have been able to change into things that they haven’t seen or have only seen in pictures. There is one shape shifter who is well known in our species that has changed into a unicorn. I wasn’t there to see it, but my parents were. They said it was beautiful. Not at all how we imagine unicorns to be. He was all black with a two toned ivory horn that wasn’t straight, but kind of spiraled to a point. It was onyx black and white. I wish there was a picture of him. I can only imagine it and even the way I imagine it could still only possibly be the second most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. No one knows what happened to him though. They say he hasn’t been seen for in almost 17 years.” I start to wonder what is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen? I have a hard time believing that there is anything more beautiful than the unicorn he described. He starts talking again to bring my attention back, “And we can talk to each other in our heads. We can’t talk to other people though, only shape shifters, and they gotta be close by.”
“What? Why can that happen? Can you shut it off?” I ask.
“Well when we are all changed into something else, we need to be able to communicate. There have been some situations where we need to change to get away or need to hide what we are thinking from others. Don’t you remember me saying “hi” to you the first day of school?” He asks with a smile on his face.
“That was you? I thought it was Oliver; I was kind of ignoring him. He was gushing on and on about Alex.” I admit.
“Yes that was me. I wanted to see if my suspicions were true.” He says still with that smile, like he has won a bet or something.
“And what if your suspicions were wrong? What if I was just an average girl? Then you would have gone through the trouble of getting us to sit together all year for no reason, and you’d be stuck beside me all year.” I sneer, then finish the rest of my juice.
“Well it isn’t like it would have been a total waste. You seem to be an interesting girl to be around. Even if you don’t want to embrace yourself as being a shape shifter, I think we might be seeing more of each other anyways. My best friend is kind of falling for your best friend.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I say then sigh as I put my elbow on the side of the island and put my chin in my hand. Wondering what he thinks is so interesting about the girl who has tried her hardest to be average and not noticeable. “So what now? What if I do want to embrace it as you say? What if I don’t? I don’t know what to do now.”
“As I said before, I think you should embrace it. You could help us.” He says and I can sense there is frustration in his voice with the last statement, helping them.
“AH there you go; your eyes do it too! Red and dark purple. Do your colors mean the same as mine? You are angry and frustrated. Right?” Sounding too happy for the seriousness he must be feeling since you can hear it in his voice and see it on his face. His eye brows come together like he is thinking about something.
“Yes, the colors mean the same thing for all shape shifters. It is easy for us to tell each others emotions. I guess the two colors can happen for any of us. I’ve just never noticed it before I guess. Do you mind if Alex comes over here? Then we can talk about his parents. I think Oliver wants to see you too.”
“This is weird. Two days ago we’ve never said one word to each other, and now we are all talking like we’ve known each other for years. I guess, if you think I can help then I will listen.” I say, not without blushing when I notice how sweet his smile is when he looks at me. Deciding to not make an even bigger fool of myself I say, “You can invite them over, Oliver can tell Alex how to get here.” As I hop off the chair and clean up my lunch mess as I notice, I am still in my pajamas. “You can wait in the living room, I’m going to go shower, and get dressed. I have a limit to how many people can see me in my pjs in one day, so far we are more than my limit.” I say with a laugh awkwardly and walk towards the basement.