It should have been as mundane as all the Tuesdays that came before it, but I knew it would be trouble the moment he locked eyes with me. He burst past his two companions to grab hold of my wrist and growl a single word:
Not being a huge fan of being claimed as property, I heated my wrist up until he yelped in pain and yanked his hand back.
"Oh, that looks painful." I feigned concern. "Come with me to the kitchen, so I can help you sort it out."
I had not asked for this. These were not my clients. I was meant to be on lunch break.
Don't get me wrong, I work at a funeral home, most of my interactions with humans involve seeing them on their worst days. Plenty of clients have no respect for our lunch breaks. But I'm more of a 'behind-the-scenes' kinda gal. I was really only there for the crematorium. Physical contact was definitely not in my job description.
I led him to the kitchen, and closed the doors for a bit more privacy before turning to him.
"What are you?" He asked, a mix of what I'm sure was awe and horror in his voice.
"You first." I said, putting my hands on my hips.
"Werewolf." As if he needed to prove it, he held his burnt hand out towards me so I could watch it slowly heal.
"And you?" He pressed.
"I can assure you, you've never heard of me." Because neither had I...
"Okay. But...this..." he indicated back to his healed hand, "must mean you're some kind of fire...fiery...burning..."
"I identify as a fire-nymph." I answered, putting him out of his misery. "I don't know if it's acurate, but I've never met another of my kind, so I figure I can call myself what I want."
"That sounds fair enough." He nodded.
We had a moment of silence before I cleared my throat.
"Well." I said. "This has been cute. But shouldn't you be getting back to...the body?"
"My father." He answered quietly. A very human emotion flashed across his face. I'm sure it was grief. It usually was, in a place like this.
"I'm sorry for your loss." Years of working in a funeral home had taught me that this was the correct response to grief.
"Thank you. But..." He reached towards me again, before reconsidering. Surely having learned his lesson previously. "Where does this leave us?"
"Us?" I coughed out, before my senses rejoined me. "Oh! No. There's no us. We are exactly where we were ten minutes ago. Perfect strangers. Perfect. As it should be."
"But...you're my mate." He seemed confused.
"Oh, no, that's not my drama." I tried not to laugh. "I'm sure your moon goddess thinks she's really funny...or maybe she's really mean, I don't know...but I'm not a werewolf, and I don't like humans...or....humanoids, as the case may be...that's why I only really hang out with the dead ones..."
He just stood there and looked at me for a bit. I'm sure he was having a lot of feelings. I hadn't studied human emotion well enough to have any idea what may have been going through his mind, but experience told me it would be rude to walk away at this point in the conversation.
"This has been a very bad day for me." He ended up saying.
"I'm sorry to hear that." I recited, relieved we were back in familiar territory. "Let me take you back to your friends."
I started walking towards the door.
"Wait." He reached for me again, but let his hand fall before it touched me. He seemed almost angry as he met my eyes. "I don't know what you've been through, but I get the feeling it hasn't been easy. And I understand that you don't know me yet, but here's lesson number one: I am not easily discouraged. Now, obviously, I have some things I need to sort out today. But I can assure you, you will be seeing me again."
With that, he stormed out of the kitchen.
They were strong words from the guy who didn't even think to get my name.