A different waitress sat our food down and my mouth filled with drool. Somehow it all smelled perfectly buttery. Somehow I could taste the bacon without even taking the first bite. I reached for the bundle of silverware, but everything slipped out of the napkin and clattered. I cringed at the sharp noise that cut through the whispering 80s music and chatter. Picking the utensils up, I locked eyes with a man at the bar. It was for just a moment, but that was enough to make my chest clench.
Looking back, I may have looked too obvious. Funny how regret could act like a magnifying glass made to amplify all my mistakes. While trying to look inconspicuous, my eyes darted away too quickly and I wasn’t exactly winning any Oscars over how well I pretended to drink coffee out of my empty mug. I could feel the man approaching as he crept into the corner of my eye. It felt like spiders crawling into the light from the shadows, tickling the goosebumps from my arms.
Dipping my head lower, I made myself as small as possible, silently praying that this man just needed to walk by, maybe on his way to the bathroom or something. The universe owed me one good day, one good date with my-I’m not sure if we’re dating now that I think about it. Do you have to date if you know you’re forever?-Jess.
“At first, I thought that smell was something I dragged inside...” The man placed one hand on the table. The other sat behind me, on top of the booth. The plastic made a tortured squeaking noise and I cringed as if something was balled up and shoved into my ears. The man leaned closer. He reeked of spoiled cigarettes, eggs and of an eager Gamma.
“Then,” he chuckled and I could taste the sour of his sweat. Suddenly, I lost my appetite. I was drowning in this diner. “I realized it was you. That’s one nasty bite you got...” His hand slid from the booth to the scruff of my neck. I ducked, hitting the table with my knees and his grip tightened. “See here, it smells like an old buddy of mine. Coldwell. Jacob Coldwell? I assume you know him.” His eyes flicked to the bite and his smile grew wider.
My dread formed a fist sized lump in my throat. I wanted to struggle. My brain screamed for me to run or at least call for Jess, but I froze. It was like this guy forced my mouth open and dumped a never-ending fall of concrete. The moment the concrete hit my stomach, it solidified and I weighed too heavy for my bones, too heavy for this paper thin skin.
“I bet you’re in pain,” The man snickered. He wasn’t wrong. The bite pounded. “You know there’s only one way to fix that.”
This time I did look at him and I wished I hadn’t. I was that cliche idiot in every horror movie that looked back, even though I knew there was something wrong and I knew the monster was right behind me. I looked and I got just what I asked for. The man, with his big shit eating grin, winked at me and all the blood drained from my face. He reached around, grabbing my arm and pulled me out of the booth. His hand tightened and I winced, my body feeling compiled of sticks and rubble. I was the house the big bad wolf blew down with one single breath.
“Guys,” the man called to his buddies, who mustered little confusion. “I’ll see ya’ll in a bit. My friend and I have something to do.”
“May-” I squeaked when the man squeezed my arm, but it was too late. May whipped around from behind the counter. She blinked at us. We made a weird pair.
“What’s up?” She asked.
“Tell my friend I’ll be right back.”
“Oh, yeah,” the man nodded with a laugh. “Right back.”
He led us through the exit and the bells wouldn’t stop ringing in my ears. The man whispered into my ear, “Let’s go see how much you’re worth to Coldwell. He’s an Alpha now, right? Bet he’d spend a good penny on a pretty thing like you.” The edges of my vision unfocused and I saw the truck the man pulled into the parking lot with and I had to catch my breath. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t. Before I knew it, he opened the car door.
My fight or flight kicked in like a switch.
He shoved me inside and I dove across the seats. I reached for the door on the other side, my racing heartbeat thrumming down my arms and straight to the tips of my fingers. My slick hands popped opened the door, but the confined space was difficult. My knee jammed into the middle glove compartment and it gave him enough time to grab my ankle. I flipped and jabbed my foot into the middle of the man’s face, feeling a crunch underneath my heel.
So much for being a pretty little thing.
The man staggered back and I didn’t see a look of pain. All I saw was crimson red and heard a slew of curses. Sucking in a breath, I hit my head on the ceiling as I crawled across the seats. I practically threw myself out the other side, stumbling and falling on my hands and knees, scraping the skin right off.
I tried rising to my feet, but my knees gave out and I fell to my side. I cursed, squeezing my eyes shut and pain ripped up my body. The man came stomping around the hood of the truck. One foot towards me, when a black wolf lunged for the man’s legs. A scream ripped out of his throat.
Managing up on my hands, I looked up the same moment the wolf did. I met Jess’ blood red eyes. He was a massive wolf with thick tattered black hair and now, blood oozed from the corners of his mouth. Relief flooded my system. I let out a sharp breath. “Jess.”
"We’ve gotta go!" Jess roared. Adrenaline spiked through my veins like electricity jumping up and down my bones, hitting the ceiling of my body. I scrambled to my feet, nearly buckling again, when Jess found my side. I grabbed handfuls of his hair and he ran alongside me at my speed. ”Don’t transform yet," Jess warned. ”Wait till we hit the trees."
I glanced back at the man, curling in on himself as he groaned. A small of pool of blood formed at his legs. His buddies exploded out of the diner, behind a handful of horrified waitresses. I snapped my head back, focusing on my feet hitting the ground. We ran towards the line of trees on the other side of the road in hopes of disappearing. The human world no longer wanted us.
“Now?” I managed to get out, past the lump in my throat and the stitch ripping up my side.
"Now!" Jess bellowed.
Closing my eyes, I flipped the switch and felt the warm bright light encase me. I could feel my skin tighten, then relax, making room for the shift of my bones and my expanding muscles. In the next moment, my paws hit the forest floor and I kept running, even when my chest constricted and I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I ran. Jess didn’t try to stop me. I just had to get away and as far as possible.