“Come on Cass, you only turn 18 once. Why don’t you come to my place and meet my family. I’ll barbeque and make you a cake.” Zeke winked at me, knowing my weakness for food. He had offered for me to meet his family since the day I arrived. I always turned him down though. Being in and out of foster homes kind of turned me away from families. But bribing me with a barbecue was below the belt. I actually almost caved. I don’t know why, but I was afraid to meet his kids. I looked up to Zeke. He was the only true family I’ve known, but meeting his kids would take our relationship away, some how. “I'm good. Maybe I'll go to a movie or something.”
Zeke was proud of his family and loved his wife immensely, Gina is her name. That I knew because Zeke had it tattooed on his ring finger. I met her a few times, but she never stayed at the diner long. I never really conversed with her, she was pretty and nice enough though. They had kids that were pretty much grown. They had a son that was in his twenties, a girl around my age, and two teenaged boys. I never remembered their names.
“Baby girl, you’ll come one of these days. I’m not giving up on you.” He smirked at me, knowing the conversation was over. I grabbed my notepad and headed to my section to start my shift. Today was Thursday. The night was uneventful, but tips were good. After my shift, Zeke and I went to town for supplies. This was the norm for us. He drove his truck and I messed with his radio station, which would always cause him to roll his eyes and huff. But he never changed it back. He listens to rock, but I love all kinds of music. I turned on some country. Rascal Flats, one of my favorites bands, blared through the speakers. He hated it. I smiled and sang along.
Zeke got a phone call. Weird, since it’s after one in the morning. “Zeke.” I couldn’t hear what was being said over the music. “Sunday, we’ll be there. Have everything ready for her.” Sundays were family days for Zeke. He must have been talking to his wife. We got back to the diner and unloaded. It was 4 by the time I went to bed and Zeke left for home.
I woke up around noon on Friday to get ready for my shift that starts at 1. Something felt off. Zeke wasn’t around, Jeff was in the back cooking. “Where’s Zeke?” Jeff looked up. “Family issues, said he’d be here around 6.”
He’s a really nice guy. Over the years we had a playful relationship. Not in that way, come on, the guy had to be like 40. No, it was friendly. I teased him, a lot. I never could make him crack though. He could get me to talk about things no one else could. He knew about my past and the orphanage. He knew about my mom. Shit, he even knew about the reason I finally cracked and decided to leave, which is a story no one else knew, not even Zeke.
“Cass, open it.” I didn’t question him, I reached out grabbing the blue box. Inside was a gold medallion of a crescent moon filled with an aquamarine, my birthstone, attached to a black cord. It was beautiful and so thoughtful. He got it specifically for me. The gift brought a tear to my eye. I quickly sniffed it away and wiped at my eye. “Allow me. I’m glad you like it.” Alpha notices everything. He tied it around my neck. And let it hang on my chest. “I think it suits you quite nicely.”
“Thank you, Alpha. I…” I shook my head, not knowing how to express my gratitude. “Just promise me you’ll wear it will be thanks enough.” I threw my arms around him. He stiffened at the gesture but he let out a single chuckle, pat my arms, and pulled me away. “I’ll always wear it.” He nodded then left the diner without ordering anything. I guess he really did come to give me my present.
I went to bed late and woke up late the next morning. My birthday is tomorrow. Like Zeke said, you only turn 18 once. He gave me the weekend off, might as well go to the movie, like I said I would. I didn’t have a car, so I walked to get around town, it was a small town. Zeke took me to get my license when I was 16, so I can drive. He even lets me drive his truck sometimes. I just prefer to walk.
Our theater is small. It only has 4 screens, but in this tiny town, it's big enough. I stood in line, waiting for my turn to get my ticket. I felt an unease come over me, like someone was watching me. I looked around but nothing stood out. I grabbed my ticket from the tiny girl behind the window and went in for popcorn, extra butter. I got a Dr. Pepper to wash it down with. My hands always get greasy when I eat my tub of popcorn so I grabbed some napkins. Just as I turned, I was knocked on my butt after hitting a wall. Popcorn flew everywhere.
“I am so sorry, are you alright?" The wall asked me. Okay, so he’s not a wall, but he is as big as one. He had to be almost a foot taller than me. Which is saying a lot since I’m 5’6". I looked around to my popcorn scattered all over the floor, my drink landed somewhere behind me. What a waste, so sad. His hand was thrust in my face. I looked up to the owner. My breath caught. My eyes locked on the warmest eyes I had ever seen. They were a light shade of brown, like rich golden honey. “Let me get you a new one. Please. I insist.”
I exhaled and took his hand as he helped me up. It was like a bolt of lightning shot through my body, sparking me to life. Not in pain, but desire and thrill. I got to my feet. I couldn’t speak, so I gave him a nod. He smiled. “Come on.” He lead me back to the concession stand with his hand at the small of my back under my overalls. Just my t-shirt separated his hand from my skin, but I could feel the heat between us. I had never been lead by my back before. It felt strangely intimate, yet comfortable. I found I liked his hand there.
I found myself staring into his eyes. He looked right back into mine. It wasn’t awkward, I felt like I had met him before. I wondered if he’s been in the diner. I shook that thought away, I would have remembered him. I had a hard time peeling my eyes away from him. He reached up his finger to the black cord and pulled the charm out of my shirt. He smirked. “Nice.” We arrived at the front of the line. “Extra large popcorn, please.” He told the guy behind the counter. “Extra butter,” I added. “And a large Dr. Pepper.”
“You want anything else? My treat, for the inconvenience.” I didn’t get any earlier because the ticket and popcorn already cost a lot, but I really wanted candy. “Peanut butter M&M's and miniature Reese’s, please.” The kid handed me my candy, which I put in the front pocket of my overalls, along with more napkins. I took my drink and popcorn and turned to go to my movie. “Hey wait, can I get your name?” The wall asked me. I turned, not wanting to be rude, after all, he did buy me candy. “Thank you.” Then I turned back to go to my movie.
I secretly had a thing for chick flicks. I read romance novels all the time. I was a sap in that respect. I knew the wall wouldn’t be in this movie with me. I was right. I enjoyed my movie and ate every bit of my snacks. I wasn’t a pig, I just had a high metabolism, I could seriously pack it down. If you looked at my body, you would never guess I eat like a linebacker. I always have. I have an athletic body complete with abs and a C cup. I also have excellent hearing and vision. I always sat at the back and in the middle of the theater to compensate. Sometimes I would even bring earplugs, if I knew there would be action. Explosions can get pretty loud. Another reason I enjoy chick flicks is because they don’t usually get too loud.
The movie came to an end, I sniffled and wiped my eyes before anyone could see me. I'm tough on the outside, and my looks proved it, but inside, I really do have a heart. Deep down, I want the fairytale. You know, the perfect man to sweep me off my feet and treasure me for ever. Although I am cynical about family, being alone sometimes can really suck.
I headed to the diner. After all the junk food I needed sustenance.
I showered and changed into my pj's, a tank top and basketball shorts. I laid out on my bed in the studio behind the diner. I liked it here, but just recently I started thinking about leaving. I don’t know why. I have everything I need right here. But I started feeling a kind of pull. Like the mountains were calling me. I usually just shook it off. I couldn’t leave Zeke after all he’s done for me.
It was beginning to get late so I went to my book shelf to put the book away when a light caught my eye. I turned to see Zeke bringing in a small cake with a single candle in the middle, and singing the birthday song. “Zeke! My birthday is tomorrow.” I made a wish, my one wish; that my knight in shining armor would sweep me off my feet. Then blew out the candle anyway. “I know, baby girl, but I won’t be in tomorrow. I’ll be with my family.” Zeke always took Sunday’s off for family day. “Besides, it's almost midnight and I wanted to be with you for your birthday.”
He pulled out two forks and we both dug into the cake that already had ice cream in it. I kissed his cheek. “You really are the biggest teddy bear." He chuckled. “Nah, girl, I’m the big bad wolf.” He winked. He really was the greatest. I don’t know where I would be if not for him. “Where were you yesterday?” He swallowed his bite. “My daughter came back for spring break. She’s here for the week. I had to get her from Salt Lake.” Salt Lake was the nearest airport. “Hmm.” I nodded.
I don’t know if it was the cake, the popcorn, or the chili, but all of a sudden I started feeling weird. The room began to spin, I got light headed, and I started seeing flashes of light in my vision. I shook my head to try to clear it. When that didn’t work I did a few hard blinks. That didn’t work either. I felt like it was getting worse. I started getting really sweaty. My hands started to shake. My breathing became rapid. I could feel my pulse in my head, pounding away. My whole body started shaking. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to get control of my body. “Baby girl, just breathe, you’ll be alright.” Zeke rubbed circles on my back, trying to comfort me. “Just let your body relax.”
I brought my fists to my eyes. My head thrown back. I couldn’t think. My body felt like it was being torn from the inside out. I had never felt anything even close to this pain. “Baby girl, listen to me. Focus on my voice. Just let your body do what it needs. Just let the change happen. You’ll be alright, don’t fight it.”
What was he talking about? Fight what? I forced myself to take a deep breath. When I exhaled, it came out a scream. I felt my bones cracking and my muscles stretching. The pain was too much, I couldn’t take any more. I thought I would die if this kept going any longer. I fell to my knees, the pain just wouldn’t let up. I didn’t even have the strength to scream. I looked up to Zeke. His eyes flashed to gold and back again, then everything went black