Author's note: Yeah, so... sorry about this weekend. My only excuse is I wasn't feeling well. Actually, I was feeling sick. It was stupid. I was feeling sick already when I decided I could afford to spend like 5 hours standing in the rain. Yeah. Not my proudest moment in the history of ever.
Anyway, I'm back now, and here is the next part.
“Yes,” I said.
Now he lolled his tongue at me, and I grimaced to show him just how much I appreciated it. “What are you, a participatory audience?”
“I prefer ‘voyeur.’”
“That’s illegal, hey?”
“Depends on whether I got a camera.”
He eyed my chest suspiciously. I wore a low-cut shirt that I thought was revealing until I got here. Tamlin’s parties tend to work that way. “Where you keeping it?”
I tapped next to my eye. He shrugged and walked off.
Ten minutes and one and a half drinks later Jamie slid into the seat across from me. He was grinning, an expression that I found a little too toothy to be comforting. He looked happy though, and tired, and I realized that even he had somehow known what to wear: a too-small t-shirt with some sort of fishnet arms, and jeans that worked in tandem with his shirt to show off just how difficult it was to force his muscled body into the clothes. He wasn’t panting, exactly, though I got the impression that the only thing keeping his tongue from lolling to the side was his sharp teeth, a number of which were facing me. “Hey! How come you’re here? You know, not there? Not dancing?”
I shrugged. How do you tell a seven-foot-something wolf man that you’re nervous about your appearance?
He extended his hand. “You should come out and dance.” For a moment it looked like he was about to say something else—with me, maybe?—but then he just closed his mouth and smiled again, canting his head.
And, yeah, okay, he had somewhat endeared himself to me by this point. I admit, when he first moved in I thought of him as a user, and that was, at least in my mind, his primary attribute. But then he went and got a job—well, okay, I got him a job, and I guess drug users have to pay for their habits somehow, but still. He and Tamlin got along. And here he was, at a party, getting the most out of being the center of attention; several of the other dancers, I saw, had watched him leave the dance floor.
So, basically, I couldn’t get a handle on him. He was sometimes really reserved, and occasionally outgoing. It was almost like he was two different people.
And, yeah, okay, I sort of liked the outgoing version. So I grabbed my glass and pulled it towards me. His smile faltered, but I tacked one of my own into place and said, “Let me finish this first. I already paid for it.”
His smile got bigger again—and his ears stood up. Cutely. Oh god. What was I thinking?
He stood slowly, and opened his mouth just a bit—just enough to let his tongue loll out in a lopsided grin. Then he turned ’round and escaped back to the floor.
“What’s up C?”
I groaned involuntarily, glad for the thick layer of music that hopefully drowned the sound out. Even over the beat I recognized Carl’s obnoxious preppy voice. He was approaching from my other side, and when I turned I saw his gaze trail off Jamie and onto me. “Hey Carl.”
“Mind if I join you?”
A quick look confirmed that he wasn’t joined by the twin travelling circus clowns. Just him, then. I wondered how he was connected to Tamlin, and why Tamlin was friends with anyone who thought it was OK to invite Carl to a party, and how fast I could finish my Long Island and get out onto the dance floor with Jamie. I didn’t reflect too much on that thought, just took a long pull that made my mouth feel poisoned.
Of course it wouldn’t be that easy. He hadn’t waited for an answer before slipping into the seat across from me. An awkward thirty seconds passed while he tried to signal the waiter and get a drink—“What she’s having”—and I tried to figure out how to tell him I wasn’t interested. I admit, I’ve a bit of a shy streak in me as well. But that’s no reason for him to take the initiative like that. If I wanted someone to take the initiative, I would have… I don’t know. Something. Anything other than sit there and let Carl order a drink, and start talking me up, and wink obnoxiously at me. He eventually settled into a reclined position with his arm behind over the back of the chair that made me think he was way too comfortable. I had almost finished my drink when he said, way too conversationally, “So what’s the deal with the new bitch?”
I let the glass containing the last inch or so of Long Island click to the glass table. “What?” I said. I was way too quiet for him to hear my tone, but I could tell he got it anyway.
He leaned forward conspiratorially. His eyes flicked to the dance floor. “Seriously C, I mean, what the fuck is that thing doing working with you?”
I make him sound like some kind of post-Hollywood villain or whatever, I know, but he was nothing like that. I mean, he was genuinely confused as to why I was allowing myself to work with someone like Jamie. When I first met him, I thought he was trying too hard to fit in with the wrong sorts of people when he told me of his contempt for users, and dinos, and pretty much every human that didn’t look exactly like him. I admit, in a way it was endearing. I suppose I liked that he was just a little bit of a bad boy, someone so utterly unlike my user parents. I… well, I don’t think I really flirted back, but I certainly didn’t stop his advances. I was a little socially awkward then—I had only been with one person, and between then and now I had managed to ignore or avoid people that might take a romantic interest in me. It hadn’t protected me from my customers, and so I found his roguishness appealing, and… I don’t know.
It took me about three weeks before I realized that he wasn’t trying to fit in with those people: he already did. I guess in my head, those people were guys that always talked about who they hated, and why, and made race-specific judgments when they got out of bed in the mornings, and went to work, and every time in between. Carl was someone who walked and talked like any normal cocky 20-whatever-year-old that I had been around. His ideal world just didn’t include people who debased humanity by becoming more like animals.