Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sweaty palms

Booking a table at Le Petit Chat required nothing short of a miracle. Clients would line up for months or even years just to get a chance to dine at one of the most romantic restaurants in the city. It took making a lot of calls and pulling a couple of strings, not to mention an unreasonable amount of money, but I finally managed to secure a spot.

The perfect spot for tonight.

It was a warm summer evening, with a gentle breeze coming through the large open arches, the only thing separating the restaurant interior from the terrace. The black sky, dotted with thousands of teeny tiny stars would normally soothe my soul, especially when accompanied by that soulful melody that a high-class pianist was weaving on the majestic, ebony instrument. But not this time.

My hands were shaking like jello. Palms dripping with sweat - so hard that it was starting to get on the cuffs of my shirt - I took out a small box out of my pocket. The ring inside shimmered in the candlelight. It cost me an arm and a leg, but I knew it was worth it. She deserved the very best, after all. I prayed to God she'd say yes.

I hid the ring back in my pocket, scratching the back of my hand as I pulled it out. Everything felt itchy whenever I got nervous. She was getting late and I was already starting to feel a bit light-headed, not knowing if I'd feel better if she finally did appear, or if she canceled.

But then she came. Her gorgeous, wavy brown hair brushed to the side, her neck was completely exposed. Her dress, as red as the bouquets of roses adorning every corner of the restaurant, had just the right amount of cleavage and hugged her curvy figure nicely. She spotted me, her smile showing on her baby blue eyes.

Sally looked stunning. But no matter how she looked, she took my breath away every time I saw her.

I stood up as she came closer and clumsily pulled out her chair from under the table. After wiping my palm on my pants, I took her hand in mine and gave it a gentle kiss. She giggled.

"How kind of you," she said as she sat opposite me. The waiter handed us the menu. I couldn't focus on the contents, however. I couldn't even focus on Sally's smile as she scanned the menu. My heart was racing and my hands were itching more and more. "What are you having?"

"Oh, uh," I said, scratching my hand again. "I'm not sure yet." I put down the menu and smiled at her. "You look lovely, Sally."

We chatted away and finally made our choices for the dinner. For a while, I forgot all about the itching, though my leg was jumping up and down like crazy from all the anticipation. I wasn't sure if the moment I chose for the proposal was right, but I knew I had to go for it.

The plan was to order just as the desserts were going to arrive. I thought about arranging things with the staff ahead of time, so that the ring could be inside the cake, but in the end, I was too worried she'd accidentally swallow it. I guess I'm not much of a risk-taker.

Once we'd placed our orders, Sally went to the bathroom. Even though I was still light-headed, the smile did not disappear from my face. I was having the time of my life. I was in such a good mood that I started looking around the other tables. My eyes met with those of an older lady somewhere to my right.

And then something weird happened. She took a look at my hands and her face twisted in disgust, and then she quickly turned her gaze away in the other direction. I imagined that my hands were pretty red from all the scratching, but that reaction still felt a bit unfair. Still, I thought nothing could ruin my mood.

Boy, how wrong I was.

I turned to face the terrace again. My hand went to my other hand and started scratching again. And then it felt like two things happened at once. For one, my hand felt different. As if I was scratching something softer, and... fuzzier. But I didn't even consider the worst case scenario until I noticed how pale the sky had become. Rising from below the terrace was a large, silver disc of light.

I f**king forgot it was a full moon today!

Over the past few months, I had spent so much time preparing everything for tonight that I completely forgot to check my timetable like I usually do. Up until this point, I always made sure I'd be unavailable whenever there was a full moon, so Sally wouldn't have to watch me grow 5 pounds of hair, but I guess I was just too preoccupied with getting any date booked that making sure it didn't coincide with a full moon didn't occur to me.

I instantly felt all the blood drain from my face. People started to whisper around me, I could hear it. I could feel it. But then my heart sank completely as I saw Sally leave the bathroom. I picked up the menu and covered my face with it, but I knew it was only a matter of time before she noticed.

"Jerry?" she asked as she sat down, a smile slowly fading from her face. "Are you okay? You look really pale. And, um, this may sound weird but, did you always have sideburns?"

"I'm fine," I said in a whisper. During my transformation, my voice became a tad more guttural than usual, to the point that cats got really scared of me. So I wanted to avoid drawing attention to it.

It was too late. My shirt was tensing up from all the fur piling on inside and my body increasing in size in general. I tried to avert Sally's concerned gaze, but I knew that if I didn't do anything, I'd end up only hurting her.

"Uh," I grunted. I could see her flinch at the sound I made. "I'll be right back."

With that, I got up, holding up the menu to hide the side of my face that she could see. Still, that couldn't cover up my furry hands or the incredibly long claws that my nails turned into, but it was something.

Before I knew it, I was sprinting out the building. I heard a couple of screams and shocked grunts as I passed some people, trampling some of them in the process. My shirt was ripped to shreds, and my pants were pretty close to giving way as well. This was the first time in a long while that I forgot to put on my stretchy pants on a full moon.

Safe from the view of most onlookers, I squatted at a nearby park. Huddled between a bunch of bushes, I looked up at the moon and wondered where I went wrong. I put my paws in my pockets to make sure the ring was still in place.

Sure enough, it was gone.

I didn't know where I'd dropped it. Was it still back at the restaurant or did my pocket rip somewhere on the street? Still, it's not like any of that mattered anymore. I sat there, hugging my oversized, furry knees, and uttered the smallest howl I could. I heard the squirrels scurry away in fear anyway.


I jumped up, startled nearly to death. My heart was thumping like wild, and I hated how loud it got when I was in wolf form.

"Sally?" I whispered. I could see her outline clearly, though her face was still too far away for me to make out. She was slowly walking closer towards me. "What are you doing here? Stay away."

"And leave you like this? Not a chance." She came up even closer. I could see her eyes now. She didn't look scared. Just a little shaken. "What happened to you?"

"It's... How do I put this," I said. "I've always been like this."

"We've been together for a year," she said. I could hear her voice tense up, "and you didn't think you should tell me?"

"Well," I said with a shrug, a smile creeping on my huge, toothy muzzle, "I did say I was a dog person."

She slapped me with her purse. The blow was softened by the coat of fur, but I still felt it. Somewhere inside, I knew I was a bad dog.

"How was I supposed to tell you?" I could hear my voice break a bit as I tried to maintain a whisper. "Look at me!"

She stayed silent for a good few minutes, as if she was seriously considering what she would have said had I told her. Then she put a hand on my cheek.

"I understand," she said. "It must be tough. But I thought you knew me better than that, Jerry. I love you, you know that?"

A surge of electricity made my heart beat three times in one instant. Every time I heard those words, I knew everything would turn out okay in the end.

"I know," I said.

"Besides," she said, her lips twisting into a half-smile. "I don't mind a bit of hair on a man. And there is something alluring about you like this."

"You've got to be kidding."

She laughed. But soon enough, she stopped. Her face became stern.

"I understand why you didn't tell me, Jerry," she said, her voice cool and piercing. "But I want you to promise me one thing. And this is very important."


"Don't ever lie to me again."

As she said it, she put something in my hand. Something small and vaguely cubical. When I realized what it was, my heart sank, though I was still glad the ring wasn't lost.

"Now, don't get me wrong," she said, the hint of a smile coming back to her face. "This isn't a no. But today's development is... a big one. And you've been lying to me all this time. You'll first need to win back some of that lost trust."

"I will," I said, no more whispering. "I wanted to tell you about this anyway, but I really wasn't ready. But now I have no reason to hide anything anymore."

"I believe in you," she said, her fingers intertwining with mine. "Don't disappoint me."

By the end of the night, I felt a great deal lighter. As if someone had shaved off all the fur from my body. Seeing her wake up next to me the other day filled me with a newfound sense of hope and, for the first time in forever, I felt okay with myself.

Three months later, I tried again, this time making sure the time was right. She said yes.

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