Lucy stared in the mirror. Her reflection stared back. She made a couple of faces at herself, then giggled at her silliness. She stretched her arms above her head and admired her brown skin, darker than most women of color, but perfectly flawless. She turned sideways, her bounteous body moving fluidly. She lifted her big breasts and ran her hands over her ample thighs, smiling.
Lucy had always been extraordinarily proud of her looks, even though she certainly didn’t fit the human ideas of traditional beauty. So she didn’t pay attention to their ridiculous ideas, dressing as she pleased in what she felt she looked good in. And she looked good!
She finished her inspection of her body and glanced into her bedroom to make sure the blinds were down. They were, so she shifted into her werewolf form to inspect that version of herself as well. Gorgeous, she thought, as a human and as a werewolf. She pranced around her room in her werewolf form, enjoying the freedom of the animal form. She actually hated clothes, had rarely wore them when she’d lived in the mountains with her pack.
But she loved being in the city. So much life, so many interesting people and things and places. So she had to wear clothes every day, big deal. The city offered her so much more than the mountains had; she’d had to leave.
Lucy shook herself out of her reverie before some of the bad memories surfaced and ruined her perfectly well-begun day and shifted back into human form. She stretched again, arms high and up on her toes, then dug through her closet for one of her work shirts. Her phone rang as she was shrugging it on over her bra and looking around for her shorts to complete her work uniform.
“Hey, Lucy, it’s Marla.”
“Hey, Marla. What’s going on?”
“Not much, but I have a huge favor,” Marla said. Lucy and Marla had met through their online courses. Once a month, the online class met in the classroom with the professor, some by skype, others in person, and Lucy and Marla had become fast friends and often helped each other with classwork.
“What kind of favor?” Lucy asked, skeptical. The last favor Marla had asked for had included finishing a project for her, and Lucy just didn’t have the time to do both her own and most of Marla’s.
“I have to miss the meeting this month. Can you take notes for me?” she asked. “I’ve already told the professor, and she said it would be ok, just to get the notes from someone.”
Lucy breathed a sigh of relief. “I can do that, sure. I’ll make a copy of mine to give to you. You can buy me lunch the next day.”
“Deal,” Marla said, a smile on her face. “You know, I chose journalism because I’m a good writer, but I feel like I don’t know anything at all!”
“Same here, girl,” Lucy agreed, sliding into her shorts as she spoke. “But supposedly it’ll all pay off in the long run.”
“Yeah, we’ll see,” Marla grumbled.
“Hey, I’ve got to run. I have to get to work.” Lucy was tying her shoelaces. “The boss got pissy the last time I walked in at exactly the start of my shift. He prefers us to be a couple minutes early.”
“Bosses, blah. They’re all assholes,” Marla laughed.
“Yes ma’am!” Lucy chuckled as she ended the call, threw her phone in her bag, and headed out the door. She grabbed her keys off the hook as she left and locked the door behind her. She grumbled when she stepped out onto the stoop; rain was seeping out of the sky, creating small puddles everywhere. Just enough rain to cause a mess, she thought. She turned around to get her umbrella and an extra pair of shoes, contemplating a cab, but the expense wasn’t worth it.
Café Blue was more of a fancy bar than an actual café. They served cute little sandwiches, soups, and salads with wine at lunch, but after six, it was fried foods and beer. Two blocks from her apartment, it was convenient and a relatively safe walk for Lucy, and the boss had agreed to work around her school schedule when necessary. Lucy preferred the afternoon shift through the evening because the tips were better, and that was usually the shift her boss gave her. Today, though, she was working lunch until eight; the best tips were after nine, but any tips were better than no tips.
Lucy walked in the back door three minutes before her shift started, shaking out her umbrella and leaning it against the doorjamb along with a handful of others. She clocked in and smiled at the cook, Sammy, who was dishing up something that might have been gumbo, but she wasn’t sure. It smelled great, though, and Lucy knew what she’d be having for her break snack later. She plopped down on the bench next to the cubbyholes for their things and changed shoes, mumbling about wet socks as she did so.
“Do I smell a wet dog?” Her best friend, Kayla, stepped in, winking at her as she made her rude joke.
“Only if you’re smelling yourself, you nasty bitch,” Lucy joked back, and they laughed. “Enjoy the wet walk over?”
“Of course I did. I love wet shoes and clothes at the beginning of my shift,” Kayla replied sarcastically. “Keeps me from complacency.”
“Where did you learn that word? Word of the day calendar?” Lucy teased as she rose and reached for her apron, notepad, and pencil. Kayla threw a pencil at her, which Lucy caught it deftly and slipped into her apron pocket. “Thanks, doll. I can always use a spare.”
“Ugh, I forget your damn wolfy powers give you quick reflexes. Now give me my pencil back,” Kayla growled.
Lucy handed it to her and admonished, “Keep your voice down. Sammy is right there.”
“He’s not listening,” Kayla claimed after glancing in his direction. “Besides, he thinks I’m completely nuts anyway. He’ll think I’m just being weird.”
Lucy snorted. “You are weird.”
“And you love me for it.”
Lucy rolled her shoulders and put on her best fake smile. “Let’s go wait on some customers. I need some good tips. Mama wants to go shopping this weekend.”
Three hours later, the lunch rush had ended. Between three and five, the café’s business was slow, so Lucy and Kayla used the time to do the little things that have to be done to keep customers happy, such as filling salt and pepper shakers, replacing ketchup bottles, and rolling the silverware in napkins. They chatted amiably as they completed these mindless tasks, talking about Lucy’s school and Kayla’s auditions or acting jobs, which ever she was working on at the time. And sometimes they talked about men, although that was usually a short conversation.
“So, any prospects?” Kayla asked as she rattled the clean silverware in a tub to find another butter knife to add to the fork she was rolling.
“Since yesterday? No,” Lucy responded. “I don’t go anywhere to meet anyone. I thought you were going to fix me up.”
“Oh sure, because I meet all kinds of straight men in dance class,” Kayla rolled her eyes.
“They can’t all be gay,” Lucy replied.
“They aren’t, but they’re too pretty for either of us.” Lucy raised her eyebrow in a what-does-that-mean look. “You know what I mean! They care way more about their own looks than we do. Ego, ego, ego!”
Lucy chuckled at her friend’s defense, but she knew it was true. Lucy had joined Kayla at one of her cast parties after a show had wrapped, and she’d been completely turned off by the men there. They had preened about like peacocks looking for a mate, and she’d been ready to leave about ten minutes after she’d arrived.
The door opened, letting in a quick blast of fresh spring air before closing. Lucy looked around and recognized the lecherous fart who liked to harass her and the other waitresses. They’d complained to the boss, but since the man had never touched one of them, the boss claimed they’d be fine. He was a good tipper, after all, even when the girls were borderline rude to him. She rolled her eyes and looked at Kayla, whose shoulders had dropped at the sight of him.
Lucy whispered, “It’s your turn.”
Kayla’s eyes widened. “No way! I had to deal with him last time.”
“Actually, we made Tiffany deal with him last time, so it’s your turn.”
“Rock, paper, scissors?” Kayla held out her fist, and Lucy put hers out too. Three bumps later, and Lucy was headed over to take his order.
“Hi, there,” she said to him in an unenthusiastic manner. “How can I help you today?”
“You can start by walking away so I can check out that fine ghetto booty you’re rocking,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows at her. Lucy stared at him blandly, pencil poised over her notepad. He cleared his throat and ordered with a grin on his face. “A pint of Guinness and some of that gumbo I’ve been hearing about.”
Lucy turned without replying and walked to the kitchen. She could feel his eyes following her as she walked away, and she mentally shivered.
“Hey, hot stuff, bring me a glass of water too,” the guy called to her. She responded with a lifted hand but did not turn around or speak.
What she wouldn’t give to shift in front of him and scare the shit out of him. But no, that wasn’t allowed here. Humans in the city preferred to believe that weres kept themselves in the country rather than in the city. Many actually still seemed to believe weres were myths, although proof was available on YouTube, on the news, and in the newspapers.
She put in the guy’s order and returned with a glass of water. The guy’s name was Austin, but none of the girls called him by his name. He was Pervert. “Here you go.”
“Thanks, sexy,” Austin said and winked lasciviously at her. She rolled his eyes at him, which only made his grin widened. His favorite thing was getting a response out of the girls. “How long for that Guinness?”
“I’m going to check right now,” Lucy replied in a monotone. She was hoping to return with both his drink and his gumbo so she would only have to come back once more, so she took her time wandering back to the kitchen. Luckily, the gumbo had been ladled and was waiting for her in a steaming bowl. She smiled her thanks at Sammy, who waved at her, grabbed the bowl and the beer and headed back.
“Here’s your food and your drink,” Lucy said. She set his order down and stood up straight. “Anything else you need?”
“Just your phone number,” Austin replied with a wink. “And a date.”
Lucy knew better than to answer, but she did. “You won’t get either of those things from me.”
“Too bad,” he replied around a mouthful of the spicy gumbo. “The tip I can give you is quite large.”
Lucy stared at him, debating whether he was making a crude remark. The look on his face told her he was. She grimaced at him and walked away without speaking. She could hear him chuckling as she walked away. When she told Kayla what he’d said, she was furious.
“Ok, that’s enough. I think it’s time Jeff had a talk with that guy,” Kayla fumed. “I’m going back there to tell him now.”
“He’s not here today, remember?” Lucy reminded her as she added salt to a shaker. “He won’t be back until tomorrow. Sammy is in charge.”
“GRRRR! That guy burns my ass!”
“Yeah, he’s a scumbag. Let’s just ignore him, maybe serve him a beer we’ve drooled in,” Lucy giggled.
Austin remained in his booth for the rest of Lucy’s shift, steadily plowing through three more pints and slurring cruder innuendos as afternoon shifted to evening. Kayla’s shift had ended at 5:00, and she’d been replaced by two waitresses, both of whom refused to serve Austin. Around 5:30, the dinner crowd wandered in, so Lucy’s attention was more divided, which seemed to irritate Austin. He called her over more frequently with requests for more ketchup, even though he’d ordered nothing but another bowl of gumbo. At one point, out of the corner of her eye, he had lifted a hand as if to slap her ass but lowered it when she turned on him and glared. He had just grinned.
Lucy was incredibly grateful when her shift ended. Having Austin in the café the entire afternoon had been wearing, not to mention all the other tables she’d served. She mentally counted her tips as she changed back into the other sneakers; the rain had continued to fall steadily all day. A nice haul for a Wednesday afternoon, she thought.
She stepped to the backdoor and looked out. The rain had let up some, now just a drizzle that wouldn’t quite soak her as she walked the two blocks to her apartment. She sighed heavily, called out a good bye to the other waitresses, and headed out. She looked around as she walked, ever conscience of the dangers of a big city. When she heard footsteps behind her, she halted and looked over her shoulder. A man was walking behind her, but he didn’t seem to be following her.
Lucy glanced around again as she started walking. The street was far from crowded, but there were people here and there hurrying along the sidewalk. But when she turned the corner of the street her apartment building was on, no one was in sight. She again glanced behind her at the man, who was still there but seemed preoccupied by his phone.
Only a hundred yards to her front stoop; she increased her pace. Her heart was pounding louder than it should, and the instinct to shift and defend herself was strong. Her mind kept telling her everything was fine, that she was overreacting, but her instincts were screaming danger. She’d never ignored her instincts before, and she didn’t now. She broke into a run.
The man did as well; he caught up to her quickly and easily, grabbed her arm and halted her progress. He pushed her up against a building and trapped her there with his arms on either side of her head.
“Hey, hot stuff, why the rush?” Austin leaned close to her as he spoke, his alcohol breath expunging all other scents from her nostrils. Lucy pushed against him, but he didn’t budge. “Come on, Lucy. Aren’t you glad to see me?”
“No, Austin, I’m not. Step away from me before I scream,” Lucy said calmly, refusing to panic yet.
“Scream? Why would you scream?” He leaned in again and tried to kiss her, but she jerked to the side. He put his hands on either side of her face. “I’ve been wanting to kiss those big lips and massage that big ass for weeks. Give me a chance, hot stuff.”
Lucy pushed his chest again, harder this time, and managed to throw him off balance a little. With that moment of advantage, she shoved passed him and headed quickly for her building, now only about fifty yards away. She looked back at Austin, who had put his hand against the building for support. When he saw her looking, he ran after her. For a drunk man, he moved very quickly and had her arm in his grasp once again. When he pushed her against the wall again, she cracked her head against it hard; she saw spots briefly.
When she’d regained her senses, he was groping her, feeling her breasts and kissing her neck. Her mind screamed in indignation as she shifted into her wolf form. She dropped to all fours, and Austin nearly fell over. His face hit the wall; he yelped and put his hands over his face.
Lucy moved behind him and waited to be noticed. Seconds later, he jerked around when she growled menacingly behind him. He stared at her wolf form, terror in his face. She didn’t move; she didn’t have to. He looked around, looking for Lucy the person, but she was gone. His mind, in its drunken haze, couldn’t understand what had happened.
Lucy the wolf growled again, louder this time. Austin lifted his hands in a defensive position, preparing for an attack. But Lucy did not move. She had no intention of injuring this man; she wasn’t supposed to shift in the city. Attacking him would draw attention to her. When he didn’t run away, she let out a quiet howl that ended in a frightening growl. She smelled urine; he’d pissed himself in fright. Her wolf face smiled, and Austin finally ran away. She chased him briefly, no more than ten yards, then stopped and made a noise that sounded like a giggle.
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