[Story] A Story a Week 3

[[ Prompt: A re-telling of a fairy tale

I had a hard time choosing a fairy tale. There are a lot out there! I also thought about writing my own new one. In the end I kept coming back to one of my favorite subjects, werewolves. And especially lady werewolves who like other ladies. I hope my Big Bad Wolf is a little less predatory – and has a happier ending. ]]

 

I smelled her before I saw her. That’s usually the way it happens now, and I don’t think very much of it normally. People smell of smoke or unwashed hair, of cloying perfumes or face creams to make them look younger. She was different. She smelled like the spring after a gentle rain, when the sun warms the fresh blooms and there’s just the hint of a breeze. Look, I realize how that sounds. That’s why I don’t say this things out loud to people. But I was curious. How could I not be? I wanted to follow her without looking like I was following her. It’s easy, sometimes, but she was more perceptive than most. She was walking down the sidewalk with her groceries balanced on her hip, her other hand thrust into the pouch of her red hoodie. Either a phone or mace, it’s hard to say. I’d never seen her before — or smelled her, I should say. I’m new to the area, that’s the polite way people say it. The truth is that I have to keep moving. It’s only a matter of time before things get discovered and I can’t get caught, I won’t. I never hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it, but of course the law doesn’t see it that way. And sometimes there are others. I’ve never seen them, but I’ve smelled them. To someone like me, it’s like a neon sign of scent pointing a big arrow toward where they live. To encroach on someone else’s hunting ground is not only rude, it’s dangerous. I’ve looked it up on the internet, wanting to see if there’s some kind of secret forum or registry or something. I haven’t found it yet. But it must exist somewhere, right? We’re social creatures by nature.

I nudged my bike forward and around the block, where I knew she’d have to cross the street. The other way was nothing but old warehouses and empty shop fronts. I knew she wouldn’t be going there. I tried to make it look casual, like I just happened to pull up to the same street as she had; not like I’d been following her for blocks.

“Hey,” I said, trying not to stare. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t have my helmet on, in hindsight maybe that was a bad choice.

She paused mid-step, analyzing me. Her pace resumed, a little quicker. Damn.

“I’m sorry,” I explained. “I’m just new to the neighborhood and I was hoping you could point me to the grocery.” I nodded toward her brown paper sack. There was a bouquet of flowers poking out of the top, wrapped in cellophane. Damn. I hoped they weren’t for someone else.

The girl assessed me again. Her eyes were intent and green. I could see the wisps of her hair poking out from beneath her sweatshirt. It was red. I mean, the hoodie was, but so was her hair. It was glorious. “Oh,” she breathed, audibly relieved. “I just thought–” She shifted the bag of groceries. It looked heavy. I wanted to offer to carry it for her, but that would be weird, wouldn’t it? She pointed back the way she’d came. “Down that way three blocks, then left. It’s small but the prices are pretty good. You’re new here?” she asked me, a brow lifting slightly. It’s almost that she sensed it was a bullshit story. Who would move here on purpose?

“Thanks,” I said, my mind racing for something else to ask. Instead I just sat there atop my idling engine, awkwardly.

“There’s a laundromat on this block,” she pointed out. I followed where she was looking. The place looked abandoned, but I could smell the sharp tang of laundry soap from inside, so someone had to be waiting for their clothes to wash.

I decided to go for it. The worst that could happen is that she’d just walk off. No, I guess the worst could be pepper spray or the police. “What do you do for fun around here?” I asked.

She didn’t spray me, in fact she gave me a little crooked smile. It was adorable. “Me? Or people in general.”

“Both,” I said.

She lifted her shoulders in a little shrug. “I’m not sure what other people do. Probably drugs. I like to paint though. Pretty boring really.”

I didn’t think it was boring. I thought it was perfect. I imagined that she had a hundred little sketchbooks, filled with doodles and half-written notes and studies from coffee shops. I wondered if she ever painted portraits. I didn’t ask that out loud, of course, because that would be creepy. I still went for creepy, just slightly less creepy. “Wow,” I said. I wanted to ask if she was going home to paint, but I caught myself in time. It was debatable whether or not I could have got away with that one.

As if she’d sensed my thoughts, she started to walk again, though with less purpose now. As if she was thinking it over, debating. I saw my opportunity.

“If there’s a place to get coffee around here,” I said, “maybe we could get some? I mean, after you put your groceries away.”

“Oh,” she said, her head doing that sympathetic head-tilt. That’s bad news. “I would love to, really, but I already have plans this afternoon. I have to visit my Nana. That’s who the flowers are for,” she gestured to them.

I could go with, I wanted to say, but how weird would that be? Here’s someone I just met on the street. “What about after?”

She smiled. “All right. After.”

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