We sat at my small kitchen table, idly drinking some coffee. The silence was louder than any harsh words could hope to be. I hated feeling this way about Liz. She had always been a good friend to me. Always been there to lend an ear or help me with school when I wasn't getting it. Even trusted me enough to tell me a deep secret of hers. But, obviously, it wasn't the only secret she had kept.
"Are we ever going to get this elephant out of the room?"
Her voice pulled me from my in-depth examination of my coffee cup. She wasn't looking at me, at first glance it would be hard to tell if we even noticed one another. We simply sat, drinking our coffee, until Liz broke the dam of silence.
"You mean the big, furry elephant that likes to play during the full moon?" it came out much more aggressive than I had meant it to.
Liz flinched as if my words were as sharp and biting as a whip.
"Yeah... that one" she said finally.
Another few moments of dragging silence stretched on.
"Liz," I said finally because this awkwardness was seriously starting to wear me down but Liz stopped me.
"Look, Harley, I know this is ridiculous. I know there is no reason in this God-given Earth that you should just believe me. But I wish you would..."
She looked back down to her coffee and took a slow drink. When she set her cup back on the table, she finally locked her blue eyes on mine, seizing my attention.
"Because I am a werewolf. Straight from the story books, but so much more real. No amount of logic will explain it, no amount of disbelieving will make it not true. You should have never found out but you saw the proof that morning in your bedroom. Even if you're fighting against it, eventually you would have begun to believe."
I stayed quiet because she was spilling her side of this story out to me, and I really did want to understand her. I wanted to understand why she was saying what she was. Listening to her, I found myself wishing I did believe. I wanted this to be true because I didn't want my best friend to be crazy. But I just couldn't.
"Show me," I said finally. Her shoulders tensed right in front of me, the muscles in her jaw clenching tight.
"No," she said softly.
"No, Harley," and this time her voice was more commanding.
I waited a few moments, thumbing over the rim of my coffee cup.
"If you want me to believe you, then you need to get over yourself and fucking show me. Right here, right now Liz or I swear I am going to call the fucking mental hospital to pick you up."
She looked hurt; All that careful concrete determination slipping away at the threat I gave her. I didn't want to do that. I don't know for sure if I could actually do that to her, but she needed to understand just how important it was for her to prove this to me. Maybe, she would see that it was all in her head.
She looked away from me, then, her eyes dropping down to her hands as they lay on my kitchen table. She seemed to visibly struggle with herself over this. I still couldn't understand why. It should have been pretty simple, right? Prove it or get over it.
"Fine," she grumbled under her breath finally and I felt my muscles stiffen. She stood to her feet, taking a step away from the table and began unbuttoning her dress.
"Whoa," I said holding up a hand, "why are we getting naked now?" Yeah, we were burlesque dancers and nudity was part of the job but it wasn't like a way of life. Outside the context of the club, I liked my women still very much clothed.
Liz sighed, rolling her eyes now and simply continued to undress.
"I like that dress too much to ruin it. Sorry, you're just going to have to deal with it."
I didn't look at her as she set the dress, folded, on my table. I tried to keep eye contact, but since she was refusing to look me in the eye that made it difficult.
"Just remember... you're the one who asked for this. Please don't freak out on me."
She wasn't being flippant anymore. Her words were much sadder, more melancholy than before. A tone born of sad, hard experience. I resolved to try to stay as calm as possible, which shouldn't be hard, right? Since she was just crazy and all. Right? The why was my heart suddenly in my throat?
That was the first time I felt it. That electrical charge in the air, searching out for something to grasp onto. It was as if the air itself was alive and sentient. I fought past the suffocating energy that fought to push past my lips and pour down my throat, tried to focus on the small blond woman in front of me. Only there was no more woman.
What stood before me was like nothing I had ever seen before.
The thin frame of my friend filled out before my eyes, each lean muscle in her arms and legs appeared to grow and thicken. Her legs seemed wrong. They were twisted slightly at the calf in a very inhuman way. Even her back and neck were stretched longer than normal and her shoulders hunched forward.
Her eyes were still very blue and very human and they bore into me with an overwhelming sense of despair. She hadn't wanted me to see her like this. She had said that before, but this wasn't the wolf I had seen before. The muscles around her eyes strained and that's when I knew she wasn't done.
A shrill howl of pain erupted from her throat, almost a scream, and she thrashed in on herself. Whatever was happening to her, she was fighting it tooth and nail to the very end. I didn't remember this part of the werewolf lore.
My skin was cold now. All the heat seemed to be sucked out of my body by that strange energy and I realized it was coming from her.
I watched as, before my eyes, Liz shifted from the girl I knew to the wolf that had rescued me the other night. The wolf stared up at me, a sad sideways glance of uncertainty, and didn't move. We both just stood still, staring at one another, too afraid to spook the other.
They were real. Werewolves were fucking real. And my best friend was one. Holy shit.
I had no idea what to do. Should I scream? Should I be afraid? Afraid of what, Liz? Of course, this wasn't Liz in front of me. Or was it?
"Oh my God," I finally whispered, the only sentence my mind could put soon as I was able to say that, the synapses in my brain began to spark to life again and I could feel my pulse began to speed up, my hands shake, my eyes stretch impossibly wide.
"Oh my God!" I shouted this time, taking a step back only to catch my knees on my chair dropping me rather haphazardly onto the seat. I clutched the back of the chair to keep from falling but my eyes never left the wolf in front of me.
Her head lowered and she slowly sunk her large graceful body to the floor, resting her snout between her paws. She stared up at me and I swear I saw tears in her eyes. A crying wolf. What the hell...
This was beyond reason. Beyond even imagination and yet here she was.
"All this time..." I managed in a trembling voice, fighting to stay sitting instead of running out of my apartment. "Were you always like this? Always a... a..."
I couldn't bring myself to say it.
A soft whine sung from her nose and I couldn't tell if that was in agreement or argument.
I shot up to my feet but, amazingly, didn't run for the front door. Where I did find myself going was straight to the cupboard above my sink and grabbing a half-full bottle of Whiskey and a glass. I went to pour a shot with trembling hands, nearly spilling it all over the counter. Not wanting to waste the alcohol I was so desperately in need of at that moment, I decided straight from the bottle was best and tipped it back, gulping down a large, burning drink. When I turned back around, I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and looked down at my best friend, still whining pathetically in my direction.
One more drink.
Hissing through the burn enveloping my mouth I moved back to the chair and sat down, bottle clutched in my hand as if it were my last lifeline.
As I brought the bottle back to my lips for my third swallow I felt that warm current-like energy push at me again but I was just too mentally spent to fight it. Let it swallow me whole, who fucking cares? I kept my gaze on the bottle in my hands, chugging down two, three swallows before pulling it from my mouth.
I licked the sweet yet fiery alcohol off my lips, taking note that doing so only fueled my thirst for the entire contents of my Whiskey bottle. Liz's voice was barely registering past my sudden need for that drink.
"Harley, talk to me. Please," she tried once more.
What did she expect from me? Everything, right down to the laws of nature, had just been shown to be a big fat lie. Everything I knew about Liz, everything I knew about reality, was shattered. Did she expect me to open my arms in welcome to this realization? To not mourn over the only truth I had known? What did she want from me? Talk to her, she had said. What the Hell did she want me to say? I said the only thing I could right then.
"Go home, Liz."