Emily sat across from him at a table draped with a red satin tablecloth. Her champagne flute remained untouched as she searched for the words to say.
“I’m sorry Jacob, but,” she paused averting her gaze. “It’s not you it’s me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think I’m ready for a long term relationship. It’s just too much right now. You’re great, truly. But I think it’s best if we take a break.”
“For how long?” he asked, sadness crept into his voice.
She sighed quietly. “I’ll let you know. I’m sorry,” she said rising from the table leaving him alone, head hanging.
He watched her go, her heels clicking against the black and white tiled floor of the Italian restaurant. *Well, this version didn’t work either. Maybe she really wasn’t ready for a long term relationship,* he wondered.
*Or. Maybe she doesn’t realize just how much she needs me.* He dropped a stack of money on the table and slipped into the night. Heavy rain drops began to fall as he made his way toward Emily’s apartment.
Emily tossed herself down onto her couch and pulled her plush robe around herself. She clutched the warm cup of tea between her hands and drank deeply.
*This is what I want,* she smiled.
A quiet scratching turned her head. *Probably the storm.* She turned the TV to listen to the home decorator explain their choices for the house they had just flipped.
The scratching came again, more urgently this time. She set her tea down, her bare feet whispered across the floor as she made her way to the front door. She had to stand on her toes to see through the small peephole.
“I’m just hearing things,” she tried to convince herself.
Another series of frantic scratching turned her head toward the window. She grabbed an umbrella and gripped it like a baseball bat. Lightning flashed outside her apartment, the brilliant light briefly illuminating a small shape on her fire escape.
A quiet meow came from the window as a reply to her question.
“You poor thing!” she cooed as she opened the window and lifted the soaking wet kitten inside. The cat meowed happily and pressed its head against her plush robe.
Emily dried him off and got a small dish of tuna fish for the cat. It didn’t have a collar or anything that could help her identify who the cat could possibly belong to.
“Well, I need to call you something. Any ideas?”
*Jacob,* the cat thought to himself and meowed again.
“How about Hamlet?”
Jacob meowed again. *Doesn’t matter to me as long as you love me.*
Thanks for reading! Check out /r/Written4Reddit for more stories!
"Raul," crooned Raul in a very suspicious French accent, as he took the lady's hand and graced his eager lips on it. "Let me guess," he continued, releasing his grip and pulling a chair out from the table. "Sit, please. Let me guess, you're a Mari- no, no, you're a Cassandra? I'm right, am I not?"
*Suave.* Yes, that was what he would be today.
The woman's botoxed forehead tried its best to frown, her lips fighting (and losing) a similarly uneven battle. "How on Earth did you know that?"
Raul slicked his dark hair back with ringed fingers. "Your beauty, it was that of a Maria, or a Cassandra, and there was a certain radiance that could be of no Maria. I see, no wrinkle has dared to blight your perfect face -- that tells me all I need to know." He lowered his voice to a rippling whisper. "*All I need to know.*"
Cassandra giggled through perfectly still lips as she slid into a seat. "My," she said, "You are a charmer. And that accent... Australian?"
"Yes. I'm certain of it. I've got an aunt who lives there, and strike me down if you don't sound *just the same!* Don't worry -- she's a smoker."
Raul cursed himself silently. He hadn't done enough research for the role. No, it was fine -- he'd improvise.
"Yes, mate. Good catch."
He sat in his seat and raised a hand, clicking his fingers to gain the attention of a waiter. "If I had a bloody boomerang, I'd get us the wine myself," he said with a wink.
Another half chuckle as the waiter approached. Raul knew her very favourite drink, her very favourite food... Yes, this time he'd get the pudding he'd been after for so long. But he had to be confident. She liked confident.
"Lambrusco, for the lovely Sheila. And the house re- a uh..."--he swallowed hard--"Fosters for me."
The waiter lifted his head and eyed Raul snobbishily. "*House Fosters*, sir?"
"Yeah," Raul replied, tugging at his shirt. "You know, out of the house tap."
"Very good, sir. And to eat?"
"Pie and chips for the lady, and... do you do anything off the barbie?"
"Struth. Just a burger then, mate."
The lady eyed Raul with suspicion. "I wouldn't normally let someone order for me, but... How did you know I loved pies?"
"Know? Oh, that you're a classy pie lass? Well, it's obvious ain't it."
"It is to me. A lady who would wear a fashionable tracksuit like that, to a place like this, well, she'd be after the fanciest meal on the whole bloody menu."
If she could have smiled she would have done, Raul hoped. God, she was beautiful. Beneath all that make up. Maybe. Raul began to sweat. This was the best any of their dates had gone *to date*. He couldn't mess it up now. It was time to lay his heart on the table.
"Look, Cassandra, I'm gonna' level with you. I think you're mighty fine, and I reckon you think I'm fine. I mean, I figure I'm the sort of guy you'd normally go for."
Cassandara shrugged. "Eh."
"Eh? What do you mean, 'eh'"?
"You're a little too pretty-boy, for my tastes, to be honest."
"You can't be serious. You can't be bloody serious! I've seen all the men you've rejected. What the hell is left?"
Cassandra went tense. "You've *seen* the men I've been out with?"
"Well I er, oh struth," Raul said sadly, knowing he couldn't stop it now. The man's stylish exterior began to wilt, his skin flaking to reveal the green monstrosity beneath. Screams echoed about the restaurant and cutlery migrated high in all directions.
"Wh-what kind of monster are you?" asked Cassandra, her lips trying desperately to quiver.
"Me?" Raul asked, a rage in the pit of his stomach rising. "Me?! What the hell kind of monster are *you*? -- That's the real question! I've tried *everything* to please you. I've been Brad bloody Pitt and Oscar bloomin Wilde. Nothing makes you happy. Nothing!" He realised at this point that he didn't *need* to keep the accent up, but there was something rather bloody pleasing about it.
"Th-hey were *you*?"
Raul's skin began to change again, his black hair falling out in thick clumps, while greasy blonde hair sprouted hurriedly in its place. It took only seconds for Cassandra to be face to face with... Cassandra.
"This," said the new Cassandra, as it got up from its seat, "Is the only person I think you could ever love. You are the worst specimen of any creature I've ever met. And I've been to the Betelgeuse system *and* Scotland. Good day to you!"
Raul/Cassandra had almost stomped its way to the door, when it heard the plaintive scream from behind and stopped in its tracks.
The other Cassandra came running up to it.
"What do you want now? Come to mock me one last time?"
"Mock? No! I'd never mock someone like you. Mmm mm mmmm, you are *gorgeous*. I think... I think I was a bit hasty. How about one more try?" she asked with a salacious wink.
Raul/Cassandra smiled. *Finally*.
"Can you change *any* part of your body?" she inquired as they walked back towards their table.
"Hey, are you okay?"
Maria wiped the tears from her cheeks. She sniffled, looking anywhere but the man standing next to her. She'd gone to the pier to be alone not have random strangers approach her.
"I-I'm fine," Maria looked out toward the ocean, watching as the whitecaps broke and wove over each other, and how the seagulls and birds flew through the stormy grey sky.
The man leaned against the railing of the pier next to her. "Well, I hope you don't mind me saying, but you look like your dog just died."
Maria sniffed again, her lips curling downward as she gripped the leash in her pocket.
There was a pause and the man sighed. "Shit, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean-"
"No, no, it's okay," Maria said. "This was... this was Max's favorite place to go for our walks. He, um, he was a weird dog, but I loved him. I've had him for so long."
A handkerchief appeared on the railing and Maria wiped her tear stained cheeks. "Thank you."
"Sounds like a hell of a dog." The man mused.
"He was," Maria nodded. "He always protected me, heck, he even slept in my bed. He did *not* like my boyfriends." She smiled.
"Sounds like a good boy. Dog's can sense that, you know? If a person is good enough for their person."
Maria laughed at that. "Well, he also ate my Italian heels and destroyed two couches, so he had his ups and downs."
The man snorted. "Sounds like an ass."
"He was a good boy," Maria mused. She cleared her throat and offered the man back his handkerchief. "Thank you."
"No problem," the man turned finally and smiled as he took it from her.
Maria paused, her eyes roving over the tanned face and black hair, and the mans eyes. "You have his eyes."
The man blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"He was a husky mix, he had mismatched eyes."
The man slowly blinked again before he shrugged, an amused smile on his face. "I've had a lot of people comment on my eyes, but never that I looked like a dog."
Maria gasped. "O-Oh, no, I didn't-"
The man laughed. "Hey, it's okay." He offered her his hand. "What's your name?"
"Maria," she blushed as she shook his hand. "What's yours?"
"Maximillion, but Max for short." he winked, then spoke in a lower whisper. "My parents were weird. They named the dog Ted."
Maria laughed at that. She flushed when she realized Max had watched her, a warm smile on his face.
"Hey, I've heard there's supposed to be a coffee shop near here... do you want to go? I'd love to hear more about your Max."
Maria nodded. She gave the ocean one last glance before she pulled out the leash from her pocket. Max covered it with his hand, taking her hand with his.
"Come on, let's get out of the rain."
Nate had sort of backed himself into a corner. Having been on as many dates with Amaya as he had, the walls were closing in on him. He had to pretend not to know all her answers to common first date questions (2 siblings, parents divorced when she was little, works in accounting), and if he ever misstepped, the game was up. It was a high-wire act that no one was aware of but him.
But that's what made it fun.
He was fine with the double life he'd have to lead if it worked, that was nothing new to him. Nate was all things to all people, and it made the minutiae of life constantly entertaining. He realized Amaya had been talking for a few minutes and he hadn't been paying attention to any of it. Now she was looking at him expectantly.
He took a shot in the dark. "I work in finance," he said. That wasn't a lie, he was actually a financial planner. She nodded amicably. Nate let out an internal sigh of relief, he'd nailed it.
"Do you come here often?" Amaya asked.
"Yeah, I love Spider House," Nate replied.
"Weird, I've never seen you here. This is, like, my favorite place in the world." Nate tried not to let a smile sneak out. He always found these kinds of situations really amusing; if he just got out with it, he could turn worlds upside down. He never did, though.
"Yeah, it's because I'm a shapeshifter," he said through a cheeky grin. Amaya laughed. Nate laughed.
Jess could pinpoint exactly when she first thought her feelings were wrong: eighth grade after Advanced Algebra. Her friend Katie got an 82% on a test— and that was disastrously low for Katie’s norm, and considered even lower by her parents standards. Jess spent the rest of the class period trying to cheer her friend up:
“It’s one test— it doesn’t define you. You’re amazing and good at everything. You’re kind and pretty, and this is just a small hiccup! I know you’ll ace the next test! I know it! We can study together— and you’ll probably be saving me from failing, like you normally do.”
When Katie smiled back at her, with a red nose, and puffy eyes, Jess knew that she felt something more for her friend.
Jess, of course, buried her feelings. By no means was she homophobic, but every time she began to feel something for a friend or looked too long at a woman that walked by, she felt unsure of herself, felt like others would somehow know what she was thinking and judge her. So she buried it down— at least, until college.
Jess decided that she would at least try to get into the dating world. She’d go to parties with her friends, and when guys would be interested in her, she’d flirt back and have some fun— and she did, in fact, enjoy her time with most of these guys. So she continued to have fun at parties, flirt, have some friends with benefits, but nothing substantial. Jess liked these guys, of course, but nothing felt like the dramatic and raw feeling of love and emotion that she always heard about from her friends. She decided it was time to start seriously dating— time to find Mr Right, and then she would start to understand how all her friends felt with their boyfriends. They even said it themselves, “You just haven’t found the right guy, Jess.”
The first few relationships Jess was in did not last long— barely even a relationships since they were only a handful of dates and kisses over two or three months before parting ways.
Then she met Matt. He was gorgeous— all of Jess’s friends said so— and he was very into her.
“Jess, I haven’t been completely honest,” he said one night during a dinner date two months into their relationship.
“The first time I met you, it wasn’t at that coffee shop. We were actually at the same college— we had a lecture together for one semester. I saw you at a couple parties too.”
“Oh,” Jess said, relieved to find out she wasn’t a side-chick or that his secret wasn’t relationship-ending— but she realized that, maybe she didn’t really care if their relationship ended anyway. “That’s— okay. I don’t remember seeing you though.”
“I realized that at the shop,” he said smiling a bit sheepishly, “but we didn’t really talk and I looked a bit different back then.”
Jess broke up with Matt three months later.
“How could you break up with him? He was so hot!” Regina, her roommate and best friend since college, told her.
“There wasn’t any spark— he was kind of a doormat. He had no personality and went with whatever I said.”
“That sounds like the perfect man to me.” Jess threw the couch pillow at her. “Okay, okay— no man slaves. Hey— wanna watch a movie tonight?”
And Jess never felt more comfortable, more at home, than sharing a blanket with Regina on their couch and watching a crappy movie.
Regina moved out six months later to live with her boyfriend.
“Are you bringing Cam to the engagement party?” Regina asked her half a year later. “Most people Jim and I invited are bring their boyfriends or girlfriends.”
Jess had been dating Cameron for five months now, and things were nice. They liked all of the exact same things, worked in similar fields, had the same hobbies— everyone said they were perfect for each other.
“Yeah, he said he’ll come. You said to come for dinner at eight? Is there anything I could bring? Dessert? Wine?”
“You know we always appreciate more wine— but we’ve got plenty already. All you have to do is bring yourself. And Cam.”
Just a few weeks after Regina’s wedding eight months later, Jess broke it off with Cam. The wedding itself was beautiful, and Jess couldn’t bear to make Regina worry by breaking up with Cam before it.
“But Jess— I love you— we love each other! We love all the same foods and places. We even listen to the same music and watch the same shows— we were perfect for each other this time!”
“That’s the thing, Cam, I don’t want someone who’s the same as me. I don’t want to date myself. I want to date someone that’s different and will push my boundaries— make me try new things— maybe I’ll find things that I never even knew I liked before—“
She thought of all the men she’s dated in the past: they were all the same. They were all Nice Guys that were nice and sweet but had nothing to them— each relationship was hollow and lacked any true, real substance. How many men had she gone on dates with? 15? 20? And none of them made her feel any different. She longed to feel the feelings she felt for her friends with anyone who wasn’t her friends. Maybe, she thought, maybe she could. She was so tired, she had nothing to lose.
“Cam, we’re through. I’m sorry if it’s sudden, but I’m tired— of everything— I have been for a while now, even before I met you.”
“Well... I hope you meet someone one day,” Cam said after a long moment. “Maybe whoever you date next will be the right man for you.”
Jess remained quiet as Cam packed up the few things he had in her apartment. She doubted any man would be right for her.
It took her two weeks to text Regina and ask her to meet her for drinks on Friday night.
“Hey, Jess— isn’t this a gay bar that we’re going to? I heard it’s a lot of fun,” she said while they were walking.
“Yeah— I wanted to check it out,” Jess said. They walked in silence for a minute before Jess’ nerves got to her. “Ok— wait, stop walking for a sec. I— I need to tell you. We’re not going to this bar just for fun— I think I’m bi— or a lesbian. I don’t really know.”
“Oh— okay,” Regina said after a moment. “How long do you think you’ve known?”
“Eighth grade. I told you about Katie from high school right?”
“Oh . Yeah that makes sense,” Regina thought for a moment. “Ok you ready to start walking again? It’s cold.”
Jess couldn’t be happier, and hanging out at a bar with her best friend, and the flutters in her stomach when other women came up to them to flirt— it was one of the best nights she’s had in a long time.
And that same bar is where she met Taylor three weeks later. There was something about her— something that made Jess feel like they knew each other for a long time. They liked a lot of the same things, but were different enough that things were still interesting.
There were some things that were a bit quirky though. Taylor was really bad at shaving her legs— she would always nick them multiple times every time she shaved. She was also really bad with makeup and couldn’t tell concealer from foundation. She never had any pads or tampons in her apartment either. Jess had never asked her about it, but she hoped nothing traumatic happened to Taylor that would cause her period to stop. Taylor also had a whole ton of men’s clothing in her apartment.
For all her quirks though, Jess felt better with Taylor than she had with any of the men in her past.
New town. Small and quiet, perfect for my situation.
The authorities are after me. They know what I am : different, a national threat. They’re aware of what I’ve done. If they catch me it’ll be prison or death, the fate of countless others like me.
Stray dogs and playing children in the streets. Nervously, avoiding eye contact with the receptionist, I book a room at a guesthouse and try to sleep for a couple of hours but to no avail. I get up shower, put on some jeans. Head to the local bar to wind off.
Clouds of smoke, full of loud men. Standing at the threshold, I’m about to leave without getting a drink when she comes up behind me.
“Excuse me, are you getting in?”
Perfect hair, perfect nose. She smiles uneasily on the first date, eyes darting stealthily towards the door of the French restaurant. On the second date, I channel a German tourist and she is bored by my stories of Berlin nightclubs and beer festivals. On the third - me as a lumberjack from a neighboring town - this time she seems interested, eyes sliding across my bulging forearms and she even gives me a peck on the cheek but she doesn’t reply my message the next day. On the fourth, she asks me to walk her home, and I’m surprised because I, stammering and clumsy, had taken the form of a skinny bespectacled bookkeeper, a complete loser, but her interest was at an all time high, giggling and all that, hand resting on my reedy wrist.
She invites me inside. Small and clean place, curtains drawn tight. I sit on an armchair and try to calm my excitement: it’s a perfect time to show this beautiful woman the truth, before things got too heated, when she was least expecting it. Like so many others before her.
I want her to see the real me. As she busies herself in the kitchen, it takes a second to take my true form: tall and gangly, scarred face: the legacies of many a manicured victim.
I take out the little pocket knife and, approaching the kitchen where she is humming, hide it behind my back.
You thought I couldn't tell, but I could. You can change your face, but not your inability to get your face shaved consistently, or the dumpy clothes you always pick, despite seemingly having any body you want.
You can change your dick size, but it doesn't matter because you never get me home anyway. You can't change your shitty taste in books, or music, or the shows you watch, or the way you talk about them, the way you believe the things you consume are the person you are.
You think you can change yourself on the outside and that it will change the way I feel inside, but it never will, because you still can't escape the essential you-ness of you; in fact, it probably prevents you from being able to make those most essential changes. After all, you can be anyone, right? But the problem is, you've only ever understood people for who they appear to be on the outside, and this failure of imagination has lead you to believe that you only are the person you are on the outside.
You thought I couldn't tell, but I could. The next time I smell dollar-store ramen on the breath of a poorly-dressed Brad Pittish guy who just so happens to share all of my tastes, who knows just the movie to recommend, just the perfect little spot we should try for dinner, I will simply knife him, knife you. And you will die, and transform into the pitiable, shapeless mass your kind always are at heart. And everyone will understand immediately what I've done, and why I've done it, and I will walk out into the sunlight, and feel it on my skin, the way I feel it on my skin every time, the way I can only feel it on my skin, because it's the only skin I've got or will ever have. A feeling you cannot ever know.
I'm serious about stabbing you though.
There was something about her stare that caught me. It wasn't the green of her irises nor the deep black of her neverending lashes. It was the curvature underneath her eyes every time she smiled, and the glint in her pupils shining like a shooting star in a cold winter night.
I had never witnessed beauty in such purity, not even in my best shapes. See, she had inner beauty. Every gesture of her was a mirror of the warmth in her soul, of its kindness. Something no shapeshifter can't imitate.
I wanted her. And I wouldn't give up no matter the rejections or the many shatters in my heart. Nothing mattered but her.
Or so I thought.
Three years it took me to understand her taste. She liked them shy and handsome, pensive and profound. I remember the day I conquered her for the first time, the nerves I felt crawling across my chest, the shape I took. Everything.
But it didn't work out. She freaked out when she saw... well let's not talk about what I hide in my basement, it's not there anymore or I should say *they* are not there anymore. We shapeshifters can be quite disgusting to the unknowledgeable.
The second time was much easier yet the nerves were still there, blooming like a rose in late spring. I got her to dine with me in a fancy restaurant. She wore a dress of intense red, it sculpted her figure tightly... what a masterpiece she was. I, of course, wore another suit: a short man with a chiseled jaw. I pretended to be an engineer but the lie merely got so far. Let's just say that before the desserts, the only thing of intense red in our table was my face with her hand plastered on it.
Goddamned rings. They hurt.
Now, I managed to get a third date. I didn't shapeshift this time, my basement is empty and there are no lies in the table. But there's is a gun in my kitchen. I can't deal with the grief of losing her, I thought I could but I cant.
I knew the risks of a woman like this and I accepted them with no complains. But there's a truth I refused to believe. It was clear from the beginning, bright as the sun... as her eyes.
She's pure of soul and I'm rotten inside.
We were never supposed to be.
I try to do it differently each time; short with long hair, tall with a buzz-cut, black, white, Asian, Pacific Islander, optimism, nihilism. Not in any particular order, but never randomly either; I know what she likes. I've had a long time to figure her out- years and years.
When I first arrived in this city, a lonesome, weary traveller, I only hoped to find a home or, at the very least, some semblance of one. The thought of companionship hadn't crossed my mind in ages. When you have lived for as long as I have, after all the trials and failures I've endured, it was difficult to maintain motivation.
I was jaded and I was painfully aware of it. I had fallen into thinking that that would be my eternal, repetitious existence- but when my feet touched the concrete and my lungs took in the smog and my eyes rested upon this city, I found something so paradoxically complex and simple it intrigues me to this day-
I found humanity and everything changed.
Humans are not completely different from the other bastions of civilization I have come across, but they hold a sort of social depth that I had never encountered before. My curiosity was immediately ravenous and seemingly overnight I joined in to the bustling cityscape; Routines, rituals; I made friends and my friends introduced me to coffee. Coffee! What a glorious, glorious thing! Coffee... that's how I met her.
After years of assimilating and joyous investigation of humanity I finally felt as though I was home. The centuries of wandering were over for me; I had found everything I was looking for- or so I thought. Then the day came when I decided to go to a new coffee shop. It was right around the corner the whole time since I arrived and I had never been! It's strange how things like that work out, but there I was, standing in line, trying to decide if I would try something new or go with a classic. She was behind the register. I was so preoccupied by what I was going to get I didn't even see her at first.
"May I have a white chocolate, raspberry mocha with six shots of espresso, please?", I asked when I stepped up to the counter, my gaze locked on the overhead menu searching for something I might flip-flop to.
"Wow, that's what I call a pick-me-up," she said through a chuckle.
"Yeah," my eyes falling to meet hers; one green, one blue- fascinating, "I- I really like coffee."
She pushed a streak of blue hair behind her ear joining it with the rest of the ocean on her head,
"Who doesn't!?", She said, beaming a smile that I felt with every nerve ending. "That will be..."
I was snared. Everyday after that I returned to that shop every chance I could. There was this inexplicable feeling I had that drove me to learn as much as I could about this anomaly- this woman. She must have been intrigued with me as well because after weeks of interactions at the shop, when I felt there was more to know- things that a patron could not ask from a clerk- I asked if she wanted to spend time together outside- anywhere doing anything- and she agreed! Walks through the park turned into lunches, lunches turned into dinners; before long, we were spending every day together. What started as research turned into bliss.
I had long since buried any feeling such as that and feeling it again made me forget the inevitable truth: all things end. One day, her hair colored changed; what was a calm ocean turned into a volcano of red and orange. The smile I had felt ripple through my body diminished, and then came the note:
"I'm sorry. Goodbye."
I have lost so many times. So many times I've picked up and moved- started over; a new town, a new country, new planet, new galaxy. This was a new situation. I wasn't going to give up- not yet. That's when I decided to change form. I had kept the same appearance the whole time I was in that city- I did it for her, but she didn't want that form. So I changed. Whole new me; whole new chance. I found her again, and again, and again- each new me found her and each new me lost her.
It's been countless years since I wandered into that coffee shop and I've tried countless versions of myself trying to hold on to this anomalous woman, but to no avail. In the past I would have moved on, but something keeps me in pursuit. Time has never been an issue for a being such as myself, but for her it's not so kind. Each time I change, I align my appearance to match her age, but I know it won't last forever. As long as we can share time, the pursuit is worth it.