Friday, 21 November 2014

The dog sniffled at it a bit

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The dog sniffled at it a bit, but soon backed away with its tail between its legs.
“Bad aftershave?” she joked.
“Huh?” he said. He still seemed to be watching the dog as if it would get brave and come back for his jacket.
“Your aftershave scares dogs away,” she explained.
“Not wearing any.” He bent down and snagged the jacket from the park bench with a finger.
“It was meant to be a joke,” she over explained.
“I know. It just wasn’t very funny.”
She huffed out a breath. This was the worst first date ever. This guy was so stiff and wooden that she had spent the whole night talking too much to try and cover the silences. He seemed uncomfortable and distracted in the restaurant so, in desperation, she had suggested coming up to the lookout, but that had been a really bad idea as well. They had actually got out of the car to look at the view. Who did that?
“This isn’t working, Daniel,” she said. She sounded as disappointed as she felt. He was everything she liked in a man: available and he owned a car. It was even a nice car.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s not y-”
“You say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ and I swear to god I will kick you.”
He stood there, with his mouth hanging open and then shut it again.
She tried to get into the car but it was locked. After waiting for a beat she asked, “So?” and waved at the car.
“Oh, right.” He dug around in the pocket of his jacket and then looked up at her with a horrified face. “The keys...”
“Oh, crap. Did you drop them?”
“I don’t know.” He was looking in the direction that the dog had run.
“You are not suggesting that the dog stole them?”
“No.” He started to stare at the ground, scanning his eyes back and forth.
“It’s pitch black! You’ll never find them.”
“I have to look; we can’t stay here all night.”
“How would staying here even help?”
“I might be able to see them when the sun comes up,” he said desperately.
Her bag was locked inside the car and she had noticed that his phone was on the car charger. They had nothing and no way to call for roadside assistance, or even phone a friend. There was no way she was staying here all night... with him.
She made an annoyed sound and just started walking down the access road.
“You can’t walk all the way home,” he said.
She ignored him and kept walking.
“Paula,” he shouted after her. “You can’t walk alone.”
“So, you had better come with me,” she said to herself, but in seconds she heard his feet as he ran after her.
He walked in silence next to her for a few minutes before asking, “Whose house is closer?” They compared addresses.
“Mine is,” she said. “I can break in. My keys are locked inside your car.”
“No spare key under the welcome mat?”
Now he gets chatty, she thought. “No.”
The road was very steep and she had the wrong shoes on; she wore date shoes, not trainers and the last thing they were designed for was walking down steep hills but if she took them off she would ruin her stockings.
She was starting to get a blister as well. That made up her mind for her.
After limping along for a bit, she said, “Hold up. I need to take these off.”
He stood and watched her take her shoes off.
They were almost at the bottom of the lookout road. It was clearly badly sealed because she could feel sharp gravel sticking into her feet, but at least it had a streetlight. “Turn around,” she begged.
“I need to take my stockings off.”
“O-okay.” He turned his back.
“Can you step back towards me? I need to hang onto something.”
Silently, he backed another step towards her. She hoisted her skirt up around her waist, then reached up with one hand, holding his shoulder with the other, she balanced on one leg and pulled her stocking down. From the side of the road she could see the street light reflect in an animal’s eyes. “Hey, that dog is back.”
He glanced over his shoulder in the exact direction that the animal was. She thought that was kind of odd; he couldn’t see where she was looking.
“That’s not a dog,” he said, his voice low and quiet.
She was finally done with her stockings and hauled her skirt back down. He shuffled around and stood between her and the animal. He was staring intently at it; his whole body tense.
“Daniel?” she checked.
His arms reached back to stop her moving. “Stand very still.”
“It’s a mountain lion.”
“I don’t think it will attack us,” he added.
“Why not?” A woman had been attacked by one weeks ago as she walked down to her mailbox.
She felt his hand fumble for hers. Holding his hand and pressed up against his back was the closest they had been all night and she felt better for it. Then she realised that he hadn’t answered her question. “Why won’t it attack us?” she asked again.
“I scare away dogs, remember?”
She frowned. The dog had been scared but the mountain lion wasn’t. It actually paced carefully on giant paws out of the shadows and closer towards them.
She let go of his hand and gripped the top of his arms; peering around his body. He stepped sideways and she shuffled across with him. She was starting to be alarmed.
“I didn’t want to do this,” he said. “Paula, don’t panic. It will be alright.”
“What?” she sounded vaguely hysterical to herself.
“Hang on.”
She felt his body tense and then he growled at the mountain lion.
Actually growled. She could feel it vibrate through his body and it sounded totally like a wild animal.
She emitted a startled squeak.
The mountain lion decided that they were too much trouble, and it reared back and bounded away.
Paula darted around and stared up into Daniel’s face. His eyes were very yellow when they had been blue, and his mouth barely closed over his teeth. He blinked at her, and as she watched, his face seemed to fade back to normal. How did all those teeth fit back in?
“What was that?” she asked. She was impressed that her voice only shook a little bit.
“I’m a... werewolf.”
He hadn’t actually tried to hide it from her.
“Right. So the dog-?”
“Happens all the time. They get my scent-”
“A werewolf?”
He shrugged. “You were very brave.”
“Are you changing the subject?”
“I felt something in your back pocket,” she said.
He frowned.
“Your keys,” she said.
He patted his own butt and then he snorted, and that turned into a full bodied laugh. In a moment she was laughing with him. Maybe it was stress relief, maybe it was so ridiculous that they were half way between the car and her house and the keys were literally the last thing they needed right now, but they both laughed until they cried. And then, she kissed him.
He kissed her back and it was really good.
And then he held her hand, and she carried her shoes in the other hand. They chatted and they walked on the concrete pavement until her feet hurt. Then he carried her the rest of the way home. She fell asleep; her face pressed in against his neck.
He woke her up with a kiss to ask how she was going to break in.
“Stay. My house is closer to the lookout.”
“You’re sure?”
She nodded.
“I can jog back to get the car in the morning.”
“This is the best first date, ever,” she mumbled at him.
© AM Gray 2014

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