The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.
One hundred feet was all that separated them. Kenny surveyed the otherworldly creature: long glossy hair, sparkling eyes, gleaming teeth. Sweating a river, he swallowed, felt his heart beating against his chest like a convict on the bars of his prison cell. Wiping his sleeve against his damp forehead, he forced himself to approach. He would face his fate like a man–sexism be damned–even if it killed him. With his social skills, he’d likely die of embarrassment anyway.
“Excuse me,” he said to the lone librarian.
She turned penetrating green eyes on him, eyes that would have terrified a thousand schoolchildren with the mere idea of a scolding, eyes that bored into his soul from behind thick black rims and bifocal lenses. Those emerald orbs looked him up and down like a cat examining its dinner. “Yes?” she answered. A smile curled the corners of full pink lips; she watched him squirm beneath her gaze.
“I…,” replied Kenny. He prayed for a heart attack to end his torment.
Her grin widened, revealing slightly uneven teeth. This close, he noticed freckles scattered across her nose like assorted tic tacs. Her imperfections increased his desire as he realized he was being absurd. She was a person–not something to be fawned over, but someone he could talk to. He was being ridiculous, he could-
“Would you go out with me?” The question erupted from his mouth before his brain could catch up.
Her eyes grew larger, then lit up as her mouth widened into a lopsided grin. “I’m…working. Right now.”
“Later then? When do you get off?” His mouth had decided to go solo, but since things were going well his brain didn’t seem to mind.
“In a few minutes actu-actually, but, but the library is closing, I was just about to lock up. I need to ch-ch-change sssso you’d better go…for now. Right now.”
A stutter? Adorable!
“That’s okay. I’ll wait.” Way to go, mouth. But wait, why was she nervous? She liked him a minute ago. Was she trying to get rid of him?
“I’m Kenny, by the way. And you are..?” His mouth was on autopilot now.
The librarian hurried to the door, jingling a large metal ring of keys conspicuously near the waist of her pencil skirt. “Betty. I’m so-so-sorrrrrry but go nnnoOWWWWLLLL!” She screamed loud and long, and bent double, clutching her abdomen. She grabbed Kenny for support, her face contorted with…pain? Could pain stretch the skin across her face like–
“Great Caesar’s Ghost!” cried Kenny, struggling to pry her nails from his arm. As Betty performed the type of bodily stretches even yoga instructors avoided, he extricated himself from her grasp. He watched her transform, horrified–her enormous lupine body now blocked his only exit. He knew he should run, bolt, hide, but his legs refused to move.
The wolf turned emerald green eyes on Kenny, towered over his quivering form, and…smiled? It was hard to tell with her thick pink tongue hanging out and all the drool.
“Damn, I’m so embarrassed!” growled Betty, sloppy tears leaking from eyes the size of tennis balls. “I meet a nice guy and transform in front of him! I can’t believe I-uh, did you….?” Her elongated nose sniffed his crotch, where a large dark stain spread. Ashamed, she pulled back her nose. “Sorry about…that.”
Was she was apologizing for the sniff or the leak?
“It’s not exactly first date stuff,” she said, meekly. At least, he thought she did; she was talking through a mouth full of teeth and tongue.
This was too much, even for Kenny. He edged toward the door when she shifted position. “Okay, I see you’re really busy tonight–you warned me! I mean, I didn’t think you meant changing changing, know what I mean, but no hard feelings, I’ll get out and leave you ahhh…alone?” He viewed her ripped clothes; the pencil skirt split down the middle, had landed on an endcap of supernatural romances.
Fate was just plain mean.
“Oh, I’m sorry! It’s just bad timing, isn’t it?” Remarkably, she spoke more clearly. Were-Betty fumbled with the keys in the door, her claws making the simple task cumbersome, but finally she held the door wide. “I’m so embarrassed. These winter hours! It gets dark so soon, I’m just blathering, aren’t I? I’ll just stay in, catch up on my graphic novels, and-”
“Graphic novels?” said Kenny, one foot out the door. “You read graphic novels?”
“Well, yeah. I know I could read the comics individually, but I like binge-reading. I special ordered the newest Walking Dead, so-”
“Wait, you read The Walking Dead?” said Kenny, pausing despite himself. This was an aspect of the library he had frankly never considered.
“Sure! I can show you what we have but, uh, don’t you want to…?” She waved one long paw in the direction of his dampened pants. He noticed her nose curl and felt responsible, petrified, mortified.
“Maybe when you come back tomorrow I can show you?” Betty looked like she was batting her eyes at him. It was disturbing.
No one was perfect though, right? Where was he going to find a hot librarian that liked comics and him? Kenny shrank again. What was he thinking? He couldn’t come back here! Maybe he’d phone up with a fake voice, ask for a loan through the mail or-
“Again, so sorry. Just go. I’ll use your library info to email you how to check out the digital comics-”
She didn’t blame him. How could she? She would, of course, track him; though her nose was sufficient, there was no need to resort to something that crude. She’d use the library’s technology. Besides, she’d noticed the fresh scratches on his arm. A month was plenty of time for him to get used to the idea of her condition–as well as his own. He’d be back. After all, he’d need answers. What better place to get them than the library?