"Hello, thank you for choosing Eye-In-Stein's Drive and Dine tonight! Can I take your order?" It felt like the eight-hundredth time I'd said it, but I forced my tone to be polite anyway. That was the job. Fast food bites.
"Unnghh . . . hunhgn eghhe haghrrrrr ohn egh ouighh ugh hihhhkmmpah."
I gritted my teeth. That was a zombie, certainly. Most didn't maintain control over their tongues when they died, unlike their ghoul cousins. But a job was a job, and I was paid to help the customers no matter what shape they came in, regardless of how many missing body parts they had.
"That was two Fudgy Grey Matters and a side of Hippocampus Fritters?" I confirmed, forcing my voice to remain neutral. "Anything else?"
"Ughgh ouighhhhhhh!" The zombie replied earnestly.
"Oh, two sides of Hippocampus Fritters. I'm sorry, sir," I said, repressing a sigh. "That'll be seven-eighty-nine at the first window."
What followed next was the loudest sound I'd ever heard escape a pair of zombie lips. "Muaghhm!"
"I'm sorry, ma'am," I said forcefully. Reaching up to the side of my head, I clicked the button on the side of my headset and looked to my assistant manager, George. "God, I fucking hate zombies!"
Unfortunately, I'd missed the button on my headset. "Eghcughhs maeughhh!?" Came a screeched moan over the intercom. I didn't know the two sounds could be combined. Ripping the headset from my ears I turned my pleading eyes to George.
"Shit, my headset was still on!" Practically throwing the headset at him, I added, "Quick, take over for me!"
"What the hell are you—" George asked, but stopped when he heard loud screech-moan coming from the headset and put it to his ear. "Why hello, ma'am. I'm sorry for the mistake there. My subordinate forgot his place. Yes. Yes. I'll make sure he's severely disciplined. Yes. Mmhmm. Yes, I'll be happy to give you those Fritters for free. No, I don't hate zombies. Yes, I understand that it's something which can't be helped. No ma'am, I agree, 'rot is beautiful'. Yes, I'll handle your order personally at the first window."
He glared at me. I grinned and shrugged, and he rolled his eyes. He handed the headset back to me and started working on the order for the zombie woman. There was already another person at the drive thru, so I took the next order while George focused on the damage control.
Twenty minutes later we were finished with the dinner rush, and George came back to me, a serious look on his face. "You owe me, Ken." He said, baring his fangs. Even being a werewolf, I always felt uncomfortable staring down a vampire. Especially when he had the ability to fire me.
"Sorry, George," I said, shrinking back from him. I tapped the side of my headset and said, "I thought my headset was off."
George sighed, looking me over with a critical eye. "I know . . ." he hesitated, his features quickly softening. "But you shouldn't say those things anyway. They're our valued customers."
I rolled my eyes, scoffing. "Yeah, right, like you've never grown tired of the stench at the window when a zombie comes driving up in his minivan full of severed parts."
George shrugged, and his eyes turned tired. "I can only smell blood, dude. You're the one with the nose. Zombies may smell a little stale, but it's not the worst thing in the world."
I shook my head. Zombies smelled like rotting flesh, like a kill gone sour. Not that I knew much about fresh kills. I was a werewolf of the modern age, which meant real flesh from the human world was a rare treat indeed, and I'd never hunted it myself.
But I was still a werewolf, and that meant I had a nose as good as any canine. I could smell zombie a mile away downwind. Getting used to that smell wasn't on my 'to do' list. "Man, they fuck up my nostrils for hours."
"I guess we've each got our problems," George said, turning away from me. I sensed something was wrong and stepped after him, putting a concerned hand on his upper back. I was amazed at how cold he felt compared to the usual warm bodies I associated with.
Contrary to the legends rampant in the human world, vampires are not undead. Instead they are a race of cold-blooded hominids who once lived in caves alongside modern humans. Legend has a funny way of making difference into villainy.
Of course, the fact that the vampires fed on the humans might have had something to do with that. But you can't blame us, can you? I mean, nature is nature.
I was feeling a bit of my nature coming out when I touched George and some of my warmth seeped into him. I had the distinct urge to warm him up the rest of the way, with my naked body against his, rutting him like an animal.
Don't read too much into that. I'm a teenage werewolf. I sometimes feel that way about streetlamps.
But thankfully I knew how to keep my hormones in check. I'd had years of practice. I simply removed my hand from George's back as if it had never been there and asked, "Yeah? What's going on with you?"
George snorted. "You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. I have no idea," I replied. "Let me in on what's wrong."
"Have you seen the schedule for tomorrow?" He asked.
"You're working," I shrugged. "So what?"
George raised an eyebrow and stared at me, "It's Halloween."
"Yeah . . ." I said, not completely understanding. Yeah, Halloween is the biggest holiday in the monster realm. Yes, a lot of people cared about it, but those people weren't me. As far as I was concerned, it was just another day off.
Of course, fast food never closes, and so our store was open. They were closed for dinner though, so that Halloween Night would be open for celebrations. I didn't see how it would be a big deal to work it, but it was obviously a big deal to George. "Do you want me to work for you or something? I mean, I'm not an assistant manager, but maybe you could talk to Jenny or something and we can work it out."
George seemed to ignore my offer entirely. "You don't care about Halloween? Doesn't your family get together? Don't you feast on some high quality raw steak or something?"
"No, we've never really done anything huge," I replied. "I mean, we give gifts and my Dad usually does a special breakfast. Raw Nordic ribs. Something about meat from the arctic circle just hits the sweet spot, especially when it's real, you know? But usually I just chill in my room for most of the day."
"And after all the trouble I went through to make sure you got the day off," George said, chuckling. "You're always talking about how family is really important to you."
I shrugged. "Yeah, but not like that. I mean, when I was younger my cousins and I would go hassle humans in the woods on Halloween, scaring the shit out of them. We stopped when cousin Billy had to go to the hospital for eating chocolate."
"Oh yeah, you're all allergic to the stuff, aren't ya?" George observed.
"Yeah, and you'd think he would've known that," I replied, giving George a blank look. "He was twelve. Still can't read the warning labels on things. I bet he'd buy an order of ChocoFingers if he came in right now."
My headset beeped in my ear. "Hello? Hello, is anyone there?"
"I'm sorry about the delay ma'am," I said, turning away from George after mouthing a quick, 'got to go'. "Thank you for choosing Eye-In-Stein's Drive and Dine tonight. Can I take your order?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I know humans are going to eventually read this. It's inevitable, we've been lurking in the dark for centuries, do you really think we'd invent our own internet? I'm the wolf on your Wi-Fi, and yes, you should probably change the password.
But I know you celebrate Halloween differently than we do. This is to be expected, given that we're monsters and all, but let me give you a little taste of the real magic of Halloween. See, in the Monster Realm, it's the equivalent to your Christmas and your birthday rolled into one.
That means some people take it very seriously. Other people take it as just another day to relax. I fit into the second camp. My parents were both born in the Los Angeles Nether-Realm, but they're not from here originally. Our blood isn't very old in this city, and we're disconnected from the traditions of werewolves from say, the Black Forest.
It's not really a big deal to me. My dad normally splurges on some human meat. Hey, don't give me that look! You're the one reading a monster's story. We eat people, you kill us even if we aren't killing you. It's the way of life. You distrust what's different. You're all about pure human bloodlines.
We're not. My grandfather was, I guess, but we've evolved since his time. We don't have the attitudes of the 50's anymore. We're an enlightened culture.
So, we celebrate Halloween because it's a great holiday perfect for the expression of modern secular monsterism. Giving gifts to people because you care about them is great. Going on traditional symbolic hunts is also great. Partying with friends and family on Halloween Night is also, I hear, great. I've never done the last one, but there's always parties going on, or public shows and celebrations.
Which is why it didn't surprise me some people didn't want to work, even though I personally didn't give a shit about doing anything on that day. When my general manager, Jenny, walked up to me though, I thought I was about to have all my nights free.
She looked pensive, but then again, she always did. I could never judge her mood, but given what had happened earlier with the zombie patron, I assumed this would be the time she fired me. "Ken, can I talk to you for a second?" Jenny asked.
"Um, yeah. Am I in trouble?" I asked as I stepped back, leaning against the wall of the dish room. I was helping wash up after the end of service. Even though I was a senior cashier, we all pitched in to close. It made everyone a little less cranky.
"Well, George did tell me about the incident with the zombie, but that's not what this is about. However," She pursed her lips and then gave me something which felt almost like a smile, "since you brought it up, I feel I should mention that your behavior was inappropriate."
"Yeah, I know. But come on, you're a rugaru," I said, nodding toward her mouth which I knew had rows of sharp teeth in place of human molars. I also knew that her deceptively human nose was as complicated as mine. "You've got a sense of smell almost as good as mine. Isn't it hard dealing with the stench of rot?"
She held up her hand to stop me. "I get it, but the important thing is to not say anything. Anyway, I'd like to make you assistant manager."
"What?" I asked, shaking my head in surprise to clear my ears, sure I'd misheard her. "That isn't exactly a punishment."
Jenny's raised hand pulled back slightly then forcefully moved forward again, emphasizing her next point. "Hold up, I don't necessarily mean permanently. It'd be more like a probationary thing. See, I've heard you're somewhat free tomorrow and—"
"And you'd like me to cover George's shift," I finished for her, nodding in understanding.
She gave me a strange look then said, "Not exactly. I'd like you to work as assistant manager under George. I'm going to bump him to shift manager for tomorrow, but probably just promote him outright."
My mouth quirked with a confused twitch. "But doesn't George want the day off?"
"George wants to go home," Jenny said as if it answered all my questions. "He can't really do that, so he's fine working either way."
"What do you mean he can't go home?" I asked.
Jenny's eyes widened apprehensively as if she realized she'd suddenly said too much. "Hey, that's George's story to tell, not mine. George suggested this to me, actually. He said I should ask if you could work because he thinks you're a good employee, and then my husband and I could grab an early dinner before going to Something Wicked This Way Comes. Assuming we manage to make it to the human world in time for us to grab a bite in Central Park. Traffic is terrible on Halloween Day, you know."
I tried to let the parade of words move past me before I answered. Jenny didn't even look out of breath. I wondered if that was the result of the notorious rugaru energy.
"Oh, so you want me to be assistant manager under George?" I asked after a moment. "Should I come in at his time on the schedule then?"
Jenny nodded excitedly. "That would be perfect. Does that mean you'll do it?"
"Sure. Halloween is about family, right?" I said. "You should be with yours then. I'm totally cool with it."
"Thanks, Ken!" Jenny said, bouncing from foot to foot. "You're the best. Now I can forget all about the zombie incident." She winked at me and then spun away, almost skipping down the corridor toward her office.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A heavy eight-year-old puppy landed on my chest. Well, he was in his human form, but I never saw my little brother Ian as anything other than a wolf. He had the energy of six puppies, and the accuracy of an alpha. After all, he landed on my chest in just the right way to wind me."
"Hey, Furball, get up already!" Ian growled impatiently.
"What!? Fenris!" I cursed, gasping for air as I threw Ian off me to the floor. Ian bounded to his feet as if I'd never thrown him, and I glared at him ruefully. "You know I closed last night, don't you?"
"But Kenny, it's Halloween morning! Presents!" Ian whined.
I sighed and looked at the clock. I'd only had five hours of sleep, and I worked in four hours. I knew it would take at least an hour to get through presents, and another to go through our traditional breakfast. By then I'd be too wired to sleep easily.
No, the only answer was to push everything back for just one more hour. "Little bro, I know you're excited, but I need sleep," I grumbled.
I heard a light tapping on my door and looked up to see my mother standing there. "Ken, if you don't get up now, your brother will drive us all crazy. For that matter, Paula's getting antsy, too. Be a good big brother and let them open their gifts, please? You can take a nap later."
"Ugh . . ." I groaned in defeat. "All right, you win. I'll get up. Brew me a pot of coffee though, would you?" Ian giggled in excitement and ran out of the room, screaming something about presents.
"Coffee? Are you feeling ill?" my mother asked, stepping into my room and putting her hand on my forehead to feel for a temperature. "You usually only drink coffee when you're sick."
I shook my head. "I won't be able to take the nap. I have to work today."
"On Halloween?" My mother asked in surprise.
"Yeah, is that a problem?"
"I guess not, though you've never worked on Halloween before. Sure you don't want to go hunting later?"
I raised an eyebrow, wondering where this was coming from. "We haven't been hunting on Halloween since I was Ian's age."
"I guess you're right," my mother replied, sighing as she sat on the edge of the bed. "It just feels like we don't do much as a family. What time are you off today? Maybe we can all do something afterward like go see Something Wicked This Way Comes? I hear it's playing downtown."
"We close at four o'clock, but I'll probably be there until five or six with closing duties. Of course, you're also welcome to come see me at work. I'll see if I can score you free Bloodies or something."
"There's an idea," My mother said, grinning. "Who knew working in fast food would offer those kinds of perks?"
"Me," I replied dryly. "That's the only reason I agreed to work there."
"Don't you like it?" She asked.
"Parts of it. One of my managers is a vampire and he's pretty cool." Cool, like George's skin. Like taut muscles of someone I desperately wanted to sink my own teeth into and teach him to howl. My body responded in a thousand little ways I fought to control as I moved on. "Our general manager, Jenny, is pretty cool, too, even if she's far too energetic for my tastes."
My mother's eyes narrowed as she sniffed the air. "You're hiding something. I can smell it on you."
Fenris! She could smell my hormones while I thought about George! I thought as I hastened to offer the only possible lie which could save me the embarrassment of my crush. "They're considering me for assistant manager, but I don't know why. I mean, I'm a high school senior. What do I know about leading people?"
"Apparently someone thinks you have it in you," she replied. She was fishing, I could tell.
Problem was, she'd already caught me. I just had to hope she would drop the subject. "Yeah, I guess so," I said, straying cautiously back on the topic I wanted to avoid. "That'd be George. He keeps going to bat for me, and I don't know why."
"Maybe he just likes you?"
"Likes me?" I echoed. "You mean, like . . ." I gulped, meeting her eyes with horror. "He's attracted to me and trying to get me to sleep with him?"
"Uh, no . . ." My mother said, shaking her head and smiling knowingly. She patted my leg through my blanket and said, "though as long as he's not too old for you, you know we don't care who you date."
I knew just the thing to get my mind going in a different direction. "Even if it was a zombie?"
My mother's features hardened, and her nose scrunched up. "You're dating a zombie?" She asked neutrally.
I knew I had her off topic and said, "Well, I wasn't going to say anything until breakfast, but . . ." I trailed off, shrugging helplessly.
"Um yeah, what's this zombie's name? When did you meet him?" My mother asked.
I opened my mouth as if to respond, but my straight face broke and I laughed. "I'm totally messing with you."
"Good . . ." my mother sighed in relief. "Not that I have anything against zombies. They're wonderful people. But the stench is somewhat unavoidable."
I nodded. "Agreed."
My mother smiled and continued with her original point. "I was just saying that maybe George sees something in you that you don't see in yourself. He must think you have the capacity to lead other people."
"I guess. But I'm eighteen. I feel a little . . ." I shifted uncomfortably. "I don't know, inadequate maybe?"
"I get that."
Ian poked his head through my doorway and screeched, "Mom, Ken! Are you coming? I want to open my presents!"
"Fenris!" I shouted. "That kid doesn't know the meaning of patience!"
"Watch your language, Ken," my mother scolded.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Keys jingled in the door of the restaurant as I approached, and George turned to smile at me in the morning light. He wore a wide-brimmed hat to shield his face from the sun, but his grin made him look positively fuckable.
My thoughts betrayed me again, and I growled to silence them, a fact which was not lost on George.
"You look like hell," he observed.
"My little brother woke me up early this morning."
"He was excited for Halloween morning?" George asked.
"Yeah. Got me out of bed at 8:00."
"Heh, I'm surprised he waited that long." His face fell and he added sadly, "I miss that."
"You miss it?" I asked. "Do you have younger siblings?"
"Had," George confirmed as he pulled open the door, holding it for me. I stepped inside the restaurant and he followed me inside. "My younger sister caught too much sun six years ago and contracted sun-sickness. It was rough."
"Man," I said, shaking my head in dismay, "I'm sorry."
"It's okay, really," George replied, regaining some warmth in his sad smile. "You didn't know. I mean, I miss her, but it doesn't consume my life or anything."
I nodded. "I get it. Do you have any older siblings?"
"A brother and a sister. I'm essentially the youngest now."
"Man, I had a vamp friend back in elementary school. I don't envy you."
"Oh?" George asked in surprise. "What do you know?"
"I just know vamp families are really strict. You know, since their parents never let their children enter the human world because they need to preserve the legends?" I made my best impression of an Old-World vampire, which meant I had a bad Transylvanian accent. "Can't have vampires aging, after all. No one needs to destroy our precious image."
"You are the most racist vegetarian I've ever worked with," George said with a derisive snort. "First zombies and now vamps? What's your deal, Ken? Do you hate me, too?"
I growled menacingly at him. No one insulted my meat-eating capabilities like that and got away with it. "Dude, watch it with curse words. I ain't no vegetarian."
"You brought this on yourself, veggy," George said with a sneer.
"Fuck you, paleskin!" I roared.
Before it could escalate any further, the door opened and Jenny stepped into the restaurant. "Is everything okay?"
"Hey, Jenny." George darted me a quick look and had the audacity to grin at me as if nothing had transpired. "Yep, everything is fine."
"I could hear you guys shouting from down the block," Jenny said suspiciously.
I threw my hands in the air and stepped away, forcing my anger back inside me. George was lucky Halloween didn't fall on the full moon this year, or I would've ripped him apart without being able to control myself. "It's fine, we're cool."
"All right." Jenny nodded, satisfied. "I just came by to give you the last few particulars, George. Will you join me in the office?"
George winked at me, a confusing gesture if I ever saw one. "Yes. Of course."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
By the time George came back, it was time to open the store, and we had more employees to direct. We had a crew of four to last us the whole day. Myself and George as the management, of course, plus Drew and Holly. Drew had volunteered to work Halloween much as I had, and Holly had simply drawn the short straw.
Both were competent workers, but two crew members weren't enough to cook, run register, and take orders from the drive-thru, so I was once again on drive-thru duty.
Thankfully, the morning was slow enough I could wait for a quiet moment to talk to George. He came to check the stock of cups by the second drive-thru window, and I took the opportunity to talk to him.
"What?" He asked in surprise. "What for?"
I cleared my throat and said, "I'm sorry for making racist statements about vampires."
"Oh. Actually, I thought . . ." he shook his head and smiled politely. "Never mind."
"What?" I asked, sensing a dramatic shift in his attitude. "You thought what?"
He waved my question away and said, "It sounds silly now."
"That's okay, I like silly," I replied. "Dude, I may be an asshole, but it's mostly just for fun."
"Promise you won't judge me?" He asked. I nodded and he continued, "I actually thought we were flirting . . ."
I knew it was the wrong thing to say, but my tongue didn't want to work after letting out that single syllable. His admission caught me completely off guard, and I didn't know what to do with this new information. My hormones danced at the thought of exploring what flirting meant, while my sense told me it could never work with a vampire.
George took my silence to heart and backed away slowly, his hands raised as if he thought I was going to attack him. "Okay, I'm going to get back to work."
I watched him go, still unable to speak until I suddenly had to. "George."
He stopped, hearing the concern in my voice. "Yeah?"
"You're about to walk into the fryer," I said, nodding past him.
"Shit!" he spun and knocked a fryer basket off its shelf and onto the floor. He picked it up and whipped it through the air as if trying to fling away whatever miniscule specks of dirt clung to it. Muttering furiously, he took a step toward the dish room. "Thanks," I heard him mumble. "What a fucking day."
"George?" I said more earnestly this time.
"Yes!?" He shouted, spinning toward me. Holly gave him a sidelong glance from the kitchen and I heard Drew stir at the front counter.
"Can we talk later, please?" I said meekly as I heard "Hello, thank you for choosing Eye-In-Stein's Drive and Dine today! Can I take your order?"
"Can I get two number 1's and a number 3, hold the sauce?" A gruff voice spoke over the intercom.
"That was two Eye-In-Stein Himburger Specials and a Bigfoot Brisket Sandwich with no blood? Will that be everything today?" I replied.
"Two Eyebeers," the gruff voice added.
I gritted my teeth. First order of the day and it was already going to be a problem. I'd long ago lost count of the number of times people ignored the sign on the drive thru which said our alcoholic beverages could only be purchased inside the store, even the bottled ones. "I'm sorry, sir, but we can't serve alcohol through the drive-thru. You'll have to enter the store."
"Why the hell do you call yourselves Eye-In-Stein if you won't give my fucking Eyebeer?" the gruff voice growled. He then snorted in such a way I knew immediately what I was dealing with.
Minotaurs. Fucking minotaurs. The most aggressive monsters I interacted with on a regular basis. But, rules remained rules. "I'm sorry, sir, but that is the law. I would be happy to sell you an Eyebeer if you come inside."
"Lousy excuse for customer service," the minotaur replied. "Just give me my food so I can go."
"Your total will be thirteen-eleven at the window." I sighed. This was going to be a long day.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The lunch rush was way worse than I'd expected. We weren't busy, but it seemed as if every customer we had wanted to complain about something. So much for Halloween spirit. Monsters were supposed to be nicer to each other on Halloween, but apparently that only made Customer Service jobs suck more.
I must've been wearing my stress on my face because Drew came up to me after the rush was over and asked, "Everything all right?"
"Yeah. Just been a weird day," I replied. "I didn't think it would bother me this much, but working on Halloween is strange. The people who come by aren't very nice."
Drew snorted. "That's different from usual?'
"Shouldn't we all have the Halloween spirit?" I asked.
"Who are you, Thorny Tim from A Samhain Carol?" Drew asked, elbowing me in the ribs lightly. "Halloween's just a commercial holiday. Has been for like fifty years."
I shook my head. "I've never really seen it that way."
"Wake up, Ken!" Drew said, gripping both sides of my face so he had my full attention. I squirmed and pulled away, but he continued speaking undeterred. "We're living in a world that doesn't give a shit about monster decency."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, Drew," I said. "I think it's up to us to determine how we see the world."
"Whatever." Drew rolled his eyes, then nodded behind me. "Hey, we've got a customer at the counter."
"So? Go help them," I said, but then Drew pulled the headset from around my ears and put it on his own. He pointed behind me and I gave him a confused look.
I finally sighed and headed toward the counter, too tired to argue. "Welcome to Eye-In-Stein—" I stopped as I faced my family, both my siblings and my parents standing ready to be served. My little brother waving frantically to try and get my attention. "Oh, hey guys!"
"Mom said you'd get me a Bloodie," Ian said. My mother smacked the back of his head lightly.
"Coming right up, Pup," I said, grinning. "It's on me tonight. Consider it a late Halloween gift."
"Feeling the Spooky Spirit, eh, son?" my dad asked.
"Yep. I'm going to make the best out of this holiday," I said, and I meant it. Seeing my family had renewed my spirits, and I was determined to not let the bad customers get to me. "I'll see if I can take a break and sit down with you guys after I make your Bloodies."
I hurried and made four of the blood-flavored shakes and then went to find George. As soon as he heard my family was there, he insisted I took a break and agreed to keep an eye on the front counter.
Ian asked me a dozen questions in a row about what it was like working fast food, and I answered all of them before he found something different to talk about with my dad. My sister entertained herself with one of our coloring mats, completely ignoring her shake.
My mother eventually stole me away to the condiment station to get some napkins, but once we were away from the others she started quietly talking to me. "What's it like working here? Do you enjoy it? I can't believe this is the first time we've been here since you started six months ago."
"It's all right," I replied. "Weird working today though."
She nodded. "Yeah, it was weird not having you home, too. But hey, this can be the new tradition if you're planning on continuing to work on Halloween."
"Hey, I'm all right with that."
She nodded past me to the counter and said, "Is that your manager? George?"
I glanced that way and said, "Yep, that's him."
"He's a handsome guy," my mother said, smiling slyly.
"He's also a vampire," I replied pointedly.
"So? Shouldn't I be sticking to werewolves?" I asked, hoping she wouldn't hear the slight tinge of despair in my voice. Only in that moment of voicing my concern did I realize just how much I wanted to leave werewolves behind forever.
"Why?" My mother asked.
"Because of bloodline purity and all that," I replied with an uncomfortable shrug. "Didn't Grandpa Surly always talk about that?"
"Your grandfather wasn't exactly caught up with the advancement of monster society," my mother replied dryly. "Besides, it's not something you should worry about anyway."
She gave me a patient look and said dramatically, "Um, son, I realize this usually works the other way, but I've got to say this: you're gay. I know, that's the last thing you wanted to hear but—"
"Okay, enough with the reverse coming out thing," I said, interrupting her. "Just because you guessed it when I was twelve doesn't mean you can keep rubbing it in."
"My point is, are you really rejecting someone because of 'bloodline purity'?" My mother asked incredulously. "First of all, that's racist backwoods bullshit and I'm ashamed of you if you really think like that. Hopefully it's just a phase you're going through. Secondly, you're gay. It's not like one of you is going to get pregnant anyway."
I shrugged. "Maybe I'm just an asshole?"
"But you do like him," my mother said. "And there's nothing wrong with that."
"How do you know I like him?" I asked.
"You keep looking over at him," my mother replied. "All through your break."
"That's it?" I asked. "Maybe I'm just checking to see if he needs me to clock back in?"
"Fine, I can smell it on you," my mother replied. "Your hormones are through the roof and you should really wear more deodorant."
"Mom! That's gross."
In case you didn't know, having another werewolf read your hormones when you're sexually aroused is about the same thing as having someone notice your awkward boner. It's not something any teenage boy wants to think about.
"I agree," my mother replied, "but you made me say it."
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms sullenly, then put more bitterness into my words than I intended. "Yeah, but who says he has interest in me? I mean, he thought we were flirting earlier but he might've just been joking around."
"I'd say there's a pretty good bet he likes you."
"Why do you say that?" I asked, sounding more hopeful than I liked.
"Because I just caught him looking over here for the hundredth time this conversation, and if vampires could blush, he'd be red as his favorite drink right now."
"Hmm," I said thoughtfully.
"He also looks really lonely," my mother observed. "Now, don't think I'm trying to push you into a relationship or anything, I just think that if there's mutual interest, you might as well explore." She grinned and added, "Plus, he seems to only be a couple of years older than you."
"Yeah, he's a sophomore in college," I said absently.
"There you go. He's practically your age," my mother replied, clapping me on the arm. I glared at her and she said, "Fine, I'll stop. Now, how about we rejoin the pack for a minute so they can see you before your break is over?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I dwelled on my mother's words for the rest of my shift. She had a point, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I'd been a total asshole. I didn't know what had gotten into me, other than maybe a culture of segregation, which was common in the monster realms.
But I'd never really thought of myself as better than the other monster races, though I suppose I did think less of zombies. And I had made that generalization about vampires. And there was that assumption about rugarus hating zombies for the same reasons I did . . .
In short, I was a mess, and an asshole, and I needed to change. Thankfully, I knew a good place to start, and that meant seeing where things went with a certain vampire who sat in the office, counting out the tills.
George looked up when I stood in the doorway and cast my shadow over the desk in the office. "Did Drew and Holly go home?" He asked.
"Yep. Holly just finished mopping about ten minutes ago. I did a final walkthrough and sent them both," I said.
"Good," George said, nodding before returning his attention to the papers in front of him. "You can leave too. I can handle the rest of the closing."
I sat down in the chair across the desk from him. "I'd rather stay if that's all right."
He looked up in surprise. "Why?"
"I thought you'd like company, and I . . ." I shrugged and grinned, "would like to give you some."
"Huh, well . . ." he returned my gesture and said, "suit yourself."
He returned to counting, and I felt a little disappointed by the exchange. Hadn't he wanted to flirt? I decided a more personal approach was in order. "Can I ask you something about your home life?"
He looked up and smiled politely. "Sure."
"Why didn't you go home for Halloween when it's so important to you?" I asked.
"Two reasons," he replied, "One, I couldn't afford to travel across country. I'm from the New York Underworld, and we're in the Los Angeles Nether-Realm. Do you have any idea what that airfare is like on my budget? It's crippling."
"Yeah, I get that," I said. "Why'd you come to school all the way out here?"
He sighed heavily and put the stack of receipts down on the desk, leaning back in his chair. His arms crossed over his chest as his eyes grew distant, considering a past he didn’t want to relive, but did so on my behalf anyway. "Because of the second reason. Going home would only mean visiting old friends. I'm not welcome in my family anymore."
"Why not?" I asked.
"I dated a zombie once." He deadpanned.
I raised an eyebrow. "No, really."
"No, I really dated a zombie once," George replied. "She was really pretty, actually. I know that's hard to imagine, given that most of them are rotting deathtraps, but she was different. She'd been slightly mummified, so her flesh was better preserved than most. That didn't matter to me anyway, though. What I loved was her mind. Nothing else mattered to me."
"So, what, your family disowned you for that?" I asked.
"My dad's an expansionist," George replied, hissing the words 'dad' and 'expansionist'. "You can't turn undead like zombies into vampires, it just doesn't work. Only vampires or future vampires are welcome in his family. When he found out I was dating Elise, he had her killed."
I clamped my hand over my mouth and gasped. When I dropped my hand, I said loudly, "Oh my god, that's terrible!"
George hung his head, angry tears forming in his eyes. "Of course, monster common law doesn't exactly offer any recourse for mourning boyfriends. If she'd had any family, then they could've made a claim against my father, but I couldn't do anything. The only thing I could do was challenge him myself, which I did."
"What happened?" I asked.
"I failed, and he broke one of my fangs. It's taken most of the time since then for it to grow back. I mean," He opened his mouth and leaned forward suddenly, baring his fangs completely so I could see them. His words were harder to make out this way, but I caught them anyway as he continued, "if you look, you can tell that one of them is shorter."
I could feel his cool breath on my face, and a familiar scent hit my nostrils. "Your breath smells like blood."
"Sorry, I had a Bloodie with dinner."
"No, it's . . ." I sighed. "It's nice."
"Huh, well . . ." George shifted uncomfortable. "Um, anyway, why are you asking?"
"Well, I realize it'll still be a half hour or so before you finish up, but . . ." I stood and started walking around the desk toward him. "I asked my mother if I could invite you over."
"Why?" George asked.
I paused beside him and said, "I don't want you to be alone on Halloween."
George looked away from me and said quietly, "I don't need your pity, Ken."
"It's not pity," I said. "It's because I care."
"Why?" George asked, turning back to me. He immediately looked away again and said, "By Vlad, I'm asking that a lot."
"Because I realized earlier today that there's someone who has had my back for a while, even when I screw up. He seems to see something in my he likes, even if I'm an asshole. I guess . . ." I stepped even closer and lifted his chin with my hand. "I guess I'm starting to see something in him, too."
"So, does this mean you really are flirting?" George asked, meeting my eyes. He knew at that point that he didn't have to ask the question, but I could feel his need to hear me answer it.
"Well, I'm not ready to become a vampire or anything, but it's not off the table," I said, then sat down on the edge of the desk, right in front of him, swinging my leg over his lap so I could straddle him. "Neither am I."
"Sounds like you're implying a lot more than just going to your house," George replied slyly.
I grinned and said, "well, I keep hearing about how everyone is going to see that play, Something Wicked This Way Comes. We could go to that instead." I slid off the desk and into his lap, barely able to repress my werewolf urges. "Or," I said, my fingers sliding along his cheek toward the back of his head as I slowly inched my face toward his, "instead, I could give you a private showing. That way, something wicked cums."
In that moment, another stereotype came crashing down. Turns out vampires can blush.