This is an entry to the Writer’s Crossing prompt competition for June 27, Prompt 1. Full details in the story description.
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They really needed to get the lighting fixed in here. Only the dull red glow of the exit sign. Not that it mattered; I could climb these stairs in my sleep. Which step creaked. Just where to reach for the bar and shove open the door. My foot didn’t find the little wooden block I’d been using, though. Who the fuck took my block? Oh well. Empty beer bottle propped the door open just as well. It only opened one way.
My paws left trails in the fresh dusting of snow, but my pacing ruts were everywhere up here. It wasn’t a pacing day, though. Not a thinking day. I tipped my muzzle upward and watched my breath mix, mingling with the lingering wisps from chimneys of neighboring roofs, wafting up to join the dim, overcast sky. Or was the fog just in my mind? A deep breath of fresh air always seemed like it should help more than it ever actually did.
I glanced down through the skylight at the apartment complex lobby, looking for ears and tails I could recognize. No. They were either gone by now or decided to stay and screw my roommate. If I’d stayed, it would’ve happened. Now? Did I even want to know? Did I care? I shrank back from the skylight. Hopefully they were having fun. I wanted them to be happy. Me… I’d be over here. The best spot for me was the corner by the big metal boxes. Venting steam, whirring with an electric hum. I could sit back here and nobody would hear me breathe over the noise, and the gentle vibration against my back lulled me. Like mother’s purr, still in the womb. Only colder. But I was already numb.
My ears pivoted of their own accord. Noises below. Snow crunching under tires. Running engines and the watery spray of slush.. Voices, too. Was it five o’clock already? I closed my eyes and pictured the street below. Cars all in their proper lanes. The bus chugging up to it’s stop, the brakes squealing. People pouring out, chattering away in that relieved tone, because that’s what you do after work. If you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re not supposed to appreciate it - no, for all the good it does you, you complain about it after hours. The bus hissed and trundled off again. A wet dot on my nose forced my eyes open. Snowing again. Because that’s what happens in winter. Maybe I should’ve put my hands in my pockets or something. Eyes closed again.
Tires squealed, crash, rhythmic beeping. I was just curious enough to lean to the low ledge railing and peer down. Moron tried to cross three lanes of traffic in rush hour.
I flopped back against unfeeling metal. But hadn’t we all been there? To get to where we needed to go, just not aligning with the way things were supposed to go? What choice did we have? I glanced over at the wall beside me, my sole companion. And all it said was Danger! High Voltage. Me, I’d always played it safe. Too safe. Look where it got me. The most audacious thing I’d ever done was pick at the corner of this sticker. Probably laws about this stuff having stickers. Look at me, breaking the law. Rip. Now it was just anger! Hi age.
Hi age. I laughed. God, what a hollow laugh. I quickly felt the chill of tears too. Okay, yes, I was fucking cold. If this stupid bit of sticker would get off my claw… there. Hoodie up, hands in pockets. Still pathetic.
“Kali? Oh Calico Kal! Kaaal?”
She sounded so distant. I kept my eyes closed, but I could hear her clomping around. Running towards me. Hands on my shoulders.
“K- Gawd, Kal, you’re going to freeze your toebeans off!”
I blinked my eyes open, not meeting her eyes. She tugged my arm. Kindof laughable. I wasn’t big, but she was a freaking corgi. I glanced up, saw the moment she gave up and tried to look me in the eye. I sighed, but she stood her ground. “What’s wrong, Kal? You’ve been so off for days!”
“Did they leave yet?”
“No! They’re worried about you. I’m worried about you. I thought having them over would make you feel better.”
So that explained the last minute plans. I shrugged. She wrapped me in a hug, as best she could at her size. She had to be freezing in that miniskirt, knees in the snow.
“Talk to me.”
Somehow that little pleading voice hooked me. Hooked something deep inside me that was screaming to get out. I swallowed. “I… can’t do this anymore.” She was so warm. I struggled to put words. I just had to say it. Would it hurt her? She just held me. Like she always did. Always there for me. Should’ve told her years ago. Never seemed important enough, but I kept doing this… I didn’t want to hurt her, but I had. I still was, by keeping her at arm’s length. I felt her back, clinging, afraid of losing her. Stupid fear. Nobody knew the future. Least of all me. I only knew one thing. “I don’t want to be a girl anymore.” She went still, didn’t even breathe. I’d never let on… how would she take it? My claws were making holes in her blouse… fuck, it was one of my favorites too. I needed her. It was always so perfect on her, it complimented her fur so well. Please be okay.
“You mean you want to transition?”
I nodded stiffly into her shoulder. She leaned back. God, I wanted to keep holding her, but…
Her hand slipped into mine. I just melted, I felt the tears. She said something about going inside; I just nodded. She pulled, I stood. I wasn’t even processing her words anymore, I was just relieved… I could move forward. Someone knew, someone accepted me - the future me - and I didn’t have to be alone. We both reached for the handle and- wait. Pause button on the relief there.
“Hey, it’s locked.”
“…You moved the bottle, didn’t you?”
“Tell me you brought your phone.” I glanced at her. Then sky. “Well, shit.”