Lumie seemed pretty excited when I finally let her into my head and revealed my thoughts. It didn’t really surprise her too much. She seemed more okay with it than I did. I wasn’t really not okay with it. It just confused me. A lot. A lot a lot. I had grown up more open about sexuality than some kids did, sure, but still… it had always been gay or straight to me. My daddies love each other. Aunt Miracle and her husband love each other. Great-Aunt Kaylee and her wife love each other. That type of thing. I knew as I got older there were possibilities beyond that sort of cookie-cutter thing but it never occurred to me love and sexual attraction could happen to more than one gender.
All those times thinking guys were cute I just dismissed it so easily because yep, I loved women, wanted women, wanted to be with women. So I couldn’t like guys–except I did. But if I liked guys surely I would have noticed by now…? I was twenty-two for watcher’s sake! I had gay fathers. I should know.
Frustrated, I turned to the online world which just made it worse. ‘Can’t make up their minds’, ‘in denial’, ‘just wants to have lots of sex’, ‘really gay but too scared’, ‘wants threesomes’… on and on and on. Sure I found some things that were nice and communities supporting bisexuality but overall a lot of the discussions were just people questioning how ‘real’ bisexuality was. I wound up even more confused and angry than before.
Then shortly after Goose moved in. Max and I helped get his furniture set up and we stayed up very late talking and eating pizza, much like my college days had been with–Noah? I thought about Noah. Did I like him? Yeah, as a friend. But I definitely didn’t feel any attraction to him. Not in that manner. Stop thinking about this, I told myself. Just, focus on the conversation. “So, what do you do?” I asked, realizing we hadn’t talked about this yet.
Goose gave me a smile that sent dizzying waves of confusion through my body. “I work at the TV station helping with music,” he said cheerfully. “I want to be in an orchestra one day. I play violin,” he added with a blush. “But that probably won’t happen.”
“Do they, uh know you’re a…?” I trailed off as my mouth tried to get me in trouble with saying stupid things as always.
But Goose didn’t seem to mind. “Some do. I wear a hat a lot, to cover my ears. The station manager knows and doesn’t care as long as I don’t do anything magical.”
“Must be hard not to–” I stopped myself as I nearly put my foot in my mouth by saying ‘be uncovered’ which for some reason sounded really perverted even though I wouldn’t mean it in a pervy way. “–be able to wear your hair how you like,” I said thickly.
“I prefer my ears to be free but… at least I have a job in the human world, where I want to be right now.” He rolled his eyes and gave a mighty pout. “Some of my dad’s relatives are very unhappy that I’m in the human world. Then again, they’re unhappy he had a baby with a human woman so.” He began picking at his nails. “Not all of them disliked me but enough to get me to want to leave.”
“That sucks,” I said softly. “I’m sorry.”
“What about you?” He lifted his eyes to meet mine and the pout went back into a smile. “You said you have a degree to become a PE teacher?”
“Yeah, I’m hoping to be able to find a job nearby but if I can’t soon I might work in Moonlight Falls with my old Sifu–he teaches sim fu. He said I could help out if I needed to, but that’s a bit of a commute and I want to live here a while with my parents being here.” I sat back on the couch and propped my feet up on the old coffee table. “Plus Moonlight Falls is close in location to whoever wants me kidnapped. We think, at least.”
That led the discussion into me and the rumors/prophecy and I talked at great length about it, more than I intended. Goose listened to every word and asked several questions, seeming both appalled people would want to hurt me and fascinated by what all I had learned to protect myself. I showed him the daggers and even the bow and arrows which I had here, just in case (no matter what Grams said, no matter how ‘impractical’ archery was compared to daggers, I didn’t care). I agreed to show him at some point some of my shooting abilities and then began asking about his hobbies.
We talked, and talked, and talked until we herd birds chirping. “It’s dawn!” he exclaimed, getting to his feet and staring at the windows.
I rose as well, not sure whether to laugh or not. “I completely lost track of time. Crap. I’m sorry. Do you have to work today?”
“Yeah,” he sighed, checking his watch. “But I can get some sleep. I’m sorry–“
“No, no. It’s my fault. I didn’t mean to keep you up. I’m sorry.”
We stood there awkwardly for a moment and then he mumbled something completely incoherent before scurrying into his bedroom. I watched him go, unable to move for a while. Confusion intensified within me but I felt way too tired to deal with it. I trudged to my bedroom where Max had been for several hours. He snored loudly in the way he did pretending to be asleep but I just couldn’t muster the energy to talk to him so I took off my clothes, threw on some sweatpants, and flopped next to him to sleep.
The sound of glass being smashed woke me up at ten till noon. I jerked upward, heart pounding heavily. “What? What?” I tried to get a bearing and noticed the time before sliding out of bed and running towards the sound. It had been in the kitchen–someone had broken one of our windows. Glass had gone everywhere… as had a rock, apparently the item used to break in. I picked it up and went to the window, peeking out at the woods. Nothing. Nobody.
“Max?” I called and jumped as he appeared beside me. “Do you think…?”
Max took the rock from my hand and examined it carefully. “Smells…” He sniffed the rock a few times and pulled a face. “Shapeshifter.”
“The rock is a shapeshifter?!” I screeched.
“NO! A shapeshifter threw the rock!” Max said, breaking into laughter. I went red but then laughed too at how stupid I had sounded. “Smells bearish. Ew.” I shuddered at that, the thought of someone being after me who could turn into a bear. “I’ll go check it out.”
“I’ll go with you,” I said and grabbed my bow and arrows. Max rolled his eyes and I smiled. “In case we need them.”
We went outside, him fully dressed and I in my sleep pants. We traipsed around the house cautiously. No signs of anyone around. No signs of bears, either. Once we were behind the house without line of sight of the neighbors I loaded the bow and pulled it back a bit. Ready to let it fly at anyone who might come barreling (haha) out. While I did this, Max got on his hands and knees to sniff at the ground. “Couldn’t you go cat for that?” I whispered.
“Mmph,” he replied as he crawled around. “Yeah, definitely a bear-shifter.” He stood up and went a bit into the trees. I tensed, drawing the bow back even more. Then Max returned. “No one’s there. They didn’t come onto the property. My guess is that’s why they threw the rock. The spells worked. Gretchen and what’s-his-face and pointy-ears.”
I glowered at him for that. “You have pointy ears too, Max. Don’t call Goose that.”
“My ears look sexy. His are like… long… pointy… things. Anyway, yeah. Seems like the spells are working to keep the nasties off our property. I’ll have to tell Gretchen.”
We went back inside and I cleaned up the glass while Max called Grams. I heard them arguing about something but couldn’t quite tell what the problem was until Max stormed into the kitchen, fuming. He flung open the cupboards until he found the tuna and began biting at the can while mumbling something about the bear. I questioned him and he snarled, “Not bear. ‘Blair’. Malik Blair. The stupid face guy who owns this house.”
“What about him?” I asked.
“He answered Gretchen’s phone,” Max said darkly. “Apparently she was in the middle of adding some ingredients to some potion and couldn’t get to the phone so he answered.”
“So?” I asked, going for the can opener and tossing it to Max.
He began banging on the can instead of opening it. “He shouldn’t be answering her phone. It feels wrong. I don’t like it. I don’t like him.”
“He’s a wizard who’s not really part of any magical community,” I pointed out. “It’s probably nice for him to be able to talk to someone about, uh, spells and stuff. What did Gretchen say about the shifter and rock and stuff?”
Max set down the can and the can opener. “She said she’ll investigate it later today but sounds like the spells are working well.” He brushed his long bangs back and then began rubbing his sideburns a bit. “She said it’s good since you put up a big red ‘come get me’ sign in the paper when you looked for your roommate.”
I crinkled my nose at that and turned away. I had felt confident putting the ad in the paper but now I wasn’t so sure, especially with Goose living here. I wished I could go back and stop myself from putting the ad in… but then Goose never would have moved in. I never would have met him, and that thought didn’t really sit well in my stomach. “I’m going for a run. I don’t feel good. I need to… run.”
After changing my clothes I went out for the jog, ignoring Max’s protests that the shifter could be watching the house and following me. Well what could he do as I made my way down public streets? Turn into a bear right there and attack me? Okay, maybe. But I figured he (or she) wouldn’t do that and I just needed to run until my muscles ached and my lungs were on fire.
Over the next week things were extremely awkward in the house as I did my best to act like a normal dude around Goose who just had something about him that twisted my tongue up and made me stammer, forget words, and say utterly stupid things that he thankfully didn’t seem to care about. With a girl I would have tried to flirt but I couldn’t with Goose so it just made things worse for my bungled speaking. During this time I tried to ignore my feelings, ignore my thoughts; pretend like the intimate and intense dreams I had were just… nothing. I tried to focus on finding a job and went running about three times a day.
At the end of the week I finally found some employment. The local spa/retreat/resort wanted to extend their services and offer sim fu lessons for beginners. They contacted the best in the area which of course was Master Louie who gave them a couple names to try and mine had been the first he mentioned. The spa called me in and after two interviews, a presentation, and them calling up Master Louie to double check I was given the job!
“So, what’ll you be doing exactly?” Goose asked when I brought home veggie burgers and fries to celebrate, as he did not eat meat. I brought fish for Max which he chowed down on as I talked.
“Teaching the very beginning classes since I’m young,” I said, chomping happily down on a fry. “Like, mostly classes for little kids but I’ll have a couple older classes but it’s all beginning stuff. And Master Louie wants me to continue my training so I’ll be working with him a couple times a month when we can get together, so one day I might even had that black belt.” I gazed dreamily at the ceiling. Mastering the sim fu arts seemed like a lovely dream I really wanted to come true.
I felt a hand slap my knee and I jumped in shock… and lust. Goose’s hand had touched my leg for a brief second but it had been enough to make me antsy. “Congratulations!” he exclaimed then suddenly looked bewildered. Then, redness crept into his face. “Ah, s-sorry. I didn’t… I’m sorry.”
“F-for what?” I asked, focusing on my food, but Goose didn’t answer me. Max cast narrowed-eyed looks at both of us. “In any case, it pays decently and after a month of working there I’ll get some discounts.” I perked up at that. “Ooh! I know, that’s what I’ll give my parents for their wedding anniversary this autumn. A spa retreat.”
Max began choking on his food and I walloped his back until he could breathe again. “YOUR DAD IN A SPA!” he screamed immediately, falling off his chair laughing.
Now I almost choked and had to hold onto the table to stop from falling. “Oh Watcher that’s hilarious, oh Grim Reaper!” I coughed. “Oh man! Oh,” I added, seeing Goose’s confused face, “my dad is like Mr. Grouchy-butt. He’s always grumping and grouching about something. He’s got like this permanent scowl engraved on his face.”
Goose giggled at that. “Sounds scary.”
“Eh, he can be but he’s a great guy. Loves us all and would do anything for us. But he’ll scowl while he does it, even if he’s happy to do it,” I said and Goose giggled more. “You haven’t met my parents yet, that’s right.”
“Maybe I will soon, then!” Goose said with a big smile.
“I’d like that,” I said without thinking. “Uh. I mean. You know. They liked my friend from college, uh, Noah. I’m sure they’ll like you too.” I almost went on to ask about if I’d get to meet his parents but managed to prevent myself from that embarrassment. I needed to be very careful and not let on that–that I liked him so much. Stop pretending it’s anything else, I thought as I returned to my food. You’ve got the hots for him as much as you did Davy, and you can’t pretend you don’t. I poked at a glob of ketchup with one fry and tried to sort that out. I’m bisexual then… I thought it plainly, and it felt so right to think. No question mark at the end, no ‘buts’, no nothing. I’m bisexual. Plain and simple.
Even though it did feel right I didn’t want to admit it out loud because how could I be sure? You are sure, Zaid, you know you’re sure. NO I didn’t know. But I did want to talk about it to someone. Question is, who? I wondered. Not Lumie, someone outside my head. Pa? Dad? No, not them–or Vilkas (especially since he had had his kid in the spring and was very busy being a new daddy) or my other sisters. Max already knew. Grams maybe…? No. Maybe one of my friends. Noah came to mind first but then I decided on Clay. Besides I felt a bit worried Noah might be a bit weirded out since we lived together for so long. I didn’t think he would be but… I’d talk to Clay first.
Clay met up with me in a town halfway between Moonlight Falls and Midnight Hollow. To call it a town would be too generous, as the only buildings were a handful of homes, a post office, a doctor’s office, and two bars. We went to one of the bars which had delicious cheese fries but expensive beer–the price made sure hardly anyone hung around so Clay and I had relative privacy. We rented a pool table at the back after going through three plates of cheese fries and half a pitcher of beer.
“So, you needed to talk?” Clay asked as he racked up the balls.
“Yep.” I bent forward to aim the cue and sent the white ball rocketing into the others. I wasn’t too great at pool but Clay loved it. “Been thinking about my dating life.”
“How long it’s been since the divorce?” he asked as he took his turn.
I shrugged. “Almost five months.”
“Good for you. You should get back into the dating pool. Loads of girls waiting,” he laughed. “Hey, I know this one chick she’s reallllly good-looking. Great huge–“
“I think I like someone,” I cut him off quickly.
“Ooh!” Clay beamed. “So what’s she like?”
“Um. Well the thing is, she’s not really…” I paused, trying to figure out the best way to broach the subject. “I don’t know. I mean… I think I have feelings for this person but I’m not sure. It’s complicated.”
“She engaged? Married? A mom?” Clay asked and I shook my head to each those questions. “Then what’s the problem?”
“She’s… a he…” I mumbled.
Clay froze, looking at me in a way that made me suddenly uncomfortable I had chosen him to talk to. “Like… she used to be a guy? Like, trans?”
“No,” I said with another shake of my head. “As in, a male. Fully. Born that way, still that way. Male.” I watched Clay as he straightened up and stared. “Um. So yeah. I think I like him. I think I like guys.”
“You’re… gay?” he asked, scrunching his face up. “Is it because of Davy?”
“No!” I said, feeling miserable and regretting this completely. “I’ve liked guys a while, I think. I mean there’ve been guys I think are cute. I just never, uh, continued my thoughts about them because I like women.”
“So. You like women,” he said now looking at me as if I were crazy.
“I like both,” I said. No response from Clay. Yikes. I thought about what I had planned on saying, talking to him about it and try to figure out my feelings but no way was that happening now. “Just thought I should tell you. You look… upset?”
“Nah, nah, it’s cool,” he said brightly.
“Yeah. You just got divorced. You want to experiment and widen the dating pool, so to speak. Sow your wild oats before settling for girls or guys.”
“I am gonna ram this pool cue up your nose,” I growled and Clay looked genuinely startled. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Dude, what?!” Clay demanded, spreading his arms out. “What the hell? I just said I saw nothing wrong with it and now you’re on my case?”
“You didn’t–you–” I pinched the bridge of my nose, struggling hard. “Look, I’m not gonna ‘settle’. I like both. I like gals and I like guys.” I felt a surprising ease saying that and a small, fluttery feeling rose inside of me. “I like both. I do.”
“So you’re gonna have what, threesomes? Or something? Stop glaring! I’m just confused, I mean, I thought you were like, anti-cheating?” he demanded. “So you can’t like both. You’ll be with one or the other, right? So I don’t understand why you seem so mad.”
“Okay. Okay. Okay.” I sucked in air then slowly let it out. “Just because I date one, doesn’t mean if I become single I won’t date the other. Just because I am with a female, won’t mean I don’t feel attraction towards males. And vice versa. Just if you’re in love if you see a pretty girl you can think she’s pretty without diminishing your feelings for your girlfriend, yeah? Like…” I went over and held up a mug of beer. “You have this never-ending pitcher of beer you love. You drink that beer, you want that beer, yeah? But what if the beer somehow runs out? You might go out and get the same kind of beer, but maybe you’ll get a different kind of beer.”
“Drinking beer and dating are two different things,” he said rather darkly.
I set the mug down, frustrated. “Yeah but the point is, just if I start dating a guy–even if I love him and want to be with him always if something happens then maybe my next date will be a girl. Just because I date a guy for a while doesn’t mean if I become single again I’ll fall for another guy. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. I don’t know. Right now I am very interested in a guy, although I did see this girl at the spa yesterday who looked incredible.”
“So you’re going for both?” he asked with a slight sneer.
“No. I’m going for neither. Right now I have very strong feelings for this guy but I don’t know, don’t think he’s interested in guys so I’m just going to wallow in misery and get drunk until I somehow get over these feelings. If I get over these feelings.” I groaned loudly at that, at the thought of living in the same house as Goose and trying to squash down my extreme attraction. “And I–” Now I stopped, realizing all of a sudden how dark the room had gone. “What happened to the electricity?”
“Maybe they forgot to pay the bills,” Clay said and went to the door to go back to the main room. “Um. Dude. The door’s locked.”
I swore silently then began slamming my mental fists against Lumie’s barrier. We were miles and miles away but our reach still encompassed the area. >SEND MAX TO THE DANCING DUCK BAR–No he won’t make it in time… crap…< I grabbed Clay, pulling him away from the door, looking at the small window. We couldn’t fit through there. I then dragged Clay, who began protesting, into the bathroom. >What do I do?<
“You’re not hitting on me are you?” Clay asked, looking slightly panicked.
I blinked then let go of him. “No!” I snapped as Lumie panicked in my head then suddenly her barriers snapped up because she had the idea to talk to Gretchen and she needed to focus.. “Something is out there.”
“I think you’ve had one too many,” he said, putting his hand by his mouth and tipping his head back to indicate drinking. “Let’s try to get the bartender’s attention and get the door unlocked, or something. I’ll drive us home.”
“Don’t you–” I stopped, almost demanding to know why he couldn’t remember but then… duh. Max had wiped his memory of the attack in the park. “Dude, supernaturals are after me, I’ve had dozens of attempts on my life, and I think this is one of them.”
“That’s–” Clay started but then something thunked outside. “…w-what was that?” Clay whispered, grabbing hold of my sleeve.
I put my finger against my lips and tiptoed to the door. Someone was talking, someone calling out my name in a creepy, sing-song-y way. They were at the front of the bar though, not in the pool room yet but they’d be coming close sooner or later. I backed up and hauled Clay into the toilet stall. “Not good,” I mumbled. “Very not good.”
“I’m so confused!” Clay grabbed his hair and tugged at a few clumps. “What–“
“Shhh!” I hissed. “Someone is looking for me.” I chewed at my bottom lip, trying to figure out what to do. Someone is out there looking for me. Clay is in danger. No way out. Can I fight with my fists? I didn’t have my daggers with me and I knew if I survived this I would forever carry my daggers with me no matter what. After about four minutes of tense, long, frightening silence apart from Clay’s ragged breaths, I made a decision. “Okay. Okay. Look. I’m going to go out there,” I said, opening the stall door. “You stay in here. No matter what you hear.”
“What will I hear?!” he cried out in a quiet voice.
Hopefully not my death. “I don’t know. But they’re after me so you should be able to escape, all right?”
“Zaid, I think you’re like, fifty shades of crazy right now.”
I snorted and went to the bathroom door. “Maybe. But look, you need to get out of here, all right? And there’s no way out of here except through there. So…” I sucked in air, feeling terrified. Hopefully whoever was crashing around in the bar could be disposed of through some good sim fu moves. I put my hand on the handle then stiffened as a very loud crash filled the air. Something big had been knocked down and probably broken.
Then someone screamed and I backed away rapidly. More screams and then snarls and then cries of mercy and then silence. Then, after a few seconds, a thud against the bathroom door. I pressed myself hard against the wall and stared in absolute fear as some dark liquid… blood trickled in from under the crack of the door. Ohhhhh Watcher.
Then another thud, silence, and finally something grabbed the bathroom handle and whoever had just committed bloody murder pushed the door open.