Salamander 2 Part 6
Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd December, 2035
I woke up, saw the clock and immediately panicked. I was late for school! After the few terror filled seconds it took my brain to spin up and remind me that today was Saturday, I calmed down a bit.
"Hey sleepy head, I didn't wake you up did I?" said Gwen, wandering in from the small kitchen. "Do you want a cup of Coffee?"
"Yes please," I said rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
Gwen disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared a few minutes later with a mug of coffee. I pulled myself upright and took the cup, then sipped some. Gradually feeling more awake, I glanced at the clock again. I would have to get moving because D would be here soon. I drank the rest of my coffee and then hit the shower. After that I thought about using my new drying trick, but I wasn't sure that the laminate flooring in the bathroom would take the heat too well. I didn't think our landlord would be too impressed with big foot-shaped burn marks on the bathroom floor. That would almost certainly lose us our security deposit, so I just used a towel instead. I resolved to think about practicing heating myself everywhere but my feet, since heat went up that should be ok so long as there was nothing to conduct it back down. I went and grabbed some clothes from Gwen's room, where we shared the closet space.
As I was getting dressed I heard the doorbell ring, then a short while later D's voice say, "Hello Gwen I'm here to pick up Tish."
"Come on in Dorothy, she is just getting ready," Gwen replied.
I hurried to finish dressing and scrambled out into the living room to see D. She was sitting on the sofa talking with Gwen.
"Morning D," I said.
"Hey Tish. So, you going to give me the grand tour?" she asked.
"Can do," I said. "But just by coming through the front door you've seen most of it."
I took her by the hand and led her around.
"This is the living room, it's also where I sleep. Through here is the kitchen, this is the bathroom, and this is Gwen's room," I said completing a somewhat whistle stop tour.
"It's a nice place ... cosy," said D diplomatically.
We went back into the living room, Gwen was reading a magazine, "Would you like some coffee Dorothy or are you headed straight out?"
"No thanks Gwen, we need to get off to meet Jane," D replied.
Turning to me Gwen said, "Are you going to be back for lunch?"
I glanced over at D who shook her head, "No," I replied.
"Well I'll see you later then Mandy, have a good time and here," she said pressing some notes into my hand. "Some pocket money."
"You don't ...," I started.
"Shush, you've earned it. Now off you go you don't want to be late," Gwen said.
I gave her a smile then grabbed my coat and walked out the door with D.
We wandered out into the cool December morning, and headed for into town.
"So what's the plan for today?" I asked.
"We’ll first meet up with Jane, then do a bit of shopping, a spot of lunch, then more shopping, and maybe a movie," said D. "Sound good?"
"I'm not really into shopping, but I'm willing to give it a go," I said.
To be honest we could have done almost anything and so as long as it was with my friends, I would have been fine with it.
"Cool," said D. "I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself."
We chatted about this and that, eventually things got round to the coming school week. Naturally my enemies came up as a subject, but it was quickly dropped to avoid spoiling our day out. This led me to thinking about the mysterious club that I was trying out for, but no one would tell me about, which was going to be on Monday after school.
I decided to try a different tack with D in my attempts to extract information about the club. I would attempt to get her to talk about things surrounding the club to try to learn more about it.
"So this club on Monday?" I asked thoughtfully.
"Yes," D answered carefully.
"Will I need my PE kit?" I probed.
"Yes." she replied warily.
"How about trainers?"
"So running clothes or aerobics."
"Hah, I see what you're up to you little minx, trying to work out what the club is about by a process of elimination. Well Tish Holmes I suspect even your deductive powers would be of no use in this case, but just on the off chance I won't answer any more questions on the subject. Nice try though."
"Bah!" I said and stuck my tongue out at her. She just grinned back.
We walked along in silence for a bit then conversation turned to music and TV. We whiled away the journey discussing this and that. We soon arrived at the arranged meeting point. We waited a bit then D got a call from Jane saying she would be a few minutes late.
After D had hung up and while she still had her phone out she looked at me and said, "That reminds me I don't have your number."
"I gave you the flats number the other day," I replied.
"No, I meant your mobile number."
"I don't have one."
"What!!!" exclaimed D. She looked at me in shock like I had just said I hated chocolate or I was actually an alien here to sell my own brand of brain-washing exercise videos or something else outlandish.
"I've never needed one, plus my parents frowned on them."
"How can you not need a mobile! I don't know where I'd be without one."
"Well it's not like I had anyone to call, I didn't really have any friends till I met you."
"Hmm, I suppose that makes sense," said D doubtfully. "Well, now that you have multiple friends you should think about getting one, so you can call us, and we can call you."
"I'm not sure I can afford it," I said unhappily.
"You might be surprised, go for one of the older cheap low feature ones with pay as you go, so you don't need to pay for a contract, only calls, and even then it's prepay so you can't get into bother."
"Maybe I could ask Gwen about it for Christmas or my birthday next year."
D nodded looking thoughtful. A few minutes later Jane showed up and after hugs all round we were off into town.
Shortly after we set off D pulled Jane off to one side and began whispering in her ear. They were soon looking at me with big grins and having fits of giggles. I didn't even bother to ask, I knew from experience that they wouldn't tell me. They were up to something, it would probably involve them treating me like their own personal life size doll and wearing some horribly embarrassing item of clothing.
The giggling continued till we got into town and we started considering what shops to visit. First up was a fairly upmarket fashion boutique. I followed D and Jane around as they looked at various tops and short skirts.
"Oh that is such a nice colour," said Jane holding up a bright blue top.
"Yeah," said D appreciatively. "I wish I could get stuff like this in my size. You can have stuff custom made but it's horrendously expensive, and it never seems to scale right. The fabric ends up looking like a tent."
They went through several items on the stands, but I didn't see what the fuss was about, the tops were all pretty similar. I couldn't imagine needing more than a couple.
Jane, probably sensing my boredom, turned to me and said, "Come on Tish, try to get into the spirit of it. It's supposed to be fun."
"I don't really get it. What's the attraction of clothes shopping. It always bores me to tears, why would I do it for fun?" I asked.
"You get to try out lots of new outfits to see what looks good on you," said D.
"But I have plenty of clothes," I said.
"You can never have too many clothes," said Jane. "You need to always look your best if you are going to get a boy to notice you."
I frowned at that, then said, "I'm not sure I want anyone noticing me especially a boy, and besides I doubt anyone will care what I wear with the way I look. Better to cover myself up, unless I start wearing a mask again."
Both D and Jane stopped and stared at me for a while. I started fidgeting as it was making me uncomfortable.
Eventually Jane said quietly, "Is that what you really think that people will think, that you are ugly or something?"
"I know what I look like, I'm a freak," I said.
"You've got to stop thinking that way," said D.
"Yeah," said Jane. "There may be some small minded fools who are hostile to you because you're a hybrid, though even they would be hard pushed to call you ugly. You're a gorgeous looking girl, I wish I had half your good looks. With the right clothes you will look absolutely irresistible."
I blushed and looked away.
"We need to get you to learn to take some pride in that fantastic looking bod of yours. You are hot stuff and it's about time you realised it." D said.
"Let's take her around and see if we can teach her to appreciate her looks and the joys of shopping," said Jane.
"Good idea. Let’s start with the basics and somewhere cheap as chips, this place is bloody expensive," D said with Jane nodding along. "Besides while she is not quite in the same can't get anything anywhere but the fat shop, tent stores, and parachute manufactures, league as me. She is pretty tall so I doubt they'll have anything in her size here, all stupid tiny sizes for model chicks."
"Let's hit one of the big cheap warehouse places," Jane said.
They each grabbed me by an arm and dragged me out of the store.
On the forced march to the next shop Jane tentatively asked, "Don’t you like boys?" Quickly adding, "It's cool if not."
I thought about it for a long while then answered, "I don't know. My brain says I shouldn't, but I really don't know if I do or not, or how I feel about girls for that matter."
"You'll figure it out," said D with a smile.
"Yeah no rush, you've had a lot to deal with and a sex change is bound to be confusing. Either way we'll still be your friends," said Jane with a smile.
The two of them dragged me into a big store that sold relatively cheap no fuss clothing.
“Right,” said Jane. “Here we have some pretty cheap and cheerful stuff. A selection of tops, skirts, dresses, and trousers in various styles and colours. We need to get you to start thinking about what looks good on you and taking some pride in your looks.”
“Yep, also you need to remember your sizes right,” D said to which I nodded. “Well let's start with tops, do you like the look of any of these?”
I looked along the huge number of tops on display and was a bit overwhelmed. I took a look at some of them but bar colour they did seem to all look the same as far as I could tell.
“They look OK I suppose,” I said.
“Any grab you?” asked Jane.
“Well, I suppose the blue ones are nice enough,” I answered.
“Which ones of the blue ones?” D asked.
“Well any of them, they all look the same to me,” I replied.
“Well, they are all in different styles and cuts,” said Jane. “Here I'll demonstrate, this is your size right?”
She picked a blue top off the rack in my size, then half a dozen in the same colour but slightly different shapes. She then grabbed my arm and marched me off to the changing room then shoved me into a booth and handed me the tops telling me to try on the first one. I took off my jumper and t-shirt, slipped on the top and stepped out for D and Jane to take a look.
“Now how does that feel?” asked Jane.
“OK, little tight,” I answered.
“It's supposed to be fairly tight, what do you think of how it looks?” Jane asked.
I looked carefully in the mirror, the tight t-shirt hugged my curves much more than anything else I had worn before. It exaggerated my figure and was pretty sexy looking.
I spent some time trying to work out how to describe it, but D pre-empted me by saying, “It looks really good.”
“Try the next one,” said Jane.
I got the next top on which was looser but had a lower cut front showing more of my chest.
“See this one is looser, but shows off your assets a bit more,” said Jane with a smile.
“Looks good on you,” said D.
“Next!” instructed Jane before I could voice my opinion.
This kept going for the rest of the tops, Jane and D occasionally fetching new ones or new sizes when they didn't fit. I felt like I had tried on most of the stock, but I had seen how a range of things felt and looked in relation to each other. We went back to the racks returning the tops I had tried on.
“So what did you think,” said Jane.
“Hmm interesting. When I was a boy, tops came in a few flavours shirts, t-shirts, few jumper types and that was it. You differentiated on pattern, or colour, not really shape, either something fitted or didn't,” I said.
“Well that's because you were a different shape back then, now you are a lot more curvy I suspect,” said Jane.
“What did you like out of that lot,” said D.
“I didn't really like the really tight stuff it wasn't very comfy, but the more fitted stuff did look pretty good. I'm not sure about the low cut tops, I'm not sure I want to be wandering about with my cleavage on display,” I replied blushing a bit at the thought.
“Give it time girl we'll have you out brandishing those things in no time,” Giggled Jane.
“Hmm,” I said giving her a disbelieving look.
She giggled even harder at that, “I'm only teasing. Some of the tight tops looked really good on you, they might take a bit of getting used to but they will turn heads.”
“Well, we have some idea about tops, how about the rest,” said D.
They then proceeded to have me try out most of the rest of the store, showing me the differenced between all the different shapes and styles of things. It was hard to imagine there were so many ways to make a pair of trousers, or a top, or a skirt. I suspected it was some sort of ruse to extract money out of people by getting them to buy more stuff than they needed. Though I had to admit some of the differing styles did look better on me than others.
We continued the clothes crash course till we all started to get hungry. We decided to get some lunch and picked a place in the food court to have lunch. I was ravenous and, using some of the money Gwen had given me, I got a big lunch from one of the fast food places.
Both me and D were munching our way through a large meal, but Jane had a small salad and was eyeing the two of us with a cross between disgust and indignation.
“I get how Miss tree trunk legs over there can put all that food away with no problem,” she said, gesturing at D with her fork, “But I don't get how you manage to eat so much all the time without seeming to put any weight on that depressingly slim body of yours. With the amount you eat, you should be the size of a house! You even manage to out eat her some of the time.”
“I'm a growing girl,” I said raising my regrowing hand. “Sarah told me that regenerating takes a fair amount of nutrients and I have a heightened metabolism anyway. She said it would probably die down a bit when I get my hand regrown.”
“You better not get into the habit of eating that much then or you'll be a growing girl but not in the hand department,” said Jane.
We finished our lunch and then began looking around the shops again. As we were passing an electronics shop, D suggested we go in and see how much a phone would cost me. I nodded figuring it couldn't do any harm to look.
I was momentarily dazzled by all the shiny bits of tech, all the fabulous gizmos and gadgets that were there to look at. I shook myself out of it, reminding myself I couldn't afford any of it and followed D and Jane to the phone section.
We skipped right past the latest and greatest section, proceeding to the bargain bin. Even then they were pretty expensive, it was nice to look though, D and Jane asked me about which of the models I liked.
We were looking at the features available on the bottom range phones when suddenly this man in a suit and tie leapt out from behind one of the adjourning isles and grabbed Jane, lifting her off the ground causing her to shriek.
"Got you, you thieving little minx," he shouted.
I dived for cover and went into stealth mode, my heart pounding shocked by what had happened.
But Jane just giggled, "Put me down Daddy,"
"And let you get away, after you stole my toast this morning, not likely," he said.
"I want to introduce you to my new friend Tish, well Amanda, we call her Tish," Jane said.
"Ah the young lady you told me so much about, well carry on then," he said putting her down.
They turned back to look at where I was, only now realising that I wasn't there.
"Hey where'd she go?" said the man, who seemed to be Jane's father, in a confused tone.
"Oh now look what you did, Daddy. You scared her," Jane said reproachfully.
"Oh dear did she run off then," Jane's father said looking about.
"No I expect she's still here," said Jane. "It's alright Tish, this is my Dad, you can come out."
I stepped out from behind the shelving I had hidden behind and turned off my invisibility. Jane's father did his best not to look too shocked.
"Daddy, this is Amanda," Jane said with a big smile.
"Pleased to meet you Amanda, I'm sorry if I scared you earlier. I run this shop so if you need any help just ask, any friend of Jane's is a VIP customer," he said. "You girls doing a little shopping then."
"Yes Daddy, oh that reminds me there is something Mum wanted me to talk to you about," Jane said, turning to us she continued, "Why don't you two head over to the shoe shop this won't take too long, I'll meet you there."
D nodded and then led me out of the shop, Jane's father said goodbye, "Have a nice day girls, nice to meet you Amanda."
We waved and then headed over to the shoe shop, I had a pretty good idea what was next, I was betting it would involve high heels plus D and Jane cackling like witches.
D took me round showing me the various sorts of shoes on offer, from casual trainers to stilettos.
"How on earth can anyone walk in those things?" I asked staring at the huge pointy heels.
"Dunno," said D, "I've never tried them. I hardly need to look any taller."
I nodded, looking at the shoes and trying to work out how tall D would be with them on. She looked down at me thoughtfully, "I think even for you these would be overkill, when you stand up straight you are already as tall as most lads so no need to add to it. Boys get all insecure if you are taller than them, I speak from bitter experience when I say you'll never get any dates with hot guys that way."
I squirmed uncomfortably at the idea of going on a date, D didn't notice as she was off to other types of shoes.
"Now what you want is something snazy without too much heel, Bingo!" said D producing a pair of black shiny shoes with modest heels.
She handed them to me, I regarded them gingerly, holding them at arm’s length like they were something that might explode, or leap over and bite me.
Eventually D prodded me in the ribs, "Well try them on," she cajoled.
I looked at her doubtfully then walked over to one of the seats. I slipped off my trainers and carefully put these girly shoes on. They didn't fit very well my talon like toe nails got in the way.
I was just to the point of tottering round trying to walk in these torture instruments, when Jane caught up.
"Those look good on you Tish," she said.
At which point I nearly went all my length tripping on the carpet. I limped back over to the seat and took the evil shoes off.
"They hurt my feet," I said rubbing circulation back into my pinched toes.
"The price of fashion," grinned D.
Jane gave her a slap on the arm but laughed. I didn't see what was so funny, my toes hurt.
"I guess your feet aren't all that flexible, given the scales. Perhaps something less pointy would fit better or a larger size," Jane said.
At this point a sales assistant wandered over, "Can I help you girls with anything?"
"Our friend here has somewhat oddly shaped feet," said Jane, "What would you recommend that might fit her. She doesn't need anything right now but she changed relatively recently and we want to get her a feel for what is available," Jane said.
"Well let's have a look shall we, first we'll measure her feet to see what we are working with," the assistant said with a smile.
I was taken over to a corner with a seat and a box with a small display.
"Now take of your shoes and socks, then put your feet through the hole there," the assistant said indicating two holes in the side of the box.
I sat down, took off my shoes and socks, then stuck my feet in the box. The assistant tapped a few buttons and a bright light emanated from the box.
"Right, all done you can put your foot-wear back on. This wizzy little gizmo scans your feet in three dimensions so we can get accurate measurements. Here we go," said the assistant pointing at the screen. Scans of my feet were now appearing the software slowly processing their dimensions. “Using this data we can match your feet to what shoes will fit you properly and then find them in our stock, or even order in ones we don't have, pretty neat huh?”
"hmm," I said, it was fairly fancy but it just seemed that using all that stuff just to find shoes was a bit of a waste.
"We get quite a few girls like yourself who have specific footwear requirements, this kit really makes it easier for us to cater to their needs. The last thing anyone wants is painful ill fitting shoes," she said, "Now here we have a list of all the stuff we can offer that will fit you and just to demonstrate it works I'll grab something for you to try."
She dashed off into the back and left me looking at the list of stuff that they could offer me, it seemed pretty extensive. I still had a hard time imagining needing more than a couple of pairs of shoes so I couldn't picture me needing to use this service that often. While we were waiting I caught sight of a blonde woman who seemed to be watching me, she looked away almost immediately. It could have been my imagination but I was sure I had seen her in Jane's Dad's shop and even the clothes shop before that. I shook my head, it must have been a coincidence, my thoughts on that were cut short when the assistant returned with some shoes for me to try on, they were similar to the ones D had picked earlier.
I put them on and I had to admit they fitted much better. I tottered about for a bit then returned the shoes to the assistant.
"How did those feel?" she asked.
"Pretty good, they didn't hurt at all and they fit very well," I replied.
"Well that's the advantage of using this stuff. I've done you a print out with your dimensions so if you need anything in the future we can find it for you quickly," she said handing me a piece of paper.
We chatted for a bit and she showed me the sorts of things they could offer me. Eventually we said goodbye and left without buying anything. This didn't seem to bother the assistant much, I guess she was counting on this work guaranteeing future sales or some such. As we were leaving I looked about for the blonde woman, but she was nowhere to be seen. I guess I was just being paranoid.
We decided to go see a movie, I wasn't sure what I wanted to see so I left the choice up to my friends. There was much debate between them though. D wanted to see what I would term a chick flick, Jane surprised me by turning this down in favour of some action film. In the end they compromised and we saw a comedy, which was quite good.
Afterwards we went for ice cream. As we were on our way to the ice cream shop, I could tell both D and Jane were very excited and worked up about something. Jane especially seemed about ready to burst and kept looking at me and giggling with D. I wasn't sure what the two of them were up to, we weren't going to anywhere they could embarrass me with frilly clothing so they had to have something else in mind.
I got some chocolate ice cream. Chocolate had always been my favourite flavour but I hadn't had it since I changed, I was glad that the many alterations to my anatomy hadn't made it less delicious. We sat down in the shop each enjoying our ice cream. Not much was said while we were eating we were all too busy enjoying ourselves. I was the last to finish, Jane and D sat looking at me grinning for a bit.
“We got you something,” said D with a big grin.
Jane giggled and pulled something out of her bag, she put a package wrapped in nice sparkly paper on the table, “This is for all the birthdays we have missed.”
I was lost for words so I picked up the package totally shocked.
“Well open it, then,” said D.
I carefully opened the package wondering what it was they had got me, inside was a box with a picture of a telephone on it. They had got me a mobile of my own.
“It's wonderful!” I said immensely moved, “You shouldn't have it must have cost you a lot of money.”
“Oh shush, it's a basic model and my dad gave us a really good deal as it's the end of line so they are trying to get rid of them. It's a pay as you go so it doesn't need a monthly fee, you only pay for calls. The best thing is the colour, here take a look,” said Jane.
I opened the box and took out the phone. It was a snakeskin pattern, a light brown and white speckle pattern very much like my own scales.
“Do you like it?” asked D.
“It's wonderful,” I said. I was so overwhelmed I was almost in tears, “Thank you both so much, you guys are the best.”
“You're welcome sweetie,” said Jane smiling.
“Hey it's partly us being selfish as well, now we can call you whenever we want you'll never get rid of us wherever you are,” D Joked.
I sprang up, I was crying now. I hugged my two best friends one after the other. Who could ask for better friends? Jane showed me the phone’s various features. She said it was all pretty basic stuff like pictures, video calls, accessing the internet, some basic organiser functions. Never having had a mobile before it all seemed pretty fancy to me. Jane assured me it was all a very old hat by modern standards. I soon had Jane's and D's numbers programmed in and a basic idea of how to use the thing, I looked forward to trying it out in anger later but right now the only people I had to call were sitting right next to me.
It was getting late and places were starting to close up, we grabbed our things and headed home. Jane went her separate way after a goodbye hug, I wished her well and told her I would see her at school on Monday. D and I wandered home together. We parted at my street arranging to meet to walk to school on Monday.
Just as I was about to step out of sight, D called, “Don't forget your gym kit on Monday.”
I waved goodbye and then headed back home. As I got in the door I could smell spaghetti bolognese, I would really have to try and work out how to cook something else or I was pretty sure I would go insane fairly soon.
“Hey Gwen, look what D and Jane got me,” I said excitedly, keen to show her my present.
“What's that?” she asked walking in from the kitchen area.
I showed her the phone they had got me, “Look it even matches my scales,” I said putting the phone by my cheek to demonstrate.
“Oh that must have cost them a lot,” said Gwen with a slightly worried expression.
“That's what I thought, Jane told me she got it cheap as her Dad owns the shop they got it from, plus it's a very basic model. I only have to pay for the calls I make, it's basically free if I don't,” I said.
“It was really nice of them to get something like that for you, I guess now I'll be able to call you when you're out and about.”
“Yeah, they're the best.”
“Well put it away for now and come and help me with dinner.”
I put the phone on to charge up and then went to help Gwen.
We watched the demon with its slaves, the large hybrid body guard, and the seemingly normal girl whose function we weren't sure of, a spy of some kind maybe. Five and I followed hand in hand, posing as a couple out shopping. The large number of people made blending in easy, not even the beasts demonic powers could pick us out in all this noise.
The demon made the pretense of being a real girl out shopping with friends, it was obvious even to me looking at her that she had no interest in it. Quite what she hoped to achieve with this charade was beyond me, but then these agents of evil often did things that made no sense.
At one point the three of them split up, the normal girl went off on her own. As always our target kept her protection, the large hybrid, close. Five followed them, while I stayed on the red headed girl.
She stayed in the electronics shop, so I lingered in the hifi section trying to find out what she was up to. Annoying overeager sales assistants kept bothering me, one was so persistent I almost lost my temper and cuffed him. Luckily I was able to focus on my mission and concentrate on the girl. She purchased a cheap mobile phone. Assuming it was for her mistress, this could work to the knights advantage it would be relatively easy to track the demon with moderate accuracy using the device.
Later we saw the two slaves present their mistress the phone. They seemed totally under her spell, they might well have to be eliminated, their devotion to the monster would make them both sacrifice themselves in order to stop us. I would shed no tears over the big hybrid, she was already corrupted beyond salvation and would have made a prime target on her own, but it was a shame if this other girl would have to die as well.
I hoped it wouldn't come to that, but reassured myself that if one relative innocent had to die to save countless others it was worth it.
We retreated to the van, there were less people about now and we were getting a lot easier to detect. I informed One about the mobile, it would make our job much easier when the time came to grab our target.
I woke up relatively early on Sunday. Gwen had to work today so I would have to fend for myself. I decided to try out the recipe book and cook dinner for her when she got back.
I checked the fridge for ingredients, there was very little, a few bits and pieces but not enough to do anything I fancied.
I had some money left over from what Gwen had given me yesterday. I looked through the recipe list for something that looked easy and didn't require too many fancy ingredients. I settled on shepherd’s pie something that looked relatively straightforward and inexpensive. I made a list of the stuff I would need, grabbed my coat, my new phone, and headed out the door.
I headed over to the nearest supermarket, it was in a street with one or two restaurants and as I was walking past one of them I saw a note in the window.
"Part time help wanted in evenings. Call Angela," the sign said and then listed a phone number.
I wondered if I could apply and maybe earn a little money to help out with the bills. I noted down the phone number, maybe I would give them a call later.
I kept walking to the supermarket a few shops down. I headed in the door and was just getting a basket when I felt a stab of hate flare behind me then a stern voice said, "Oi, animal!"
I turned to look, a middle aged overweight man in a security guard uniform was standing there looking straight at me. I gave him a questioning look not sure if he was talking to me and how to respond to that if he did. I could feel the anger boiling off him. I couldn't tell if it was directed at me, emotions not really being directional (well to my senses at any rate), but it was a good bet it was.
"Yeah, I'm talking to you freak! We don't serve your filthy kind in here, get out!" he shouted.
He looked like he might hurt me, so dropping the basket I backed away and ran out of the shop. I kept running till I was round a corner. When I'd calmed down a bit I took stock of the situation.
'What a bother,' I thought, 'Where can I go now to get ingredients.'
This wasn't the only food shop I knew, but the other one was a lot further away and I wasn't exactly sure how to get there from here. I sat considering my options, I could try for the other shop, or I could see if one of the smaller shops had what I needed, or I could give up. I thought for a bit, then another option occurred to me, I could use my blue eyed Mandy mask. My problems at school with it, were largely down to duration of use, plus the fact that I was using it around people who saw me every day. Here, I would be in and out 10 minutes tops. While the security guard recognising me was a worry, he had got a pretty close look at me, I suspected all he was focusing on was my scales and irisless eyes, he probably didn't even see the rest of me.
I figured it was worth a go, I could always vanish and do a runner. I switched on my disguise checking if it had worked OK using my reflection in a glass shop front. It had been a few days since I had last used the disguise so I wanted to make sure it still looked right. It looked fine, I gave my blue eyed doppelgänger a wink then headed back into the supermarket.
I was pretty nervous, but I tried not to show it, the guard was standing right inside the doorway. He looked straight at me as I walked in. I was sure he was about to shout at me at any moment.
Instead he smiled and said, "Good morning, welcome to Quick Shop miss."
I did my best to smile mumbling a response back, his radically different response to me in my disguise caught me a little off guard.
I wandered over to get a basket, as I was doing this a woman in a smart suit walked up to the guard and attracted his attention. She was trying to talk to him quietly but my position meant I could hear every word.
"Mr. Brown, I have heard that you verbally abused a potential customer," the woman said, I could feel a sort of restrained anger in her.
"It wasn't the kind of customer you want in here Mrs. Andrews, those animals are filthy," the guard said.
A look of distaste and annoyance crossed Mrs. Andrews face, "You have been warned about these sorts of prejudices before, were you not listening?!" the woman was getting increasingly angry.
The guard snorted, "I heard, lot of stuff and nonsense, it's my job to protect this store from undesirables. Those things are the worst kind!"
"The chain, this store, and the whole management team, including myself, have a zero tolerance approach to this sort of behaviour. You were warned before and you have simply ignored that warning, what's more you seem not to even realise what you have done wrong or show any remorse! I have no alternative but to terminate your employment!" she said sternly.
"What! You can't do that! I've got rights it's discrimination on the grounds of my religion!" he shouted.
"You cannot use your religion as a shield to allow you to discriminate against others. Now give me your pass then please leave the premises, or I will be forced to have you removed!" the woman was practically incandescent with rage now.
The man, perhaps sensing that it would be wise to leave or he would be looking at being arrested, handed over his pass and left, his face dark with anger.
Once he was out of sight the manager seemed to sag in on herself sighing with relief that the guard was gone. She turned to a young blond girl in a checkout uniform, "Well good riddance I say, did you manage to catch the girl to apologise to her?"
"I'm afraid not Mrs. Andrews, by the time I got out after her she was long gone," she said.
"Oh dear, I hope word doesn't spread in the local community that we are a shop that discriminates against MORFS survivors. I don't want to be tarred with that brush not to mention what it would mean a loss in business," she said.
I decided I better put her mind at ease since it seemed obvious that she was against the guards stance on MORFS.
"Excuse me?" I said, "Sorry for eavesdropping, but I'm the girl he chased out earlier."
"Oh I'm sorry he did that to you too but we were talking of a different girl, she was a hybrid," said Mrs. Andrews.
"Well I disguised myself so he wouldn't notice," I said and dropped my disguise. The woman and the girl looked a little shocked.
"Oh ... Well," the woman said, then visibly pulled herself together, "I'm very sorry for the way our security acted you have my deepest apologies. We welcome any potential customer and are strongly against discrimination, I have taken steps to see it doesn't happen again. I hope this action by one of the ex members of our staff doesn't put you off shopping here in future."
"I saw you fire the guy for calling me names and kicking me out, so I can see you frown on such things," I replied.
"Well, can I help you find anything?" Mrs. Andrews asked.
"Well I'm looking for ingredients for a shepherd’s pie, I want to try and make one for my sister tonight," I replied.
"Well let me help you find where everything is then," she said with a smile, then turned to the blond girl, "I'll take tare of this young lady, you can go back to your duties."
The girl nodded and then walked off, the manager lady then led me through the shop helping me find where everything was. She was obviously being extra nice to me after what happened earlier. It was partly a P.R. exercise to make sure I was less inclined to label the shop as some sort of anti-MORFS business but also I could feel the woman herself felt a degree of guilt about what had happened. She seemed a very hands on manager and anything that reflected poorly on the shop she took to reflect poorly on her. If it would assuage her feelings of guilt over the actions of her out of control security guard, I was more than happy to be treated like a VIP.
I got taken round like royalty. I picked up the few bits I needed then the manager opened a new checkout line just for me, I felt like some sort of celebrity getting special treatment, lots of people were looking at me wondering who I was and why I got to skip the lines. My bags were packed up for me and the manager gave me a book of vouchers good for a load of discounts on future purchases. I left the shop a bit bemused by the whole experience.
I wandered home, put all my new ingredients away then read through the recipe one last time. It was still a while till Gwen would back so I didn't have to start now.
I decided to call the restaurant about the job they had advertised. I punched in the number and waited while it rang.
"Angela Jones speaking," a woman's voice answered.
"Hello my name’s Mandy Wilson, I'm calling about the advert for part time jobs in the restaurant window," I replied.
"Oh hello, well what we are after is general help for a few hours a week in the evenings at peak periods, not much money I'm afraid but the possibility of more work if you're hard working enough," the woman replied.
"That sounds ok, I'm only 15 I hope that wouldn't discount me?"
"Not necessary, it's light work, cleaning plates, helping out as a waitress that sort of thing and the limited number of hours should fit well with restrictions on young people working. To be honest we have had trouble finding people due to the limited number of hours and low pay, if you just want some extra pocket money I'd say you would be perfect. You will need your parents’ permission to work for us but other than that you should fit the bill. Why don't you come in to see us so we can interview you and detail what sort of work you would be doing."
"OK sound reasonable, when should I come by?"
"Monday evening, 8 o'clock would be good for me, come to the back door at the side of the restaurant and ask for me, Angela, and we will take it from there. OK."
"Thank you, see you on Monday."
"Bye now," and she rang off.
I would have to speak to Gwen about it as I didn't want to waste the woman's time, also I had the club on Monday I doubted it would run that late but I would check with D tomorrow.
I checked the time, I still had a few hours till I would have to start cooking so I decided to watch some TV. I relaxed in front of the screen, sprawled in a very unladylike manner, enjoying some mindless film to while away the afternoon.
The man sat at the bar still wearing his cheap uniform, frankly I disliked him on sight but he would be useful so I suppressed my distaste.
I moved up to the bar a meter or so down from him, trying not to scratch at my face for fear of disturbing my disguise. Personal contact was risky so I did what I could to mitigate the risk.
The ex guard was pretty drunk and quite loud, it would make my job easier. Since half the pub could hear the guys ranting it wouldn't be a stretch to seem knowledgeable about his situation which would save a lot of time.
"I tell you," he slurred gesturing to the barman spilling most of his pint in the process, "I was just doing my job protecting the shop. I turned some freakish animal away and that damn bitch fired me for no reason! What's this country coming to, used to be an honest hard working man could get on okay in life, now everyone's being pushed out by these freaks and monsters. Should have shot the lot of 'em when we had the chance."
I sidled closer, “I hear that buddy, those things are evil, my brother lost his job welding because one of those freaks could spot weld with his fingertips,” I said.
The man smiled at me thinking me a kindred spirit, I did my best to foster that impression. This sort of person who just complained about the demons but didn't have the strength of character to do something about it made me sick. They just expected someone else to fix their problems for them.
“Well fella, these things are a real problem, about time someone did something about them,” he slurred.
“Indeed, let me get you another drink, and why don't we go somewhere more private to talk.”
“Sure sounds good.”
I ordered the guy another drink and guided him to a quiet corner of the pub where there was less chance of being overheard.
“So what did you want to talk to me about?” the guard said.
“Well, I know a little more about your situation that I let on,” I replied.
The man regarded me with suspicion, “Oh yeah, how's that?”
“Well, a friend of mine saw what happened to you and let me know. I work with a group of like minded individuals that watch out for this sort of thing. But first there is something I think you should see,” I pulled out a small video player from my pocket, “My friend recorded this after you left.”
I showed him a video of the manager talking with the demon, “They were in it together, the manager woman and this animal conspired to get you fired.”
The man glowered at it, “I knew it!”
“I'm sorry to hear of another good man put down by one of these things.”
“Damn beast, I'd like to wring it's bloody neck.”
“Really? I could help you find it. This one's a school girl. I have contacts that could locate it and give you information on its movements. It would be up to you to deal with her as you wish.”
“Why can't you deal with it?”
“My people's expertise lies in finding these things, we can't attack them, we could be too easily be linked with any attack, but by helping people like yourself we can continue.”
“What about getting caught?”
“We'll tell you how to find them at a time and place where they are alone and vulnerable where there will be no witnesses, we leave what happens to you. If you're smart then you'll be able to dispense some justice and get away clean.”
The man looked at me calculatingly weighing up the options, “Say I do want to get even with that animal, how would it work?”
“I would have one of my associates watch the subject, once we know enough about her habits to tell when she is vulnerable we would call you and give you the details. It's then up to you, we offer you one chance to do with as you will. After that you will never hear from us again. So what do you say?”
The man looked thoughtfully into his beer then knocked the rest of it back in one swallow, “Yeah, I'll do it.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a cheap pay as you go mobile, it was paid for in cash and had no contract so would lead any possible investigators nowhere, “We will call you on this, be ready, you get only one shot at this.”
I handed the man the phone and left the bar quickly, using a variety of methods to ensure I wasn't being followed, I doubled back, jumped on and off buses and trains, swapped my appearance and so on. I was pretty sure no one had even noticed me but it paid to be careful.
The next part of our plan was in place now we just needed an opportunity to test the demon once more.
It was time to start on dinner, the pie would take me about an hour to cook. I got all the ingredients I would need ready to go and began preparing them. First I set the oven so it would be hot when I needed it. Next I had to wash and peel some potatoes, Joyce had shown me how to do this the other day so I was soon off and running. I decided to get all the chopping done there and then, to save time later, so I did the onions and the carrots too. Pretty soon I had a pot of quartered potatoes bubbling away in some salted water. I moved on to the next bit and began sautéing the chopped onions and carrots.
I realised that without even thinking about it I had lit the gas hob by directing flames from my burning finger tip. I guess all the practice I had got was paying off, I could use my powers without really even thinking about it, they were becoming an extension of my normal abilities.
I did the onions and carrots for the time listed in the recipe, there was already a wonderful smell of cooking circulating around the flat. When that was done I put in some sweet corn and then mixed in the lamb and cooked it till the meat was browned. I tipped in some seasoning, a bit of salt, a pinch or two of pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce to give it a little kick. I was careful not to add too much, I didn't want to overdo the seasoning. I added the gravy and let it simmer for the rest of the time, adding more to keep the meat moist. There was a lovely rich meaty aroma rising out of the pan it was making my mouth water and stomach growl already. As was appropriate I had a few tastings to make sure it was good, I probably had several more than were strictly necessary but it tasted so good I could barely help myself.
Soon the time for the meat and the potatoes was up I turned off the gas and lifted the potatoes and the pan with the meat. I needed to get the strainer to drain the potatoes, but I found I had run out of hands, plus the small kitchen lacked the surfaces to put hot stuff down on. I could have put the pans back on the hob, but I was a little concerned that the residual heat would burn the meat. I was a bit in a hurry so I used a trick that most chefs would probably frown on. After taking careful aim I shot my tongue out and retrieved the strainer with it. I propped the thing up in the sink with a bit of prodding, then tipped out the potatoes in. With the potatoes now drained I could dispense with the pot, so put it back on the hob to wash later. I got a spoon and began putting the meat into the baking dish.
With that out the way I got the potatoes and mashed them up with the a little butter. Once they were nice and smooth I applied them as the top layer to the baking dish with the meat in. I made the trade mark peaks in the mash like the recipe said. As a last minute finishing touch I wrote my name into the mash with a fork giggling at my handy work then put the whole thing in the oven to cook. I put some peas on to have as an accompaniment.
After that I began cleaning up. Just as I was running the water to do the washing up the front door opened and my sister walked in.
“Something smells good,” she said with a smile after taking her coat off.
“I made us dinner,” I said, “I was a little tired of spaghetti every night so I used the book Joyce gave me to do Shepherd's pie for dinner.”
“Wow, you have been busy,” she said surveying the distributed cooking utensils. “Let me help you clean up.”
I gestured to the dishes, “I'll wash you dry.”
We soon had the kitchen squared away and it was almost time for us to eat. I opened the oven and reached in to take the dish out with my bare hands.
“Careful you'll burn yourself! Uses some oven gloves,” said Gwen slightly alarmed.
“You forget, I don't burn,” I said picking up the dish out of the oven, it was all brown and crispy on top, it looked lovely.
“Oh yes of course, silly me. I keep forgetting your special skills,” said Gwen with a smile. I served up some of the pie onto the plate for her and some for me, then put some peas on the side. I presented the plate proudly to Gwen.
“There you go, tuck in,” I said grinning.
We sat down and tucked it, it was very good. I was over the moon at my first successful cooking experience. It tasted even better knowing that I had been responsible for making it.
After we were done eating I turned to Gwen and asked, “So what do you think?”
“It was wonderful Mandy, really good, well done,” she said. I beamed at her praise happy that she had enjoyed the meal I had cooked for her, “You made a lot though.”
I looked back seeing that there was still half the pie left, even with my own increased appetite compensating for by Gwen's smaller one, “Well we can always have the rest tomorrow. I guess I need to learn more about scaling the recipes a bit as they are all for 4 or more.”
“Hmm well cooking double does mean we only have to cook every other night which is a plus,” Gwen said, “So what's for pudding?”
“Ice cream,” I said with a smile, I had thought about cooking something fancy for pudding but I didn't want to overdo things on my first go. Besides, I liked ice cream.
We had a few scoops of ice cream each and then finished off the washing up. Gwen put what was left of the pie in the fridge sealed up so we could have it tomorrow. After that we curled up together in front of the TV, I cuddled up to my sister and just relaxed there feeling full and happy.
I remembered I had to ask her about the job, “Gwen?”
“What would you think about me getting a part time job to help out?”
She sat up for a minute and looked at me, “You don't need to do that. I can make enough to support us without you needing to work.”
“I know but I want to help, if I make a bit of money too it will mean you won't have to work so hard.”
Gwen smiled and kissed me on the forehead, “You are so sweet, but I don't want you disturbing your studies. You can help me by getting a good education under your belt.”
“It wouldn't get in the way, it would only be a few hours in the evening helping out in a restaurant.”
“You're serious about this?”
“Yes, I want to pull my weight, I saw an advert in a window in town that said they wanted part time people for light work at peak times in the evenings. I can't do many hours anyway as I'm too young but that means I'm perfect for this.”
“You do pull your weight Mandy, you help out, you clean, now you cook. You don't have to do more for me.”
“I'd like to though, I've arranged to speak to the lady tomorrow about it, they still might turn me down when they see me. I promise that if I get the job and it gets in the way of school I'll quit.”
“Well I can see your mind is made up,” said Gwen looking me carefully in the eye, “Alright then but if it hurts your schoolwork or anything like that I reserve the right to have you stop.”
I smiled and hugged her tight, then I relaxed in front of the TV, soon I was drifting off to sleep with my sisters arm around me.
To Be Continued...
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/