Every story has a beginning, and an end. My story began at a high school play when I was fourteen, and nearly ended with the taste of gun oil and a hard exit a few years later. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I should begin with the theater, and the night I first expressed.
I was fourteen at the time, just old enough to think I had it all figured out, and too young to have really experienced anything most adults would call "difficult." The play was Romeo and Juliet, and no I didn't have a lead role, I was just a bit part with a handful of lines, "a plot thickener" as the drama instructor called it.
It was the opening night of the play, in between the first and second act I made my move. I'd had a crush on Josephine since the school year had began, the way she smiled, the way she flicked her hair when she got nervous, it was all part of her charm and I found her irresistible.
I finally got up the courage to kiss her for the first time that night, while some of the other kids were rearranging the scenery I confronted her, said something poorly worded in a Shakespearean flare to the equivalent that she was the one I loved to the exclusion of all else, and then I took the plunge, leaned in and kissed her.
Marty Bragough, our plays "Romeo" was near by, and took the opportunity to show the audience me and Juilet's little "performance" by yanking back the stage curtain and giving them an eyeful of us lip locked center stage.
Did I mention this was my first lesbian experience? It was both that and my first real kiss, and judging by the audiences reaction they didn't see it coming either. When I saw my parents, her parents, and the parents of everyone in my class, along with half the school faculty staring at us in shock I froze; and the world seemed to implode around me.
I wished more than anything at that moment to leave, fly away and disappear. I got the second part of my wish anyway as my ability expressed and I found myself reformed, in the shape of a raven standing amid the folds of my costume. Josephine started in shock and the collective gasp from the audience echoed like the worlds worst porno played at triple speed.
It was disorienting seeing in two directions as once, but I had the instincts of a bird along with its form, and before I knew it I took flight, past Marty and into the rafters of the auditorium, winging down and into the night as someone bolted through a side door in panic.
My first flight was both terrifying and liberating, as if suddenly the world was much bigger than I realized it could be, and also infinitely scarier and more unfamiliar than my teenage mind could readily comprehend.
I winged around, feeling the wind through my feathers, and the freedom of being unshackled by earth bound existence. By the time I tired and finally found my way back home it was well after midnight, the waning moon high in the sky and the night crickets a foreign musical chorus to my bird senses.
The lights to my house were off, yet the family station wagon was parked securely in the drive way. I remember being surprised their weren't a collection of reporters, or police cars, or something to signify this was the house of the girl who had expressed into a bird.
I guess compared to other Delta's that erupted in fire, projected energy beams, or grew devils horns and towered ten feet tall, a bird girl that didn't even injure anyone during her expression was a low key news article by media standards.
I landed on the front lawn and looked up at the front door, pondering on how I was going to open it without hands, the thought of my warm bed and a cup of hot chocolate reminding me of the simple pleasures of being human.
Those same thoughts are what I still focus on sometimes to help me shift back to my base line appearance, simple but effective. The shifting back was as disorienting as the original change, except far more unsettling given a naked human teenager feels lot more vulnerable on a suburban lawn at one in the morning than a raven ever will.
I remember pausing, finding my dark African American skin oddly foreign looking after seeing myself clothed in feathers, my black hair a tangle mess. years later people would say I looked a lot like Kandyse Mcclure in my human form, but at the time I was just geeky, and developed enough in the right places to get embarassing stares from the boys in my class.
Surprisingly the front door was unlocked, the kitchen tiles icy to my bare feet, the gloom barely touched by the street light spilling in through the side window. The shadows were quickly replaced by the glare of electric illumination, the chandelier over the dining table flaring into brightness as my father flicked on the light and gestured to a night gown draped over a near by chair before averting his gaze.
I pulled on the clothing with shaking hands, struggling to find the words to explain what happened, my fathers voice freezing me into silence. "No matter what, you’re my daughter and I'll always love you." He spoke it quietly, soothingly like it was a truth beyond which there was never any doubt.
With that he smiled, hugged me briefly, reminded me he would be there if I needed to talk, and left the kitchen, the sound of him on the stairs heading to bed fading into silence. I stood there stunned, more expecting a lecture, threats, or even the muzzle of his old twelve gauge after some of the stories I'd heard happening to other Deltas in the news.
But for dad that was the end of it. I was his daughter same as I was before I expressed, and he wasn't one for big speeches and needless drama, that was mom (the English teacher's) sole department. Then again he was a high school science teacher, so to him Deltas were scientific fact, no more unsettling that protons, or cellular mitosis.
I found out the next morning Mom had been out all night driving around with my aunt looking for me, having dad wait at home in case I turned up. She made a huge fuss the next morning over breakfast, but oddly enough she was more upset about me being a possible lesbian than a shape shifting Delta, go figure.
After the usual crap newly expressed Deltas go through life went back to normal for me. Josephine moved away with her parents before I got to see her again, and most of my high school friends looked at me like I was some kind of freak, but life went on.
I learned shape shifting wasn't the limit of my powers when I tried to trim my nails a week or so after expressing and broke moms favorite set of clippers. My body's keratin (and later I found out dentin as well) had hardened, to the point where it took a diamond file to keep my human nails in check, and cutting my hair ruined a half dozen industrial strength shears. (Needless to say I keep my hair on the longer side, trimming it once a year or so.)
I also learned I healed quicker than before, cuts and bruises vanishing in hours instead of days, and even broken limbs a temporary (albeit excruciatingly painful) inconvenience. The time I was hit by a car when chasing butterflies as a cat my mom totally lost it, and didn't let me leave the house for a week after, even though I was fine within hours of the accident.
Specialists on "the Delta Factor expressions" theorized that while I was by no means immortal, my healing factor would allow me to survive nearly any injury that didn't kill me out right. In theory anyway.
Those specialists never mentioned all the headaches being Delta would bring me, especially since I never fully learned how to control my abilities.
There was this one time when I was around fifteen, after getting into an argument with my mother over going to the school dance with this girl I liked I got sent to my room crying
I remember falling asleep on my bed and being so angry at my her for not letting me go, both because it would be my first real date with a girl, and because she was afraid if I got bullied I'd shift and maybe hurt someone.
I woke up a while later to my mother screaming my name, and found myself laying in this puddle of liquid, just covered. I had a water bed back then, and I was so angry when I fell asleep I'd shifted into something with claws, and pretty well shredded it
My room was on the second floor and it had flooded down into the living room, ruined the TV and the computer, and shorted out the ceiling fan/light combo along with drenching me. The thing was, my mother was convinced I'd done it on purpose to get back at her, no matter that now I had no where to sleep and most of my stuff got ruined too.
Like some mother daughter fights go, I said some awful things, she said some even worse ones, my dad tried to get in the middle of it which just made it worse. In the end I ran out the door, changed into a dog and just kept running.
It was well after dark by the time I stopped running, and I had no idea where I was, and at the time I didn't really care, I was just so mad at the world for not understanding me, at my parents, at being treated differently.
Hours later I found myself in some unknown part of New York, Harlem I think it was, in the middle of the night, just as it was just beginning to snow. That was when I met them, this group of alley dogs, they came out from behind this dumpster and circled me, sniffing at me, a couple of them growling.
I felt kind of like someone who had jumped out of a plane and landed in a foreign country, I had no idea of the language, or the customs, I was one of them but an outsider at the same time.
I heard this pitiful whining sound and it took me almost a minute to realize it was the sound of me crying. but as a dog. After a bit they stopped and just moved off, back down the alley, one of them looking back at me as if to see if I would follow. Finding their presence more comforting that the idea of being alone, I did.
They led me back down to this dumpster behind some Chinese restaurant, we ate this friend pork and rice, at least I think that's what it was, as dog everything tastes different, more intense, especially meat.
They accepted me as one of their own after a fashion, and I wound up falling asleep curled up next to an old Doberman and some of the other dogs under the dilapidated porch of an abandoned building.
It was also the night I had intercourse for the first time, and maybe gave up a large part of my humanity as a result without really even realizing it, such are the consequences of teenage defiance.
I know, you’re wondering what a lesbian is doing giving it up to some street dog? Truth is in my animal forms I'm not much of a lezzy, the primal instinct and urges of my beasts lead me to be more interested in (both genders) of whatever species I happen to be in the form of at the time.
Yeah, it confused me at first too, but I got over it after finding out how much sheer fun sex was, especially when it came to the variety of experiences to be had in the animal kingdom! But that's a confession for another time.
As for the alley dogs, I stayed with them as a dog for the better part of a week, I just wanted to forget about my human life, and how lonely it had become, and those dogs accepted me in a way my parents didn't.
It wasn't until a group of gang bangers got into a shoot out with some other street toughs, and scared the hell out of me that I remembered how nice it was to have a warm house and safety.
So I left for home, using a map at one of the bus stations to find my way back, and that old Doberman followed me too, I think she'd kind of adopted me in her own way.
When I walked in the front door naked with that street dog at my heels my mother dropped the glass she'd been holding and just stared in shock; the look on her face was priceless. She'd been convinced I'd been sold to sex traffickers after I disappeared naked into the streets, dad thought I'd been hiding at some friends place till he saw me naked, and then threatened to have me micro chipped like a pet if I ever ran off again.
They even let me keep the old Doberman, the poor girl would scarcely leave my side for the next couple of years, she was almost like a second mom in some ways.
There were some other defining moments of my childhood, but I'll get into those later. For the most part life was okay, and I was bright enough (thanks in part to my parents still schooling me even during summer vacation) to graduate high school at sixteen.
It was around that time I discovered the upper limit of my shifting ability, having seen a walking with dinosaurs special on TV and dreaming of what life would have been like as a raptor. You could say for me, when my imagination ran wild my body often followed, and I destroyed moms favorite couch during that shift, and the new plasma TV with my feathered raptor tail when I spun around at her furious screams.
On the plus side I turned that aspect of my shifting to my advantage, posing at the Natural History museum for paleontologists for a thick stack of cash and advancing understanding of the subject matter by leaps and bounds.
Dear mom nearly fainted when I arrived home from the museum the first time and told her I allowed a bunch of men to take pictures of me without my clothes on, before dad clarified I was a raptor at the time and ruined the moment.
That wad of money is what paid for my college, where I chose to major in paleontology, finding dinosaurs to be fascinating to me. My writing career didn't begin until much later, but I'm getting ahead of myself again.