About a month in, after class one Friday, Sarah confronted me unexpectedly, "You're really into this stuff, right?"
"Sure, it's almost second nature to me you could say." I smiled slightly at my private joke. "I've been into the Jurassic era ever since I was little, as I got older you could say it got into me."
"I could use some help getting this. You want to study together? I can offer better food than the dorm cafeteria." Her offer sounded casual, like she invited people back to study all the time.
"Sounds like fun, your dorm or mine?" I asked, cringing slightly at my choice of words. Great going, saying studying is fun to you, way to impress the cute girl nerdo. I quietly berated myself while adjusting the strap on my backpack.
"My place. I live off campus. It's a mile or so, in
"Great, I'll run over after my last class, where in
"Sure, I'll be by around fiveish, oh and nothing too spicy please, it gives me heart burn." I smiled and gently put a hand to my stomach, recalling my painful first (and last) experience with Thai take out..
Sarah nodded. "See you then." and ran off to her next class without further comment.
I paused, wondering quietly if it was just studying, or for a chance to get to know each other better? I smiled and shook my head to clear away such thoughts, better to focus on helping her and see what happened than get ahead of myself and ruin things.
That night I shifted, into a by now familiar dog/wolf hybrid shape and ran to the address, carrying my backpack in my teeth, and re-clothing behind a set of hedges outside. My room mate at that time in my life found my shifting to be "freaky" but she ignored it mostly, aside from the pet hair, for which I was privately grateful
Sarah buzzed me through the front entrance of the older brick apartment building. it was a five floor walk-up to her flat though. I got there to find an open door. Music was playing inside, and I could smell cooking.
I smiled, inhaling deeply and adjusting my one piece mini dress, still slightly out of breath from the run earlier and 5 flight climb, grateful most animals forms didn't sweat like humans. "That smells wonderful! What is it? Italian?" I inquired as I stepped inside.
Through the open door, I saw a small main room. To the right was the kitchen, just separated from the rest by an island counter. A lounge chair, couch and a hall was to the right just past the kitchen, presumably leading to restroom and bathroom.
Sarah was in the kitchen near a small table cooking, she looked over as I entered. "Chicken with some Italian herbs, seared, then baked, a little pasta and sauce, fresh broccoli." C'mon in, I'm just putting the chicken into the oven for a bit. We can hang while it's cooking and study after we eat."
I sighed in relief, briefly concerned Sarah may have turned out to be a vegetarian. Since expressing I'd discovered a taste for meat, the less cooked the better. Looking back on it I wonder if perhaps it was due to me taking so many carnivorous shapes and the residual desires bled over? It doesn't matter, I loved (and still love) my meats raw, and bloody when possible.
"Sounds great, I know of a really quick and tasty cheese melt recipe that will go great on the broccoli if you want a hand with the food?" I tossed my book bag onto the couch and pulled my hair back, wrapping a rubber band around it with practiced ease.
"If it requires any sort of cheese we might be out of luck. Maybe next time. Besides, guests don't work. It's a rule." Sarah told me matter of factly.
I smiled and nodded, taking a brief glimpse at the clock, "Cooking is more fun than work to me and I could run down to the corner stor-" I paused as I heard a hallway door open and a moment later another girl walked out. She had Short brown hair and a cheerful smile accented by a light blue blouse and pencil skirt that fell to just above her knee.
Sarah looked over with a simple introduction, "Hey. Ellen, Evie. Evie, Ellen. Best friend, Study buddy. Study buddy, Best friend."
"A pleasure," I nodded in greeting, the cheerful look on the girls face putting me at ease. She seemed quite happy to have a guest in the house, or perhaps just enjoyed Sarah's cooking? I pondered, reaching out to take the other girls hand in a friendly grasp.
Ellen stepped forward and took my hand hand. She was about the same age as Sarah, pretty, but demure. "Good to meet you."
"Do you go to the college as well or-?" I let the sentence hang, deliberately holding her hand for a fraction of a second longer than necessary before releasing it.
Sarah turned back to her food, moving chicken into a pan and putting it in the oven. "Twenty minutes."
"I go to a different school." Ellen offered by way of explanation,
I paused as I realized Ellen had deliberately chose to keep the answer vague, perhaps she wasn't comfortable discussing her personal life with new acquaintances?
"Ellen's at Juilliard. We moved here because it was about the same distance to both." Sarah said, pausing to rinse her hands in the kitchen sink.
"Ah, the arts college," I faltered as I realized my phrase may have sounded judgmental. "I almost went there myself, but my tastes run more towards biology."
Ellen smiled at her friend's ready defense. "Well, welcome, make yourself at home. If you don't like Dido, I can change it, and of course I'll turn it down when it's time to study."
"Sarah's in my Paleontology course, it's how we met," I paused and waved a hand dismissively at the music "I love pretty much everything but opera, it gives me a migraine." I glanced around, noticing for the first time it was actually a pretty nice place for two college students. Wood floors, decent space. Not huge, but compared to the dorm rooms, it was spacious.
"How'd you manage to afford a flat like this if you don't mind me asking? Compared to the dorm rooms it's kinda palatial." I gestured out the window at the setting sun over the distant buildings. "Got quite the view as well."
Sarah came around the counter commenting to Ellen. "Yeah, Evie's into it, and I'm just trying to get through the class." Sarah looked around at my question. "Yeah, we were thrilled to find it. It's rent controlled, so it was super affordable."
"Which is good because we're super broke." Ellen added.
"We're only regular broke. Don't exaggerate." Sarah chastised her gently.
"Broke enough that I'm babysitting later tonight." Ellen replied, looking momentarily defiant.
"You just go for the free TV and Ben & Jerry's." Sarah waved her hand. I giggled, wondering if perhaps the girls were more then just "best friends" but decided not to broach such a topic too soon, lest I unintentionally offend them and make this first study hangout my last.
"Oh neat, used to baby sit when I was younger, I'd give the kids horsie rides around the back yard and let them play fetch with me." I grinned at the memories, and the angry looks my mother would give me when I tracked muddy paws through the living room.
"The ice cream is just a sweet bon--" Ellen broke off, looking at me and my oddly phrased statement.
I paused as I realized they likely had no idea of my Delta ability, unlike the rest of my friends back home, and taken without that piece of knowledge my comment was probably off putting to say the least. I laughed a little despite myself at the absurdity of it.
Sarah nodded, clearly uncomfortable. "Anyway, let's sit, chill a bit. Evie, do you prefer your root beer in the bottle or in a glass?"
"Right, that..." I let my voice trail off as I struggled how to explain it. "I recognized you from the telly Sarah, I guess I sorta thought you might have seen me form the museum news pieces they'd done."
Sarah paused. "Well, I figured you recognized me, so no big. Now, glass or bottle?"
"A glass will be fine." I said, pausing for breath before continuing.
Sarah went back around the counter to grab three bottles of root beer and the opener. She grabbed three glasses, opened and poured as I continued my explanation.
"I've got a delta ability too, I can shift, into animals and stuff." I paused, finding myself oddly embarrassed to be discussing it, almost as if it were some kind of dirty secret. "So when I say I gave them horsie rides and played fetch, I meant I did that in my other forms, not like this." I grinned disarmingly.
"Yeah, Sarah's famous. It's a cross she bea--" She broke off again, now looking at me as if for the first time. "Animals?" She shook her head. "It must be something about the neighborhood, the way it pulls everything in."
"Really how so?" I tilted my head in curiosity, "Oh and I can show you if you want, it's nothing too creepy." I tried my best to keep her voice level, feeling a surprising desire to show my skills to another delta, to feel like I belonged rather than an outsider for what I could do.
Sarah brought the root beers and sat down. "No-one needs to perform for anyone. We're here to chill, eat and study. And make fun of Ellen when she's gone."
Ellen stuck out her tongue. "Just for that, I'm not bringing you back any ice cream tonight."
"I mean, I totally love you and you're the best." Sarah added hurriedly.
"Too late." Ellen said in mock seriousness.
I smiled at Sarah's comment, finding the question coming to my lips almost before I thought twice about it. "So, how long have you two been together?"
"Since Kindergarten." Sarah answered me without a moments hesitation.
"She means together , together." Ellen told her, as if that explained everything.
I giggled again, Taking the root beer with my right hand and gesturing with my glass to Ellen, "Exactly," Pausing to sip on it and looking around for a place to sit comfortably. settling for the lounge chair after a moments hesitation.
"Oh." Sarah paused a moment. "Since first grade."
Ellen playfully smacked the back of Sarah's head.
"Early bloomers eh?" I smiled thinking back to my first time. "The first time I kissed a girl was at the school play, it was... Life changing you could say." I grinned at the private double meaning of my statement.
"Ow. We're not together , together." Sarah said, rubbing the back of her head with one hand.
"Oh then just finger friends?" I nodded in understanding. "I've made a few of them since coming to college." I added, my mind drifting momentarily.
"Finger friends?" Sarah sounded puzzled.
"You don't want to know." Ellen told her, rolling her eyes.
I giggled again. "You know, mouse clicking gal pals? You scratch my itch I'll scratch yours?" I moved my fingers in the air, palm up in a slow hooking motion.
"Ah." Sarah sipped at her root beer. "No. I'm into guys. But Ellen's my best friend since we were five."
"Liking guys doesn't mean you can't have finger friends," I clarified, feeling compelled to educate my new study buddy. "I've lent a hand to more then one straight friend over the years." I winked and leaned back, pulling a long draw from my soda.
Ellen smiled at the tone Sarah's voice when she said best friend . So much for the myth of all college girls being wild and sexually adventurous I thought, or they just didn't like admitting it to people, either way it certainly was a more interesting conversation than I was anticipating earlier.
"Uh..." Sarah seemed a little uncertain now, looking at me. "That's... probably more information than you should have shared before dinner."
I laughed again, this time more openly, "That reminds me of something my mother once told me. You see after she found out I was into girls, she was always avoiding the topic for months, Well this one night several months after my mom found out I was into girls, she was cooking dinner she turned to me and she say "so you liking girls, that means you use your tongue on them, down there?" I smiled at the fond memory and how embarrassed I was at the time.
"I nodded and told her of course, and out of the blue she smacks me on the arm with the wooden cooking spoon and yells "Then don't you ever complain about my cooking again!" I burst into laughter at the end of my little anecdote, hoping my study buddy and her roomie would find it equally as amusing.
Ellen looked at Sarah. Sarah looked at Ellen. After a moment pause Ellen said... "Well... I guess that's better than how my mom found out."
"How the entire city of
I stopped laughing as the joke fell flat, suddenly feeling very self conscious and eying the window, the idea of flying out suddenly very appealing. "So umm… What happened?" I leaned forward a little, still processing the quiet realization that Ellen wasn't as straight as her roomie.
Ellen stuck her tongue out. "My mom found me and my girlfriend in bed together. Sleeping, but it was pretty obvious we hadn't only been sleeping."
"Then how did the entire city find out from that? Was she on a reality tv show or something?" I cringed inwardly at the choice of words, but it was the only logical deduction I could come up with.
"Well, no." Ellen elaborated, Sarah's talking about a few days later when I was a little bit impulsive and decided to tell the entire city I loved my girlfriend."
"Half the west coast." Sarah clarified quietly.
"That's kinda romantic actually." I smiled warmly and made sure to keep eye contact with Ellen as I spoke. "I turned into a raven, and flew away after kissing my first girlfriend, when I realized the entire high school student body and most of their parents had seen it."
I reached out to take the Ellen's hand in support. "At least you were in San Francisco, still it must have been hard to deal with the aftermath of that."
Ellen let me take her hand, and smiled, though she didn't really seem to need reassuring so much as she was trying to do the same for me. She shook her head. "We broke up six months later."
"See? It's simpler to be straight." Sarah interjected.
"My girlfriends parents moved away with her later the same month after we kissed. They were freaked out she was involved with a delta." I told her, giving Sarah a doubtful look.
"My mom made me change the sheets on the bed." Ellen confessed.
I looked up at Sarah and shook my head. "Straight couples have just as much heart ache, only difference is they have a much higher chance of finding someone after." I glanced over at Ellen at her confession.
"Ouch, embarrassment central. My mom refused to even acknowledge it for the better part of a year." I squeezed Ellen hand sin sympathy. "When she caught me and Jackie up in the tree house months later she just about freaked. I think up till then she thought it was just a phase." I blushed a little blinking, suddenly self conscious at how it looked to be holding hands with Sarah's room mate in front of her.
Ellen withdrew her hand. It was apparently a little weird for her too, having only just met me. "Well, my mom was pretty cool about it. It was just how she found out that bugged her. After, we talked, and she was fine." She sipped her root beer, then stood "I'll get the table set."
I caught myself before offering to lend a hand, recalling the no work rule she had for guests. "Thanks for the drink by the way." I said as she departed, settling back in the chair and changing the subject to something less intimate. "So, how is the community around here? I'm still getting settled in and haven't really found my way around very well just yet."
"The Village is wonderful. Quirky, bohemian, all the best kinds of weird." Sarah replied, seeming to appreciate the change of topic.
Ellen nodded agreement. "Yeah. I like it here a lot."
"Nice, the college is great course wise, not so much people wise. Us freshman are always looked down upon, especially when we look a bit younger than they think we should."
"Well, I imagine that will get better. New kids don't stay new long." Sarah reminded me.
"It's just taking time to adjust, this is the first real time outside of the college I've spent since getting here." And being in human so much is a real challenge, I added silently. I set the empty glass to the side with a soft thunk. "So what's your major? Your college is famous for music right?"
Ellen laid out three plates and three sets of dining utensils. "I'm studying voice, but..." she trails off for a moment. "I'm not sure that's what I want to do with my life."
"I'd love to hear you sing sometime in private, if you're willing?" I blushed a little and found a fascinating stain on the floor to stare at for a few moments, hoping my subtle hint wasn't too obvious. "I learned the Violin when I was younger, but it never really took."
Ellen smiled. "Maybe some time." She finished setting the table. "I do enjoy singing. I just don't think it's what I'll do with my life."
Sarah headed to the kitchen and pulled out the chicken, checked the pasta which was simmering, and the broccoli which was steaming. "It's all good. Let's eat."
"Do what you love for work and you'll be happier in the rest of your life, it's what my father always told me." I nodded and stood up, smoothing out my mini dress and pulling a twig from the hem, a remnant from when I'd re-clothed outside earlier.
Sarah brought out the food and served it neatly. Ellen took her place at the table, and the pair began eating without ceremony. It was nothing fancy, but well-prepared.
I eagerly dug in, grateful there wasn't any awkward grace moments to ruin the meal. "How cheap is the rent in this area? Moving out of the dorms might not be a bad idea, I could use the personal space, being an only child having a roommate is a bit cramped." Asked casually, recalling my roommates occasional complaints about my shedding .
"If you can find something rent controlled, it's okay. Otherwise, forget it. We'd be living in separate dorms if we hadn't lucked into this place." Ellen offered.
I nodded, pausing long enough to add a dash of pepper to the meal, "I'll have to keep an eye out then." The rest of the dinner and conversation were nice, after which Ellen left Sarah and me alone to study. After about an hour, She departed to go babysit, promising Sarah once more that she'd eat all the ice cream.
Later, after we'd studied a while, Sarah offered to walk me home. I realized with no small amount of inner amusement she was just trying to look out for me, not remotely interested in romance. I refused as politely as I could manage, slipping into the bushes outside for a canine run back home.
I had no idea at the time, but these two girls would play a large part in my future, becoming two of the few people I would call family. At the time however I remember thinking Sarah was just not interested in me, or really even paying attention. Ellen, well she was kind of… Prudish.