Her side of the room had the lights dimmed, and I saw the mound underneath the blankets move slightly.
"Can we talk?"
She finally sat up. I saw her eyes glint back at me in the dim light.
"Sit," she said in a dry, hoarse voice, gesturing next to her on the bed.
I sat down, feeling tension in all of my bones. We looked each other in the eyes. I couldn't read her expression all that well in the shadowy light. She did not seem to be scowling or anything. If anything, she looked ashamed.
"Jackie," I made the first move, "I'm not going to beat around the bush. I hurt your feelings, I pushed you to a difficult place, and that's my fault. I let my argumentative side get away from me, and I didn't consider how it would make you feel. I'm sorry."
She didn't move. She looked down at the bed sheets, staring blankly, then into my eyes. I could see the trace of dried tears there.
"I'm... I'm so tired Matt. Of everything. I'm tired of who I am. I'm even more exhausted now that the universe decided to make my life even worse. I just want relief."
That statement frightened me.
"Don't freak out on me," she said, "I'm not... I'm not thinking about... that. I just... I just want a break from life. Not from school, or work, but just from me. I'm so tired of myself, of this constant feeling of no control over what I do, or how I think..."
"I feel like that a lot," I said tentatively.
"And I hate that," she said."I hate that everyone feels so lost. We've never figured out how to live in the modern world, us human beings. I wish that someone today just... knew what to do, that we didn't have to doubt."
"Well, we can choose not to doubt. We can choose to have confidence in ourselves."
She shook her head. "I can't. I know I'm doing so many wrong things."
"I am a furry." She said it with a nervous voice, afraid to say it aloud.
"So? I... I'm... interested in... people looking like animals. That's... that's not okay."
"I... I won't lie, it's a bit strange. But there are worse things people are into. I don't think that it's wrong."
"You don't understand Matt...."
Her body lurched, like she was trying to stifle a cry.
"Then explain it to me."
A few tears glinted on her fur covered cheeks in the fading light.
"This... this stupid transformation... I like it. I like looking in the mirror and seeing my dog-like face stare back."
"I feel... comfortable in this body. I... I feel comfortable in a way I can't describe. I don't... I don't think I want to change back, even if they do find a cure."
I was at a loss for words. She really wanted to stay this way?
"Those weird people you're off-put by, someone who would want to willingly change into this... that's me. I'm the bizarre girl who wants to look like a golden retriever."
She gave me a harsh look. "Gosh, please just say something! 'Okay' only leaves my mind reeling, trying to imagine what you might be thinking."
I took a moment to plan carefully what I was going to say. "I... I don't know if I'm thinking about anything. I've never heard of someone... like you before."
"I didn't think I was someone like this before," she said. "I just feel... happier now, in a way I can't describe. I like having a tail, being all furry, having my floppy ears. I don't know. I feel.. I feel cute."
I didn't say anything.
"And...," she gasped out a small exhale, "I never felt that way as a human."
"I think you're okay Jackie. And I think that even though we look like this, it doesn't make us any less human."
"We're not human Matt. We're something new. I'm... I'm not even sure I'm upset about that. I feel... some sort of weird thrill, thinking about that I'm different now."
"Regardless," I said, "I think that... maybe by the standards of the world, you're a bit weird - but I don't think there's anything wrong with you. If you like this... I think that's alright. And I think that... well, you do look kinda cute, a bit like a puppy."
"Matt," she shuddered, "don't... don't say that."
"I should... I should not like this. I should not find it cute. I should not look at you, and feel... feel interested in that."
"Interested in... what?"
She let out a few sobs. "I'm attracted to you as a dog. I didn't think you looked... ugly or anything as a human, but as a dog person.... I just... I can't control myself. I have... thoughts... going through my mind."
"You... you don't have to tell me about that."
She sniffled. "Okay. But bottomline, it's... it's messed up for me to think about you in this way. I accept your apology for riling me up like that, but I am far more in the wrong. From the moment you started changing, when you started panting, and we had no idea what was going to happen, I just... I started fantasizing about what you'd look like as a dog. And now... I got what I wanted. I feel terrible."
It took me a bit to process what she'd just said. She was into me - but dog me. These changes that I'd been repulsed by, and even now had only started tolerating, she saw completely differently. I should probably have been aghast at her thinking of me in this odd way, but I instead just found it perplexing.
"What... what exactly do you find attractive... in this?" I gestured to my face.
She cringed, slowly bringing up her eyes to meet me. "I... I think you look cute with your wet snout... and with your big floppy ears. Gosh Matt don't make me talk about this. I already felt sick enough when you caught me... wagging my tail. I shouldn't like anything about this. No healthy person should like anything about this."
I slowly put my arm around her. "I don't know Jackie. I think... I kind of like my tail. I'm still getting used to it, but it feels good to wag it."
I let my tail loosen up, and gently wag. I was doing it as a gesture, but part of me really did feel this way. It was very new and strange, but it also felt a bit relaxing. Somehow, it just made me feel happy.
Jackie looked at my tail with a blank expression.
"We shouldn't be doing this," she shook her head.
I licked my nose. "Who says what we should and should not be doing? If we like it -"
"No Matt. This is weird. Normal, well balanced people don't do this. I'm not going to let you encourage my messed up interests."
"I don't think you're messed up Jackie."
"You've kept this hidden for so long. I'm sure that's it's nerve-wracking for you to talk about."
She rubbed her fingers against her temples. "Yes. Yes it is."
"Am I pushing you too far? I'm sorry. I want you to talk about it, but if you feel uncomfortable about this, I can stop."
She didn't respond, sitting motionless. I held her a little bit more tightly.
"I like you Jackie, and I'm sorry for the stupid things I've done and said. I think you're cute, before, and like this."
She made eye contact with me, and a stunned, yet perhaps hopeful look on her face.
"You seriously think that?"
I pulled her close against me. "Yes."
She leaned a bit closer. "I feel... very torn Matt."
"In what way?"
"I don't want to be alone. I don't want to give into this."
She shuddered. "Matt... I'm so so afraid of being alone. I'm so afraid that all those people out in the world will spit on me every time I walk by. I'm afraid that no one will want to be with me."
I considered the thought in my mind. I nearly shut it down. But ultimately, I decided to be honest.
"Whether they find a way out of this or not Jackie... I want to be with you."
Jackie let out a few quiet sobs. "No you don't. What if they find a cure and I... and I don't want to change back?"
I looked into her eyes. I could see the conflict stirring in those dark blue and green irises. It wasn't just a question of "will you care about me if I'm a dog" but also "if I decide to stay this way, will you stay as well?"
"I... I don't know. I think not all of this transformation is bad... but I don't know if I prefer it more than my human body."
She didn't say anything.
"That doesn't mean that I might not change my mind. It... it could be a long time before they find a cure."
Jackie was quiet for a moment longer. She breathed deep and slowly.
"Matt... they've... they've said that the virus... it will get passed on genetically."
Huh. Seems she was more interested in a certain sort of thing than she'd claimed.
"I... I'm not ready to talk about that sort of thing," I said. "We're only in high school."
It was growing darker. I couldn't see her features all that well anymore. I decided to hop off of the bed, and turn up the lights a bit. She blinked at the brightness, turning her face away from me. I rejoined her, unafraid to put my arm back around her.
"Jackie... what I said before - about that I would be there with you when people made fun of us... I still mean it. Our other friends will be there too."
"They... they... know." She made a sob.
"I... I only caught pieces of what you were saying on the phone with Douglas... but gosh, they know what a freak I am. That I'm a furry. If they knew everything that I'd told you..."
"You are not a freak Jackie. I don't think they really care."
"And Douglas might fall to the virus too," she said wearily.. "Gosh the whole world is going down the toilet. I'm so tired, I hardly care anymore. I wish the world was normal. I wish I was normal."
"So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide."
Jackie looked up at me.
"All we can do is decide what to do with the time given to us."
"What... what's that from?"
I smiled. "Lord of the Rings."
She didn't say anything for a while. I could tell that she had a lot of things going through her mind, and I perhaps didn't need to say anything.
Calm seemed to come to her face. She seemed more steady. "Maybe... maybe I was a bit too... a bit too hasty in judging it."
"It doesn't matter to me really," I said. "I can live with you not liking it. I care more about that you feel it's okay to be yourself."
"Being myself," she scoffed. "That means having no control, letting these sick things in my mind run wild."
"I don't think so. I think that it's feeling happy with who you are. Maybe you can let them run a little bit more free, but still contained."
A curious thought came to me. It might be stupid, and I doubted it was a good idea.
I scratched Jackie behind her ear. Her ears perked up, and she sat up straighter with a dazed look on her face.
"I can't... decide how I feel about this."
"Does it feel... bad?" I asked.
"N-no...," she said. "It feels... calming."
I smiled, and moved to her other ear. A contented look came to her face - and a smile. She was soon wagging her tail. It honestly was kind of cute. I began wagging my own tail.
A new impulse came to my mind. This one though, I was not ready for yet. She was not ready for me to kiss her, or anything more. I just wanted to enjoy this moment, holding her in my arms. Eventually I stopped scratching her, and we laid down sideways across her bed. She laid beside me, and tentatively reached out to one of my hands, lacing her fingers with mine.
"Matt," she quietly said with her eyes closed.
"I... I'm happy."
"Thank you... for not... for not rejecting the weird person I am."
"The thing is Jackie, is that I like that weird person. I hope that you don't turn normal on me."
She let out a soft mix of a laugh and a cry. "No... I think that... maybe I can figure this out. Maybe."
And we fell asleep in each others' arms.
A golden retriever that knows how to use a computer
Check out my discord server, a place for canine furries and others to chat!