Alan walked into the front bedroom after they left and gasped when he saw what was sitting on the nightstand. There in front of him were Ben’s glasses, pentacle, and bracelet. He didn’t see Ben’s watch, but was pretty certain it was still broken. He couldn’t remember if Ben had mentioned having had it fixed in the last day or two. The sight of all of Ben’s magical jewelry sitting there made chills run up his spine. He never went without his pentacle or bracelet in some combination. It was that which kept the wolf at bay.
Alan sat down on the edge of the bed, and all he could think was that Cindy didn’t go hiking with Ben today. She went hiking with a werewolf. A pissed off one at that. Oh gods. It was going to be a long day waiting for them to arrive home.
It had all started about a week ago. Ben had finally had enough of Cindy’s harping on everything he did or didn’t do. There was no way the guy could please her. She yelled about his job. It didn’t bring in enough money. The hours were too long and she didn’t like the idea that he worked the mid-shift. Plus, when he wasn’t working or sleeping, he spent too much time on the computer. It didn’t matter that she did as well, or that she worked long hours at the boutique. What mattered was her perception that he was ignoring her. When she got done yelling about all of Ben’s faults, she usually started in on Alan’s or Evan’s. Sharing a house wasn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.
Truth be told, Ben was getting ready to ask her for a divorce. He had been biding his time, trying to find the right moment. That quintessential opportunity to get it all off of his chest without loosing his cool or her blowing her top. That moment just never seemed to show up.
Ben had talked to his dad when he’d been down to visit in June. That was over a month ago, and the advice his father gave him still rang in his ears. Divorce, and soon. Ben’s dad hadn’t been in favor of the marriage in the first place. Alan and Ben went out that night and talked about things over six or eight beers.
Alan had known Ben for years. Knew he was a werewolf almost from the beginning. Alan was a vet who worked at a local animal shelter and when he came to work one morning there was a naked guy in one of the dog pens. The guy tried to pass it off as a college prank gone wrong, but something just didn’t add up. Especially as the dog catcher report mentioned a huge wolf hybrid that had been tranquilized the night before. The guy had a needle mark right were the dart would have hit the dog. While he was waiting for friends to come by with some clothes, Alan decided to just ask him straight out if he was a werewolf. It wasn’t like they were a total secret. Fifteen years earlier, the whole supernatural community appeared on the World’s radar. After centuries of belief in things that went bump in the night, it was still a bit of a shock to find out that they really existed. Ben had hemmed and hawed for a few moments and then admitted that he was in fact a werewolf. His variety was genetic, not infectious. It also made him more rare than the infectious kind. It was the beginning of a long friendship.
Alan had met most of Ben’s immediate family and got along well with them. They were just as likely to come to him for medical treatment as they were to go to one of the local family practices. Ben use to tease Alan about being the only doctor he knew that would treat the family as well as the family pet, and all in the same visit. Alan laughed, but it was true. He also wasn’t intimidated by having a 250 pound wolf on the treatment table.
When Ben started dating Cindy, Alan wasn’t sure what to think. He knew that Ben’s family had been looking for brides for him for years. There was a snobbish element to the genetic werewolves that Alan was only getting a small grasp on even after all this time. Ben of course threw his parents advice to the four winds and went headlong into a relationship that was now heading into the trash. They eloped and sprung the whole thing on both sets of parents with predictable results. Cindy’s folks hadn’t spoken to them in years. Ben’s parents kept in contact, but that was more because of Ben’s mom than anything else.
What made Alan nervous was that Ben never told Cindy he was a werewolf. He didn’t understand Ben’s reluctance to tell Cindy. Instead, Ben depended on magical items and a peculiar work schedule that kept him out at odd hours. Cindy never suspected, which amazed Alan. She didn’t add things up when Alan had the odd wolfhound around or when Ben disappeared once a month for two or three days. Granted, she didn’t seem to care what Ben did until about six months ago.
Neither Ben nor Alan had a clue what started Cindy on her rant about Ben and his work. One day she came home and it was like someone had flipped a switch. The sweet, blonde, slightly overweight but padded nicely in all the right places woman had changed to a ranting and nasty bitch faster than you could blink. Even their housemate Evan had been taken aback by the change in Cindy. Evan was one of this laid-back mellow hippy types that only registered a pulse above 65 if you mixed up the recycling or didn’t buy organic granola at least once a year. When Ben told him that he was a werewolf, Evan’s only question was whether Ben ate organic meat or canned dog food. When they all stopped laughing, Ben answered that he ate organic meat and that was the end of the discussion. Evan didn’t even flinch the time Ben left the hind quarter of a deer in the fridge. All he did was move it over so that it wouldn’t drip on his tofu.
None of the men understood what was going on in Cindy’s head. They even asked her co-workers about her. All they got were blank looks and no answers. Of course, Cindy heard that they were asking around at work about her and that started another fight that left Ben sleeping on the couch over the weekend.
That was the beginning of the week from hell. Every time they turned around, Cindy was snapping at Ben. Or, one would say something innocently and the next thing Evan or Alan knew, they were yelling at each other. They fought for nearly two solid days and then on Friday, everything stopped. Neither Alan or Evan trusted it to stay quiet. Both were stunned to hear that on Sunday, the two of them were going on a hike. Saturday dawned bright and cheery, and Cindy made breakfast for everyone and not an argument was heard. Evan walked around on tiptoes for fear that his Birkenstocks might jar the peace. Alan made sure that everything the two of them might need for the hike was ready. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he certainly wasn’t going to interfere.
Sunday had dawned very early and neither Alan or Evan heard the two of them leave. In fact, Alan wasn’t even certain that they had left until he walked into their room and found Ben’s jewelry on the nightstand. He had spent the rest of the day trying to occupy his time so he didn’t think about what could possibly be going on up in the mountains.
Of course, Evan let his imagination run wild. He was sure that Ben would come home covered in gore like the time he had hunted down an elk. Pieces of Cindy would be found by park rangers for months. Or, worse yet, they would come home and keep on fighting like they had been for the previous week. He was so rattled by the end of the day, that he took a quart of frozen tofu carob crunch, a spoon and a large cup of free trade coffee to his bedroom and locked the door. Alan could hear the sounds of some NPR radio program through the door.
Alan busied himself around the kitchen working on dinner. He figured the least he could do is cook. Ben never cared what he ate as long as it was meat heavy and light on the veggies. Cindy was just the opposite. As a compromise, Alan usually made meat heavy meals with lots of veggies on the side. Tonight, he made a rich lasagna. One with meat and lots of cheese, and the other with extra mushrooms, tofu and soy mozzarella. Hopefully, everyone would be happy.
Seven o’clock came and went. At half past the hour, Alan and Evan ate in silence. They wrapped up the leftovers and moved out to the living room. The sitcom they were watching was nearly over when the back door opened and Cindy came in. She didn’t say a word, but walked back to the bedroom. Alan looked to Evan and the two of them exchanged puzzled looks. They could hear the sounds of clothes being pulled out of the closet and dressers and that was about it. Alan finally stood up and walked to the back door. There on the porch was Ben. He looked a little worse for wear, but no blood. Just plenty of mud and a few tears in his jeans and shirt. Ben looked up at Alan as the door closed behind him.
“Ben,…” Alan started to speak.
Ben held up his hand to silence Alan. “Later.” is all he said and then walked around to the driveway where he started to open up the trunk of Cindy’s red PT Cruiser. He no sooner opened up the trunk, then Cindy came through the door with an armload of possessions. Ben stood back as Cindy threw the things in the car, slammed the door and took off.
Alan watched the car disappear down the street. Ben watched too, and when the car turned the corner, he headed into the house. Alan followed and found Ben in the kitchen getting some lasagna. Alan sat down at the table and Evan stood in the doorway as Ben popped his plate into the microwave.
“Ben, what happened?” Alan asked.
Ben waited until the timer dinged, took his plate out and set down to eat. “Well, we went for a hike,” he said and then took a bite of lasagna.
“We knew you were going on a hike, what went on that made Cindy leave like that without saying a word?” Evan asked before Alan could get the words out.
Ben ate another few bites and then put his fork down. “Well, Cindy wanted to talk where we couldn’t be interrupted. So, I suggested going for a hike. She liked the idea, so we went up the valley as hard and fast as I could push us.” Ben took another bite. “When we stopped for lunch, she started in just like she had done here. I finally figured out between screaming sentences that she had ‘discovered’ that I was hiding something from her.” He took another bite as this sank in.
“Okay, so what next?” Alan asked, wondering what it was that Cindy thought Ben was hiding from her.
“Well,” Ben started to say with his mouthful, “She thought I was being unfaithful. That the reason for all my odd hours, late nights and monthly disappearances was due to the fact that I had another woman.”
Evan started to laugh. Alan snickered. Ben finished the last of his lasagna and stood up to put his plate in the sink. He sat back down at the table.
“I started to laugh, and deny it when she hit me. She threw her bowl of noodles at me and then her fork, cup, water bottle. I was still laughing and she just kept getting redder and redder. I swear I thought she was going to burst a blood vessel.”
“So what did you tell her?” Evan asked and Alan nodded.
“I told her the truth. Said I was a werewolf, and that all the odd hours were so I could go hunting and such. She didn’t believe me. Screamed that I was lying to her, and that claiming that I was a werewolf was the biggest piece of cockamamie bullshit she had ever heard.”
The other two men just shook their heads. They both knew that Cindy could turn a blind eye to anything when she set her mind to it. However, when faced with the truth, it amazed them that she still couldn’t think that Ben might be telling the truth.
“So, she didn’t believe you. What next?” Alan asked, although he thought he knew what was coming.
“When she wouldn’t drop it after fifteen minutes, I said to hell with it. I looked around to see if there was anyone around and then started to take off my shoes. I got as far as undoing my belt when she started yelling at me that this was no time for sex, and what on earth was I thinking?” Ben said shaking his head.
Evan looked perplexed and Alan started to smirk.
“So, I just shifted. Clothes and all.” He looked down his body at the shredded jeans and shirt and just shrugged his shoulders. “That is when the screaming really started. She went from being mad to pissing herself. Cindy hyperventilated and passed out. I shifted back and waited until she came around.”
“Oh gods!” Alan said, trying to imagine the whole scene. Evan just sat there with a smile on his face. He had had enough of Cindy attacking him over the last few months that he really didn’t feel sorry for her.
“When she came to, we talked. Granted, she sat nearly ten feet away from me with a knife in her hand, but we talked. I explained my reasons why I never told her I was a werewolf, and we came to an agreement.” Ben stopped, got a glass out of the cupboard and poured himself a glass of iced tea.
“And that is,…” Alan started to say.
“That we go straight home and she would leave immediately. I will start divorce paperwork in the morning and I will take all the blame. All property is shared and so are debts. I will never try to see her again and she will never tell her friends what I am,” Ben finished.
“Wow,” was all either Alan or Evan could say. The two of them sat there in stunned silence.
“Oh, and one thing I am going to do for myself,” Ben added.
“What?” Evan asked.
“I’m going to call my dad, apologize and see if any of those women he kept trying to set me up with are still interested.”
They all laughed.