She was surprised when he pulled into the local organic burger joint. She’d eaten there once or twice and just couldn’t eat a whole burger. Granted, they had more veggies on them than some salads and the fries… oh the fries. Sweet potato or regular fries with exotic ketchups. Andrew was picking up their order while she got the drinks. She sat down first and waited. His hair was still damp and curling up on the ends. The fact that he smelled like pond water and wet dog convinced her more than anything that he really was a shifter.
“Here’s your order,” Andrew said handing over the boiler special Vivien had ordered. He sat down and opened his tub of ketchup. “I still can’t believe how fun it was to play Frisbee.”
“Haven’t you ever played with one?” she asked.
“I did in college, but not as a wolf. That was just… exhilarating,” he said.
Vivien shook her head. She still couldn’t believe that he’d done that. “Now what was it you were saying as we left the park?” she asked first looking around to see if anyone was near. They were the only ones at that end of the cafe.
“It isn’t contagious. It’s genetic. We can breed with humans, but even that sometimes doesn’t produce a shifter,” Andrew said around a bite of his lamb burger.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“We breed pretty true, but sometimes things just don’t work. Just like regular human genetics. We get nulls, and we have those that are 100% shifter. Even then sometimes shift doesn’t happen,” he said.
Vivien thought about this for a moment. She pulled out her notebook and drew some X’s and O’s on it. “So, what you’re saying is that an XX would be 100% shifter, and a mix of XO can still shift?” she asked.
“Yes. XX, XO and often even an XoXo can shift. Shifter genes are dominant. However, sometimes you get people who are ooX, and they can’t shift. On rare occasions, you get an OooX, and they’re someone who had a great great grandparent who was at least half shifter. They’ll have some interesting characteristics, but are about as null as they get and still have the bloodline,” said Andrew.
Vivien thought about this for a moment. “Then how… how did we get stories about being bitten causing the change?”
“I’m not sure if it was bad press, bad tempers, stupidity, or rabies. My suspensions are that someone didn’t change well, or was drunk. Worst option… someone didn’t tell their wife or husband what was going on and when their teen shifted for the first time, all sorts of stories were made up,” he said.
“Okay, I need to think on this one for a minute. Next question. Why are you trusting me with this information? I could go to the TV stations or the newspapers or the police and out you,” she said.
“Go ahead. Do you want my phone?” he said putting his burger down to hand her his phone.
“What?” she asked. “I’m confused.”
“I said ‘go ahead.’ Call someone. Anyone. You yourself said your paper wouldn’t print a werewolf story. Do you think anyone else would?” he asked putting the phone down next to her.
Vivien looked at him. “You’re laughing at me. I don’t like being the butt of a joke,” she said. She pulled out her own phone and dialed her neighbor who worked for the local TV station. “Hey Joe, how are you? Good. I’m fine. Look, what would you say to a story about werewolves? No! I’m not joking. Oh. Okay, Oookay. Fine. I was joking. Really. No, sorry, I was just testing a theory. Thanks. Sorry to bother you.” She put the phone down and had an urge to throw up or smack the smile off of Andrew’s face.
Andrew ate his burger and let Vivien cool off a little. The waitress came over to see if they were okay. He smiled at her. “Hon, what would you say if I told you I was a werewolf?” he asked her.
The waitress smiled and then giggled. “You? Right. Priests can’t be werewolves. You’re so silly!” she said and walked back to the cash register with a giggle.
“Priest?” asked Vivien now really confused.
Andrew nodded. “We’ve been ‘pagan’ for longer than there have been Christians. I’m the local priest as my father and his father and their fathers before them. I circle with lots of the local pagans, and she’s one of them. Knows me from Solstice celebrations and the like,” he explained.
Vivien thought for a moment. “So, what you’re trying to tell me is that it’s safe to tell people, because if they run to the press, no one will believe them?”
“Exactly. Or, they are thought of as crazy. Same effect. No one will believe them. It saves a lot of grief too if someone’s kids talks about Uncle Wolfie at school. Teachers just pat them on the head, and half the time never even mention it to the parents,” said Andrew.
Vivien let this sink in as she ate the rest of her burger. “So, why was it such a big thing with the papers?”
“It’s the difference between being told someone shifts and actually seeing it. Pictures or videos would be an issue. And even the most even tempered of us gets a little grumpy and stupid if teased,” admitted Andrew.
“So, the story of the old man and the paramedics was true?” she asked in an almost conspiratorial whisper.
Andrew could see all the gears whirling and light bulbs go off in her head as she began to put two and two together. He nodded.
“Andrew, why are you trusting me with this information?” she finally asked.
Andrew could smell the beginnings of fear creep into her blood. He took a sip of his drink and sat forward. “Very simple. I like you.”
Vivien sat there with her mouth open trying to figure out what to say.
“Plus, you have my Frisbee,” he said and smiled.
Vivien about choked.
After dinner, they walked out to their cars. Vivien handed Andrew his Frisbee. He smiled and put it in his Subaru. “Thanks for dinner,” she said.
“Thank you for a lovely afternoon,” Andrew replied. He stepped forward and leaning down kissed Vivien on the lips. He held her gently for a moment and then let go. Then he turned and got into his car. Looking back in the rear-view mirror, he saw that she was standing there with her hand to her lips. He smiled.