We had never met before. Ever. But we had been in a long distance relationship for a few years. It almost seemed like I had known her forever. I had a hard time thinking of a person that knew me better, that I trusted more. The plane slid through clouds as the flight attendant announced that we'd begin our descent in five minutes and would we please put up our trays. There was clattering all over the plane as the passengers did as the stewardess asked. I closed my journal, shoved it into my carry-on, and took a deep breath. In a matter of minutes we'd be standing in the same room, looking each other square in the eye, for the first time in our lives.
Both of us were nervous. How could we not be? For several years we'd been together, leaned on each other, confided in one another, and been the other's strength when we needed a soft place to fall. All those years together couldn't just be a fluke. Yet we both knew that people were a little different in real life than they were online, and we both admitted that that was true of us, too. I was a bit goofier and had a higher energy level than what got shown on a computer screen. She described herself as louder, though I wasn't quite sure what that meant. I wondered if it meant she was more like me--a fun loving, easy going person that just wanted to have a good time. I smiled at the thought of it. We were alike in so many ways, it wouldn't surprise me if we were the same that way, too.
My ears began to plug up as we began our descent. I remembered this from when I was a child. Hold you breath, plug your nose, and push out. My ears popped. The old trick worked. I had to use it twice more before the wheels were on the ground.
She was supposed to meet me at the airport. I tried to keep my breathing steady as I grabbed my carry-on and followed the other passengers off the plane. I wouldn't be able to see her until I got through security. Nobody was allowed back this far without a ticket. Security was only a few steps ahead though. I was nervous. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and fidgeted with my ponytail, trying to make sure it looked okay. I hadn't seen a mirror since this morning and who knows what two hours in an airplane did to your hair. I don't remember it doing anything to mine when I was a kid, but I wanted to look my best. First impressions were important, and though we'd seen each other in numerous pictures and skyped with each other several times, this was different. There would be no shadows to hide messy hair, no dim lighting to mask the bags under my eyes. Not that she would falt me for having either, it was just a matter of me being aware of them and them making me that much more self conscious.
I stepped through the security scanner and looked around. There were people everywhere. It seemed like everyone who chose to arrive in Newark on this day was on my flight. Finding Bridgette would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
I searched around in my purse for my phone and shot her a quick text. A few moments later a reply came telling me she was waiting for me at the food court. I wasn't sure where that was, but a nice employee pointed me down the hall and around the corner.
If I thought my terminal was busy, this place was ten times worse. How in the world were we going to find one another? I started walking through tables, trying to see if I recognized anyone. I only saw strange faces and heard unfamiliar voices. I frowned. Nervous as I was, all I wanted was to find her and see her.
I tried to swallow my nervousness, but all I swallowed was a cactus. Or that's what it felt like. I hadn't had anything to drink since a few hours before my flight and it was beginning to feel like I'd swallowed the Mojave. The line was short at the Japanese place so I headed over there and searched around for my money while I waited my turn. After trading two bucks for a Dr Pepper I went to stand along the wall near the largest aisle. Surely we'd see each other from there.
Next to me stood a guy and a girl, laughing at some joke one of them had cracked. I couldn't help listening in as they talked about beach houses and birthday parties. My ears perked up a little more. A birthday party at a beach house was part of my plans while I was there! And that laugh...I thought I recognized it. I tried to look at the pair nonchalantly through the side of my eye. I smiled when my sight latched onto the same smile I'd looked at for years, and the blue headband that wrapped around her head. She'd had it since college and was highly protective of it, never letting anyone else touch it or wear it. Some people thought it was something silly. I thought she looked good in it and my lips couldn't keep from stretching into a smile.
"I wonder where she is man," her friend said. "Her plane landed fifteen minutes ago. You sure she didn't miss her flight?"
Bridgette checked her phone again. "I am. She texted me just a few minutes ago asking where I was." Her lips slid down into a frown.
I had the silliest notion to walk over and kiss it away, even though I hadn't even said hi yet. I blushed at the thought of doing that. Kissing her was something I had dreamed about all through our relationship. I'd wondered about the feel of her lips against mine, the caress of them. I longed to know what it felt like.
I shook my head to knock the thoughts away. 'No, Kat, you need to introduce yourself properly first,' I mentally reprimanded myself. I slurped up the rest of my drink and discarded the cup in the trash can. A final smoothing of my hair and straightening of my shirt and it was time to walk over to them.
I tried to move. Tried to put one foot in front of the other, but couldn't. My legs would not cooperate. The sounds of the food court faded away and all I could hear was the thundering of my own heart. What if she didn't like me? What if I made a total fool of myself? I flew all the way here, but what if, after all this time, we really didn't get along? I could feel the sweat forming on my forehead and my breath getting shallow. I wondered if this was what a panic attack felt like. Bridgette had those sometimes. What was it I always told her? Oh yeah, deep breaths. I closed my eyes and tried to even out my breathing. It wasn't easy. All I wanted to do was panic. Instead I forced myself to close my eyes and picture some of my favorite things, things I knew I found peaceful. A beach. The creek that bubbled through the park back home. The idea of feeling her arms around me. I loved all of those things, but it was the thought of her holding me safe and tight that did it.
When I opened my eyes Bridgette and her friend weren't there. My heart began to speed up again. I'd finally found them after searching, how would I ever locate them again? I did a quick scan of the lines and tables. They weren't there. My eyes landed on another set of trash cans across the way. Beside them were Bridgette and her friend. I breathed a sigh of relief. Instead of waiting another minute, I grabbed my bags and maneuvered through the lines and tables to them.
I took a deep breath before walking right up to them. "H-hi, Bridgette?" I said, a blush stealing up into my cheeks. What does one say in this kind of situation?
My heart skipped a beat, nearly stopped beating altogether as I waited for her to turn around. When our eyes met my heart rate sped up to twice it's normal rhythm. "Hey, Kat."
I smiled. Her voice quivered a bit, and I could see her visibly take a deep breath. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only one that was nervous. She stuck her hand out and I reached out to shake it. The moment our skin made contact with one another a tingle filled my body. Not the sexual kind, but the kind that sends shivers down your spine and goose bumps cover your arms. It was like a tiny spark of electricity spreading through me. The tingling stopped when we released our hands, but I still felt...different. She did, too. I could see it in her eyes. I wondered if she'd experienced the same thing I had, but I'd have to wait til later to ask. Anytime I tried to explain the strange connection we seemed to have--how I felt her feelings, almost like an empath would, though I wasn't an empath--people looked at me in disbelief and told me it was just wishful thinking or a silly romantic notion. Yet I knew what I felt. "It's nice to finally see you."
She nodded, smiled. "Yeah, same here. This is Brandon."
The long haired Asian waved, "Hi."
"Hey," I said. "I thought I recognized you from pictures, just couldn't be sure."
Brandon nodded. "Yeah, that's me. But uh, we should probably get down to baggage claim. They'll probably start unloading the luggage soon."
I nodded in agreement and turned to follow him down the corridor, but found I was glued to my spot. For a moment I couldn't move. The reality of being here, with Bridgette, was finally sinking in. For years I had dreamed of this moment, thought about it and what I would do. For months I had wondered how it would go and I had spent the past few weeks trying to figure out the best way to act. I had decided to play it cool and not act overly excited, even though inside I was like a kid at Yule.
Bridgette and I had always had a very open and honest relationship. We had decided early on that if we wanted to talk to each other, we would. If we wanted a hug or a kiss, we'd just do it and not worry about appearing too clingy or needy. I wondered if that would apply in real life, too. My arms itched to snake around her neck and pull her close for a tight hug. The tingling got stronger inside me as I thought about it and how it would feel. Her head cocked to the side and she shifted her weight a bit. Was she feeling this, too? I wanted to ask, but didn't know how to with Brandon standing there.
I shook my head to knock the thoughts away. "You're right, I should get my luggage," I said, my heart once again thundering in my chest.
"Baggage claim is this way," Brandon said and lead us down the busy hall.
Before I knew what was happening, Bridgette had grabbed my hand in hers. The warmth of it shot straight up my arm to my heart. The smile that was on my face stretched wider. We were finally together. No more wondering what it would feel like to hold her hand. Now I actually knew. I was giddy inside, wanting nothing but to jump up and down with happiness and excitement, yet trying to stay calm, cool and collected. I ducked my head to hide the giant smile on my face.
The tingling only intensified the longer our hands remained linked. It actually started to feel like someone had ignited a fire inside me. My cheeks felt fiery and even my back was beginning to burn a little. I tried to look at her, tried to see if she was feeling anything that I was, but it was hard to tell with only a profile view of her face.
Something cracked in my back. It hurt and caused me to stop walking for the briefest of seconds. I must've been stiffer than I originally thought.
The longer we held hands, the higher the fire seemed to burn. By the time we reached baggage claim I was wondering if I needed to find a doctor and get on some antibiotics. It couldn't be healthy to feel this hot, and nausea was starting to creep in. I released her hand when I saw my suitcase start coming around on the conveyor belt and immediately the heat died down, the nausea vanished, and my temperature returned to normal. My mind raced as I grabbed my bag. When I touch her I grow how. I knew I was attracted to her, but this went beyond that and wasn't even that kind of heat! This was...something else. I didn't have a name for it, but it definitely intrigued me.
"Hey guys I have to go to the bathroom. I'll be back in a few," Brandon said and headed off.
My eyes found Bridgette's and this time touch wasn't even needed, my pulse quickened and my cheeks burned with heat. A worried look filled her eyes. I reached out and took her hand, heat immediately flaring inside me. "Do you feel this, too?"
She merely looked at me and nodded. "I notice it every time we touch." Her face was screwed up a bit in pain.
I looked at our interlocked hands. Any sane person would draw the conclusion to let go of the other person, but, I didn't want to. The feel of her hand in mine, our skin finally touching, it beat out anything else. I tightened my hand in hers, giving it a little squeeze as I smiled. She smiled back, though still a bit unsure.
Our eyes found each other and a sudden pulse thundered through me. It felt like I had been a dying girl and just locking eyes with her acted like the paddles doctors used to revive patients. I looked away for a moment, too shaken to keep the eye contact. I had known being with her would be intense, but I hadn't expected any of this.
I could feel her eyes on me. "I felt it, too," I said softly. I had felt the same jolt go through her body. We had both visibly swayed a bit from it. Would looking each other in the eye do the same thing? I had to find out.
Slowly my eyes raised to hers and the same hard pulsing waved through us again. And again. This time I didn't break eye contact. I held her gaze like a drowning man latches onto a life raft. The pulsing kept coming. Stronger each time. I almost felt like a living flame with the heat scorching me and the pulses making me sway a bit. It was having the same effect on her.
I tried to look away, just to recenter myself, but found that I couldn't. I didn't really want to. I had waited so long for this moment, to be standing here with her, looking in her eyes. It wasn't at all what I thought it would be like. It was so much more.
The distance between us was decreasing. I don't know when it had happened, but we had taken a step towards each other. Before I knew what I was doing, my free hand was reaching up to wrap around her neck, to pull her down to me for a kiss. It was almost a compulsion that was only fueled by my already intense desire to do so. Closer and closer we moved until there was only a hairs breadth between us. And then we were kissing. Her satin lips found mine and slid over them like the sweetest caress. In that moment, everything fell away. All I knew was the feel of her warm lips moving against mine, her arms snaking around me to pull me closer, the feel of her body pressed against mine as we kissed.
Then it was there. A deep ache, a wrenching of muscles, a rising pressure inside me. My heart slammed in my chest and it suddenly felt very hard to get my breath. I forced myself away from her and leaned on the nearest chair, trying to gulp in air as my lungs burned. I looked to her, wanting her to hold me and tell me it would all be okay, but she was bracing herself against the wall, struggling to remain standing as well.
I felt my knees pop and heard something crack. I must've screamed because suddenly everyone was looking at me. I collapsed into the chair and tried to straighten my legs, but they wouldn't move. Crack. Pop. Snap. Pain wracked my body making sweat break out on my forehead and my eyes burn with tears. They started streaming down my cheeks as it felt like my bones were breaking. I looked down at my legs. My stomach knotted when I saw them. It didn't even look like I had knees anymore! They were crushed, nearly nonexistent. I felt them snapping and popping again and this time I was aware of my own scream. It echoed in my ears as I felt my knees pushing backwards.
My eyes, stinging with tears, searched for and found Bridgette. She was doubled over on the floor, her jeans ripping apart as her thighs grew, getting thicker. Everyone around us was staring as if we were putting on some sort of show. Some people were screaming. I could hear Bridgette's jeans ripping over their screams.
A sudden wave of nausea swept over me and I fell onto my hands. The pressure I felt magnified times ten, making my entire body pulse. I clenched my jaw as it began aching and cracking. I wanted to scream from the pain, but found I couldn't. My voice was stifled. I felt something sharp scrape against my lip, felt the metallic taste of blood on my tongue. Shaking, I raised my hand up to see what had cut me. My fingers met with sharp teeth. Sharp enough to draw blood from my fingers. My mind was whirling. What the heck was happening to me? To us? Bridgette wasn't faring much better. Her skin was turning grass green and appeared to be tearing open. She was on her back, writhing in pain. I was paralyzed in the spot unable to move due to the pain in my own body.
I had the sudden urge to stick my ass in the air. I fought it. What kind of person did that? Only animals put their asses in the air. And then only when they wanted to mate. No, I wasn't going to do that no matter how bad the pain was.
I was still gasping and gulping for air. It was getting harder to focus on things around me. My vision was blurring a bit. Whether from the tears or something else I wasn't sure. I tried to grab hold of the carpet to keep myself grounded in reality. My hands began snapping and cracking. I could feel the muscles moving beneath my skin, the bones breaking as they rearranged. It horrified me but I couldn't look away. My fingers were getting smaller, shrinking! I felt a sudden sharp pain inside them. Needles were pressing hard against my skin. I shrieked when I felt them poke through. Blood started dripping down my hands as curved black claws began pushing out, emerging. Claws?! I didn't have claws. Humans don't have claws! What the hell was happening to me?
I realized I could feel every fiber of the carpet beneath me. It was wiry and not that soft. It almost seemed painful. Why was I feeling it so intensely? Humans could feel carpet of course, but this was different, more vivid. I turned my hand over, but instead of a human palm I was greeted with black pads. Like my cat's! Claws. Pads. Orange fur. Was I...wait, did I just say fur? I started sobbing. What the hell was going on with me? This had to be some strange dream. I couldn't be turning into a...a...a cat!
I tried to pinch myself to make sure I was awake, but all I succeeded in doing was scratching myself with my claw. I could see the orange fur, interwoven with bits of black, pushing through my skin, slowly covering my hands. It pricked my skin and hurt, yet tickled at the same time, as it spread up my arms. I shivered as I watched it. It even spread down my back, beneath my shirt. My spine wrenched inside me causing me to fall over and writhe on the ground. It twisted, shifted, made me arch my back. Suddenly being on my back was not very comfortable and I felt more exposed than ever. I tried to right myself. It hurt to move, but staying belly up was making me even more uncomfortable.
For a moment the pain subsided and I was given a reprieve it seemed. Maybe it was going to stop. I leaned against a chair and tried to catch my breath. Only then did all the screams and running people register in my mind. Even Brandon had left. I turned to look at Bridgette. She was lying on her side a few feet away, covered in green scales. My heart thundered again. I had fur and she had scales. What the hell Fantasy novel had I stepped into?
I closed my eyes for a moment, willing myself to wake up from whatever dream I was in. A pulsing in my lower back forced them open again. It kept growing and growing, getting stronger and more instense. A moan was wrenched from my lips. My pants felt very tight and were only getting tighter. They felt oppressive, restrictive. I wanted to take them off. I looked around at all the screaming people, barely able to focus on them anymore. The pain had gotten so bad that my vision was fuzzy at best. I tried to focus on my hands. I couldn't take my jeans off, I'd be arrested for indecent exposure...assuming I wasn't locked away in some laboratory. Maybe I could... I reached a hand around behind me and used my claw to rip a slit in the back of my jeans. They immediately tore further open, but the pressure that had been building eased up a bit. The pulsing was still there, but it didn't feel as tight.
The sound of stretching rubber filled my ears as I felt something pushing against my skin. I squeezed my eyes shut as it pushed harder and harder. I found myself trying to push it out, trying to get rid of it, whatever it was. I just wanted to be done so I could wake up and return to my normal life.
A loud roar ripped through the room. It jolted me out my pain and my eyes landed on Bridgette. I could hear her bones breaking as her face pushed forward. Her clawed, scaled hands were feeling over it and I could see the terror on her face. I was scared, too! Whatever was happening hurt so bad.
I stuck my ass in the air and my skin started stretching more, the hard pressure growing and pushing out further. Whatever was growing, throbbed and pulsed hard. I kept pushing, trying to get rid of it. It just kept growing, getting longer, pushing out further. I craned my neck around to see what was happening. Hanging off my back was a long thin tail covered in black and orange fur. What the fuck was happening to me? How could I be turning into a tiger? I hadn't been around any lately! I whimpered and nearly passed out at the sight of my thrashing tail, but I somehow managed to remain conscious.
Through my foggy mind I heard someone yell "there's security! They'll take care of the freaks." I blinked open my eyes, my vision a bit blurry, as I saw three guys in navy suits running towards us. They headed for Bridgette first, probably thinking I was too weak to do anything. "Hold her down," one of them said while another reached out a gloved hand to try to pin her to the floor.
I shook my head, trying to stave off the fog that threatened to take over. I had to save her. No one was going to hurt her while I was around. Not if I had anything to do with it. I tried to open my mouth to tell them to back the fuck off, but no sound came out. Anger and frustration with myself boiled up inside me. I tried to crawl to her, but every little movement made pain lance through me and wrack my body. The more they tried to to touch her the angrier I got. What did they think they were doing to my...my mate?!
I looked at the men and my first instinct was to rend and tear them apart. The tiger inside me was leaping to protect it's mate. If I wanted us to have any chance at surival we needed to not make the most wanted list, so I tried to calm it down. I squeezed my eyes shut and took a few deep breaths. Even then it ook all my self control to not pounce them and swipe them away.
I blinked. Pounce? What was I turning into? I shook my head again, refocusing my attention on Bridgette. A few of the men had her pinned down and were trying to drag her into a cage.
I lept over to them, bared my teeth and growled as deeply as I could. It had the desired effect. The men released her and stumbled back away from her and the cage. I looked back to Bridgette, to make sure she was okay. Her eyes had turned yellow, but held panic in them. Neither one of us understood what was going on. All I knew was that we had to stick together and get away from these men. "Can you move?" I whispered to her. I couldn't help noticing the small horns that were protruding from her forehead.
She tried to roll over onto her stomach. For the first time I could see that her shirt had split in the back and the green scales had almost completely covered her body. With each move she elicited a sound of pain, but she managed to get up on her feet. I flexed my hands, pushing my claws out and held them up in front of me like I was ready to swipe at any moment.
I kept my eyes on her as she stumbled over to me and laid a hand on my back. I shivered, the same warmth spreading through me, though the pressure was gone. I just felt...whole, now, when she touched me. It alarmed me that I could feel that way in this form, with a tiger touching me, but I somehow did. It made me smile, which made everyone around me scream. I had forgotten I had ferocious looking fangs in my mouth and my smile wouldn't convey my happiness anymore. People would assume I was about to growl at them or attack.
My hand slipped into Bridgette's. "Come on, let's get out of here," I said. My words even held the tone of growls.
"W-where are we going to go?"
"No where!" One of the security officers had stepped forward with a net, as if they could ensare us.
Just to scare them, I swiped my claws through the net, tearing it and making the guy stumble backwards away from me. "Wherever we need to. We'll figure things out together." She was scared. I could see it in her eyes. We had gone from never being in the same room as one another to relying on each other for something as simple as safety. But then again, she was always where I found safety.
We walked out of baggage claim, out of the airport, paw in paw. Together we would face the world and make a life for ourselves.