Other, p.2
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       Other, p.2

           Karen Kincy
 
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blackmagic: If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it. And for your information, I am not a werewolf. Though I’m sure you are a pathetic little parasite infecting the Internet. Crawl back up whatever asshole you came from.

  I almost post the comment, then hesitate. Do I really want this marring my blog? With a sigh, I delete all the comments by Anonymous.

  A new comment pops up. I hope it isn’t Anonymous, back for a flame war. But it’s Takehiko, one of my online friends. He’s a talented artist who draws manga. Like, cartoons of these Japanese fox spirits.

  Takehiko: Allow me to sic many rabid foxes on Mr. Anonymous Moron.

  I reply, relieved.

  blackmagic: Don’t worry. I’ve banished the comments to oblivion via the delete button.

  Takehiko: Good riddance.

  Takehiko doesn’t write more. Alas.

  He posted a cute photo of himself on his profile awhile ago, then deleted it, probably out of shyness. With his high cheekbones and dark eyes shaded by tousled, spiky hair, he almost looks like a Japanese version of Johnny Depp. Yes, I’ll admit I have a mild and purely fanciful e-crush. Though I already have a boyfriend.

  My phone buzzes. Speak of the devil, it’s an email from Zack. My heart does a little skip.

  From: Zack

  Subject: How art thou today, milady?

  I’m already smirking. Zack has a wicked sense of humor. He’s also really into medieval history, so we’ve had this fake courtly speech thing going on.

  Good morrow,

  Fair Gwen, I am not skilled at expressing mine feelings well. For I am but a humble knight, and no sweet-tongued troubadour. But for you, I shall try. It hath been far too long since I gazed upon thy scarlet locks and comely face. Mine fellow knights thinketh me moonstruck with love. But you knoweth these art mine heart’s true wishes. ‘Tis a fine day, as both dragons have left the castle unguarded. Wilt thou be at the gates today? Mayhap we shall stroll through the park on this fine day. I shall look for you and hope.

  Your faithful knight,

  Sir Zachary the Smitten

  I grin. “Dragons” is code for Zack’s parents, “castle” for his house. His parents forbid him to have girls in his bedroom, so of course he invites me over every chance he gets.

  Humming, I trade my pajamas for a strawberry print tank top and black leggings. I try to tame my wild red curls, then grab the Bean—my purse, the exact shape and color of a kidney bean—and head for the door.

  “I’m going to Zack’s!” I call, before my parents can detain me.

  “Be safe!” Mum calls from her office, clacking away on her keyboard. She works as a programmer for an indie software company. They make video games, mostly science fiction role-playing ones. They used to do fantasy RPGs, where you chop up trolls and werewolves, but that stuff isn’t politically correct anymore. Besides, mainstream America seems wary of anything magical. I ponder public opinion about Others as I ride the bus, but come to no great revelations.

  Zack’s family lives in a neighborhood of posh house-clones. Manicured shrubbery, three-car garages, a fountain across the street. His house has an imposing arch over the door, as if the building has a huge ego. The designer decorations change like clockwork with the seasons, from artificial evergreens to pastel eggs in sterile nests.

  I ring their doorbell and hear a cheery chiming version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” I’ll admit I freaked out when I first learned just how religious Zack’s parents are, since Christians and Others have been enemies since biblical times. But they seem like such genuinely nice people.

  Of course, they don’t know what I am. Neither does Zack.

  The door sweeps open. As usual, I’m dazzled by his smile. “Hey, Zack.”

  “Greetings, Lady Gwenhwyfar.”

  I blush. I’ve told him not to call me that, multiple times. Leave it to my mother to bestow upon me a ridiculously convoluted Welsh name. I couldn’t even spell it until second grade.

  When I start to complain, Zack bends down—he’s quite tall—and silences me with a kiss. His hand curves around my waist as if it’s meant to fit there. His touch kindles a warm glow inside me. I still can’t believe this guy is my boyfriend and has been for over a year. A knot of guilt tightens in my stomach. Why haven’t I told him I’m Other, even after all this time, all these opportunities?

  I pull back, face flushed, and attempt not to look giddy. “How’s it going?”

  “Great.”

  I close the door behind me. The soft click of the lock makes my heart beat a little faster.

  Zack pulls a rubber band off his ponytail. He shakes out his long blond hair, smooths it with his hands, then twists the rubber band around it again. I can’t help staring. He’s just so … handsome. Once, when we went to a medieval fair, I rented an ill-fitting wench dress and he got fake chain mail. I looked hilariously sluttish, but he looked like a real knight. A crusader, with the cross necklace he always wears.

  “Come on up,” he says, climbing the stairs to his bedroom.

  Zack’s room has a faintly dusty, boyish smell to it. Hard to describe. Like a mixture of his sweat, laundry detergent, and an overall lived-in smell. I like it, and always breathe deep when I step inside. He has a tapestry of King Arthur above the headboard of his bed, a replica broadsword mounted on the wall, and shelves burdened with books. Like I said, he’s really into medieval stuff. I spot new knight figurines on his desk.

  “Cool,” I say, reaching for one.

  He catches my wrist. “Caution: wet paint. I was just working on them.”

  I nod and crouch to look closer. The detail’s fantastic: feathers on their helmets, tiny dragons and unicorns—Others—on their shields. That is, Others hunted to extinction back in ye good olde medieval times, when killing dragons filled people with religious zeal, and the healing powers of unicorn horn filled them with greed.

  I wonder what Zack’s parents think of Others. What he thinks.

  “So, did you want to go out? Maybe to Wilding Park?” I ask.

  “Sure.” He smiles. “We can spend a little time here first.”

  Zack strokes aside my hair and kisses the four-leaf clover tattoo at the nape of my neck. For luck, he always says. And it always liquefies my knees. I sink onto the chair at his desk, trying to look as if I planned on it. He spins me to face him. I stare into his eyes, blue as the hottest flame. Shivers race down my spine.

  I hook my fingers behind his neck and drag him into a kiss. His soft moan urges me on. I tug him to his knees and dig my nails into his shoulders as if marking him as mine. His arms tighten around my waist. I nip his ear and he seems to like it, so I test my teeth on his shoulder. When I bite his neck, he yanks back.

  “Ouch!” He touches the teeth marks, and his fingers come away red with blood.

  I’m breathing hard, my eyes stinging. Glowing. I turn away and shut them fast. Oh crap. I run my tongue over my teeth and found they’ve sharpened into feline fangs. What happened? I’ve never lost control before.

 
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