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All she ever wanted was a child of her own, but she quickly learns that her kind wasn't meant to nurture - and you can't change nature. 

     The dinner crowd was unusually raucous this evening. Packed with hungry and impatient customers, the frantic chatter echoed off the walls and bounced around the room. Better noise proofing might have helped, but the former warehouse was the only place in town appropriately zoned for feeding, so the diners had to take what they could get.

     The smell of sizzling meat and smoky butter filled the air, making mouths water and stomachs grumble in anticipation. Amidst the chaotic atmosphere, Chimeda sat at a corner booth, quietly observing the scenery, and waiting for her dinner companions.

     She could still feel the sting of Carol's words earlier and she struggled to lift her mood in preparation to greet her friends. Oh, how she regretted letting herself be so vulnerable and just go for it, as the commercials say. They weren’t talking to her kind, apparently. She took a breath and swallowed hard to force down a lump in her throat. It just wasn’t fair, none of it was fair. If it didn’t work out, she promised herself she’d never chase another dream in her lifetime. Her mother was right, just fall into step, do what you’re told, and don’t cause any trouble. It was really the best way to avoid disappointment.

     The double doors burst open and a group of men came tumbling inside, they howled with laughter as they tripped over each other, spilling into the floor. Chimeda shook her head in disgust, the tension from her anger crawled up the back of her neck and across her scalp. Her grey eyes flashed and flickered from table to table, she was embarrassed to be amongst this circus. They were so uncouth and ill mannered. Have some decency, she thought to herself.

     Thanks to the newest arrivals, the noise level in the restaurant only increased, and Chimeda chewed on her tongue in frustration to the point blood began to drip from the corners of her mouth. Using her napkin to dab, she reflected on how she had always found comfort in the background buzz of humanity, taking solace in the fact that even amidst the chaos, there was a sense of order and rhythm. But this was pure madness and the older she got the less tolerance she had for it.

     Her dinner companions arrived, their high-pitched voices joined in the chorus of whistles and howls filling the room. Fancy, the tallest and most outrageous one in their group, spotted Chimeda in the corner booth and she immediately began whooping and waving her arms to get her attention.

     "There she is! Hey, 'Meda!" Fancy's shrill voice rose above the ruckus, drawing attention from the others. The three women carefully made their way toward the booth, stepping around customers who refused to sit, instead bounced in the aisles and slithered across the floor.

     Both Pilar and Meghan exchanged cheek pecks with Chimeda as they packed into the booth on each side. Once they were settled and greetings exchanged, Fancy elegantly tapped her talons on the surface of the table to get the attention of the frazzled waiter.

     “Four specials, please – on me,” she flirtatiously batted her long lashes as he scribbled down the order and scurried away, with a roll of his eyes.

     “Sooooo, Miss ‘Meda, how did it go this morning at the adoption agency? You didn’t come back to the group chat so I assume it didn’t go as you planned?”

     Chimeda absolutely hated being called ‘Meda. She knew that it was Fancy’s way of belittling her, reminding her that she – Fancy – was the self-appointed leader of their group, and it made her furious at times.

     “You don’t have the little dumpling in your bag, do you?” Fancy said loudly, throwing back her head to howl. She reached over to poke at Chimeda’s bag on the seat, before Chimeda snatched it out of her reach.

     “Quite honestly, this entire thing is simply ridiculous! We EAT children, we don’t raise them!” Philona said with a theatrical shiver. “What’s next – you gonna join the PTA?”

     “Wait – do they even still have PTA meetings?” Meghan chimed in.

     “Oh, heck, I wouldn’t know, how would I know?” laughed Philona.

     The three women howled raucously, throwing back their heads and jutted out red forked tongues dancing merrily between rows of sharp pointed teeth.

     Scowling, Chimeda looked around at the faces of the women she considered to be her friends. In that moment, she wanted to extend her claws and rip the windpipes from their throats, tossing the bloody dripping parts on one of the other tables for the male wolves to devour. How dare they mock her for wanting to do something more with her existence on this miserable planet? Just because they were content with waking up each day and being mere workhorses in a society that really didn’t want them around. At least she was trying to assimilate, start a family and act like the others. All she wanted was a chance to be more than one of those things they let live amongst them.

     A loud roar filled the air as a weary looking server stopped at another table holding a tray of smoked subway rats on his fingertips. He doused the tray with lighter fluid, then deftly set it ablaze with a match. The flames roared across the tray, searing every inch of the pile of rodents, flaring upward to the ceiling before dissipating.

     “OPA!” Someone yelled from the other end of the table, and the room erupted into howls and shrieks like the proper wolves they were.

     When the tray was lowered to the center of the table, they scrambled on top of each other to tear into the chow, tossing the carcasses into the air and catching them with their mouths as they fell; their throats stretching and contorting as they swallowed whole and belched for extra comedic effect.

     “Ughhhh,” Chimeda quivered. “We have to find someplace else to meet up. This place is gross.”

     “Oh, come on, it’s not so bad,” chided Philona. “In fact, I think I wanna see a man about a horse, if you get my meaning.” She strained her long neck to make eyes with a young werewolf dressed in an office casual outfit, standing alone in the aisle waiting for an open table.

     “It’s sickening, I’ve had it with this place, these people are animals!” Chimeda gagged, sticking her tongue out. The four friends looked at each other and cracked up at the irony in her disgust.

     Meghan turned and rested her hand on top of Chimeda’s, looking in her face. “Seriously though, don’t let it get to you. If it’s meant to be, it will be. And if you need any references, you know we got you girl!”

     “It’s still pretty ridiculous, who would ever imagine? You – us? With a human child?” Fancy shrieked and stuck out her tongue again.

     Chimeda was defiant. “The law says we have nearly full rights as them now. I just wanna do something good with my life. You should try it.”

     “And just like typical ‘Meda, you said, let me put that to the test!” Replied Fancy with a snarl.

     Sensing the brewing hostility, Meghan sighed with relief when the waiter returned with four platters of smoked squirrel and berry sprays.

     “Ah yeah! Let’s eat!” She announced, stretching her fingers to release her claws, needed to rip into the crispy flesh and pluck the berries from the stems. The other ladies joined her in cracking their knuckles and extending their sharp nails for feeding.

     For the next hour, they cracked tiny skulls to suck the meat, and used the splintered bones to pick between their fangs. Later, in the parking lot, Chimeda delivered half-hearted hugs to Meghan and Fancy, while Philona slipped into the woods behind the restaurant with her new friend.

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