The Cage

The Cage

A.M. Dellamonica
illustration by marcos chin

April

The eerie thing about Paige Adolpha wasn’t just that she turned up right when I was reading about her in the paper. It wasn’t her fame as the star witness in the big local werewolf trial. What brought on the gooseflesh, first time I saw her, was that she was the spitting image of her murdered sister. Identical twins, you know?

I was at the Britannia branch of the public library, absorbing what passed for Vancouver news and wishing the local papers would come up to the standards of the Edmonton Journal—even the Globe & Mail—when one of the regulars caught sight of her.

“It’s that lady from page three,” he stage-whispered.

“Don’t stare,” I murmured, peeking despite myself.

I flipped back to the two shots of Paige’s sister, Pamela. One showed them both, laughing together. The other was her corpse: long-limbed, blood-matted fur, all fang. Nobody was denying she’d been a lycanthrope.

Richard Deenie, her killer, was a brash American with one of those awful trophy necklaces of monster teeth. Fifteen years ago, he was barely getting by selling camping equipment. When humanity discovered monsterkind in 2002, he’d reinvented himself as a sleazoid Buffy type. Him and plenty of others. U.S. werewolves were getting thin on the ground, so he’d stalked Pamela to British Columbia and shot her with a silver bullet.

“Ya already read that page.” The old-timer was fidgeting; I’d beaten him to the last copy of the Sun.

I swapped him for the Province. It had the same trial coverage, written at an even more dumbed-down level. Deenie, a born media whore, got arrested at a press conference he’d called especially so he could crow about saving us wussy Canadians from a lycanthrope menace.

I hoped he was surprised when the Crown found a few cops willing to arrest him before he slithered back over the border. He was claiming self-defence. Paige insisted her sister had never bitten, much less killed, anyone.

Here she was in the flesh, staring at the glassed-in art installation that separated the library’s reading room from the chaos of the kids’ section. She had a baby papoosed on her chest. She looked about nine, underfed, bruised by fatigue.

Before I could look away, she was crossing the reading room. “You’re Jude?”

I nodded. She was brandishing a pair of home improvement books and a library receipt.

“The info woman says you’re a general contractor.”

I shot Lela—who’s dating my ex and disapproves of my staying single—a dirty look.

“Shhh!” said the old-timer.

Steer clear, I thought. But . . . “Come on, I’m done here.”

I do go for elfin blondes. Lela knows my type. And I was getting an answering vibe—baby or not, Paige looked available and, potentially, into me. But I wasn’t looking to be anyone’s stepmom. She’s vulnerable, I reminded myself. The pressure of a trial, plus grief . . . her sister’s been dead, what? Four months?

I set out on a path that winds between Britannia’s low, unmistakably institutional buildings. The community center is big and battered looking; almost an architectural blight, and yet I love it. It’s the backbone of my neighbourhood. The library’s attached to a high school, and the complex includes a pool and ice rink, tennis courts, youth outreach and senior’s center.

Britannia is where the working poor of the neighbourhood go to borrow books and recreate their kids, to take guitar lessons, study aikido and judo, to catch a yoga class that doesn’t cost twenty bucks an hour. It’s where they teach teen moms what they call life skills, like cooking something more nutritious than ramen; they bring me in to demonstrate how to unstop a toilet and install a baby gate. Now and then the Center will even bus people out to Golden Ears Park to hike or canoe or ride horses.

We came out behind the daycare into a green space known locally as Poverty Park. My house overlooks the park—I could see my front door—but instead of taking Paige home with me, I pointed at a bench under a double-flowering plum. The tree was thick with blooms, like it had been dipped in candy floss. Fifty feet over, near the tennis courts, three young guys with blond dreadlocks were beating on trashcan-sized drums.

I must have frowned, because she asked, “What is it?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re curious about something.”

“I suppose that happens all the time?”

“It’s okay,” Paige said, settling herself under the canopy of blooms. “You can ask me anything.”

“I was just thinking it had been four months since . . . They brought Deenie to trial pretty quick.”

Ghost of a smile. “The prosecutor’s a force of nature. And Deenie’s representing himself. He didn’t know the tricks they use to slow things down.”

Or he didn’t want to. “So, you want reno advice?”

Paige said, “I’m renting my basement out as a recording studio. I thought soundproofing, bars on the windows . . .”

“You have a house—I mean, you own it?”

“Pamela had some insurance.”

“You’re not planning to grow pot down there, are you?”

“With soundproofing?”

“Or a dungeon?”

“I haven’t got time for vanilla sex, let alone kink.” The baby was watching the birds with bright-eyed intensity.

I steered my gaze back to Paige. “You want to do the work yourself?”

She flinched. “I need advice on the soundproofing. It’s too complex.... The books don’t say anything.”

Don’t volunteer, I told myself. You can’t fix someone else’s life, and Lela’s opinions notwithstanding, I didn’t need this. A baby meant Paige was maybe no more than a year out of a relationship with some guy. “You want to DIY, even though you have money. You need to rent out your basement, but you’re a nurse, aren’t you? You have a kid, you’re the public face of a homicide trial, and now you want to get into futzing with soundproofing and—”

“What are you saying?”

“Look, maybe I don’t talk like a Rhodes Scholar, but I know when I’m being lied to.”

“Forget I said anything.” She scooped up her kid and stormed off, so mad she almost walked over two women who were hawking handmade jewellery over by the sidewalk.

I watched her go, relieved. Then I took her abandoned library books inside so I could tell Lela to lay off the matchmaking.

Know what she said? “Oh, so you did like her?”

 

May

The thing about going for broken women is it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. So I kept busy: installed cabinets in a local rehab center, redid a couple bathrooms, volunteered to replace some vandalized tiles in Mosaic Creek Park. I let myself get talked into working a shift at the Italian Day festival, valet parking bicycles and chit-chatting with environmental activists as people from all the Drive’s overlapping communities ambled by.

At one time, East Vancouver was the bad part of town, which seems laughable now house prices have shot up. Sleek, well-off mommies, new to the area, pay my bills: I renovate the kitchens in their circa-1920 houses while they slurp up frappuccinos at Starbucks and plan the next battle in their bitter fight for control of Poverty Park. The area is upscaling; they want to drive out the homeless, the veterans, the street vendors and heroin junkies who’ve occupied the park—peaceably, for the most part—for decades.

None of which is to say I had mommies or motherhood on the brain. I put Paige and her troubles out of my mind, skipping the trial coverage, walking by fast when I saw her doe-eyed face in the newspaper boxes.

But a month after we first met she was back at Britannia, even more harried, obviously looking for me. The kid was in her pouch, lolling like a sailor after three days ashore.

I kept my eyes off him. “You got the soundproofing up? Barred your windows?”

She nodded.

“What happened?”

She hesitated. “They vandalized them.”

“By ’they’ you mean . . .

“The band.”

“And by ’them’?”

“The soundproofing pads.”

She was clinging to the lie. I thought of calling her on it, again, but I’d had a month to feel guilty. Chivalry won out. “You ready to show me?”

A long sigh. “Should I make an appointment?”

“No, I’m between jobs. Lead on.”

Paige’s house was a few blocks south of mine. It was what we call a Vancouver Special—an ugly box clad in yellow aluminium siding and fake brick, square in shape, designed to max out the floor space ratio on its lot. Multifamily residences: idea being to shoehorn in a couple with three kids, both sets of in-laws, and maybe jam an unmarried sister in the basement. There’d been a toxic bloom of them in the eighties; nowadays, developers are knocking them down to build pretty, faux-heritage townhomes.

The place didn’t look Paige’s speed at all.

“Big basement,” she said, by way of explanation. I got a bit of a jolt; perceptive women are sexy. We shared a weird, edgy grin.

Past the front door was a rabbit hutch and a couple bags—one packed with scrubs, another a suitcase I’d seen in trial photos. She dropped the diaper bag beside them.

The rabbits shifted nervously.

“You hate animals too?” she asked.

“Excuse me?”

“The baby. You make a point of ignoring him.”

“I keep fish.” I didn’t mention the cat; this was no time to sound like a nurturer.

“Downstairs.” She indicated a door. “You can leave your shoes on.”

I ducked under the overhang, heading into what had once been the in-law suite. Its interior walls were sledge-hammered away, the carpet torn up. All that remained was a vacant space with bare concrete floors.

“Why aren’t you on maternity leave?” I asked, thinking of the bag of work stuff—scrubs, shoes, protein bars.

“I take the occasional fill-in shift to remind myself I have more on the brain than the next loaded diaper.” She closed the door behind us.

Ever been somewhere where no sound gets in, none at all? Not the traffic outside, not the hum of the fridge, nothing but your own breath and heartbeat? It can be suffocating, almost claustrophobic; your ears ring and your brain insists there’s something wrong.

You can muffle a garage studio on the cheap by padding the walls with second-hand mattresses, but Paige had gone high-end. Her panels looked like they had come from a mental hospital—they were surfaced in a white quilted fabric and had been fitted with care, floor to ceiling, even covering the windows. They snugged up against the ceiling panels perfectly.

The air stank of bleach.

A baby cam and one big light were mounted in a corner of the ceiling, cords snaking between the soundproof boards.

“I figured they’d behave if I kept an eye on them,” she said, following my gaze to the camera.

‘They’ again, the fictional rock band. “This is good craftsmanship.”

“Surprised?”

“Impressed.” The nurses I know have decent mechanical skills, but this wouldn’t have been an easy job.

“The damage is here—” The fabric of the wall was torn at knee height in two places, the foam scattered in bits.

Foam and . . . I stirred the scraps, recognizing a tuft of animal fur.

She didn’t meet my eyes. “I’ll have to install something over the padding, won’t I?”

“You could frame and drywall. . . .”

“Drywall might be too fragile.”

“Clad the walls in sheet metal?”

“Sounds ugly.” She was close to weeping. “It has to be nice. It can’t . . . just be a big cage.”

My heart raced, loud in the silence. “Bamboo panels.”

“What?”

“Bamboo wall panels. Natural-looking, eco-friendly, and very hard. We frame over your soundproofing, clad the whole thing in bamboo panels. Even if one or two of them do get roughed up, we just replace. No harm, no foul, okay?”

We. Damn, I said “we.”

“Seriously?” She pretended to scan the room, mastering her emotions.

“It’ll be easy, Paige.”

That’s when the drunken sailor baby opened his little mug and belched a river of chewed industrial foam, blood-laced baby formula, and a sticky hunk of bunny leather onto my steel-toed work boots.

I looked from the mess to Paige’s chalky face.

“Maybe we can find the bamboo in sort of a crimson lacquer,” I added.

* * *

It’s not what you think,” she said, twenty minutes later in the backyard. The baby was on a blanket under a tree, and she’d pulled out two beers. “Pamela didn’t bite him.”

“No?” She couldn’t afford to have me—or anybody—thinking otherwise. If Deenie could prove Pamela had ever been a danger to others, he’d walk on the murder charge.

“She’s his mother. Was.” She rolled the beer bottle between her hands. “Lycanthropy’s been in my family since the Civil War. You can transmit it through the placenta.”

“You were in the womb together. Same placenta.”

“I’m not a werewolf,” she said. “Best guess is sometimes it takes, sometimes it doesn’t. Twins were a first for my family.”

“Papers don’t say he’s her baby.”

“We drove out to the middle of the province, switched IDs. At the hospital in Trail, nobody knew us.”

“Twins, right. Didn’t anyone notice that you—”

“I wore a padded belly to work for a few months.”

“You and Pamela must have been close.”

“I wasn’t so sure until she was gone. It was my job to take care of her, to cover, to cover up—”

“The good kid.”

She wiped her eyes.

“Me too. Eldest, right? Perfect attendance, good grades, come home and watch the little kids. . . .”

Again with that scalpel-sharp look of comprehension: “Your family’s not around anymore?”

“They’re alive. They’re pretty sure I’m going to hell.”

“I’m sorry.”

I wasn’t about to get into that. “So, you pulled a switcheroo with his birth certificate. But why?”

“To protect him. Deenie was already hunting Pammy.”

“And her boyfriend—he’s the father?”

“He doesn’t know. She left when she realized she was pregnant.”

The boyfriend had just testified. Deenie broke his fingers and pulled out one of his front teeth to get him to give up Pamela’s location. Poor guy damn near had a mental breakdown on the stand; since he was representing himself, Deenie got to cross-examine the man he’d tortured. He’d had a lot of fun with it.

“Deenie caught up with Pammy a couple weeks after the birth. She was weak, postpartum. Slow.”

“But you’d fixed things so the kid’s yours on paper.”

“It wasn’t that risky. We’d pass a DNA test . . . identical twins, remember?”

“Except Chase’d test positive for werewolf?”

“Yeah.”

The baby was waving at the tree, entranced by the moving shadows. Not that I was watching.

“The first three months were okay; I kept him in his playpen.”

“And now?”

“See that pile of playpen scraps over by the trash bin?”

“So you cage him in the basement every month until . . .” How long would he be a puppy? Sixteen years?

“Until he’s five. There’s a pack, in Surrey; they’ll take him in during the moon, teach him to hunt, to avoid people. It’s how Pammy was socialized. But he has to go to them good-tempered. He has to enjoy his . . . wild nights, they call them. If his temperament sours . . .”

“Then the pack won’t take him?”

“They’ll do worse than not take him.” She was tearing up again. “And all this depends on their being around when he’s five, which depends on Richard Deenie being convicted so he and his thug sidekick and all their sick monster-hunting pals know it’s serious, it’s illegal, that it’s not open season up here.”

I put my hand on hers. “Okay. So. Dog-proofing the basement.”

How hard could it be? He weighed, what, fifteen pounds?

 

JUNE

Four weeks ran by in a blur.

By the time the full moon rolled around, we had the walls of her basement panelled. The rabbit hutch had spent a couple weeks downstairs, killing the bleach fumes with a dog-friendly aroma of barn. We’d left construction sawdust on the floor.

That evening, Paige took all but two of the bunnies upstairs. She threw toys, rawhide chew sticks, and pepperoni down on the concrete floor, along with an old moccasin. She dropped in a few two-dollar ivy plants from the garden store, without their plastic starter pots. So there’d be dirt?

Fifteen minutes before moonrise, she gave Chase a bottle, burped him, stripped off his footie pyjamas and diaper and lay him, nude, on the concrete basement floor.

“No blanket?”

“He’d eat it.” We stared at him, pale and small on the floor. He was playing with his toes. If he was cold, it didn’t show.

Then he was seizing.

Paige threw out an arm; I guess I’d taken an involuntary step into the room. She backed me out, closed the door, cutting off the sound of him strangling. Then she led me upstairs. “We can watch on the monitor.”

Ye gods. The strength it must have taken; I didn’t even like the kid and I didn’t want to walk away. She turned on the monitor. He’ll be a slavering, hideous monster. Scary and unlovable, I thought. I took a good look.

It was worse than I thought. He was all wobbling puppy butt and baby fluff. He had big eyes, long flirty lashes. He batted them at a chew toy, looking like some kid’s cartoon dawg—bink-bink.

A quiet “Aroo!” trickled through the baby monitor.

“Awww,” I said. Believe me, a dead cynic couldn’t have kept from saying “Awww.”

I was entranced until he caught the first rabbit.

Even baby-clumsy, he was fast. He shook the rabbit into a puddle, sending fur flying, then rolled in the pudding. He chewed one of the plastic toys to chips. The shoe went in stages; he’d run around with it for a while, settle in for a chaw, run some more.

And my God, the peeing. Every nook, every corner. All my lovely bamboo panelling.

“Boy dogs,” Paige said, by way of apology, or explanation.

“This was why the bleach, last month.”

“To kill the smell, yep.”

Okay, stop staring. I got up as he began dragging the first of the ivy plants around the room, spraying potting soil. His tail was wagging. It had only been an hour.

“He’s laying waste to the place.”

“As long as he’s happy.” She quirked a brow. “Speaking of which . . .”

“Mmm?” I was already considering how to entertain the little bugger next time. He needed grass, more plants . . .

Paige kissed me.

It was awkward—disastrous. My head was elsewhere; she caught me by surprise. She was nervous, too, so the move came out a bit of a lunge. Our lips met for a second; then our teeth clacked, pinching my tongue. I pulled back, reflexively, tasting blood. And whatever she saw in my face . . . she turned bright red.

It might be for the best. I squelched the urge to apologize. “I should leave.”

“Hey—it’s okay. I wouldn’t want to date me either.”

“You’re plenty dateable, Paige—”

“Don’t, Jude.”

“What do you want me to say? You’re dead gorgeous. You’re funny, smart. But your sister’s newly dead, you got this murder trial . . .”

“I’m hot, but I’m a basket case? You don’t want to take advantage? I didn’t take you for old-school butch, Jude.”

“How could you not be a basket case?” I stared out the window. “You’re in mourning and there’s a rabid frigging monster in your basement.”

A faint “Aroo” trickled from the speaker.

“So? You think you’re such a catch?”

“I didn’t say that.” A flare of light in a truck, across the street, caught my eye.

“You’re freakishly tall, for one thing. And that librarian gave me your entire romantic history. You dare call me damaged goods when—”

“Someone’s watching the house,” I interrupted.

She cat-stepped across the living room, pissed, and looked sideways through the curtains.

“Reporter?” I whispered.

“Deenie’s sidekick,” she gritted. “Valmont Robb.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I’ll bundle up something kid-shaped and walk you to the door.”

“To the . . .”

“You were leaving anyway, weren’t you?”

“But—”

A furious glint in her eye. “I may look like a mess to you, but believe me, I can handle myself.”

Ten minutes later I was out in the cold on the porch. Paige had a fake baby bundled in her arms, a fake smile plastered on her face. See, folks? Nothing going on here.

“Good night,” she said.

I gave the fake kid a pat. “I never set out to be a parent, Paige.”

“Funnily enough, neither did I.” She pivoted, closing the door in my face.

Well. I’d needed to back her off, right? Nicely done.

I walked home in the dark, past Robb’s truck with its Kansas plates, pretending I hadn’t seen him, my lip throbbing, my mind full of a strange mix of regret, sexual fantasy, revenge, and puppy eyes.

* * *

Next morning I couldn’t help myself; I called her.

“He’s overheating down there,” she said, before I could stumble half-assed into an apology.

“What?”

“There’s no airflow in the basement. It was okay last month; I guess it was colder. But by two, he was roasting.”

A pulse of alarm. “He’s okay?”

“Yeah, but summer’s coming—look, I can’t talk now.”

“Something’s up?”

“Sitter cancelled, and I need to see the Crown about Robb being here last night.”

“Can’t you call the police?”

“It’s complicated; Vancouver PD’s divided on the werewolf issue.”

“Well . . . I’m coming by to look at the air.”

“What if Chase bunny-barfs on a reporter? He ate that entire moccasin.”

“I have an ex-girlfriend who used to run a daycare. She’s broke and she has a one-year-old.”

“I can’t leave him with a stranger, not with Robb . . .”

“I’d be downstairs.”

“I thought you were done with me and my rabid frigging monster.”

“Cut me a break, Paige. He is a rabid frigging monster.”

“Well.” I could see her fighting a smile. “That’s true.”

“Listen. Maybe I was an asshole last night—”

“Maybe?”

“Let me make one call, sort out the ventilation issue, and clean up a bit while you put the law on Robb. Deal?”

“Fine.”

* * *

“So how is it you’re once again with a woman with a kid?” Raquel, naturally, had said yes. Who could pass up a chance to give me a hard time and get paid?

So I’d chauffeured her over, made the introductions. She cooed over little Chase, who was sleeping off his wolfie binge. Paige, satisfied, had run off to court.

Once she was gone, Raquel demanded a complete rundown on her, for transmission to the entire East Van lesbian grapevine.

“I’m not with anyone. I’m fixing up her basement.”

“Is that what you’re calling it—Abby, no!” She darted across the room to strong-arm her toddler down from the TV stand, and I escaped the interrogation.

With the basement door safely locked, I could survey the damage in the ear-ringing silence.

The air was stuffy, as Paige had said; it also reeked of baby wolf pee. Dirt from the plants was everywhere, mudded in with bits of fur, dog toys, moccasin, sawdust. A rabbit eye stared at me from the floor.

What was I doing, cleaning up after a kid who would probably get himself shot by someone like Richard Deenie?

Apologizing for last night, that’s all.

Concentrate on the air. It was a problem—ventilation ducts are notoriously good conductors of sound. Best I could do was run a pipe to the garage, insulate the duct inside and out, and hope the noise of the intake fan would cover a certain amount of puppy howl.

Aroo, I remembered. It hadn’t seemed loud on the baby cam.

Which has a volume knob. And what about when he’s bigger?

One problem at a time.

The basement was depressing. Bare walls, bamboo or not, and a few bunnies weren’t enough. The kid needed things to climb up, jump on, destroy. Grass underfoot. He had to go to that pack good-tempered, Paige said.

Raised planters, maybe, something to lurk beneath . . . but plants meant lights. We’d—dammit, Paige would need grow lights for the plants.

I got absorbed in thinking about solar panels, and jumped a foot when my cell rang. It was Raquel, calling from upstairs.

“Why are you phoning me?”

“Because I’m whaling on the door and you damn well can’t hear me.”

I bolted for the stairs. “Kid okay?”

“He’s asleep.” She snapped her phone shut in my face. “That guy’s back. You said a red truck?”

I closed the padded door, eased past Raquel, and checked on the bassinet before peeking outside. The truck with the Kansas plates was parked half a block away.

“What’s this about?”

“The trial. He’s trying to scare Paige.”

“Should we call the cops?”

“She was gonna talk to that Crown attorney.”

“Stalkerman’s here now.”

“Some of the police think we should be allowed to shoot werewolves—a lot.”

“We call, we get the wrong cop, we make things worse?”

I nodded. “They see ’em as an enforcement problem, go figure.”

“Gotcha.” She sighed. “Let’s get a picture of him. Document the stalking. Maybe Paige can go door to door, insinuate to the neighbours he’s hanging around waiting to break into their houses or molest their kids.”

“Good idea,” I said.

She put a hand on my back. “Don’t worry, Jude.”

“I’m just doing her basement,” I repeated. Chase cooed from inside the bassinet. I felt cobwebby threads of affection, sticking, somewhere deep and internal.

“Cut it out,” I growled, and he beamed.

Raquel had her camera zoomed in on Robb’s unshaven mug. “What’s Paige doing down there, anyway? Holding mini-raves?”

“Excuse me?”

Her eyes flicked to the baby monitor. So much for secrecy. I’d been on camera all morning.

“Orchids,” I said. “We’re setting her up to grow orchids.”

 

JULY

“When Pammy was five, she began spending a couple days a month on my uncle’s farm near Cheyenne,” Paige told the packed courtroom. “He and a local fellow were werewolves, the friend’s daughter too.”

“They ran in a pack?”

“Yes. The adults socialized the girls.”

“Meaning?”

“They learned to avoid people and domesticated animals.”

“Mr. Deenie says lycanthropes are untameable beasts.”

“What does he know? He learned the truth with the rest of the world, in 2002, and he’s no scientist. My family had generations of experience in dealing with this.”

The Crown had done a decent job of making out Deenie as a sadist and misogynist. The jury seemed to dislike him heartily. In response, he was playing on that thread of . . . was it racism? Not in my backyard-ism? We like to think we’re liberal out here on the West Coast. Still, the idea of having werewolves for neighbours wasn’t sitting well.

Rabid frigging monsters, right?

Courtrooms always look impressive on TV. In my experience, the real thing never measures up: the taxpayer’s dime won’t pay for the kind of glitz you get on even a crummy lawyer show. Everything’s set up in the same place Judge’s bench, jury box, witness stand—but it all looks run down. The people involved don’t come up to TV standards either; they’re real, and as a result they look fake, like they’re auditioning for parts in a community theatre production. The sheriff’s uniforms look badly fitted, and the air smells dusty.

But Paige had gone all out. She was wearing a brand-new cream-colored suit; her hair was newly cut, her nails buffed. Her make-up was subtle, emphasizing her fragility. She looked like a rosebud wrapped in white chocolate.

If she couldn’t convince the jury her sister hadn’t been a threat, it was Game Over. Worse. It would be open season.

“There has been some research since monsterkind was discovered,” the Crown said. “None of it indicates that lycanthropy is in any sense controllable.”

“We aren’t talking about taming anyone,” Paige said.

“No?”

“As humans encroach on forest habitat, mother bears keep their young with them for longer periods of time. There’s more to teach them, you see, about how to cohabitate with humans. The cubs learn it, and nobody says they’re domesticated. They’re living smarter, avoiding people, increasing their chances of survival.”

“This is the same?”

“If bears can do it, of course lycanthropes can. In all the time we lived near Cheyenne, there wasn’t one human disappearance on a full moon. No pet slaughters either, by the way. In fact, towns benefit from the presence of an active pack.”

“How’s that?”

“A well-socialized lycanthrope pack keeps the rest of monsterkind away.”

Deenie was scribbling furiously, probably planning to follow up on that in his cross-examination.

“This werewolf uncle of yours, where is he now?”

“Richard Deenie’s so-called mentor, Kevin Solve, shot him in 2003.”

“The family friend?”

“His house was burned . . . with him in it.”

“And his daughter? ”

The skin around her eyes pinkened.

“Miss Adolpha?”

“He murdered her. Her and . . . everyone I love.” Not one tear fell. “Because he hates werewolves, and he thinks it’s fun.”

“Objection,” Richard Deenie drawled.

“He likes being patted on the head for being a serial killer. He shot my sister and bragged about it, and she never hurt anyone.”

“Objection.”

“She was no danger to him.”

“You’re one hundred percent certain of that?”

Not a sound in the courtroom. The kid reached over from Raquel’s lap, tugging my sleeve. I pulled free.

“I had a newborn. Would I have let Pammy move in with me if I wasn’t sure it was safe?” Paige said.

Everyone—reporters, spectators, jury—looked at Raquel and little Chase. And me.

The Crown acknowledged this with a nod. “Your witness.”

Deenie had been drooling over the prospect of getting his shot at Paige, and his cross-examination was brutal, the questions fast and furious. How did Paige know her sister never killed anyone? Could she prove it? How many werewolf maulings were there in Canada each year? Wasn’t living in the middle of a big city a bit different from keeping Pammy on the country fringes of Cheyenne? Neighbours ten feet away, close quarters . . .

“I grew up with Pammy. How’s that for close quarters?”

He stood close enough to breathe on her. He asked about Pamela’s sexual habits, alleged she was a boozer, dug into her spotty job history. Had Paige ever had to drug Pamela, to protect herself or others? Did she know how to get rid of a body? If Pammy killed someone, would she cover it up?

Paige sat there and took it. She looked sweet and young, harmless and delicate and exactly like her sister, and she didn’t crack. The longer it went on, the more it felt as though everyone in the room wanted to throttle Deenie.

Chase was getting restless: moonrise was seven hours away. I was about to suggest Raquel take him home when the judge adjourned for the day.

We met Paige just outside the courtroom.

“That looked gruelling.” Raquel kissed her on the cheek and handed over the baby.

“I’ll do a year in that witness box if that’s what it takes.” She was checking her make-up, thinking ahead to the next tangle: with the media. Adjusting her young mom costume.

“I gotta pick up Abby from her play date. You guys’ll be okay?”

“Fine,” Paige said. “Thanks, Raquel.”

“Ciao.” She waved and was gone.

I gave Paige a long look. “Want me to disappear, too?”

“You want to?”

“You probably look more harmless without a freakishly tall bodyguard—”

That’s when Valmont Robb popped around the corner and tried to rip out a pinch of the baby’s hair.

I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. Paige had his sweaty mitt between her jaws before I could draw breath. Without hesitating, she bit, growling, into the meat of his hand.

Robb jerked free with a shout, blood running down his wrist, and grabbed for her throat.

I half caught his fist with mine. Pain, a bruising clash of knuckles . . . Then Paige shoved the baby, snuggly and all, into my arms.

“Get him away!” Sheriffs were wading in to collar them both.

I staggered clear of the scrum, flailing my way into the snuggly to free up my hands. I got my forearm between the crowd and the kid’s head. Chase was goggling at me, emitting a low growl. Would he change if he got upset?

I pulled him close, whispering, “It’s okay, it’s okay. Everything’s cool, little guy.”

He had that intoxicating baby smell: new life, baked bread, talcum. Nobody else tried to get a sample off him as the sheriffs dragged Paige and Valmont Robb off.

The crowd stayed clear of me, babbling: “Is Paige one of them?”

“What’d he do?”

“. . . tried to grab the baby . . .”

“She broke the skin, he was bleeding, that makes him one of them now . . .”

“Only if she is. If she is, her sister bit her . . .”

“Socialized my ass.”

“Grrrr . . .”

“It’s all cool, junior,” I said. “All okay. What are we gonna do?”

He did that thing where they put an itty-bitty hand on your cheek and your heart tears itself to shreds.

“Cut that out,” I said.

He welled up.

“Okay, okay. Sorry.” Wait, watch, think. I bounced him, pacing the government-issue carpet, glaring at anyone who got within five feet. Down the hall, a VPD constable was watching alertly; from her expression, she was anti-lycanthrope. This was out of control. . . .

Maybe twenty minutes passed. Chase calmed; the bystanders milled for a while, until they were sure the show was over. I waited for Paige.

Instead, Paige’s hero, the fire-breathing Crown attorney who’d brought Deenie to trial, appeared.

“Paige and Valmont Robb are being charged with assault,” she said. “They’ll be locked up until morning.”

“That’s bogus.”

“It’s in case Paige is a werewolf, in case she’s infected Robb.”

“They’ll run tests?”

She frowned. “Full moon’s tonight. That’s test enough.”

“Oh.” It was neatly done; Robb wouldn’t be out and about while the kid was wild-nighting in the basement. Then again, Paige was locked up, too.

The lawyer served up a tight, feral smile. “They’re desperate. Deenie can keep badgering Paige on the stand, if he wants, but by now he must know he can’t make her look bad. His best chance is to prove Pamela was a biter.”

“Right. But with Robb locked up for the night, they’ve lost their shot.”

“Have they?” She said this with typical lawyer neutrality, glancing down the hall. The female VPD officer had been joined by an equally hostile male partner. Not even bothering to give me a significant look, the attorney click-clacked away.

“Crap,” I said, and Chase stole the opportunity to baby-pat my face again.

* * *

I called up Helene—she’s another ex-girlfriend of mine, who cleans houses—and drove her over to Paige’s with instructions to clean the basement like it was a crime scene. She didn’t ask questions. She did, however, take a phone picture of me with the snuggly on my chest. “Change your ways at last, Jude?”

“Woman’s in a jam.”

“You couldn’t leave him with Raquel?”

“No.” Not tonight.

“Yeah. You don’t have a maternal bone.”

“Can the sarcasm, please?”

“Now you sound like my mother.”

“Why is it the business of every goddamn lesbian in British Columbia to give me a hard time?”

“You reap what you sow. Mommy.”

No winning here, I thought. “Clear out by sunset, okay? I expect the place to get busted and searched.”

Helene nodded. “Rabbit hutch goes here, plants go there, leave the lights on. I was listening.”

Would it make a difference? Who knew? I hugged her swiftly. “Thanks.”

“Where are you gonna go?”

“I’m not awash in options.” I’d fantasized about turning Chase loose on some well-fenced stretch of open prairie, me with a rifle in case a coyote showed up. As if I had a prairie field in my back pocket. As if I could shoot.

“Check into the transition house for the night. His mother’ll be out tomorrow, right? You know they wouldn’t let the cops in.”

How bad were things that I was tempted to take the rabid monsterchild to a house full of battered women? “I’ll be okay, Helene.”

“I’m a rock, I’m an island,” she mocked, waving a mop at me as she descended the stairs. “Night. Mommy.”

* * *

“It’s not that I hate kids,” I said from atop my kitchen table, four hours later, as Chase gnawed my TV stand to slivers and my old queen manx, Fairytail, yowled disapprovingly from atop the bookshelf. “I was keen, even, in my twenties. My sister Alonsa had a baby, Hal—”

My breath snagged. Years were gone, but it hurt to say his name.

“Another blue-eyed cherub—not all that different from you. Well, except the obvious. I’d have done anything for that kid. But it was the eighties. People could toss a queer out on her ass without the least bit of censure. Alonsa’s husband got born again, and . . . shit, doesn’t matter.”

“Aroo!”

“Aroo to you too.” I saluted. “I go to Toronto, come out, fall in love. She’s got a kid. A girl, Michaela.”

Chase hurled himself at Fairytail’s perch. A book teetered and fell—just Camille Paglia, thankfully. He chewed her spine, keeping a hopeful eye on the cat.

“Three years together, we paid lip service to coparenting. After we broke up, I had the kid Tuesday and Friday. Then she finds a new partner. I offered to move to Duluth, not with them, you know, just in the orbit. Made the commitment, did the responsible thing. But then it was ‘Michaela needs to bond with Aster, you’re confusing her.’ Well, she’s not mine, I got no rights, I’m not saying I should have rights, but you don’t get it, furball, I can’t—Hey!” I threw a rubber ball into the kitchen before he could go after Susan Faludi.

He boiled after it with a lusty howl. Claws skittered on the lino and there was a thump as he puppy-bounced against the wall.

“You’d think I’d stop at two, right? But no, I had to fall again, about a year later. I thought a friend . . . no romance, see? And I tried to tell her, this has to be for keeps or I’m out, it’s too tough, and it was oh yes, oh yes, Jude, of course, Jude. She was so alone, so damned grateful for the childcare. My judgment that time . . . stupid. It got bad, I had to walk away. The shame I still feel over that . . .

“I know it’s my fault, okay? I know you can’t go half-assed, have a kid on the fringes, can’t play Auntie and assume it’ll go your way, but it’s so hard. . . .”

Pathetic, Jude. Up on the dining room table, all self-pity, who’s really the basket case here? The kid padded into the living room with a triumphant look in his adorable cartoon eyes. I’d thought he’d have the ball, or what was left of it, in his jaws. But no, he’d found my oven mitts.

I started bawling like an old drunk, because it was too late. I was caught again, the hooks deep as ever they’d been, barbed through all the scar tissue and old hurt, and as he lifted his tiny leg and damn well made widdle on my oven mitt, I swear it was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen.

* * *

At about two thirty, Paige got to a phone.

She was panicking. “Can you hide the door to the basement? Make a secret panel or something?”

“A secret—”

“Deenie’s befriended some police who think lycanthropes are dangerous. They’re going for a grow op warrant on the house. They’ll say they’re looking for pot and then—”

“Let ’em search, Paige. We’re not there.”

“Oh! Good. Is he okay?”

“Getting up his second wind. In fact, his little ears have pricked up. Say hello to Mommy, kid.”

Chase struggled to his paws. “Arrooo?” It came out a question; then he flopped again.

Her voice came through the speaker. “Hi, baby, hi, baby. Thank God.”

“Who told you about the raid?”

“One of the guards. Gloating.”

I’d been on the table for hours. Now I stood and stretched. Hell, Chase was torpid, and I had my boots on. I stepped down to a chair, then the floor. The littlest werewolf didn’t move.

“So where are you?”

“My place.”

“You took him home?”

“What could I do, take a pet suite at the Hilton?” I splashed water onto my face, ran a comb through my hair.

“What if they go there next?”

“They can’t get a warrant to search for pot here, in the dead of night, on the grounds that I’m your . . .”

“My what?”

Weighted pause. “Your friend, Paige.”

“All they have to do is shove their way in and bag him. They can apologize to the skies once they have video of him changing back at dawn.”

Bust in first, consequences later. She was right. “It’s not gonna happen. Paige . . .”

“Shit, my time’s up.”

“It’ll be okay.”

“Don’t screw this up, Jude.” She was gone before I could promise anything.

A scritch. I opened the bathroom door. The kid was there, tail thumping, couch upholstery dangling from his fang. He tried out a growl on me.

“Don’t even think it,” I said. Stomping past him, I found my work gloves. He wobbled a step behind, exhausted but game. “Tearing around takes it out of you, huh kid?”

Bink-bink. Cartoon puppy eyes. Cuddle me; I’m not dangerous at all.

“You’re not gonna bite me,” I told him.

Bending, I extended my gloved hands. He growled.

“No!” Deep voice: he did me the honor of looking awed.

I got him by the scruff and under his chest, holding him arms-out away from me. His body was hot, and I could feel the wham-wham of his heart through the leather as I carried him upstairs.

Then he shocked a bit, twisting.

The smart thing would’ve been to drop him; instead, my arms pulled inward, protecting. I felt hot puppy breath on my neck, a touch of nose. He was alert, almost quivering.

“Easy. Easy.” My mouth was cottony. I turned sideways, checking the mirror. He was staring bug-eyed up over my shoulder, through the skylight in my bedroom . . .

 . . . at the moon.

“Aroo?”

“Aroo,” I agreed. For some reason I was near tears.

I set him down like a bomb, leaving him in the shaft of moonlight, up on my bed, in my loft with all my good stuff, everything I’d pulled off the ground floor that afternoon. I rescued the urn with my mom’s ashes, threw a last apologetic look at the fish tank. “Enjoy the change of locale, kid.”

Weak-kneed, I stumbled downstairs and started making calls.

* * *

The police didn’t turn up until four.

By then, I had thirty people downstairs. Saffron had awakened most of the local women’s chorus, and there was a big ol’ overtired koombaya going on in the remains of my living room. Alison was shooting the gathering in Super-8, while a baby dyke named Kathleen Ph34rless exhorted her to get into the digital age, man. Jennifer was doing henna tattoos on Freddie May, who was bare-chested and on his back on the table. Helena had swept the shreds of Camille Paglia off my floor. Raquel lay by the hearth with her one-year-old, Abby, and the baby’s father, the three of them half asleep, watching a Disney movie on an iPad.

Upstairs you could hear the occasional thunk, awoo, smash—Chase had gotten his second wind.

Long as he’s happy, I thought, as I answered the bang-bang-bang of the front door.

“Judith Walker?”

Showtime.

“Hey, Officers,” I said, not too smartass, not too perky. Through the chain, I saw the female constable I’d seen that afternoon.

“We have a report of screams at this address.”

“Just a party.”

“Mind if we look around?”

“I do mind, yeah.” I spoke clearly, for the pick-up mike.

“I hear another scream now.” She gave me a push, trying to swing my door wide, only to get hung up on the steel-toed boot I’d accidentally-on-purpose jammed in it.

Her partner helped. The boot and the chain both gave, and I stumbled backward into my foyer.

One of the leather kids, Roman, caught me.

“Hey there, Officer,” he swished. “This a bust? Wanna borrow my cuffs?”

“What’s going on here?”

“Full moon party,” I said. “In honor of Pam Adolpha.”

She scowled. “Where’s the kid?”

“Do I look like a babysitter?”

Junior chose that moment to let go with a little “Aroo!”

“What the hell was that?” The female officer’s hand drifted to her pepper spray. Then she paused; Alison had moved in with her camera. The choir broke into four-part harmony, drawing her eye. They were parked on a couch I’d propped in front of the door to the stairwell. At their soprano edge, singing along while giving her best glower from a scary high-tech wheelchair, was the city’s best-known civil rights lawyer.

You stay in one place for a while, you make friends. They make friends. They’ll dissect your love life and your dietary habits behind your back, but some days it pays off. That’s how it works in my neighbourhood. Most of my guests lived walking distance from here.

An “Aroo!” upstairs ruined the otherwise golden moment.

“I asked you . . .” The constable kept her voice calm. “What is that?”

“It’s the dog,” I said, straight-faced. “What do you think?”

She spent another second thumbing her pepper spray, weighing her odds—the film crew, the legal lioness, the sheer number of witnesses. Little Kathleen Ph34rless had her phone out, no doubt Tweeting events in real time.

The constable slumped. “Keep the noise down.”

Nobody was so dumb as to start cheering before they were gone. But we spent the next few hours giving each other sleepy high-fives, carrying on like we’d faced down the armies of Rome.

* * *

Paige showed up at my place about two hours after dawn.

“Your kitchen ceiling is dripping,” she said.

I’d just put down a bucket to catch the leak. “Baby boy got to my fish tank. You should’ve heard it.”

“And there are twenty women in your living room.”

“That many?”

“They’re semi-naked.”

“It’s hot out, Paige. By the way, you officially owe favours to every cool person in East Van.”

“Just tell me you haven’t slept with all of them.”

I pretended to count heads. “Only five. Well, six.”

She chose—conspicuously, I thought—to ignore my attempt at charm. “Where’s my son, Jude?”

“Follow me.”

Baby Chase was snoring in the wreckage of my bedroom. Paige squelched across the carpet, crunching broken aquarium glass, and scooped him into her arms.

“Oh, Jude. All your stuff,” she murmured, head down against his.

“It’s what they do, right?”

“Werewolves?”

“Children.”

“You never wanted to be a mom,” she said.

“That was kind of a half-truth.”

“You weren’t wrong. He is a monster, and I am a basket case.”

“A victorious basket case.”

“Excuse me?”

“By next month they’ll have convicted that fucker Deenie, right? The sidekick’ll go off home and make trouble for someone else?”

“What are you saying? All’s well that ends well?”

“You’re not damaged goods, Paige. When you bit Robb yesterday, I realized. You’re anything but fragile. You’re tough. And that’s . . .”

“Yes?”

“It’s your strength I’m attracted to.”

She stirred the dampened shreds of my buckwheat pillow with her toe. “So no more bullshit?”

“There’s always more,” I said. “But not that flavour.”

“Your sales pitch could use some work.” She patted the empty space on my bed.

“You dig honesty.” I slipped into the nook, curled around the baby, and kissed her properly.

The kid waved a fist, belching fish.

“Da,” he said to me. Bink-bink. The hook sank deeper.

I faked a cringe. “Tell me he’s already said Mumma, once at least.”

“Nope.” She twinkled. “Gonna tell him to cut it out?”

“Da!”

“I’m gonna say keep it up, Chase,” I told them both, and planted a kiss on his little feral head as my hand wound into hers.

 

Copyright 2010 AM Dellamonica

Art copyright 2010 Marcos Chin

 

Acquired and edited for Tor.com by Stacy Hague-Hill.

This story is part of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
62 comments
Nick Rogers
1. BookGoblin
I've never liked warewolf fiction. No good reason for it, it just never connected with me. Not a big fan of hard-luck almost-baby-daddy losers either (that hits too close to home).

And yet, this really worked for me. Best treatment of a post "monsterkind" world I've personally ever read.

Second, and this might sound dumb, but the story tweaked my perception of the perspective character's gender/sexuality. I didn't pick up on the femaleness (or should I say non-male-ness?) until the scene in the loft apartment alone with the pup. I just let my pre-conceived notion of a contractor run until it ran out. In a story about werewolves and changing, it was the realization that the protagonist was something other than I expected that really set this apart for me. I really enjoyed it.
Nina Lourie
2. supertailz
This. This is my favourite thing to have possibly ever happened. This story totally just made my morning, in every possible way. It is wonderfully written and one of the most perfect examples of showing instead of telling I've ever read.

Also it is so unbelievably cute. I might have died of the cute.

Jude is so lovely and smart and strong and flawed and such a great protagonist. Also I kind of want to teach my cats to say "Aroooo" now.
Sunjay
3. Sunjay
I have to agree with BookGoblin above, though I didn't immediately assume the gender of the contractor, I kept wondering all the way through most of the story.

I generally find werewolf stories fairly cliched, and yet the ambiguity of Jude's sex, and the way it dealt with the whole family values aspect kept me engrossed.

Well written!
Sunjay
5. OtterB
Add me to the list of ones who liked this a lot, though I am not usually fond of werewolves. But, Aroo!
Bridget McGovern
6. BMcGovern
Brilliant! This is definitely one of my favorite pieces of Tor.com fiction ever. I'm with @supertailz on this one; it's original, engaging, and the characters are fantastic--it made my whole week :)
Kamarile Sohma
7. KamarileSedai
I loved this! I usually don't read werewolf fiction, but this one caught my interest. I really like the characters. I mean, who can resist a cute baby who tears all your posessions into unrecognizable bits? Not to mention his two loving and protective parents? Aww.
Alyx Dellamonica
8. AMDellamonica
I am thrilled to hear people are enjoying it!

To tell the truth, I'm a little leery of werewolf stories myself (Though I have always loved Suzy McKee Charnas's "Boobs." How can you not love a story with a title like that?)

I figured that setting out to write a lycanthrope story I would enjoy, and making it even harder by having him be uber-adorable, would be a decent challenge. It is very gratifying to know you all think it came off.
Caryn Cameron
9. galeni
Adored this story. Just...wonderful. And real. And fabulous. And I know that fatuous look at the little darling you're cuddling because he's sick and he starts to throw up and you catch it in your hand because you don't want to drop him so you end up with a handful of used, half-chewed hot dog. And you kiss him instead of going, "Ewwwww!"

Loved it.
Sunjay
10. Speradigm
I never questioned Jude being male...
Irene Gallo
11. Irene
I really loved working on this. I hoped to like it when Stacy, the editor, mentioned werepuppy!...Even with high expectations, i found it funny and touching. aroo!
N. Swain
12. Jabberwocky
This was really a delightful story-- probably the only werewolf story I've liked in recent reading.
Sunjay
13. jenfullmoon
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Just awwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Not just for the werepuppy either.
B. Ross Ashley
14. brashley46
Whereas I never for a moment thought Jude was male. I guess I know too many lesbians? And yes, lovely story.
Greer Hauptman
16. ryuutchi
OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE CUTEST THING I HAVE EVER READ. It's rare to find lesbian fiction, especially in genre, and this was, like, the best of genre, GLBT and legal thriller.

I don't usually do werewolf fiction, but I figured I'd give it a try because the Tor email hinted at a lesbian relationship. I'm really glad I did. It had some bits that reminded me of the Esther Freisner short story anthologies, and some bits that reminded me of gay detective fiction from the 80s and 90s.

Ms Dellamonica, consider me officially impressed and on the lookout for your full-length work.
Sunjay
17. Andy99
I didn't specifically think she was male either, but I was not *completely* sure she wasn't until the sentence "A baby meant Paige was maybe no more than a year out of a relationship with some guy." - and because the picture made so much more sense after I had read the story.

Maybe I know more people who are open about their sexual orientation, whatever way.

Not only "awww", but also, the story had my attention from the first paragraph. There was no period of reading, wondering whether I would get into the story or not - my attention was grabbed and held.

Thank you, A. M. Dellamonica.
Sunjay
18. Bryan314
Heh...cute story. I wanna read more in this universe! I somehow assumed female protagonist from the beginning of the story, but maybe I'm just weird.

I kinda wanna watch Chase grow up. I suspect that Jude is well on the way to socializing (much like a real wolf, you will never domesticate one in a single generation) him into her pack...umm...I mean family.

Oh, and YES, one CAN know too many (attractive) lesbians. Take it from a guy who just doesn't get that many dates. It's hard to add yet another woman who is willing to at least talk to you to the "always just friends" collection.
Chuck Gregory
20. cwgregory
My wife and I would be glad to add one of those to our family of unusual critters. Humans are so mean, and so prone to destroy what they don't understand.

Great story, made me feel good. Thanks.
Mark Whybird
21. whybird
I don't get why people thought Jude was male. Very early on, Jude says "I wasn’t looking to be anyone’s stepmom". I'm a straight male. Any gay or lesbian friends I currently know are keeping quiet about it. Even so, I got that Jude is a lesbian female straight (no pun intended) away.

Loved the story.
Sunjay
23. akaSylvia
RE: "Whereas I never for a moment thought Jude was male."

I just went back and reread because it was so obvious to me that Jude was a woman, I was pretty sure it was directly stated in the first paragraph. I can't find anything obvious now other than the image which I don't remember looking at - but perhaps it stuck in my head.

Certainly when I read "I shot Lela—who’s dating my ex and disapproves of my staying single—a dirty look." I felt I had confirmation that all involved were lesbians although no gender for the ex was given. I don't know, it just seemed straight-forward to me. I'm intrigued as to how that was achieved.
Sunjay
24. KellyN
I thought it was obvious from the start the Jude was a lesbian. Takes one to know one, maybe. :-)

I loved the characters and the story! More, more, more!
Sunjay
25. taconista
Awwwww! I want a werepuppy!

Great story. Thanks!
Alyx Dellamonica
26. AMDellamonica
I wasn't explictly trying to create mystery over Jude's gender--though I have done that in some of my fiction; there are definitely characters all over the gender continuum, with a range of sexual orientations in my novel and in other places. There's a fair amount of play with it in a story I wrote called "What Song the Sirens Sang," as I recall. (You forget, after awhile, exactly what's in each story--time goes on and you pile up the words, and memory fails.)

Anyway and for the record, I wasn't messing with you all... this time.
Sunjay
27. kormantic
I loved how you grounded the fantastic in strong sensual detail, and then set evocative visuals here and there - when the baby worries the bunny into a puddle and then rolls in the pudding, Paige looking like a rosebud dipped in white chocolate. Deeply groovy. Hooray for A.M. Dellamonica stories!
Sunjay
28. Kaitlyn R. Miller
OMG, I love this. All through the story I was enjoying it, but then the "Da" at the end? Totally broke me. Definitely my favorite of the stories I've read on Tor.com so far.

Regarding Jude's gender: I read the little description in the weekly Tor.com email, which explicitly stated that she was female, but I expect I would have figured it out quickly regardless.

(One of the words in my reCaptcha is "were.")
Brady Allen
29. akabrady
Seriously no one figured out Jude was a woman with this line?

"But I wasn’t looking to be anyone’s stepmom."

It's in the opening scene...

Other than that, it was an okay story. This is the first paranormal romance stuff I've ever read, and a guy, so take that for whats it's worth, but this seems to lack grit and the sense of a real world to me. It's all fluffy feeling without any real danger or problems.

I feel like every character is a Mary Sue, and the bohemian lifestyle is a little too utopian for me.

I can see that if you are just looking for an escape it might do something for you, but I like to fully immerse myself into a fantasy/scifi world, and if I'm constantly wondering why the world doesn't feel real, or why no one ever gets hurt (not even the bad guy) except superficially, then the story has failed the immersion test.

I can tell this is not my genre, but if you like it have fun!
Sunjay
31. ola senor
When I first read it I presumed the character was male, ie reading newspapers at the library seems to be a male predilection (at least around my parts), and the character's vocation as a sometime general contractor pointed me in that direction. I admit reference to ex and Lela threw me, but just kept on. When the reference to "I wasn’t looking to be anyone’s stepmom" came, i had to readjust. For me that was a good thing, and made me re-examine my bias towards making the main character like myself.

Enjoyed the detail given to the location.

It seems that there were some overt and subtle comparisons between lesbianism and lyncanthropy, in that both are changes in a person that make them perceived to be "dangerous" to other people. Its not an exact comparison, and didn't seem to be too heavy handed. But thoughtfully playful.
Sunjay
32. Marie Brennan
Lack of grit and real world? I find stalking, harassment, unsympathetic cops, and all the rest of it to be very real problems that women (lesbians or not, werewolf-related or not) face all the time. Sure, the story's tone is on the lighthearted side, but blood-n-guts is not the only kind of realism there is.

And given that the backstory included both murder and torture, it had the blood-n-guts, too -- just not in the foreground.

It's not your cup of tea, and that's fine; there are plenty of stories that don't float my boat, either. But I think that for all the lighthearted tone, there is an actual threat present, and one I personally find more realistic than a lot I encounter in fiction.
Sunjay
33. Manowl
Ahem. Write me down as apparently the only prejudiced dumbass that went through the WHOLE story without figuring out that Jude is a woman. My hetero bias made me give a twisted interpretation to the obvious fact that Jude has many lesbian exes ("whoa, that's a lesbian friendly guy if I ever saw one!") and simply miss the fact that she referred to herself as a "stepmom".

Loved the were-puppy aspect, and the whole monsterkind outing theme. Are there more novels/stories set in this background? Charlaine Harris aside, of course.
Sunjay
34. Manowl
I also missed the illustration, yes. DOH and double DOH
Sunjay
35. filkferengi
Excellent story!
Clifton Royston
36. CliftonR
Really great story. Was nearly tearing up at the ending. Well done!
Sunjay
37. JCothron
I really enjoyed this story. It's not easy to find well-written lesbian fantasy works.
On a slightly different topic: Your recently released novel, Indigo Springs, has been nominated for the inaugural Over the Rainbow list, a project of the ALA Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Round Table. The OTR project intends to compile and distribute an annual list of recommended--even fun--lgbt books for adult readers. So, thanks for sharing. I appreciate it. (Any chance that Jude might make it into a full length book? I recognize her community--there's probably even a women's chorus.)
Alyx Dellamonica
38. AMDellamonica
Hmm, odd. I was sure I'd posted an answer to JCothron. Ah, well! J, I don't know about a book... I only just wrote the story, and I've got a bit of a queue of book-length stuff to finish. That said, I never rule anything out... and it's been really good to know people like the story.

(Sorry to hear it didn't work for you, akabrady.)

By way of personal trivia, I did actually sing with A Vancouver Women's Chorus for a couple of seasons, before they went on hiatus, and I am still in Out in Harmony.
Sinéad Malloy
40. dikaiosis
This was very fun to read and very different in the combo of genres. I especially like how Jude just handled the kid like it was no problem and didn't freak out over all her stuff being destroyed. Though honestly, I personally would have the foresight to close the cat into a room upstairs so no kitty-munching would accidentally take place.

Again, very fun to read, and I hope to see more from you on this site (or hell, elsewhere)!
Sunjay
41. Granny to 3 Boys
I thoroughly enjoyed this. A lesbian story is a first for me; but this was a fun read.
Georgiana Lee
42. Georgiana
I loved this story. Lovely writing and I especially enjoyed the resolution.
Sunjay
43. ladyjax
She spent another second thumbing her pepper spray, weighing her odds—the film crew, the legal lioness, the sheer number of witnesses. Little Kathleen Ph34rless had her phone out, no doubt Tweeting events in real time.

The constable slumped. “Keep the noise down.”


This line sealed the story for me: Jude's hodge podge family showing up when she needed them to; they're the people who know all of her dirty laundry. For a moment, I was reminded of Sheila Ortiz Taylor's "Faultline": the controlled chaos of hiding the obvious in plain sight.

And Jude trying to stop her slide into a relationship with Paige only to find that Chase was slowly stealing her heart. Well done.
Sunjay
44. jgwright
I don't care for lesbian stories particularly, and I'm not all that fond of werewolf stories either, except for the aforementioned "Boobs" by Charnas. And yet, and yet...

Ms. Dellamonica, this was a story that grabbed me and wouldn't let me go until the end. Thanks for sharing Jude and her world with us.

Very cool.
Sunjay
45. Scott Warwick
Contrary to some other posters, I like an occasional were story. Since I am a straight 60 year old male, it may surprise you to find that I have no problem with lesbian fiction....just BAD lesbian fiction. No such problem here. This is one of the best were stories I've ever read...and I, thanks to having a mom who taught first and second grades for a while, have been reading fantasy and science fiction for fifty-six years. This story harkens back to fun were tales like Poul Anderson's stories about the WW2 weres who used polarized light to transform at will....and a wonderful story by someone whose name evades me at the moment, who told us of a world where there are many types of weres. In particular, one guy who turns into a were-elephant...on national holidays. As to the gender thing, I knew right away. I guess more straight folks should open up their options, since they're missing some great story-telling by not reading "that gay stuff" They probably missed one of the greatest fantasies ever written; Mercedes Lackey's "The Last Herald-Mage" epic. In short, this was a WONDERFUL story and I will look for more of this writers work. And by the way, I too would like to see more of Jude....she's a truly interesting character. Much too long since a contractor was a main character in fantasy.
Sunjay
46. DDog
This story is amazing and quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever read.

I really appreciated the tenor of this story. These are the lesbians I know; it felt like an "us" story and not a "lookkit the dykes" story.
Sunjay
47. seeford
I absolutely loved this story!
Werepuppy indeed!
I think most stories with werewolves who are born and not created (like Patricia Briggs' world) have them 'manifesting' at puberty, so they are already coherent (sorta) creatures at that point. This is a wonderful take on just what you do when they 'manifest' the wolf right from infancy.
Thanks for sharing!
Sunjay
48. Jessfaraday
Best werewolf story I've ever read. And I've read plenty.
Sunjay
49. Queen Anne
Wonderful! Ended too soon!
Gina 'Oz Pound
50. KawaiiOz
Amazing stuff; werewolves meet real world issues.
Sunjay
51. SHARRA
I never really like werewolves story until now, it's amazing and facinating to read. Being a fan of vampires, I have my prejudices about werewolves buy this story make me realized one thing that all story have it's amazing ending and it makes it wonderfull to read and to read all over again and again. thanks for sharing!!!! this is so awesome!!!!!!!!
LaShawn Wanak
52. LMWanak
Awwww! Best lesbian/werewolf story I ever read!
Jack Flynn
53. JackofMidworld
Glad that this was linked this to the BtVS rewatch, otherwise I probably never have seen it! Loved it!

Not to beat a dead horse but after reading the other comments, figured I'd toss in my own two coppers. I also totally missed the "stepmom" reference & the artwork at the top of the page and was around halfway through before I realized that Jude wasn't male; I'm gonna blame that on my own unrecognized gender-bias and take it as an object lesson (kinda like the old 'joke' about the doctor who can't operate on the boy because he's her son). A lot of GLB-based stories seem to want to hit you over the head with that part of the setting. I liked how it was very natural in this one. I actually appreciated the little "surprise" that I got out of it and, like a couple of others, thought it was intentional :-)
Sunjay
54. Squee
Totally adorable. So cute.

And the myth of the lesbian bookstore/community. Sigh. I miss being young.
Sunjay
55. Diane_D
I think this only is my 2nd "were-puppy", and it's certainly a very different take from Kelley Armstrong's glimpses of Clay as a very un-cuddly feral (i.e. unsocialized!) boy in the "Men of the Otherworld" collection. I thought it was quite well written, and confirms my decision to try the author's novels. Re. realizing Jude's gender, I too followed a Tor link saying "This tale of a lesbian couple and their adopted baby werewolf..." so I knew from the outset. I'd be interested in seeing more of Jude, and of this universe, especially some of the stuff there wasn't room for here, such as exploring the various supportive or dysfunctional forms a pack can take (cf Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, et al) -- even more important when you're talking about pre-adult lycanthropes. Also, I must say I fully agree with @32's response to the definitely-a-guy @29.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
56. tnh
I didn't follow the Tor link. I got here via a different one.

Jude sounded female to me from the start. Maybe it was the illustration that tipped me off, though I don't recall giving it much attention. But IMO, what really identified the character for me was Jude's own narration, with an assist from the years I spent in the Pacific Northwest. She sounded like a lesbian with a lot of community ties. I didn't even think about it until I started reading the comment thread.
Sunjay
57. Diane_D
P.S. A couple belated "scientific" nits to pick, not as criticism, but questions to make sure the author fully considers lycanthropic physiology if/when she does write more, as I *am* encouraging her to do.
I'm neither a lupine biologist nor a mother, but if Chase is still young/small enough to be carried around in a papoose sack, wouldn't he still be *nursing*, whether wolf or human? I think wolf moms teach pups about live prey only after they're able to leave the den. I've never agreed with shapeshifter stories that have two different developmental timelines, based on which form the individual is in: that must involve mental as well as physical regression, or unprepared advancement, depending on the direction of the shift! OTOH, if we're saying werewolves really are from the start like *rabid* canines, I'd be forced to agree with the hunter mindset: they can't be socialized!
Also, on a superficial note, the illustration shows a bushier brush of tail emerging from Chase's carrier (even disregarding the plot inconsistency) than the stubbier appendages young pups generally have.
Sunjay
58. chrisP
it may just be me but it felt as though there was to much characterization and not enough imagery for such a short story
Sunjay
59. Nenya
This is seriously the most adorable story I have read all year (queer or not, fantasy or not). Aroo! I knew from the start that Jude was a lesbian, because my girlfriend described it as "the power of lesbian networking saves the day." Wonderful story and I will absolutely read any novel with these characters in it! This was great.
Sunjay
60. Siadea
Absolutely lovely! Zero confusion about Jude's gender. Sisterly bond with Pammy and Paige was awesome, can I just say that? I think I can say that. Very sweet. I think Chase will be very nicely socialized.

(ChrisP, how can you have too much characterization??)
Sunjay
61. Louie Clemons
Oh man read this even though I have papers to write. My friend knows me too well. This story was just fanominal. The overall writing of it and the characters are just great. I could spew on and on about how much I loved it.

I've always loved supernatural themed books because it's a sort of fiction where the author can go and play ball and do whatever they want. They aren't constricted and they can take it in any direction they want to. With this story it adds a new flare and that's not something supernatural coming out and letting everyone know that they are indeed not just another fairytail but laws that should or would apply to them since they are citizens of their country.

I've read a couple books where this occured but none with a court trail and the struggle to help others understand that there's a difference in being an animal that's learning to survive and a blood thirsty monster.

One of my favorite lines is where Paige tells them that the Crowne protected their town from other monsters as one of the benifits. Leaving my mind to wonder on if there were other supernatural things that have yet to come into the light.

I really didn't want this story to end. How it did though was suitable and fine but it left me begging for more. I had many questions going on in my mind and I'd love for this to actually be a novel. I would want my own personal copy so that I could read it and then revisit it again later on down the road. You did a wonderful job and this was a wonderful and heartfelt tale that you have spun.
Jeff Youngstrom
62. jeffy
So good! I loved all the tensions. Paige needing help but afraid to trust someone with Chase's secret. Jude attracted, but afraid of a high-drama relationship. Jude's slow slide into commitment to Chase and Paige. The need to protect Chase overwhelming the need to keep him from destroying her stuff. The need to keep his secret again being overwhelmed by the need for help to fend off the frightened cops. All those real everyday life tensions. And yet the story skirts the tendency to amp it up into unbelievable psycho creep territory (I had to walk out of the movie Pacific Heights when the evil creep tension just got too much.) Such good stuff here. Thanks Tor and Alyx for brining it to us.
Erica Redshift
63. Erica Redshift
I absolutely loved this story.

Jude is a fun, relateable character, and extremely likeable. I thought she was great right away. I really enjoyed being in her head for a while!

Paige had me on the fence, mostly, due to her personality. I really liked the scene where she bit Robb, and she definitely shines as a baby werewolf guardian. Paige's knowledge of werewolves was in her blood, and Jude's creative mind paired very nicely.

The characterization and world building here was fabulous. In a short work of fiction, I felt like I knew the characters first-hand and could see the surroundings in my mind. I have never been to any part of Canada before, so I have no idea if the places mentioned within the city were real or not, but in my imagination they certainly were. :)

I noticed many people mention in previous comments that they normally didn't read "were" stories; I am personally a fan of them. What I normally am not a fan of are child characters. In this story, although Chase was a central focus (and could be a catastrophically destructive one), he was almost low key as a character. I enjoyed that. He couldn't talk or interact the way Jude or Paige could because he was a baby. And Chase was described to be so adorable, baby or puppy, I couldn't help but to "Awww" along with Jude. :) He was a great avenue to build Jude's character over time, adding bits of emotion like the slow drip of an icy heart as it melts.

Wonderful work! I can't wait to read more of your writing.
lila ralston
64. lila
Amazing story. Reminded me of "A Jury of Her Peers" (http://www.learner.org/interactives/literature/story/fulltext.html) and of the informal networks of friendship, obligation and responsibility I know in the real world. I enjoyed it tremendously.

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