Taylor Series 3 Minos
|Taylor Series story universe|
"Hurry up Aaron, we're gonna be late!" I shouted from the back door, tapping my hoof impatiently. I glanced at a clock on the workbench and sighed, retieing the front of my overcoat that provided some coverage for going out in semi-public.
"Just about ready... one more minute," Aaron called back, stumbling around a bit unseen in his own area.
I shook my head and drummed my fingers on the door frame. "You can take the girl out of the guy, but some things never change," I mumbled to myself with a chuckle, then felt bad for the joke I just made. I knew Aaron was very anxious over this trip, and was trying to do his best to hide his nervousness. Still, the first trip out after the change was always difficult.
When I had first told Aaron about the quasi-monthly reunion of the changed down at 'Schooners', he had almost galloped right out the door to go there right away, reminding me yet again of the strong guiding spirit Boss had added to Aaron's mix. I had blocked his way and gently reminded him that the reunion was not going to be until the following week and he had calmed back down, grinning sheepishly. Then a small fire shut down the kitchen at 'Schooners' for the week of our meeting, and we had to postpone it until October.
The weeks that followed saw Aaron swinging from extreme to extreme it felt. First he would be almost literally chomping at the bit to go. (if he had one; Boss's reigns didn't have a bit in them so he could talk clearer) And then a short time later, he would be curled up in a corner, shivering, not wanting to go out in public like he was, regretting his change. I was proud that he never once lashed out at Boss or me for changing him.
Whenever I could, I made sure to introduce Aaron to everyone that knew of Boss's operation and me as they came by on their regular routes. It was a frightfully small list, but it did help draw him out some. Rick and he became fast friends, while Craig, the mailman, remained fairly cool. Craig never really 'got' what the Boss did, but stayed civil in our interactions. The paper boy, Tommy (whom I made sure to tip well to deliver to the back door), thought Aaron was 'neat looking'. Tommy later confided to me with a wink and a nudge that Aaron reminded me of some 'special' toys he had found in his older sister's room once. I did very little work the rest of that day, as every time I saw Aaron, Tommy's comments came to mind and I nearly lost it.
The first client I introduced him to was our regular. Almost every month after we changed him, Tom and Cat would come in to update his colourings. The first colour swap saw him change over to a somewhat more normal blue, similar to Aaron's colours. But after that, the colours they requested ran to extremes I never thought possible, changing with the season, the holiday and their moods. (When we started adding patterns to the mix, both Boss and I agreed it was a mistake, but the cat was out of the bag by then. We did put our hoof down when they asked for a plaid pattern). They even covered the cost to get a colour-matching scanner so we could mix the dyes more precisely. At least Tom took it all in stride, and I got a new gadget to play with.
When Aaron and Tom first met, he was coming in to shift from the school-bus yellow 'back to school' colouring to a somewhat less blinding fall colour scheme. They hit it off well, and Aaron surprised both Boss and I at how skilled he was in detailed painting, adding a pattern of falling leaves to the basic fall-brown base colour. We were all impressed (and Cat was ecstatic) at the results, the leaves appearing to be caught frozen in mid air from their fall from an unseen tree.
"Wakey wakey sleepy head. I know I took a long time, but I wasn't THAT long," Aaron's voice cut through my reminiscing, followed by a squishing noise near my muzzle. I grinned inwardly at that; snapping your fingers was hard to do when you were made of living gel, and a tough habit to break when you did it often before you changed.
"Well it's about time. If you were much longer, we'd be just in time for the November Reunion," I retorted with a grin, looking him over. He was pulling on a hooded overcoat of his own, wearing a pair of shorts he had made a few weeks ago. "Let's get going," I finished, opening the door and stepping out.
Aaron took a couple steps outside and took a deep breath. He started raising his hood but stopped when I made no movements to my own hood. "Shouldn't we be hooded?"
"Nah, tourist season is long over now. No one will be around the alleyes. And I want to smell the sea and hear the waves unhindered. Besides, my horns make that hood bulge and lift the coat too high."
He seemed uncertain at my ease, but left his hood down. I locked the back door, slipped the keys in my pocket and we were off.
The 'Schooner', as its name hinted at, was located facing the harbour. It was only a few blocks away from Boss's shop and easily reached via back alleys. We only had to cross one major street which was mostly deserted this time of evening. The place itself was a large building, taking up most of the block. It rose 4 stories tall, the bottom story devoted to the restaurant and bar business with a couple of private group meeting rooms. We were renting one of them. The upper floors were made up of furnished apartments, each sea-facing room having its own balcony and the rooms done up 19th century style, harkening back to the building's early days, the 21st century amenities carefully hidden in the rooms as much as possible.
Ronald (Ronny to us regulars), the owner, ran a high class service at the 'Schooner' and tolerated no nonsense. The restaurant and bar had both won many awards and rave reviews from both in city and national reviewers. And the apartments were only rentable by the week or longer; no one night stands allowed there. Some of the city's bigger businesses often rented a few rooms when they brought in clients or out of town coworkers.
We approached the building from behind. I inhaled deeply and smelled the sweet scents of the cooking food mingling with the ocean spray. It was a warm evening with a cool breeze coming off the harbour. A seagull squawked angrily at us as we trotted past the garbage bin to the kitchen door. The door was open, but screened. Inside, I could see the cooks busy wrapping up the dinner rush, the only sign of the fire last month being the newness of some of the equipment.
I stepped out of the deepening shadows, motioning for Aaron to stay back, and knocked a quick tattoo on the screen frame, catching the attention of the dishwasher, a new kid that I didn't recognize. He jumped and stared for a long moment, then turned his head to call deeper into the kitchen. By the speed of his recovery, I figured we were not the first ones to get here.
A short black chef answered his call. She looked through the screen, and her face lit up in a huge smile. "MINOS! It's about time you got here! Where have you been? You know you always have a table back here." I pulled the screen door open just in time for her outstretched arms to hug me.
"Hi Julia," I responded, giving her a tight hug back, then letting her go. "Sorry I haven't been around. Between the fire here and teaching a new coworker, September was just way too busy."
She loosened her grip on me and bent from side to side, trying to see around me. "Tommy got here a little while ago. He mentioned you had a new worker at the shop. An excellent artist too by the looks of Tommy's pattern; it'll be a shame to lose it. Is he here?"
I stepped to one side, and Aaron moved into the light. She ooo'ed softly and smiled. "Quite the stallion indeed," she mumbled, causing Aaron's cheeks to blush a deeper blue.
"Chef, this is Aaron, the latest addition to the team and the artist who leafed Tommy out. Aaron, this is Chef Julia, Head Chef at 'Schooners' and maker of the best pecan pie in the city," I introduced them.
"Pleased to meet you, Chef," Aaron responded, starting to curtsy, and clumsily turning it into a bow.
Julia didn't seem to notice as she beamed back to him and curtsied back. "And a pleasure to meet you, sir," she answered, then giggled. "Now, no need for such formality, you're guests here, not staff. Come in come in, I'll take you to your room. And as for you, Minos, for that comment I'll make sure your group has a few fresh pies delivered to your meeting room before the night's out."
She stepped back into the kitchen area. I let Aaron in first, then followed, closing the screen behind me. I waved to some of the cooks I recognized, hearing the whispers among the crew as they stared at Aaron and me. I gently nudged Aaron to keep his speed up and whispered to him, "Don't worry, you're the new blood so they'll whisper. Next time you won't get a third glance."
My whisper was almost drowned out as Julia's voice cracked out through the kitchen sending the cooks scurrying. "This place ain't gonna run itself. Back to work everyone. Table 5's still waiting on their fish and chips and the bar's looking for another order of nachos." She sighed and looked back at us, pointing to a swinging door. "Door's over there, it goes right into the room, I'll send someone in to get orders for yah soon. I have to save that trout before they mangle it."
We dodged around a waiter carrying carrying a tray of dirty dishes, and entered the meeting room. A dimmed chandelier hung in the center of the room, providing most of the light, little that there was. Tables were set up along one side, candlelit to add to the light and snack trays already in place. On the opposite wall, the bar was in place, tended by a well dressed barkeeper who nodded as my gaze went past him. Beyond some paintings of ships that used to dock in the harbour, and the dark wood paneling on the walls, there was little to indicate the history of the building in here. Soft recorded music played over the speakers, and the muffled rumble of the bar came under the other door.
I recognized Tommy standing at one table, glass in paw already, chatting with someone I couldn't see at first. He turned as we came in, and I recognized the rubber sea otter morph as the other guest.
"Wet Willy is one of us?" I heard Aaron whisper in amazement, recognizing the mascot of the 'Pure Water' chemical-free waterslide park.
"You didn't realize it? Few people do. We're still so rare that most people just think he's a really good actor in a really good costume. Don't call him Willy though, that's his park name. Outside the park he's just William," I took our coats and hung them on a coat rack next to the door. I led Aaron towards the other two, giving a whispered briefing along the way. "Believe it or not, he's William Banks Sr., the guy who founded the park years ago. Was diagnosed with Parkinson's a few years back, and came our way while his mind was still sharp. He turned the park and himself over to his son, and Wet Willy joined the park as its mascot."
Aaron nodded, digesting the brief biography I supplied. I made the introductions and enough small talk to be polite. "I'm going to go get a drink, do you want anything Aaron?"
He shook his head and his mind touched back down on Earth. Tom, William and he were discussing new marking patterns, having started with Tom's ideas for his Hallowe'en look, and were now talking about William's look for the park's silver anniversary next year. "I'll have a beer... whatever's on tap is fine. And can you see if you can find some paper and a pen or pencil or something? I'd like to sketch out some of these ideas."
"Sure, be right back," I excused myself and made my way to the bar. "Hey Chuck, how've you been? Have you considered our offer yet?"
"Been great, and I have, but the Missus would stretch me across the city if I went through with it," he chuckled, already mixing my usual drink. "Still very tempting though."
"Gotta keep the Missus happy. I need a beer for Aaron over there too, and you got any notepads in this joint? Kid's had a blast of inspiration and wants to sketch it out."
"I'm sure there's a few extra books in the office. Watch the bar here and I'll go get one," Chuck answered, setting both our drinks on the bar and marking them down on the tab. He locked up the money box and went out through the main entrance, careful not to open the door too widely.
I sipped my drink and looked at the trio across the room, still talking animatedly. Getting out was definitely proving to be beneficial to Aaron. He was smiling and laughing now, apparently completely at ease with his new form. I briefly wondered again about what lead her to go this route, but pushed the thoughts out of my mind. He hadn't been willing to explain yet, and I wasn't going to pry.
A certain scent caught my nose. I twitched my ears and sniffed more, tuning out the alcohol scents and finally picking up the scent more clearly. My mind just identified who the scent belonged to when I felt a pair of slick arms encircle my belly.
"Hello handsome, who's the stud you walked in with?" a sexy voice purred from close by.
My gaze went down and found itself looking into the deep dark eyes of a shiny black rubber feline face. I reached down and uncurled her arms from around my waist and pushed her to a safer distance away. My vision flared red briefly as my inner bull realized it was her and awakened old feelings.
"Evenin', Melissa. That's Aaron, the new apprentice," I supplied trying to be civil while my gaze wandered over her. She was dressed in a tight red cocktail dress that glittered in the candle light and showed a lot of shiny black cleavage. Her tail swished to one side, out a slit in the side of the dress that also showed a lot of shiny leg.
"Aaron is he? I'll take his beer over to him while you wait for Chuck to get back," she purred, grabbing the mug, a hunter's gleam in her eyes. I sighed and watched her prowl over to the rest of the group, hips swaying in ways that did not help me calm my inner bull.
"I see Melissa's in the house, and got her claws in the newbie," Chuck commented, setting the notepad and pencil on the bar next to me. "Did you warn him about her?"
I took a deep sip from my drink and studied the group more closely to make sure Chuck wasn't being literal. "No, I didn't. Didn't even think of her. Oh well, can't do everything," I said with a resigned shrug of my shoulders.
Melissa had been the first female form Boss and I had created, and we had gone just a tad overboard in our creation. You'd swear we had used 'Weird Science' as our guide in her creation. She all but oozed sexiness, turning on any male around her, and a number of females too. She never complained to us about it though, and seemed to thrive in the attention it got her. Next to William, she was probably the most public of us, though you weren't likely to see her in many 'kid friendly' locations. More than once Ronny had threatened to ban her from the 'Schooner' for her activities, but she usually sweet talked him into giving her another chance.
I left the bar and carried the pad over to the group, handing it over to Aaron. Between his beer in one hand and Melissa hanging on his other, he seemed more than a little lost about what to do. I was glad he had decided to put on shorts before coming down here at least; the full force of Melissa on the hunt was a lot to take, especially for a new male. It took a bit of talking, but I finally managed to get him separated from her, and back talking to William. Technically we had an unspoken agreement not to talk business in the group, but I wasn't going to let opportunities slip away. Soon the two of them were hunched over a table, pen flying across the paper. Tom refreshed their drinks then joined them in the huddle, offering his own advice and thoughts on the designs..
Melissa glared at me a moment, then looked longingly towards the one she lost. "You won this round, Minos... but you can't watch him all the time," she threatened with a predatory smile.
I toasted her with my drink and grinned back, then turnedback to the kitchen door to greet another arrival. All told, there were 15 of us who lived near the city, and everyone had said they would show up. Word spread quickly about Aaron, and everyone wanted to see him. The fact that he was a new form type had only increased their interest. Soon, the room was buzzing with conversation, shiny flesh bumping shiny flesh, waiters moving through, keeping the snacks trays filled, and a steady stream of booze coming from Chuck at the bar. Aaron proved to be a triple hit, for being the newbie, for being so unique, and for the designs he was sketching out. I got a sneaking suspicion that Tom wasn't going to be the only one coming in for colour changes now.
As the night wore on, the mob around Aaron separated back to their normal groups. William and Melissa were the exceptions in their visibility in public. Most of our clients were in well-off families (few others could afford Boss's costs), and tended to stay isolated among family and servants in their homes after changing. These reunions tended to be the few times they got out of their homes and saw other people.
I nursed my drink and wandered through the crowd, exchanging pleasantries and listening to jokes. In one corner, three of the dogs were playing cribbage (They refused to play poker, saying it was too cliche). When I checked in on them, Paul, the dalmatian, seemed close to winning the game, and skunking Deloris, a whippet. I watched the last round, Deloris barely pegging enough points to get over the skunk line, then congratulated Paul on the win and continued on.
I eventually found myself at Aaron's table. He was talking again with Tom, but not sketching any more. The pad was greatly diminished, a pile of crumpled up pages in the middle of the nearly empty snack tray.. Most people had a few sample sketches tucked away in jacket pockets, or busy showing it to others and talking about plans.
“Well you've certainly proven yourself to be a hit,” I commented, finishing off my drink and adding it to the pile of dishes on the table.
“I know, it was a lot more than I expected. There's so much variety here, I didn't expect you and Boss were that busy.”
I smiled a bit and leaned back against the table. “Well, we've been at it for nearly ten years now. One changed every few months and it adds up fast. This is only the ones who still live in the city area. There are at least 15 more, maybe 20 who live elsewhere in the country... and another bunch outside the country entirely.”
“Ten years? You've been at this for that long?”
Thinking back, I nodded. “That's about right. The early years we were still learning and weren't as active at first until we got more confidence.”
The room was quieting down a bit, heads turning and ears twitching to listen in. This conversation was going to a place I had never told anyone else before, and everyone knew it. A replacement for my drink appeared at my side, and I took a big gulp from it. I wasn't sure yet if I was ready to tell this story, but it was feeling like it was the right time. Aaron asked the key question.
“You were Boss's first, right? How did it happen?”
I finished the drink and set it down, staring at Aaron a long moment, then around the rest of the room. There was a quiet shuffling as people moved in closer to hear better. “Yes, I was Boss's first... and like many firsts, I was a mistake. But our story goes back before then.“
“I first met Boss in high school and we eventually became friends. It was rough at first, he was transferring in, and though he had excellent artistic talents, he was very weak in the maths and sciences.. I was one of the local science geeks and despised most art things, so the teachers put us together to tutor each other.. We didn't like it at first, but it quickly showed positive results, and our friendship was born.”
“Through the rest of high school, we stayed close, helping shore up the other's weaknesses. I would never have passed English without him editing my essays, and he was a danger to everyone in the labs without my help... Still is actually. You do NOT want to be in his office when he's playing with his lab in there. That's why I do all the preparing.”
“Anyways, we graduated, double dated to the Prom with our dates, and went to the same University together, and shared an apartment off campus.”
“It was in the first year he discovered his special talents. I don't know if he read a special book, or just warped a pen while bored in class or what, but he discovered he was a shaper. His skill started small, able to reform books, pens, toys, plates, pans, radios and so forth, into whatever shapes his mind could come up with.”
“His sculptures were a hit, first just on campus and then beyond. As we continued our schooling, his abilities grew, both in what he could change and how much he could reshape them. Some of them looked like they should be physically impossible, yet he pulled it off somehow. Selling his projects paid off his tuition, and my own when he insisted on it for all the tutoring help I had given him.”
“By the end of our third year, our course loads were specialized enough that I wasn't doing much tutoring any more, but our friendship remained strong. By then he had gotten in contact with the magic community and was learning more refinements and expansions to his skills. Surprisingly, my tutoring resumed, helping him make sure the preparations were right and he didn't mix the wrong things together. Our years of cooperation had made me an important side to his magical skills, even though I had... and have, no magic of my own.”
“That summer, Boss did more research, more experimenting, and sold more sculptures. I did all the standard college student summer jobs, tutoring, painting and so forth, and helped him when he needed it. That's when the accident happened.”
“Boss was mixing various new stuff, trying to adjust some properties with the rubber mass he was working with. Normally we were careful with that, but it only took one moment of lapsed attention. In this case, I was mixing the last in by hand, not realizing the risk, when Boss started the spell. In this case, the mix is the same one we used on you, only much less refined.”
“Power surged into the mass I was mixing, but I didn't notice anything at first. My hands warmed with the mass of rubber I was mixing, but it wasn't until I lifted my hands out that I realized something was wrong. As I lifted my hands, I had a very disorienting feeling as my fingers simply streeeettttched out in the mass. No matter how hard I tried to pull my hands free, they would not come, leaving me with extra long, shiny black fingers that had a habit of sticking together. And it was spreading.”
“Boss and I both panicked at that point, trying to stop it. Boss tried all the spells he could think of but if anything it just fed the mass climbing up my arms. Before it reached my shoulders we even tried to cut it off. Caused a lot of pain, bit down to the bone briefly and gave us a view of bone turning to rubber, but otherwise didn't even slow it down.”
“In hindsight, I felt and probably looked like I was in a bad horror movie, but experiencing it was much MUCH worst. The rubber joined across my shoulders and started spreading faster, going down my chest and up my neck. By then I could taste it in my mouth, and I'd lost the feeling in my fingers. Well, not quite lost the feeling, but I couldn't tell where one finger ended and the next began.”
“When my chest and lower half of my face was coated, I began to feel myself sticking, forming a shapeless lump. It was getting difficult to think straight or even speak but I had a flash of inspiration that likely saved my life. I shouted for Boss to sculpt me as I changed.”
“I have no idea if he understood what exactly I had shouted, my mouth was sticking together and I couldn't feel my tongue any more, but it did snap him back into action, dropping the knife that he'd futilely tried to stop my change with. Boss focused his powers on me and started guiding the change, using a minotaur figure on a shelf as inspiration. He couldn't change my living flesh, but as the rubber... ate me? No, not quite, as it changed me more and more, he could affect the rubber. He separated my fingers, kept my arms lifted, and reformed my mouth.. He also slowed it on my head a bit somehow, but that just lead to it speeding up over the rest of me.”
“He reshaped my chest, giving me the physique I have now. I don't think he ever really studied minotaur physiology before, but some inner instinct seemed to guide him. He guided the rubber out into a tail, and buffed up my legs as they changed. I fell and bounced on the floor a bit when the rubber and spell gripped my feet, reshaping them into my hooves. Most of the mass of rubber had been absorbed into my body at that point, and his block at my head, at my brain was beginning to fade.”
“When my hooves finished forming, the base spell overwhelmed the blocks on my head. I had a faint sensation of my horns and ears growing out, then my eyes went dark, and finally my mind was engulfed.”
“I had no sensation of anything for a long time. My mind was all but frozen it felt. Boss was at a loss. He later told me I was out for a month, a twitching body his only indicator that I might still live. He called in all the contacts he could find, and all the contacts they could find, but many were stumped. They confirmed that I lived, but had no idea how to draw me out. Boss never gave up though, he kept digging through old tomes and any other sources that he could think of.”
“Finally, he came across a theory somewhere, about body changes and body confusion. By changing me twice, into a minotaur and into rubber, the theory guessed my mind was in shock, unable to figure out how to handle the changed body. To bring it out of the shock, a second mind could be used, one familiar with one of the unknown aspects of my body. Since there weren't any other living rubber creatures around, it meant bringing a bull into the equation.”
“By the light of a full moon, he and some fellow wizards took me out to a field with a young bull. They slaughtered it, did their magic, and for the first time in what was to me an unknown time, I felt something. A presence was directed into my mind and it woke me up. Suddenly I could see, hear, smell, taste and feel again, but the presence was also there, and dominating my mind. I could feel and sense again, but the presence was in full control, and it was pissed off.”
“Lucky for Boss and his companions, the spirit couldn't figure out how to walk on two legs, nor could it handle the many other differences in our body. We bounced into one wizard and fell down, limbs flailing, as I desperately tried to yank control from the presence.”
“The wizards recovered faster than we did, thank god. They set up temporary spells to restrain us in place, keeping us from moving, but man did we try. They talked amongst themselves and finally decided to bring me to the barn one of them owned, and locked me in a stall until they could figure out what else to do. “
“For the week that followed, Boss rarely left the stall. He talked constantly, apologizing for all the screwups he'd made in changing me, not sure if I was even still in there. It took a lot of practice and effort, but I eventually overcame the bull spirit enough to control our muzzle and speak. I reassured him I was in there and OK enough considering. As far as we could tell, I was still mentally there, but the bull was too strong for me to control the body with. We were stuck and had no idea where to go next. His research on reversing the spells were fruitless, and it was too dangerous to risk letting me out of the stall with the spirit still controlling most of the body.”
“Inspiration came from another wizard. He suggested that if I was having trouble dominating the animal spirit, we try to bring in another dominating force to help my own human spirit. There are a surprising number of domination spells in the books for them to chose from so it took a bit, but Boss finally found one he was comfortable with.”
“In a process very similar to what the rest of you went through, the spell was prepared. I controlled the bull long enough to confirm the thrice-asked question, Boss was my caregiver of course, and the binding was made, in my case the golden nose ring. It hurt like hell when they inserted it, but when the pain faded, the bull was contained. For the first time in months, I could control my body... well mostly control it. I had to tap into the restrained bull to begin to feel comfortable as I was.”
“'Safe' at last, I could be released and we returned to our apartment, in secret of course. It was way too late at that time to start the next term of classes, not that I could go there, so we ended up spending a lot of time together. Boss spent most of the time researching, trying to discover a way to restore me, and learning what had happened in the first place. In the wizarding world, we are known as the joint discoverers of the magically activated, flesh-absorbing transformative class of chemicals. Replicating what happened, using some mice and rabbits and similar animals was easy enough, and he soon mastered rubberizing. Reversing it stumps him to this day.”
Most of the story finished, I reached and sipped my drink. The room was silent, all eyes turned to me. Ronny, Chuck and Julia were all standing quietly at the bar, giving the rest of us rubber creatures our space to digest it.
“Anyways, before you ask, it wasn't until the new year that we got our first special request. By then I was at ease with my body and helping Boss as much as possible. When I wasn't helping him mix his spells, I was experimenting with eating and drinking, creating those lists of 'safe' foods and stuff that we gave each of you. Boss and I celebrated New Years with just each other, and got thoroughly drunk. Boss barely counted down the new year before he collapsed and had his first admitted premonition dream. He didn't know what to make of it, and wrote it off as a hangover hallucination, until Joseph stopped by.”
“Joseph was a quadriplegic, left that way from a car accident years ago. The Doctors said there was no chance he'd ever move under his own power again, so he was seeking other opinions. One of those opinions was a wizard who told him about my case. He realized the implications before the two of us did.”
“At first, he wanted to be a tiger, but Boss refused. Memories of the trouble controlling the bull made him too wary to work with carnivorous spirits. In fact, he didn't want to do any sort of change, but he was very persuasive. As a back up choice, he was willing to become a deer, a buck.”
“I mixed up the rubberizer since it was inert to me even in magic fields, and he grudgingly went through with the change. We still spaced out the three stages at that point, but knowing what to expect let him go through the stages quickly. He turned out better than we had expected, and had no qualms about it being permanent. He just loved being able to move again.”
I lowered my head and raised my glass. “As you all know, he died in a house fire 3 years, saving his grand daughter.”
The group gave a silent toast in Joe's memory, and the moment of silence drew out.
“The rest is mostly as you know. We set up the fabric shop where it is now, partly as a front to cover our actions, and for other reasons Boss never made clear. In the years that followed, we practiced and refined our new skills in the Change. Our reputation grew, and the rest of you crossed our paths through the years with the results we all know.”
Once more, I raised my glass in a toast. “To the Boss, who has changed our lives in ways none of us ever dreamed of, and made them the better for it.”
Everyone grabbed a glass and answered the toast without hesitation. “To Taylor.”
There was an awkward moment of silence, finally broken by Julia clearing her throat softly. “Thank you for sharing your story Minos, it was very enlightening and a lot to think about. But on a lighter note, who's ready for pie? “
Waiters brought out a tub of ice cream and steaming pies that set everyone sniffing and mmming. The rest of the evening passed quickly, the mood going back up to its cheerful levels.
When the first people started to go for their coats to call for their rides back, William called for attention. The otter hopped onto a table to be heard better.. “As we all know, it is October, and Halloween is coming up. Just to let you all, my family and I will be hosting a costume party at the mansion. You are all welcome, to come as you are or to come in costume as you wish.”
There was a quiet cheer and a chorus of 'see you then William,' and the group gradually dispersed. Aaron and I waited until the last to leave, a more than a little sloshed Tom, before we settled our tab, shared our good-byes to the staff, and made our way back out in the dark night. We both skipped putting on our coats, tossing them over one shoulder as we walked back to the shop. Aaron had a literal bounce in his step that was partly due to beer, but mostly due to the excitement from the night. I concluded the night had gone extremely well overall.
Erin and Aaron
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