You yawn as you rub at your temple, eyes threatening to close on you as you drive to work, your hand reaching to turn on the radio to keep yourself from falling asleep. You’d had a less than stellar night, getting almost no sleep between your bouts of guilt-induced tossing and turning. There’s nothing more you want to do than to turn back home and crawl into your warm bed, especially when your mind keeps drifting back to what happened last night. While it wasn’t entirely your fault, you still can’t help but feel like a massive jackass for not trying to make things right with Ruby. You know better than anyone else that hiding from your problems wouldn’t do you any good, and as much as you try, you can’t figure out why you care so much about what someone you barely know thinks of you and you find yourself biting down on your lip in frustration. For how often you try to convince yourself you’re a terrible person, you’re putting an awful lot of mental effort into thinking of a way to make things right again with a complete stranger. There’s something about her that you can’t quite put your finger on, something that bothers you to no end. Sure, she’s attractive and while it certainly doesn’t help matters any, that’s not the only reason you want to talk to her. Her reaction was a bit over the top, but even you can’t deny that she deserves some kind of apology for poking fun at something that’s clearly a sore subject.
Your growling stomach quickly breaks your train of thought by reminding you of what else you’d missed out on this morning due to your lack of sleep. At least you’d found a granola bar sitting in your glove compartment, serving to stave off your hunger for a little while. By some miracle of god, traffic is almost nonexistent today, allowing you to get to work much earlier than usual despite waking up late. As you pull into the parking lot, you notice Kelly’s car missing from her usual spot. It’s a strange sight considering she’s practically the poster child for perfect work attendance. You leave your car to check if the store is open anyway, noticing Kevin’s car is there but without him inside. You can see every breath linger in the air as you make your way to the front door, putting your hands in your pockets to save them from the bitter cold. A quick glance inside tells you the store is still closed, pulling at the door handles proving to be futile. You walk over to Kevin’s car to take another look, wondering where the hell he got off to since you didn’t see him inside. Glancing into the backseat gives you your answer, your friend splayed out and from the looks of it, fast asleep.
You shake your head knowingly before giving the window a firm set of taps. “Wake up, sleeping beauty.”
He quickly shoots up in his seat, head swiveling wildly as he searches for the source of the noise, and you can see him let out a sigh of relief when he realizes it’s you.
“Let me in, it’s cold as shit out here,” you say, teeth chatter as he reaches to open the door.
You quickly climb inside before shutting the door. He takes an unamused look at you before frowning.
“What the hell did you do that for, man?” he asks, groaning as he rubs sleep out of his eyes. “Trying to catch some extra shuteye and here you are trying to give me a heart attack, you fucker.”
“Sorry,” you say, genuinely feeling bad for startling him. “Was just wondering if you had any idea where the hell Kelly is.”
“Don’t you have her phone number, bro?”
“Shit, I forgot about that,” you say, slapping your forehead in frustration at his words. “Sorry for waking you up man, can’t seem to think straight today. Barely got a wink of sleep and my whole body feels sore.”
A grin slowly replaces the annoyed frown on his face. “You took my advice, I see. Was it an anthro girl?”
“I guess you could say that, yeah,” you mumble, playing along with his little game.
“No way, what species was she?” he asks, in a tone of anticipation that’s almost too eager.
“You remember that kangaroo girl that came in yesterday?” you ask, rubbing at the back of your neck.
“No. Fucking. Way,” he says, slinging an arm around your shoulder before shaking you so hard your eyes rattle around in your skull. “You’re a fucking legend man. Teach me your ways.”
You lean back in your seat, placing both hands behind your head before letting out an audible sigh. “It wasn’t anything like that, man, I ran into her at the gym but she got offended by something I said and just… fucked off.”
“That bad, huh?” he asks, shaking his head. “There’s always other chances, buddy.”
“Hoping I see her again today so I can at least apologize,” you yawn, leaning back against the comfortable seats. “Practically stayed up all night thinking about it.”
He pats you on the back. “That sucks man, but you’ll probably see her again sometime.”
“Hope so,” you say, letting out a sigh. “Enough about my problems though, how was your night with uh, what’s her name?”
“Oh, with Melanie?” he asks, visibly perking up at your question. “I’m still fucking exhausted but my new game plan worked out great.”
You can’t help but cock an eyebrow at him. “New game plan?”
“Well, I figure if I tire her out first, she won’t have enough energy to pound my pelvis into dust.”
“And?” you ask, chuckling at his choice of words. “Did it work?”
“Well…” he says, rubbing at the back of his neck as a dopey smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “We still went at it two or three times, but that’s two less than the night before, so that’s a win in my book.”
You decide to use your extensive ‘research’ knowledge to break the news to the poor guy.
“Call it intuition, but you’re either going to be a father or wheelchair bound by the end of the month,” you laugh.
“And why’s that?” he asks, cocking his head.
“Because anthro girls can be in heat for weeks, unless you… well, you know.” You chuckle.
“Oh god,” he says, putting his head in his hands.
You pat him on the back in an effort to reassure him. “There, there, buddy, we’ll hold a wake for your pelvis later.”
A quick check of your watch later and you realize the two of you have been waiting for Kelly to show for about half an hour now. You decide to give her a quick call before going home, fishing your phone from your pocket and quickly rifling through your contacts list.
“Hello, Mike?” she says when she picks up, though it’s garbled by what you can only assume is a poor signal.
“Kelly, where the hell are you? We’ve been freezing our asses off out here for almost an hour now.”
“I’m at my dentist appointment, didn’t I tell you guys to go ahead and open without me today?” she says, a bit more clearly this time.
“No, Kelly. You didn’t say shit to me, I left early yesterday, remember?” you say in a slightly raised tone, the bitter cold quickly chipping away at what was left of your good mood.
“Is Kevin there? Put him on the phone real quick.”
You pass the phone to him, seeing his expression sour in real time as his conversation with her goes on. “What keys, Kelly? You didn’t give me anything! So what, we’re supposed to sit in the cold for another two hours?”
You have to stifle a laugh when he points a finger gun at his head and pulls the trigger. “Damn it, alright Kelly, we’ll be here at noon.”
He hangs up the phone before handing it back to you, a long sigh leaving his lips as he leans back in his seat. While Kelly works just as hard as anyone else, her forgetfulness gets the better of her at times.
“So, what’d the ice queen say?” you ask, closing your eyes as you lean into the seat. “Do we get to go home for the day?”
“We’ve got two options,” he says, holding up two fingers. “A, we sit here and freeze to death or B, we go do literally anything else until it’s noon.”
“Hmm,” you say, rubbing a finger under your chin as you pretend to think. “First option’s pretty tempting, but you want to grab a bite to eat? Skipped breakfast this morning and I’m starving.”
“Same here, my man,” he says, jumping forward into the driver’s seat. “Let’s go.”
The two of you head to a nearby buffet, hungry for a greasy, filling breakfast. It’s probably not the best choice considering you’d sworn off junk food, but a cheat meal here and there probably won’t hurt your gains too much. You stack your plate high with eggs, pancakes, sausage and bacon before returning to your table, eager to dive into the veritable mountain of food. As you start to devour your meal, Kevin can only look on in what seems like a mix of admiration and disgust, impressed at how much food you can scarf down.
“How the hell do you eat that much and still stay in shape?” he asks, shaking his head as if he doesn’t believe what he’s seeing. “I barely catch a glimpse of a slice of cake and I gain a pound. Seriously, you look great.”
“Couple hours at the gym every day goes a long way, I guess,” you say, shrugging your shoulders. “My heart probably hates me for this right now.”
“One of these days I’ll have to get a membership,” he says, between forkfuls of eggs.
“More than happy to show you the ropes if you do,” you say, getting up to grab some dessert. “Can set you up with the same routine I did when I first started out.”
Soon enough, the two of you are stuffed to the brim, and you both pay for your meal before heading back to the store, arriving with only a few minutes to spare before noon. As you pull into the lot, you can see Kelly unlocking the door in the distance. You make a quick detour to your car to grab your bag before running inside to escape the bitter cold.
“About time you showed up,” you say as you close the distance to her. “I can see the headlines now, manager charged with negligent manslaughter of employees.”
She only rolls her eyes at your bad joke, though you can see a small smile on her face. “It’s not that cold you big baby. Wear some more layers for once.”
“And boil in my own sweat in the afternoon?” You scoff in mock offense before chuckling. “I’d rather not if it’s all the same to you.”
She finally manages to get the door open and the two of you clock in together. You’re thankful Kelly seems to be in a better mood than yesterday.
“Could you get started on unpacking the ice cream tubs?” she asks, a hand moving up to tie her hair. “Hopefully we don’t get any customers before then.”
“Aye, aye, captain,” you say, giving a mock salute as you make your way towards the freezers.
You’re in that limbo state between dead tired and wide awake, a warmth starting to radiate from the nape of your neck. It feels good, but you’d give just about anything to be in your warm, comfy bed right now, and you struggle to stay focused on the task at hand. You somehow manage to stay awake and finish unpacking all the tubs with the help of your coworkers, and without any customers to serve, you’re left sitting at the counter waiting for anyone dumb enough to buy ice cream on a chilly day like this. The hours pass by and the normally hectic afternoon rush is much more bearable due to the lack of customers, a handful of teenagers making some noise nothing you can’t handle. In the back of your mind, you’re hoping that Ruby girl would come by again, not wanting to wait until you run into her at the gym again. If the last few times you’d seen her were any indication, she probably wouldn’t be there until next Tuesday at the absolute earliest, a fact that bothers you to no end.
The hours continue to fly by and soon enough it’s time to get things set up for the next shift, and you can’t help but feel a little envious at just how little work they would have to do tonight. You carry several assorted tubs and boxes of toppings back into the walk in freezer, startled when you find Kevin leaning against the shelves.
“You going home or are you sleeping in the freezer tonight?” you ask, loudly enough to get his attention.
He jumps a bit before turning to face you. “I know you’re joking, but I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and honestly? That might not be a half bad idea.”
“I’ll get you a nice urn for what’s left of your pelvis, what’s your favorite color?” you laugh as you pat him on the back. “I’ll even pay for the express shipping.”
“Green,” he laughs, and your own smile widens when you see one start to form on his face. “Don’t know if express shipping is going to be fast enough though.”
“You’ll live, buddy,” you say, patting him on the back again before getting back to work.
You finish what’s left of the work in record time, rushing through things just so you can get home early and get some much needed rest.
You walk over to Kelly’s office and give the door a firm set of knocks before asking, “Hey Kelly? You got a second?”
“Sure, come on in Mike,” you hear in a muffled tone through the slightly ajar door.
You peek your head through just enough to talk to her. “Hey listen, just wanted to ask if I could leave early, have something urgent to take care of.”
She shoots you a puzzled, but concerned glance. “Uh, sure, I guess? Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, it’s nothing,” you say, feeling a bit guilty for the white lie you’re telling. “Just an appointment I forgot about. Everything’s put away for the next shift.”
“That’s good,” she says, her expression softening. “And sure thing, you can go ahead and leave right now.”
“Thanks Kel, you’re the best,” you say, giving her a quick thumbs up before yanking your head away from the gap in the door.
Skipping your gym visit for the day isn't ideal but there's no way you're gonna get any sort of workout done on an hour of sleep, your mind painfully aware of how that's a one way train to snap city just waiting to happen. As you walk to your car, you see a blur out of the corner of your eye and you briefly look around before chalking it up to sleep deprivation.
Those are the last words you hear before that blur rapidly materializes in front of you, nearly making you jump out of your skin. You’d been in enough scraps as a kid that you knew what was coming, and you put your arms up to block the incoming blow. You feel nothing more than a sharp sting on your forearm when it finally connects full force.
“Hey, what the fuck?!” is the first thing that comes out of your mouth, unsure as to who’s attacking you and why. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
You manage to grip an arm as it moves to strike again and you look down to see the person responsible, finding the small kangaroo from yesterday attempting to jerk away from your tight grasp. Without hesitation, you reach for her other wrist as you see her start to wind up for another slap with her free hand.
“Ruby?” you ask in disbelief, still stunned by what’s going on. “Calm down! Why the fuck are you doing this?”
She tries to pull away once again, but you stand your ground and tighten your grip.
“Let go,” she says, though you can still see the repeated rise of her chest as she huffs angrily.
“Not until you tell me why the hell you just tried to punch me in the gut,” you say, still not quite believing that any of this is real.
“You know exactly why,” she says, a scowl tugging at her facial features. “Don’t play coy, wanker.”
“Wait, is this about yesterday?” you ask. “I can explain.”
“Explain my ass,” she says, weakly attempting to break your grip. “See, this is the problem with you humans. You guys always think you can get away with chatting shit about me just because I’m shorter.”
You almost feel like laughing at the downright bizarre situation you’re in, but considering how angry she is, it’s hard to even crack a smile.
“Is that really what all of this is about?” you ask, shaking your head. “At least let me explain.”
“Not until you let me go,” she says, the scowl on her face turning into an uneasy smile.
You’re unsure whether you should trust her or not based on what she’s saying, and common sense screams at you to not trust the girl you barely know. Looking her up and down makes you realize you might be overreacting a bit, especially considering how you tower above her.
“Only if you promise you’re not going to try and hit me again,” you say, though you know you’re letting her off far too easily for someone who basically just tried to assault you.
“Fine, I promise,” she says, a hint of sarcasm in her tone as you watch her cross her fingers. “I’m sorry.”
“Somehow I don’t believe that in the slightest,” you say, and for a moment you’re worried Kelly, Kevin or a stranger might see you in this compromising situation. “Can I just ask why you’re doing it?”
“Why does it matter? Not like you’d care if I did explain,” she scoffs, having given up entirely on pulling away at this point. “And I don’t think you want to spend the next half hour holding me by the wrists in a parking lot.”
“If it means getting a damn answer out of you, I would,” you say, frustrated with her attitude. “Let’s talk somewhere else, it’s too damn cold out today.”
“Where, then?” she grumbles before raising an eyebrow.
“You like pizza? I know a pretty great spot not too far from here,” you ask, hoping to extend an olive branch of sorts.
“Why would I get food with a prick like you?”
“Because I’m hungry,” you say, loosening your grip on her wrists a tiny bit. “And I don’t know about you since you have fur, but I’d rather not freeze to death while we talk. That sound fair to you?”
She tries to avoid making eye contact with you as much as possible, though you’re not sure if it’s out of stubbornness or pure embarrassment. Her gaze instead lands on the only place that’s even more embarrassing, your eye-level crotch.
“Fine, but if you haven’t finished explaining by the time I’m done eating then I’m leaving,” she says, and you can see her nostrils flare up. “That sound like a fair deal to you, mate?”
The realization that it’s kind of silly to continue holding her wrists together considering she could’ve easily kicked you with her powerful looking legs if she’d wanted to hit you like a freight train, and the more rational side of you takes over. You let her wrists go, and you instinctively brace for a blow that never comes.
“Fine,” you say. “Can’t ask for much more than that. Let’s go.”
As the two of you make your way to your car, you can’t help but sneak a few sideways glances at her. She looks thrown for a loop at your response, seemingly not used to the treatment. You’re still wary of her given what she’d just tried to do in public, but you’re not exactly too worried considering she didn’t leap at the opportunity to strike back when it was presented.
“Something on your mind?” you ask, hoping to defuse some of the tension in the air.
“It’s nothing,” she says, though you can clearly tell she’s forcing a smile. “Just having a shit day.”
“You sure?” you ask, prodding the veritable hornet’s nest once more. “You look like you want to say something.”
She says nothing for a while, though her expression changes to one you can’t quite decipher as you keep your focus on her face. Once you’re mere steps from the car however, you can see her mouth start to move again.
“Why aren’t you pissed off?” she asks, her tone much different than the angry one you’d heard minutes ago. “I tried to hit you and you’re acting like nothing happened.”
“Do you want me to be mad?” you ask, shooting her a puzzled look. “I’m more confused than anything. Like, do you do this kind of thing regularly?”
“No,” she grumbles. “First time I’ve done anything like this.”
“Figured as much,” you say, chuckling at the potential expense of your own health. “You’re not very good at picking fights, you know that?”
You can see a small smile on her face in response to your own words, and once you finally come to a stop you can see her sizing up your car. The smile quickly turns to a chuckle and the sound hangs in the evening air for a bit.
“What’s so funny?” you ask.
“Where’d you get this thing, the junkyard?” she says, clearly stifling laughter.
You can’t help but frown at her choice of words when it comes to your baby.
“Very funny,” you say, walking around to the front on the passenger side and unlocking the door before running a hand over the hood of your car. “Sure, she’s got a lot of miles on her but I guarantee you she runs better than most cars from this year. Get in before I change my mind.”
“If you say so,” she shrugs before opening the door and getting inside. “At least it’s clean.”
The borderline OCD cleaning habit your mother had drilled into your head finally seemed to be paying off. You walk around to the driver’s seat and hop in, throwing on your seatbelt.
“I’m a little offended, honestly” you laugh. “You might just have to buy me dinner now instead.”
She turns to look at you, finally daring to make full eye contact again. “No offense mate, but I’d sooner jump out of this moving car before I pay for your dinner.”
You try to think of something witty to say in response but those distracting amber pools catch your eye and turn your brain into mush.
“Hell are you staring at?” she asks, turning away from you. “Something on my face or what?”
“Just looking at your eyes,” you say, hoping some honesty might earn you some trust with her. “Don’t see a color like that too often. It’s pretty.”
She steals a glance at you before turning her gaze away again at the compliment, opting to instead continue looking out the passenger side window, the tip of her tail wagging all the while. “Oi… feeling a little bold after playing superhero, aren’t we?”
“Hey, if you don’t want the truth, don’t ask,” you say, shrugging before starting the car.
You soon take off from the parking lot and you decide to make a little more small talk as you drive to the pizza parlor, to try and defuse some of the tension hanging in the air.
“So…” you say, your mouth getting a bit ahead of your brain. “You from around here or what?”
You immediately regret the stupid, almost rhetorical question that leaves your lips. She briefly turns to you again, that same expression of indifference from before on her face.
“Born and raised, why?” she asks, raising an eyebrow as she looks you up and down, doing her best to figure out your game.
“What, a guy can’t ask questions?” you ask, doing your best to keep your eyes on the road. “Was just curious is all.”
“You’re about the only guy I’ve ever met that would try to make small talk with someone who just tried to hit them, no offense mate,” she chuckles. “If you really want to know though, been in and out of the state all my life. Dad moved us around a lot for work and my mum… well, let’s say she’s a real battler for putting up with it all these years.”
“You enjoy it at least?” you ask, sneaking a quick glance at her when you come to a stop. “Traveling around, I mean.”
“Sometimes,” she sighs, shrugging her shoulders. “Seeing new things is fun but this place still feels like home. Uprooting my social life every couple of years sucked.”
“Yeah, I know how you feel,” you say, drumming your fingers against the steering wheel as the traffic light takes forever to change. “Though I wish things were better around here sometimes.”
“Better how?” she asks, cocking her head. “Place never seemed so bad to me.”
“Been trying to find a better job for ages, have had zero luck with that,” you say, letting out a sigh of your own.
“Dunno, seems like a pretty cushy job to me, scooping ice cream all day long, especially when we’re right in the middle of fall.”
“Well, I’d rather be doing something in my field,” you say, your frustration at your lack of a decent job slowly coming to a simmer. “Besides, you only say that because you don’t have to deal with the kind of customers we get.”
“And what kind would that be?” she asks, a small grin forming on her face.
“Loud, obnoxious middle and high schoolers,” you say, not even wanting to think about the afternoon rush now that you’re off work.
She outright laughs at your words. “Oh, if only you knew mate, if only you knew.”
You want to ask her what exactly she means by that, but you quickly find yourself distracted by the fact that you’d almost missed the turn into the parking lot of Eddie and Sammy’s Pizzeria, one of the few places in town where you can get real New York style pizza.
“You ever been here before?” you ask as you expertly back into a parking spot.
“Can’t say I have,” she says, staring out the window at the comically huge mascot in their logo. “Think I’ve heard of it before though.”
“Pizza here is going to blow your mind then,” you say, shutting off the car. “Guarantee you’ll never want to touch chain pizza garbage ever again.”
“For someone who works out so much, you sure have strong opinions on pizza,” she says, undoing her seatbelt.
“Might be hard to believe, but I wasn’t always the Adonis I am now,” you smirk, glancing over at her to see her reaction.
She reaches over slightly and pokes at your midsection. “Alright, don’t get carried away now, tubby.”
“Am not,” you say, mock pouting. “I’m allowed a cheat day every now and then.”
“Whatever you say,” she says, opening the passenger side door.
The two of you step out of your car and make your way towards the front door, eager to get out of the bitter cold and into the nice, toasty store. While it’s far from the most modern looking place, there’s a certain charm to it, having retained its original upholstery and decoration from when it opened twenty years ago. You’d been coming here since you were a kid, and you certainly didn’t plan to stop because of a little wear and tear on the seats. The restaurant isn’t very packed, and Ruby follows you to a corner booth. The two of you sit down across from each other and before you know it, there’s a waitress standing before you, whipping out a pad to jot down what you want to drink. You give her your drink orders and she retreats into the back, giving you time to try and figure out the girl in front of you. You have to stifle your laughter when you get a good look at her, only barely being able to see her head from where you’re sitting due to the low to the ground seats.
“So, no bullshit, I want you to be straight and honest,” you say, putting your elbows up on the table. “Why are you so pissed off at me?”
Ruby doesn’t say anything for a while, and she looks to be trying hard to avoid your gaze, her brow furrowing as she stares down at the table.
You decide to expand on your question. “I’ve got an idea as to why, but I want to hear it straight from you.”
Her expression flipflops between irritation and nervousness so quickly you can’t quite get a tell on what she’s thinking, biting down on her lower lip as she tilts her head a bit.
“I’ll be real with you mate,” she finally sighs in frustration. “I didn’t take what you said at the gym last night too kindly. Hate it when people think it’s funny to point out I’m short, absolutely hate it.”
“And what, you think I was calling you short?” you laugh out of relief. “You couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“How else am I supposed to take someone telling me I need to do calf raises and stretches out of nowhere besides someone wanting to be a snarky cunt about my height?” she asks, speaking in a hurried tone.
“It was honest advice!” you exclaim, raising your tone for a moment in protest. “You were the one complaining about not being limber enough in the first place.”
You can see her start to respond, but she holds her tongue when the waitress returns with your sodas. She sets a menu down in front of each of you, though you notice there’s something different about the one she put in front of Ruby. It’s small, colorful and… your stomach sinks when you realize it’s a kids menu.
You can see a scowl forming on her face as she realizes herself, Ruby looking like she’s about to let loose on the waitress as she stares daggers into her. Before anything happens and for fear of being banned from your favorite pizzeria, you decide to intervene.
You frown, doing your best to seem displeased. “Excuse me miss, can I get a regular menu for my date? She’s not a kid, you know.”
Both the waitress and Ruby blush crimson red at your words, the waitress tripping over her every word.
“God, I’m so sorry sir, let me uh- get that fixed up for you right away, sorry,” she says, averting her gaze as she leaves to get another menu.
Ruby looks to be burning up almost as badly, suddenly staring at the ground as if it’s the most interesting thing in the world, and her erratically twitching ear catches your eye.
“You didn’t have to do that, you know…” she mutters under her breath. “I could’ve handled it myself.”
“Don’t worry about it, just seeing the look on her face was worth it,” you chuckle, waving a hand dismissively. “Besides, it looked like you were about to pounce the poor girl.”
“Serves her right for thinking I’m a kid,” she grumbles before taking a sip of her drink. “I mean seriously, what kind of kid dresses like this?”
You can’t exactly get a good look at her outfit again due to the table but from what you can recall, she has a point. You don’t exactly see a lot of kids wearing workout hoodies with spats and runner’s compression socks.
“I guess you have a point,” you admit. “Still don’t think she meant to do it.”
“They all say that when you confront them,” she mutters, flicking at her straw. “And fair warning, if you call me your date again I’m going to deck you right in the flute. Still though… thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” you say, wincing internally a bit at the thought of getting punched in the dick. “And… understood.”
The waitress comes back with a proper menu and after a minute of looking them over, the two of you opt to order an extra large with pepperoni, peppers and onion to share. She hurriedly scurries off to put in your order, seemingly still embarrassed by the minor confrontation.
“Do you really get it that often?” you ask.
“What, getting confused for a kid or having people point out I’m short?”
“Either really,” you say. “Guess I never really thought about it happening to someone that much.”
She sighs deeply, finally meeting your gaze again with a half-smile on her face. “Well, when you’re as tall as a pine tree I imagine you don’t get it often. I dunno, I’m just so used to everyone making it a point to tell me how short I am, like I’m not already aware of it or something.”
“I’m sorry,” you say, flashing what you hope comes across as a sympathetic smile.
“Eh, it’s not your fault,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. ”You wouldn’t believe how often dicks like to point out how much shorter I am than a ‘normal’ kangaroo. It’s like the bastards have never heard of a hybrid in their lives.”
You consider asking her what exactly she’s a hybrid of, but you don’t think fueling her rant is a good idea.
“Look, I promise I was just trying to give you some good advice at the gym yesterday,” you say, rubbing at the back of your neck. “You mentioned wanting to be more limber and that was the first thing that came to mind. Didn’t mean anything bad by it, I swear.”
“I believe you, mate,” she says, that half smile slowly becoming a full one. “Mostly my fault for reading too much into things. Blew that way out of proportion.”
“Look, don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but I think your height is perfectly fine,” you say, your mouth fumbling the delivery of what was meant to be reassuring words. “Kind of endearing, really.”
“Don’t push it, cunt,” she says in a serious tone, only to be betrayed by her smile. “It wouldn’t bother me so much if it didn’t mean people don’t take me seriously sometimes. Really am sorry for trying to hit you though, feel like a total arsehole for that one.”
“Almost got me with that first attempt,” you laugh, extending a hand across the table. “But I accept your apology. Friends?”
She looks down at your hand hesitantly, but she seems to make up her mind as she shifts in her seat.
“Friends,” she says, accepting your firm handshake. “By the way, I feel like a fuckwit for asking, but I don’t think I caught your name.”
“Michael,” you say, leaning back into your booth after letting go of her hand. “But you can just call me Mike if you’d prefer. Easier that way, I think.”
The waitress arrives again, setting down the delicious dish of greasy gold on the table before turning tail towards the kitchen again. The two of you eagerly dig in and make quick work of the massive pie in no time, leaving nothing but crumbs by the time the two of you have had your fill.
“So, best pizza you’ve ever had, or what?” you ask, a satisfied grin on your face.
“No contest,” she says, her head now resting against the booth.
Your grin continues to tug at the corners of your mouth. “That’s what I like to hear.”
As promised, you pay for the meal in its entirety and leave a small tip, a gesture not lost on Ruby. The two of you leave the restaurant in relative silence and she follows you back to your car.
“Want me to take you home?” you ask out of politeness, fully aware that the question is practically rhetorical.
“I’d like that,” she says, and you open the passenger side door for her. “Thanks.”
You hop into the driver’s seat and look at her as she throws her seatbelt on.
“I gotta say, you really know how to treat a girl,” she chuckles. “Well, for a human, anyway.”
“Just how I was raised,” you say with pride. “Mom used to get upset with me if I didn’t do that for her or my sisters. Where do you want me to drop you off, anyways?”
“Hand me your phone and I’ll plug it in for you,” she says.
You unlock your phone and open the map app before tossing it to her, praying to god she wouldn’t somehow end up taking a peek in your gallery. You notice it’s taking her a while to actually do so, and you reach out to take hold of your phone again.
“Here, let me do it,” you say.
She swats your hand away. “Nah fuck off, I’ve got it. Just… give me a second.”
Against your better judgement you decide to listen and after a few moments, she tosses your phone back into your lap. Soon enough you find yourself on the way to her home. For a while the two of you ride in silence, the small kangaroo being the first to finally break it.
“So… say I do actually take your stretching advice,” she mutters almost under her breath. “Does that mean you’re going to take mine?”
“Remind me what your advice was again?” you ask, genuinely not being able to recall it.
“I told you that you need some more cardio in your routine so you don’t end up a fucked cunt every workout, mate.”
“But I already do cardio most days.”
“Not enough, apparently,” she scoffs, an air of smugness in her voice. “How about this, you come on my morning jogs a few times and we’ll see if I can’t whip you into better shape. Deal?”
“What’s the catch?” you ask, chuckling at her proposal. “Besides, I’ve got my shitty job to deal with, remember?”
“No catch,” she says, and you can see one of her ears twitch again out of the corner of your eye. “Just… consider it thanks for the food and talking some sense into me. What time do you usually get in?”
“Eight or nine in the morning, though it shifts around sometimes,” you say, glancing over to your side as you come to stop at a traffic light. “Really depends on the week.”
“You’ll be fine then,” she says. “I’m usually out of the house by five so I can get a quick jog in before work.”
You can’t even imagine getting up at six in the morning most days, much less being out of the house an hour before that. As much as you appreciate her offer, it’s definitely something you need to think over. As you get closer to the address she plugged into your phone, you notice your surroundings are getting a bit more suburban. After a few more minutes, you find yourself pulling into an extremely upscale neighborhood, your phone telling you when to come to a stop.
“So, think you can handle a little morning jog, or is it too much for you, mate?” she smirks. “Tell you what, if you’re up for it just give me a call tomorrow.”
“If I’m not feeling like death in the morning, I’ll ring you up,” you say, unsure as to what's compelling you to commit yourself like this.
She starts to get out of your car, making sure she has all her belongings. “Sounds like a plan then.”
As she walks away towards what you can only assume is her apartment you realize there’s something wrong.
“Wait, I don’t have your phone number!” you shout, hoping you can grab her attention.
“Check your phone, dickhead!” she shouts back, blowing what looks like a raspberry at you as she saunters away.
You help yourself to another long, guilty look at her toned ass until she’s finally out of sight. If she doesn’t do squats regularly, you’d consider it God’s gift to mankind. You quickly unlock your phone to double check, noticing she’d left her number in your contacts list.
“This fucking girl…” you say, shaking your head as you begin driving home.
After the kind of day you’d had, you arrive exhausted, rushing to get out of your clothes as fast as possible before diving straight into your warm, cozy bed. As you settle in, you think back to the strange encounters and day you'd spent with Ruby. As much as you hate to admit it, it's still probably the best quality time you'd shared with anyone in a while, something you’re not sure how to feel about. Her sailor’s mouth is kind of endearing, though that’s not to say it didn’t take some time to get used to the things that come out of it. You think over her proposition again as you toss and turn. Sure, you’d have to wake up a whole two hours earlier than you’re normally used to, but you’d get to spend some time with someone outside your frankly small group of friends. The fact that you’d likely get to see her considerable assets during your jog certainly helps push your sleep deprived self to make a decision. Plus, you’d be getting so much needed exercise early in the morning, hard to say no to that.
How bad could it be, anyway?
That’s your final thought before your tired, aching body finally gives in to the overwhelming warmth under your sheets.