The 'Taur Next Door
by J.L. Atwood


Mel gave a hearty stretch, her shoulders tight and her butt sore from the hard seat the college so generously provided with her tuition money. Generous, right. Try telling her rear that. She wrinkled her nose in a futile attempt to seat her glasses right, but then gave up and shoved them up the bridge of her nose with a fingertip. She slipped a sidelong look to her 'seatmate', a pretty taur by the name of Windchaser. A chakat, if she remembered right, whatever kind that was. She had some vague idea from her high school 'Races and Relations' class, but she'd not paid that much attention.

Windy caught her glance and smiled… a very pretty expression, Mel couldn't help but note. Mel's tastes in people ran to either side of the fence, so to speak, and she had no qualms about either. A merry fence-hopper, she'd called herself more than once. Windy was slender… almost waif-like, but Mel knew she ran track… she ran almost as much as Just did. Speaking of which…

She looked up, but as usual all she could see was his backside as he hurried out the door. 'Does that boy ever just walk anywhere?' She wondered, and then reflected that his backside wasn't his worst view… his tight little wolfy rear with that shaggy tail was a very pleasant sight, but he never seemed to sit still long enough for anyone to tell him that. She shook her head ruefully, and then let out a slightly disgusted sound. Jim and Kelly were already pair off, on their way to their next class, and unlike Just, she didn't have to be at work for a couple hours yet.

Back to Windy her attention flipped, her hands shoving her notes and reading-books into her own bag. Windy was long past that point, and now was doubling up the pad Mel had sewn up out of a nice comforter. It had been a gift from her grandmother, but it was far too warm for the dorms, and she privately didn't need it herself. Windy had, since she always shifted and squirmed about, and in general looked uncomfortable on the bare floor.

"You made this." Windy accused, her grin breaking out and her attitude shifting to a more playful one.

Mel grinned in return, and wrinkled her nose. "Yup. Does it work?" She stood up, her pack slipping over her shoulders. Minding her striped bottlebrush of a tail, she came around the desk and followed Windy out… which gave her the chance to see that she, too, had a very nice rear, if different from a biped's.

"Excellently." The taur's eyes danced. "I've seen you around, but…. What's your name?"

"Melbourn Xavier, no 'e' in there. I'm not a city in Australia, just named after one. Mel for short." She offered one of her black paws, to properly greet her.

"Chakat Windchaser, child of Windracer and Iceflake, but just Windy or Chase for me." She clasped her hand warmly, and grinned. "So… What're you doing tomorrow night? Care to come over? We could look at some of my etchings…" She let that drop off, with a lascivious little wink. Mel choked, trying to keep the grin she felt splitting her face from doing just that.

"No, seriously," Windy went on. "Do you want to meet at the library and get some research done for next week's paper? I'm going."

"Sure!" She replied. "Just us, or… would you mind Justyn coming along too?" The change that came over the chakat's face was as drastic as a winter storm blowing in… from bright and cheerful to neutral, like a curtain falling.

"I… I really… no. I don't think that would be a good idea." She said, in a very carefully phrased fashion. Her ears rocked back, and she gave a step away, as if to head off. Mel, disturbed at this turn of events, followed.

"Whoa, whoa. Wait! What's the matter? I say the name Justyn, and… you okay?" Windy was looking more uncomfortable by the moment, but wasn't retreating any further.

"It's a bit of a story…" She said, lamely, while glancing about at the hallway. "A bit too long for here."

Mel nodded, and thought a moment. "Well, are you hungry? We could go down into town and snag a bite to eat, talk there?"

Windy nodded, and headed for the stairs.

*        *        *

The pizza shop selected was one of the local favourites, not only featuring pies, but also subs and sandwiches, salads, and even some pastas. She got a basket of fries for herself, and Windy got a rather large pie for herself. Mel was a bit shocked, until she took a look at the taur and figured that she must eat a fair bit each day… not just because of her body mass, but her high metabolism. They found a seat, Mel sliding into one booth bench, and Windy, to her surprise, doing the same by sprawling across the other side. They ate in silence, Mel poking a fry into the puddle of ketchup now and again, and Windy with gusto and much enthusiasm. She grinned.

"Must be nice to be able to eat like that and keep your girlish figure." Wind snorted, resuming her previous attitude.

"What d'you mean, 'girlish' figure."

Mel blinked a moment, not quite sure how to reply or even what the chakat meant by that.

The chakat only grinned wider, finding this vastly amusing. "You mean to tell me, you don't know about us…?"

"I can honestly say, I have no idea what you're grinning about." She shook her head, mystified.

"Well.. how to put this. How ….um. Sensitive are you, about the whole birds and bees thing?"

"You mean, like… sex?" Mel grinned, spitting out the word with a mock-horrified look. "Oh no, I've never done anything like that… not me!" She said with the false innocence laid on thick. Mel was, if anything, far from prudish.

"Okay, okay. I get your point." Wind made shushing motions with her hands. "If you really want to know, drop something and look under the table." She jerked her chin downwards, subtly. Eyeing the other patrons, Mel waited a few moments and then nudged a fork off the table. She went after it. Glancing over, she saw Wind move, her hind legs shifting and casually stretching. As the hind legs flexed, something she never would have expected to see on such a femme-looking creature appeared…. A golden-furred sheath, normally hidden in the discrete shadows of the hindquarters. Mel surfaced, whacking her head as she came up.

"You're a guy???" She breathed, amazed. Wind shook hir head, still looking amused.

"Nope. Try again." Mel sat a moment, puzzling this out. That was most definitely a male sheath, but…

"You're herm?" She guessed again, curious and dubious at once.

"Yup. All chakats are."

"Oh." Maybe she ought to have paid more attention in that class… "Cool." Wind grinned, and polished off another slice or two. Eventually, shi shrugged.

"But that's part of the story right there. Us being herms." Mel cocked her head to listen, idle popping a fry into her mouth. Wind took a breath, and started again.

"When I was a cub, my dam got a job shi really couldn't refuse. So me, my sibs, my sire and dam, and their mate all packed up and moved cross-country. We were sold a very nice house in what looked to be a very nice neighbourhood. And, in truth, it would have been if we had been lupines.

"What the real estate agent didn't tell us, was that we'd moved into a wolf-morph community. Some communities are fairly open, willing to let other races in and accepted as part of the 'pack'. They still retain a good dollop of the pack instinct of the original wolves, I suppose. This one wasn't. They didn't carry torches or try to drive us out, but the entire time we lived there, a decade I might add, they were distinctly unfriendly. They would cross to the other side of the street, trash would show up on our lawn or they walked their pets there, and never could you find a hand or borrow anything when you needed it. Worst of all, I think, for me and my sibs… the parents wouldn't let their kids play with us. Oh, they'd sneak over and play till their parents called, at least while they were younger. When they were older, from 6th or so grade upwards, they started to act like their parents. All except one wolfette, Stacey, who'd come over publicly. But then, her mother was sort of an outcast herself, and had nothing to loose associating with us.

"Justyn lived there, in that community, and his parents were among the worst of the lot. He and I went to different middle schools, but when I got to high school, he was a senior. The star of the track team, he was. Young, strong, fast and cocky as hell. He ignored me, all through that year, as if he hadn't known me for most of his life. When he wasn't ignoring me, he seldom had anything pleasant to say. He was growing up to be the spitting image of his father. If it hadn't been for Stacey, I'd say I would probably have grown to hate all wolves… at least she showed me that they weren't all like that.

"But, in any case… We moved away from that neighbourhood that year, fed up with it. I still went to the same school, and I found that I'd had a talent in track much the same as he did; and I'll tell you, it felt good to break some of his speed runs. Even if I am a 'taur, and in a different class than he." Shi spread hir hands, shrugging

Mel took this all in, slightly puzzled. "That doesn't sound like the Justyn I know. Maybe he's changed, grown up a little? All boys are cocky and jerks as teenagers. It's like… a law or something."

Wind snorted, licking hir fingers clean of the sauce. "Him, change? Don't make me laugh. Since I've ran into him here, he's acted flighty and distracted, and keeps staring at me the way they used to… like I'm some sort of freak show."

Mel, who'd seen this too, drew a slightly different conjecture. "Naw, I think he likes you. I don't mean palsy-walsy, either. As in, he thinks you're attractive. What I think it is… he'd know you're a herm, right?"

Wind nodded. "Yeah, as a cub and before I got my…ah… cleavage, I used to have to change with the boys for phys-ed."

"Yeah, so… I think part of it might be, he knows that you're part guy and he's having a hard time dealing with his attraction for you." Wind considered this, still looking doubtful.

"I seem to remember that in school, it wasn't the most open minded of places. Prudish New Englanders. But that still doesn't make me believe that he likes me…" Shi shook hir head, unable to reconcile the Justyn shi knew with this concept.

Mel shrugged, a bit irritated at Wind's obtuseness. She shrugged on her bag. "I gotta go… my shift starts soon. But I'll meet you tomorrow, around say, seven-ish?" Mel waited for the reply, but Wind just nodded. "And, one more thing. That whole thing with the seating, so you'd have room? That wasn't my idea. That was Justyn's." And with that, she flounced off, her masked face set in a smug expression. Hopefully, Wind'd think that one over.

Go on to Part 4

Characters & Story © 1999 J.L.Atwood.

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