Read Under a Bear Moon Online

Authors: Carrie S. Masek

Tags: #Science Fiction/Fantasy

Under a Bear Moon (17 page)

BOOK: Under a Bear Moon
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Chapter 14

“BYE, MOM. Bye, Dad. Enjoy your weekend.”

Lynda waved until her parents drove out of the garage, then turned to her brother. “Thanks for staying with me, Tom.”

“No sweat, Lynster.” He smiled.

Lynda tensed. Tom only smiled like that when he was up to something. “Tom Malone, if you're backing out on me—”

“I wouldn't do that.”

A weight compressed Lynda's heart. She knew he was up to something when he used that tone of voice.

“It's just that I may not get home before midnight, that's all.”

“What? I thought you told Dad that you'd be home all night.”

“That was before Cindy invited me to a party. Don't worry, Lynster. I'll stay until your date comes. Just let yourself in when you get home and go to bed. I'll be back by morning.”

“And Mom and Dad are okay with this?”

“Get real. If I told them I was going to a party, they'd insist I stay home—or make you go with John-John to Grandma's. This way we're all happy. I get to see Cindy, you get your date, and Mom and Dad don't worry.” He spread his hands as if to ask what more she wanted.

Lynda took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “I don't know.”

“Look, I figure you're mature enough to sleep a couple of hours in an empty house, but Dad told me about that scare you had in April. If you don't want to stay here alone, I'll drive you up to Evanston right now. Why don't you call your date and cancel while I get my keys?” Tom turned and started toward the house.

She grabbed his arm. “No, wait! I didn't mean that. It's just that I don't think Mom and Dad—”

Tom put his arm around her shoulder. “What they don't know won't hurt them. Or us. As long as you can manage not to blurt it all out when they get back, we'll be fine.”

He smiled reassuringly. “You'll be perfectly safe. Come on. You need to get ready for that date.”

* * * *

THE DOOR bell rang at two minutes to six. “Tom, can you get that?” Lynda yelled.

A rush of water from the ancient shower was her only answer. Slipping on her mother's high-heeled pumps, Lynda tore down the stairs, tripping over the cat in her rush to the door. She opened it and found Greg standing on the welcome mat.

She'd never seen him so dressed up. He wore a green striped polo shirt and khaki slacks. He'd traded his high tops for a pair of penny loafers and had combed his hair and polished his glasses. A yellow jacket hung from one arm. The other stretched toward her holding a single red rose.

The warmth of his gaze flowed over her. When his eyes returned to her face, he smiled. “You're beautiful.”

Lynda's cheeks burned as hot as distress beacons. She took the rose and closed the door behind him. “Thank you.”

She'd spent all last Saturday shopping with Ellen, and even she had to admit the results were spectacular. After dragging Lynda from one department store to another, Ellen had pounced on an offering in Marshall Field's bargain basement. At first, Lynda thought her friend had lost her mind. Left over from the holiday season, the silk rag of a dress had no shape at all, dangling from its spaghetti straps, and looked two sizes too small. The only thing Lynda liked about it was the color. Azure swirls shimmered across the dark fabric like oil dancing on water.

Lynda refused to try it on. She was tired of shopping and had decided to wear her blue dress. But Ellen insisted, and Lynda eventually agreed. The groans stopped the minute she looked in the mirror.

The dress was perfect. The blue swirls picked up and heightened the color of her eyes, while the dark background echoed the wavy gloss of her hair. The fabric clung to her, draping her breasts, hugging her hips, hiding her tummy. Barely long enough to be decent, the dress made her legs look miles long and impossibly slim.

“You've got to wear heels with that,” Ellen had said after gazing at Lynda's reflection. Lynda had nodded, stunned. “And some jewelry to highlight the neckline. A choker, maybe. This is going to work, Lynda. Come on, I know just the place to shop.”

* * * *

“WAS THAT your date?”

Lynda could barely hear Tom over the shower. She felt her face grow even hotter. “Yes!” Turning to Greg, she added, “Tom's getting ready for a party.”

They listened to water rattling through the pipes until Lynda realized Tom wasn't coming down to say good-bye. She found a bud vase for the rose and grabbed her purse. “Where we going?”

“I thought we'd start with a picnic.”

“A picnic? Great! Bye, Tom.” She left the house with-out waiting for a response.

Fifteen minutes later, they stood under an oak tree gazing across the Midway. The sun, rapidly approaching the horizon, spread a buttery glow over the grassy concourse. Catching the sunlight in their branches, the trees pulled the light apart, separating it into golden strands that flowed eastward toward the lake.

Greg whipped his windbreaker off his shoulder and lay it on the grass beneath the tree. Feeling like a queen, Lynda kicked off her shoes and sat on the jacket, curling her stockinged legs beneath her. With an Elizabethan flourish, Greg set a bucket of fried chicken from Harold's Chicken Shack on the grass in front of her.

Lynda grinned at the trademark cartoon of an ax-wielding farmer chasing a chicken. “What a great idea.” Leaning forward, she took a wing from the steaming container. “Ouch! It's still hot.”

Greg sat on the grass across from her and grabbed a piece for himself. He took an enormous bite. “Umm. Perfect.”

Wrapping her piece in a napkin, Lynda lifted it to her lips. “It is good,” she said after a moment's thoughtful chewing. “The perfect balance of salt and grease.”

“Ah, but it's missing a crucial ingredient.” Greg threw his bone into a bag and started on a second piece. “Dad says chicken doesn't taste right plain. He always pours honey on it. That way he gets salt, grease and sugar all in the same bite.”

Lynda giggled. “Honey on chicken? That's too weird.”

Greg chuckled at Lynda's exaggerated grimace. “Actually, it's pretty good.”

“How are your parents doing?” Lynda asked after she finished her wing and started on an indeterminate, but well battered piece. “I haven't talked to them since we had brunch that time. Has your Dad finished his book?”

“No, he's still working on it. He's stuck because he can't think of a good ending. Most stories about super-natural creatures end when they're captured or killed. Dad doesn't want his character caught, so he's trying to think of another way to finish the story.”

“Maybe the werebear should fall in love, get married and settle down to raise a brood of bear cubs,” Lynda suggested. She looked up with a sly expression. “I know. He moves to Maine and starts writing horror novels under a pseudonym.”

Greg laughed.

Lynda waved her hand, shushing him. “No, listen. He becomes a best-selling author, but his cover is blown by an obsessed fan who breaks into his house and observes his transformation. The fan tries to tell everyone the hero's secret, but the only publication that prints his story is the
National Enquirer

“And no one believes it?”

“Better than that, they get the facts wrong. The article concludes that the author is really an alien from Venus come to weaken mankind with terror before the big invasion. The fan is so embarrassed, he moves to Kansas and never reads a book again. The werebear lives happily ever after. Face it, after that ridiculous story, no one will believe anything written about him, no matter how true. Thank you. Thank you.” Lynda tipped her head in feigned modesty while Greg applauded.

“You've got to come over again and talk to Dad. He gets so uptight about his novel. Maybe hearing your ending would help him lighten up.” He lifted the bucket and held it toward Lynda. “Want the last piece?”

She leaned back against the tree trunk and patted her stomach. “No thanks. I'm stuffed.”

Greg finished the chicken and added the last bone to the bulging bag. Taking a copy of the campus newspaper from his back pocket, he opened it to the entertainment section. “How about a movie? There are a couple of good ones playing at the University tonight, and the Hyde Park Cinema is having a horror retrospective all weekend.”

Lynda shrugged. “I don't really like horror films. The old ones, like
The Wolf Man
are all right, I guess, but the modern ones are too gory.”

Looking over the top of the paper, Greg said, “If you don't want gore, how about culture? The Law School Film Society is showing Franco Zeffirelli's
Romeo and Juliet

Lynda sat up and grinned. “The one with Olivia Hussey? I love that movie. We watched it in eighth grade after reading the play. What's that song about a rose? La da la da.” Lynda hummed a few bars. “Something like that. It's beautiful.”

Greg folded the newspaper. “
Romeo and Juliet
it is. We have about half an hour before the show.” He stood and held out his hand. “Want to head over to the Law School Auditorium, or grab some ice-cream first?”

Lynda took Greg's hand and uncurled from his jacket. “Let's go straight to the Law School,” she said after she slipped on her shoes. “I'm too full for ice-cream, and we'll get better seats.”

After shaking out his jacket and dumping their trash, Greg took Lynda's hand and they walked toward the University of Chicago Law School. Dusk had fallen while they spoke. The sun's dying rays tinted the cirrus clouds pink and violet, while the sky behind them darkened.

Lynda pointed toward the horizon. “Isn't it gorgeous?”

Greg squeezed her hand. “Almost as gorgeous as you are.” Looking up, he added, “Too bad you have to be home before moonrise. The moon's approaching its fourth quarter; it should be beautiful tonight.”

Lynda's gaze shifted to Greg's face. “Really? How do you keep track of things like that? In physics last year, I never could keep the phases of the moon straight.”

“Dad's kind of an expert on the moon,” Greg said. “Because of the book he's writing.”

Lynda nodded. “I really like your father's book. What I read of it, I mean. I usually hate stories about werewolves. What was that your dad said, that in most stories the wolf is a symbol for the evil in us all? Considering how people have treated animals like wolves over the years, it would be more accurate if the stories were about innocent animals changed into evil humans.”

Greg laughed. “I like that. You'll have to suggest that to Dad for his next novel. You're right, though, about Dad's story being different. It's not about good versus evil. And the main character doesn't resist his metamorphosis; he revels in it. Becoming a bear is a positive thing. It frees him.”

“That is so cool,” Lynda said while they walked up the Law School Auditorium steps. “The whole idea of it, I mean. I'd love to be able to change into something else, wouldn't you? A tiger, maybe. Do you think I'd make a good tiger?” She smiled impishly.

Greg's eyes grew serious. “I'm glad you're not a tiger. I like you the way you are.” He broke into a breathtaking smile.

Lynda returned it, and, hand in hand, they walked into the auditorium.

* * * *

THE AUDIENCE stilled. The lights dimmed, and the screen flared to life. A stone courtyard appeared. People clothed in heavy Elizabethan garb loitered in groups, or scurried on unspecified errands. A warm voice, precise and masculine, filled the auditorium.

“Two households, both alike in dignity,

(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene)

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.”

“This is such a good movie,” Lynda whispered.

Leaning forward, she became the movie. She flinched when swords thrust home, grinned at Romeo's sighing, laughed at Mercurtio's teasing. She anticipated the more familiar lines, mouthing them silently along with the actors.

Greg's gaze never strayed from her face. It was as if he didn't need to watch the film, as if Lynda's eyes were all the screen he needed.

A party at the Capulet's. A young man singing the song Lynda liked. “What a wonderful voice,” she whispered without looking away from the images on the screen. Romeo, hidden from view, reached around a column and grasped Juliet's hand.

“If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this—

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth the rough touch with a gentle kiss.”

After the boy on the screen spoke, Greg reached over and lay his finger on Lynda's lower lip. When she turned to him, he said, “I saw this last year in British Lit. Romeo has some great lines.” The light from the moving images flickered across his face, highlighting his grin. “O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do,” he murmured along with the actor.

Pulling Lynda toward him, his lips touched hers. Their warmth drove the play from her mind. It was well into the second act before she turned back to the screen.

* * * *

THE AUDIENCE rose with the house lights and flowed to the exits on a tide of murmured conversation. Lynda remained in her seat, wiping her eyes.

“I'm sorry,” she said after she blew her nose. “I forgot how sad the ending was.”

“That's okay.”

She sniffed. “It's so stupid, though. I know it's pre-tend, but the thought of him swallowing poison when we know she'll wake up any moment. Why doesn't he wait?”

“Because he thinks there's nothing left worth waiting for,” Greg said thickly.

Lynda looked up. Tears glistened behind his glasses. He smiled and the effect was like the sun shining on an ice storm.

Greg slipped his arm around her. “I can understand not wanting to live after losing everything. And that's what she was, you know, everything that made his life worth living.”

The lump in Lynda's throat grew. It throbbed, trembled and threatened to explode. Suddenly she, too, understood. Understood what it was to have someone for whom no rule was too sacred, no sacrifice too great, no consequence too terrible. Her eyes widened as she studied Greg. Except when he smiled, his looks were unremarkable. He was big and clumsy, timid and squeamish.

BOOK: Under a Bear Moon
7.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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