Alright, Zac, this is it. You have to tell her today. Reminding myself of what I needed to do didn’t make it any easier.
I sighed. Tess and I had been dating for five years. We’d made it through college together, and I knew she was the one for me. I knew pretty much everything about her: how she liked her coffee, why the necklace with the star charm was her favorite, that she organized her clothes by color, all her favorite songs, and so on. In return, she knew all of my secrets. Except one. The biggest one of all.
I was actually a werewolf.
I closed my eyes and hung my head, ashamed. I should have told her long before now. I certainly should have mentioned it before I’d proposed. But, I hadn’t wanted to mess anything up. She was too important to me. And if I was entirely honest, I had sort of been expecting her to figure it out by now. Who would have thought that the “monthly guy camping trip” excuse would actually work for this long?
None of that mattered now, however. The point was that we were starting to plan our wedding. She was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over every wedding magazine she saw, and I had yet to warn her about the wedding night. The worst of it was her obsession with all things celestial; it was actually one of the reasons I fell in love with her in the first place, but now it meant that she had her heart set on being married under a full moon. And how was I supposed to tell her that full moons bring out the beast in me?! Literally!
I smacked myself in the forehead, forcing my mind to get a grip. Too late now to worry about the details. The best thing to do now was to tell her and hope for the best.
That, and pray she didn’t have any silver bullets handy.
A plan formulated itself in my mind as we packed the car for the weekend. We were driving to her parents’ house to investigate event venue options and so that she could try on her mother’s wedding dress for alterations. It was a good four-hour drive, and that was the most time we would probably get to sit and talk these days. We had both been really busy with work lately, and talking in the car seemed like a good idea. Besides, Tess was a practical person. She wouldn’t attack me while we were driving down the highway at 70 mph, right?
Fortunately, I was right. But that didn’t make her reaction any easier to take.
“You’re a WHAT?!”
I took a deep breath. “You heard me. I’m a werewolf.”
She shook her head, the waves in her black hair sliding across her shoulders. “This is a joke, right?”
She narrowed her hazel eyes at me as I focused on the road. “You tell me this now? After five years of dating? As I start to plan our wedding? You tell me now that you’re a werewolf?!”
“Yes. And it is ‘we’ that are planning the wedding, not just you.” I may not be much help, but at least I was not hiding in the garage while the women did all the work. I did have some pride, after all.
Tess didn’t hear that part, however. Her emotional tea kettle was boiling over, and I suspected that if I turned to face her, I would see steam coming out her ears.
“HOW DARE YOU KEEP THIS FROM ME?! I can’t believe you never told me! I thought you loved me! Don’t you trust me?” The fuming and screaming dissolved into tears.
I resisted the urge to hang my head and cower with my tail between my legs. “Of course I trust you! That’s why I’m telling you! This isn’t the sort of thing you post on Facebook, okay? And you know I love you…right? Tess?” I took a quick peek over at her to see how she was doing. Her face was downcast, and she was staring at her hands, which lay limp in her lap.
“I can’t believe you’re a werewolf,” she whispered, her voice quivering.
I blew out a sigh. “Believe me, it wasn’t any easier for me when I found out.”
“This changes everything,” she mumbled, not looking up.
I swallowed the lump in my throat. Briefly I reevaluated my choice to tell her the truth. But when I missed the wedding because of the full moon, what would I have said then? Sorry I missed the wedding honey, I was out hunting rabbits. No, not with a gun—just me, by myself.
“No, it doesn’t change anything. I still love you and want to be with you for the rest of my life. Just not when there’s a full moon in the sky.”
The corner of her mouth quirked up at that, and I knew I hadn’t lost her yet. I was about to tell her that there were actually several good points to being a werewolf—such as my dogged determination to finish any project I start—when Tess suddenly gasped.
Instantly my senses were on high alert. “What’s wrong?” I barked.
“That explains so much!” She was staring at me now, as if all the pieces of a puzzle had just fallen into place.
I exhaled a sigh of relief. At least she’s not panicking or crying or screaming. But then I found myself curious. “What do you mean, ‘That explains so much’?”
“Well,” she began, counting on her fingers as she reflected, “you love your steak rare. And you love your chicken on the raw side. And I’m pretty sure you keep chewing on the turkey legs at Thanksgiving long after the meat is gone. You have a very keen sense of smell. You refuse to let us get a cat. And, well, you’ve always been the type to work like a dog.” I groaned at the last one, and she giggled.
“You’re going to be making all kinds of dog jokes now, aren’t you?”
“Of course! I have five years of not knowing your little secret to make up for—oh look, it’s your cousin!” She pointed out the window at the field we were passing.
Instantly the image of Brian, my older (and only) cousin, popped into my head. I scanned the countryside as we soared down the road. “Where?” I queried, thoroughly confused as to what he would be doing out here.
“Right there.” She gestured to the lone coyote wandering among the trees at the far edge of the field.
I sighed. “That’s not funny, Tess,” I growled.
She just laughed. “I can’t believe you fell for that! I haven’t even met your family, silly puppy!” Then her mood sobered. “Is that why I’ve never met them, Zachary? Are they werewolves too?”
I took a deep breath. This was the part of the conversation I really hadn’t been looking forward to. “Actually, I’m a bit of a loner at this point. My parents were killed in a hunting accident just before I graduated high school. So I’ve sort of been living with my aunt Sally and uncle Jerry and their son, Brian. But I was away at college much of the time, and after we graduated I got that job and we moved in together, so I’m really not that close to them, either.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.” She was silent for a moment. I didn’t feel the need to explain that my parents had been the prey, not the hunters, in the “accident.” It was something that came with the territory, so to speak—you learned to live with it, even if it wasn’t fair.
“I guess you really are a lone wolf, huh?” she asked, trying to tease a smile out of me.
I cracked a grin. “You could say that.”
“So, your aunt and uncle and cousin. Are they…?”
“Werewolves? Aunt Sally is. You don’t mess with Aunt Sally, ever. Even when it’s not a full moon. She’s the sweetest woman in the world, but if you taste her mincemeat pies before she says it’s time…” My voice trailed off and I shuddered. Tess giggled. “Oh, and Brian’s one too. We used to hunt together on the weekends, sometimes.”
Tess nodded, considering. “So, it is a family thing…meaning our kids will be werewolves?”
“Maybe. It doesn’t affect everyone. The werewolf gene is finicky.”
“And girls can be werewolves too? Since your aunt Sally is one.”
“That’s right. The curse does not discriminate based on gender.”
“Okay. I think I can live with that.” She smiled at me, and I could feel my heart swell with love. I was so lucky to have found her. Then she added, “As long as you don’t shed on the couch.”
I sighed. “Yes, dear.”
We traveled along in companionable silence for a little while. Gradually, I felt she must be comfortable enough with the new reality of our relationship that I wanted to clarify one itty-bitty, teensy-tiny detail.
“So, you realize this means we can’t actually get married under a full moon, right?”
My question hit her like a tidal wave. She sat up straight, and her eyes flew open as wide as Frisbees. “Oh my, that really would be a problem for you, wouldn’t it?” she gasped as the truth of my words sunk in.
“But that’s okay, because you love me, right?” I turned to face her briefly. Instead of smiling reassurance I was hoping for, she was biting her lower lip, staring at me, looking very worried.
“Tess?” I asked, my voice nervous as I forced my eyes on the road. “Please tell me you still love me.”
She answered slowly. “I do love you, but getting married under a full moon is really important for me.” She chewed on her lip some more.
“Why is that?” I was starting to have a bad feeling about where this conversation was going.
“Because…well…I’m a moon fairy.”
This time, I was the one getting hit with the tidal wave. Fortunately, the car was on cruise control, and my hands stayed steady on the wheel. “I beg your pardon?”
“I. Am. A. Moon. Fairy,” she repeated, emphasizing each word.
I stared out at the road ahead. A moon fairy? With wings and pixie dust and whatnot? And here I had been feeling bad for not being completely honest about myself.
The silence in the car stretched on and on.
“Zac?” Tess inquired timidly.
I sighed inwardly. Fairy or not, I loved her anyway. But I was not about to let her get away with this that easily. I shot a glance sideways. “And you were mad at me for keeping secrets?” I pointed out with a stern look.
Her lower lip trembled as she started to pout. “I’m really sorry, Zac. Will you please forgive me?” she pleaded.
I turned my attention back to where we were going, because I knew if I looked at that puppy-dog face any longer, I’d cave.
“Well,” I answered with a dramatic sigh, “I suppose I will.” Then I winked at her.
She frowned and punched my shoulder. “Mean werewolf.”
“Sneaky fairy!” I countered. She grinned at me.
This was definitely going to add a whole new level to our relationship.
It came as no surprise, then, that her parents took the news of my true identity fairly well. Her father, sheriff of the small town in which they lived, merely snorted and shrugged. “At least you’re not some sparkly vampire.” Then he ambled into the kitchen in search of a refreshing beverage.
Her mother, sitting on the couch with her knitting needles flashing in her lap, had a similar response. “As long as he’s housebroken, dear, I really don’t see a problem.” She beamed up at me and proceeded to inquire as to which doggy treats I preferred.
The real problem came when we sat down for lunch and the discussion turned toward the wedding plans. “I don’t know what do if we can’t get married under a full moon.” Tess looked over at me with disappointment written on her face.
“Well, if we did get married under a full moon, I wouldn’t need to get a tux,” I pointed out as I wolfed down my food.
“Zachary Russell, that’s not funny!” My fiancée glared at me from across the table.
I shrugged. “Honey, I know you love the moon and the stars, but why is it so important to you that we get married under them?”
Tess glanced at her parents and bit her lower lip again. “Well, you see, it’s sort of a family tradition.”
Her mother nodded, dabbing her mouth with a napkin. “Moon fairies always celebrate important life events with a full moon. Birth of a baby, passing away of an elder, a new marriage.” She smiled at me and patted my hand. “Without the presence of the full moon, the next stage of life will not be properly blessed and could bring disastrous consequences.”
“Really bad luck, my son. Really bad luck.” Her father cleared his throat and headed back to the kitchen for seconds.
“Oh.” That definitely was a problem.
“However,” her mother continued, “since our clan’s bloodline is no longer strictly pure, we have found over the years that it does not have to be an actual full moon, as long as a representation of a full moon presides over the ceremony.”
I looked back at Tess. What the heck could we use as a symbol of the full moon for a wedding?
“Perhaps we could hang strings of lights everywhere, and pretend they’re stars,” her father suggested, wandering back to the table.
“It needs to be a moon, sweetheart. Not just stars,” her mother explained.
“We could cover the ceiling with those glow-in-the-dark things,” I suggested.
Tess’s shoulders slumped. “Too cheesy. And it’s not the same,” she said. “There needs to actually be light shining down from the moon onto the ceremony. Right, Mama?”
“That’s right, dear. It doesn’t have to be the moon itself, as long as there is the semblance of light coming from the moon to bless the participants of the ceremony.”
I scratched my head, just behind my left ear where it felt really good. Where in the world are we going to find moonlight without a moon?
Suddenly Tess perked up and her eyes sparkled. “Wait a minute! I’ve got an idea!” She jumped up and raced from the table.
Her parents exchanged looks. “There she goes again. It’s impossible to stop her once she gets an idea into her head. You’ll be lucky if you can get her to sit through an entire meal.”
I nodded, knowing full well what they meant. “Trust me, I’ve been working on it.” I polished off the remains of my lunch and resisted the urge to lick the plate clean. “Shall we go see what she’s up to?”
A few minutes later Tess had the four of us in the car, driving out toward the edge of town. “There’s a new church that was just built out here,” she told us, pointing it out as we got close.
“That’s right. I remember reading about it in the paper,” her mother answered, her father turning the car into the parking lot.
Tess practically dragged us down the long hallway toward the sanctuary. “I caught a glimpse of the stained glass windows as we drove into town today. See?!” She pointed excitedly.
I stopped and stared. Her mother gave a small gasp. “Oh, Tess, it’s beautiful!” Her father gave a small nod of approval.
There, set into the top of the wall above the altar, was a panel of stained glass featuring the various celestial bodies of the heavens—complete with a representation of all the phases of the moon.
Tess clapped her hands. “Isn’t it lovely? And if we plan the ceremony for the right time of day, we can have sunlight streaming through the stained glass. It will be like having light from the moons!”
“An excellent idea, dear!” Her mother gave her a hug.
Her father grunted. “What about the reception?” he asked, looking around with a frown. “This place seems kind of small.”
Tess looked over at me. I shrugged. “Maybe the observatory can do special events?”
My fiancée beamed as she gave me a kiss and wrapped her arms around her neck. Her father considered my suggestion. “I suppose that would work…”
“Perhaps we could talk about it over dessert?” her mother remarked, herding us gently back toward the car.
Tess held my hand as we walked back down the aisle. “I’m so glad we got all that figured out. Now, about the honeymoon…”