by John Wyatt
Danny gazed across the dinner table at his date – a luxurious girl of medium height, with dark brown shoulder length hair and haunting eyes. Normally, Danny would not have accepted a blind date, but he was new to San Diego and had decided to take a chance. Frank, his co-worker, had arranged the date with Amanda, who was Frank’s girlfriend’s college roommate. Now here he was, on his first blind date, sitting across from the most striking female he had ever seen! They sat in the back of a steak house in a high-walled booth that effectively shut out the rest of clientele. It was like being in a world of their own. Danny talked while Amanda devoured her rare steak.
“Yes, I just moved here three weeks ago. My job moved me out here.” Well, that was almost true. His job in Arizona had moved him out – by laying him off. That made him decide to move to California. Besides, he had liked San Diego when he was in the Navy.
“What do you do for a living?” Amanda asked between bites. Her voice was throaty – sexy, with a hint of European accent. Danny hoped that he was making a good impression.
“Well, it’s mostly classified stuff. I shouldn’t talk about it. The police often call and ask me to find people for them.” Technically that was true. He worked as a receptionist at the county jail, and that included answering the telephone and running the switchboard. It wasn’t high paying work, but it was all he could get on short notice.
“However,” Danny continued, “I’m mainly a computer programmer. I wrote some computer systems for the Navy, and with all the high tech companies out here I won’t have any trouble getting a job.” Unless, he thought to himself, they check his service record. That bad conduct discharge probably wouldn’t matter, unless he had to get a security clearance. Besides, it had been a bum rap. Sure, he had not been assigned to writing programs, and technically he had just been a seaman apprentice in deck division, but he was trying to get into programming! Just because his attempt to program the ship’s computer had resulted in a system crash, and just because they couldn’t store their backup disks any better than they did, and just because it had been a classified space (like he couldn’t be trusted!)…well, it was all water under the bridge now. Had they just left him alone everything would have turned out fine and they would have seen what a wonderful programmer he was! Instead they tried to call it sabotage! The Navy sure stinks!
“Danny?” Amanda’s sultry voice broke his reverie.
“Danny, I know we’ve just met, but I feel like I really know you. Frank talks about you a lot and, well, regardless of what he said, I think you’re a very nice boy!”
Danny was suddenly angry! He was 23 now and no longer a “boy!” But Amanda’s innocent puppy dog brown eyes gazing at him melted his anger.
“I’m sorry,” she commented, sensing his anger. “I’m not normally that forward on a first date. You don’t think I’m too forward, do you? My family is very traditional – from the old country – and, well, they want to arrange my social life, instead of letting me have my own. Oh, now I’m blathering on!”
“That’s ok,” Danny replied. “So, your family is Italian then?”
Amanda looked amused. “No, we’re from Austria. We moved to America when I was three. In many ways they tried to raise me American, but when it comes to dating they are very strict. I wasn’t even allowed to date in high school. That’s why I came to California for college. This is the first time I’ve been able to date on my own!”
“Where did you live before coming to California?”
“Albany, New York.”
“Lots of really good colleges on the east coast. I was going to go to Princeton, but I turned them down and moved out here instead.” Danny was stretching it now – he hadn’t actually sent the application before deciding that he didn’t want to go to Princeton. Ever since he found out that they would look at his high school grades he realized that colleges just weren’t fair! That’s why he joined the Navy instead.
Amanda wolfed down the rest of her steak while Danny expounded on the high quality of California schools. Stanford, UCLA, UCSD – there was a plethora of fine universities to choose from. Amanda listened patiently while Danny talked about his experiences in Navy boot camp, here in San Diego, which made him practically a native even though he grew up in Arizona. She smiled to herself, knowing that the Naval Training Center had been closed for many years. She wondered if Danny had told her the truth about anything. Not that it mattered; she wasn't exactly being truthful either. Yes, she thought to herself, Danny was a fine young boy – he would do nicely!
“WOW! She was fantastic!” Danny regaled Frank with the details of his date with Amanda. “I didn’t realize she was so beautiful! And her eyes! Wow! And she didn’t talk much either – I mean, she let me do most of the talking. Why did you pass her up for her roommate?”
Frank smiled wanly at Danny. “Amanda isn’t my type. Personally, I wasn’t sure if you’d go for her either, but you liked Carmen so much that I figured that Amanda would be up your alley.” Carmen worked in the jail’s jury lounge. She was dark, sultry, and not very interested in Danny, who had been trying to get a date with her from his first day on the job. Frank sighed silently, wondering if he done the right thing in setting Danny up with someone like Amanda. “Danny, go slow with her. Amanda…has some…secrets…that put some people off.”
“Well, she didn’t keep any secrets from me last night! Not that I’d normally talk about every girl I go to bed with, but Amanda is one hot number!”
Frank smiled. He knew that Danny was lying. Amanda wasn’t the sort of girl to go to bed with someone like Danny on the first date. She was possessive about her…secrets. But Danny would have to find out on his own. Of course, by then it might be too late! Frank watched as a pair of sheriff's deputies checked in.
“Hey, Frank,” Danny queried, “when do you think I’ll be able to wear a gun?”
Frank wrinkled his nose. “No one carries a gun in a jail. It’s a security risk. All officers have to check their guns in over there.” Frank pointed at the security cage where the two deputies were checking in their hardware. “Besides, unless you’re a peace officer you won’t be issued a gun anyway.”
“But, my last job had me carry a gun!” Danny protested. Technically it was even true! In boot camp he had to qualify with a pistol, which he had carried from the armory to the firing line. No one could ever accuse Danny of telling an outright lie! He had always wanted a job that let him carry a gun – it was easier to get girls that way than by telling them he was a computer programmer.
“Why do you want to carry a gun anyway? I’d rather have a nice safe job where I didn’t need one. Or are you just trying to impress the girls?” Frank could tell by Danny’s frown that he had called that one correctly! He was beginning to wonder if Danny was reliable or just a bullshitter. Frank really didn’t like Danny, though perhaps he had gone too far by sending him to Amanda.
Danny sat in the coffee shop, taking a longer break than usual. No matter how hard he tried, he just didn’t understand people. He knew now that his childhood had been different than most. His parents had kept secrets – some of them dark and shameful. Danny grew up with secrets. If anyone knew the things his father had done to him, and how young he had been at the time…well, if anyone knew, they would understand why he had to keep his past a secret. Danny had become so used to the lies that he didn’t really understand just what the difference was between the truth and a lie. As best as he could figure, you always got what you wanted when you told the truth. At least that's what people always said - that honesty was the best policy. So saying what was best was being honest. Yet, even when he said things that got him what he wanted, some people still treated him as if he were lying!
Danny had left home to get away from his family and all the inbreeding. It wasn’t that he had a bad family; he still loved them in his own way. His sister was a spoiled bitch, but then what girl wasn’t? He feared that Amanda might be a spoiled bitch. Girls were like that, but most guys didn’t see it that way. He recalled how Frank had stared at him when he said that all girls were spoiled by their mothers until they weren’t good for anything.
The waitress asked if he wanted anything else – he said that he didn’t. She was cute, for an older lady who obviously couldn’t find better work. Could Amanda really be different than the others? She was certainly different from the girls his father had tried setting him up with. Maybe she would be the one that accepted him, temper and all.
Danny had been able to control his temper for years, since before joining the Navy. Sure, sometimes he got mad, when somebody did something to provoke him. But it had been years since he had lost control of himself. He didn’t think of himself as a bad person – just misunderstood. But Amanda could change all that, if she accepted him.
Amanda sat in the darkness of her small bedroom. Her secret was still intact. Her parents had never understood her need; they had tried to channel her need into outlets that they considered more – socially acceptable. Albany was a small town in many ways, and her kind just couldn’t hide there. That was her real reason for moving to San Diego. Here, she found others like herself. People who could indulge their – needs – without fear of standing out in the crowd.
Danny was nice, but not that nice. She didn’t mind the way he talked about himself; she didn’t really like talking about herself with people she didn’t fully trust. She also didn’t mind his tall tales. But she knew that her needs were quite different from Danny's. Her hunger was different. He clearly didn’t share her…needs. Still, his family was in another state, he had no other friends, and that had made him vulnerable. Perhaps, if he was open minded enough…but part of her knew that their relationship could only end one way. She gazed out the window at the waxing half moon, wondering whether Danny could ever understand her true nature.
One week later, Danny was still waiting for Amanda to return his calls, so he decided to call on her in person. Amanda shared an apartment with Sarah and another girl, rather than living on campus. Danny wondered what it was like, living with two other sexy girls! Danny knocked at Amanda’s apartment door. Sarah answered, scowling when she saw Danny.
“Frank says you got fired yesterday.” Her voice was cold and dark.
“I quit, I didn’t get fired. They kept telling me to do the wrong thing, so I quit!” Danny knew that the right thing to do was to let him work on the jail’s computers. His boss didn’t see it that way, and in the ensuing argument Danny had told his boss just what he thought of him. Sure, his boss said he was fired, but he had already decided to quit. Being fired just made it easier.
“Is Amanda in? I’d like to talk to her.”
“I don’t think Amanda is your type. She’s…special. You should probably just break it off.” Sarah’s cold stare didn’t bother Danny. He was used to people treating him this way.
“I wanted to tell her that I might have to go away for a while. The police have a special assignment for me; I wanted to talk to her before I left.” Danny went out on a limb with that one, but if it got him what he wanted, then it wouldn’t technically be a lie. He knew he was taking a risk, letting his concept of truth be determined by another.
“Is that Danny?” Amanda’s voice carried a wavering tone, alerting Danny that something was wrong.
Danny shouted through the door. “Amanda, are you okay? I need to talk to you!”
Sarah covered her ears. “Don’t shout! Take it downstairs! If she wants to talk to you, she’ll come out. Just wait downstairs! Please!”
Danny hesitated, then nodded. He turned and plodded down the long stairs to the apartment parking lot and sat on the low stone wall. Soon, Amanda came running downstairs. She had obviously been crying.
“Amanda, what’s wrong? Has someone been bothering you, ‘cause if they have I’ll kick their ass!”
Amanda sat a few feet away, refusing to meet Danny’s gaze. Although it had only been one date, Danny was so obviously interested in her that she had to either come clean or be done with him. She wasn’t convinced that he deserved to be left alone with her, to discover what she really was, without any preparation, without knowing if he wished to share her world.
“Amanda, please! I really liked going out with you. Look, Frank told me about your secrets. It’s ok, I’m fine with that.” Danny didn’t know what her secrets were yet; he didn’t know what other men had done to her. But Danny wasn’t like other men. He knew that he would treat her better. He knew that with the certainly of all men who fail to see themselves as they really are. Amanda simply had to accept him!
Even greater than Danny’s desire for Amanda was his fear of rejection. His childhood had made him painfully aware of rejection. How could anyone know what it was like growing up in one world, only to learn later that his world was considered abnormal? His father he could understand, he had urges that were beyond his control; but his mother’s reasons were quite beyond his grasp. She had chosen to be with his father, knowing what he was like.
“Danny? Are you listening to me?” Danny snapped back into the present and saw Amanda sitting next to him. He slipped an arm around her and pulled her close.
“I’m listening.” Which meant that he was listening now. “It’s fine, really. It might surprise to you know that I have secrets too – things that, that my father did. I don’t blame him, really. It’s not like he really hurt me or anything. I mean, I’m ok with it now. Still, you can understand that it isn’t anything to talk about, except with trusted friends. You seemed so – understanding.”
“You…you don’t mind? It’s really ok?”
“Of course! I want to be with you too!”
Now Amanda was crying softly out of gladness! Originally, she had hoped for no more than a one-night stand, with the inevitable results. But Danny had instantly struck her as being vulnerable to the point of animal attraction. Perhaps it was her matronly instinct that drew her to him; but whatever the reason, the attraction was irresistible.
They sat in quiet embrace, kissing softly. Amanda knew that no matter how understanding Danny might be, it would hurt at first. There wasn’t anything she could do about that, except to be as gentle as possible. She lay in Danny's arms, feeling more fragile than ever, while quietly telling herself that Danny was finally ready to accept her.
Danny turned on the light as they entered his apartment. This was only their second date, but they had crossed a barrier and were both ready to go farther.
“Do you like jazz?” Amanda timidly asked. Entering a stranger’s domain was always difficult, even though she had done it many times. Danny put on a CD from a local jazz band, then gently took her hand and led her to the sofa. They sat and chatted idly for a while, pausing occasionally for a light, tentative kiss. Amanda sensed that Danny was nervous; obviously, he had never been exposed to someone like her.
Danny rose, walked to the window, and opened the curtains. Amanda could see the full moon outside. She sensed that something irrevocable was about to happen. While Danny was still facing the window, lost in thought, Amanda slipped out of her dress.
“Amanda, there’s something you need to know about me.” Danny turned, and saw Amanda in her true form for the first time. Where there once sat a sultry, inviting woman, there now sat a half-naked person, clad only in an empty bra, nylons, and garters. Where her panties once hid her most tender of secrets, he saw a male organ!
“Danny, you don’t know how wonderful it makes me feel to know that it’s alright! I have been so worried that you wouldn’t understand. The girls I live with understand, and so does Frank. He didn’t know if you were my type or not, and I was so afraid that you’d throw me out when you found out! My…my parents never understood. That’s why I moved out here! There’s a whole gay community here that has been very supportive! Please understand – I don’t want a sex change. I like being who I am. I am a gay man who prefers living life as a woman. Danny, are you alright? Is something wrong?”
Danny’s mind was fumbling to grasp the situation when the change came. As the moonlight shone through the window, Danny began to shift. His hair and nails grew before Amanda’s terrified eyes! He hunched over as his back twisted, and his teeth elongated into fangs. Normally, Danny was able to hold his temper when the change came – his father had trained him painfully from puppyhood to maintain his human faculties at these critical times. But he was so confused by Amanda’s revelation that he lost all self-control and became an animal in spirit as well as body! Fortunately for Amanda he had already eaten, so instead of attacking her he leapt out of the window and disappeared into the night!
“Dad, I know you didn’t like my going to California, but it was really a nice place! If the economy hadn’t gone sour I would have gotten my promotion. They were already talking to me about whether I should carry a gun! That’s because they knew I’d get the job done!”
Danny’s father slowly shook his head as he listened to another of his son’s tall tales. This one was almost as bad as the story about girls who turned into men! After all these years, he knew better than to give credence to anything that Danny said. That wolf had cried “boy” one too many times.