The Breath of Life

I'm taking a break from vampires. Here's a little story about werewolves . . . Not done with it yet . . . . Hope you enjoy, and comments are more than welcome!

"Little Asia," the sign read in bright colors. "For all of your Eastern needs!" I stood on the sidewalk with my hands in my pockets, looking at the small wooden easel and Loraine at the same time.

"Raine," I whispered excitedly. "This store was made for you. We gotta go in."
She eyed the red double-doors longingly with her emerald eyes. Turned towards it... Feigned indifference.

Damn, I thought. I was sure we were over all the pretending.

I sighed. She thought that had meant I wasn't looking anymore. Her head turned slowly but deliberately in the direction of the shop, black curls bouncing ever so slightly. My mouth slid into an easy smile. It was so like her to hide until she thought no one was looking. She always had.

A memory from years before popped into my mind's eye. She had waited a full day to tell me her Dad died so no one would see her cry. When she did, she immediately broke down, because she knew she could. I held her until the tears wouldn't come anymore.

The smile slipped off of my face. It would be four years since the day army officers came back with Mr. Faye's dogtags the next week. I grabbed Raine's hand.

"C'mon, let's go."

She opened her mouth to protest, but I dragged her in anyway. The bright veil shielding the little store from the rest of the world opened with the sound of bells coming from overhead. I froze. Silver sleigh bells hung from the top of the metal doorway. You idiot, I scolded myself internally. Stop overreacting!

"Harley, what's the matter?" I spun around. It was only Loraine.

Duh, idiot!

"Nothing. Look, the kimono are on sale. Haven't you always wanted one of those things?"

Raine's attention completely snapped from me to the rack where the silk robes hung. She started towards them at an insane pace, then stopped and looked back at me. Half of me was watching her, while the dominant half was trying to figure out why the aura around this place was so ominous. Like it was getting ready to die. Don't be stupid, stupid. Shops aren't alive. They're inanimate objects.

I swallowed and, against my better judgment, ignored the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. Turned back to my best friend. She had apparently gotten tired of waiting for me and was thumbing through the rack of Chinese dresses. The kind with the slits up both sides. I casually sauntered over.

"Rainey, I thought you were looking at kimono," I muttered in her ear.

She shivered and leaned away. It was my favorite trick to play on her. I called it "Operation: Sneak Up on Raine and Scare the Crap Out of Her." It was kind of a long name, but no one payed me for creativity, so I never bothered to change it.

"I would really appreciate it if you would quit pulling Operation: SURSCOH on me. It's getting a little annoying," She mumbled. No . . . hissed.

I couldn't believe she remembered the codename I'd given one of my many tricks years before.

"You know you love it," I chuckled, feigning indifference. "Anyways, what about the kimono?"

Raine sighed and continued thumbing through the dresses. "They're way more than I can afford, even on sale."

I frowned. "You know I'll pay for it if you really want one."

She looked at me like she'd been slapped. "No! You will not pay for me. Even if they are beautiful," she fumed with a pained glance back at a black kimono embroidered with delicate teal butterflies.

For her birthday, I resolved. I'll buy it for her birthday.

Another heartbroken sigh filled my ears. She'd gone back to flipping through silks. Suddenly she stopped dead. Pulled one off the rack. It was essentially the same as the kimono, black with teal butterflies, but the beautiful insects were a million times more intricate. I could see every line in their wings.

"Try it on," I breathed.

I could already see her in it. A black fan fluttering softly just below her mesmerizing eyes, shrouded by dark eye makeup, shocking against pale skin. Painted red lips calmly smiling at me. Black tresses twisted into tight buns on both sides of her head. The dark, fitted Qipao accentuating every curve, every angle of her slender body. Her toned legs peeking out of the long slits, enveloped in only thin, sheer nylon. I nearly started drooling.

"Harley...? What're you doing...?"

I shook my head to snap out of it. "Try it on," I said more firmly.

She simply nodded her head. "Wait here."

I followed her anyway. She turned into the small dressing room and I sat down on the finished wooden bench in front of the three-way mirror. I hoped to dear Satan that she would come out in it.

Sure enough, five minutes later, Raine came out to examine herself in the larger mirror. I sucked in air through my teeth. She looked even better with her hair down. Exotic and gorgeous. She still didn't notice I was there, so I stood up and let her see my face above hers in the glass. Her eyes widened, then she composed herself.

"Hey, do you have a ponytail holder I can borrow?"

All I could do was nod my head and slowly tug the one I had out of my hair. Straw-colored strands fell all over my face, which I hated, but it was for a good cause. I used the excuse to hang my arms around her shoulders. She gently snatched up the elastic and pulled her curly locks back into her standard ponytail. I smiled and shook my head. Reached into my pocket for the bobbypins I learned to keep on hand. Pulled the elastic back out of her hair.

I separated it into two sections and twisted them each into buns on the sides of her head, just like I had envisioned her. She was everything I had seen, minus the makeup and the nylons. But I liked her better that way. Dark lashes were enough to frame her eyes well. Her legs were tan and smooth, with no need for veiling. When the back of her hair was finished I turned her around and straightened out her bangs. Pulled all of the naturally straight hair from one side and brought it down over the other. It hung down about a half-inch below her buns.

"You look beautiful," I whispered into her ear.

Raine blushed deep crimson for a moment and said, "Harley Storm, you are the weirdest boy I've ever met."

I pretended I was offended for a moment and let her rush from the dressing room to ask the little Asian lady at the counter if her Qipao fit right, even though we both knew it did.

I'm buying it, no matter what, no matter how much it costs, even if it burns up all of my money, I'm buying this Qipao, I blissfully thought as I hurried from Harley.

"Excuse me, does this fit right?" I asked the Chinese saleslady.

I'll buy it even if it doesn't fit.

"Yes," she smiled. "It fit perfect. I wrap up now?"

I breathed a sigh of relief. At least I wouldn't be wasting my money.

"No," I politely declined. "I'll go show it to my friend over there again to make sure he likes it, too."

The lady kept smiling and nodded once. I walked back to my best friend slowly, trying to make sure I'd heard him right. You look beautiful, he had whispered, right? Not something insulting?

Apparently, I had been going way too slow, because Harley met me in the middle. I looked up into his appallingly beautiful eyes, a subtle mixture of gray and midnight blue. His shoulder length straw-colored hair was still down, just like I liked it. It made him look mysterious and handsome. Not that he didn't look handsome all of the time.

"It fits," I murmured.

He smiled slowly, keeping his eyes on mine. His face seemed to be getting closer to mine at every moment. I thought I was hallucinating until his eyes closed and I realized what he was doing. If I let him, the lips I had coveted for so long would be mine. But was he kissing me or my dress?

I turned my face away and bolted long before I made the decision, His hormones are telling him to kiss me because of the dress... It's not me.

She ran away just as our lips were about to meet. Just as I was about to do what I'd been thinking about since that day four years ago when I held her close to stop the tears. I didn't even need the kiss. I just needed her to know what I'd been keeping secret since we first met at age six. I never ever wanted to be without her.

I heaved a sigh and pulled all of my stupid hair back in the ponytail. It wasn't fair that I couldn't cut it. You'd think being immortal would be a whole lot easier, you know, without all of the rules and laws and restrictions.

I couldn't tell Raine I was a werewolf. I couldn't cut my hair before I found my permanent wolf (which I hadn't done yet because of the whole 'Can't tell Raine anyways' thing). And even if I somehow formed an intimate relationship with Raine without her finding out I'm not human, we wouldn't be able to do anything because immortals aren't allowed to be married to mortals. It sucks.

I looked up and the saleslady was standing right there. Her old almond eyes glistened at me.

"I see you and pretty girl before. You like her, yes?"

I nodded, bewildered.

"Carve names into this and light. Pray. Love come quick, yes?"

There was a rather large red candle in her hand. I smiled wildly, nodded, and took it from her. She smiled back and shuffled back to her counter.

I hid behind a shelf of incense holders and lengthened my fingernails so they resembled claws. Hurriedly, I carved the words 'Loraine' and 'Harley' into the wax. Then I wondered if I should do anything else to it.

Couldn't hurt...

Below our names I added a little heart. After retracting my 'claws' I pulled the imitation silver lighter I always kept on me out of my pocket. Ironically, fire doesn't do anything to werewolves. I could stick my whole hand in a campfire and pull it out unscathed. If the lighter was real silver, well, then we would have a problem. If I so much as touch a piece of genuine silver, my flesh will dissolve and my almighty healing powers wouldn't kick in until it was too late.

At first the wick wouldn't light, no matter how many times I held the flame to it. Then it sputtered to life with such intensity I almost dropped the damn thing.

I put it down on the emptiest shelf and, quite awkwardly, knelt before it.

Please, I started. God of crazy Chinese candles, help Raine see that I am deeply, insanely, irrevocably in love with her. I've been a good boy, I swear. Just ask Luna! In fact, I'm the only one of her children left. How's that for fair compensation?

I figured bargaining with the Gods wasn't going to help my case any, what with their whole superiority complex, so I got up and stopped making myself look silly.

Do I blow it out now? Do I leave it burning?

Well, it couldn't hurt to let it burn, the candle was so huge that the melted wax would eventually smother the flames. I sighed again.

Better go find Raine...

No one noticed that the flame was only getting bigger, not dying out. It slowly ate away at the top of the wood shelf, setting off no smoke detectors. Because there were none. No one would notice until it was too late. The display case of incense holders would serve as kindling. The kimono, too. In the end, the whole shop would turn against them while they tried to survive.

"Come on, Raine, don't ignore me," I pleaded. "I'm sorry, I just... "

Love you.

"... Couldn't help myself."

She was forcefully sliding the hangers back and forth on the rack of shawls. Several had already fallen onto the floor and were crumpled to a state of disarray. No matter how many times I pleaded with her, she wouldn't even look at me. Then, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.

"Raine," I said in a gentle tone while reaching for her waist. "I said... I'm... sorry!"

I tickled her sides with all of the force I could muster. She collapsed into a fit of giggles, trying to swat at my hands to make me stop. While she was still laughing hysterically and gasping for breath I pulled her into me and held her close.

My head automatically rested on her shoulder and I muttered, "So, do you forgive me?"

"Do you promise not to tickle me again?"


"Then yes, I forgive you."

I laughed into her neck and she giggled again. I sighed, never letting go of her waist. I smiled inwardly and wrapped my arms tighter around her. Happy times like this didn't come often.