Chapter 20:

sceNe 20 - ɪNᴛerveNᴛioN aNᴅ ᴄʜoice

ᴋraCᴋeᴅ ᴍooN / Kracked Moon

The tension between me and my mother grew during the car ride. My father picked up food on the way home, so he didn’t get there until a few minutes after we arrived. Immediately they were talking like things were normal, like they would when they would pick me up from Cryztal’s house when I was a kid. The reason it felt similar is because I didn’t feel like I was part of the conversation. It was the two of them talking with me just expected to follow along.

Once we were in the house, I kept asking if we were going to talk in the living room or the dining room, but they wouldn’t answer me. My mom set the table and put out the burgers and fries my father got on the way home. She told me to sit at my seat at the table, then they sat and began eating, still having their own conversation about work. Every time I would try to get their attention, they entirely ignored me. I quickly got tired of being civil.

“Would you two please stop pretending nothing happened?” I shouted.

My father looked at me with a quizzical expression. “Do you need your food heated up? It should still be warm.”

“No, I need you to understand my life isn’t in danger!”

“We can talk about these things after we eat. Can’t have a reasonable conversation on an empty stomach.” My mom said, taking a bite of her burger.

I stood up. “You didn’t even ask if I was hungry! I’m not! I’m having a hard enough time stomaching you two treating Cryztal like she’s a monster.”

“You’re not excused from the table.” My father said, like it was a reflex.

“I’m not a child anymore! I can leave if I want to!” I said this, but their house was like an emotional vacuum. Just walking out was easier said than done.

“If you’re not going to be calm about this, then we’ll have to talk about it later.” I played right into his hand.

“You’re really going to tell me it’s okay to call anyone else a monster. After how many decades of HSC being treated like that?” I thought an appeal to history would work.

“Don’t you dare compare us to that thing!” My mother shouted.

I started to hear a loud noise coming from outside.

“We never threatened human life, Nai-bu.” My father started. “Your friend on the other hand is likely putting people in danger just by existing.” The noise was getting louder. “If you’d calm down and listen to what we lea–” The noise was droning now. “What is going on outside?”

I looked out the window and saw two cars blocking the end of our driveway. The sun was setting, so I could barely make out the faces, but it looked like two men standing by the sides of the cars, and…Cryztal! She was sitting on the hood of one of the cars, with her hands covering her ears. Both cars had their car alarms going off, and being completely different models, they were nowhere near synchronous. It was honestly horrible to listen to, even from inside the house.

As my parents approached the window to make out what was going on, I ran for the door and down the driveway. I nearly made it to Cryztal before my father grabbed my arm and stopped me halfway there. Once both my parents were out of the house, the car alarms were stopped by one of the men. He then tossed the keys to the other man, whose car Cryztal was sitting on. The other man reached into his car and used an on-board speaker to alert the neighborhood that everything was fine and to return to their homes.

“I told you this would get them to come out.” The first man said, smiling at the other man.

“Who are you people and what do you want?” My father asked, trying to hold me back. I wasn’t resisting, but he wasn’t letting up either.

“I’m here representing my client. The name’s Dale.” The first man said, with an unchanging grin. “Apparently you’ve been harassing my client and intervening with your own daughter’s social life to do so.”

Dale was not especially tall or especially short. He had bags under his eyes, like he hadn’t slept well in days, but he didn’t come off tired, maybe more intense. His hair was greased back, and he wore a button down with rolled up sleeves. His shirt wasn’t even tucked in all the way, and his shoes looked pretty beat up. He honestly looked like a used car salesman from a movie, but somehow more intentional than that. Like he wanted you to know he’s slimy.

“We alerted the police about a suspicious character, but what does that have to do with you?” My mom chimed in.

“Ah, well you see, my client is one of those internet stars.” He did a sort of jazz hands to accompany the term ‘internet stars’. “She does that streaming thing. And so people like to prank call the police to scare people like my client. I made it so that they know to call me first. And now I’m here to tell you both to kindly leave my client alone!” He spoke a lot with his hands.

My father started, “Sir, you need to understand, your client, he–”

“SHE!” Dale shouted.

My father gave a confused look at Dale.

“What? Please tell me more. It sounded like you had a really good point to make.” Dale said, straightfaced.

“Your client, he–”

“SHE!” Dale shouted again.

My father was getting flustered. “SHE is trying to hurt our daughter.”

“Cool. And how exactly?” Dale was quick.

“You see, she can transform into a monster. And likely plans to eat our daughter.” My father said this, still flustered.

“What, like the kids show they were on?” Dale’s grin returned. “You know that was a show, right? They used CGI or whatever to make it look like a kid turned into a rubber suit monster. Pretty cheesy, if you ask me.”

“No, it was real! It wasn’t a suit!” My mom insisted.

“Sure the suit was convincing, but it wasn’t real. I’ve seen the old suit myself. Whatever they make those things out of, it doesn’t hold up well with time. Smells pretty bad too.”

“Okay, look, we get that you don’t believe us. But this is an issue for us, as parents, about who our daughter interacts with.” My father regained his composure. “Unless you’re her father, we have no intention of discussing this with you.”

“Now that’s the funny thing about this. Your daughter and my client are adults! They decide who they associate with.” Dale wasn’t accepting any work around. “I don’t have to be her father to tell you this!”

“But we can’t sit by while she puts herself in danger!” My mother shouted.

“If you can’t trust your daughter to make a good choice at her age, then you already failed as parents.” Dale gave a deep exhale. “What’s the plan, miss? What do you want?”

I already knew the answer. “I want to spend time with Cryztal.” She and I made eye contact. “I don’t want to lose her again.” My father loosened his grip on me. I turned to face him. “I know you don’t like that answer. But it’s the truth.”

As my parents stood there, quietly looking at each other, then back at me, Dale made it clear he was getting impatient.

“Look, this is cute and all, but I just need you two to agree to leave my client alone. Which I’m going to say includes letting your daughter be her friend.” Dale said this in a harsh tone. “Clearly your daughter is an adult and has made her choice. Move on!”

With a sigh, my father reached for my keys, which my mom had kept on her person. My mom resisted at first, but then gave in. My father handed me my keys, nodded at me, and then walked my mom back inside. As they closed the door, I could hear the deadbolt locking. I guess this was their way of giving up. Cryztal walked up behind me and held me tight. I couldn’t imagine what she thought was going on, but I was glad she was with me.

What I thought would be a nice silent moment turned into something a bit more busy with Dale opening and closing his car door.

“Now that we’re done with that, I have one last thing to deal with.” Dale held out a pen and patted some sheets of paper on the roof of his car. “I found your dad and need you to decide what you want to do about it.

Cryztal let go of me and turned to face Dale. “So he’s alive after all? He can just fuck off for all I care.”

“Cool, I’ll take that as ‘Pending’ because that’s a stupid descision.” Dale scribbled on the papers and handed Cryztal the pen. She signed where he asked. I was surprised to see her be fine with his call. There must be more to how they are with each other.

With that, Dale and his friend were ready to go. They offered to give us a ride back to Cryztal’s place, but I planned to drive my own car there. I didn’t want to trouble them any further, and with the sun setting, I was probably going to try to spend the night at Cryztal’s place.

We sat in my car, just taking in the quiet for a moment. The sun had fully set by then, so we were sitting in the dark, with house lights and street lights dimly lighting the inside of my car. After all of that, just being with Cryztal was nice. She filled me in on what happened on her end, and I tried to tell her how talking with my parents led to all of this, but I started to feel bad about it all.

“I’m sorry my parents went crazy like this. I’m sure whatever my mom wrote scared you.”

“It did, but I’m glad it wasn’t true.” She smiled. “Actually, I wanted to ask if you wo–”

“No! Let me say it!” I blurted out.

“A-Are you sure?” She was surprised.

“Yeah!” I reached for her hand, and looked directly into her eyes. “Cryztal, will you go out with me?”

In an instant, Cryztal’s face turned red. “I-I was just going to ask if you wanted to get food or something!” She took her hand back and covered her face with her claws.

“Is that a no?” I asked, concerned.

“No! I mean yes! I mean I would love to! Yes please!” She said this muffled through her claws, and while it was really cute, I started to realize what was happening.

Her hands had turned into claws, and her arms and legs were covered in red scaly patches. From the side of her head were now two wing-like antennae or ears. And her knees were now up against the glovebox, as her tail had appeared and was now pushing her forward. She kept her face covered as she peeked through her claws to check herself.

She seemed unhappy about having transformed, so I grabbed one of her scaly hands and smiled at her again. Whatever she looked like, I was happy to be with her. And didn’t plan on letting anything get in the way of that.