NaNoWriMo 2013: Mila’s Shift – Chapter 1
Author’s Notes: I thought I might post the book here. Mila’s Shift is my NaNoWriMo project this year (my first year doing NaNo!). It’s also available on Wattpad, if you prefer a format more akin to reading on an ebook. Mila’s Shift. As of today, I have 14 chapters up on Wattpad. I’ll probably be posting chapters there much faster than on my blog. I might try to catch up here. I haven’t decided yet. Enjoy!
Mila took deep breaths in an attempt to calm her pounding heart. She’d picked a table that backed up against a wall so no one could sneak up behind her. She’d picked a table in the outdoor area of the cafe on the far edge nearest the alley so she could make a quick getaway if need be.
Still, she felt exposed. Every set of eyes that lifted up higher than one’s tea cup or plate seemed to bore into her, questioning her, doubting her. Every bluetooth headset made her wonder who was on the other end of the line, and if that someone would shoot on sight.
So when her friend, May Trace, approached the cafe even more nervous than Mila, she raised an eyebrow.
Mila had been on the run most of her adult life. She had good reason to be cautious. What did her law abiding, goodie-two-shoes best friend have to be concerned about?
Mila put on an awkward smile and called out, “Hey, May!” just like always.
May’s head jerked up after having scanned the tables and the street, not only looking for her friend, but maybe also for a tail.
Mila patted the table. “Come on, May. Sit.” Though, honestly, her friend needed a bit more than a coffee and conversation right about now. Tequila shots might be in order.
Mila laughed. “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have had that second sandwich.”
“Or maybe the half a chocolate cake you had for dessert,” May said with a shy smile. It had taken a while, but May had started to relax as they ate and talked.
It had been years since the best friends had been together. Mila had always maintained ways for the people she really cared about to keep in contact with her, but never directly. She hadn’t heard from anyone from her childhood in so long, it felt uplifting to feel like a normal person for an hour. Okay, maybe two.
“Yeah, but you can’t count cake. Chocolate is a necessity, like air.”
May shook her head. “I don’t understand how you can eat so much and not gain weight. You were like that in high school, but you haven’t changed a bit, have you?”
“No, still got the metabolism from hell.” Of course, May didn’t know that Mila’s freakish metabolism had to do with the excess energy required to shift shape, or her ability to shift fat into muscle. That was something she couldn’t tell her friend, not ever. She trusted May, but May was an honest person, and she wouldn’t want to put that type of burden on her.
May shook her head again. “I would kill to be able to eat that much. If I ate even a fraction of that, I’d be five hundred pounds!”
Mila stretched. “Ah, the blessings of being me.”
They paid the checks, and Mila offered to walk May to her car. They left the cafe, went down a small side road. May’s car was at the end of it, she guessed. Only car in sight.
“So, why did you really call me, May?”
May jumped and turned sheepishly to Mila. “What do you mean?”
“You haven’t called me in ten years, May. Suddenly you call me and you’re skittish as a mouse? Something’s wrong.”
May wrung her hands, fidgeting from foot to foot, but she didn’t speak up. Mila gave her space, waiting her out. The words would come eventually.
Crashing of metal on metal, cheers, and lewd comments erupted from behind her. She turned as May’s eyes grew wide. The raucous youths careened closer, pointing to the two women. Then the cat calls started.
“Back slowly to the car, May.” Mila’s every nerve was on edge. She could sense trouble like a sixth sense. And these guys were bad news, big time. She started backing up, not watching where she was going, simply putting distance between her and the hooligans.
“Hey, don’t leave!” one of them called.
“Yeah, we just want to play!”
Cheers and crude gestures followed. Mila knew they were in trouble.
“Run,” she whispered, and turned to dash for the car. She shoved May before her, and fled to the pounding beat of the men following behind.
Her heart pounded anew, this time from exertion and fear rather than anxiety. As she ran, she focused on what she would need to survive this if it got messy. Strength. She’d need strength. She shifted every tissue type she could to skeletal muscle. Years on the run, years spent hiding in old warehouses with nothing to do because she feared being seen, feared someone asking for ID, left her an expert at shifting.
As her arms pumped at her sides, she haphazardly noted the increase in size and definition. It probably wouldn’t be enough. She just didn’t have enough mass to get massive. But she had skill on her side. Another advantage to spending all her waking hours in a hole. She could spend all her time practicing the martial arts she learned as a child and teenager.
Someone grabbed her arm and yanked it painfully to the side. She yelped in pain and turned with the motion, using the guy’s own grab against him and twisting him into an arm lock. She jerked her head back and forth, looking for other attackers, as the guy in her hands yelled and flailed. She slammed him hard on the back of his head, and he crashed into the pavement.
Mila spun, looking for May, and screamed. “No!” She ran as the knife pulled from May’s body, and the red blood poured out. She ran as her best friend’s body seemed to fall in slow motion to the ground. Her movements felt like she had to swim through cement. She barely registered the attackers taking off before the body had even fallen.
Mila skidded on her knees to her friend, grabbing her and pressing down on the wound that rhythmically pumped that life-giving liquid. Pump, pump, pump. That can’t be good. “You’ll be okay, May. You’re going to be okay.”
She felt wetness on her cheeks before she realized she’d been crying. She tried to wipe the tears away, but her hands were covered in blood, so she only managed to smear blood all over her face.
The pace of that pumping slowed, slowed, and finally seemed to stop. She kept waiting for it to pump again, for more blood to gush out, but nothing. “No. No. She can’t be.” She covered her face with her blood-soaked hands, shaking her head and denying the truth before her. “No, no, no.”
After a time, she stopped crying. She just felt numb, numbly rocking her friend. Soon, the numbness evaporated too, and her head started to clear. As her head cleared, her predicament became more and more clear. She couldn’t call the cops. She was a shifter. She would either be arrested or shot on sight, depending on the officer. There was no ambiguity when it came to the law regarding shifters. The government didn’t know what to do with them, so a law had been passed years ago making it basically illegal to be a shifter, not like they had a choice in being one.
Mila was never going to one of those camps. She would rather live her entire life in abandoned buildings.
She couldn’t call the cops. She couldn’t report May’s murder. Besides, Mila felt fairly confident May wouldn’t have wanted Mila to be taken. Not for her. She took a deep breath and hated herself just a little in that moment. She grabbed May’s keys and popped the trunk. Mila would just have to do the best she could for her friend.
It took hours to get what she needed, find the right spot, and lay her friend to rest. She thought of leaving her friend’s body somewhere it could be found, but it just felt wrong to abandon her that way. In the end, she cried the entire time she dug the hole. It had long since been dark by the time she patted the last of the dirt in place. The same words kept passing through her head like a marquee. I’m sorry.
Mila left the woods, opened the car, sat in the driver’s seat, and stared at the bag next to her. When she’d been deciding what to bury May with, she’d gone through the bag. May had a verified ID.
Her conscience warred with her logic. Her conscience told her it was wrong. Her logic told her May wouldn’t need it anymore. What was the harm? Her conscience just kept telling her it was wrong, but her brain, her logic, kept coming up with new reasons to do it. She wouldn’t have to run and hide anymore. She could have a normal life. May was a pilot just like she’d trained to be. Nobody would ever have to know. She could have a life.
She pulled the ID from the bag and stared at it. She stared until it almost mesmerized her, until her vision blurred, refocused and blurred once more. She knew she was going to do it. The ship left in less than twenty-four hours.
No one would ever have to know.
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