Hello My Name Is...
A customer at Katie's diner is messing with words, and Katie—or whatever her name is now—has got to stop it. Mature.
Katie kept her name tag pinned above the left breast of her pink button-down blouse. It was part of the outfit she had to wear: the blouse, the matching skirt, and the apron she kept her pen and order pad stuffed into. At the start of every shift, she dug her name tag out of the bowl in the back next to the shift schedule, and pinned it to her chest. It was the one part of the dumb, outdated outfit that she had no problem with.
At least, not until today.
Two other name tags were missing from the bowl when Katie clocked in. The first belonged to Liz, who was making herself busy in the late-afternoon lull by tidying up around the register. Her shift would be over in an hour and change, and Katie knew she was just counting down the minutes, because that's what she did herself when she had the eleven o'clock shift.
The other was Benny's. He was just the busboy, but he was six-foot-something and had once tackled someone who'd tried to leave without paying. Katie had never talked to him much, but she gathered he'd played football while he was in school. She was jealous of him, because he didn't have to wear pink.
As far as Katie could tell, it was a normal, slow day at the diner. She'd gone around to each booth and pulled down the blinds, so the sun wouldn't be glaring in through the windows, and had checked to make sure the table of college-aged guys didn't need anything. They were no one she knew, thankfully.
The front door jingled open. A woman stepped inside and took a seat at the corner booth. Her hair was tucked behind her ears, and her expression was powerful, the sort of look you'd use to stare down prosecuting attorneys or rival executives. Her overcoat was buttoned across the front, and she carried a briefcase. Setting it on the table, she opened it up and pulled out a few papers.
Katie watched from behind the counter and tried to tease out this woman's backstory. Maybe she'd come from a long day of deliberations. Maybe she was planning to meet a client here, or maybe she was getting ready for a business meeting. Katie wasn't one to pry, but trying to guess who people were was one of the few things that kept her mind occupied until closing time.
After leaving the woman a minute or two to settle in, Katie left her post by the door to the kitchen and headed over to the corner booth. Her hands reflexively pulled the pad and pen from her apron and she clicked the top of the pen to announce herself.
"Hi there," she said, doing her standard customer service smile. "My name's Katie. Can I start you off with something to drink?"
The woman took a moment before she lifted her eyes, glancing up at Katie's face, then down at the name tag on her chest. "Coffee, no milk, one lump of sugar," she said.
Katie nodded, flicked her pen between her fingers, and began to turn away. "Right, I'll get that—"
"Wait," the woman said.
It was like being frozen in stone, like all of her joints had suddenly turned to lead. It shocked her mind out of her routine workday torpor, but despite her confusion, she couldn't do anything. Her body had completely locked up.
The woman leaned forward, reached out her hand, and touched her name tag. As her finger passed over them, the letters swirled. Then she sat back in her seat and said, "Thank you, Kitty."
The world skipped like a scratched CD. Her feet finished their interrupted turn. Wobbling as she caught her balance again, she found herself walking back to the counter. A blush crept over her cheeks. Why did she just freeze like that? What had just happened? Had something happened, or did she just space out for a moment? Reaching above her head, she scratched behind the furry tip of her ear, then folded her arms and leaned against the counter. "Can you get me a coffee, one sugar?" she asked Liz, who nodded and went to find the coffee pot.
Why had that woman called her Kitty?
She glanced down at her chest and tipped up the edge of her name tag so she could read it upside-down. It said 'Kitty'. What had she expected to see? That was her name. But if it was, why did it feel odd, like wearing a new shirt without running it through the wash first? Her frown wrinkled the little pink triangle of her nose.
A minute later, Liz came back and dropped of a coffee cup and saucer in front of her. "Thanks," Kitty said reflexively. As she stood up and perked her ears, she added, "Hey, is there something up with my name tag?" She plucked at the corner with her tapered nails.
Liz leaned closer. She cocked her head to one side. After a few moments of close study, she shrugged. "Nope. Looks normal to me."
"You sure?" she asked. "I could swear it said...something else."
Liz shook her head. "It says Kitty. It's your name tag."
There was that skipping feeling again, like missing a step on a staircase. Kitty stiffened. She stole a glance at the corner booth, but the woman was just poring over her papers. Something felt off, but she couldn't say what.
Then a lump started pushing against the back of her skirt. Pushing, wriggling, caught on the waistband of her underwear and threatening to drag it down. She twisted around, craning her head over her shoulder, grabbing the hem of her shirt. "What is that?" she gasped, almost shouting. The table of guys nearby peered curiously at her.
Compared to Kitty's panic, Liz barely even looked interested. "Tail caught in your skirt again?" she asked. Leaning over the counter, she politely glanced away as she stuck her hand underneath Kitty's skirt. Liz's fingers closed around the lump and pulled, making the hair on Kitty's neck bristle. With one quick tug, her tail unfurled from underneath her skirt. It rolled out of Liz's hand, down past her calves, and curled upward just before it reached the floor, tawny-furred with a charcoal tip. It tickled her ankles as it swept from side to side all on its own. Her sense of balance swayed along in time to its rhythm.
"O-oh," Kitty said. Seconds ago, she'd been one-hundred-percent panic mode. Now, it seemed ridiculous to freak out over something as normal as her tail. Her cheeks burned and her ears folded back against her head. She didn't have to look; she could feel the stares she was getting, making a scene over nothing. "Thanks," she told Liz, straightening her skirt. "Stupid thing."
But it wasn't a scene over nothing. The more she turned it over in her head, the more convinced she became that something really was wrong. Her eyes narrowed as they fell on the woman in the corner booth.
Kitty picked up the cup and saucer and set out for the corner booth. As she came within earshot, she held the coffee in both hands to keep it from rattling. Her weight unconsciously shifted up onto her toes. She stalked closer and closer, until she could peer over the woman's shoulder.
The papers on the table were some sort of legal documents. The woman ran a finger down the page as she read, and every so often, she'd pick up her finger, and touch a particular word. In the wake of her fingertip, the ink swirled and rippled underneath. When she lifted her finger away, the word had changed.
It was hard to believe, especially since as soon as it was over, Kitty found herself questioning whether she'd actually seen it happen. After getting that same feeling four times in a row, though, she was convinced it wasn't just a coincidence.
Kitty relaxed, put her smile back on, and stepped up to the booth to set the saucer down on the table. "Here's your coffee. Can I get you anything else?" she asked. Unfocused anxiety rolled around in her stomach and her tail flicked nervously behind her, but she tried her hardest to stay casual.
The woman shifted the coffee cup to the other side of her papers, then smiled at her and said, "Thank you, Kitty."
The blip in reality kept Kitty stunned as the woman reached up toward her. She didn't go for her name tag this time; instead, she slipped her hand behind Kitty's ears and started scratching. A warm shudder ran down Kitty's back and a soft rumble rose from her chest. Her eyes glazed over. She rubbed her fluffy cheek against the woman's wrist. Then the scratching stopped. The woman sat back in her seat and took a sip of coffee. Kitty lingered for a moment, tail flopping happily against her thighs, until she woke up from her daze and hurried back to the counter.
With each step, the bell on her pink collar let out a bright jingle.
"Why do people think it's okay to pet me?" she sighed at Liz, absently smoothing down the fur on the back of her neck.
Liz snorted and asked, "I thought cats liked being pet."
"I'm a mountain lion," Kitty insisted. "And, yeah, it's nice, but it's embarrassing. Like this stupid collar." She squeezed a padded finger underneath the strap and snapped it against her neck.
"At least it looks cute on you, you big, fluffy—" Liz reached for Kitty's chin. Kitty swatted away her hand; Liz retaliated by sticking out her tongue.
Kitty couldn't stop working on account of vague suspicions, so while she mulled over what to do, she made the rounds with the other tables. Her tail bobbed back and forth behind her, and the tinny jangle of her collar followed her wherever she went.
One of the college guys called out as she passed, "Hey, kitten! Can I get another Coke?" He had a huge asshole grin. One of his friends snickered. She forced a smile, took his cup, and felt glad that no one could see her blushing under her fur. While she was fetching the refill, she quietly slipped open the top button of her blouse and tossed a chunk of ice from the ice machine into her mouth. As if her waitress outfit being pink and coming with a collar wasn't enough, it was also much too warm when you had a full coat of fur.
After running an order for ice cream back to the kitchen, Kitty came back out to find Liz no longer lounging behind the register. Instead, she was standing over at the corner booth, pad in hand, taking down the woman's order. A twinge of panic ran down Kitty's tail, and the fur on her back stood up. She should have warned Liz. Maybe if she shouted—
Just as quickly as it had came, the panic was gone. Lips walked back over to the counter, tearing off a page from her pad and holding it out to Kitty. "Here, pass this back," she said.
Kitty took the order, but kept staring at Lips with a small frown. Her eyes darted briefly to her name tag, but of course, it said her name: Lips. That was her name, right?
Slipping through the door, Kitty dropped off the order in the kitchen. When she came back out, she found her co-worker leaning on the counter, rolling a tube of lipstick across her lips and using the side of a napkin dispenser as a mirror. The cherry-pink gloss made her plump pout really pop against her face. That wasn't that strange, though. Lips was always sneaking in quick touch-ups to her makeup. If Kitty didn't know better, she might have thought Lips was trying to flirt, but Lips was a cosmetics connoisseur, and didn't mind that it helped with tips.
Still, she couldn't shake the sense that something was wrong, and she was learning to trust that sense. "Hey...are you feeling okay?" she asked.
Lips pouted at her own reflection and batted her lashes a few times, then shrugged. "I'm tired from my shift, I guess. Why?"
Kitty hunched over the counter, ears folded back and tail low to the ground. "I think there's something up with the lady at the corner booth. She's...messing with things."
Lips tucked her lipstick back into her apron, then took one of the cheap suckers from the jar beside the register and slipped it between her lips with a soft pop. "What are you talking about?"
"I think she's changing words. Like, our names."
Lips twirled the the stick, clicking the lollipop against the side of her teeth. Her nails were painted the same shade of pink as her lips. "Are you sure?" She raised an eyebrow. "I mean, you've been Kitty for as long as I've known you."
Reality hit a speed bump underneath her. Kitty's whiskers twitched. Something was happening, but what? She patted her hips, her tail, her chest, her ears, her face—her face. She squeezed her broad nose between her fingers and squished her cheeks and prodded at her short snout. Of course she had a snout. Didn't she? She bent down and peered into the napkin dispenser. Her dark lip curled into a frown.
While Lips slurped away at her sucker, Kitty batted at her bangs with the back of her hand and tried to formulate a plan. She didn't blame Lips for not believing her, since she barely believed herself. That didn't mean she could just let this happen, though. She had to do something before this got worse.
Whatever this was.
Kitty stood up straight, summoned her courage, and marched across the floor toward the corner booth. Her bell jingled away with every step, announcing her presence. Hands on her hips and a stern look on her face, she strode right up to the table. She looked as intimidating as a cat girl (mountain lion) in a pink skirt and bell collar could look.
She put her hand down on the table hard enough to rattle the coffee cup. The woman looked casually up at her. "I know what you're doing," Kitty said. "I don't know how or why, but you'd better—"
With a click of her tongue and a wave of her finger, the woman cut her off. "I'd like some privacy, please," she said. Kitty's lips quivered and her hand balled into a fist, but her jaw was locked tight and her feet were stuck to the floor. Even her tail had frozen mid-swing. The woman passed her finger over Kitty's name tag, then smiled. "You may have more pressing matters to worry about, Titties."
Her body came unlocked. She stumbled backwards, her tail lashed, and she caught herself on the counter. Her breathing came heavy and her heart was thumping. She didn't need to look down to see what her name tag now said.
She wanted to yell at the woman, who had gone right back to work, but two things stopped her: First, there was no telling what the woman might do next, and second, a tender ache had just sprung up in her chest. It started in the center of her ribs and spread out to either side. Her breath hitched as the front of her blouse pulled taut against her chest. Throwing an arm around her breasts and hugging them tight, she tried to hold them back, or at least hold them still, and jogged to the bathrooms, pursued by her collar's incessant jingling.
She shoved the door shut and locked it behind her. As she paced back and forth, she combed her claws through her hair, clutching her head, trying to keep herself calm. Another wave of mass swelled up into her breasts, filling them out from the bottom up. The second button on her blouse snapped free, baring more of her soft furry cleavage.
Steadying herself against the sink, she tried to remember what her name was supposed to be, but the harder she chased it, the more her memories filled in behind her. Titties was a rough name to have in school; she went by Tee to avoid awkward explanations. Wait, didn't her name start with a...K? No, it had to be T, or else her nickname wouldn't make sense.
A groan squeezed out of her chest. She sagged forward over the sink, clutching her breasts in both hands, trying to hold them up despite the weight bearing down on her shoulders. God, why were they so heavy? Her tail lifted up into the air, instinctively trying to help her balance, but also pushing her skirt further up her thighs.
Slowly, carefully, she lifted herself back up, then reached back and tugged her skirt down. Her blouse showed off a big scoop of cream-colored fur, stretching from the brass bell on her collar down to the straining button keeping it closed. She took slow, careful breaths through her nose, with her snout scrunched into a sullen pout.
There had to be some way she could get her name back. Maybe the woman's powers weren't absolute. Maybe something would still have her old name. A spark went off in her mind: the time sheet in the back. It was worth a try.
Tee slipped out of the bathroom. Lips was back at her end-of-shift post by the cash register, twirling a fresh lollipop between her lips. Acting as casual as she could, Tee made her way toward the register.
"Hey, Titties," one of the guys called as she passed their table. "We're out of ketchup."
Tee felt the world skip around her and stumbled forward, catching herself on the neighboring table. Her tail bushed and she winced. Her chest was growing again. Doubling over, she grit her teeth as her breasts strained outward. More and more pressure bore down against the button holding her blouse together. She tried to hold them back, but it was too much. With a snap the button shot free and ricocheted off the formica tabletop. The aftershock rippled across her chest and she groaned heavily. Her breasts were big enough to be a literal armful. While her blouse still held up for now, gaps stretched between each of the remaining buttons, showing off even more of her namesake.
Huffing and digging her teeth into her lip, Tee snagged the ketchup bottle from the empty booth. Without a word, she slammed it down onto the giggling guys' table, then marched off to the jangling rhythm of her bell collar.
Something more had happened to Lips while she'd been busy. The white stick of her sucker poked out from the middle of her pronounced and prominent pout. Her lipstick had a smooth, almost iridescent coat of gloss on top. Her blouse was halfway unbuttoned, revealing a cheeky hint of her red bra, while a touch of glitter sparkled on her cheeks. She opened her mouth and her lips stretched, keeping their plush, inflated shape, until the lollipop popped free. They didn't quite close all the way behind it.
All of that was normal, though. Lips was even more of a tease than she was. Wait, she wasn't a tease. Sure, she liked to get playful sometimes, and she loved it when someone scratched her ears or rubbed her fluffy—no, wait. Arrgh! She shook her head. She needed to focus on stopping this.
"I need to talk to you," Tee said, taking Lips by the arm. "In the back."
"What is it?" she asked, holding her lollipop off to the side.
Tee pulled Lips through the door and into the back of the diner. She didn't want to risk the woman in the corner booth hearing. "You know what I was saying? About that lady changing our names? I thought maybe the time sheet would still have our real names."
Lips smiled (as much as she could smile) and stifled a snicker. "Look, Tee, I know you got the short end of the stick when it comes to names, but..."
"Humor me." She led the way into the back room, where the time sheet was pinned up on a corkboard next to the shelves of spare napkins and the basket of name tags. There, on the xeroxed shift rotation for today, were their names: Lips at eleven, Benny at one, and Titties at four.
Lips squeezed her lollipop against the front of her lips until it popped back into her mouth. "So," she said, shifting it over into her cheek, "what are we looking for?"
Tee let out a sigh and leaned back against the shelves. "Never mind. I just thought...maybe there was a maximum range or something."
Lips was still staring at the time sheet, rolling her lollipop across her tongue. "Uh, Tee. Take a look at this."
Tee stood up and followed Lips' eyes to the time sheet. Benny's name sat between their names on the schedule, but as they watched, the ink swam like watercolors cut through by a paintbrush. As they settled down, they formed again, with only one letter different: 'Bunny'.
"Crap. He must be talking to her," Tee said. She grabbed Lips and hauled her back into the hall.
Behind her, Lips was muttering that, no, his name was Bunny, but she'd just seen it change, so that couldn't be his name, but she'd always known him as Bunny...
The two of them ran into Bunny just outside the door to the kitchen. From the waist up, he looked perfectly normal, dressed in his usual plain white shirt. From the waist down, he also looked perfectly normal, but in this case, that meant a pink satin panties, fishnet stockings, and a pair of glittering pink heels. Tee had a sneaking suspicion that actually, that wasn't normal at all.
"What were you just doing?" Tee asked.
Bunny gave her a look, then shrugged and pointed over his shoulder. "I just took the order to the lady in the corner booth." A tuft of white fur stuck out above the waistband of his panties as he turned.
Tee glanced gingerly at the booth. "Just watch out for her, okay? We think she's dangerous."
Bunny laughed and gave her an incredulous grin, complete with pronounced buck teeth, then slipped by her and headed back into the kitchen.
"So, what do we do?" Lips asked hesitantly, like she was still trying to convince herself that something was wrong.
"Get Bunny to kick her out? Or just have him...threaten her..." Tee trailed off as her mental image of Bunny shrunk from six-foot-something and ex-varsity to five-foot-nine and ex-cheerleader.
Lips snorted. "We'd have more luck kicking her out ourselves."
"She'd probably just change our names again..." Tee folded her arms underneath her breasts and flicked her tail in thought. "There's got to be something she wants, right? Maybe I can bargain with her."
"Or maybe she just likes messing with people."
"Comin' through!" Bunny chirped, stepping between the two of them with two bowls of ice cream in each hand. Fuzzy white ears bobbed high above his head, while his pink satin corset pinched his waist in tight. His fluffy bunny tail bobbed from side to side with each step in his high heels.
Tee took a deep breath—but not too deep. She could feel her blouse straining. "I'm going to try," she said. Before she left, though, she plucked her name tag from her chest and tossed it into the jar with the suckers, then did the same for Lips. "If you catch Bunny, grab her name tag too."
Her collar jingled in time to the wobbling of her chest and her tail swinging behind her. She passed Bunny serving the ice cream to the table of guys, giggling along with their jokes and looking even shorter than before. Tee pulled her pad and pen from her apron, put on her brightest, most kittenish smile, and walked right up to the woman in the corner booth.
"Hi, ma'am," she said. "Is there anything else I can get you? Dessert, more coffee?"
There was a small smile on the woman's lips as she looked up. "Oh no, I'm fine," she said.
Tee kneaded the pen between her fingers and turned her charm up even stronger. "Are you sure? We'd be glad to get you anything if you could just...put things back to normal? Ple-eease?"
Her heart thumped away as the woman turned toward her. Seeing that Tee had taken off her name tag, she cracked a small, amused grin. "I can make anything true with just a touch," she said, wiggling her pointer finger. "There's nothing you could give me that I can't just take."
The woman took one of the laminated menus from behind the salt and pepper shakers and laid it flat in front of her. Almost like she was showing off, she smiled up at Tee, then slid her finger across the logo for 'Jo's Diner', turning it into 'Jo's Diner and Striptease.' As she put the menu away, she said, "You might want to stop chit-chatting. You're on in a few."
The diner unfolded itself around Tee. The floor tiles split and spread underneath her feet, blossoming into a pink and black pattern and making room between the counter and the booths for a small stage to spring up from the middle of the floor. The blinds rippled into pink curtains as the seats went from cheap red plastic to cheap imitation leather. Neon lights splashed purple and red everywhere. With a sharp twang, a pole shot up from the center of the stage.
It took a moment for Tee to realize her skirt was riding up her thighs. She yelped, grabbing at its hem and trying to haul it back down, but it was actually shrinking, while the cut of her blouse crept open wider. High heels shot up beneath her feet, and it was only thanks to her tail that she kept from stumbling over.
While Tee watched, Bunny left the college guys' booth and hopped up onto the stage. Her chest filled up her corset much more than before, and she was sporting a pink button nose and a coat of fluffy white fur. Lifting her arms and wrapping her hands around the pole, she started up an impromptu routine to cheers and hoots from the nearby booth.
But this time, there was no jolt as the world rearranged itself. She no longer had to force herself to stay aware of everything changing around her. Whatever spell that had kept her from noticing was broken. And that meant, as she looked down at her pad and pen, that she had an idea. It had been on the tip of her tongue ever since she'd seen the words swirling beneath the woman's finger. She knew what to do. She just needed a distraction.
Clicking precariously over to the stage, she crept up behind Bunny and hissed, "Hey!" Lips was nowhere to be seen, and it didn't matter whether Bunny believed her or not. The busboy...girl? bunny? was so wrapped up in her dance that Tee had to reach up, grab her by the wrist, and haul her down off the stage to the sound of emphatic boos from the college guys.
Bunny's head came up to the middle of Tee's chest now. She huffed and folded her arms across her chest. "I was havin' fun," she said.
Tee ignored her, plucking the name tag from her corset and tossing it into the jar with the others. "Go get a fresh cup of coffee for the lady in the corner booth," she told her.
"Why me?" Bunny whined. "Can't you get it for her?"
"Just do it. I'll explain later."
While Bunny went off to find the coffee pot, Tee tore a sheet off her order pad and jotted down a few words with her pen. Then, once Bunny passed by behind her carrying the cup of coffee, she slipped in behind her, holding her bell in her hand to keep it from jingling. She slunk along the booths, just out of sight, as Bunny and the woman began to argue over whether or not she'd ordered the coffee in the first place. When she was just one booth away, she climbed up into the seat, using all her feline agility to keep quiet as she leaned over the divider.
"Then the cat must have gotten it wrong," the woman said, sweeping her hand at Bunny, whose eyes had drifted up to stare at her co-worker crouched over the back of the seat. "Now please—"
Tee pounced. Her fingers closed tight around the woman's wrist as she spilled over into the booth, dragged down by her unwieldy chest and tumbling into the padded seat. The woman instinctively jerked back, trying to wrench her arm free, and almost succeeding.
As Tee hauled her chest up off the seat and righted herself, they locked eyes. The woman's face was indignant, almost offended. "Let go," she demanded, but if there was any power in those words, they didn't work on Tee.She had the woman's arm pinned beneath her own, and with her other hand, she slapped the piece of paper from her order pad onto the table. In her quick hand, the paper read:
The woman in the corner booth is MEAN.
"You don't know what you're doing," the woman said.
Tee didn't listen to her. She clamped her hand down around the woman's, balling it into a fist with her index finger poking out. She shoved the woman's finger against the paper and cut a slash through the last word, which she'd written nice and big, so it was easy to aim for. The letters twisted and curled and scribbled over themselves.
The woman in the corner booth is NICE.
Letting out a cry, the woman clutched her head and doubled over. Let's see how you like reality twisting around you, Tee thought, fighting to keep her pinned down despite her squirming. Just when it seemed like the letters had settled, the woman pulled back with all her might. Her finger dragged back across the word, sending it swirling once more.
The woman in the corner booth is STRONG.
Something was shifting underneath Tee's arm—not just shifting, growing. Muscles swelled along her bicep and rippled down the length of her arm. Tee didn't have a moment to stop and think; she grabbed the woman's wrist with both hands and dragged her fingers back through the ink, stirring up the letters before they could settle.
A wave of fur washed down the woman's arm, short and soft and white. Muscles melted away as fast as they had come, while her whole arm dwindled in size. The woman pulled at her arm with a furious squeak, Tee's grip slipped, and her finger slashed through the word again.
Golden fur flooded up through the white, blooming with black rosettes. Lithe strength surged through her arm and her curling claws. When Tee glanced over her shoulder, she saw a glowering, wrinkled snout baring its fangs at her.
"Help me!" she barked at Bunny. Her small co-worker had backed away from the table, eyes wide and arms hugged close to her chest. Waves of new reality kept washing over her, leaving her in a daze, but Tee's voice was enough to snap her out of it. Rushing forward, she grabbed the woman's arm and pulled.
The color drained from her tawny pelt, sinking back to white while the rosettes fattened into thick splotches of black. The woman's fingers clung together, stiffening, bloating into thick black hooves. Her growing weight sloshed and wobbled against Tee as she dragged her hoof back across the page.
The tug-of-war grew to a frantic pitch. The woman's finger—claw—tentacle—hoof—vine—talon shoved back and forth, over and over, whipping reality around them into a fine froth. Then, all of a sudden, just as Tee threw al her weight into one last, big tug, the woman simply vanished with a soft sloorp. The two employees, suddenly pulling against someone who was no longer there, toppled over into the booth.
A clap like a book slammed shut resounded through the diner. The stage and pole were sucked back to wherever they had come from, the décor blanched itself back to its normal kitschy drabness, and the only hint of neon was the OPEN sign glowing in the window. There was no sign of the briefcase, the papers, or any trace of the woman who had brought them in.
The order slip sitting on top of the table read:
The woman in the corner booth is GONE.
Since it seemed like the three of them were the only ones who remembered anything out of the ordinary, they had gathered around the counter to commiserate.
"At least everything's back to normal," Kate said. Her tail flicked behind her as she leaned against the counter, resting the weight of her breasts on top of her folded arms. She was grateful to be back to her normal waitress's outfit, even if the blouse was too small and the collar made her look ridiculous.
Benny sat next to her, sipping gingerly on a soda. Her feet dangled well above the ground, and her long ears were folded back over her shoulders. "I can't believe I was poledancing. Especially for those guys. Ugh."
Liz reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a tube of lip balm. Her shift had technically ended a few minutes ago, but she wasn't ready to walk home just yet. "How did you even do that?" she asked Katie. "I came out of the back and you were over there having this full-on, like, wizard duel."
Katie shrugged. "I don't know. I figured I had to do something and it just...worked out in the end."
Liz snorted, then paused to roll her lips together as best she could and give them a pop. "Yeah, well, if you get a letter to Hogwarts don't say I didn't warn you." She zipped up her jacket and started for the door. "Later, Bunny. Later, Kitty."
Katie cracked a weary grin at her. "See you, Lips."
Since she couldn't quite grin back, Liz stuck her tongue out between the gap in her lips, then turned and left.
Benny gulped down the last of her soda, twitched her pink nose, and hopped back up onto her feet. "I should probably get back to the kitchen. Thanks again," she said, then slipped off into the back.
Right now, Katie felt like crawling into bed, curling up, and dozing off, but she still had six hours left on the clock even though the start of her shift seemed like days ago. All that, and she still had a normal day of work to get through.
She got up from her seat and walked over to the corner booth. A lingering sense of wariness bristled the fur on the back of her neck, but the woman was gone now and wherever she'd wound up, Katie had a feeling she wouldn't be coming back here. Picking up the wrinkled and smudged order slip, she considered it, then touched her pointer finger to the paper, and slid it across the word GONE.
A moment passed. The letters were still there, as if she'd written them in ballpoint pen herself. She gave it another second or two, just to be sure, then sighed and smiled.
Everything was back to normal.
Though she had a sneaking suspicion that her whiskers were new.