Breaking Up Is a Hairy Business


“When is the last time you showered?” I asked my best friend, Jill. We’d seen each other through a lot since the first grade: birthdays, soccer games, my grandmother’s funeral, her sweet sixteen, summer sleepaway camp, the works. In all that time, I’d never seen her like this. She was camped out in her living room with junk food packages strewn around her on the couch. Her skin was breaking out. She’d put some toothpaste on a zit by her chin but hadn’t done the same for any of her other spots. The TV was playing a black-and-white horror movie, though I wasn’t sure which one.There were people running away from something in the woods, but I couldn’t hear them scream because the TV was on mute. 

“Does it matter, Andrea? Does anything matter anymore?” Jill asked. Her hair looked greasy and was in a messy bun. She was wearing yoga pants—though she didn’t like or participate in yoga—and an Oak Ridge High sweatshirt with a dried chocolate ice cream stain on it. Jill dipped her hand in the Cheetos Crunchy bag for the fourth time since I’d arrived.

“I know you’re hurting,” I said, trying not to gag when she shoved the whole fistful of Cheetos into her mouth and then licked the cheese dust off her palm. “But you can’t stay cooped up in here forever.” 

We had jobs lined up at the movie theater this summer. I couldn’t say I was excited to sell popcorn to people who wanted to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson clobber something, but I needed the money for college applications, and babysitting alone wasn’t going to cut it. Though if Jill continued to be this heartbroken, I’d bet her mom and dad would pay me to console her. They had let her take over the living room, but I didn’t think they had expected her to take things so hard. Jill had been down here for a week.

“You wouldn’t understand. You’ve never been in love,” Jill said. I wanted to yell at her, because she didn’t know that. She’d been so busy with her own stupid romance that she’d never noticed my unrequited passion for Clarissa from my art class. I mean, I hadn’t told anyone, and Clarissa was coupled with Margaret, which I totally got because Margaret was boss, but still. Jill, as my oldest and dearest friend, should have picked up on it.

I didn’t feel ready to tell Jill about Clarissa. I didn’t think she was homophobic—I just thought she’d be worried that she wouldn’t have my attention all the time. During our entire friendship, she’d never asked me what boys I had crushes on, let alone girls. 

“I’ve been in love,” I protested. 

“Oh, really?” she asked, her eyes widening. “Have you loved with the fiery passion of a thousand setting suns? Have you howled at the moon to declare your undying devotion to your beloved?” 

“Jeez, you date one werewolf and you think you’re so special,” I said, folding my arms. 

“We were special!” Jill cried. Her eyes were misting, and I immediately felt guilty. I sat down on the couch by her feet. 

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that,” I muttered. “You are special.” 

“If I’m so special, then why doesn’t Dylan want me anymore?” Jill wailed to the heavens above. Her mouth was open, and her eyes were closed as tears streamed down her cheeks. 

The last time I’d seen Jill cry like this was in second grade when our teacher, Mrs. Blatt, told us our pet guinea pig, Jumbles, had died. She didn’t cry when my grandmother passed away, but they weren’t as close, and I guess Jumbles was cuter than my grandmother. To be clear, I cried a lot when my grandmother died. I thought she was adorable. Jill had been there, held my hand, and told me that everything was going to be okay—but she didn’t cry. I knew people emoted differently. I just remembered wishing she had cried a little. It didn’t have to be a Jumbles-worthy sob, but something. 

“It’s his loss,” I said. This didn’t calm her down, so I let her wail as much as she needed to. I felt for her, but after a few minutes I had to control the impulse to roll my eyes. She was right that I hadn’t been in a serious relationship or experienced a breakup, but we were in high school. I didn’t know that many people who had ended up with their high school loves in the long run. I wondered what the average longevity of Lycan-human relationships was. It didn’t seem like the time to ask Jill that, though I knew she could recite all the statistics.

Eventually she took a few deep breaths, but she didn’t bother to wipe off all the snot that had dripped out of her nostrils. “I’m going to get you some water,” I said. I went to the kitchen and poured Jill a glass of water from the fridge dispenser. Jill and Dylan’s junior prom photo was still stuck to the fridge with a magnet. Jill looked beautiful in a robin’s egg blue dress, and Dylan was half-wolfed out. He had thick hair all over his human face and hands, but his fangs and snout weren’t pronounced. That only happened during full moons, though I had never felt comfortable asking him about his transformations. It seemed private. 

His ears were pointy in the photo, which was one of the first things Jill really took notice of when Dylan showed up freshman year. She was so excited when they were paired up as dance partners for the school musical, Oliver. Dylan was cast as Bill Sikes originally, but he declined the role. Looking back, I got why he hadn’t wanted to be cast as the villain. After that play, Jill and Dylan were on their way to becoming Oak Ridge’s power couple. Sometimes that hadn’t left all that much room for me. 

I picked up a box of tissues from the kitchen counter before I returned to Jill. I passed her the water. 

“Thanks,” she said. “Ugh, I hate feeling like my chest is about to cave in on itself.” 

“I’m sorry,” I said, passing her a tissue. “You’ve got some boogies.” There was still some snot left over after she blew her nose, but she’d get to it eventually. 

“I don’t know what happened. I mean, I thought we were fine. We were perfect, you know?” 

I nodded, even though she seemed to have forgotten all the arguments they’d had at the Lycan-Human Alliance meetings—an Oak Ridge club she had started and was president of. She also seemed to have forgotten all the times Dylan had stood her up at the last minute, including the Halloween dance. Jill still went to the dance and spent the whole time criticizing the decorations in the haunted house, which I had helped put together with the theater tech club. She said the imagery was distasteful, even though I had made sure we didn’t have any werewolves on display. We only had giant spiders and carved pumpkins. 

“Is that it?” I asked, nodding in the direction of a half-open box filled with Dylan’s stuff by the TV. 

“Yeah. It’s mostly books and movies he lent me over the years. I couldn’t get through most of them. I doubt he ever actually read Infinite Jest. I mean, with our workload, who has the time?” They were both in honors courses and were involved in so many extracurricular activities that it was difficult to keep up with their schedules. Maybe that’s why they had lasted so long—they hadn’t had much time to spend together. “I’m keeping his letterman jacket. If he wants that, he’s going to have to come and see me.” Dylan was on the varsity wrestling team. He missed some matches when he was totally wolfed out, but that was only once a month. I privately thought of them as his wolf periods. I wondered if his transformations were as painful as my cramps. 

“Okay. Why don’t I take his stuff over to him now, and then I’ll come back and we can order a pizza? How’s that sound?”

“With pineapple?” 

“Yes.With pineapple,” I said through gritted teeth. She needed this. She needed things to be her way for a moment. I could pick off the pineapple chunks that made my tongue swell and itch. Through some internet browsing, I had discovered that there was an enzyme in the fruit that tenderized meat, which was why some people put pineapple on ham. Apparently, Jill didn’t experience the same sensation I did, or she did and she just didn’t care. 

“If he asks how I am, tell him I’m doing great, okay? Tell him I’m living my best life. No, don’t say that. Tell him I’m well, but don’t oversell it in case he wants to get back together. Don’t tell him that I’m like … well, that I’m like this.” 

“I will tell him you’re fine,” I said as I walked over to the box of Dylan’s stuff and bent over to pick it up. “Because you will be.” 

“I don’t know. I’m about to change the channel to General Hospital.” I almost lost my balance but righted myself and picked up the box. She’d never done that before. Daytime TV was a vortex I was unfamiliar with. “I really want Sam and Jason to make it. I didn’t even know who Sam and Jason were until a few days ago.” Then she started crying again. I dropped the box and rushed over to her. I gave her a hug and felt wet snot and tears on my neck, but I’d be sure to wipe it off once I was out of her sight. 

“I think my aunt watched that show,” I said, still holding on to her. 

“Only aunts watch that show,” she cried out. “I shouldn’t be watching it! I’m in the prime of my life! Look what he’s done to me.” 

“Well, who knows? If you keep up this level of drama, maybe you’ll be cast on it one day,” I said, backing up. 

Ha-ha,” she said sarcastically, but she wiped her eyes. “Thanks for doing this. Really.” 

I kissed her cheek, and she smiled. Then I picked up Dylan’s box of things and began the trek to his family’s home. 

* * *

The Houndsmiths’ home was a typical English Tudor in a suburban neighborhood. I had assumed it would be like something out of The Munsters or The Addams Family, but that just goes to show how the media perpetuates unfair stereotypes. I held the box of Dylan’s things in one arm while I rang his doorbell. I tried not to look in the box, but I did notice a copy of volume one of Fables. I couldn’t get into it, but at least I knew he had taste and liked comics. 

I was about to leave the box on the welcome mat when the door opened. Dylan’s five-year-old sister, Candace, greeted me. She had on pink overalls, her brown hair was in pigtails, and she was totally furless. The wolf business didn’t happen until puberty, or that’s what we had learned in health class, anyway. I remembered some girls snickering about it, and I hadn’t said anything to make them stop. I should have. 

Uh, hi, Candace. I’m Andrea. You remember me? I’m Jill’s friend?” 

“Yeah. You gave me a Ring Pop once,” she said, and I wished I had another Ring Pop on me now. She had a tiny nose, huge eyes, and cheeks so big they were begging to be pinched. 

“I have some of your brother’s stuff. I’m going to leave it here, okay?” 

“Dylan! The nice one is here,” Candace yelled. Nice one? Before I had a chance to dash away, Dylan was at the door. He had speed that most of us didn’t, unless we were Olympic athletes, but that came naturally to Lycans. 

“Oh! Hi, Andrea,” he said, a little confused. The fur on his face and hands was gone, but his ears were still pointy like an elf’s and his eyebrows were fuzzy and long. His canine teeth were more pronounced than usual too. This made sense, as the moon was in its waning crescent phase. I was ashamed that I had Googled it before I had agreed to drop off Dylan’s stuff. 

“Hi. I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” I said. 

We’re having a tea party,” Candace said, tugging on my shirt. “Come in.

Dylan blushed. It was nice to be able to notice that now that his fur wasn’t hiding his face. 

“Tea party, huh?” I asked, entering their well-furnished home. 

“My parents are at work, and Candace’s camp doesn’t start for another week,” Dylan said, rubbing the back of his neck. He was so much leaner now than in his junior prom photo. I could tell Jill that to make her feel better, but deep down I knew it wasn’t because of the breakup. It was because he wasn’t so wolfed out. I’d never seen him in full moon form. I didn’t think Jill had either—at least she had never told me anything about it. 

I handed Dylan the box, and he carried it with him into the living room. There were stuffed animals seated in a circle on the carpet with a plate of cookies in the middle. Candace tugged on my shirt again, and I walked closer to the circle. 

“Everybody, this is Mrs. Tuppy from Ohio,” Candace declared to her friends.  

“You don’t have to—” Dylan began. 

“Why, hello, my dears,” I said to the group of toys as if I were an elderly woman. Mrs. Tuppy felt like a nice lady in her eighties to me. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting!” I looked down at Candace. She was smiling, and her eyes widened. “Where shall I sit?” 

“In between Mr. Doofers and Ms. Kitty,” she said, holding my hand and pointing at a stuffed cat in a dress and what I thought had once been a hippopotamus—it looked like it had been worn down by hugs and washes over the years. I sat down between the two but made a point of doing it slowly, as if it were a struggle for my aged body. I heard Dylan chuckle. 

“Now, you sit across from them, Mr. Bug,” Candace said, pointing at her big brother. He sat down in between an alligator with a monocle and a naked Barbie. 

“Thank you for attending, Mrs. Tuppy. I do declare, it warms my heart like a bonfire on a cool Georgia evening to see you,” Dylan said in a southern drawl. It was a bold choice, but I was the guest here, so I couldn’t criticize. 

“Oh, it is an unexpected but absolute pleasure,” I said, picking up a tiny yellow cup and pretending to drink from it. 

We stayed in character for about fifteen minutes before Dylan told his sister it was time for lunch. The whole time, Dylan graciously passed out cookies to each animal on tiny plates and made conversation with a stuffed rabbit as if he were catching up with an old friend. He was never like this when I saw him and Jill together. He had always seemed so on guard and reserved. 

“Do you mind sticking around while I make some mac and cheese? I have some of Jill’s stuff too,” he said sheepishly. 

Sure,” I said. I sat with Candace at the kitchen table while Dylan struggled to open a box of macaroni. Had his claws been out, I’m sure he would’ve had no problem tearing it open. “You need help?” 

“No, I got it, thanks,” he said. He eventually opened the box and poured the macaroni into a pot of boiling water. 

“You’re pretty,” Candace told me. 

“I am?” I wished Clarissa from art class thought that too. “I think you’re pretty too.” 

“I won’t be pretty forever,” Candace said. There was a certainty in her voice where I would have expected sadness. “One day I’m going to grow up to be like my family.”

“No, you won’t be pretty then. You’ll be beautiful,” I said. 

“Yeah?” Candace asked. 

 “Of course! Look at how handsome your brother is!” I realized maybe that was the wrong thing to say. I was supposed to be mad at him for breaking up with my best friend, not paying him compliments. 

“Are you my brother’s new girlfriend?” Candace asked. 

“Candace!” Dylan grunted as he stirred the noodles. 

“No. If your brother were your sister and hadn’t dated my friend, then maybe,” I said honestly. Dylan blushed again. His ears were raised, and they grew slightly to make sure he had heard me correctly.

“If my brother were my sister?” I had confused the child during macaroni time. 

Never mind,” I said. I realized I had revealed that I liked women to someone other than my mom, who was the only one who currently knew. I wasn’t embarrassed or anything—I just wasn’t dating anyone yet. If Clarissa and Margaret ever broke up, then maybe I’d give people something to talk about. “You want to hear me do an impression of Spongebob Squarepants?” 

“Yes, please,” Candace and Dylan said in unison. I cleared my throat and proceeded to speak to Candace as though she were Patrick Star. 

After Candace finished her meal, Dylan suggested she go watch some Paw Patrol so that the two of us could speak alone. 

“Thanks for being so great with her. Jill and I kind of dropped the ball on playtime when she would come over,” Dylan said. Jill wasn’t great with kids. She thought they were cute but had no patience for stuff kids liked. “Wait here one sec while I get Jill’s stuff.” 

I nodded and stayed seated at his kitchen table while he dashed up the stairs and back in what felt like ten seconds. He was so fast! 

Dylan gently put a box of Jill’s things in front of me. 

“Thanks,” I said. 

“How is she?” Dylan asked. His canines were shinier than the rest of his teeth. They glistened. I tried not to think about what he would sink his teeth into when he was fully wolfed out. Though that was none of my business. Oh God, why had I just thought about what he did with his teeth? He and his sister had been so nice to me. What was wrong with me? 

Maybe it was because of something my uncle had said one Thanksgiving. He had joked about how Mom should check if the bird had any teeth marks after her friend Vivian from book club had dropped off a pie and left. Vivian, a Lycan American, was in her sixties and was so sweet to have made pie for us before she visited her family. We ignored my uncle, but I kept thinking about what he had said. If he ever said that kind of crap again, I was going to call him out on it.

“Jill will be okay,” I said. At least I hoped so. “How are you?” 

“I feel kind of guilty that I don’t feel worse,” he said honestly. “Jill’s great. She’s beautiful, smart, thoughtful, and she’s going to leave this town in the dust and go on to do so many cool things. I just know it.” 

“But you still broke up with her.” 

His furry eyebrows, which seemed to take up most of his forehead, wrinkled.

“You’re going to think I’m silly, but sometimes I felt like Jill liked the idea of dating me more than actual me. She never said it, but sometimes it felt like if I wasn’t … like if I were full human, she wouldn’t be interested. As much as she got to know me and cared about me, a part of me always felt like I was a novelty to her. Does that make sense?” 

It did make sense. Maybe that was why I had never told Jill about Clarissa. Deep down, I wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t treat me like a “cause,” or maybe I was worried that she might make my coming out all about her in some weird way. This is my friend Andrea, and I love her even though she’s a giant homosexual. Aren’t I brave? I mean … isn’t she brave? I hadn’t given her a chance to prove me wrong. Still, I hadn’t told her yet. I didn’t want that to be true.

“She means well, I think,” I said with a shrug. “She can be sort of … blind to the feelings of others. Even when she is overly concerned with the feelings of others. But you didn’t hear that from me.” I didn’t want her to think Dylan and I had been talking badly about her behind her back. I wasn’t sure why … maybe it was some weird sense of loyalty I had to her. “She still has your letterman jacket. She said if you wanted it, you’d have to go see her, but maybe now isn’t the best time.” 

“She can have it,” he said sadly. “I think we both need a little space. Otherwise it’ll get confusing.” 

Dylan walked me to the front door. There were photos of his relatives in frames along the wall. Some in human form, others in full wolf mode. It didn’t feel so strange. It felt like any other home full of people who loved each other. They couldn’t hide who and what they were, but it looked like they wouldn’t want to even if they had the option. They looked proud of each other and the lives they had built for themselves. I was a little envious. 

“I, um, I haven’t told Jill or anybody about my liking girls,” I said sheepishly while clutching Jill’s box of stuff. “I mean, I haven’t told anybody except my mom. I don’t want it to be a big deal or anything. Maybe when I’m dating someone I’ll let people know.” 

“Secret’s safe with me. Though I heard Margaret cheated on Clarissa at Jared’s pool party, if that helps,” Dylan said. 

“How did you—is that one of your abilities or something?” I asked. “Sorry, that was rude!” 

Dylan laughed. I breathed a little easier, knowing I hadn’t offended him. 

No. Mind reading isn’t a Lycan ability. I just observed you before Jill and I got together. I had a crush on you freshman year. Sorry, is that weird?” 

I blinked at him. He had wanted to date me over perfect Jill? 

“No, not weird. I mean, I’m flattered. It’s just the whole…”

“…Lycan thing, I know. It’s hard to find people who are accepting.”

“No! It’s the dude thing. Male thing. Not, uh … huh. Dylan Houndsmith, you’re full of surprises.” 

We grinned at each other. 

“I’d say we should hang out as friends, but I don’t think Jill would go for that.” Dylan was 100 percent correct. Jill would hate that. 

“Maybe when you two are in a better place. We can all be friends,” I said. He looked at me sadly. We both knew that once Jill set her mind to something, like hating her ex-boyfriend, there was no coming back. 

“Have a great summer, Andrea.” 

“You too, Dylan. You too.” 

I turned away and heard the door shut behind me. I felt a twinge of melancholy.

* * *

I rang Jill’s doorbell, and she yelled that the door was open, not bothering to get off the couch. I placed her things on the coffee table she was resting her feet on. Her parents hated when she did that. 

“Well? What did he say?” Jill asked. “What did he say about me?” It was such a different reaction from Dylan’s. He had asked me how Jill was, how she was feeling. Jill wanted to know what was said about her. 

I sat down next to her on the couch. She looked at me intently while I tried to formulate what I wanted to say. “Well?” 

“I’m allergic to pineapple,” I said. 


“When we order pizza, you always want pineapple. But my tongue gets itchy and swollen, and I don’t think I should eat it,” I said calmly. 

“What does that have to do with…” she said before she took in my dead-serious expression. I wanted her to soak this information in. It was probably silly, but I needed to know that she cared about me. That I wasn’t a prop in her play with Dylan or whoever came next. “Okay. No pineapple on our pizzas.” 

I nodded. She wasn’t that far up her own butt. That was encouraging. 

“He asked how you were. He thinks you’re great, but I think it’s time to move on,” I said. 

“Is there someone else?” 

I shook my head. She slumped back and relaxed. That was really what she wanted to know—if there was a rival she needed to challenge. If Dylan found anyone else as desirable as she imagined herself to be. She was beautiful—on the outside, anyway. I was learning that the inside still needed some work.  

“His little sister was there. She’s adorable,” I said. 

“Yeah, and she knows it! Dylan’s wrapped around her finger. Nice kid, but man, she always tagged along on our date nights when we watched movies at his house. We had to watch Frozen all the time. It’s like, let it go already,” she said, rolling her eyes and laughing at her own joke. She turned her attention back to the remote control and changed channels. “Speaking of movies, what do you want to watch?” 

She was asking me! I couldn’t remember the last time she’d done that.

“Any action movie with Charlize Theron,” I suggested. 

“Okay,” she said, searching for one on demand. “Thanks for being here. I know I’m a lot sometimes.” 

You are. You are a lot sometimes. 

“You’d do the same for me, right?” 

“Of course I would,” she said without hesitation. “You’re my ride or die, bitch.” 

I cringed and smiled at the same time. I believed her. Though as graduation got closer, I didn’t know that I’d keep in touch the way she thought we would. I was looking forward to leaving our town, meeting other people, and being Andrea rather than Jill’s friend Andrea. 

But tonight, I’d stay with her. Let her heal. Let her talk about herself. Tomorrow, I was going to be busy. I was going to call Clarissa and see what she was up to.

{ Edited by Denise Conejo. }