(an excerpt from) Chapter 1: Redding High
Natara stepped over the Celebrating 25 Years of Redding High flier that had joined the other fallen victims of bored students. This particular flier was illustrated with colorful drawings of creatures. She opened her dented gray locker to switch her books, then closed it to find Gladia leaning against the lockers with a forlorn expression. The iridescent scales on her cheeks glittered in the sun despite her attempt to look downcast.
Natara tried her best to look understanding. “He didn’t ask?”
Gladia forced disinterest and folded her arms. “As if I care.”
Natara smiled. It was always hard to gauge exactly how to treat these critical moments. “Good, that’s the spirit!”
Gladia looked as if she would burst into a fit of rage, or tears, or both.
Natara smiled and brushed Gladia’s chin with the back of her hand. “Looks like you’re stuck with me, again” she added, trying to sound cheerful.
Gladia sighed, dropped her eyes for a moment, then lifted her chin. “Best date I could ask for!” She swept her long, dark hair off her shoulders and teased her bangs. She adjusted her gray skirt and white top and squared her shoulders. Natara never tired of watching Gladia’s iridescent patches of scales shimmer as she moved in the sun.
Gladia, an aquatic animoid, was slender and tall. Her fingers and toes were connected by flexible webbing. She maintained most of the functionality of her hands with an advantage when swimming. Her light brown skin was hairless. She liked to wear wigs of different colors and popular cuts. Her angular face was thin with high cheekbones, but graceful and beautiful. Her bright blue eyes provided an appealing contrast to her skin.
They took a few steps in silence, then Natara brought up an old subject to distract her friend.
“Six more weeks and we won’t have to wear these ridiculous uniforms! I can’t believe after 50 years of being in business, Bealing Uniforms couldn’t find a material animoids can wear comfortably! I’m so sick of this skirt making my legs so hot!”
“I know! But you know it’s owned by humans. They only think about their skin and not how this material catches on scales!” Gladia took up, with an exasperated roll of her eyes.
Natara knew this conversation was worn out, but like a favorite blanket, a comfortable familiarity to retreat to when needed.
“Well, we’ll just have to become famous uniform designers,” Gladia continued with a skip.
Natara laughed. They had never taken the conversation this far. Of all the “I want to be [insert dream] when I grow up” statements they made in the past, Gladia had yet to pick fashion. Natara shook her head and laughed, but Gladia kept going.
“No, think of it,” she said, spreading her hands as if reading a sign above them, “Scales, Fur, & More! We’ll be famous!”