The visionary shapeshifter named Briar blinked her (currently) blue eyes and leapt from the window, long cat’s tail whipping out behind her. A moment later her stepmother stormed out from the cottage door, voice like a thunderclap:

“Briar! You get back here this instant!”

Shapeshifters were bound by tradition and law to keep their “malady” a secret. Stay passably human, they were told from a young age, and don’t make waves. And try not to grow a tail at an inconvenient time, lest you be fined, arrested, or worse.

Briar was neither traditional nor lawful, and as she wriggled out the window her form was fluid, the claws and tail needed for climbing and balance appearing almost instinctively. “Stop before someone sees you!” Mrs. Rink added in a desperate tone, her stepdaughter still ignoring her.

It was already too late. The village newspaper boy, making his rounds outside with the evening edition, saw Briar’s leap…and one look at the increasingly feline girl was enough to put him back on his bike and pedaling madly off. It was no surprise when, an hour later, there was a knock on the door.

“Mrs. Rink, a word?” The officer cut an imposing figure thanks in equal part to the dueling scar across his face and his pursed-lip grimace.

“Of course, officer, what can I do for you?” Briar’s stepmother did her best to put on an innocent, guileless facade.

“We’ve had a report of someone in this house taking on an unnatural form.” The officer was about to proceed when he paused and let loose with a racking sneeze. “My apologies,” he said, fishing out a handkerchief. “I saw a cat in your rubbish, and I’m deathly allergic.”

“Well, do come in, Officer,” Mrs. Rink said. “Allow me to put my housecat out for the night so I don’t worsen your allergies before we speak.”

The officer hadn’t a chance to respond before Mrs. Rink dashed up to her stepdaughter’s room. Briar was there, across her bed, about 50% cat by volume and still panting from the evening’s exertions.

“You’re in for it now, child,” hissed Mrs. Rink. “Someone saw you and called the police! Surely you heard him sneezing downstairs. Now change yourself into something presentable so I can take you down and show Officer Scarface there’s nothing to worry about!”

“I heard more than that,” said Briar. “I know a much better way out.”

“Not the window again, please,” her stepmother said desperately. “My heart can’t take it.”

“Of course not.” Briar rolled upright as she did so fluidly dropping everything humanlike about her in favor of a large alley cat form. “I’m going to go down there and give poor allergic Officer Scarface an asthma attack.”

“No, no!” Mrs. Rink said. “I forbid it.”

“You never let me have any fun,” Briar said flippantly, ignoring her stepmother and slinking down the stairs.

“Some days,” Mrs. Rink sighed, “I think owning a Chihuahua might do me some good.”

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