Riley and Zoe were still walking through the forest. I noticed how close they were and flew closer to them, to keep an eye on them. I realised how much noise my wings were making and turned into a butterfly. Being a butterfly meant I could get nearer to them and they wouldn't notice.
"Seriously though, what's so bad about Darran's gift? It's a gift," Zoe said, pressing the subject further.
"If you said that to Darran he'd just laugh at you. He hates it. He just wants it taken away. It's dangerous. It's - honest to God - scary. If you really want to know, ask him and he might tell you," Riley said.
They carried on in silence again. After ten minutes or so, Zoe spoke.
"Can you take me back, Riley?" she murmured, resigned.
He smiled sadly and held a hand out to her. She took it without a moment's hesitation and they disappeared. I landed on the earth. The soil was hard-packed from the hooves and paws that had bounded over it. I turned into a wolf and ran back to the house at full speed. I reached it within five minutes, despite the distance.
I paused at the fence and paced beside it. I found a hole in the wood and put my eye to it. I couldn't see anyone, outside or at the windows. I tensed my hind legs and jumped the fence in one swift motion. I silently padded towards the large pool. I looked at all the windows. No one was there and no one rushed out of the house.
I still didn't want to talk to anyone but I didn't want to wander around the forest anymore. I could have just sat on the stone slabs in the back garden but eventually someone would have come out and they'd just bombard me. I looked at the pool and tipped my head to the side. If I was in the water, I wouldn’t be able to hear them and I wouldn’t be able to respond anyway.
I walked to the edge of the pool and slipped in, trying to create as little noise as possible. It didn’t work very well; halfway into the water, I turned into a Californian sea lion and my back flippers slapped against the water, causing quite a splash.
I swam down to the bottom of the pool – at least four metres down – and just swam around in rhythmic circles that helped to calm me down and let me get my thoughts straight.
Through the water, I vaguely heard the footsteps. I quickly cast a glance upwards. Darran was stood at the pool’s edge, looking down at me with a faint expression of sadness. Zoe quickly joined him at the side and grinned at the sight of me. She moved to get into the pool but I rushed upwards and splashed water at them. Darran grabbed Zoe’s elbow.
“Just leave him for now. He just needs to calm down,” Darran said. At least, I think that’s what he said; I could only just hear him through the water.
Darran turned and walked away but Zoe sat down and crossed her legs. I didn’t mind her just sat there, as long as she wasn’t going to try and interact with me. I got bored being a sea lion so slowly went through all the marine animals that I knew.
Fish were boring, as were seals, sea lions and otters. Being a sea snake wasn’t very comfortable. In my head, I went through the species of sharks I knew. I decided I quite liked blue sharks and settled in that form. Zoe seemed taken aback but I didn’t particularly care, it wasn’t my problem.