The Final Farewell
By "TV Dave" Neff
Dexter pulled into Chris' driveway and was suddenly caught in the middle of a snowball fight. Robin and Jeremy had come over to the house and had persuaded Alan to come out as well. The three furs had been amusing themselves by throwing snowballs at each other until the car pulled up; then the missiles were directed at the car.
"Hey!" Dexter yelped as he climbed out of the car. Chris stayed hidden inside, grinning, but it was too late for Dexter. A snowball skittered across the roof of the car and hit him square in the back of the head, spilling snow down the inside of his coat.
"That's it!" Dexter barked as he dove for a pawful of snow. Robin and Jeremy tore off down the street, laughing like maniacs. Dexter chased them to the end of the driveway and stopped, watching the boys high tail it down the street. He heaved his snowball as far as he could, but missed them by a country mile. Dexter stood there for a moment, breathing hard, as the boys capered beyond his apparent range, wagging their tails at him and heckling. He threw his paws in the air, turned and came back up the driveway grumbling to himself, "In college and they still act like a couple of school pups!"
Chris got out of the car, and, even though he was still feeling wrung out from the visit to the funeral home, he had to hold his paw over his muzzle to stifle a chuckle. He felt something cold and wet wrap tightly around his leg. He looked down to see Alan, dressed for outside, but soaking wet.
Chris reached down
and picked him up. "Come here, boy!" he laughed. "Look at you!"
He ran a paw over the fur on his son's head, wiping off a pawful of snow.
Alan tried to duck from his father's ministrations, but Chris was too fast. "Aw, Dad," he grumbled, but then started grinning. "Didja see our snowball fight?"
Chris chuckled. "No way I could have missed that, bucko." He finished brushing off the young fox, just as Alan wriggled out of his grasp.
Now a safe distance away, Alan remembered something. "Oh, Daddy, Grandma is here," he exclaimed. "Did you see her?"
"Yes, I did. She was just getting to Otter's, as your Uncle Dex and I were leaving."
Alan got quiet, and gave his father a sad look. "Did you see mommy?" he asked.
Chris looked back at his son. Reading his eyes, he knew the todd had many questions, but didn't know how to ask them.
"Yes, I did son," he replied somberly.
"Is… is she OK?"
"I think so. You'll get to see her soon."
Dexter stomped up to the two foxes, still trying to get the last of the snow out from under his neck. "Well, now, HERE'S a well-behaved young fur!" he said loudly, glancing down the block where his two still cavorted. "What are you doing out here, Alan?"
"Robin and Jeremy came here, and Aunt Angel made them go out because the video game was making too much noise, 'n 'cause Aunt Tab is sleeping, 'n I came out too, 'cause I wanted to play…" the young fox explained in one breath.
"And now he's all wet," added Chris. Alan giggled.
"Well, son, let's get you inside and out of those wet clothes."
"Aww dad! I wanna stay out! Please?"
"No, son, you've had enough outside time for now, and I… want… you… IN!" he said as he scooped Alan up in his arms. He carried the giggling and protesting fox up the steps to the porch. Angel opened the door, and let in the three wet furs.
"Thanks, Angel!" Chris said gratefully. He put Alan down, and then started to help his son out of his wet clothes.
Angel went over to Dexter and helped him out of his coat. "Where are the boys?" she asked.
Dexter started laughing. "I think they're in the next county by now."
"One of them hit Dex with a snowball, and he chased after them. Fortunately, he's slower than they are," Chris said with a chuckle.
Angel scowled, and pointed a finger at her husband. "Dexter!" she scolded.
"Hon! I just yelled at them, and off they ran."
Her face changed to a slight smile. "So you got hit, huh?"
"Yeah! And I got snow all down my back," Dexter said miserably, but with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"You poor baby! Come here and let me warm you up!" she said to him, and she hugged her husband.
Chris was hanging Alan's wet coat and gloves on the rack by the door, when he felt his son tug on his pants leg. He looked down, and saw his son motioning him closer, a sly look on his muzzle. Cautiously, Chris stooped down to eye level.
Alan tiptoed over and, after a mischievous glance at the hugging Collies, whispered in his father's furry ear, "It wasn't Jeremy or Robin that hit Uncle Dexter with the snowball. It was me!"
Chris glanced over at his friends and started chuckling softly. He leaned over and whispered into his son's pointed ear, "I think this better be our little secret, OK?"
Letting her husband go, Angel went into the kitchen. She came back a moment later with a pad of messages for Chris.
"Where's Tab?" he asked.
Angel pointed down the hall. "She's in Alan's room, fast asleep. The poor dear, she was up all night with her mother after you called," she said, and then handed the pad to Chris. "This is a list of those you need to call back. And more flowers arrived while you were gone," she said, gesturing toward the kitchen.
Chris could see there were about 10 vases full of flowers on the counter. He took a deep breath, and then let it out slowly. The playful mood he'd been sharing with his son just moments ago had vanished. He looked down at his son and said, "Alan, please go over to my easy chair and sit there, because we're going to make some calls. OK?"
"Yes, dad," he replied dutifully, and padded off to the living room. Chris then turned to Angel and Dexter.
"Dex, why don't you and Angel go home now and get some rest. I need to use this time to make some calls. If you could, I'd like you to call over to work, and pass on what time services will be."
He walked over to Angel, and gave her a hug. "Angel, you have been a blessing," he told her. "If it hadn't been for you and Dex, I'd still be over in Grove City, acting like a babbling idiot."
Angel blushed. "Now Chris, you and Sabrina are just like family to us."
"I know, Angel. But I still want to let you know how much I appreciate the two of you."
"Are you sure there isn't anything else we can do?" Angel asked as she walked to the rack by the door for her coat.
"No. That's it for now," he replied. "I want to have some quiet time with Alan; because when Sabrina's mother and the crew get back here, it's going to be a madhouse. So you two should get some rest."
Chris reached for Angel's coat to help her put it on. As she turned to button it, Chris kissed her on the side of her muzzle. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you both." He reached for the door and opened it to let them out.
Angel turned quickly, and waved to Alan. "Bye, Alan."
He looked up and waved back. "Bye, Aunt Angel!" he yelled as he waved back.
Chris followed them out onto the porch, where he thanked them again. He stood in the cold air and watched them drive off, only to stop after half a block and let two snow-covered pups into the back seat. With a frosty sigh, he went back inside.
In the house, he saw Alan had found the TV remote and was running the gauntlet of channels, trying to find something to watch. Chris padded past him and down the hall to Alan's room to check on Tabitha. Opening the door quietly, he could see her sleeping soundly on Alan's bed.
Chris smiled when he thought back to when he first met her. She had been an obnoxious voice on the telephone, listening in and making embarrassing comments on the extension. He remembered winning Tabitha over with a giant plushy at her 6th birthday party. Now she had grown into a rather beautiful young skunkette, but she still had a love for plushies. In fact, she had one in her arms now as she slept.
Chris closed the door, and went back to join his son in the living room. He was avidly watching something noisy on the television. He scooped the young fox out of his easy chair, plopped himself down, and then sat Alan in his lap.
"Hey, sport, what on Earth are you watching?" he asked.
Alan giggled, "Kung Fu Theater, dad!"
Chris took the remote from his son's paw and turned the volume down. "Let's keep this at a dull roar for a while," he said. "I need to make some calls." Dropping the remote, he reached for the cordless phone that was on the coffee table.
"Who should we call first?" he asked his son. Alan shrugged. "How bout we call Aunt Zig?" asked Chris.
"Yeah!" said Alan happily. "She's nice, she brings me toys when she comes by."
Chris punched in the numbers with his left paw, and brought it up to his ear… 1 ring … 2 rings… Click… "ZZ Studios, how may I help you?" answered a pleasant voice.
"Yes! Is Zig Zag in, please? This is Chris Foxx."
"One moment, Mr. Foxx. She's expecting your call." The hold music came on, but it went off just as fast.
"Chris! Is that you?" an anxious female voice asked.
"Hi Zig! Yeah, it's me."
"Are you ok? Is Alan all right?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Chris scritched Alan behind his ears, but the todd ignored him, paying full attention to the badly dubbed action flick. He heard Zig Zag talking to someone in her office, and then she was back on.
"I just cleared my office. Now, I want to know what happened!" So Chris went through the whole story, from the first call, through the drive over to Grove City and the events at the ER, to Dexter coming to get him, and through what occurred today at the Otter's. When he finished he thought he could hear her crying. Knowing how proud she was, he didn't comment on it.
"When are the services?" she asked after a moment, her voice still trembling a little.
"The day after tomorrow, visitation is at 2 pm, the service is at 3, and the burial will be at 5 pm." It was quiet on the phone for a few moments, then he heard her sigh.
"James and I will be there sometime tomorrow. We'll get a hotel close by."
"Thanks, Zig. You and James are more than welcome to come."
is there anything I can do for you?"
"Could you call some folks out there, and pass on the time of the services?"
"OK, I can do that. Anything else?"
"Hmm… Not that I can think of. Oh, by the way! Thanks for the flowers; I saw them this morning over at Otter's. They were so beautiful…you shouldn't have!"
"Chris! It was the least I could do. Sabrina did a lot for this company, with the web site and her designs on the video boxes. Plus, I really loved her…like a little sister."
"I know, Zig," Chris replied warmly.
"So! What are you going to do now?" she asked.
"I don't know, Zig. This is all happening so fast, I just don't know. Sabrina's mom and friends are here now, but that's just for a few days. After that, it's just Alan and me."
"I'm so sorry Chris, I just wish there was more I could do for you. We'll talk when I get there."
"OK Zig, I'll see you and James tomorrow." He broke the connection, and then turned his attention to Alan. "Aunt Zig will be here tomorrow," he said. Alan flicked an ear at his father; he was still engrossed with watching furs chopping and kicking at each other.
Chris turned the phone on again and punched in another number. This time it was to Sabrina's long-time friend and boss, Eric.
Eric took the call with shock and disbelief, and made Chris fill him in on all the details. He jotted down the time and place of the service, and informed Chris that he would try to be there as well.
After returning the call from the insurance company, Chris punched the off button on the cordless and gave an exhausted sigh. Ruffling the fur on his son's head he scooted out from underneath him, then stood up. "OK son, you can turn the TV back up."
Alan searched around until he found the remote, and hit the volume.
Chris looked down the hall. Looking at the door to Sabrina's computer room, he remembered that he had to go online and inform her chat friends. Padding down the hall, he hesitated outside the door to the computer room. Placing his paw on the doorknob, he let out a sad sigh. After a moment to gather his courage, he opened the door and flicked on the light. There in the small room was Sabrina's computer and her collection of Transformers that lined the walls on shelves. Chris pulled Sabrina's chair over to the desk and sat down. On her desk, by the keyboard, was a pad and pen; on the pad were notes and doodles, in Sabrina's pawwriting. This was her inner sanctum; after Chris set up her computer for her, he'd never come in here, until today. Reaching under the desk, he found the power switch and turned the CPU on.
While waiting for the computer to boot up, he sat back in the chair. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply; her scent was strong in here. When he opened his eyes, the screen told him it was ready for use. Pawing the mouse, he clicked on the IRC icon; then chose the chat button. Once that opened, he searched the menu to find the room where Sabrina usually hung out. Finding no one there, he posted a message about her death on the room bulletin board. Then he clicked out of chat and shut the computer down.
In the quiet of the computer room, Chris sat motionlessly. He looked up at the Transformers, his eyes starting to burn with tears again; they stared back down at him, but they never replied to his unspoken questions.
Chris heard a noise from the living room, followed by several voices. Then Alan shouted, "Grandma's back, Daddy! Grandma's here!" Wiping his eyes on his shirtsleeve, Chris stood up, and took a last look around at Sabrina's things. He took a deep breath, to get himself back under control, and walked out to the living room closing the door behind him.
The room was full of furs, all talking, hanging up coats, and hugging Alan. Thomas was the last one to enter, his arms filled with several bags of fast food chicken. "Hey Chris, it ain't Atomic Chicken Wings and beer but a fox's gotta eat," he said with a grin. Motioning towards his car with his head, he added, "There's one more bag in the back seat."
Not bothering with a coat, Chris went out to the car to find the last bag of food. The cold air felt good on his fur, and helped brush the cobwebs out of his mind. Back in the house, everyone was in the kitchen, helping set the table. Amy came over to Chris and took the last bag from him.
"Where's Endora?" he asked.
"Oh, she went to wake Tabitha," Amy said as he followed her into the kitchen.
Thomas pointed to a chair next to him with a half-eaten chicken wing. "Hey, you better sit now before all the chairs are gone."
Chris started moving toward the proffered chair when someone grabbed him from behind. He turned to find Tabitha, who had wrapped her arms around him. "Well, hi, sleepy head! You feeling better?" he asked as he returned her hug.
"Hi, Chris," she said in a tired voice as she leaned on his chest.
Endora, who had followed her in, said, "She stayed up with me the whole time after the call last night, and it's catching up with her."
Chris turned Tabitha towards the kitchen. "Come on, Tab, I haven't had anything to eat all day and my stomach is calling." Chris slid her into an empty seat, and sat down next to Thomas as the Clique broke out the chicken and mashed potatoes.
Amy reached across the table, and took Chris by the paw. "She was beautiful, Chris!"
"I know," he replied as he reached into the bucket of chicken. "The dress was perfect. But what kept you all so long?"
Amy smiled sadly. "Well, we went in, and we all looked at Sabrina. We had a good, long cry. As we were coming out, we decided we had to go back in to have one more look, and started crying again. We finally made it to the lobby, and found Thomas asleep. So we woke him up, to drive us home. Then we decided to take Thomas in for a look." Chris looked to Thomas, who had a mouth full of chicken. He just nodded his head in agreement. "So we took Thomas back in, and the crying started again. Then Mrs. Otter came in, and saw us all still there. She made us some tea, and we all sat there, talking about Sabrina's life."
"And when it was time to go," Thomas broke in, "the crying started again! I had to herd them all down the hall and into the lobby. All of them wanted to go back in again, but I got them out and packed in the cars. We were driving back here when Endora suggested that we stop for chicken, and here we are," he explained as he eyed the next piece of chicken he had in his paw.
"So where's Cousin Timmy?" Alan asked around a mouthful of chicken.
"He's at my parents' house," Thomas replied. "He has a bit of a cold, and we didn't want to spread it."
In less then a half hour all the chicken was consumed and Endora took charge by ordering the table cleaned off and paws washed. She supervised the flurry of activity for a moment; then said, "There's something I need to do." She went into the living room and searched for her suitcase among the stack piled there. She found hers, popped it open, and grabbed several objects off the top. She returned to the kitchen, carrying an old shoebox and two photo albums. Sitting back down at the table, she opened the shoebox, which was full of old photos. The rest of the group quickly gathered around.
Pulling the first photo out, she looked at it for a moment. "Ahh!" she said as she held it up, "This is Sarge and I just before we were married."
"I can see where Sabrina got her looks," Susan said as she took the picture from her.
Pulling out another, "And this is the day we brought Sabrina home from the hospital."
Amy, seeing the photo of the couple with the tiny skunk baby said, "Aww! She's so cute."
The next one was
of a tiny Sabrina, peeking over the edge of a bassinet at baby Tabitha.
Another was of Sabrina, about 6 years old, standing in a wading pool. Next were photos of elementary school, high school, Sabrina with the Clique, and past boyfriends (Chris tried to quell a feeling of jealousy). More pictures followed: Sabrina at college; more shots with the Clique; graduation; Amy's wedding; Chris and Sabrina's wedding, and the birth of Alan.
It went on that way, late into the night, a celebration of Sabrina's life, with "awww's", laughter and tears.
The next day was a whirlwind of events, as Sabrina's obituary appeared in the morning paper. All day, Chris dealt with phone calls and the arrival of cards and flowers, as well as neighbors and friends stopping by to pay their condolences. Around noon, Zig Zag and James showed up. They spent about two hours with Chris before going off to their hotel.
Endora dispatched the Clique off to the store to get cookies, cake mix, and refreshments. When the girls returned, the kitchen was transformed into a bakery. The oven heated up, baking pans were filled with batter, and of course Alan supervised the cleaning of the mixing bowls and spoons. Dexter and Angel stopped in, and the cake was sampled. Alan's fur was a sticky mess from helping clean up the batter, so Endora decided to give him a bath. He was last seen being led down the hall, protesting.
"Well Chris, what are your plans for tomorrow?" Dexter asked.
"I guess I'm gonna have to play it by ear, Dex. I know I'm going to go early and take Alan to spend some time with his mom. After things get started, I won't have much time to spend with him."
Angel came in from the kitchen; where she had been helping the girls ice the cake.
to go?" she asked.
Dexter stood up. "Yeah, I guess so."
Chris helped them with their coats, and walked outside with them. Bidding them a good night he watched them drive off. A light snow was falling. Standing there in the cold he knew he had something to do. Going back in, he stuck his head into the kitchen and told Thomas and the girls he was going for a drive, and would be back soon.
Five minutes later, Chris found himself pulling into the driveway of the Otter Family Funeral Home. Looking at the clock on the dash, it read 9:30 pm. It looked like they were closed, but Chris drove around to the back. The back door was lit and all the office lights were on. Parking his car, he got out, and went up to the door. There was a sign by the door that read, 'For Assistance, Please Ring The Bell.' Chris pushed the button.
The door was opened almost immediately, and Larry Otter greeted Chris. "Mr. Foxx!" he exclaimed. "Please come in, get out of the cold." Chris came in, and Larry closed the door behind them. "What can I do for you?"
Chris stood there with his paws in his pockets. He looked down at the floor first, and then looked up at Larry. "Can I see her, please?" he asked, his voice choking.
"Of course you can!" Larry assured him.
"You may think this is strange, but …"
Larry cut him off on mid-sentence. "Mr. Foxx," he said kindly, "you're not the first; this is almost a nightly occurrence here."
"Yes, it is. Here, just follow me." Larry took him down the hall, past the repose room and Lester's office, and through the main lobby. Turning left, they came to the first viewing room. "It happens all the time," Larry continued, "Parents coming to see a child, or friends wanting to spend last moments with a chum. Like you, wanting to see their wife, because time is precious and, after what goes on here, they're gone forever."
Larry reached his paw out to a rheostat, and turned the lights up in the room. "There you go, Mr. Foxx. You're welcome to stay the night but if you decide to leave after a bit, just come back to the rear office and I'll let you out."
"Thank you, Larry," Chris said gratefully.
"No problem." he said, and he turned and left.
Chris slowly walked in and looked to the right. The room had changed since he had been there the day before. There were more flowers, lots more, all arranged beautifully. In the center, up front, was the casket. Chris took in the sight for a moment, and then walked up the center aisle to the coffin. There was his Sabrina, now lying peacefully in the pink silk interior of the casket. Placing his paws on the edge of the casket, he looked down at her. He ran the back of his paw over her cheek. Bending over, he kissed the tip of her nose, and then whispered in her ear.
"I had to come back, Kitten. I had to see you."
With a heavy sigh, he stood up, and took a look around the room. He drifted over to the row of flowers that lined the wall, pausing to read the small card with each bunch. Most of the bouquets were from friends and co-workers. Chris worked his way along the wall until he came to the last arrangement of flowers, the casket spray from Zig Zag. It was a glorious mass of white roses, with one red rose in the center. Reaching out with his paw, Chris tried to remove it, but it held fast. He bent the stem till it broke at the base, and bringing it up to his nose, inhaled its fragrance. He walked back to Sabrina, and took her paw into his own. Larry Otter's words ran through his mind: "Time is precious."
"Yes, it is," he whispered. Putting her paw down, Chris placed the rose in Sabrina's paws, making it look like she was holding it.
"And tomorrow you will be gone forever," he said, his voice choking. Turning away, he saw the row of chairs there, and sat down. Remembering the breathing exercise Angel taught him the other night; he took slow and deliberate breaths. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his thoughts. In about ten minutes he felt better, much more relaxed.
Looking at his watch, he decided it was time to go. He rose and padded back over to Sabrina. Looking down on her one last time, he ran his paw through her hair. He kissed her again and said, "Good night, Kitten." With a sigh he turned and walked out of the room.
He made his way back to the rear office, where he found Larry Otter. The young fur looked up from some paperwork as Chris entered the door. "Is there any thing else I can do for you, Mr. Foxx?" he asked.
"No, I guess that's it. I'm going home now. Thanks for letting me in."
"It was no problem, Mr. Foxx." Larry opened the door to let Chris out. "It's still snowing outside, so you drive carefully!"
"Yeah! I will, Larry. Thank you, and good night."
Chris walked slowly out into the snow. His right ear twitched backwards as he heard the soft *snick* of the door as it closed behind him. Stopping beyond the glow of the back entrance's single light, he turned his face up into the falling snow, and scanned the dark sky.
"Good night, Sabrina," he whispered, as if she was listening. "Good night."
Chris drove slowly through the snowy streets, lost in thought. He felt momentarily surprised and disoriented when he found himself pulling up to his house. All the lights were off, but he could see the glow of the TV in the living room. He climbed out of the car and stepped carefully across the snowy sidewalk, fumbling for his house keys. He quietly let himself in and was not surprised to find Endora wrapped in a warm robe and sitting on the couch. The television was on, but she appeared not to be paying it much attention.
Seeing Chris come in, she fumbled for the remote in her lap, and lowered the volume. "You went to see her again, didn't you?"
"Yes Mom, I had to," Chris said quietly as he took off his coat and hung it by the door.
Sabrina's mother gestured for Chris to sit next to her. As he sat down beside her, she looked into his eyes. "How did she look?"
"She was radiant, Mom. Like an angel."
Endora nodded, and then looked at her paws. "Tabitha had a talk with me after you left. She wants to stay here to help take care of things."
Chris smiled, and took her paws into his.
"Now, how can she do that? She has school, her friends, and you."
"Now, I'm a grown skunk, Chris. I can take care of myself," she said as she patted Chris's paws. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Endora looked up at Chris. "Why don't you and Alan move to Ohio? You can live with us."
Chris looked away sadly; then returned his gaze to Endora. "I just don't know, Mom. I really don't know. My job is here, all my friends, and…and Sabrina…" he said, his voice dropping to a whisper.
"That's OK, Chris," She looked lovingly at the fox that had been such an important part of her daughter's life. "We'll talk about this later, after this all settles down. But now, it's time for bed." She tried to rise from the couch, but stopped with a groan. "Oh, ouch! I guess I got stiff from sitting here too long!"
Chris leapt to his feet, and with a flourish, offered his arm to Endora. "May I provide some assistance, my dear lady?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.
"Why, thank you, kind sir," she replied with a small smile. Using Chris's arm for leverage, she pulled herself upright, her spine crackling slightly as she straightened. "Oof! Can't nap on the couch the way I used to anymore; I better get ready for tomorrow, and get some sleep."
She paused, still holding Chris's arm. "You know…" she said, her voice becoming choked, "I'm not ready for tomorrow. Up 'til yesterday, the worst day of my life was the day Sarge passed away." Chris could see her tears starting, and put his arms around her. She put her head on his chest and began to weep. "But tomorrow… I thought I'd never see tomorrow happen. It's not fair that I have to see one of my children go before me. It's just not fair!" she sobbed as she buried her face in Chris' shirt.
"I know, Mom." Chris tried to keep his composure as he patted her back, but he could feel hot tears running down his cheek fur.
After a few moments, Endora took a deep breath, and stepped out of Chris' embrace. She wiped the tears from her eyes, and then looked up at the fox. She reached a paw out and touched the wet fur on his face. "You know she loved you the most. She did," Endora said. "Many furs chased after her, but it was you she chose. And I'm glad she did. You were good to her Chris. She never said a bad thing about you. I could see the love you shared when you two were together…the way she looked at you, and the way you treated her." Endora took her paw away, then stood on her toes and kissed Chris on the cheek. "Now, get some sleep. We have a long day coming."
Endora turned and padded down the hall and turned into Chris' room. Hearing the door close, Chris located the remote for the television, and turned it off. He sat back down on what was to be his bed for the night, a stack of pillows and blankets were beside the couch. Tabitha was with Alan, Mom had his room, and the Clique was camped out in the guest room. Amy and Thomas were staying in a nearby hotel, as were Zig Zag and James.
Sitting in the dark he reached over for a pillow, and hugged it tightly with both arms. He longed for Sabrina, to feel her touch, to hear her voice. He thought of what tomorrow would bring, and tears welled in his eyes again. He buried his head in the pillow and cried himself to sleep.
The sound of talking, then the smell of cooking food, wakened Chris from a fretful and restless slumber. He had spent the night battling demons for some unremembered prize, only to jerk himself awake and into remembrance. Realizing where he was, he would cry himself to sleep again, only to begin the battles again. He was about to doze off again when there was a loud whisper in his ear.
Chris half-opened one eye and found Alan standing there in his pajamas. Chris reached out, grabbed the young fox with one paw, and pulled him onto the couch with him.
"And what are you doing, waking me up?" he asked in a gruff voice, tickling his son at the same time.
"I came to get you up," Alan said, giggling and trying to wriggle out of his father's grip. "Grandma's making pancakes."
"Well, we better get to the kitchen before they're all gone." Chris released Alan, who scampered out of reach, still giggling. With a groan, Chris levered himself off the couch and slowly began to make his way to the kitchen. Impatient and hungry, Alan ran ahead, announcing the imminent arrival of his father.
Dawdling over breakfast, Chris found himself staring out the front door window. The snowfall from last night had covered the sidewalk and driveway again. Eager for something to do to keep his mind off the remnants of his nightmares, he got dressed for some outdoor work.
Endora looked out from the kitchen as she heard Chris by the door. "Are you going out?" she asked, as she wiped her paws on a towel.
"Yeah, Mom. I need to go shovel the walk and the driveway. If we're going to have folks over, I don't want them slipping and falling." He put on his coat and went outside. The air was crisp and fresh, and the first icy breaths he took brushed the cobwebs out of his mind. Finding the snow shovel on the porch, he started cleaning off the steps; then moved to the walkway. He worked steadily down the driveway, reaching the street before he decided to take a break. He leaned on the shovel and watched the frosty air hover around his muzzle for a moment, and then disappear. He glanced up at the sky: the sun was trying to break through, but the clouds were too thick.
He had been plenty warm while he was working, but had begun to feel chilled as he rested. Chris changed his grip on the snow shovel and started clearing the sidewalk in front of the house. He stopped when he reached the end of his property and stood there, looking back at the house.
He spotted a pile of leaves under the big maple. Only two weeks ago he'd been out here, raking those leaves. Alan and Sabrina had come out and jumped in the pile, scattering the leaves across half the yard again. Chris remembered throwing down the rake and joining in on the fun, burying Alan in what was left of the pile, and trying to force pawfuls of leaves down Sabrina's shirt.
Chris walked through the snow and up to the tree. It was here that he had sat with Sabrina, as their son piled leaves on top of them. They had played and rolled in the yard until it got dark, and then went inside for hot chocolate. The leaves never did get raked. He looked down at what remained of the pile. He thought he would never touch the leaves again. His vision became blurry, and he shook the thought from his mind. With a shuddering sigh, he crossed the yard and headed back to the house.
Chris opened the door and carefully wiped his foot paws before going inside. He was met by Susan, who told him that her husband, Josh, Debbye's husband, Lee, and Cindy's husband, Clarence, were driving in and would meet them at the Funeral Home. He was also to call Mr. Otter. Chris thanked her warmly, and she gracefully glided back down the hall to the back bedrooms, where he could hear the other women getting ready.
The call to Otter's took only a few minutes. Lester had just wanted to let Chris know that all was ready. He asked if Chris had any changes to make; there were none he could think of, so he thanked Lester and hung up.
When Endora came into the living room she found Chris on his paws and knees, looking for something under the couch. "Nice view?" Endora asked. Chris merely grunted at her. "What are you looking for?"
Chris got up from the floor and sighed. "When I came home from the hospital, the other night, I had a plastic bag. It had all of Sabrina's things from the accident. Have you seen it?"
"Of course I have!" Endora replied. "I took it into the bedroom. It's on top of the dresser." Feeling relieved, Chris went back to his bedroom, checking first for any dressing females before entering. He found the bag next to Sabrina's jewelry box, right where Endora said he would. He picked it up and sat down on the edge of the bed looking at the contents inside. After several minutes went by, Sabrina's mom came into the room and sat down next to him. "What are you going to do with it?" she asked.
"I need to get her rings out," he replied. "I'm going to put them on her when I get there today." Breaking the seal, he reached in and pulled the rings out, laying them on the dresser. He closed the bag back up, and looked at the contents one more time; the smashed glasses, her wallet, and some bills and loose change. Then he placed it aside on the bed.
"Well!" he said, "I need to get ready." He turned to Endora and asked, "Could you get Alan ready while I get showered and dressed?"
"I think I can handle that." Endora squeezed his shoulder, and then left to find her grandson and get him dressed.
Going to his closet Chris picked out a suit, dress shirt, and tie, and laid them out on the bed. Showering quickly and using the fur dryer, he brushed himself down and then dressed. Finding the rings where he left them, he put them in his pocket. Checking himself one more time in the mirror, he left the bedroom.
In the living room he found Alan waiting for him. He was dressed very neatly and was sitting like a little gentlefur with Amy and Thomas, who had just gotten there.
Amy stood up to greet Chris. "You're going now?" she asked after she gave him a quick hug.
"Yes, I am. I'm taking Alan in now to spend some time with his mother. So I'll see you there around three." Chris looked around. "Where's everyone else?" he asked.
"They're all in the guest room getting ready." Amy said.
"Still?" he asked with a trace of amusement. Looking down at his son, Chris asked, "Alan, are you ready to go son?" Alan nodded his head yes.
"Let's get your coat on." Alan followed his dad over to the coat rack. Chris knelt down to help his son put on and button his coat. Thomas and Amy joined them.
Finished, Chris straightened up and put his own coat on. Taking Alan by the paw, they all went out on the porch. "You gonna be OK?" Thomas asked as he put a paw on Chris' shoulder.
"I think so, for now anyway," he said. "I'll see you guys later."
Amy and Thomas stood on the porch and watched as Chris backed out of the driveway, and drove off. Thomas put his arm around Amy as they stood there. "I feel so bad for Chris," he said softly. He turned to look at his wife, and touched the side of her face with his paw.
"Me too," she replied. She looked into his eyes, and then shivered. "Hey it's cold out here! Inside, mister!"
Once again, Chris found himself in the parking lot of Otter's. He helped Alan out of the car, and walked with him, paw in paw, up to the main entrance.
"I know this place," Alan said. "Danny works here. Is Mommy here, too?"
"Yes, she is, and we're going to see her now."
Mrs. Otter met them in the lobby. "Good afternoon, Mr. Foxx! You're early."
"I know," Chris replied. "I brought Alan in to see Sabrina, before things got too busy."
"That's a good idea," she said, "but let me take your coats." After hanging the coats, Esther came back. "And now, if you'll come this way?" She led them to the first viewing room.
Outside the double door was a podium. On it was a book of remembrance, for those who came to the service to sign. "Oh, it looks like your wife has a visitor already."
Looking at the book, Chris saw whose name was in the first space at the top of the page. Smiling sadly, he thanked Mrs. Otter, took Alan by the paw, and led him inside. Looking across the room, Chris could see a fur standing in front of the casket, paying his respects to Sabrina.
"Daddy, who is that?"
"It's a long-time friend of your mother," his father said as he led his son up the aisle. The fox's sensitive ears could detect the sound of the fur weeping. He stopped several paces away, and knelt down to his son. "Alan, please stay here a moment, until I finish talking to that fur." He smiled as his son dutifully nodded.
Chris walked quietly up behind the mourning fur. "Hi, Eric," he said in a low voice.
Eric turned, startled. "Chris!" he exclaimed when he saw who it was. He reached out and took Chris by the arms. His facial fur was wet from crying and his suit coat was stained with tears. "God, Chris, I'm so sorry," he said in a choked voice. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Just you being here is good enough. You were her friend long before I met her."
Eric released his grip on Chris and placed his paws back on the edge of the coffin. Looking down at Sabrina, he whispered hoarsely, "Chris, I don't know how you can do it. I mean, if this was my wife here, I'd be going crazy, screaming and yelling."
"I've felt the urge for two days, but where would it get me? Besides, it wouldn't change matters, anyway."
"I know; you would get hurt and look stupid." Eric then reached in and patted Sabrina's paw. Straightening up, he turned and saw the small figure standing behind them. His eyes widened, and he looked at Chris. "Is this Alan?"
"Yes, this is my…our son, Alan."
Eric padded over to where Alan was patiently waiting, with Chris following. Kneeling, he ruffled the fur on Alan's head, then looked up at Chris and smiled.
"He has his mother's looks," he said, and then added, "and I think he's going to be quite the femme killer when he gets older." Alan just smiled back shyly.
Getting up, Eric extended his paw to Chris, who took it.
"I have to go, Chris. I had almost convinced myself not to come, but changed my mind at the last minute. I had to come and say my goodbyes."
"You're more than welcome to stay, Eric. All her friends are here, and Endora too. Please stay."
"I wish I could Chris, but I just couldn't handle this. Tell Endora 'hi' for me, will you?" Without saying another word, Eric turned and sadly left the room.
Chris sighed, and then looked down at his son. "Are you ready to see your mother?"
Alan nodded his head yes.
Taking his son by the paw, he led him up to the front of the room, where the casket was. He thought about picking his son up and holding him so he could see Sabrina, but got a better idea. Chris pulled a chair from the front row and slid it over next to the coffin. He picked Alan up and stood him on it so he could get a better view. Chris was quiet for a while, letting Alan take in what was before him.
"Well, son, what do you think?"
"She's pretty, dad. Mom looks like she's sleeping," Alan whispered.
does, and she is beautiful," his dad replied as he reached in a
paw and placed it on Sabrina's. As he did, Chris started to lose control, and
his tears flowed again.
Alan looked up to see his father crying, and tried to brush a tear from the side of his dad's muzzle.
"Why are you crying, Dad?"
"Because I miss her son," Chris choked out, not taking his eyes off of his wife.
"But she's right here," Alan pointed at his mother.
"I know, son." Chris moved closer and put his arm around his son. Trying to find the right words, he went on. "In a sense, she is here; what you see is what is left of her. Do you remember a while back when you were helping her in the kitchen with the eggs?"
"And you dropped the egg on the floor, what happened?"
"It broke, and all the stuff came out."
"And what was left?"
"The shell. And mom threw it away."
"That's right. What we see here is the shell, what is left of your mother. When she was in the accident, that shell broke, and her soul, her life, her being, left. What we see here is what remains. In the next few hours, everyone will come here to say goodbye to her, and then we will take her to a special place."
"Yes son, the 'cemetery,'" Chris corrected gently. "And we can go there to visit her any time." The two foxes lapsed into silence, as they made their silent farewells to the most important femme in their lives.
It was the paw of Lester Otter on Chris' shoulder that brought him back to reality. Whispering in his ear the funeral director said, "Mr. Foxx, it is almost 3 o'clock, and visitors will be arriving soon." Chris nodded, and Lester left.
Chris looked down at his son. He asked him "Do you want to say goodbye to your mother?"
As calm as can
be, Alan brought his paw up and kissed it, then reached in and touched Sabrina's
nose. "Goodbye, Mommy," he said, the beginnings of a sob in his voice.
"Goodbye!" He turned and buried his face in his father's chest, and began crying as if his little heart would break. Chris held his son tightly, his own body shaking in reaction to Alan's grief.
At exactly 3 o'clock, the crew from the house showed up at Otter's parking lot. Making their way inside, they found Chris in the lobby trying to comfort Alan. Dexter and Angel soon followed. Angel gathered the femmes and directed them into the viewing room, while Dexter stayed outside with Chris.
"So! How you doing?"
"Not good, Dex. I thought I could make it through this day, but I don't think so now. I brought Alan down early, to be with his mom… sniff… and it just hit him, and me, a little while ago."
a paw over to ruffle the fur of Alan's head.
"Say! Alan, you OK?"
Alan, with his head still buried in Chris' chest, just shook it no.
Endora joined them, holding a tissue to her muzzle. She quickly dried her tears and, pulling herself together, led Alan by the paw for a walk to calm him down.
A half hour later, there were about a hundred furs gathered at the funeral home. Zig Zag and James, with some staffers from the studio in tow, suddenly made a grand entrance. She could have been wearing a coal sack and still turned the heads of every fur in the room. She made a straight line to Chris, and embraced him. She and James offered their condolences, and again asked if there was anything they could do to help, but Chris politely declined. Leaving James with Chris, Zig Zag proceeded to the casket to view Sabrina.
Damn!! She thought to herself, she looks good even in death. Feeling a tear forming, Zig reached into her purse for a tissue. Dabbing the tear away, she brought her paw down on the edge of the casket, and let slip something that was hidden within it. A small disk dropped inside and was enveloped by the inside silk liner.
Bending over, she whispered in Sabrina's ear. "That was from the camera. I thought you might like it." And then she thought, "What the hell?" and gave Sabrina a great, slurping kiss.
At fifteen minutes to the hour, the Reverend Al Bear came into the viewing room and talked to Chris and Endora. Josh, Lee, and Clarence arrived as well, much to the happiness of their wives.
At five to the hour, Lester Otter announced that it was time for everyone to take their seats, and that the service was about to begin. Terry, Danny, and Larry helped direct the mourners to their chairs. In the front row sat Chris and Alan, then Endora with Tabitha. The following three rows were reserved for friends of the family.
At exactly four o'clock, the organ music on the speaker system was lowered but still audible. Wearing no vestments but a black shirt with white collar, the Reverend Al walked up the center aisle. He carried no books, no notes or cards. Stopping at the casket, he paid his respects to Sabrina, and then turned to face the room. He could have moved to the podium that was set up for him at the foot of the coffin, but he chose not to. He surveyed the room, then fixed his gaze on the grief-stricken Chris.
"Brothers and Sisters," he began with a warm gentle voice that was heard clearly by every fur in the room. "We are not here to mourn the life of Sabrina Foxx, but to celebrate it! For the past thirty-six years, she has graced this earth, as a loving daughter, sister, friend, and confidant. And for the last ten years, as the loving wife to Chris, and mother to Alan, and friend to almost everyone here in this room."
He looked to Sabrina, then back to Chris. "Just by looking at Chris, I can see the love he has for his wife, for his face speaks volumes about the love he has for her. Years ago I knew of a young fur couple just like these two, a couple in love. It was one of those cold snowy crystal nights…when the young furs took a walk… the black sky stretched over them like an eternity…When a car came by…they playfully jumped into a snow bank to hide, so that their private wonder would not be disturbed… Arriving home they stopped in the backyard to clear his car of snow…and the young fur knew the time had come. With his finger, he wrote in the snow on the windshield of his car, the words he wanted to say all night… I…Love …You! Forty years later he lay unconscious in a hospital bed in intensive care… just hours after open heart surgery…His wife watched him …tired and tense, worried for his safety…The monitors on the wall marked his vital signs, a machine helped him breathe…. And then his eyes opened, and she held out her paw to him. Unable to speak because of the tube coming out of his mouth, with his finger he wrote in the palm of her paw…I…Love…You! He would be healed… not because he loved her…but because she loved him, too.
"For you see, love is the most magnificent healing power on earth. No wound is so deep, no disappointment so intense, no failure so devastating, that love can not heal!" He paused and stepped forward to where Chris was sitting. Reaching down, he took the fox's paw into his own two and continued on.
"In this journey we call life…through the birth of children, and the meals cooked, the days of work, and the nights of worry, it is love that gives us strength to carry on. It is love that gives it meaning. It is love that heals the broken heart.
"And even in that journey we call death, love leaps across that obstacle. And we remain tied to each other in the power of that bond, for death can not conquer those who truly love." Smiling down at Chris, he released the hold of his paw.
"So when worry works away at us, and we can not think about tomorrow without fear… when grief tears at our heart, we need to remember, and cherish. For we still have one emotion stronger than all of those…it is love. Fear and grief and worry must wither away before the healing power of love.
"As you leave here today, remember, rejoice for Sabrina's life! Don't mourn her, for she would not have wanted it that way. She is not dead, for we all carry her here…" and he placed both paws over his heart, "…here in our hearts, and in our memories. And if we keep her there, she will be with us always."
Reverend Bear paused, and looked out at the sea of faces before him. Several furs were openly sobbing; even stolid Thomas was wiping tears from his eyes while holding Amy with his other paw. The minister took a deep breath to begin a final benediction, when a clear, soft voice began to sing from somewhere in the roomful of mourners.
grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!"
The sweet contralto voice caught Chris' attention. A sob caught in his throat as he twisted an ear backwards, drawn to the sound of the lone femme's voice.
was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see."
Tears continued to roll down Chris' cheeks, but they were no longer tears of sorrow. The beauty in the voice he heard seemed to fill him with peace, and he could concentrate on his love for Sabrina, and not the pain he felt at her absence.
"'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved."
Chris craned his neck around, to see where the glorious music was coming from. He gazed with surprise as he saw Zig Zag sitting straight in her chair, tears flowing from her closed eyes. She was singing in a voice that could only be described as…heavenly. Chris thought he remembered James having said something about Zig's singing voice, but he was amazed to hear her now.
"How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed."
Chris felt his spirits begin to soar, and he felt a joy that he hadn't known since he first received that fateful phone call. The pain was still there, and the sorrow, but they were being buried by feelings of love and peace. The Reverend's words seemed to echo in Chris' mind: "Fear and grief and worry must wither away before the healing power of love." Could this be what he meant?
Other furs began to join in, their voices blending with that of the tiger-striped skunk. Chris watched, awestruck, as one by one the entire room joined in the hymn. Though tears dampened every fur's face, their voices were strong and steady.
grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see."
As the hymn concluded, Zig Zag dropped her head into her paws. Her shoulders heaved soundlessly for a few moments. James reached his arm around her and cradled her close to his body. She visibly drew strength from the contact, and with a shuddering sigh, was able to look up into his face. The love shining in his eyes calmed her; she gave him a brief smile to indicate she was all right, and then turned to face the front of the room again.
Reverend Bear wiped his own eyes with a pawkerchief, and then looked out over the congregation. "May we have a moment of silence, please?"
As the organ music softly began to play again, the minister knelt before Chris and offered words of comfort. He listened and nodded, but his mind was focused on the still form of his beloved, who lay just a few feet away, the haunting melody of the hymn still filling him.
The minister then moved to Endora and Tabitha. Sabrina's mother, her cheekfur still wet with freshly shed tears, thanked him for a most moving sermon. Tabitha tried to say something to him, but was too choked up to form words.
His duties over for the moment, Reverend Al Bear retreated down the aisle and left the room. He would soon be on his way to Wood Lawn, to officiate at Sabrina's interment.
Lester then came up to the front and announced, "If anyone wishes, they may come up front and pay their final respects to Sabrina and her family. The family will then retire to Wood Lawn Cemetery for a private burial." Terry and Danny Otter moved to stand on either side of the last row, directing its occupants either back toward the exit, or forward to pay their final respects. Lester guided Chris, Alan, and Endora toward the casket, to receive final condolences.
Almost every fur went forward, offering the family a final goodbye, a hug, or a pawshake.
Zig Zag made it a point to be the last in line along with James. After talking to Endora for a moment, she embraced Chris again, and gave him a stern look. "You call us if there is anything you need, you hear?"
Chris looked deeply into her blue eyes. "Thank you," he said huskily, "for…everything."
Zig Zag held his gaze for a moment. She suddenly wondered what had possessed her to start singing before all these furs. Slowly, the fur on the back of her neck began to rise, as she pondered the choice of words…was "possessed" really that far off? She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and then reached down and picked up Alan.
"And when you come to Ohio, Chris, you bring this handsome young fur with you." She shifted her gaze to the young fox squirming in her arms. She tilted her head forward until she was nearly touching noses with him. "And are you gonna come and see aunt Zig?" she asked.
Alan nodded, and then gave her a half smile. Zig gave him a kiss and put him down; then gave his father a peck on the cheek. She turned to James, who wordlessly put his arm around her and guided her toward the door.
Lester closed the double doors after Zig stepped out to give those left some privacy, and then he came forward. Moving to the side of the room, he pulled the curtain open to reveal a double glass door. Parked outside was a hearse. Terry and Danny Otter started to remove the flowers and take them outside for transport to the cemetery. Lester stepped softly over to Chris. "Mr. Foxx, if you like, your friends can pay their final respects to your wife now."
Looking around, Chris saw Dexter and Angel. He briefly clasped their paws, and tenderly told them to go ahead. Angel's resolve vanished, and she began crying as she stepped up to the casket. Dexter held strong, but he was obviously having trouble fighting tears. After a few minutes, he led Angel away, supporting most of her weight as he escorted her outside and to their car.
Amy had gone over to the casket spray, and pulled four of the white roses off. She handed one each to Susan, Cindy, and Debbye, and kept one for herself. She led the women up to say good-bye to their friend. Each in turn placed their rose in the casket with Sabrina, and then stood silently with their thoughts. The minutes stretched on, as none of them wished to leave the side of the skunk who had meant so much to them. Thomas eventually stepped up and gently led Amy away, taking her to the open side door. Josh, Lee, and Clarence, tears in their eyes as well, gently pulled their respective wives away from the casket. They all stood just outside the door and waited for the family to finish.
Endora walked slowly and heavily over to say goodbye to her daughter. At the casket she ran her paw through the fur of Sabrina's head. Bending over, she kissed her on the forehead, and whispered she loved her.
Tabitha hesitated, then stepped beside her mother. She held her sister's paw for a few moments, and then leaned over and quickly whispered something in Sabrina's ear. Even as close as she was, Endora couldn't make out what Tabitha had said. But she noted that when Tabitha stood back up, a fierce and determined look had replaced the abject sorrow on her face. With a much firmer step, Tabitha practically stalked out the side door to join the rest.
Endora then turned and held a paw out to Chris, who was standing with Alan. He picked Alan up, and went to join her. "Do you want to say goodbye to Mommy again?" he asked. Alan shook his head no.
"Here. I'll take him," Endora offered. Chris put his son down, who scampered over to his grandmother and hugged her leg.
Reaching into his pocket, Chris pulled out Sabrina's engagement and wedding bands. He gently lifted her paw and slipped them onto her finger, to where they had been since the day he'd originally placed them there, so many years ago. He lifted her paw to the side of his muzzle, which was still wet from his tears. He held it lovingly to the side of his face for several moments, and then placed it back on top of her other paw. Sighing heavily, he turned to Lester.
"What's next?" he asked in a quiet tone. In reply, the otter reached into the casket, and removed a pink silk quilt that lay at Sabrina's feet.
"Mr. Foxx…if you wish, please take this quilt and pull it up to your wife's chin, and then tuck her in, as if you were putting her to bed for the night."
Chris froze. There was no way he wanted to do this! Not now! Not ever!
Endora, seeing he was having trouble, stepped over to her son-in-law, and pulled him slightly away from the coffin. Then, taking the top of the quilt, she pulled it gently up to her daughter's chin, like she had done so many times before when Sabrina was little. She tucked her in for the last time, for her eternal sleep. Her job done, she turned to Chris. Taking him by the paw, she brought him back over to the casket.
to say goodbye," she told him.
Not saying a word, Chris bent over and kissed Sabrina for the final time. Fighting to say the words, he whispered, "Goodbye, Kitten. I'll love you forever." He turned away and buried his head in Endora's shoulder, sobbing.
Mr. Otter then motioned to his sons to come forward. They stationed themselves on each side of the casket, with Lester in the center. At his nod, the younger otters undid a latch at each end of the coffin that held the lid open. Endora watched as the lid slowly closed. The soft *click* of the locking mechanism was the loudest noise she had ever heard, and she unconsciously held Chris even tighter.
Terry and Danny then took the spray of flowers off of its special holder and placed it on the casket. Unlocking the wheels of the bier, they directed it to the side door and out to the rear of the waiting hearse. Once there, they unlocked the rollers under the casket, and slid it inside the vehicle. The young furs returned the bier inside, closed the rear door, and flashed a signal to their father.
Lester walked over to Chris and Endora, who were still embraced and weeping together. "It's time," he told them gently.
Releasing Chris from her embrace, Endora took the paw of her grandson, then the paw of her son-in-law, and led them through the side door and out to their waiting car. It was time to make their last journey with Sabrina, to her final resting place at Wood Lawn.
It was only after talking with friends that Chris could piece together the events of the next couple of days: The funeral, the burial, the reception afterwards at his house, and the signing of thank you cards. By the second day after the funeral, he was beginning to come out of the haze that haunted him. He found himself standing out in the driveway, saying goodbye to Josh, Lee, Clarence and the Clique. This was a lengthy process, with pawshakes, hugs, and tears all around. Thomas and Amy joined the throng as they waited their turn to leave.
Endora and Tabitha were also leaving, since they were riding with the Wolfe-Squirrels back to Ohio. The previous day, they had decided that Tabitha would spend the upcoming summer with the Foxx males, so that she could keep an eye on Alan once school was out.
After several rounds of hugs, kisses and teary goodbyes, Chris and Alan watched everybody drive off. The sudden silence was almost overwhelming.
Back in the house, Chris sat in his easy chair and tried to reflect on what had gone on during the past five days. He was barely aware when there was a knock at the door.
"I'll get it!" yelled Alan as he ran down the hall from his room. He was missing all of the attention and excitement of the last few days and hoped there were more visitors coming to play with him. Opening the door, he found Danny Otter standing there.
"Hi, Danny!" he squealed happily.
"Hey, Alan, is your dad in?"
"Yes, he is. Da-a-a-d! Danny Otter is here!" Chris was already up, and to the door, when his son yelled. He made a show of folding his ears down in mock pain as he gave Alan a stern look. He held the glare for only a few moments before he smiled at the little fox. He then looked up at the visitor.
"Hi, Danny! Why don't you come in?"
"Sorry Mr. Foxx, I can't. I'm on a run, and Dad asked me to drop this off." He handed Chris a white envelope with his name written on it.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Umm… I think it's an invoice," Danny said awkwardly. Although he hoped to take over the business someday, he still felt uncomfortable collecting from people still in the process of grieving.
"Well, tell your dad I said thank you for all your family has done. I'll take care of this as soon as I can," he said as he held the envelope up.
"OK, I will. And Alan, I'll see you at T-ball this summer." He held out his paw for Alan to slap, then shook paws with Chris before he turned away and hurried back to his car.
Chris started to close the door, when he saw another car pull up into his driveway. He could see it was Dexter and Angel. He waited for them to exchange words with Danny Otter, and then welcomed them into the warm house.
"What was Danny doing here?" Dexter asked as he held out a chair at the kitchen table for Angel.
"He brought this. I guess it's the bill," Chris replied, holding up the invoice for them to see. With his other paw he ran his thumb claw over it to open it up. He pulled the paper out and unfolded it. He stared at it for a moment; then his jaw dropped in shock.
"Eight thousand dollars!" he exclaimed.
"Oh my!" Angel cried as she raised a paw to her muzzle.
"Eight thousand dollars… paid in full," Chris went on, his voice full of wonder.
"What!?" Dexter exclaimed, nearly falling out of his own chair. Chris passed the invoice over for him to read.
Chris looked down at his paws and thought. Who among Sabrina's friends and family would have the resources? With sudden realization, he looked up at his two friends, giving them a sad smile.
"Zig Zag! She's the only one who would do this. It had to be her, I know it." He looked at his watch. "I'll call her later," he said. "She and James are still on the road."
Angel's eyes glistened. "How sweet of her!"
Dexter pushed the paper back toward Chris. "What to you have planned now?" he asked.
Chris sat there and thought for a moment. Then he got up, and moved over to the coat rack and pulled on his coat.
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm going to take all these flowers over to the cemetery, and put them with Sabrina. Angel, could you please stay here and watch Alan 'til I get back?" She agreed readily. Dexter helped him load all the flowers into his car. After several trips, the front and back seats were packed; even the trunk was full.
"Are you sure you don't want me to go along?" Dex asked.
"No, I'll be fine, thanks." Chris looked at his two friends and smiled warmly. He never could have survived this past week without Dexter and Angel. He was the most fortunate fox in the world to have such loyal friends.
It took Chris about ten minutes to drive to Wood Lawn, and another five to find Sabrina's grave. He then began the task of transferring the flowers from his car, placing them around the flowers that were already there. When he was done, he paused to look at his handiwork. He noticed that the flowers he had helped place there the day before yesterday were wilted; the winter cold had done its damage.
He recalled staying after the service, watching the workers close the grave. He had helped put the roses on the mound, staying after everyone else had gone. Dexter and Thomas had had to go back in the dark to bring him home. They found him standing by her grave, cold and shivering, tears frozen in his fur.
Kneeling down, Chris tried to brush the new fallen snow off the roses, when grief overtook him again. He placed both paws over his eyes and began sobbing.
"He still looks so sad!"
"He's thinking about you."
"How can you tell?"
"I can read his mind!"
Sabrina and her escort were just a few feet away from the grieving fox.
"Now how can you do that?" she said looking up at him.
"Simple! You just focus your mind on his thoughts. Try it!"
Sabrina closed her eyes and thought about what Chris might be thinking. "Arghh!" she exclaimed, making a face.
Yuck! "It was like reading a bowl of alphabet soup, it was all jumbled up."
The angel chuckled, "After you have been here for a while it will be no problem."
"And what do you mean by, 'for a while'?" she asked.
"Ah, it looks like you are going to be here for some time, or so I have been told."
"And doing what?" she asked in a curious tone.
"Let's just say, you are going to be with me for a while; my assistant, if you will."
"So I won't be moving on?"
"No not for a while."
Then, Sabrina had an idea, motioning to the angel, to come closer, he bent down, and she whispered in his ear.
"I can do that." he said, as he smiled at her, he was gone, and back in a flash, and he handed Sabrina the rose, taking it into her paws, she brought it up to her nose, and inhaled its fragrance.
"It was nice of him, to give me this."
"It's because he loves you, and he will love you always." the angel replied.
"I know, he's my fox," she said happily.
Placing his paw on her shoulder, he said "It's time to go, there are other things to do."
"Can I give him a kiss?" she asked.
"You can but he won't feel it."
Going over to her crying love, she knelt down by the left side of Chris, and kissed him on the cheek, and unseen by the angel, she laid the rose at Chris' knees, as she stood up and went back to where she was, her tail brushed Chris' back. Feeling there was a presence, like something was moving, he looked up.
Taking his glasses off, he rubbed his eyes with his paw to clear his vision. He put them back on and looked around; there was nothing. It was just the wind blowing, he thought. Looking back down, he spied the rose, the rose that hadn't been there just a few moments before.
Picking it up, he noticed it was fresh, not damaged by the cold or snow, and he knew he'd brought no roses to the grave; getting up quickly he called out, "Hello!" While looking around, he called out again, but all he heard was the wind through the trees, and a crow calling far away.
It was then the angel realized what Sabrina had done.
"Sabrina!!!!! How did you do that? Hmmmmm!"
She just laughed, and held her paws to her face.
Chris then looked around the gravesite again this time looking for footprints in the snow, but there were only his, in the new fallen snow. The sun was almost gone and the snow was falling heavier, the appearance of the rose, was now driving him crazy. He was standing there at the grave holding the flower when the wind picked up and blew the rose out of his paw, back on the grave, in the middle of the white roses; he knelt down to retrieve it, as he did, he saw a broken stem sticking out of the mass of white roses, and then he remembered. There was only one red rose in the spray, and he had to break it off to remove it; that rose he'd placed in Sabrina's paws and it was with her when he put her rings on. He saw it there, and he was with the casket the whole time 'til it was buried. Picking up the rose, and on a hunch, he placed it against the broken stem, and to his shock, the stems matched. How!!! He thought, but then calmness over came him, and he knew.
He knows, the angel said, he figured it out.
Sabrina just stood there and smiled
"We better go," taking Sabrina by the paw, they turned away and walked through the rows of markers, "I'm going to have to keep my eye on you," he told her chuckling.
But before they faded away, she turned and yelled at the top of her voice, "CHRIS…I… LOVE… YOUUUUUU!"
"Hey! You are not supposed to do that!!"
"I know." she giggled, and they were gone.
Chris's ears perked up, he knew he heard something. He thought it was "Chris I Love You," but it could have been the wind.
"I Love You Kitten!" Chris yelled back, hoping for a reply, all he got was the wind, and the snow falling all around.
Going back to the grave he stood there, pausing for a final look, as the rays of the sun slowly faded in the west. Chris held the rose, gingerly in his paws, so the cold would not damage it. He gave the rose to her, because he loved her, and she returned it because of her love for him.
Sadly turning away, he walked to his car through the snow; getting in, he placed the flower on the seat beside him, fired up his car, and began the drive home…
Fade to black