© 2001 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. , all rights reserved. Characters Clarence Skunk and Cindy Lapine © Chris Yost. Character Sabrina the skunkette © Eric Schwartz. Reproduction by any means in whole or in part, or posting to any internet or intranet site, without the expressed written permission of the author is strictly prohibited. Based on characters and situations created by Chris Yost.
Having said their goodbyes, Clarence drove Cindy away from the apartment building and down the street. He followed the same route Chris and Sabrina had taken, even though he knew they were halfway across the state of Ohio by now.
Clarence looked over at his rabbit girlfriend. She seemed distant, kind of the way he was when Susan had returned with the ice cream. He’d felt out of place; not just because of his gender in an apartment full of females, but because of an inner shame he felt. He kept thinking about it, wanting to tell Cindy about it, but not able to decide if it was a good idea.
Why do I keep torturing myself like this?? I love Cindy! But he knew the trouble: I still love Sabrina, too. He’d picked at his dish of ice cream, opting not to sit with the girls and eat out of the open half-gallon cartons along with them. He’d shied away from meeting the male wolf who lived there, the blonde squirrel’s husband. He had apparently ended an internship himself, and spent most of their visit flipping through a textbook in the bedroom.
Clarence didn’t say much on the trip to Cindy’s house. Cindy didn’t have much to say anyway, it was a pretty somber afternoon; she had been watching the passing houses and cars, occasionally saying a few words. Clarence pulled into a space in front of the house and set the parking brake.
“Y-you okay?” he asked.
Cindy jumped a little when Clarence broke the silence. “Oh, I’m sorry.” She turned herself to face her boyfriend. “I’m okay,” she said smiling. “It’s kinda like losing your best friend, even though I know I can pick up a phone and call her anytime.” She placed a paw on Clarence’s thigh. “How about you?” she asked, “how are you doing?”
“M-m-me?” Clarence said nervously.
“Mm-hm. It can’t have been easy on you either, considering how you used to feel about Sabrina.”
Clarence began to stammer as a half dozen denials ran through his mind, but this time he caught himself and lowered his head, ashamed. “I feel so stupid,” he said, his voice so quiet Cindy had to lean in close to hear him. “I love you Cindy, and I knew I had no chance of winning her back even before we started dating … ”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Cindy said in a quiet comforting voice. “Your first love is always the most special to you. It stands to reason you’ll still feel something for her.” She saw the expression on his muzzle and picked up his paw. “I felt the same way when I lost the hare I had my first serious crush on when he got serious with someone else. I couldn’t eat for days, I felt so bad.”
Clarence finally lifted his head.
Cindy smiled. “It’s gonna sound kinda selfish I know, but … I’m actually glad Sabrina wasn’t dating you.” Before Clarence could react, she squeezed his paw with both of hers. “If she were then I wouldn’t be dating you, and out of the four of us I think I’m the luckiest one there is.”
The shame Clarence had been feeling was slowly but surely being replaced with the warmth of the love he felt for Cindy. He had to lean toward her as she pulled on his paw so she could kiss him.
“C’mon,” she said, nodding toward the house. “I wanna get out of my uniform.”
Clarence blushed. “D-do you think you could k-keep it on for a while longer?”
Cindy was about to protest, the sooner she could get out if it the happier she was, but she considered how Clarence was affected by her in it, and the glint in his eye. She looked over her shoulder and saw the car wasn’t in the driveway.
“Depends,” she said, her head lowered and her eyes raised mischievously, “on whether or not Mom went with Daddy.”
An hour later Cindy came down the stairs in a pair of shorts and a short-sleeved blouse she had tied into a halter with a knot over her tummy above her navel. She had her hair tied in back with a thin blue ribbon that formed a bow between her ears.
She found Clarence sitting in the living room reading the comics in the newspaper. When he heard her enter the room he lowered the paper and smiled. This feels so good, he told himself. I’ve never felt this comfortable ever.
“You look great,” Clarence said to Cindy.
“You say that all the time,” Cindy said as she walked to the couch. “Sorry I took so long, Sabrina called. They got in okay.” She dropped down onto the cushion, and Clarence watched her bounce as she landed. “So,” she asked, “hungry?”
Clarence nodded and folded the paper neatly. “You bet.” He placed it back exactly where he’d found it. “W-Where would you like to go?” he asked.
“Nowhere.” Cindy turned an inch to see him easier. “We don’t always have to go out.” She slipped a paw around his arm. “You like lasagna?”
Clarence shrugged. “I dunno,” he told her. “I’ve never had it.”
Cindy’s eyes widened. “You’ve never had lasagna?” she asked in disbelief. “I thought everyone’s had it sometime.”
He managed a sheepish grin. “N-not me,” he said with a forced laugh added. “Is it good?”
“‘Good’? You have no idea, hon!” She took his paw and helped him off of the couch. “Why don’t you come to the kitchen with me …” She interlaced her fingers with his. “ … and help me make it, then you can tell me.”
Clarence nodded. “O-okay…..but I don’t really know what to do … ”
“Don’t worry, I’ll show you everything,” Cindy promised. She led him into the kitchen. “Over there, get out a big metal bowl.” She snagged a stockpot from another cupboard and took it to the sink to fill it with filtered cold water.
Clarence fished around inside the cabinet and found the stack of nested bowls. From the bottom he retrieved the largest one and set it on the table that was the center island.
Cindy put the water on to boil, then went over to the cabinet and withdrew a large jar of spaghetti sauce. “Here, you open this,” she said, handing the jar to Clarence. “I’ll get out the cheese.”
Clarence could vaguely remember the way his late father used to open a jar with a tight lid. He held the jar close against his chest and gripped his paw around the lid, pressed his chin against it, and twisted with all his might!
Would’ve worked great, too, if the lid weren’t on as tightly as he’d expected.
Cindy heard the “Eep!” and looked past the refrigerator door to see the front of her boyfriend’s shirt splattered with red sauce. With the speed of … well, a rabbit … she was at the sink, wringing out a saturated dishcloth. She took Clarence’s arm. “C’mere,” she said as she guided him to the sink.
Clarence felt his face burn with embarrassment. He’d set the jar on the sinkboard and watched as Cindy fussed over him, cleaning the sauce into the sink and blotting it as well as she could.
“I am so sorry, Clare,” she said as she rinsed out the cloth and rubbed at the offended part of his shirt. “I had no idea that would happen, I am so sorry … ”
“It’s okay, it wasn’t your fault … I’m just clumsy.” He looked at her working. “My mom’s going to hit the roof when she sees this,” he said.
“Maybe we can make sure she doesn’t find out.” She stepped back and scanned the shirt while her mind thought Your mom’s going to be mad? You’re an adult, and you’re worried about what your mom’ll think about this? “It’s gonna stain. Take it off and maybe I can save it.”
“Uh … ” Clarence felt himself shaking inside; take my shirt off? I can’t do that! “But if I shed,” he said quickly, “with the food out … ”
Cindy nodded in agreement. “I’ve got just the thing. Be right back.”
Clarence watched her run to the door to the dining room. “You-you’re not going to get something of your d-dad’s to wear, are you?” he asked, embarrassment returning.
Cindy smiled and shook her head. “Nah. Be right back.” She disappeared for a minute or two and returned with a bag from one of the mall’s men’s stores. “You were gonna get this next week,” she said, handing him the bag, “but I think this is an emergency.”
Clarence accepted the bag and cocked his head. “Next week?” he asked.
“Your birthday? On Tuesday?”
Clarence lowered the bag and looked straight at Cindy. “You bought me a birthday present?” he asked.
Cindy was nodding, smiling at the overwhelmed tone of Clarence’s voice. “Uh-huh,” she said. She watched his boyish smile spread to the point she thought his ears were going to join together. “I can get you something else, though. Go ahead, try it on.”
She watched him unbutton and remove his shirt; reaching out a paw she took it from him. Clarence never thought to turn around, and Cindy was just as glad he hadn’t. She watched where his white fur met his black, admiring how the colors blended into each other … she’d seen him without a shirt before as you all know, but not since she’d become romantically interested in him. And Cindy didn’t just watch, she stared, almost mesmerized. Amazing how much he doesn’t know what he has going for him, she thought to herself. If he only had self-confidence … and maybe contacts … he really could have any girl he wanted.
Unconsciously a scowl flitted across her muzzle. Then I might not be his girlfriend … or have to compete for him.
I think I like his just the way he is, thank you.
Clarence opened the bag and removed a soft green polo shirt. Cindy saw his eyes widen and sparkle behind his glasses, repaired with cellophane tape and SuperDuperGlue some months ago. She watched him hold it in his white paws, his fingers sampling the material, treating it as though it were a fine garment rather than a purchase from a chain store in a shopping mall.
“Do you like it?” Cindy asked, her hindbrain telling her the question was rhetorical.
“I love it, thank you!” Clarence excitedly pulled it over his head and straightened it, smoothing out any wrinkles.
As she started buttoning the buttons Cindy stopped him. “No, wait.” She pointed to his paws. “Not the top one, don’t button that.” Clarence stopped. “Just the bottom one, for now.” Cindy stepped forward and used her fingers to ruffle his fur a mite and adjust the shirt so it showed off his chest.
“There,” she said with a nod, “that’s much better.” She raised herself on her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed him.
And kissed him.
And she felt Clarence’s arms go around her, his paws brushing the tips of her ears. She pressed herself closer to him, her eyes closed, a tiny mew escaping as she felt her kiss returned … she opened her muzzle, slightly at first, as he opened his … pressing herself closer, feeling herself weaken slightly and not really wanting to do much of anything to stop it.
“Clare,” she whispered, breaking their kiss, barely opening her eyes, “I want us to go upstairs together.”
What she said didn’t register with Clarence right away. He hugged Cindy and could feel her body soften, and seemingly meld itself into his. The familiar tightness in his trousers was becoming tighter as Cindy pulled herself closer --
“Uh …… ”
“I want us to, Clare.” Cindy kissed him between words. “Let’s go upstairs, to my room. I want to make love to you.”
Clarence found himself suddenly bathed in confusion. He began to stammer, his head shaking, grasping for words …
Cindy kissed him again. “Don’t say no, Clare.” ::kiss:: “Please don’t say no.” ::kiss, tongue darting:: “Don’t deny me, please.” She brushed her foot lightly over his, kicking away the shirt she’d dropped that landed in her way.
“N-n-n-n-no!” Clarence shook hard in Cindy’s embrace. “Y-you’re saving yourself, I-I’m -- ”
“Maybe I’m saving myself for you.” Cindy’s voice was husky, arousing Clarence, tempting him.”
I c’ … I c’ … c-ca-can’t… I better go!”
Cindy was barely aware of Clarence pulling away and leaving the kitchen. She placed a paw over her left breast and felt her heartbeat. The heat that had built inside, it overwhelmed -- Clarence!
“Clare!” She ran out after him. “Clare! No, don’t go! Stop, please!”
Clarence had made record time from the kitchen to the front door. His paw had just made contact with the knob when Cindy flew in and threw herself at him, holding him and hugging him tight.
“I’m sorry!” she said, over and over. “I’m so sorry, honey.” She stood quietly now, just holding him.
“Please,” she said meekly, “don’t go.”
That confusion was now threatening to engulf poor Clarence and drown him. Unsure of himself, he kept raising and lowering his arms until he decided it would at least be polite to return her hug. He wrapped his arms around her and Cindy responded by laying her head upon his shoulder.
“I couldn’t help myself,” she said in a tiny voice. “I’m so glad you could. I am so sorry.”
“S’okay.” Clarence kissed the base of her left ear. “I’m j-just, y’know, I was told that’s for marriage.”
“Me too.” Cindy rocked her head on his shoulder, squeezing Clarence gently.
Clarence smiled. “So m-maybe we should get married.”
Cindy smiled, then laughed along with Clarence. She lifted her head and looked up to him. “Who knows, right? Future’s awfully unpredictable.” She kissed him. “Still love me?” she asked.
She kissed him again. “C’mon,” she said, “let me make it up to you.” They held paws and walked to the living room, returning to the couch. They kissed, and necked, a paw here and nuzzle there …
“Lay back,” Cindy said, moving away. “I think I can eventually get this right … ”
Return to Chapter 42