A Little Life
(c) 2007 by Teric. All rights reserved. Sabrina, Amy, Timothy Woolfe-Swuirrel, Warren and Endora Mustilidae (c) Eric Schwartz. Chris and Alan Foxx, Dexter and Angel Collie, Cindy and Clarence Skunk, Debbye (Squirrel) Evans, and Susan Felin (c) Chris Yost. Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Lee Evans created by Evan (Cateagle) Mayerle. Zig Zag created by Max Blackrabbit. James Sheppard created by James Bruner. Based on Sabrina Online: The Story by Chris Yost and Tabitha: The Story written by Chris Yost and James Bruner, and conceived by Mark White.
Author's Note: This is a work of fiction based on “Sabrina Online: The Story” by Chris Yost and “Tabitha” by Chris Yost and James Bruner, and should not in any way be considered cannon for those stories. This story takes place in the original, unaltered timeline that led up to the events portrayed in “Tabitha” by Chris Yost and James Bruner, up through chapter 7.
Sabrina shifted uncomfortably in the doctor’s examination room, and tried unsuccessfully to pull the gown a bit further down to cover her exposed thighs. She tapped her foot, embarrassed that the hospital gown was so immodest. Her legs were beginning to feel cold, and her patience was slowly giving way to irritation. She started rubbing her paws on her knees, trying to work some warmth into her muscles.
“Here, do you want my jacket?” Chris asked, offering her his white Penguins windbreaker. Snatching it from his paws, she brought her knees up to her chest, and wrapped the jacket around her legs.
“Not much, but it’ll help, I guess,” she said with a shiver. “Thanks, Chris.” She felt her husband scoot himself closer to her in the exam room chairs that they had taken. The chair’s arm rest prevented her from leaning against him comfortably, but she was able to lay her head upon his shoulder.
“Doctor’s taking his time,” she griped. After a moment, her brow furrowed in thought. “Do you think I should be worried?”
“Don’t be,” Chris replied, shaking his head. An idea occurred to him, and his eyes narrowed playfully. “He’ll be back in the next 30 seconds.”
Sabrina chortled and elbowed him in the ribs.
“Wanna bet?” She challenged him.
“Sure, I’ll wager an ice cream sundae over at Kitty’s that he’ll be back within 30 seconds from…” he held up his watch, observing the second hand, “now.”
Both pairs of eyes stared at the watch on his wrist as the seconds ticked by. Neither said a word as ten, then fifteen seconds passed. Sabrina began to drum her fingertips on the arm rest, and she counted the seconds in her mind. Nineteen… Twenty… Twenty One… Oh, I’m going to win this one for sure… Twenty Five… Twenty Six…
The door opened, and Doctor Schummer poked his head into the exam room. The panther was taken aback as he saw the couple with their heads close together, staring intently at the fox’s wristwatch. Both skunk and fox snapped their heads around to stare wide-eyed at the doctor.
“Yes!” Chris’ punched a victorious right fist into the air, just as Sabrina clenched her paw in defeat.
“Awwww…” she pouted.
With a shrug and a smile, the doctor thought it better not to ask what had just occurred between them.
“I’ve got some good news and some maybe bad news.” he began. Sabrina immediately forgot the lost bet, and stood up from her chair. Her husband’s jacket fell from her knees to the floor, and she again felt uncomfortable wearing the hospital gown. Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment as she stooped to pick up the windbreaker. Chris knelt to help her.
“How does she look?” The fox asked, turning his head to look up at the doctor. The panther opened the manila folder in his paw, and reached for a coaster-wheeled stool in the corner. The couple returned to their seats.
“As far as I can tell,” Doctor Schummer announced as he sat on the stool, “she’s about six weeks along. The fetus has implanted normally within the uterus, so it looks like the cysts on her fallopian tubes didn’t cause any problems this time.”
Sabrina’s eyes widened with realization.
“Wow…” she stammered. “I’m further along than I thought!” Chris took her paw and squeezed it gently.
“O.K., so what’s the ‘maybe’ bad news?” She prompted. She watched as the panther turned over a page in the file folder.
“Your progesterone levels are very low,” said the doctor, “most likely due to your Endometriosis. Those who have levels as low as you do are much more likely to miscarry within the first trimester.” Sabrina scrunched her face at the news, and turned her head away.
“Is there anything we can do about that?” Chris asked, reaching a comforting arm around his wife. “Can we get a hormone treatment or something to raise her progesterone levels?”
“I can prescribe a hormone supplement,” the doctor replied, “but I’m not sure how much good it’s going to do. She’s already half-way through her first trimester, and it may take a few weeks to take full effect. From now until then, well… I’m afraid I just can’t be certain.”
Chris pursed his lips thoughtfully, and finally nodded.
“Thanks, Doc.” He sighed. “Yeah, let’s go ahead and try the prescription, it might make a difference.”
The panther scribbled on his prescription pad. After a moment, he tore off the top sheet and handed it to Chris.
“Do you have any other questions for me?” Doctor Schummer looked genuinely concerned. Sabrina shook her head.
“You can get dressed now, Sabrina. You can contact a nurse out in the hall if you need any further information.” With that, he stood and stepped out of the exam room, closing the door behind him. Chris watched his wife as she reached for her turtleneck on the counter.
“Pretty much what we expected,” she said through her shirt as she pulled it over her head. “Are we just hoping against hope here?”
“You know, I don’t think so, Kitten.” Chris smiled as best he could. “Six weeks along already, and no problems at all.” He winked at her. “I think we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
After wiping her glasses on her sleeve, she replaced them on her face. Sabrina wasn’t sure if she fully believed her husband’s optimism. She studied his eyes, but saw only sincerity and hope. Though her gut told her otherwise, she desperately wanted that hope.
“You’re so sure about that,” she asked, a half-smile forming on her muzzle. He grinned and held out his paws to her. She allowed herself to melt into his arms. His embrace felt warm, safe.
“Besides, Kitten, you owe me an ice cream sundae. Extra chocolate sauce.”
Sabrina scrunched up her nose in a feigned pout towards her husband.
“Only if I get to share it with you,” she teased him. Chris cocked his head and considered for a moment. Then, lifting his muzzle, he put on a dignified voice with a British accent, and placed the fingertips of his right paw upon his chest.
“Very well, m’dear, I shan’t deny you a small share of my winnings,” he consented. “A bite or two, indeed, I think would suffice.” With that, he quickly scooted away from Sabrina’s playful jab at his ribs.
Leaning back in her chair, Sabrina removed her glasses and rubbed her sore eyes. For the last several hours, she had been making modifications to the ZZ Studios website, in preparation for the new spring season line-up. Though she estimated at least two additional hours of work before the changes would be complete, her eyes were beginning to feel strained, and her stomach was growling.
A look at the clock informed her that lunchtime had come and gone nearly an hour ago. The Saturday afternoon sun glinted on the snow in the backyard. She planted her paws on the desk, and rolled her chair back as she lifted herself to her feet. After taking a moment to straighten her tail fur, she turned away from her computer and strode toward the kitchen.
Her nose met with the pungent aroma of freshly cut onion. She rounded the corner in the hallway, and saw Chris at the kitchen table with a chopping knife and a cutting board. Lying on the table nearby was a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.
“Hey, Kitten.” The fox grinned at his wife. “Want some lunch?”
Her first instinct was to wrinkle her nose in disgust. She had never understood how he had learned to like peanut butter and onion sandwiches. However, the smell seemed strangely enticing to her. She stared at the fresh slices on the cutting board, and caught herself wondering just how they would taste if slathered with peanut butter. She was surprised at her own thoughts, as her stomach began to growl once again.
“Sabrina?” Her husband’s voice broke her thoughts. “Do you want me to get out a jar of jam?”
“Actually, you’re not going to believe this…” she paused.
“Could I try one of those?” She pointed to the peanut butter and onion sandwich that he had just cut into halves. As she watched, Chris’ expression shifted to confusion, then disbelief, then amusement. He raised his paw to his muzzle, trying to stifle the laugh that had already escaped his lips.
“What?” She defended herself. “Can’t I ever try anything new?” Chris struggled to speak through his laughter.
“Sure you can!” he chuckled, offering her half of his sandwich.
As she took it, her mind raced with conflicting thoughts. On one paw, she knew that she should be repulsed by peanut butter and onions. On the other paw, she realized that she had never actually tried it before. Furthermore, for some strange reason, it really sounded good to her right now.
She took a tentative bite. To her astonishment, she found that she truly enjoyed it. Immediately, she tore into it, taking huge mouthfuls. Before long, the sandwich was gone, and her stomach begged for more.
Licking her fingers, Sabrina looked over to her husband, almost afraid to ask for the other half. However, she saw that he was already holding his half of the sandwich out to her, with a cheesy grin on his muzzle.
“It’s O.K., Kitten,” he offered. “You go ahead and take care of your cravings, and I’ll make myself another one.”
“I… what…?” She stammered, shocked at her husband’s revelation. “I… I am not having cravings!” With that, she snatched the sandwich from Chris’ paw and stormed out of the kitchen.
Shaking his head and laughing to himself, the fox took the knife and began cutting another slice of onion.
Twenty-six pages done, Sabrina thought. Forty-one to go.
She stared glumly at the screen on her desk, which displayed several paragraphs of text in a word processor. At the end of the previous week, she had been given the assignment to update the user documentation for one of StrongArm’s internal financial tracking systems. The software had been upgraded to a new version less than a month ago, but the documentation hadn’t been updated for more than three years. The accounting department had logged enough support calls with the I.T. group that they decided it was high time to bring the user documents up to date.
Lucky me, thought Sabrina, frowning at the originals sitting on her document holder. She reached with her right paw to turn the page. Most of the work was simple, but very tedious, and required little creativity. System documentation must be straightforward, technically clear, and to the point. With quick mouse clicks, she deleted a section of a paragraph, and moved her paws back to the keyboard.
For the fifth time in the last hour, she adjusted herself in the chair, and pulled on the shoulders of her blouse. She had never really grown accustomed to wearing business attire, and she often found herself looking forward to Fridays when she was allowed to come to work in more casual, more comfortable clothes. Today, more than in the past, she felt particularly uneasy, and found herself changing positions often.
“Hey there,” came a voice from her office doorway. Sabrina startled at the sound, and realized that she must have been lost in her thoughts. She was relieved when she saw the Border collie standing at the end of her desk.
“Oh, hi Dexter,” she smiled. “Come to poke me on that user doc?” Her friend regarded her with a grin.
“Well, there’s that, yes,” he said, “but I also wanted to make sure a few things were taken care of before you guys leave next week.” He plunked a diskette down on her desk.
“I’ve got those stat reports here,” he explained, “and I need them to be proofed before turning them over to Jerry on Friday.”
“Four of them, right?”
“Actually, there are five on this reporting cycle; end of 2000 required a year summary report.”
Sabrina sighed inwardly, but tried not to show it on her face.
“Also,” continued Dexter, “I put the new user doc for the operations planning software on this disk. When you get a moment, could you take some time to see what it would take to get it up on the company intranet?” Sabrina nodded in acknowledgement.
“Is there a deadline on this one?” she asked.
“Not a hard deadline, no,” he replied, “but we’d like to get it up for the users by the time they roll out the new software next month. I was hoping you’d be able to do it before you leave.”
“Sure, Dexter. That shouldn’t be a problem.” The collie smiled in appreciation, then leaned his paw on her desk.
“You know, Sabrina,” he said, his voice becoming less businesslike, “before you came here, all I knew about you was what I could gather from the praises Chris would spout about you nearly every day.” She felt her cheeks blush a little.
“But now you’ve become a valuable part of this group,” he continued. “Honestly, it’s come to the point where I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t have you around. You do great work, and I’m glad that Chris brought you here.”
“Thanks, Dexter.” Sabrina grinned at him, but she felt her heart sink. He left the diskette on her desk, and waved good-bye as he left down the hallway. Closing her eyes, she let out a quiet groan. Another software user doc, she thought with a sigh. At least I won’t have to re-write this one.
She found herself looking forward to Friday of the next week, when she and Chris would make the trip back to Columbus so she could take her new sketches to Zig Zag at the studio. No skirt and blouse, no stiff business attitudes, no tedious documentation. Not only would she be back at her old job for a few days, she would also get to see her friends, and could tell them about the pregnancy. Her heart warmed as images of familiar faces swam through her mind.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing telephone on her desk. She quickly scanned the caller I.D., and picked up the receiver with a smile.
“Hello, sweetie,” she purred, leaning back in her chair.
“Well hello, Kitten,” came Chris’ voice over the receiver. “You about ready to head home?” Sabrina looked at the clock over the doorway, and was surprised to see that it read 4:36.
“You bet!” she replied, switching off her monitor. “I’ll meet you down at the front doors.”
“Beat you there!” Her husband challenged her. She began to retort, but she heard a sudden click as the line went dead. The skunk giggled as she nearly threw the receiver into its cradle and scooped up her tote bag. She leaped out of her chair, and planted her left paw on the end of her desk as she scooted around it. Her right paw briefly grabbed the door handle on the way out of her office, giving the door just enough momentum to fully close as she rushed down the hallway toward the elevator.
When she arrived at the elevator, however, she ducked into the door to the right, leading to the stairwell. With one paw on the railing, she took the stairs two at a time, bouncing down four flights before she hit the ground floor. She slowed her pace as she entered the lobby, and was relieved to discover that Chris hadn’t arrived ahead of her. She struck a casual pose to the left of the glass doors which led out of the building, and did her best to bring her winded breathing under control.
Seconds later, the elevator doors opened, and her husband leaped toward the front entranceway. His rush skidded to a halt as soon as he saw his wife. The shock on his face quickly faded to a wry grin, and hung his head in mock defeat.
“You win, Kitten.” He admitted. She grinned at him, scrunching up her nose as she gloated. The fox held the front door open, and the couple left the building toward the parking garage.
“How was your day?” He asked as he unlocked the passenger side door for her. Sabrina pulled her tail to her right side as she sat in the passenger seat.
“Well…” she paused, then shrugged. She motioned for him to get in the driver’s seat. Chris shut the car door, and then scooted around the hood to the driver’s side. He started the engine, and shifted into reverse. As they pulled out of the parking garage, his wife shifted uncomfortably in the seat.
“Are you all right?” he asked, moving his paw over to her knee. “You feeling okay today?”
For a long moment, Sabrina didn’t answer. She reflected on the day’s work, and her feelings about software user documents. Finally, she let out a long breath and turned to face Chris.
“I’m about a third of the way through that financial user doc,” she began. “I should have it done by Wednesday or maybe tomorrow if I don’t run into any more snags.” She heard her husband’s impressed whistle.
“That doc is a beast,” he confided. “None of us wanted to touch it. It would’ve taken me a week and a half to update that thing, and you’re going to get it done in three or four days? You’re good, Kitten.” Sabrina tried to smile, but only managed a half-smirk.
“What’s wrong…?” He looked away from the road for a second, stealing a glance at her face.
“Yeah, Dexter said so too,” she sighed. “He told me that I’m really valuable to the group now. Everybody thinks I’m doing a great job.”
“I thought that was a good thing.”
“Yeah, it is, I guess.” Sabrina lapsed into silence once more. She wanted to tell her husband that she was bored at work, that she felt unfulfilled, that the endless reports, user documents, and technical spec papers were about as much fun as chewing on rocks. On the other paw, she knew how much Chris had pulled with the higher-ups at StrongArm to land her this job. Probably the biggest reason she put so much effort into her work was the fact that her husband was the reason she had the job in the first place.
Now, nearly a year and a half after starting at StrongArm, she found herself at times dreading the stuffy business dress, the corporate culture, and the business ‘politics’ that often took place in a large corporation. Hadn’t he noticed? What could she tell him? The one person whom she felt she could trust the most was the one person that she was hesitant to tell.
She remembered how nervous and scared she had been the day she started working at ZZ Studios, and how intimidated she had felt around her brazen and overly-friendly boss. After her time at StrongArm, she found herself looking back fondly on the crazy days she had spent working for Zig Zag.
“You’ve been pretty distracted lately, Kitten.” Her husband brought her back to the present. “Penny for your thoughts?” She saw him smiling at her, but his eyes were concerned. He still has no idea, she thought, frowning. She took a breath, and steeled herself to reveal the truth.
“I don’t think this job is for me.”
Chris jumped visibly, and the car swerved a bit to the right before he was able to regain control. His brow furrowed in confusion.
“Wha…?” he stammered. “What do you mean?”
“I mean… um…” she paused. The last thing she wanted to do was step on all of the hard work Chris had gone through to bring her into StrongArm.
“Chris, I really don’t want to seem ungrateful,” she continued. “But I’m an artist; I’m an art graduate. I just took those communication classes so I could round out my skills and make myself more valuable to an employer. I didn’t expect to have a career in writing.”
“But you’re really good at it,” he ventured. “You’re better at it than most of the other writers we have on staff.”
“But it… it’s… so boring. I mean, you said yourself that nobody downstairs wanted to even touch that user doc. Think about what it would be like to do nothing but user docs all day every day.”
“I thought you liked your job. Why didn’t you say anything about this before?”
“You’re telling me that you had no clue,” she countered, feeling annoyed. “You’ve never noticed how tired I feel after a workday at StrongArm. You’ve never seen how recharged I get when we go back to ZZ Studios every two months.” She heard the irritation creeping into her voice. “You have never thought about the fact that I’m here, working at StrongArm, doing a job that has nothing to do with my college major?”
She saw the shock on her husband’s face. He opened his mouth, but said nothing. Finally he sat back in his seat, abashed. Sabrina realized she had over-stepped her bounds; she saw the hurt on Chris’ features. Immediately, her irritation vanished as she sought for a way to soften the mood. She had tried so hard to be objective in talking about her job, and now she had blundered. A moment passed in awkward silence.
“I’m sorry,” she offered. She hadn’t wanted to hurt his pride. Hesitantly, she placed her paw over his, and squeezed his fingers gently. After a moment, she was relieved to feel him intertwine his fingers with hers.
“No, Kitten,” his voice was subdued. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I didn’t know you would be unhappy as a writer. I just… wanted so much for you to be here with me.” He thought for a moment. “I guess that was kinda selfish.”
“I wasn’t being fair,” she responded. “I can’t expect you to read my mind if I don’t tell you how I’m feeling.” They held each other’s paw quietly as Chris turned the car into their neighborhood. Soon, he pulled into the driveway of their home, and turned off the engine. Neither one moved to get out of the car.
“So,” his voice was tentative. “What happens now? Are you going to quit?”
“I can’t,” she replied, staring at the dashboard. “Not out of the blue. Dexter told me today that you guys really need me there. I can’t just drop out and leave you hanging.”
“But you’re not going to stay, are you?” His ears drooped.
Sabrina shook her head slowly.
“No, I don’t want to stay. I’d much rather work here from home, telecommuting for Zig. Besides,” she added with a slight grin, “what will happen when I’m seven months pregnant and I can’t fit into my work clothes any more?”
Chris closed his eyes for a long moment. Finally, he nodded his head.
“More than anything else, Kitten, I want you to be happy. If you’re not happy working at StrongArm, then…” he sighed, “you should probably tell John that he’ll need to start looking for a replacement.” He turned and cocked his head sadly at his wife. “I’ll miss sharing lunches with you.”
“Ugh, I knew you were going to bring that up.” She squeezed her eyes shut as her heart sank. Chris chuckled and lifted her paw to his muzzle. She felt his lips pressing softly on her fingers.
“It’s all right, love,” he whispered. “I’ll support you in this.”
She looked into his eyes and found the sincerity and honesty she had grown to love in her fox. She felt as if a pressing weight had been lifted from her heart, and she smiled in gratitude.
“C’mon,” he said, opening his door. “Let’s get you some dinner.” He walked around to her side, opened her door, and offered his paw. She walked at his side, resting her head on his shoulder as they entered the house.
As they passed into the kitchen, Sabrina saw the familiar blinking light on the answering machine. Releasing Chris’ paw, she pressed the replay button. After the initial beep, she heard the digital voice stating that message one was received today at nine twenty-seven A.M. After a brief pause, she heard a familiar voice on the recording.
“Sab, Chris!” Clarence Skunk’s voice was brimming with excitement. “Cindy had the baby! It’s a boy!”