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.
“All right, pack it in, folks.” At Marvin’s order, the photo crew jumped into action. Bright lamps clicked off, and the workers began to disassemble the equipment. Several furs started taking down the set backdrops, and studio number three soon became a bustle of activity.
Clarence Skunk hurried over to a big lop-eared crewman, and helped him to disconnect the power cables from camera two. As the skunk coiled the cable from his paw around his elbow, the rabbit pulled a lever to disconnect the heavy camera from its tripod. With practiced care, Rodney placed the camera into its case just as the skunk finished coiling the power line. Soon, the camera was safely packed away, and Clarence set about collapsing the tripod.
“Pretty quick shoot this morning,” the rabbit commented. “Things have been going really smooth—it’s good to have you back, Clare.”
Clarence felt himself smile with pride at the compliment, but he gave no answer. Instead, he finished with the tripod, and then ran to place it in the equipment locker. Spying a loose patch cable, he stooped to pick up one end, and followed it to the mixing board where he unplugged the other end. It wasn’t long before he had wrapped it into a neat coil and stowed it in the locker next to the others.
“Everything okay back home?” Rodney tried again. “I hope Ellen is able to take care of things?”
Clarence finally slowed his pace and turned to his father-in-law. For a moment, he gathered his thoughts, and prepared to tell the rabbit what had been weighing on his mind.
“Ever s-since the kit was born…” he stuttered, “I-I-I… haven’t been able to d-d-do anything around the apartment. Sh-sh-she won’t let me clean or c-cook… she’s t-taken over!” The skunk flushed with embarrassment.
Rodney smiled as he pictured his grandson, now nearly two weeks old. Shortly after Cindy had returned from the hospital, her mother had insisted on coming to stay with the young parents. As a new grandmother, Ellen had put herself to task, cooking meals, folding laundry, changing diapers, and tending to the needs of the new mother and son.
At first, Clarence had been grateful for the help, as it gave him ample time to spend with his wife and newborn. After a couple of days, however, he had begun to feel restless, and had offered to help his mother-in-law. In her sweet, motherly manner, Ellen had declined, reminding him that this was the time for him to bond with his new little family, and that she would take care of everything. He had obeyed, not wanting to disappoint Cindy’s mother, but he couldn’t help feeling somewhat useless around the apartment. The skunk was relieved when his family leave days had run out, and he had returned to work with renewed vigor that morning.
“Besides,” Clarence continued, “I-I really appreciate that she’s making all the f-f-food for us, but how do you t-t-tell a rabbit that you d-don’t like carrots?”
Rodney laughed as he hoisted the camera case over his shoulder. He leaned over and lowered his voice.
“Let me tell you something, Clare,” said the big rabbit, “I’m not big on carrots myself.”
“You… what?” The skunk stammered in shock. “I thought all rabbits loved c-c-carrots!” His father-in-law smiled and shook his head.
“We do,” he explained, “but when you have a wife and daughter who love them as much as Ellen and Cindy do, you wind up eating them nearly every day.” He winked at the younger fur before he continued. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate carrots; I just don’t get excited about them like I used to.” With that, he hefted the camera case and walked it over to the equipment locker.
Clarence stared at Rodney’s back, wondering if he had really just heard such an admission from a rabbit. He watched as the crewman replaced camera two in its locker, then turned and closed the locker door with a large right foot.
“Tell ya what, Clare,” Rodney offered, “let me take you to lunch, and you can tell me all about my new grandson.”
“I thought Ellen already t-t-told you,” the skunk replied, a bit confused. “Doesn’t she call you every d-day after work?” The rabbit chuckled through a half-smile.
“I haven’t heard it from you,” he answered. “For all the cooing female-talk that I’ve heard from Ellen and Cindy, you’d think the baby was a girl.” Clarence felt his tension drain away, and he joined the big rabbit in a good laugh.
“Besides,” Rodney continued after a moment, “I want to know if you two have decided on a name yet.” The younger fur beamed a large grin at his father-in-law just as a loud cheer erupted from the studio lobby. The two of them turned to peer through the doorway.
A small group of studio models had gathered near the front entranceway, buzzing with excitement. As he entered the lobby, Rodney stood up on his toes to see over the growing crowd. He immediately recognized the two newcomers.
“Sabrina! Chris!” Came an exclamation from behind, and he saw Clarence bolt past him toward his friends.
Smiling, the rabbit shook his head. Guess that means I’m doing lunch alone today, he thought. He leaned casually against the doorframe as he watched his son-in-law stand among the models that now formed a small ring around the newly-arrived couple.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Yes, I still pay them on a cash basis.”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“No, I’m certain they don’t want to change that.”
Zig Zag’s carefully manicured claw clicked on the wooden desktop as she fidgeted. She leaned back in her leather chair, her thick, tiger-striped tail hanging loose over the side. While her left paw held a telephone receiver to her ear, her right tapped irritably on the paper forms spread out before her.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Larry, it’s your job to work out the complicated details. That’s what I pay you for.”
Zig Zag had never been excited about this time of year; tax season was a necessary evil that every business owner had to endure. She knew her accountant well; this was now the fourth season that he had prepared tax return documents for ZZ Studios. He was good—she had made sure of that. With the studio’s increasing popularity and market share, there had been more than a few nosy auditors poking into her financial affairs. Thankfully, the studio’s financial statements had always been in proper order, leaving her would-be detractors with yet another dead end.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“I bought two new cameras back in September,” she explained. “Lost an old one when it shorted out in August.”
She trusted her accountant fully, and she was grateful for his expertise. She knew how important it was to prepare the proper tax forms, to report accurate revenue, expenses, assets, and depreciation. But she hated dealing with it. She hated the endless forms, signatures, and legal fine print. Even so, she still forced herself to work through the details with the accountant, more to challenge herself than anything else.
With an impatient sigh, she looked over at the clock, which read 12:32. Nearly an hour, she realized. From the other end of the phone line, she heard Larry’s voice continue to list his assessments and suggestions on how she could improve the way she handled the studio’s cash flow. Closing her eyes, she laid her head on the back of the chair.
At that moment, Zig Zag heard a small commotion from beyond her office door. In a quick motion, she transferred the phone to her right ear, and then cocked her head to listen to the noise from the lobby. Through the muffled cheers and buzz, she heard a squeaking voice that could only belong to Clarence Skunk. Immediately, she recognized the source of the excitement.
Grinning broadly, she leaned forward in her chair. Her left fist and elbow pumped downward as she silently mouthed a relieved YES! With practiced professionalism, she cleared her throat and prepared to end the conversation as discreetly as she could.
“Larry, I’ve got to get back to you,” she smirked, grateful that she wasn’t speaking to the accountant face-to-face. “We’ve got an issue here at the studio that just came up. No, go ahead and finish it up, I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” With that, she stood, and neatly dropped the receiver into its cradle.
It took only a moment to straighten her skirt. A quick twist of her head threw her hair behind her back, and she wore an air of confidence as she strode toward her office door.
The scene in the lobby was familiar. Though Sabrina was only able to come to the studio once every two months, most of the employees knew her very well from when she had been a full-time employee. Furthermore, Chris had become somewhat of a regular, as he often accompanied his wife when she visited. To that end, Zig Zag wasn’t surprised to see a number of models and photo crewmembers crowding the young couple near the front doorway.
Today was to be a treat for the studio, Zig thought with a smile. Sabrina’s visits normally generated a lot of buzz among the employees, but this was the day that she was to bring the caricature portraits she had done of the studio models. Nearly three months previous, many of the employees had sent photos of themselves to the studio’s webmaster, in a competition to see which portraits would become the new faces for the company. The top three caricature portraits, selected by Zig Zag herself, would be framed and posted on the walls of the studio lobby for all to see.
With a wide, smug grin, Sabrina stood with her back against the receptionist’s desk, her arm stretched behind, holding an art portfolio folder out of reach of several furs. Nearby at the entryway, Chris leaned against the doorframe, with his paws buried in the pockets of his windbreaker. A red-furred squirrel stood at his side, poking his shoulder and trying to convince him to talk his wife into showing her work. From the rear of the group, Clarence Skunk looked on with growing amusement.
“C’mon, Sab,” said a burly raccoon, “give up, let’s see!”
Zig Zag saw the big fur make a lunge for Sabrina’s art folder, forcing her backward onto the receptionist’s desk. The studio owner decided to intervene before the situation got out of paw. Putting on a straight face, she cupped her paws to her muzzle and raised her voice over the crowd.
“What is going on out here?!”
In an instant, the room was silenced, and all eyes were upon the tiger-striped skunk. Zig Zag did her best to keep her features stern. She looked over her gathered employees, then at Sabrina and Chris.
“Are you all aware,” she began, “that I was just on an important phone call with the accountant?” With slow, determined steps, she made her way toward the studio’s webmaster. Nobody said a word as she came muzzle to muzzle with Sabrina. The younger skunk was taken aback, and a look of fear began to creep into her face.
In a quick motion, Zig Zag threw her arms around her friend and planted a huge, sloppy kiss on her cheek. Immediately, she felt her squirm wildly, and both of them burst into a fit of giggles.
“Ewwwww!” Sabrina whined through her laughter, and struggled to pry Zig’s paws away. The studio employees whooped and cheered, pressing in around the two.
“Hey now, that’s my wife!” came Chris’ voice, as he joined in the laughter. Zig saw him standing casually behind the group of studio models, sharing in the mirth at his wife’s discomfort.
After a moment, she released her embrace. Sabrina darted back to her husband’s side, wiping her cheek with the back of her paw. Though the younger skunk wore a pouty expression, Zig saw her eyes twinkle merrily behind her glasses, and she knew that all was well. With a grin, she turned her back to her friend, and casually opened the art portfolio she now held.
It wasn’t long before her thievery was discovered.
Zig snapped the folder shut, and spun around to face Sabrina’s glare. She held the portfolio loosely in one paw, and grinned as she narrowed her eyes in mischief.
“This,” she said calmly, motioning with the folder in her paw, “was meant for me, right?” Sabrina’s glare faded as her brow furrowed uncomfortably.
“Well, yes, I… but...” she stammered.
“So what’s the problem here? I’ve got…” Zig trailed off as she looked more closely at her friend. Mischief was immediately forgotten as she brought her paw up to her chin in thought. She cocked her head as she looked from Sabrina to Chris and back. A look of confusion began to creep into the younger skunk’s features.
“What?” Sabrina asked, feeling even more uncomfortable under her boss’s scrutiny. After a moment, Zig Zag’s eyes widened in realization, but her look became neutral almost immediately. She held up the portfolio, and motioned with her head toward her office door.
“C’mon, let’s take a look at these,” she instructed, motioning for the couple to follow. Then, turning her head to the gathered studio staff, she announced, “Take lunch, folks—everybody will get a chance to see these later on today.”
A collective sigh of disappointment came from the gathered furs, and the group began to disperse from the lobby. Zig Zag saw Clarence stare after Sabrina and Chris for a moment before he turned and walked over to the studio doorway where Rodney stood. Satisfied, she turned and followed her friends into the office.
Once the three were behind the closed office door, Zig dropped the art portfolio onto her desk. Immediately, she turned and lunged at the young couple, squeezing the two of them into a tight embrace.
“GYAH!” Chris squeaked, his eyes bulging. At his side, Sabrina gasped for breath.
“Somebody is preeeeeeeegnant!” Zig bubbled. “Congrats you two!”
Sabrina sat in the passenger seat as her husband drove. Ahead of them on the road, Clarence’s Saturn turned a corner into an apartment complex. Her hands fidgeted in excitement as Chris brought their car into a parking space near apartment 63. Moments later, she saw Rodney’s pickup truck pull into the space next to them. Her heart began to pound within her at the thought of seeing Cindy and Clarence’s new kit for the first time.
Why was this so different? Sabrina had been there in the hospital when little Timothy Wolfe-Squirrel was born, and she was the first to see him aside from his parents and the doctor. She had lived in the apartment with Amy, Thomas, and Timmy for a number of months before she had moved to Eau Claire. While she adored Timmy, she hadn’t felt then what she felt now.
The butterflies in her stomach were fluttering wildly, giving her a slight bit of nausea. Her mind swam with thoughts of bright eyes, little black and white stripes, tiny paws, and fine, soft newborn fur. Was it because Cindy was one of her best friends, and now a new mother? She was also good friends with Amy, but she hadn’t felt this way when she gave birth.
No, she realized. It’s because I’m pregnant now, and I’ll be in Cindy’s place before the year is out. She looked down at her paw, resting on her belly. She was excited to see Clarence and Cindy’s newborn, but she was also anxious to share the news of her own pregnancy.
The passenger side door clicked open, and she looked up to see Chris offering his paw to her.
“C’mon, Kitten,” he smiled. She took his paw firmly, returning his smile. Arm in arm, they followed Clarence and Rodney up the steps to the third floor of the complex.
Clarence stopped at the first door on the left, and fumbled in his pocket for his keys. With a shrug, the big rabbit twisted the knob, and the door came open. Clarence stood on the door mat, keys in hand, looking sheepishly after his father-in-law, and then motioned for his friends to come in.
Looking into the kitchen, Sabrina caught sight of a slender rabbit, dressed in an apron, busy with a load of dishes in the sink. Her ears perked up when the door opened, and she smiled broadly when she recognized the newcomers. Grabbing a dish towel, she quickly dried her paws, and then wrapped her arms around Rodney’s neck, giving him a quick peck on his cheek fur.
“Hi sweetie,” Rodney beamed, pulling his wife close. Ellen quickly brought up a paw to his lips, motioning for him to be quiet. She tipped her head back toward the bedrooms, then brought her paws together and laid her cheek upon them, indicating that the baby was sleeping.
With a grin, Clarence motioned for Sabrina and Chris to follow him. The three made soft footsteps toward the baby’s room, while Rodney and Ellen returned to the kitchen, speaking to each other in hushed voices. Sabrina felt her eyes go wide as they approached the bedroom door. Gingerly, Clarence pushed the door open and poked his head into the room.
After a moment, he motioned for the young couple to enter. The room had been re-arranged since Sabrina had last seen it; the walls were now painted a soft pastel blue, and a white diaper-changing table now stood in the far left corner. Along the wall to the left of the door, she saw a wooden crib, also painted white. Resting in the crib was a neatly folded diaper and a rumpled blanket; however, there was no kit.
She pushed the door open further, and discovered both the kit and his mother sitting in a rocking chair near the far right corner of the room. Cindy’s head drooped forward, her ears hanging down over her right shoulder. Cradled in her arms was a small bundle of blankets, with a tiny black and white face poking out at one end. Both of them slept peacefully.
Clarence stood near the doorway for a moment, gazing fondly upon his little family. Sabrina craned her neck to get a better look at the newborn, while Chris stepped out of the way to give her a better view. A few short steps brought her close enough to see the little face clearly.
She felt her breath catch within her as she gazed upon the new kit. His face was ringed with jet-black fur, with a small patch of white on his lower muzzle which extended down his neck into the blankets. A clear, white stripe began at the center of his forehead, and stretched between tiny ears and down his back. His eyes were closed, and the blankets around him rose and fell softly as he slumbered. Cindy’s arms cradled him, holding him close to her chest.
With a gentle touch, Clarence began to stroke his wife’s ears. After a moment, Cindy began to stir, then leaned her head toward her husband’s paws. Her lips began to turn up into a satisfied smile.
“Mmmmm…..” came her sleepy response.
“You’ve got company,” Clarence whispered.
“Hmm?” Cindy half-opened one eye, and focused on the visitors. Immediately, both eyes snapped open, and she let out a small gasp of surprise. With careful movement, she disengaged her right paw from under the kit, and then held out her arm to hug her friend.
“Sabby!” she whispered with hushed excitement, as the two held each other in a tight embrace.
“Oh, he’s so beautiful, Cindy!” Sabrina bubbled, not taking her eyes from the newborn. “Have you decided on a name yet?” The young mother blushed, and turned to Clarence. Her husband nodded, and placed his paw on her shoulder.
“We’ve decided to give him my dad’s name; Rodney.” Cindy laid her head on her husband’s arm as Sabrina looked intently upon the tiny skunk’s face.
“Such perfect little features…” Her voice trailed off as she stared. Within her, feelings welled up until she felt her chest was going to burst. Cindy, her long-time friend, now a mother! And the mother of such a beautiful little child! The butterflies in her stomach fluttered ever more insistently, and she felt a bit overwhelmed. Her thoughts turned to the baby that she now carried, and her vision blurred as her feelings came to the surface.
She longed to hold him, to feel him in her arms, to imagine the day when she would cradle her own child. She turned her eyes to look at Cindy, and found the rabbit watching her with one eyebrow raised and a knowing smirk on her muzzle. After a moment, the young mother nodded her head.
“Sab, I can read you like a book, girl,” she teased with a wide grin. “I’d love you to hold him; he should be waking up pretty soon anyway.” Sabrina felt herself blush, and Chris chuckled softly from where he leaned against the closet door. With slow, gentle movements, Cindy slipped her right paw under the bundle of blankets, and lifted little Rodney to her friend’s arms.
As she closed her arms around the tiny bundle, Sabrina felt her husband’s paw on her shoulder. Chris rested his muzzle beside her ear as he joined her in a close-up look at the newborn. He felt almost weightless, like a child’s doll; only his tiny breaths gave any indication that he was indeed real. Her husband’s arm closed around her waist, and her heart melted within her as she leaned into his chest.
Family, she thought happily, as she felt the closeness of both Chris and the baby. We’re going to be a family! She could not suppress a tiny sob of joy, and tears began to moisten her cheek fur. She sniffled and brought up a paw to wipe her eyes.
“Sabby? Y-you O.K.?” Clarence sounded genuinely concerned. Sabrina looked up to see Cindy staring at her wide-eyed, eyebrows raised, her mouth hanging part-way open. Slowly, the rabbit cocked her head at her friend, her eyes conveying a clear, unspoken question. Sabrina looked again at the kit in her arms, and then turned to her husband. Chris only closed his eyes and nodded. Looking back at her friends, she prepared to reveal the news.
“Clare, Cindy, we’re pregnant.”
She was immediately met with a squeal of glee, as Cindy leaped out of the chair toward her. Tawny-furred arms wrapped Sabrina, Chris, and the baby in a joyful embrace, as both the skunk and rabbit giggled like school girls. Clarence stood near the rocking chair with a wide, sheepish grin on his face, not quite knowing how to react.
Soon, the sound of tiny mewling joined the fray, and Cindy looked down to see that Rodney was stirring. Sabrina felt his small arms struggling against the blankets, and his little features scrunched together as he began to cry. His mother clapped a paw to her muzzle to stifle the noise.
“Aw, I probably scared him...” she admitted, reaching her arm to take him from Sabrina. With quiet cooing sounds, she brought the kit to her chest, holding him close. After a few moments, he turned his head toward his mother, and his body calmed. Returning to the rocking chair, Cindy lowered her voice.
“When did you find out?” Her questions came one after the other. “How far along are you? When is your due date? Ah!” She gasped as she came to another realization. “Who else knows you’re pregnant? Debbye? Susan? Amy? We’ve got to get a baby shower going for you, girl!”
Sabrina couldn’t help but laugh with joy. She wrapped her right arm around Chris and allowed herself to revel in Cindy’s excitement. Through the barrage of questions and answers, her mind kept returning to a single thought.