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.
Chris Foxx was happy. His paws held a loose grip on the steering wheel, and his fingers tapped along with the rock and roll on the radio. To the west, the evening sun dipped low on the horizon, bringing a dazzle of red, orange, and yellow hues to the distant clouds. Remnants of melting snow clung to tree branches on either side of the road, dimly sparkling in the fading sunlight.
It had been an exciting day. After the four hour drive from Eau Claire, he and Sabrina had been very well received at the studio, to the point that Sabrina hadn’t been able to get much work done that afternoon. After Zig Zag’s initial bear-hug, she had grilled the couple for a due date, possible names, and whether they had all of the clothes and furniture they would need. Before they had left, Zig had insisted on them setting up a baby registry so she could do some shopping on their behalf.
Chris shook his head with a smile. As crazy as the tiger-striped studio owner was, he had to admit that she was as true a friend as any fur could ask for.
After leaving the studio, they had followed Clarence to his apartment to see little Rodney for the first time. Through all of the excited girl-talk that had ensued between Sabrina and Cindy, the fox had simply looked on, drinking in his wife’s happiness. He hadn’t seen her smile that much in a long time, he realized, and he felt a great peace and contentment.
He stole a look at his wife on the passenger seat next to him. She leaned back in her seat, her head facing the passenger side window, her chin leaning on her paw. Sabrina stared at the passing houses with eyes half-closed, apparently lost in her own thoughts, her left paw softly stroking back and forth across her belly. The last rays of evening sun glinted in her eyes and glasses, and cast a slight orange shade on the white fur of her cheek. Once again, Chris caught himself noticing just how beautiful she was.
“Ready for some more excitement?” He ventured. She turned to him with a tired smile.
“Actually,” she replied, “what I really want right now is some place to crash. I’m worn out, and my back is starting to hurt.” Chris smirked and shook his head.
“I don’t think Tabitha is going to give you that luxury, Kitten,” he reminded her. “And you know Endora is going to want to talk about everything over dinner.” Closing her eyes, Sabrina sighed wearily.
“I don’t know if I’m up for much talk, Chris.” She frowned. “After everything that’s happened today, I’m feeling kinda queasy.” He considered that for a moment, as he steered the car onto a neighborhood street.
“Tell you what,” he said matter-of-factly. “How about you rest out in the car while I bring in the bags? I’ll tell your parents that you’re feeling tired. Let me handle Tabitha, then I can come out and get you.” Sabrina took a long breath, and then shook her head.
“No,” she replied, “Mom would probably come out to the car wondering what’s wrong. I’d better go in with you.”
“You sure?” He asked. She flashed him a mischievous grin before she answered.
“Wasn’t it you who said something about ‘not being able to handle my mother any better than I could?’” She cocked her head innocently at him, and Chris threw up his paws in defense.
“Okay, okay, you win.” He shook his head with a chuckle. “Do you have any idea how cute you are when you do that?” She turned away shyly, and Chris was sure he could see a bit of blush under her cheek fur. Yes, she certainly was beautiful to him.
After a few minutes, he pulled the car up to the curb in front of the Mustelidae residence. As he pulled the keys from the ignition, he turned to look into the front window of the house. There, silhouetted against the glass, was a pair of bouncing pigtails, along with two white-furred paws clutching the window sill. Apparently, Tabitha had recognized their car, because Chris could now see her jumping in excitement and pointing out toward them. He smiled to himself.
“Here we go,” he said, giving Sabrina’s paw a brief squeeze before he opened the driver’s side door. In short order, he removed two small suitcases from the trunk, and then opened the passenger door for his wife. She took his offered arm, and stepped to the curb.
“Ugh…” she grunted, putting her paw to her stomach. Her husband brought his paw up to her shoulder, and his brow furrowed with concern.
“Kitten? You all right?”
She managed a weak smile, and nodded.
“Just a little car-sick, I guess.” She took his arm with both paws, and leaned lightly on his shoulder as they walked toward the house. Before they reached the porch, the front door burst open to reveal a still-bouncing Tabitha, grinning from ear to ear.
“I wanna see! I wanna see!” She clamored, stretching her arms out to Sabrina. Chris watched the six-year-old with amusement. During the past year, the couple had always tried to make some time for family during their visits to Columbus. From the first time she had met him, Tabitha had hung on Chris as if he were her best friend. She always had a new toy to show him, a story to tell, or a game that she wanted him to play with her.
However, at the moment she seemed to ignore him completely. Instead, she had her full attention on her older sister. Soon, the little skunk ceased her bouncing and leaned forward, twisting her neck to get a look at Sabrina from all sides. Her muzzle scrunched into a look of disappointment.
“You’re a’pposed to be fat,” she said, poking at Sabrina’s belly. “Why aren’t you fat?”
Chris guffawed into his paw as his wife planted her fists on her hips. Tabitha crossed her arms over her chest and looked up at her sister.
“Amy got fat a’fore Timmy came,” she said in a very matter-of-fact tone. “I saw her at the park. She said she was fat ‘cause Timmy was inside her tummy. Now Timmy came out, an’ Amy’s not fat any more.”
Chris saw Sabrina’s glare melt into a smile.
“I’m not going to get big,” she emphasized the more proper term, tapping Tabitha’s nose, “until later. And just how did you know that I’m pregnant?”
“Mommy told me.” Tabitha turned a full-armed point at Endora, who had just appeared in the front entryway, wiping her paws on a dish towel. “Mommy said you gonna have a baby like Amy did.”
“Hello, Sabrina.” Endora spoke over Tabitha’s explanation. She stepped onto the porch, and took her oldest daughter by the shoulders. “You look ill, dear, are you feeling all right?”
“I think I got car-sick on the way over,” Sabrina sighed, as her mother pulled her into an embrace. Chris saw Endora’s face over her shoulder, her eyes looking askance at him.
“You never get car-sick, dear.” She said, raising an eyebrow at the fox. She pulled away from Sabrina and wagged a finger in his direction.
“I hope you drove the speed limit? You wore your seatbelts, didn’t you? Driving can be so dangerous on icy roads, you know.” Chris held up his paws to calm his mother-in-law.
“I promise I was being very safe, Endora.”
“Because you know,” she continued, looking at him over her tiny glasses, “you’re driving with two passengers now, not just one.” Chris smiled sheepishly.
“Yes,” he said, winking at his wife. “I’m well aware of that.” Endora considered him for a moment, then nodded in approval.
“Well come on inside, dinner’s on the table.” She turned back into the doorway, throwing the dish towel onto her shoulder. Sabrina followed her in, muttering something about not being hungry.
“Up, Chris!” Tabitha stood with two arms held out to him, jumping in anticipation. Chris looked after his wife for a moment, and then turned his attention to the young skunk. With a grin, he switched the suitcases to his left paw, and scooped her into his arm. She beamed with glee as he lifted her to his right shoulder. She wrapped her tail and her left arm behind his head, grabbing a fistful of his hair for balance. As they entered the house, her right paw reached up and tapped the top of the door frame.
“So what are ya learning in first grade, kiddo?” Chris clutched her right leg with his paw to keep her from falling.
“Miss Jade says I’m the best at math,” she explained with pride. “I know my plusses and minuses and times too. Ya know what’s six times nine?”
“Forty-two?” Chris teased.
“No, silly! It’s fifty-four!”
Tabitha continued spouting math facts as Chris’s nose was met with the smell of freshly baked bread.
As he sat on the bathroom floor, Chris placed a comforting paw on Sabrina’s back. It was all he could do. He watched helplessly as she knelt in her nightshirt, her stomach vainly trying to empty itself. Her paws held a shaking grip on the sides of the toilet.
Between retches, Sabrina leaned heavily on the lid, gasping for breath. Chris knew that this was a symptom of pregnancy, and he had anticipated that his wife would experience the nausea that came with it. However, this had been going on for nearly ten minutes, and he was getting worried. He felt his arm muscles tense as she began gagging once again. She coughed and sputtered into the bowl, but as before, nothing came up.
After a moment, he felt the tension in her muscles begin to soften, and her breathing became somewhat calmer. She turned to look at him, exhaustion and frustration clearly visible on her face.
“I didn’t eat anything!” She complained in a fierce whisper. “I shouldn’t be throwing up like this.” He moved his paw further across her back, wrapping his arm around her. She placed a shaky paw on his knee, and then leaned into his shoulder for support. He held her quietly, rocking her back and forth until she stopped trembling. Finally he felt her relax somewhat, and her tail drooped to the floor.
“Whoever said this is supposed to be called morning sickness,” she grunted, “ought to be dragged out in the street and shot.” She reached for Chris’ left arm, and squinted at his wristwatch. “What time is it? I don’t have my glasses.” Chris brought his arm up to his eyes and tried to focus on the time.
“It’s almost midnight,” he whispered, dropping his arm to his knees. Sabrina breathed a quiet growl through clenched teeth.
“I can’t sleep, Chris.” She sniffled, her eyes glistening. “I feel so sick, it’s keeping me awake. Every time I move, I feel like I’m going to puke. I thought if I were really able to throw up, then maybe I’d feel better, but now…” She grunted miserably.
His arm held her tightly, and he squeezed her shoulder. His mind flowed with foreboding thoughts, shadows of fear that gripped his heart. He wanted to say something, anything, to soothe her, but he was at a loss for words. Instead, he nuzzled her fur, and pressed a gentle kiss on her cheek. For long moments he held her to his chest, until he heard her breathing become slow and even.
Chris hoped that exhaustion had finally overtaken her. Carefully, he snaked his left arm under his wife, and attempted to lift her. As he stood, her eyelids tightened, and her face twisted into a sickly grimace. Though her eyes remained closed, she let out a quiet moan.
His jaw tightened in concern, and he felt a black knot of worry in his stomach. With slow, soft steps, he crossed the darkened hallway into the guest bedroom. He never took his eyes from her face.
Several minutes passed before he reached the bedside. His balance shifted as he lowered her to the mattress, and his leg muscles strained to keep him from falling forward. Finally, her weight rested on the bed, and he was able to pull his arms out from underneath her. She lay facing away from him.
Chris made no movement to return to bed himself. Instead, he knelt at the bedside, placed his paws on her lower back, and gently pressed his thumbs into her nightshirt. With slow, circular motions, he worked her tired muscles, trying to help her to relax. He moved his paws along her spine, attempting to focus on each tight lump as he progressed.
As he worked, the fox lowered his head. Please, came his silent prayer. Please let her be all right.
Though his fatigue begged him to rest, he continued for what seemed like an hour, his eyes half-lidded, his ears drooping. Finally, he rested his head on his arm as he continued to massage her back. Within moments, his eyelids heavy with fatigue, he drifted into his own thoughts, and his paws’ movements became still.
Chris knelt alone, his arms bound together in front of him, with a rope digging painfully into his chest. The landscape around him was cracked and barren. The sun above gave no light, and his surroundings were cast in dull, lifeless colors. All was silent, but for the far-off sound of a weeping child.
The child’s voice was filled with anguish. He sought the source of the voice, but found it impossible to determine from which direction it came. His heart beat faster, and he felt a desperate desire to help whomever it was that suffered so. Taking a deep breath, he strained against the ropes that held him.
All at once, the scenery seemed to melt around him. He opened his eyes, and found himself still kneeling at the bedside, his chest resting on the edge of the mattress. His heart skipped a beat as he came to realize whose voice he had heard. He reached a paw through the darkness, and his fingers rested upon the trembling form of his wife.
Sabrina lay where he had left her, facing away from him. Her muscles were taut, her breathing labored. Her shoulders shook as she wept, and her pleading voice struggled to speak through her sobbing. Chris leapt to his feet, and reached for the light switch.
A lamp on the bedside table came to life, and filled the room with a harsh light. He squeezed his eyes shut for a few seconds, but then forced himself to look. There on the bed before him, he saw his wife doubled over, her knees brought up to her chest. Her shaking arms wrapped a vise-grip around her legs. She pressed her forehead to her knees, with her eyes tightly shut, and her clenched teeth bared.
“Kitten!” He cried, falling to his knees at her side. “I’m here, Sabrina. I’m here. What’s wrong?” He put a paw on her shoulder, already afraid of her answer.
“Hurts...” she gasped through her tears. “feel sick... I can’t, I can’t… please!”
He heard the desperation in her voice. Her fur was slick with sweat, and she felt hot. Chris reached a paw to her forehead, and realized immediately that she had a fever.
“We’re going to the emergency room,” he huffed, trying to keep his voice calm. “Let me get some pants on, I’ll take you out to the car.” He grabbed his jeans from the top of the chest of drawers, and quickly pulled them on over his boxers. Leaping to his feet once again, he took his glasses from the bedside table, and slipped them over his eyes. Then, leaning over, he slid his paws under her trembling body. As he lifted her to his chest, she released the hold on her knees, and hooked her arms around his neck. She quickly buried her face into his shoulder, muffling her cries against his t-shirt and chest fur.
Chris stooped to grab his car keys from the bedside table, and then turned to leave. However, his peripheral vision caught something on the bed that brought him up short. He twisted his neck around to get a better look at the bed sheets. There, where Sabrina had slept, he saw several dark red stains, not yet dried.
His heart sank, and his vision blurred with tears. He closed his eyes tightly and turned away from the bed; he already knew what was wrong. Gritting his teeth, he prayed that he was mistaken. He took a deep breath, steeled himself for what was to come, and stepped hurriedly into the darkened hallway.
The sound of a car engine quickly faded into the distance, and the house stood silent.
End of Chapter 4