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.
Saturday dawned much like most Columbus days in March. The air was crisp and cool, still shaking off the last of winter's chill. Trees, houses, and telephone poles bathed in the bright morning sun, while small patches of leftover snow still dotted suburban lawns. On this Saturday morning, there were few cars on the road.
Amy Woolfe-Squirrel checked her rear-view mirror once again as she edged her car just past the speed limit. She checked a street sign as it passed. Just another half-mile, she thought. The last time she had come to this hospital was about a year and a half ago, when Timmy was born. Sabrina had been there as well, Amy remembered with a bit of a smile. Never before in her life had she been a passenger in a car that had been moving at such a high speed, nor did she care to repeat the experience. Fortunately, however, Sabrina had been able to get her and Thomas to the hospital in time, and there had been no complications with Timmy's birth.
Complications. The squirrel sighed to herself. Now the roles were reversed; Sabrina was pregnant, and Amy was the one driving to the hospital. When she had called the Mustelidae home earlier, Endora had been the one to reveal the news of the pregnancy, but she had also said that Chris and Sabrina had gone to the emergency room some time during the night.
Amy's mind was awash with thoughts. Sabrina was pregnant! How far along was she? Must be fairly early, if she hadn't called and said anything yet. But why the emergency room? What could have gone wrong? Endora hadn’t been able to tell her anything more than the contents of a scribbled note that had been left on the kitchen table.
She had always looked forward to the time when her friends would make the trip from Pennsylvania. Though it had only been two months since she had last seen them, Amy had jumped at the chance to see Chris and Sabrina, to take them out to lunch, to catch up on what had been going on in their lives. And now, at the news of both the pregnancy and the trip to the hospital, she wasn’t sure what to think. She could only hope that it meant nothing serious.
“Probably just a false alarm,” she sighed to the windshield. Amy assured herself that things would be fine, but doubts nagged at her feelings.
“Mommy,” came a little voice from behind her. “Mommy?”
“Yes, Timmy,” she answered, not taking her eyes from the road. She spied the entrance to the hospital parking lot.
“Daddy’s at home, Timmy. It’s just you and me today.” Amy turned the car into the parking lot, and looked around for a parking space that was close to the emergency room entrance.
“Oh,” her son replied, and paused for a moment. “Daddy go work?” She smirked and shook her head.
“No, Daddy’s at home,” she repeated. “We’re going to go see Aunt Sabrina and Uncle Chris.”
“Go see Bina?” She heard her son’s voice perk up with excitement as she stopped the car.
“Yeah,” she replied, imitating his limited diction. “Go see Bina today.”
Amy opened the rear door and unbuckled the toddler from his car seat. Lifting him into her arms, she turned and pushed the door closed with her hips. She zipped his little jacket up to his neck as she strode toward the entrance to the emergency room.
The reception area was empty this morning, save for a tall otter sitting behind the window. Amy was grateful to see that, at least this morning, no one had come in with any serious injuries or illnesses. She hoisted her son a bit higher, and approached the receptionist. The male otter gave a friendly smile.
“Can I help you, ma’am?”
“Yes,” she began, “I’m looking for a couple of friends that came in sometime early this morning. A skunk and a fox.”
“Sabrina and Chris Foxx, with two X’s.”
The otter turned to his computer screen and punched a few keystrokes. After a moment, he nodded and turned back to the squirrel.
“Yes, here it is, Sabrina Foxx, admitted at 2:37 AM. She’s in surgical recovery now.”
Amy’s heart skipped a beat.
“Surgery?” She gasped. “What for?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, it doesn’t say here on her admission record.” The receptionist looked up at Amy with concern in his eyes. After a moment, he continued.
“You don’t know what she came in for?” He asked.
“Uh… no,” she said, her voice halting. “I just found out that she’s pregnant. I… don’t know anything more than that.” The otter nodded, and punched a few more keys on the computer terminal.
“Visiting hours start in about ten minutes,” he said, scribbling on a pad of paper. “She’s in room 327, west wing; down that hall to your right. Should take you about that long to get there.” He tore off the top sheet and handed it to her.
“Thank you,” she whispered, taking the note. She felt numb as she turned and walked away from the receptionist window.
Surgery. Had there been an accident? Food poisoning? Amy’s thoughts raced with possible scenarios, each more worrisome than the last. Her stomach began to tighten with concern, and she had to force herself to remain calm as she continued down the hallway.
Soon, she came upon the main hospital lobby. Looking around, she spied a blue placard on the far wall. It read ‘West Wing’ in white letters, and listed the recovery ward on the third floor. She made her way toward it, her route taking her past a small gift shop filled with flowers, plush toys, and brightly colored balloons.
“B’loon!” Timmy cried, reaching out toward them. “B’loon, mommy!”
“Not today,” she sighed, moving her son to the other shoulder. Then she paused, remembering that Sabrina was recovering from surgery. Though she had no idea what operation her friend had undergone, she realized that a few balloons might help brighten a sterile, white recovery room. With a smile, Amy turned into the gift shop, and Timmy began to squirm with excitement.
Within moments, the squirrel emerged from the shop with three large balloons, each bearing the words ‘Get Well Soon’ printed in white lettering. Timothy clutched the strings in his paw, happily bouncing them as the pair approached an elevator at the end of the hallway.
After ascending to the third floor, Amy’s steps quickened. She noted each room number on her right as she passed. 319, 321, 323, 325… Finally, the door stood before her. She hesitated a moment before she lifted her paw to knock. She wasn’t sure what to expect; she took a deep breath and prepared herself for the worst.
The door clicked open, revealing a very worn-looking Chris Foxx. His bloodshot eyes brightened slightly when he saw the visitors, and he reached out in a welcoming hug.
“Amy...” he breathed, embracing her. “Thanks for coming. She’s not doing very well.”
“What happened?” The squirrel asked, straining to see into the room. Chris released his hold, and stepped aside.
“She’s…” he stammered, then took a breath and lowered his already soft voice to a whisper. “She’s lost the baby.” Chris closed his eyes tightly and loosed a long, quiet sigh. After a moment, he continued. “She was in so much pain, they said they needed to operate. They… they called it a dilation-and-something procedure; they said it was the fastest way to get rid of the pain.” The fox’s ears drooped sadly.
Stepping forward, Amy felt her insides twist into a knot. There, on the bed before her, Sabrina looked as if she hadn’t slept in three days. Her bed had been adjusted to a sitting position; her head was turned toward the window, her eyes closed. She wore a loose, wrinkled, floral-print hospital gown, nearly falling off of her right shoulder. Her disheveled white hair hung down over her eyes. The fur on her face and arms was unkempt and ragged; her cheek fur was matted with tears. Her knees, covered by a hospital blanket, were hugged to her chest. She had discarded her glasses on a bedside table.
Amy gasped and brought a paw to her muzzle, then turned a wide-eyed stare at the fox beside her.
“How...?” She asked in a halting whisper. “Was there… an accident?”
“You don’t have to whisper,” came Sabrina’s hoarse, dejected voice. “I can hear you.”
“Sabby, I…” Amy said quickly, raising her voice to a normal level. She turned to face her friend on the bed. “I brought something for you.”
“B’loons!” Timmy beamed, holding them out to the skunk. Sabrina made no move to look at the gift. After a moment of awkward silence, the toddler scrunched his eyebrows together in confusion. He looked up at his mother, and then once again at the balloons he held. Reaching out his paw, he tried again.
At length, Sabrina opened her eyes, and slowly turned to look at her visitors. Her gaze briefly set upon the balloons Timmy offered to her, and she managed a slight, halting smile.
“Amy…” she sighed, releasing her arms from around her knees. Her eyes and eyelids were reddened from the many times she had wiped them with her paws. Amy’s heart was torn for her friend as she approached the bedside. Chris took a chair near the window, and sat facing his wife.
“Thanks… for coming.” Sabrina’s voice croaked. Timmy again held out the balloons to the skunk. With slow movements, she raised a paw to take them. Silently, she considered them for a moment, and then turned her gaze to the toddler.
Timmy squirmed out of his mother’s arms to stand on the bed. Amy watched in silence as he knelt on the blankets, placed his little paws upon Sabrina’s knees, and stared quietly into her face. He cocked his head, considering, and then came to a conclusion.
“Bina sad?” His innocent words struck Amy’s heart, and she felt tears stinging her eyelids. Sabrina’s eyes widened and her fingers went slack on the balloon strings. In a swift motion, she swept Timothy into her arms, and hugged him fiercely to her chest. Her shoulders began to tremble, and her features tightened into a pained grimace. Squeezing her eyes shut, she took shuddering, deep breaths through her nose. Finally, unable to contain herself, she released her grief in great, heaving sobs, her fingers clutching tightly to Timmy's jacket.
Amy knelt at the bedside, placing her paw on Sabrina's shoulder. Through her blurred vision, she saw Chris approach the other side of the bed, taking hold of his wife's arm. The fox's head slumped, his eyes disappearing behind the fingers of his free paw.
The squirrel sought for something to say, anything that might bring her friends a bit of comfort, but she was at a complete loss for words. Blinking through her tears, she looked down at her son, and discovered him staring back in utter confusion. She realized that Timmy had no idea what was happening. She saw his eyes glisten, and soon he too began to cry.
"Shhh." Came Sabrina's trembling whisper. She raised a shaky paw and gently stroked the back of the toddler's head. "Shh, it's okay, Timmy," she sniffled. "Don't cry."
With slow movements, the skunk began to rock the child, even as she continued her own quiet sobbing into his shoulder. As Amy watched her friend, it dawned on her just how much Sabrina wanted a child of her own. In the course of a single morning, Amy had gone from surprised excitement at the news of the pregnancy, to hesitant fear when she learned that her friend had gone to the hospital, to shared grief here at her bedside. And now she bore silent witness as Sabrina, for a brief, vicarious moment, became Timmy's mother.
Suddenly, Amy felt a pang of guilt. Here she had a beautiful, bright-eyed son. Though it was still a great challenge being a mother, she was immensely grateful for the joy that Timmy brought into her life. But Sabrina and Chris had that chance taken away from them sometime during the night. Amy gazed upon her friends, wondering if they might resent her. Resent her, just because of this innocent little toddler that was hers, not theirs. Certainly, there would be opportunity for another child, some day? Maybe? This had all happened so fast.
"Amy," Sabrina breathed, "Please... go..." She brought her paws under Timmy's arms, and lifted him to his mother. The skunk turned her head away, her eyes still closed. Chris lifted his head, staring at his wife in surprise. The squirrel was shocked.
"Sab," she gasped, her voice halting. "I... I'm sorry. I wish..."
"Just go," Sabrina interrupted with a harsh whisper. "Please."
Amy scooped Timmy into her arm, her jaw going slack. She felt as if she had been physically struck, and her legs felt weak. She turned to Chris, unsure how to react. The fox's face was nearly a mirror of her own, filled with dismayed confusion. He mouthed a silent 'I'm sorry' to the squirrel, shaking his head sadly before turning back to Sabrina.
“Your… parents said they would come,” Amy said, retreating toward the door. “Later this morning.” Chris nodded in acknowledgement, not taking his eyes from his wife.
Amy turned and quietly exited the hospital room, taking care to close the door softly behind her. Leaning her back against the wall, she brought her free paw to her face, struggling to comprehend what had just happened. Her eyes stared, unfocused, at the door to room 326 across the hall. She stood for several quiet moments as the shock drained from her heart.
Amy blinked, and lowered her paw. She realized that she had been holding her breath, and she let out a long sigh as she relaxed her chest. Timmy looked up at her, his little eyebrows brought together. His voice was quiet and uncertain.
"Bina sad?" He repeated his earlier observation.
"Yes," she replied quietly. "Bina sad."
He lowered his eyes, apparently trying to figure out what had happened. The toddler laid his head on his mother's shoulder, and brought his thumb into his mouth. There was nothing more to be said. Amy leaned her head to rest her cheek upon her son, and began a slow walk down the hallway toward the elevators.
Sabrina pressed her fists into her eyelids, gritting her teeth. Her elbows were planted on her knees, the hospital blanket cast aside. Her shoulders trembled, and she looked miserable. Chris could see that she felt terrible for pushing Amy away.
"What's wrong with me?" she cried, her voice dry. "What kind of a friend am I? I just threw her out!" Chris placed a tender paw on her shoulder.
"I'm... pretty sure Amy will understand, Kitten," he ventured. "Besides, you didn't throw her out, you just asked her to leave."
"But she came to help, Chris!" She moped, struggling with her own feelings. "She just wanted to make me feel better. And then..." she hung her head, tangling her fingers into her hair.
"Then I made Timmy cry," she spoke miserably from between her knees. "I made him cry! Maybe it's better this way. I'd... be a terrible mother." She fell silent. Her husband began a gentle caress on her shoulder, his fingers running lightly back and forth. Several moments passed before the fox spoke, his voice softened.
"You know something," he began, "I really don't think so. I think... no. I'm sure, any kid would be lucky to have you for a mom." Sabrina shook her head.
"You're just saying that."
"No, hear me out. The doctors told me that you would probably feel pretty depressed after the operation. They said you might be irritable, or irrational, and that I had to be ready for it."
"Bingo," she muttered. Chris ignored the sarcasm and continued.
"I've never seen someone in clinical depression before, so,” he sighed, “I didn't know what to expect. But I'll be honest, you're taking this much better than the doctors were afraid you might." She still hung her head between her knees. He hoped she was listening.
"You could've kicked Amy out when she first came in," he observed. "Heck, you could've kicked me out if you wanted to. But you didn't. You let her come in, you let her talk to you, you even let Timmy onto the bed with you. I thought you were very civil, considering." The only response was a sniffle.
"But I saw you, Kitten. I saw how you looked at Timmy, how you took him and held him. I saw you rock him and soothe him when he started to cry. Here we are, after all that's happened, and through your own tears, you were able to calm him down and help him feel better. What does that tell me about you as a mother?
"When we're stressed out with bills we can't pay, or when things aren't going right in the house, what are you going to do when our own kit comes in with a skinned knee? Or when they get teased by the neighborhood bully? I think you'll take the time, Sabrina. You'll forget your own worries and stress, and you'll give the care and the time that a child needs. Ask yourself, how many mothers truly do that these days?"
Slowly, the skunk raised her head to face her husband. Her raw, bloodshot eyes were wide with disbelief.
"Our... own...?" Her voice cracked. "We can't... have our own." The fox felt his heart sink, just a bit, but he forced a tiny smile. He took her paw in his, gently caressing her fingers.
"Our own, Kitten," he assured her. "Yes, our own. We'll make it work. And you will be a mother. A real mother, one that loves and cares." He felt his own eyes becoming moist, and his voice began to break. "One that any child would want to tuck him in at night and read him a bedtime story. A mother that a daughter comes home to after a date and they both giggle and swap stories about their first kiss."
Sabrina gawked at her husband. She sniffled, and brought up a paw to wipe her nose. For a long moment, she stared into his eyes. Still clutching her paw, Chris did his best to smile at her, desperately hoping that he had somehow gotten through to her. Despite the grief he knew that they shared, he also knew that he had to be strong for his wife, especially now.
"That..." she paused, and drew a shaky breath. "That has got to be the sweetest, most cheesy speech I have ever heard out of you. I don’t believe you for a second." She smiled slightly, and let out what sounded like a cross between a chuckle and a sob. She raised a paw to his shoulder, and drew him into a soft, lingering kiss. Chris closed his eyes, and wrapped his arms around his wife, holding her close. He felt tears moistening his own cheek fur, but inside, a tiny spot in his heart began to swell with relief.
Sabrina's lips parted from his, and she leaned her head into his shoulder.
"I love you, Chris," she whispered, sniffling once again. "Thank you."
End of Chapter 5