A Little Life
(c) 2007, 2008 by Teric. All rights reserved. Characters Sabrina, Amy Squirrel, Timothy Woolfe-Squirrel, Tabitha, Endora, and Warren created by Eric Schwartz. Character Thomas Woolfe created by Michael Higgs. Sabrina’s family name (Mustelidae), and characters Chris Foxx, Dexter and Angel Collie, Cindy and Clarence Skunk, Rodney and Ellen Lapine created by Chris Yost. Rodney Skunk created by Rodney Stringwell. Zig Zag created by Max Blackrabbit.. James Sheppard and Marvin Badger 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.
Additional Note: A huge thank you to Journye from PlanetFurry for her invaluable help on this chapter! She provided an excellent point of view that I feel has really helped this chapter to feel more alive.
Sunshine and tangled sheets told her that morning had come. The nights had gotten steadily warmer over the last several weeks, she realized, and the heavy winter bed covers were getting too hot. As she stretched the sleep from her legs, Sabrina made a mental note to change out the bedding when she got a chance. Though she hadn't yet opened her eyes, the skunk could already tell that it would be a bright spring morning. She thought it a bit odd that she hadn't noticed the change in weather.
She felt her eyebrows furrow as she tried to remember through the blur of the past two weeks. There was the trip to Columbus, seeing Zig at the studio. They had gone to see Cindy, Clarence and the baby, visited her parents, then there was ... that. A great weight suddenly came crashing down upon her mind, and she felt her heart sink as memories of the miscarriage returned. Her desire to get out of bed quickly evaporated. Part of her wanted to pull the sheets over her head and wish that the world would just go away.
Her thoughts turned to the events of the previous day. She had felt so useless. The empty space inside left her with little energy to face work, lacking the drive to even change out of her own nightshirt. Hours of sitting in bed or in front of the T.V. all day long hadn’t been helping her to feel any better, so she had tried to get up and do some work for the studio. Though it had given her a measure of purpose and direction when she started, her attention had quickly turned to the studio's catalog pictures. Page after page of studio models had only reminded her of how unattractive she was in comparison. Despite her best efforts, she found that she couldn't get her mind off of her own inadequacy, and she hadn't been happy with any of her work.
By the time Chris had come home near the end of the day, she hadn't gotten any layouts done at all, and she hated herself for it. Her husband had been secretly resenting her all week, and her inability to accomplish anything would only give him yet another reason to be disappointed. She desperately wanted to show him, of all furs, that she was good for at least something, but it was as if her artistic talents had disappeared along with her fertility. He'd be angry. She knew he would be. How could anyone stand to live with someone like her?
But the angry words hadn't come. In fact, he had barely said anything at all. Instead, he had left something for her on the desk, and walked away. He hadn't asked her why she couldn't get anything done. He hadn't yelled at her. And, sitting on the desk was ...? She hadn't been able to believe it at first. No, this wasn't right. She was worthless, she left the house a mess, she couldn't get anything done, and ... he loved her. The thought had made her gasp in disbelief. He brought roses. Four of them. For her. And then he had come back, and very sweetly touched her, held her to him.
For the first time in what seemed like months, Sabrina Foxx felt herself smile, if only a little. It wasn't the fake friendly smile that some put on to hide their true feelings. This was genuine, growing from a welcome spot of happiness that had lately been absent within her. He loved her, and part of her dared believe it was true.
But why? The trace of a smile left her face just as quickly as it had come, and her thoughts once again faded into confusion. How could he love someone who couldn’t get anything done right? Why bring flowers for someone ugly and plain, someone who couldn’t take care of herself well enough to prevent … that? She winced as the now-familiar sense of guilt returned.
She opened her eyes and saw a familiar blur of brown and white next to her in the bed. Why did he stay with her? He loved her …?
“Now there's a pretty sight in the morning,” came Chris' soft voice. “Haven't seen you smile for a while, where've you been?”
Sabrina reached for her glasses on the bedside table, and found them beside her fur brush. After pushing them up on the bridge of her muzzle, she finally was able to see her husband clearly. He was sitting up in bed, resting on a propped-up pillow, his tail dangling behind him over the side. He had been watching her, at least since before she had awakened. The morning sunshine peeked between the window blinds, spilling across the fur on his shoulders, outlining him with a soft glow. His hair looked like he had slept in it, and he hadn't yet bothered to brush his facial fur. Yet there he was, her fox, smiling down at her on a brand new day, and he had just called her 'pretty'.
No. He was just saying that because he had to. He was her husband, after all. Blinking in the sunlight, she searched his face, but found nothing but sincerity and concern. Did he really mean it? Guilt gnawed at her, telling her it wasn’t possible.
“I’m …” she faltered, her gaze falling to the sheets. Better to break the illusion now than to be hurt later when the truth came out. “I’m not pretty.” Though she kept her eyes downward, a small voice from within her silently begged Chris to prove her wrong. Her husband’s response held a mix of surprise and amusement.
“What do you mean, Kitten? Of course you're pretty.” Though his voice was light, his eyebrows couldn't hide his concern. His face brightened, and he tousled her hair with a paw. “I don't know if I've told you before,” he chuckled, “but you're twice as good-looking when you smile.”
Sabrina couldn't help but half-smirk at his comment. Though she didn't believe it about herself, she realized that Chris was somehow convinced. He still smiled at her, and his gaze moved lovingly over her features. How could he be so calm about this? Hadn't he been resenting her all this time? Guilt welled up within her once again.
“Stop that,” she whispered suddenly, turning away from him. “I ... don't deserve you. Looking at me like that.” Her cheeks felt tight as her lips sank into a frown. She reached a paw under the pillow and gripped it tightly. It was her fault, anyway. She could have been more careful; she could have prevented it. He must've been so upset with her.
“What?” Chris no longer tried to hide the concern in his voice. “Deserve? I ... don't understand ... ?”
“You're mad at me,” she shot a harsh whisper toward the bathroom door. “Just say it--it's my fault. Stop protecting me.” She didn't want it to come out. She hadn't meant to say it, but she had just blurted it out. Almost immediately, her vision blurred with tears. Squeezing her eyes shut, she grasped the pillow in both arms, certain that her husband would finally admit the truth.
“I ...” His voice broke, and there was a pause. “Oh gosh,” he breathed. “You think I blame you for what happened? She felt his weight shifting on the bed behind her as he moved. On the far wall, framed by horizontal bars of light through the window blinds, his shadow brought a paw up to its face.
She couldn't face him. She didn't even trust herself to speak. All she could do was nod her head in the affirmative, and then bury her face in the pillow. The movement caused her glasses to come away from her face, sliding off of the sheets to land with a soft thud on the carpet below. Didn't matter, she couldn't see very well right now anyway. She didn't want to see.
The skunk flinched away as she felt him touch her shoulder. When the touch came again, she let out a gasp. There was no harshness in his touch, only a soft tenderness. His paw slid across her shoulder and down her arm, coming to rest on her abdomen. She felt her husband move toward her on the bed, her tail being pressed into her legs as he brought his knees up behind her. His chest came up against her back, and his muzzle brushed the fur on the side of her neck as he brought his nose up to her ear. She felt his soft breath upon her cheek as he spoke.
“Never,” came his gentle voice. “Not in a thousand years would I blame you for what happened.”
Sabrina's heart caught in her throat. He wasn't angry ... ? Couldn't he see that she had screwed up?
“But,” she cried, her voice breaking. “But I could've been more careful, I could've--”
“And so could I,” he cut her off softly. “Maybe I was driving too fast that day. Maybe Zig and the others were too rough at the studio. Cindy might've hugged you too hard.” His voice fell to a whisper. “Lots of 'maybes,' Kitten. But I do know this,” he spoke each word slowly, “it's … not … your … fault.” With that, he nuzzled his nose into the side of her face, softly ruffling her fur.
A tiny crack opened in the wall of guilt within her, and a wisp of relief electrified her, like she had been doused with a bucket of ice water. Her body shuddered involuntarily. It wasn't her fault. In her heart, she yearned for it to be true. She felt her husband pull her closer to him, wrapping himself around her protectively. His arms wrapped around her waist, his fingers moving gently over her thigh. He did love her! The thought sent shivers through her, and her tears began to fall freely.
For a long while, Sabrina cried, breathing her quiet sobbing into the pillow. Chris said nothing more, but held her to him, allowing her emotions to flow. As the minutes passed, she felt her guilt slowly crumble and fade away, to be replaced by a glowing warmth within her heart. At length, she fell calm, filled with a peace unlike any she had felt before. With a sniffle and a long, shuddering sigh, she tilted her head back into her husband's shoulder. Though her eyes were closed, she felt his muzzle smile against her cheek.
“Yeah,” she breathed, blinking the last of the tears from her eyes. “Maybe you’re right.” She began to believe it herself now. She felt him lift his head and press a kiss into the side of her neck.
“I knew I could find you in there somewhere,” he whispered, his arm tightening around her waist. “Welcome back, Kitten.”
“I probably shouldn’t ask,” Chris began, a crooked smile crossing his muzzle, “but do you think you could make it into work today?”
Sabrina closed her eyes as she leaned over the bathroom sink, wiping a damp cloth over her facial fur. It felt good to groom herself again; she couldn’t believe that she had let her fur go for so long. However, the thought of going back to StrongArm, sifting through stacks of documentation every day, still felt pretty overwhelming. She shook her head softly, pushing the word 'never' to the back of her mind.
“I don’t think I’m up to going back just yet,” she sighed, hanging her head. Her husband brought a gentle paw to her shoulder, giving a small squeeze of encouragement.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he said. “I don’t want you to have to come in if you don’t feel like you can handle it.”
Sabrina raised her head to look into Chris’ face.
“John’s not gonna think I’m just cutting out of work because of this, is he?” Despite the shrinking appeal that StrongArm had for her, she still felt a duty toward her co-workers. She couldn't just quit and leave all those documents undone ... could she? No, that wouldn't be fair to John.
“Nah,” the fox replied, shaking his head. “He knows how serious these things can be. He told me to let you take what time you need.” He looked down at his watch, and fastened the last button on his shirt. “Aaaaand speakin’ of time …” Chris turned to leave the bathroom.
She caught his arm, and drew him close to her near the counter. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she leaned her head on his shoulder, nuzzling into the fur on his neck.
“Yeah,” came her soft reply. “I know you need to get going.” She felt him bring up his paws in a loving embrace. For a moment, the couple simply stood, enjoying each others’ closeness.
“Thank you,” she continued at length, “for what you said this morning. I don’t know if you realize … what it means. To me. To hear you say that.” She felt his arms tighten around her for a second before she was released. Her husband took a step back and gazed down at her, his eyes filled with compassion.
“You going to be okay today? Here at home?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I think … today will be better.” She hoped it would be.
“I’ll call you during lunch?”
She felt her face brighten with a half-smile.
“Yeah. Gonna check up on me, eh?”
Chris chuckled, then gently cupped her face in his paw. She closed her eyes, raising her muzzle to his. Their lips met, softly at first. But then, she threw her arms around his neck, adding unexpected passion to their kiss. She leaned herself into him, holding him tightly for a moment. Finally, she released her husband, leaving him a bit breathless, staring at her in delighted surprise.
“Whew …” he gasped. “Gosh, you’re gonna make me late for work at this rate.”
Sabrina came to a sudden realization, and her eyes went wide. She hadn’t meant to excite him like that. She had just wanted to show him how much she appreciated his kindness that morning. She wasn’t ready for that, not yet. Not so soon after …
She quickly recovered her composure.
“Better get going then,” she said, with more hurry in her voice than she wanted. Chris hadn’t seemed to notice. His ears wilted, but the smile never left his face.
“Awww,” he whined. “Oh … kay.” His shoulders slumped in a mock-pout, and he shuffled his way toward the front room. A playful poke at his ribs made him jump, and he grinned as he waved good-bye.
Sabrina stood by the front door, leaving it a bit open as she watched her husband start the car and drive away. She caught herself admiring him and his ability to keep going in the face of all that had happened. Her fox had such strength; how did he do it? She pushed the door closed softly, leaning on it until the latch clicked in the door frame.
Why not go in to work today? Could she handle it? Maybe, she supposed. But she felt like she was finally coming up for air after having been buried in a pile of her own inadequacy for more than a week. The thought of being buried under piles of paperwork ... no. She wasn't ready for that. Besides, she thought, arching her back in a long, claw-curling stretch, a T-shirt and sweat pants are much more comfortable than a blouse and a skirt. Any day.
As she leaned her back on the door, she suddenly realized that she was hungry. When was the last time she had eaten? Through the thick shroud over yesterday's memories, she recalled a package of cookies. Is that all she had ...? Her stomach rumbled at the thought.
A quick trip through the kitchen brought her to the pantry, where she snatched a bag of instant coffee and a loaf of bread. She turned, closed the pantry door with her heel, and yanked open the fridge. Butter, jam. Yeah, toast would be good. She stuffed the end of the bread bag between her teeth, and opened the plastic compartment in the fridge door to grab the condiments. After pushing the fridge closed with her hip, she dumped the breakfast fixings on the counter.
This felt good, she realized, as she placed two slices of bread in the toaster. She caught herself marveling at the small sense of success she felt at just being able to fix her own breakfast. A quick trip to the water cooler filled her coffee mug, and she plunked the cup into the microwave to heat it up. Maybe I can get things done. The thought made her smile a bit more, and she leaned on the counter as she watched the microwave's digital cook timer count the seconds away.
At that moment, a red flash from the answering machine caught her eye. It was fluttering rapidly, one flash for each message waiting to be heard. She crossed the kitchen with a grimace, almost afraid to find out just how many messages were waiting. She rested a finger on the large 'play messages' button, took a breath, and prepared for the flood.
“You. Have. Thirty. Four. Messages.” The mechanical voice droned. She cringed at the number, but forced herself to listen. “First. Message. Received. Monday. Nine. Thirty. One. A.M.” There was a pause, then Sabrina heard a much more natural voice from the answering machine.
“Uh ... hi,” Amy Squirrel's subdued voice came over the speaker. “Sabby, I'm ... I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to hurt you. I really didn't know what happened before I got to the hospital room. Just wanted to help you feel better, that's all.” Sabrina closed her eyes, remembering what had happened just over a week ago when her friend and former roommate had come to visit her in surgical recovery.
“Are you doing okay?” Amy's voice continued. “If you wanna talk, gimme a call. Miss you, girl.” Sabrina caught herself remembering Timmy, the poor little guy that hadn't a clue what had happened, but had just looked up at her with his big, beautiful, innocent eyes.
The machine beeped, then announced the next message.
“Hello? Are you there?” Zig Zag's alto timbre spoke from the machine. “C'mon gorgeous, pick up. It's me.” There was a pause, then a sigh. “I just heard from Rodney. I can't say I know what you're going through.” Sabrina hadn't heard this tone of voice very often from her boss at ZZ Studios. The usual saucy and playful overtones were missing.
“But I've got to tell you,” Zig went on, “I'm seriously considering just dropping everything and flying out there. James didn't like the idea; thought you might need some time to yourself for a while.” There was another pause. “Give me a call, girl. If I can't hug you from here, at least let me talk to you. You know something,” Sabrina heard her chuckle softly. “I've never seen this studio so dead. Nobody's in form since they found out; I finally had Marvin shut off the cameras for a few hours. You're bad for business! Call me.”
Sabrina couldn't stifle a laugh, even though she felt terrible for not checking the message machine for nearly a week. Her friends were worried about her, and it made her feel loved. She knew she needed to call them back. Maybe later today.
At that moment, the micowave beeped. She looked over and saw that her toast had also popped up, and she went to finish preparing breakfast while the next message played.
“Sabrina dear ...” she heard Endora's voice, and felt herself sigh. The skunk braced herself for another round of being mothered. But the machine was silent for nearly five seconds before her mother spoke again.
“Sabrina. I think I know how you're feeling right now, and you probably don't want to pick up the phone. That's ... okay.” She blinked, somewhat surprised, as her mother continued. “I ... well. I guess ... you ... hm.” There was another long pause. This was astounding; when had her mother ever tripped over her own words? “Just ... wanted to tell you that I love you, dear. And it'll be okay after a while.”
She stared in shock at the machine for a few seconds. Had her own mother really said that?
Beep. The messages continued.
“Hi Sabby, this is Susan ...”
“Are you there? Dexter told me what happened ...”
“Hi, it's Josh. Not sure what to say, but ...”
All but two of the messages were for her. Friends, family, co-workers, even some of the ZZ Studio staff had all made personal calls, offering strength, friendship, hugs, and listening ears. Sabrina sipped her coffee, then wiped toast crumbs from her cheek fur with a napkin. She used that same napkin to dab at her eyes, where tears of gratitude were beginning to form.
End of Chapter 7