a story by
(c) 1998 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, and Tammy Vixen (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Roxikat (c) John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx, Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Dexter Collie, and Wendy Vixxen (c) Chris Yost. All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners. Story based on characters and situations created by Eric W. Schwartz.
Sabrina jolted. Amy stood over her, nudging her awake. From the open door to their computer room sunlight shone in. Sabrina raised her paws to her eyes and wiped the sleep away as best she could.
"My God Sabrina," Amy said, "were you on the Internet all night??"
"Oooooohhh." Sabrina was no where close to being fully awake. "I guess I was."
Amy looked over her shoulder at the monitor. Her eyes widened. "You were auto-disconnected at 3:17 -- That was over six hours! How are you going to make it through class and work today?"
"Class?" Sabrina slowly remembered something about a writing class she had coming up this morning. Then she remembered last night! "Oh Amy! I met a guy on-line last night; he stayed up, he listened to me, we kept talking ... " She broke long enough to yawn. " ... Did I say goodnight to him? I think I did. I remember nodding off, but I don't think I was talking to him, I was talking to somebody else, I think she was another skunk like me."
Amy watched Sabrina ramble, her head turning to one side.
"Yeah, I did say goodnight to him, I remember now." Sabrina stretched, then quickly turned back to the keyboard. "I have to see if he e-mailed me! I remember I gave him my e-mail address. Did I? Yes, I know I did! This won't take long, I promise!"
Right then Amy darted her hand out and grabbed Sabrina's arm. "Uh, I'm sorry to disappoint you Sabrina, but I have a job to go to, and you have a class at 8:30. We only have 25 minutes and it's your turn to drive!"
"It'll take me two minutes, three tops!"
"Sabrina!" Amy switched into big-sister-mode. "You -- don't -- have -- time!" She turned off the monitor. "Go wash your face, I'll pour you a juice."
"Okay, okay." Sabrina dragged herself out of the chair and out toward the bathroom. Amy shook her head and followed her out and to the kitchen. She couldn't help smiling. She loved Sabrina like a sister.
"I never saw her like this," Amy heard herself say as she got the orange juice out and poured two glasses. "Girl's gotta learn some control."
In the bathroom, Sabrina washed her face and fluffed her hair in the mirror. She kept thinking about her online chat with Chris. Leaning in closer she stared into her own eyes. "He was something else, wasn't he? I can see him so clearly." They'd described their appearances to each other; she could see every brown and white hair on his body. She could count each whisker. "What is it about him? I can't stop thinking about him." She peeled her Amiga shirt off, trying to look at herself the way she thought Chris would.
She shook her head. "Nah. I can't see him being interested in me. We only know each other from IRC; I need to get control of myself."
"Com-ing!" She held her shirt in front of herself in case Thomas happened to have stayed the night and ran to her room to put on a fresh one.
Miles and miles away, in the next state, Chris kept reaching overhead trying to smack the clock radio off. Making contact sent it behind the bed where it hit the floor, still playing. "Rats," was all he could manage. Kicking back the covers he put his hands behind his head and let his mind wander in a half-sleep half-awake state.
And as awake began to creep into prominence he remembered his time online last night. "My God, why do I do this to myself? What time did I even get to bed?!"
As Chris thought about that his memory reversed and he remembered talking with the skunkette in Ohio. "Her name ... her name ... "
" ... Sabrina! Yeah! Sabrina."
As he thought about her he felt himself waking more, some of him more than others. "She was a fun girl to talk to. Where has she been all this time?"
Chris watched himself waking completely up. He'd chatted with girls online before, but why was this one making such an impact this morning?
A very big smile crept onto Chris' face. He reached behind him and picked up his wristwatch. Seeing the time made the smile creep back down, too.
"If she's on tonight, I've got to cut it shorter." And he rolled out of bed with enough time to dress, jump in his car, and be ten minutes late for work.
"Uh, welcome to planet Earth?"
Sabrina snapped out of her reverie and made the turn off of the expressway.
"I thought Thomas was in a world of his own these days. Sabrina, you are really infatuated!"
Amy was certainly amused by it. Sabrina, however, was not.
"Sorry, I can't seem to focus this morning," followed by yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwn
"I wonder why!" Amy remarked. "You've never stayed on all hours before. How are you going to get through two classes and a job this afternoon?"
"Don't worry about me," Sabrina said as she pulled the car into the lot. "After my writing class I'll get some coffee and junk food at the Union; I'll wake up."
"I'm sure, I promise!"
"Okay," Amy said as she got out of Sabrina's car. But before she closed the door she said "Remember, he's just a guy!"
Sabrina felt a slow burn as she backed up the car and turned around. The fur on the back of her neck bristled. "She doesn't understand."
Sabrina pulled out onto the street; the college was minutes away. She ignored the radio morning zoo and talked out loud to Amy. "It's okay, Thomas is 'just a guy' too! And you have Thomas! You have Thomas for fun, and you have ME to buffer you two!"
She ignored the horn from the car she cut off from missing the stop sign. "Me? I have my Amiga, my schoolwork, my job, and no one exciting!"
::sigh:: "'course she is right," Sabrina continued, shifting her conversation to herself. "It was only a few hours of just talking on the 'net, not a relationship or anything like that." A smaller ::sigh::. "Wonder if it could be?"
In her half-sleepy state, it was easy for Sabrina to daydream her way into the campus.
"Hey, good morning!"
Chris sat in his cubicle with his coffee. "Morning, Dexter." He looked at the clock on his phone. Not quite 10 minutes, I can live with that.
"Sleep in or car trouble?"
A sip of coffee before talking to anyone! Then a fierce shaking of the head as the caffeine slid down his throat. "The former."
Chris said that more to force Dexter to think; revenge for his positive attitude first thing in the morning.
Then, "Ah!" when he got it. "Out having a good time late, were we?"
More caffeine first. Chris tried to contain a laugh; since Dexter and his wife had their second child, going out and having a good time was something that ceased to exist in his life, for the most part. "N'yo, ... in having a good time."
"That can make you go blind, you know. You'll stop growing fur on your hands."
Chris set his cup down and turned away from Dexter long enough to turn on his PC. Then he rolled his chair closer to Dexter, as if he didn't want anyone else to overhear. "After the hockey game I went on the Internet and met this girl in Ohio. She needed a friend to talk to and I listened."
" ... and .. ?"
Leaning in closer, "... and, I haven't stopped thinking about her!"
"Aha!" Dexter smiled. "Then your sleeping in is perfectly justified!"
"No it's not!" Now Chris went on the defensive. He picked up some papers on his desktop he had no use for, to try to give Dexter the impression he had something more important to do. "We didn't do any of that! We were intimate strictly in the sense of getting to know each other, that's all!"
"And because of that you can't stop thinking about her."
That did sound foolish to Chris. He pretended to ponder the week-old memo he held, giving Dexter a cock-eyed nod that said he couldn't dispute what he said.
"What's her name?"
Now Chris looked up and smiled. "Sabrina."
Dexter smiled. "Nice name."
"Crapiest TV show I've ever seen, though."
Dexter drained his mug as Chris put his papers down. "Don't think it's the same Sabrina, do you?"
Rolling his chair back a bit Chris retrieved his own mug for a drink. "Wonder if she named herself after that character?"
"She could have. How does she know your real name's Chris?"
Chris opened his mouth to answer, then realized he didn't have one. Instead he tried to cover it by using his open mouth to take another drink. "Good point."
"You going to talk to her tonight?"
"If she's on, yeah."
Dexter returned to his own cube. Chris turned and typed in his password for the network. Then leaned his elbow in his desktop. "Gotta be her real name. No one'd make up a name like 'Sabrina'."
Chris looked at his clock again. As long as Sabrina was on his mind, he knew he wasn't going to get much work done.
The bell sounded as Sabrina, books clutched tightly against her chest, ran down the hall of the English department. She skidded to a stop just passing the door to her classroom and as her teacher was taking roll. Sabrina liked Mr. Canis for his easy-going manner, although his critiques of her and her fellow students' writing were exceptionally strict. Darting past him she snuck down her row to her seat, answering "Here" to her name before she managed to take it.
Little things like calling a late student's name out of alphabetical order to draw attention to them was one of Mr. Canis' little jokes. It always amused everyone but the tardy one, and until today it always amused Sabrina. She blushed deeply as she took her seat; she was sure even the white stripe down her back was deep red.
Cindy leaned in from the next seat, her lop-ears hanging down past her shoulder. "Hey, the late Sabrina! Sleep in?"
Sabrina leaned back. "Late night on the Internet."
Sabrina grinned big, mostly to create a mystique. "Don't know yet."
"Oooooooooo!" This came from Susan, the lioness on her left. "Sabrina's found a boyfriend!"
Mr. Canis closed his roll book. "Now that The Clique is complete, would you all hand in your reviews on the film we saw last week?"
Sabrina, Cindy, Susan, and Debbye, the squirrel who sat in front of Sabrina, made up "The Clique": their private study and mutual-support group. Sabrina and Susan were the charter members, having gone from high school up through this phase of college together. When Sabrina met Debbye and learned she was Amy's cousin, she was immediately added, and some time later Cindy rounded the group out nicely. One of their constant goals was to always get seats together; the infamousy about them was when all four were in a class together, class-work completed always seemed to drop from the intense conversation and giggling that came from their area. Separating them never worked; they always either migrated back together or found a way of communicating which invariably got one of them giggling, which would trigger the other three, then the entire class. And the teacher's dilemma, they were all good students with good records and 3.4 grade point averages or higher, so what could they do?
Sabrina took the stack from the ermine behind her and added hers to it, handing it up to Debbye. She winked at her. "Is he cute?" she whispered.
She kept her head back long enough to hear Sabrina's answer. "He types cute."
Debbye started the giggle-fest, turned and looked into the inpatient eyes of the wolf who was hoping to begin a chapter on script writing for radio today, and already was having his doubts on what would be accomplished before summer break.
" ... Sabrina?"
Sabrina blinked, the smile fading from her face. Mr. Canis was standing beside Debbye, looking down at her. "You know, ladies and gentlemen, although I do try to keep the class as light as possible, I have to insist you save the daydreaming for Classic Lit."
Looking up sheepishly, Sabrina wondered if he'd notice if she slinked completely under her desk. She'd been caught very deep in a daydream about Chris she was very sorry to be forced to give up. While the rest of the class laughed quietly at what the teacher had said, Sabrina tried to decide whether or not to apologize. But she was let off the hook: "Now, Sabrina, can you tell me a benefit of radio over print media?"
"Yes ... " Sabrina sat up and tried to look attentive; better late than never. "In radio, you have a voice. It holds your attention better since you're listening; you can't put it down and pick it up later." I hope!
"Interesting ... and if I had a better voice, you'd listen better then?" The class laughed again, Susan inadvertently laughed out loud, quickly stifling it when she realized what she did. "But a lot of people have the radio in the background. How would a voice hold your attention then?"
Mr. Canis began walking back to his own desk as his answer came. "You'd hear it subliminally. You're listening, but you don't realize you're listening. Kind of like when you read, you can hear a voice with the words, but it's not necessarily your own, y'know?"
Canis stopped cold at the front of his desk, then turned back. "Very good answer, Sabrina. Pulled from no where, but well done." To the other side of the room. "John, a benefit of radio over print media?"
Susan leaned in, speaking just loud enough for the entire Clique to hear. "Nice save, girl!"
"Teach you to laugh!" Sabrina whispered back.
"Think Chris would've liked it, too?"
Cindy covered her mouth quickly, but Debbye's attempt to suppress her laugh made a snort that caught the entire class by surprise.
Mr. Canis leaned against his desk, waiting for ... hoping for ... the class to come to order on its own. And when it came to a semblance of order he very graciously said "Thank you." He looked at the clock, then reaching behind him he picked up his assignment book. "I want everyone to completely read through chapter seven, and complete the review questions at the end ...
" ... due Wednesday people!" Mr. Canis competed against the bell in his attempt to complete giving out the assignment. "Everyone in before the bell, please!" He looked at Sabrina to see if she'd react.
She did. She hid it well, but she did, keeping her head down.
Cindy leaned in and said quietly "Bluuuuush!"
Sabrina's cheeks turned bright pink. "Stop it!" she laughed.
"By then," Mr. Canis continued for the benefit of anybody left to hear, "I'll have decided whether or not it's too late for me to go into advertising." And he took his seat as the rest of the class filed out the door and took a deep swallow from his Thermos.
And The Clique, four girls together, walked with a brisk pace down the hall, one thing on the minds of three of them: teasing Sabrina.
"Anybody up for the Union?" Sabrina asked. "I promised Amy I'd get something for breakfast."
"Sure Sabrina," Cindy said. "But only if you tell us about your boyfriend."
Four abreast they walked down toward the door, laughing more like schoolgirls than college students. "I don't have a boyfriend! Now c'mon quit it!"
"Lookit girls, she's gonna blush again!"
Sabrina felt her lips tighten as they all shared the fun, watching Sabrina blush again as she pushed on the panic bar that opened the door to the quadrangle. Once outside, they made their way to the Student Union building.
"Okay, here's what it is. I was on the Internet last night, and I met this really nice fox named Chris."
"C'mon, Sabrina," whined Debbye, "we know that part!"
"Anyway, he's just a really nice guy, that's all. Between trying to comfort Amy because she's having this baby and listening to Thomas because he's still having a hard time coming to grips with being a father, I called 'time out' for myself and went online to talk to somebody. I met Chris and we talked."
The Clique stared at her as they approached The Union.
" ... and we talked ... "
"Uh-huh, ... " said one of them.
Sabrina smiled. " ... and we talked."
Now the girls were definitely in a teasing mode! Amidst a sea of "Oooo"'s she heard "Sounds serious, Sabrina!" This from Cindy again, holding her ears down to keep them from blowing in a sudden gust of wind as they walked under the overhang of the building. Cindy held the door for them all, and Susan held a table while everyone got their snacks and returned to join her.
"Why'd I get coffee?" asked Sabrina. "I didn't want coffee."
"Here, trade." Debbye took her coffee and gave her her can of cola.
"Thanks," she said, and opened her book to chapter seven. "Anybody up for doing the review questions first?"
"Nope," said Susan. "Up for wanting to know if you're gonna talk to him again!"
"Aw, let's leave her alone now," said Cindy. "After she talks to him again we can bug her after class Wednesday!"
Sabrina pursed her lips. "I think I'm planning a headache Wednesday."
Debbye couldn't resist. "Sabrina, you're supposed to save those for your dates!" And she opened her book also.
Amy walked out of the studio and sat on the couch in the office. Her session in front of the camera was no different than any other, and it was just as much fun as it always was. When her boss came out and set his camera on the desk he looked at Amy. "What's up? You look like a girl with a problem."
Amy smiled. "Nothing really, Eric."
Eric tugged his tail through his trousers in an attempt to dislodge his shorts, which had ridden up where they didn't belong. "Talk to me, Amy."
With a quiet sigh she confessed. "I just wonder how much longer I'll be able to pose."
Eric walked over and moved Amy's tail so he could sit beside her. "If it's any consolation, I'm not going to get rid of you when you start looking pregnant. After all, you help keep this studio going, I hope you know."
"Oh, I know ... "
As her voice trailed off Eric took the opportunity to continue. "There's just as much to keep you here, whether you're in front of the camera of not. Personally, I don't know sometimes what I'd do if I didn't have you here."
Another sigh, this one deeper than the first. "I only wish Thomas felt that way."
"Aha! So that's the real problem."
Amy looked up finally. "No. Well, yes, sort of, I mean ... no, when I sat down it was how long I'd be able to model. On the side, Thomas is the other problem.
"Don't get me wrong Eric, I love him with all my heart! And I believe he loves me too. But here it is; how long have we both known I'm going to have our baby and so far, not one word about getting married, plans for the future, about us, about our baby ... names ... anything ... "
Eric put an arm around Amy and held her long enough for her to work herself up for what he expected to be a good cry. But to his surprise, she held off. She got her second wind, her shoulders lowered to where they belonged. "Thank you, Eric." She put her arms around him and held him, hugging him close.
"Are you seeing Thomas tonight?" he asked.
"Take my advice, kid. Tell him how you feel. It's good to tell someone, but it'll be a whole lot better if you tell him, and soon."
"That's hard to do." Amy sniffled, then grinned big. "We usually don't get that far!"
"But you get farther, right?"
Amy nodded again with a giggle. "Mm-hm!" She raised her head and look into Eric's eyes. "Thank you." And as a gesture completely out of character with Amy, she kissed Eric on the cheek. "I promise I'll try."
"Okay." Eric got up and took his camera into his office to give Amy time to pull herself together privately.
Later, as she and Eric returned from lunch, a blur came through the door and took form when it came to a stop.
Eric called out from the open door of the studio. "Hello Sabrina!"
"Hi Eric!" Then, "Hi Amy." With a half-eaten sandwich in one hand she jiggled her key in the lock of the business across the hall.
"Make it through class alright, Sabrina, hmm?" Amy asked, one hand on her hip.
Sabrina looked over her shoulder. "Sure! Haven't fallen asleep in class yet." Of course, she wasn't about to tell her she was caught by both her writing teacher and her literature professor daydreaming about last night's chat session, and how she hoped it would go tonight if Chris was online!
Amy followed her artist into through the door and returned to the layout board. Sabrina brought up the billing records she was working on yesterday.
And she wasn't about to tell her about how The Clique teased the ... um ... well, how they teased her about it!
Long, lonely day.
Chris let himself into his house and found his way into the kitchen. Fishing out a clean fork he turned on the television and began attempting to eat at his Chinese food. He stared down into the white cardboard container, then poked his snout inside and sniffed. "Funny, it seemed hot when I bought it." Returning to the kitchen he tore one side of the carton removing the wire carry handle and put it into the microwave.
He looked at his watch, then his computer as his dinner became radioactive. "I know it's too early!"
Chris returned, impatiently and hungrily watching the timer tick down, a long 90 seconds. He took the time to return to his PC and turn it on, watching it boot up until he heard the beeeeeeeep of the microwave. Retrieving his dinner he took a mouthful and moused his way to his Internet provider and launched his e-mail.
The bottom of the screen read NO NEW MESSAGES
"Told you so, Chris." Leaving the system on he returned to find something tolerable to watch on television while he ate.
"You guys have plans tonight?"
"Nothing I know of," Amy answered as they rode home. "Bet I can guess what you're doing."
Sabrina grinned to herself. "Yeah, I have a writing assignment due Wednesday. We're starting a chapter on radio."
Amy looked at her. "Before or after you burn up the phone wires?"
"Well ... " Sabrina searched for an answer Amy wasn't going to turn against her. " ... I'm going to check my e-mail first, see if I have any."
"Before or after you eat something?"
"I'm not hungry right now. I'll probably order out something later."
"Uh, Sabrina? What if he didn't send you anything?"
Sabrina began to feel that slow burn again. "I don't know." She tried to contain her terse attitude as much as she could. And she said nothing else.
And Amy didn't press the issue. The radio was all that broke the silence until they got home.
And at home, Thomas was sitting on the stoop waiting patiently. Sabrina parked in front of their building and Amy rushed out to Thomas, running into his waiting arms.
Thomas opened his mouth slightly and Amy did the same, deeply kissing each other. Sabrina watched as she slid her purse over her arm with her books and threw the door shut. "Geez, just go upstairs," she said under her breath.
She watched Thomas press Amy close to him as they hugged. Thomas was holding Amy especially close for some reason. He hadn't held her this close since before Amy told him the news of her pregnancy. Turning her nose up Sabrina locked her car door and walked around.
Amy had completely melted. A "Hi" trailed off into a "Hi-i-i-i-i ... " as she formed herself into his body.
"Hey Sabrina!" Thomas pulled away from Amy for a moment. "Leave your stuff, come get some pizza with us."
It wasn't the e-mail or her fantasy guy now. It was a combination; that and Thomas' very innocent invitation. Her ride back and forth with Amy today and watching the attention Amy received. Basically, she felt her nose was being rubbed in it. "Thanks Thomas, but I'm going to go up and start my homework. I've got an entire chapter to read and a lit paper to get started on."
"Do that later! I promise I won't keep you out late."
Amy cuddled close to Thomas. She had no idea Sabrina was seeing it and quietly seething. Just like I said this morning, YOU have somebody! "Thanks anyway, but I really need to get this started."
"C'mon, Sabrina!" This was Amy now, trying to convince her. "Everything can wait an hour or so, I promise."
That slow burn again. Sabrina sighed just to keep herself from exploding. "Okay. Let me go upstairs and put my books away."
Thomas smiled. "Great! We'll wait for you, hurry up!"
Sabrina ran in through the front door and up the steps. What she said was nothing short of vulgar. It shocked her a step closer to reality when she heard herself mutter what she'd muttered. "I never knew I could talk like that!" At her apartment door she fiddled with the key and pushed it into the lock. "Why can't they just leave me ALONE??" She turned the knob and locked the door behind her.
Running into the computer room she powered up her system and ran to the front window, opening it and sticking her head out, looking down at Amy and Thomas. They were leaning against Thomas' car, holding hands and talking. She whistled to get their attention, then whistled again and waved when they couldn't see her.
"Give me another minute to freshen up!"
Thomas waved up at her. "Okay!" he yelled.
When her head disappeared back inside Amy said "She's not freshening up. I know."
And you know Sabrina wasn't, either. She ran back to the Amiga, impatiently waiting for the MiAMI client to launch, impatiently waiting for the modem to connect, quietly saying "Oh please oh please oh please oh please ... '
Three minute wait over. Sabrina jumped straight into her e-mail account.
TWO MESSAGES WAITING
Taking a breath she clicked on the first one and opened it.
Sabrina had left the window open. Amy looked at Thomas. "He wrote." And she leaned her head on his arm.