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, Amy Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Dexter Collie, Angel 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.Windows95 (TM) Microsoft Corp. Amiga (TM) Gateway Computers.
Sabrina slipped her Civic into a student's space near the English Department building. Grabbing her books and purse, she locked the car and ran across the grass and over to the sidewalk that led to the building entrance.
Just as she rounded the bend three women walked out and formed a line in front of her -- a lioness, a lop-eared rabbit, and a squirrel.
"Hey!" Sabrina said as she walked up to them. She pointed two fingers at Susan and Cindy. "You two don't take Classic Lit."
"Oh, no!" Susan said, folding her arms and trying to look stern; impossible with a grin. "You think for a minute we're gonna let you in without showing us your ring?"
The Clique moved in closer. Sabrina couldn't suppress her own grin as she shifted her books to her right arm and held out her left with her wrist arched and her fingers spread.
"Oh my GOD!" Cindy gasped out loud. "It's beautiful!"
Debbye leaned in closer for a better look. "What is that?" she asked, "a quarter carat?"
"A third," Sabrina said smugly.
Cindy bent her knees. "Oh boy! Really, it's beautiful!"
"My sister's getting married!" Susan grabbed Sabrina and hugged her tight. "My God, Sabrina, I'm so happy for you!" She lifted her head and sniffled. "We've been like sisters forever," she said, and rubbed her finger under her nose. Then, "We gotta celebrate! We'll meet you and Debbye in the Student Union after your test, then we're outta here, 'kay?"
Everyone seemed happy with that! Susan and Cindy waved and headed off while Sabrina and Debbye walked into the building.
"Did you get a chance to study?" Debbye asked.
"Not much," Sabrina said as they walked down the near-empty hall. "I only managed about 30 minutes and fell asleep."
"We're gonna flunk, aren't we?"
Sabrina and Debbye exchanged looks and laughed. Together, "Naaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
Debbye held out her pinky in The Clique manner. "Luck."
Sabrina gripped it with hers. "Luck." Two doors later they took a deep breath together, and walked into class.
Wendy walked slowly up the steps to the second floor. She stopped before she opened the door and quickly picked her bangs out of her eyes. Drawing her shoulders back and taking a deep breath, she opened the door and went back to her cubicle.
She looked quickly about to make sure no one was about before she opened her purse and took out her compact mirror and her brush kit. She picked out a soft brush and combed the fur over her jowls and under her eyes, then selected a firmer-bristled one for her hair.
Wendy jumped! She looked up to see only a snout and a pair of green eyes on the upper half of a fox's face peering down at her. Then laughing, "You screwball," she said.
"I wanted to make sure you were smiling." Chris held a steaming mug up over the cloth-covered wall. "You forgot your coffee," he told her, "so I dumped it out and brought you a fresh cup."
Chris held the cup out. Wendy stood to reach for it, Chris pulled it out of her reach and held it over the edge of the wall as he walked around into her space before handing it to her.
"You're sweet, thank you." She sat down and took a sip. "You remembered how I like it!" she said.
Chris nodded. "It's not too hard, when we take it the same way." He leaned back against one side of her desk. "You came down for coffee, then disappeared, leaving your coffee cup behind." He leaned over toward her a bit. "I needed to see that you were okay."
"Me?" Wendy waved a paw toward him. "Hey, of course I am. No reason not to be." She drank three gulps of her coffee then remembered it was hot and started fanning her open mouth with her open hand.
"Wow!" She set her cup down. "Hi'm hokay how. Hank hew."
"You're helcome." Chris leaned back and laid his paws on his thighs. "I dreaded coming in to work today, y'know," he told her in a lower voice.
"You did?" Wendy asked. "Why?"
Chris took a short breath. "Seeing you," he admitted. "I knew you'd be hurt when you found out. But I felt it was important you heard it from me."
Wendy looked up. She shook her head. "Honestly, I don't even know how you can look at me," she said, keeping her voice low so no one else could hear. She dropped down to a whisper. "I tried to break you two up." She waited for what she said to settle in, mostly to herself. "I never meant to admit that," she added, trying to manage a grin.
"When I saw you here," she went on, "I thought ... maybe Providence was bringing us back together." She lowered her head again. "I knew then you were probably be seeing someone else. But I just couldn't help myself!"
"I was ... jealous."
Chris looked past the cubicle wall for people, then ran a hand over Wendy's hair. "And do you know how flattered that makes me?" he asked. "Knowing you still feel that way about me?"
Wendy cracked a smile. "I never stopped," she said. "I'm the one that left, I know. But I never forgot you. And I never met anyone else like you."
Reaching out his hand, Chris took Wendy's and led her out of her chair and out to the stairwell. He put his arms around her and held her. Wendy put hers around him and shivered, having cried herself out downstairs she could only tremble and Chris tightened his hug around her.
"Is it okay if I still love you?" she asked with an embarrassed laugh at the end.
Chris held her. "Only if it's okay if I still love you."
Wendy sniffled. She raised her head from Chris' shoulder and looked into his eyes.
"I love Sabrina, Wendy, deeply," he told her, "but there's a tiny piece of my heart that'll always be with you. That's something no man could ever hope to have back."
A tiny smile appeared. "You're starting to get mushy," she said.
Chris cocked his head and raised his eyeballs in thought. "Well," he said, looking back, "as long as I make you feel better. And I used to eat mush when I was a cub, so I can handle that."
Wendy laughed involuntarily.
"You okay?" Chris asked, lowering his head to look in her eyes.
Wendy sniffled and smiled, then nodded. "Sabrina's getting one hell of a guy." She gave Chris a tight hug, and a small peck on the cheek. "Still have lunch with me?" she asked.
Chris' eyes widened. "You still want to?"
"Of course!" Wendy smiled. "I'm not going to eat 18 potato and onion perohis myself!"
Wendy gave Chris a kiss on the mouth and a wink as she left to go back to her cubicle. Chris, very pleased with himself, walked down the stairs as he felt the dampness leaking into his shoulder.
"A woman's tears," he said to himself. He brought his paw up to his shoulder, then retrieved his handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe the puddled residue of Wendy's nose away.
Clarence washed and put away his breakfast dishes. His finals were done, and his internship wouldn't start for another week. He kept going back to last Saturday night, unable to get Cindy out of his mind. Every detail was so very clear in his mind two days later; what she wore, how she smelled, the water stain on the tablecloth when he dropped and caught his own water glass … well, you have to take the bitter with the better, y'know.
Clarence dried his hands and walked upstairs to his room and fell backwards on his bed. He locked his fingers behind his head and stared into the ceiling, his mind forming images of Cindy and himself walking, laughing, playing, sitting beside him at the dinner table (only without his parents being there) with candles burning, soft music playing …
He rolled his head slightly toward the open door.
"Did you run the vacuum?"
"Yes, Mom!" he yelled back. He imagined Cindy in a stark white dress, beside him at the table. She giggled at a joke he made, sipping her water and --
"Clarence! Are you going to wash the car?"
"Yes, Mom!" Clarence felt his bubble pop. "Ah, gee!" Depressed now, Clarence decided to cheer himself up. He rolled himself off the bed and walked back downstairs to use the phone. He dialed the number ….. one ring … two rings …
"Hello?" said the female voice on the other end.
"Mrs. Lapine?" Clarence fought off a stammer. He was sweating like a bridegroom. "Is Cindy at home, please?"
"I'm sorry," Cindy's mother said, "she went out to meet with that Clique she belongs to. One of their friends got engaged and they were going to meet her at the college."
Clarence sighed to himself. I just can't win sometimes.
"Would you like to leave a message?"
"Yes, please," Clarence said. "Would you tell her Clarence called, and if it's okay, I'd like to call her back."
Cindy's mom wrote the message. "Clarence?" she said. "You're the boy who took Cindy out last Saturday, aren't you?"
"Yes'm." Clarence shifted the receiver to his other ear.
"Cindy told me about you," she told him. "She says you're a very nice young man."
Clarence felt the loss of his voice. Finally, his brain opened up enough for him to say "Thank you, Ma'am."
"And I want to thank you for bringing Cindy home at a reasonable hour. That was very responsible of you."
"I hope it wasn't too late," Clarence said quickly.
"No, it was fine," she said. "I'll give Cindy your message, and I hope I get to meet you one day."
"Yes Ma'am, thank you. Goodbye." Clarence slowly hung the receiver up. "She wants to meet me," he said to himself. "Cindy talked about me, and her mom wants to meet me!"
"Mom!" Clarence yelled. "Can I borrow the car? I need to do some shopping!"
"Ladies," said Susan, lifting her sundae over the center of the table, "to Sabrina."
The Clique clinked their dishes with Susan's and returned them to their places. "As we can't have champagne because of the minor ... !"
"Hey!" Debbye said, "It's not my fault I was born underage!"
"I like this better anyway," added Sabrina. "Ice cream's better for you."
"Yep, ice cream is our friend." This from Susan.
Cindy swallowed her cherry. "Ice cream makes us popular."
"Ice cream heals all ills," Susan said.
"Ice cream makes me thirsty." Debbye took a drink of her soda-pop.
"Debbye, why do you drink a soda with your sundae?" Cindy asked. "You're going to make a float in your stomach."
"Nothing wrong with that," Debbye said. "I like floats, and this way I get two ice cream treats for the price of one."
"Until the gas in the pop starts to work," Sabrina said.
Debbye took another drink and swallowed. "Then they smell like ice cream."
Susan laughed and almost sprayed her ice cream back into her dish. Sabrina smacked her in the arm. "We can dress you up," she said, "but we can't take you out." And she laughed along with everybody else.
"Hey, something just dawned on me!" Cindy said. "Sabrina's moving away. We're not gonna be The Clique anymore!"
Sabrina swallowed quickly. "Hey, you're right!" She set her spoon down. "Gosh, I never thought of that."
"What are you talking about!" Susan said. "Just 'cause 'brina's going to be in Pennsylvania doesn't mean she's not Clique anymore! Once you're in, you're in! Like being in organized crime."
"Yeah, but she's gonna be so far away," Cindy pouted. She looked as though she was on the verge of tears.
"Only four and a half hours," Sabrina said. "We'll still see each other! I'm not giving up my best friends in the world for anything."
The table was quiet for a minute or two ... quite possibly a Clique record.
"Say Sabrina," Debbye said, breaking the silence, "you may not be the only one walking down the aisle."
"Really?" Sabrina asked as she attacked a ball of strawberry-covered ice cream. "Who else?"
Debbye cocked her head toward Cindy.
Sabrina's eyes grew as she looked at her. Cindy coughed on her cherry. "Me!?"
"Who to?" Sabrina asked.
Debbye and Susan exchanged glances, smiled, and said together, "Claaaaa-rence!"
Cindy's light grey fur blushed to a deep red! Sabrina looked across the table. "Clarence?" she asked in a shocked voice. "The Clarence? The school nerd Clarence?"
"A lot went on while you were away," Debbye kidded.
Cindy put her spoon into her dish. "Hey, you don't know," she said. "I'm just trying to help him out, that's all."
"She went to a movie with him," Susan teased.
"Ooooo!" Sabrina joined in. "In the dark!"
"You can laugh all you want," Cindy told them all. And they were, but politely. "Clarence needs a little work, but he's a nice boy, and he's just as much a gentleman as Chris is, and I'll put Clarence up against him any day of -- !"
Cindy stopped herself when she saw three pairs of eyes staring at her over three sundae dishes. She hushed and looked down at her own sundae, and ate a spoonful.
"Uh, Cindy," Sabrina said, "we didn't mean anything."
Cindy didn't look up. She just picked at her sundae.
"Oh Cindy, I feel just rotten!" Debbye said. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings!" Quiet. "Hey, we're supposed to be happy here! Sabrina's engaged!"
"Yeah." Susan squeezed Cindy's arm. "We're sorry, Cin. Forgive us?"
Cindy's right ear twitched while she chewed a peanut. She raised her head. "He's okay," she said. "I just want to help him."
Susan held her pinky over the middle of the table. "Clique?"
Cindy pursed her lips and relaxed, then held hooked her pinky in with the others, and in unison, "Clique."
Sabrina motioned her head toward the ice cream parlour door. "Speak of the devil."
The remaining three heads turned. In the door was a temporarily paralyzed Clarence with composition book in hand. All four girls looking at him at once unnerved him for the moment.
"And will you look at him!" Sabrina said under her breath.
And they did. Clarence walked the rest of the way indoors.
Susan leaned in toward Sabrina. "He's wearing jeans!" she whispered.
Clarence walked over to their table. For once, no one was completely cringing … well, except Clarence. "Hi girls," he said. "Hi, Cindy."
The Clique answered with some form of hello. Cindy had turned completely around. "Nice clothes, Clarence!" she said. "You been shopping?"
"Uh-huh. I took your advice. What do you think?"
"I have to admit, Clarence," Sabrina said, "you look good. Nice polo shirt."
Susan was studying his head. "Did you blow-dry your hair?" she asked.
Clarence nodded. "It was Cindy's idea. I started parting it on the left, too."
Debbye nodded. "Nice job, Cindy."
Cindy smiled, proud of herself.
"Oh, Sabrina," Clarence said, "congratulations on your engagement. I wish you all the best."
"Thank you," Sabrina said.
Clarence felt the awkwardness returning. He was out of things to say. He'd been keeping at least one eye on Cindy the entire time, and couldn't think of anything else to keep him there next to her. "Well, I'll see you later." He walked over to a small table near the wall.
"Cindy, you're a regular miracle worker," Sabrina leaned in and said. "He's still Clarence, but at least he's a better looking Clarence."
"If only he could get rid of that stupid calculator," Cindy said.
"Only one miracle at a time," Susan kidded.
The Clique returned to their sundaes and began to disregard Clarence. Cindy, though, kept glancing over at him. He looks so lonely, she thought.
Clarence gave the waitress his order and opened his book, occasionally looking out of the corner of his eye at Cindy. Why can't she be alone?
"Girls," Cindy said, "would you all excuse me, please? Wait for me outside, okay?" She stood up, picked up her dish, and walked over to Clarence's table.
"Is it okay if I sit with you?" she asked.
Clarence broke the tip of his pencil. "Ah -- yes! Sure!" He watched Cindy set her ice cream on the table and sit across from him.
The rest of The Clique watched in stunned disbelief. "What do you think about that?" Sabrina asked. "Little shy Cindy."
"And little shy Clarence," Susan said. "Who would've thought it?"
"I think I'm responsible," Debbye said. "I'm paying for her sundae."
Susan had the best view to watch the two of them. "Do you really suppose she cares about him?" she asked, missing the running trail of chocolate syrup from her dish to the table top.
"I dunno," Sabrina said. "Maybe she's just working on his self-esteem."
Debbye smirked. "Nerd and nerdette?"
Sabrina, Susan, and Debbye all looked over at Cindy.