a story by
(c) 1998, 1999, 2000 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen, Sheila Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel (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, Angel Collie, Wendy Vixxen, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, and Wanda (c) Chris Yost. Character Florence Ambrose (c) Mark Stanley. Character ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character Cyberhorn (c) William Morris. Character Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character James Sheppard and Marvin Badger (c) James Bruner. Characters Kittiara and Katja (c) "Kittiara". Character Mark the "cheetaur" (c) Mark White. 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. "Cooking for Dummies" (c) 1999 IDG Books Worldwide
Sabrina wrapped a porcelain figurine in a page of newspaper and tucked the ends inside. There wasn't much she could wrap; she still needed most of what she had here. She had managed to fill a box however, and she closed an end flap, then a side one, the other end one, and the final side ...
How do they do this?
She tried to fold the fourth flap into the first and watched the box pop open.
Sabrina studied the box. "Okay," she said aloud, "start with the big one first." She folded the longer side down, then an end, the other side, the other end, pry the corner up to tuck it under pop!
"AURGH!" sigh "Start with the smaller side!" And Sabrina folded end, side, end, side, tuck pop!
Thomas ran to the door and poked his head inside. "You okay, Sabrina? What's the matter?"
"This stupid box!" Sabrina said in a restrained voice, pointing to it with her open paw. "I can't get it closed!"
Thomas pushed the door to Sabrina's room the rest of the way open and walked over to her. "Here, it's pretty simple. You have to fold these flaps over top of each other, then you pull this corner up and push it und -- "
Thomas looked startled when the box opened once again. He looked in the box and moved a few items around, then started with the longer side, then opened it and folded the shorter, then opened it and tried the longer, covered by the shorter, then the longer, then the shorter, and tucked in the corner.
"There. See? Easy."
Sabrina looked at the box, and at Thomas looking at the box. Thomas' tail was twitching with frustration; that was the only thing he couldn't hide while he pretended to ponder. He turned and left through the door.
Sabrina sat on the mattress beside her box and tried again to fold the flaps down when Thomas returned. Producing a roll of masking tape, he pulled piece after piece off and soon had the top of the box securely fastened and the flaps were not going anywhere at this point.
"NOW try coming open!" Thomas yelled at the box.
"Thank you, Thomas." Sabrina did her best not to laugh.
"Welcome." Thomas gave the box a very smug "Got you!" nod, and left with his tape.
Sabrina grinned. She picked her box up and watched everything fall onto her bed when the bottom popped open.
Chris was writing down the results of the packet sniffer he was running on the network and made a snort through his nose. Looks like that hub port's acting flaky again. Standing up he grabbed his tool kit from his overhead compartment and walked to the wiring closet.
The closet was actually an unused room where the racks of equipment were kept, his domain and Dexter's mostly; more aptly put, they were the ones who got the calls when something decided it wanted to go on vacation. Like today. Like the dynamic hub that went out of warranty while he was in Columbus.
Chris didn't even need his tester, but he plugged it in anyway. "Good old port six." He removed the patch cable and spoke directly to it. "Tell me, is there any way you can maybe, may-be, just behave and do your job??" He wrote the number of the hub on a scrap of paper, plugged its patchcord into another unused port, and went back to his cubicle to get the information he was going to need to order a replacement.
He fell in behind Dexter and looked at his watch. "Ah, the Late Mr. Collie," he said.
Dexter smacked Chris on the shoulder with his windbreaker as he took it off with a swoop. "Hey, you knew I was gonna be late today," he reminded Chris. "Angel had her doctor's appointment this morning."
"How's she doing?"
Dexter made a slicing motion through the air sideways. "Fine. Good as new. Ready to fulfill the remainder of her lifetime contract with me."
"You're really holding her to that, aren't ya?" Chris asked, grinning.
With a nod, Dexter replied, "Well, you know she and I had a shotgun wedding."
"You did not!"
"We absolutely did," Dexter told him as he hung his jacket over his chair. "I told her: Marry me, or I'll blow your head off."
Chris folded his arms and stared at Dexter, until Dexter couldn't keep from grinning anymore; years of using that joke had helped him keep a straight face whenever he used it. Then, he asked Chris "Whatcha building?"
Chris showed him his scrap of paper. "Hub's got a bad port. Wanna take it apart and fix it? You could wedge a paper clip in it again."
"Riiiiiight." Dexter picked up his coffee mug. "You talk to the new guy at our Central America office, I'll take apart your hub."
"Maxx? I've talked to him before. What's the matter with him?"
"Nothing," Dexter explained. "His accent though; yo!"
Chris laughed. "Yeah, it is pretty thick." He walked along with Dexter to the break room. "When he comes hereΈ we'll have to take him to lunch. Think he eats the same things we do up here?"
Dexter shrugged. "I hope so. What passes for Mexican food up here would chase him back to Guatemala in about a second."
Jim passed them in the hall and they exchanged pleasantries. "It'd be nice if Sabrina could meet him," Chris said, then turning over his shoulder at Jim, "if she could GET HIRED HERE!"
Jim stopped and turned back to catch up with Chris and Dexter. "Don't you read your e-mail, Chris?" he asked as they stopped at the door to the break room.
"I'm still playing catch-up," Chris explained. "My Inbox gets hit severely sometimes."
"Well, move all of Sabrina's love letters into their own folder and read the business stuff. She's hired officially now."
Dexter gave Chris a friendly punch in the arm and left for the coffee maker.
Jim nodded. "The folks up at -- " He and Chris raised his eyes toward the ceiling, " -- Board Room Level -- " and back to each other, "pushed the budget through earlier than they thought. She can start here 16th of September."
"Day after payday, and hey, plenty of time before hockey season!" Chris pumped Jim's arm. "Thanks Jim, you're a pal! I can't wait to tell her."
"Send me a card at Christmas." Jim retrieved his paw and as he continued to his office, Chris walked aimlessly to the open counter opposite Dexter.
"Congrats," Dexter told him as he stirred his coffee.
"I can't wait to tell Sabrina," Chris said, still grinning and staring into open space. "I'm not seeing her until weekend after next so I can't see her reaction when I tell her. And if I tell her over the phone, it'll lose all the impact."
"So, what'll you do?" Dexter asked and took a sip.
"E-mail her, of course."
Dexter raised his eyes over his mug. "Sure you will."
Chris continued the tease. "Have I ever lied to you?"
Dexter shook his head. "Never about the big stuff."
"I'm not sure if she's working from home today or not." Chris looked at his watch. "I'll call her tonight. She'll flip!"
Mid-week, and as always Wendy treated herself to a night out. She stopped at her apartment just long enough to change out of her work clothes and into a hot shower, fresh white lacy lingerie (hey, y'never know, right?), and a very tight red mini-dress with a skirt hem just short of Munchkinland. With a quick fix of her long hair and a red ribbon on one side, she was ready to leave.
Ellen looked up from the carrots she was cleaning for dinner when she heard the doorbell chime. She looked over her shoulder at the kitchen clock. "Must be Clarence," she told herself. Wiping her hands on her apron, she walked out to the hallway and lifted her head toward the second floor.
"Cindy!" she called. "Clarence is here!"
"Be right down" came down the stairs. Before she answered the door she called back "Remember, fashionably late!" A few steps further and she opened the door.
Clarence wore a sportscoat tonight with his usual buttoned shirt and slacks. In his damp-palmed paws he held a single red rose. "Good evening, Mrs. Lapine. Is Cynthia at home?"
Ellen smiled at the young skunk. She stood to one side. "Come right in, Clarence," she said. "It's good to see you again."
Clarence almost held eye contact with Cindy's mother for nearly a full 6 seconds. "Th-thank you." As Ellen closed the door behind him, Clarence's mind raced for something -- anything -- to say to her.
"Ah that's a very nice housedress you're wearing today. That apron looks very nice against it."
Ellen wasn't too sure if he was kidding her or not. " thank you, Clarence." She looked at Clarence and couldn't understand why he seemed so nervous. "Cindy will be down in a few minutes. Would you like something to drink while you wait?"
Just as Clarence opened his mouth, the sound of feet running down a staircase came from behind them. "Hi Clarence!" said Cindy as she bounced in with them, her skirt swinging to a stop around her tight tawny thighs.
Ellen folded her arms and stared amused at her daughter. "Fashionably late, huh?" she kidded.
"Sorry, Mom," Cindy said as she tucked her arm in Clarence's. She kissed him on his cheek, in front of her mother, making Clarence blush and turn his head slightly away, a bashful smile on his muzzle. He reached toward Cindy with his other paw and held the rose to her.
Cindy took the rose and softened. "Oh, Clare! Thank you. Come on, help me put it in water." She took his hand and tugged him past her mom to the kitchen for a bud vase. Clarence followed along; excited to be with Cindy, but wishing he could've at least dried his palms on something first.
The same thought kept running over and over in Clarence's mind
Third date, third date, third date, third date third official date!
Cindy and Clarence wound up in the kitchen. Cindy snagged a bite of carrot as we walked past the center island. "I know we're going to dinner," Cindy said as she nibbled and handed Clarence a piece, "I just can't resist these for some reason."
Clarence hated carrots, but took a small bite and kept from making a face. When Cindy turned her back and squatted down beneath the sink, Clarence slipped the offending vegetable into his pocket.
He watched his girlfriend -- is it okay to call her that yet? Well, sure, I'd think so. We've only gone out twice -- officially. But you saw her kiss you; yes, I'd have to say she's definitely your girlfriend. Then it's okay for me to tell people that? Certainly. Okay, thanks! Glad to oblige ya!
Clarence blushed slightly and turned away when he saw Cindy's skirt had risen slightly higher than he was used to seeing, then heard the not-so-distant sound of the bathroom door closing from outside the kitchen, and turned back in time to see her standing with vase in hand, filling it with water, and sliding the stem of her rose inside.
Cindy took a sniff and smiled. "You're such a thoughtful guy, Clare. I love roses too, thank you." She slipped her paw behind his neck and kissed him again, this time on his mouth.
"Cindy, I love you."
It came right out. Blurted completely out. There was no stopping it, it came out, And Cindy heard it. She couldn't have missed it. Sink or swim. Clarence felt his stomach tighten and his cheeks burn.
Cindy set her rose and vase on the island.
Clarence's lower lip started to vibrate, a stammer starting to build as his brain searched for some way out of taking back what he said to offend the most beautiful bunny he'd ever met.
He received a longer kiss on the mouth, Cindy's paw held him gently to her from the nape of his neck. And when she took her mouth away, she was looking down at her feet, shy, and smiling when she finally lifted her head again.
Now Cindy was the one with the stammer. "I "
And in a lower, softer voice:
" I love you too, Clarence."
and the tension of the evening Clarence had carried with him had faded away. Still, he felt kind of numb; as long as Clarence longed to hear those words, he couldn't believe he'd heard them at all.
But he couldn't deny he'd heard them! And here was Cindy, from the college's infamous Clique, parting her lips ever so slightly and pulling his head halfway to hers and meeting him there to kiss him once again.
Cindy demurely lowered her head and raised her eyes to look at Clarence, smiling. They were both completely lost in each other, and together it dawned on them that Cindy's mother could return at any moment.
"Well ah shall we go?" Clarence asked.
Cindy kept her smile and nodded. "Okay." She set the bud vase on the dining room table as they passed. As Ellen watched them leave, Cindy looked over her shoulder and gave her mother a very happy wink.
Ellen smiled. "You'll learn one day, dear," she said aloud to herself, "that mother is always right."
Clarence, meanwhile, was beyond Cloud Nine. He was practically skipping as he led Cindy paw-in-paw to his car and held the door for her. So, where do you want to go for dinner?" he asked.
"Anywhere but Callahan's." Cindy pulled her legs in and adjusted her skirt, pulling on her seatbelt as Clarence closed her door and ran around to the other side.
"Really?" Clarence started the car and pulled away from the curb. "I thought y-you liked C-Callahan's," Clarence turned on the air-conditioning, letting it show off for him as they traveled.
"You wouldn't understand," Cindy told him as she sank further into her bucket seat. "The food's good, sure, but when you work there, the last thing you want to do is go back there for dinner." She placed a paw on Clarence's knee. "I hope you understand."
Clarence nodded. "S-sure I do." And Clarence did understand too. But his mind was on one subject, and one subject only:
Third date, third date, third date, third date, she loves me, WOOHOO!
" anything to make you h-happy."
Cindy smiled, and ran her paw over Clarence's leg. "Then make me happy," she said. "You pick"
Wendy nodded. "Please." She slid her glass back to the cougar barmaid and turned her chair to look over the nightclub again. Not much to pick from tonight 'course, it is the middle of the week and all. The music was nice though, and she swayed her shoulders and her upper body to it as she listened. Wendy reached into her handbag to retrieve some money to pay for her drink.
Just as her drink arrived, a brown-furred arm extended a five-dollar bill across the bar. And a disembodied voice said, "Please, let me pay for this one."
Wendy smiled and turned toward the sexy voice, then instantly lost her smile. "You!"
The wolf smiled a sheepish smile. "Uh, hi again?"
Wendy was just short of indignant. "What do you want?" she asked in a very cold tone.
The cougar pointed to the large wolverine in the tuxedo at the other end of the club. "Want me to call the bouncer?" she asked.
"No, that's alright," Wendy said, raising her paw.
Quick thinking was in the wolf's best interests at this moment. "I just wanted to apologize for my behavior at the supermarket," he explained. And as Wendy didn't make any moves to stop him, the barmaid took the fiver and rang up Wendy's gin and tonic.
"Apology accepted," Wendy said, turning back to the bar. "And thank you for the drink."
The barmaid put the wolf's change on the bar in front of him. "Uh, can I please have one of what she's having?" Secretly he hoped whatever she was drinking didn't taste bad, but it was an excuse to stay next to her. "I don't know what else to say, except I see you there every week or so, and I think you're really pretty and I wanted badly to meet you."
Wendy smirked, but kept facing forward. "Well, you did that, all right."
"I know, that was a really stupid thing I did." His drink arrived, set on top of a white napkin, and the cougar fished the money out to pay for it. "I got the idea from a sit-com from the seventies they show on that cable network that run the older stuff. An older guy was demonstrating how to bump his buggy into a pretty woman's to a younger guy, and it seemed like an idea worth trying. I guess I kinda overdid it." He took a sip. "Wow, this is really good!"
He received a nod as she drank; it was a start, anyway.
"Look," he tried again, "I know I made a really lousy first impression, but can I please make it up to you? I'd like to take you to dinner, do it right this time."
Wendy set her glass on the bar. "Look," she told him, trying to brush him off as politely as she could, "you bought me the drink. That's nice of you to offer dinner too "
"If you're going to drink," he tried, "you might as well eat, right? And I really would like to get to know you better."
Polite wasn't going to work. Granted, he's good enough looking, but enough is enough. Stifling a sigh, she turned to him. "Want to know me better?" she said. "Okay. My name's Wendy. I'm 26 years old. I'm an accountant, my hair color is naturally light brown, yes my eyes are green and I don't wear contacts to change them, yes I live around here, my star sign is Pisces, I don't care what yours is, I'm not impressed with big talk, my bra size is 36-C, and I like women as much as I like men. Still want me to have dinner with you?"
The wolf had his eyebrows raised since Wendy started. "Well," he said, "I'll have to think of new conversation starters " He sighed. "My friends call me Blue. Look, I'm sorry." His voice became more and more dejected. "I'll leave you alone I just wanted to meet you and I'm glad I got to "
Wendy watched Blue slide from his perch on the barstool. It looked like he was trying so hard, too "Uh, hey, listen "
Blue Wolf stopped and faced Wendy, a hopeful smile on his face.
"Look, maybe I didn't need to be so rough on you. I'm sorry." She indicated the stool he'd just vacated, and Blue resumed his seat. "Maybe your first impression isn't so hot," she said, "but your second impression isn't so bad."
Blue shook his head. "I don't mean to be a jerk. It just sort of happens sometimes. I'm really a nice guy; at least I try to be." He took another sip. "Can we start over?" "He extended his right paw. "Hi, my friends call me Blue."
"Did you have enough to eat?" Clarence asked.
"Oh, plenty!" Cindy pushed her salad plate back. "I've got to be careful, I'm starting to binge. I can't keep my boyfriend interested in me if I start to bloat."
Cindy's tight smile coupled with what she said made Clarence grin, and blush all the way to his cheekbones.
"This is such a nice place," Cindy said, looking around the dining room. "All this just for our third date?"
Clarence shrugged. "I wanted to take you somewhere nice so I could tell you I love you. I've looked forward to our third date ever since you told me that the first time in your pool."
Cindy entwined her fingers between Clarence's. "I still have that card you gave me." She squeezed and watched his reaction. "Can I ask you one question, though?"
"Of course," Clarence said, relaxing with Cindy.
"You've been so mysterious who are you working for?"
A knot appeared from nowhere in Clarence's throat.
Cindy leaned in and looked at Clarence's eyes. She could feel his palm perspire. "Clare . ?"
Cindy softened her voice. "Clare?"
Clarence felt the weight return to his chest. He fought the urge to tug on his collar.
"Don't you want to tell me?"
"I do!" Clarence was nodding, fighting for words. "I-I-I r-r-r-reall-l-ly d-d-do!"
Cindy was wishing she'd kept her muzzle shut. "Honey, I don't understand. Why does your job make you so nervous?"
Clarence lowered his head, accepting defeat. Tears welled in his eyes. As he shook his head, he said simply "You wouldn't believe me."
I just got you. And now I've lost you.
"I work for that adult film studio across town."
Cindy's shoulders slumped. "You mean that ZZ place, where Sabrina works?"
Clarence, head still down, tears spilling onto his cheeks, nodded.
"You're working there?"
"Uh-huh" barely made it out.
"Awwwww, Clare why didn't you just tell me?"
Clarence took his handkerchief from his hip pocket and dried his eyes, and cleared his nose. "It's -- it's a long s-s-story. And you're too good f-f-for me, and y-y-you'd n-never want to see m-m-m-me again, a-a-a-and I could never tell you I l-l-l-l-l- ... " Try as he might, he couldn't finish it. The harder he tried, the more he had to press his handkerchief against his eyes.
Cindy was close to tears herself. The waitress came by, and she waved her away. "Clarence, hey, c'mon, don't do that. It's not that big a deal."
It didn't look as though Clarence had heard her.
"Clare, we're both adults. If that's what you want to do, it's okay with me."
Clarence dried his eyes and snarfled what he could back into his nose. "Y-you you really mean that?"
Cindy wiped the back of her paw over her own eyes. "I do. I mean, you're only working there, not starring in the movies they make or fooling around with the actresses, right?"
"Yes! Of course I am! I mean no! No, I'm not." Clarence had blurted it all out. Wanda never even entered his mind.
"And I would trust you more than anyone. Only why did you tell me that thing you told me last weekend?"
Clarence raised his head finally. "W-what thing do you mean?" he asked.
Cindy tried to remember the words. "Something about laying cables for light reflection."
It took Clarence a second, then he managed a laugh. "Light refraction. That's how a camera works. I was laying cable for a movie they started filming the other day."
"Oh, gawd!" Cindy thought about that for a moment, then began giggling.
Clarence leaned closer to her. "What's so funny?"
"Clare, do you realize the stories we're going to be able to tell people?" She started laughing now, and Clarence began to laugh with her as she explained. "Not only is my boyfriend working for a porn studio, you're going to come back with some funny stories to tell!
"And besides, I have Sabrina to keep an eye on you."
The squeeze on his paw told Clarence Cindy was teasing him. He smiled finally. "So you don't want me to take you home?", and the relief in his voice spoke volumes.
Cindy shook her head. "Nuh-uh. You still owe me a movie, remember? You can't get rid of me that easy."
"I was so worried you'd break up with me if you knew," Clarence confessed. "I love you, Cindy."
"Just keep reminding yourself that I love you, too." They squeezed each others' paws. "I'm ready to leave when you are."
SABRINA'S ROOM -- PRIVATE CHAT
Kitten> All RIGHT!!
Sabrina was bouncing in her seat, her grin had gone beyond ear-to-ear.
Chris> I knew you'd be excited :) Now we can start counting the days
Kitten> I'm so excited!
Sabrina began thinking again.
Kitten> I have to be here when Amy's baby is born, though. I CAN'T miss that.
Chris smiled. "I'd never deny you that, or anything you wanted, Kitten."
Chris> When's she due?
Sabrina did some mental math, trying to think when that strip ran originally.
Kitten> I really haven't been keeping track. I hope by September 16!
Chris> Why then?
Chris sat with his arms folded and grinned.
Sabrina just smirked and shook her head.
Kitten> Wiseguy :)
Chris thought for a second, then typed:
Chris> Only one thing I keep thinking about.
Kitten> I know, and the fur on my wrists is still matted.
"My girl!" Chris said.
Chris> Okay two things.
Kitten> And they are???
Chris> Who gets custody of the Amiga?
"Why, I do, of course!"
Then Sabrina stopped and thought about that. She looked out the door, toward the living room, where Amy was doing her pregnant-woman aerobics. It was pretty much both of theirs, even though Sabrina got the most use out of it.
"Yeah, who will get it?"