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, 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.
Mr. Canis closed the door behind the rest of the exiting class. Walking back to the other side of the room he reached over his desk and picked up the stack of homework papers handed in earlier. The Clique watched him, unusually quiet now. They'd inadvertently gotten themselves into trouble this time, and they could feel it.
Canis walked down and stood beside the desk beside Debbye, looking down at the four of them. "Girls," he started out, "why do you do this to me? "
Together, all four girls shifted in their seats. Susan let her tail sway uneasily over the linoleum floor. Sabrina lowered her eyes. Debbye and Cindy exchanged guilty looks. Did he want an answer? Was this a rhetorical question? All four decided to themselves that the best thing was probably to keep their mouths closed and listen quietly.
"You're all adults, you or your parents or someone is paying a lot of money for each of you to be here, you're all excellent students and yet every day I feel I have to compete with you four."
An uneasy pause followed. Cindy quietly cleared her throat. "Uhm," she started, "we never meant to, Mr. Canis. I guess ... we just got carried away today."
Canis shook his head. "It's not just today, Cindy. I mean, by rights maybe I shouldn't even say anything because you four are actually a sort of legend on-campus. Anybody says 'The Clique', immediately they know it's you four. But I'm sorry, today I felt I had to say something."
He waited for somebody to react. They all did, but only to themselves, privately embarrassed.
"Sabrina, you want to be a technical writer, right?" Sabrina nodded. "Cindy, you're interested in journalism?"
"Sort of.," she answered as Canis began looking for their papers in his homework stack. "I'd like to write feature articles."
" ... and you'll need an education in writing to accomplish that, right?" Cindy nodded, looking down some.
Looking at the back of a paper, Canis said "Sabrina, these last two classes you seem to have been pre-occupied with something."
Sabrina felt herself pinned in the corner a bit now. "Uh, yessir." She managed to stammer her way through her explanation. "I met someone on the Internet, and I guess I've been thinking about him a lot."
"He must be some guy. His name wouldn't be Chris, would it?"
The Clique's eyes all widened at once. It can't be him! Sabrina thought quickly! "Y...yes. How did you know?"
Mr. Canis took one of the pages from his stack and turned it over to show her. "Because you've scribbled his name at least a dozen or so times on the back of one of your homework sheets."
Four mouths opened in unison, two with a grin attached. Sabrina felt her cheeks burn. I didn't even know I'd done that! "Uh ... "
"You're not the first one to do this," he went on, "I'm thankful you only did it on the back side. And no, I'm not going to count it against you, just try to be more careful, okay?"
A quiet "Okay" came from Sabrina.
"I didn't mean to embarrass you, and I'm sorry if I did." He turned his attention back to all of them. "But girls, you have to try to have just a little less fun in the classroom. Would you please do that? For me?"
One by one, each girl nodded and murmured some sort of agreement.
"Thank you. You're dismissed."
Together The Clique gathered their books and belongings and headed out the door.
All five of them knew what he asked wouldn't last. And Mr. Canis would never admit it, but in a way, he hoped it wouldn't either. They were, as a group, as much a part of the college as he was as a teacher.
Chris> Kinda hard on you, huh?
Sabrina1> Oh, I dunno. I guess we should've been expecting it. I told you, we're always like this! :)
Chris smiled and typed on.
Chris> You must be one fun-loving bunch!
Sabrina1> Oh yeah! You should've seen us when they were taking my picture for you -- ROFL!
Chris felt his excitement level go from high to peak level!
Chris> Didja scan it yet?
" ... he asked hopefully."
Sabrina1> Check your e-mail!
Chris quickly launched his email program and scanned through his new messages. There were two new ones from Sabrina, one of them with a picture of a paper clip. He opened the message and bypassed reading the letter for now; he clicked on the paperclip and opened the attachment.
And the picture built, line by line. "WOW!"
Sabrina stood in a pose The Clique had to have put her up to, one arm in the air, one hand on her hip, big open-mouth smile as if they'd caught her in mid-laugh. Her blue sweater was all she wore.
On the other end, Sabrina noticed the lag in the conversation. He must be checking out the picture. God, what if he doesn't like it!? She felt the same anxiety she felt when Susan took the picture, when she got the pictures back from the one-hour photo center, when she scanned it, when she e-mailed it, while she waited for 8:00 when she and Chris were scheduled to meet ...
Chris> That's really you?
Sabrina felt herself swallow. She typed :
And when she read the reply ...
Chris> One word -- WOW!
Sabrina1> Did you like it?
" ... she asked hopefully."
Chris laughed on his side of the modem line.
Chris> Ho, BOY, do I like it!
Sabrina smiled, relieved. She didn't quite know why, after all, he was just a name on a monitor, right?
Sabrina1> Got one for me? ;)
Chris> Sure do! I scanned it at work and I'm sending it over now.
After Chris sent that last part, he dug the diskette out of his shirt pocket and jammed it into the disc drive. Re-opening his e-mail program, he attached the file and sent it over.
Chris> Sorry for the delay! Go see if you like what *you* see :)
Sabrina1> OK! BRB!
Sabrina jumped into her e-mail account and checked her in-box. "Nothing!?"
Just then it came up: ONE NEW MESSAGE
Sabrina clicked on it, and opened the attached picture file. There was Chris, leaning against his car, nicely dressed in casual shirt and trousers with a V-neck sweater, one leg crossed in front of the other. And Sabrina's word wasn't "Wow," but ...
Sabrina1> I *LIKE* it! :)
Sabrina1> YES! You really liked mine?
Chris pondered his answer. "Time to ask," he said to himself.
Chris> I liked it enough to ask if you'd like to chat on the phone :)
Sabrina immediately transmitted her phone number.
Chris> I got it! Log off and I'll call right now!
Sabrina1> Okay, logging off!
And as always, they both waited to see who logged off first. This time it was Sabrina, and Chris got up to get his cordless phone.
At the dinette table Thomas and Amy were engrossed in their individual projects. Amy was leafing through a catalogue of baby furniture, and Thomas was tending a small terrarium he'd put together for Amy, or so he'd said it was for her; the underlying reason was to tend the tiny environment inside for a course in plant behavior. As he tended it he'd picked up the habit of exhaling slightly more than normal into the tank to entice the plants inside to grow better with a carbon-dioxide boost.
"I laid one of these away," Amy told Thomas, pointing to a bathanet. "It'll make bathing her a lot easier than squatting down into the tub."
It took a few moments before Thomas' brain registered that Amy had even spoke. When it did he looked up. "'Her'?"
To reply, Amy ran the palm of her hand over her belly, which hadn't taken her away from her cartoon modeling career as yet, although she could feel it wouldn't be long to wait. "Wishful thinking. I'm hoping for a girl."
"Oh." He returned to the fern he was nursing. "Your Purple Cliff Brake isn't doing well."
"Your fern. Are you remembering to mist in here every other day?"
Should I tell him I lost interest in the stupid thing? "Uh, I think so. I might've skipped a day, I don't remember."
Thomas picked up a small spray bottle and began misting water inside the tank.
"I've been kinda pre-occupied with other things, y'know?" she prompted.
"I mean," Amy leaned into the table, standing halfway up, "I've got this baby to consider."
"Yeah." Thomas patted the soil and cover loosely around the plants.
Steam started to come out of Amy's ears. She unconsciously straightened her tail to its full length, fighting anger! "Our baby. Thomas."
"I know." He straightened the ceramic frog in the corner and picked up the glass lid, whereas Amy was ready to take the entire terrarium and -
Ambivalent, Thomas cleaned the glass cover. Amy's head spun toward the phone across the room. "Wow, she gave up early tonight!" She walked across the room. "I'm not used to hearing the phone ring in the evening anymore."
Three steps away, just after the second ring, the study door flew open! Sabrina ran out and made a flying leap for the phone; clutching it like a hungry man with a sandwich.
"Hi! It's for me! Thanks!" And she disappeared, phone and all, back behind the closed door of the study.
Amy's hands went to her hips. "What in the world?" Thomas looked up and watched Amy turn around and walk back to the table.
Thomas smiled, hoping he was off the hook talking about the baby. "Must be some hot phone call," he said. He took the terrarium and replaced it by the window. He wiped a finger over the window pane, looked at it, stuck out his tongue, and picked up the glass cleaner.
"Must be." Amy sat down, then stopped before she made contact with the seat. "She gave him our phone number!! She had to have!"
Before Thomas could turn and stop her, Amy jumped and made for the closed study door.
Sabrina dropped to the floor, setting the phone down with little line cord left to spare. Taking and letting out a deep breath she picked up the receiver. "Hello?" Her heart was beating like a baby rabbit's!
"Hello," the male voice on the other end said. "Sabrina?"
Chris smiled on his end. "Yep."
Sabrina pulled the throw rug over and sat cross-legged on it, smiling. "Hi."
Chris also had to fight a loss of words. "And how are you this fine evening?"
"Oh, fine, thanks." My God, he's got a great voice, too!! "How about you?"
"I'm fine, thank you for asking. And what a lovely voice you have, my dear."
Now, for Chris, this was sheer, intentional, flattery. With a personality, body, and voice like this, I'm using every ounce of charm there is!
And as far as Sabrina was concerned, he could use every ounce of charm he had! "Aw, you're sweet."
And that's about as far as they got before the door flew open, missing Sabrina by about a foot. "I don't believe it!" Amy yelled at her!
Sabrina put her hand around the mouthpiece and said "Just a minute, please." She held down the mute button. "What!?"
"You gave him our phone number! Our home phone number!!"
"Why not?" Sabrina yelled back, uncharacteristic for her, but Amy's foot was hovering over her one final nerve. "The phone's one half mine, too, you know!"
"But you gave it out to a total stranger! Some guy on the Internet! All you know about him is what he told you online! For all you know he's a sex fiend, or worse!"
That was it! Sabrina, clutching onto the handset of the phone, turned herself completely away from Amy, lifted her hips, and raised her tail as high as it would go.
"That was total irresponsibili -- YOU WOULDN'T DARE!!!"
Sabrina seethed through her closed teeth. "Just -- try -- me!"
Amy stared at a part of her roommate she had never seen before. With no further word she let herself out of the room and closed the door.
Sabrina lowered her tail and sat back down, lifting the mute button. "I'm sorry about that, Chris."
"Sounded like someone was mad over there! What's up?"
"Oh," Sabrina sighed, "my roommate Amy, remember I told you about her?"
"The one expecting the baby?" Chris said. "Yeah, I remember her."
Sabrina felt foolish telling him this. "She's heard all of these stories of people meeting other people on the Internet and all of these bad things happening. She doesn't know you, but she knows me and she's worried I'm making friends with an axe murderer and gave one our phone number."
"Geez! I didn't mean to cause any problems. I'm sorry."
"Don't be!" Sabrina waved her hand through the air. "She'll get over it. I think once her boyfriend finally gets the guts to propose to her, she'll lighten up on a lot of things."
"That's Thomas, don't ever call him 'Tom' in front of Amy, right?" Chris asked.
Giggle! "That's him! He's one of the nicest guys I've ever known, but for some reason he seems to keep avoiding the subject of marriage with her."
"It's a 'guy thing', Sabrina," Chris explained. "A lot of guys don't like to be committed. Although in this case, the commitment's kinda sorta already made."
"Yeah, it sure is."
"Do you know you have an incredibly sexy phone voice?" Chris asked. "Not meaning to change the subject, just asking."
Sabrina liked having the subject shifted to her. After all, that's why they're talking now, right? "Yours ain't so bad, either! I love that picture of you."
"I'm glad," Chris turned to look at his monitor. "I still have yours up on my screen."
"You do?" Sabrina turned toward her screen, where his picture was there for God and the whole world to see.
"I sure do. I may make it wallpaper."
"Make it what?" Sabrina never considered herself an IBM-kind of girl.
"Wallpaper. The picture in the background."
"Oh." Then, "Oh! You'd do that?"
She heard a mouse clicking over the phone. "I'm doing it now. Converting it, putting it up, centering, set background color, done."
Sabrina lay on the floor, resting on her elbows. "You really did that? You are something."
Chris laughed politely. "I try my best."
"Of course, remember, you're an IBM-PC guy, I'm an Amiga girl," Sabrina teased. "Do you think we're compatible at all?"
Chris thought of an answer. "Well, if it'll help," he said, "I still have my Commodore 64 where I can get at it."
Sabrina laughed out loud. "Oh, boy! Yeah, we're compatible!"
"I agree," said Chris, "We're both silly."
On the other side of the door, Amy had managed to get Thomas to at least look at baby clothes with her. Occasionally Sabrina's voice or laugh would come past the door to her ears, and she'd stare at the door with impatience.
"She's a grown woman, Amy," Thomas said, hoping to be helpful.
"Yeah, 24 going on 18. I still can't believe she gave that guy our number."
Thomas looked at his watch. "He can't be that bad a guy. She's been talking to him over an hour."
Amy shook her head. "She's got a crush. I'm just afraid she's going to get hurt is all."
Thomas was about to ask "Are you sure that's all?", but thought if he did, she might answer him. A knock on the door broke the conversation nicely.
"That's probably him now. She probably gave him our address, too." She never saw Thomas raising his eyes to the ceiling and shaking his head as she got up to answer the door.
"Debbye!" she said. "Come on in!"
"Hi Amy. Hi Thomas!" Debbye came in and leaned down to Amy's belly. "Hi, new cousin!" Laughing for the first time all evening, Amy closed the door.
"You're not showing yet," Debbye said. "When's that supposed to happen?"
"With any luck," Amy replied, "never! But, I know better. It won't be much longer now." Then, "So, what're you up to?"
"I came over to study with Sabrina. We've got a lit test tomorrow."
Amy sighed a sigh of relief. "Debbye, you're timing couldn't have been better! She's in the study, go right in!"
Thomas stared, wanting to stick up for Sabrina, but not wanting to get in the middle either.
The knock on the door made Sabrina jump out of her aroused state. She sat up and adjusted herself before the door opened. "Hey there, Sabrina!"
Sabrina covered the mouthpiece. "Debbye! Oh, I forgot, we're supposed to study tonight!" Taking her hand away, "Uh, Chris, I completely forgot I was supposed to study with Debbye tonight."
Debbye spoke in a loud whisper. "Is that him?" she asked, pointing to the phone.
Sabrina nodded, and pointed to the Amiga screen. "I'm really sorry," she told Chris.
"No problem," Chris explained to her. "I understand. I'm glad I got to talk to you!"
Debbye pointed to the screen, then to the phone. Sabrina nodded to her.
"Sabrina, he's cute!!" Then, she yelled, "Hi Chris!"
Sabrina jumped! Chris yelled back "Hi Debbye!"
"He says 'Hi Debbye'."
"I have to get a shower anyway," Chris told Sabrina. "I'll be seeing you soon."
"Sure will! I can't wait. Bye."
No sooner did Sabrina hang up the phone than Debbye said "Wow Sabrina! Does he have a brother?"
Sabrina smiled smugly. "No brother, sorry. He's got an older sister though."
Debbye made a face. "Not my type. What's he sound like?"
Slowly Sabrina's face turned into an uncontrollable smile, excitement welling inside her again! "He sounds great! Sexy!"
Debbye put her bookbag down and hugged Sabrina. "All right! And all this from the Internet?"
"Every bit of him! All mine!"
The girls released each other. "Wait'll Susan and Cindy hear you finally talked to him! They'll flip!"
"No," corrected Sabrina. "Wait'll they find out the rest of the story!"