a story by
with David Shoulder
Story and Disclaimer (c) 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen, Sheila Vixen, Clarisse, Timothy Squirrel-Woolfe, 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, Stacy, Wendy Vixxen, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wanda, Mrs. Skunk, and Marci Pardalis (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, Marvin Badger, and Chrissy the Bondo Vixen (c) James Bruner. Characters Kittiara and Katja (c) "Kittiara". Character Mark the "cheetaur" (c) Mark White. Character Tyler Leone (c) Michael Mullig. Characters Kevin and Kell Dewclaw (c) Bill Holbrook. Character Trudy (c) Jeffrey Darlington. Characters Chatin and Cilke (c) Tiffany Ross. Characters Jack Black and Cecil Stewart (c) Scott Kellogg. Characters Packard Melan and DJ Gabe (c) S. Adam Tindall. Character Ricky Boone (c) Ricky Boone. Character Portia (c) Matt Trepal. Character Josh Fox (c) his player. Character Hikaru Katayamma (c) Keith Dickinson. Character CottonLop (c) her player. Character Tina (c) Tina Amberg. Character Elmer Foxx (c) Elmer Yost. Character BondoFox (c) his player. Character Vikki Vixen (c) her player. Cirrel Concolor (c) his player. Bob and Sue Logan (c) Bob and Sue Logan. Eric Schwartz (c) Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. 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, Amino Systems, or whoever the heck owns them now (I think it's Amiga, Inc as of the time of this chapter's writing). "Cooking for Dummies" (c) 1999 IDG Books Worldwide. Chalupa is a registered trademark of Taco Bell. Mercury (TM) Ford Motor Corp. Honda and Honda Civic (TM) Honda Motors. BeastWars and Pikachu are registered trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. WBUT is owned by Brandon Communications. "Extinctioners" (c) Shantae Howard. Pixie Stix is a registered trademark of Willy Wonka Candy Company.
Reproduction or altering of this
story by any means or any
unauthorized use without the expressed written permission of Chris Yost
is strictly prohibited.
Last October at ZZ Studios
Rhonda ran down past Studio B and caught up with the young skunkette. “Hey, Sabrina!” she said in her friendliest voice. “How’s everything in PA?”
“Oh! Hi, Rhonda,” Sabrina said, smiling and stopping for a bit. “So far no complaints, thanks. On your way to lunch too?”
“Shortly, Wanda and I are going out, y’wanna come with?”
As much as she wanted to, Sabrina shook her head. Rhonda and Wanda were fun, more fun than she was used to even with The Clique. Plus they liked the more expensive places to eat out, and while Sabrina could afford it she couldn’t afford it as well as they could. “Thanks,” she said politely, “I’ve got to finish some sketches before Zig gets back.”
“Okay,” Rhonda said, “Invitation’s open if you change your mind.” Then, “Hey, got a minute?” She asked this while hiding her mischievous smile. “You’ve gotta try this.”
“Try what?” Sabrina asked as Rhonda took her arm and steered her the other direction.
“Something we’re all playing around with,” she told her, pulling open the oversized door and leading Sabrina into Studio A
Off to the right was the new bedroom set with the trapeze, passing by the tripods and equipment to the left Wanda was having her front brushed off by a very fit Kodiak bear Sabrina had never seen before, next to them was a new machine separating them from two of the newer actors, a lion and lioness couple; Sabrina didn’t notice but it seemed they all went into motion once she and Rhonda entered the room.
“Everyone’s playing with this,” Rhonda said. “It’s the neatest thing!”
Sabrina looked the large green and black machine over. “What on Earth is it?” she asked.
“I don’t know”, Wanda said with a huge toothy grin, “but it’s wicked!”
“Vacu-something,” Rhonda told her. “Zig leases it whenever she’s intro’ing a new line of toys and modeling them after us.”
“Oh, yuck!” Sabrina exclaimed.
“No, it’s totally cool!” Wanda said as she smoothed the midriff of her top. “You lay on it, or sit, or whatever, this vacuum sucks this plastic sheet around you and molds right to you. Grips you tight. Then they use ‘em for molds to make the stuff they sell to our fans.”
Sabrina looked at the slightly-industrial-looking machine. “And how do I come into this?” she asked. Glancing to the left she saw what Wanda had done, the bear was holding a large plastic sheet that had formed exactly to the red vixen’s form, it had captured every wrinkle of her dress, every tuft of exposed fur, every little bump if you know what I mean.
“Since you’re in charge of all of the advertising for us,” Rhonda explained, going completely off-script now, “Zig thought it would be a good idea for you to see how it works, that way you have a better idea of what we have to go through and you can vouch for the quality of the workmanship.”
Sabrina wrinkled her nose at the thought of what’d been vacu-formed on that machine. “I’ve seen the end products,” she said, hoping to turn and leave, “I’ll vouch for whatever they want me to vouch for.”
“Aw c’mon, Sabrina,” Wanda almost whined as she picked up a powered brush and a round box of something that resembled talc, “Be a good sport. It doesn’t hurt at all, and it’s a lot of fun!” When she touched the brush against Sabrina’s back the young skunk jumped in surprise, then Wanda took charge and started brushing her down, working down her shirt, over her tail, her bottom and thighs. “This is to keep it from sticking to you,” she explained. “We’ve been screwing around with this thing since it got here.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Sabrina said, looking it over again. As they were talking and as Wanda was dusting the bear had placed the form of Wanda to the side with several others, one very obviously was from the lion and there was no evidence he was dressed when he used the machine. She watched as a fresh large sheet of plastic was slid into the guides.
Sabrina turned to Rhonda. “What are you going to do with it after I’m done?” she asked.
The badgerette shrugged her shoulders. “Nuthin’” she told Sabrina. “It’s just some dumb fun at the company’s expense.” She took the package Sabrina was holding and took her paw and led her over to it. “Just sit up on it and re-lax.” She gave a pull on Sabrina’s arm to coax her up onto the angled sheet of plastic. The lion came in with the studio’s digital camera and took some pictures. “For the company scrapbook,” he told her.
“You’re going to hear the motor first,” the bear explained, “Then you’ll feel the sheet tighten around you as it forms. It may startle you at first but it’s completely normal and perfectly harmless.” He took Sabrina’s paws and crossed them onto her lap, then as her smiling audience watched he switched on the motor. Sabrina winced, it was loud, and echoed through the near-empty studio. She could feel her glasses vibrating on the bridge of her nose. Suddenly she gasped as the sheet began to wind and tighten around her, it was very warm and soft and molded itself to her like a second skin, as if she were being packaged for sale. It held her for several seconds before she felt the tightness release around her and she was ensconced within her own blister pack.
The motor shut off and slowed under its own momentum, the loud noise ended and the lion and the badger came over to either side of Sabrina and eased her out of it, the lioness reaching inside and gathering her large tail to release it so Sabrina could come completely free and stand on her own two feet again.
“Like Rhonda said,” she repeated to Sabrina, “Nothing to worry about!”
The bear came around behind Sabrina with a clean brush and immediately began brushing her down to clean off what was left of the talcum powder. “Take a look,” he said to her.
Sabrina looked. There was a perfect plastic mold of her back and her backside, from her shoulders to mid-thigh, the dimples from the bobby-pins around her tail even showed in the sides.
“Didn’t I tell you it was something else?” Rhonda said more than she asked.
Sabrina saw it and grinned. “It was, you were right about that,” she said with her arms out to give the bear better access to his brush. “What happens now?”
“I go,” said the lioness. “They took longer talking me into it, I wanted to see someone else try it for the first time before I did.”
“Sure you won’t have lunch with us?” Rhonda asked.
“I’d love to,” she said, and she meant it too, “I’m hoping to have lunch with one of my friends, she wants me to try sushi again at The Raw Fish.”
“That’s where we’re going!” Rhonda said suddenly. “Why not call her and we’ll all go together.”
Unconsciously Sabrina rubbed a paw over her backside as her skin got used to being free again. “Okay,” she said finally, “I’ll see if she wants to.” She gathered up her overstuffed envelope and walked to the studio doors, everyone smiling and waving to her until the door closed.
“Wow, that sure took long enough,” Wanda said with a sigh.
Rhonda nodded. “But worth it, thanks guys.” She turned to the bear. “Now, you’re sure you can have this for us before Christmas Eve, right?”
December, 1999, Present Day
Chris shut off the engine, making sure the wipers stopped in the up-position on the windshield so they wouldn’t freeze down if the temperature dropped down too far. The light snow was nothing to be concerned about, this was western Pennsylvania after all, and the winters have been known to have their moments.
“Nuts,” he said, noticing the light from the kitchen windows meant that’s where Sabrina was … “Probably cooking,” he tried not to lament. Selecting the front door key, he walked to the front door and let himself in, stashing the bags with the Christmas gifts he bought for Sabrina behind some boxes and carried in the few bags she could see into the house.
Chris sniffed the air. Sabrina was cooking. It smells … edible!
“Is that you, Chris?” Sabrina called from the kitchen.
“Who else were you expecting?” Chris called back as he walked through to the kitchen.
“The milkman,” Sabrina teased as she took the plastic gloves off and threw them away. “I’m having an affair with him.”
Chris walked up to her. “Why are you having an affair with the milkman when we owe the butcher such a big bill?” Taking her in his arms he dipped her and gave her a big ol’ kiss straight on the mouth before returning her to her original upright position.
“Wow!” Sabrina exclaimed, “What was that for?”
“Just making sure you know I love you.” Chris walked over to the stovetop … and looked down and paid his final respects to the preformed lump of ground meat drowning in the skillet.
“Uhm … ”
“I thought we’d have tacos tonight,” Sabrina said, turning her back and pointing to the open yellow box on the counter.
“Uh-huh … ” Chris was still staring into the skillet. I’m sure you thought that when you started … “I, uh, I think it’s surrendered.”
Sabrina walked over and looked. “Wow, it always does that,” she said, poking at it with a fork.
“This is where you’re supposed to drain it, right?”
“Don’t have to,” Sabrina replied while walking over to the refrigerator. She moved things around looking for the lettuce and the shredded cheese. “It goes away on its own after a while.”
Chris looked down at the bubbling ocean of grease and rolled his eyes. “But you do break it up.”
“It’s supposed to fall apart on its own. Remember all the fracture lines on it when we bought it?”
“I think those were just how the ground meat came out of the machine. Did you defrost it first in the microwave?”
“Oh, that thing never works right,” Sabrina said closing the fridge door and carrying her stuff to the counter. “It always cooks the meat and melts the plastic and Styrofoam tray.”
Oy gevalt. “… Do you mind if I do drain this?” he begged, then tried to think of how not to hurt Sabrina’s feelings. “I remember my mom doing that whenever she made tacos.”
Sabrina shrugged and started tearing lettuce. “Sure, if you want to,” she replied back.
I must have the only stove that flushes. Chris fished around the kitchen and found a bowl and … Sabrina called it a “colander” -- and carefully poured the grease through the one into the other, the lump of meat hitting the inside of the colander with a thud.
Sabrina turned her head around quickly. “Don’t pick up the meat without cooking gloves!” she warned him.
Chris set the skillet back on the burner and turned the heat way down after noticing the darker harder brown of the side of the meat that was in contact with it for so long. “I think hot meat and stray fur hair are the least of our worries,” Chris retorted. He slowly tipped the colander and let the meat fall back in, picking up the wooden spurtle he poked at it to break up the clump, meeting a hard center as the outer layers fell away and sizzled.
“Kitten? The center of this meat it’s, well, kinda frozen solid.”
“Oh, it’ll defrost as it cooks.” Then, “So how went the shopping? Find anything for Stacy?”
Chris shook his head. “Nothing I can imagine getting her after Dexter’s talk on what to get girls for gifts and what not to get them. I’m lousy at buying for girls, why couldn’t I have just gotten Dex’s name? Him I know what to get. You know in seven years he got my name once and I’ve never gotten his?”
“Is Stacy married?” Sabrina asked. “Maybe something domestic.”
“I was cautioned away from domestic stuff,” he explained. “Unless he meant just not to buy domestic stuff for wives and girlfriends.” After a thought, he said, “I saw slow-cookers for around ten bucks, maybe I’ll pick her up one of those.” I can give her the one I originally bought to give you.
“There’s a thought. I’m giving Marci a candle jar, any time I go past her desk I see she has one lit.”
“See?” Chris asked. “That’s why Secret Santa should be segregated, girls buy for girls and guys buy for guys.”
Sabrina giggled and placed the lettuce on a cutting board.
“What have you gotten Zig Zag?”
Sabrina paused. “I have no idea what to get her,” she said and started cutting. “See, it doesn’t always work out like you say. I mean, what do you get for a porn star who’s in the business of selling the stuff you’d give her?”
Sabrina put a balled paw on her hip and gave that look.
“How about a candle jar?” Chris said half-seriously.
“I don’t know if she’s into those or not.” She turned back and sliced away, then scooped up enough lettuce for the two of them with both paws and dropped it into a bowl sitting next to her. “I mean, I’m thinking mundane, clothes or candles or as you call it, ‘domestic stuff’.”
Chris turned the meat over and pulled away more cooked meat with a fork. “Maybe she’d like domestic.”
Sabrina shook her head. “I doubt it. Besides I’ve been to her house, I can’t think of a thing she’d need.”
Sabrina thought for a moment. “You know, I can’t ever remember her wearing any,” she said. “I don’t even know if her ears are pierced or not.”
“Or how many times if they are,” Chris said with a snicker.
“Heh, yeah.” Sabrina laughed back.
“How about a magazine gift subscription?”
Sabrina turned and gave Chris a weird look. He shrugged. “Jelly-of-the-month club?”
“Now you’re just being silly.” Sabrina sighed. “The Clique’s easy, we’re all women, why should Zig Zag be so difficult?”
Chris pondered. “Because you’re making it difficult?” he offered.
“You’re no help.” Sabrina started rewrapping the lettuce as Chris attempted to rescue the ground beef. “And if she gives gifts, who knows what she’ll have in mind!
Chris thought about that …
“Stop grinning,” Sabrina said with her back still turned to him
Slowly releasing each others’ paws, Chris and Sabrina went their separate ways. Waving his fob over the receiver, the door unlocked and Chris walked into what they were now calling the IS Department. “Data Processing” now gave way to “Information Services”. Much as Chris remembers coming on as a “Sysop”, soon becoming “Net-Admin”, and now “LAN Administrator”, as times changed and people came up with new words to desc -- “Oooo, cookies!”
Chris snitched a Christmas tree-shaped cookie colored between the cookie-cutter garland with green sugar and munched it on his way back to his cubicle. “God, I love this time of year,” he said, “Someone always brings something to eat.”
The cube across from him was empty, Chris left his wrapped gift on Stacy’s desk and slid into his own, to find whoever had gleaned his name from the pool had already been there.
Actually there were two gifts, one from his Secret Santa and one from Strongarm. Last year they spared no expense and had given everyone what Chris could only decide was a triangular quilted shawl seat cover thing with “Merry Christmas 1998 Strongarm Group” embroidered on one side. Chris’ was still packed away in the back of his bedroom closet. This year it was something a little more useful, a black leatherette underarm carry case with “Strongarm Group Merry Christmas 1999” in gold embossing in the lower-right-paw corner.
Setting the case onto the desk surface on the other side of his monitor, he picked up the small wrapped package adorned with drawings of Santa Claus. Shaking it, it made a rhythmic clacking sound. Taking his time he turned it over and used a clawtip to pick away the Scotch tape on the ends, and unwrapped a small 1/4” socket set.
But unless his Secret Santa made himself or herself known, he’d never know whom to thank.
Upstairs, Wendy opened her gift from her unknown giver. She smiled, inside she found a small white box and upon opening it found a pair of Christmas pierced earrings, each with a little red-nosed reindeer that dangled inside a hollow snowflake. Almost immediately she removed her own loop earrings and put these on. “Have to wear these to the party, too,” she said.
Over by the managers’ and Vee-Pees’ office suite in the three-fur secretarial pool, Marci opened her gift, a coffee mug warmer. “Something I can definitely use,” she said. Unboxing it she removed the twisty-tie from the electric cord and climbed underneath her desk to plug it into her power strip. She intended to test it immediately.
Downstairs Stacy unwrapped hers. “I don’t know whether to use this here,” she said, “or at home. I’ve wanted one of these for a long time to soften the wax leftovers from my scented candles so they don’t go to waste.”
Over in another area, Sabrina picked up the rectangular package and peeled the gold and red paper away. She felt a little guilty, the paper looked expensive. Opening the ebony box inside her mouth formed an “Ooo” as she removed a silver decorative choker. She’d seen similar ones in department stores so she knew it wasn’t as expensive as it looked. What also caught her eye was the engraved S on the center oval. “Chris? No, I don’t think so … who though?” She held it in her paw, trying to decide whether to put it on or not. She traced a fingertip over the S, then made up her mind, she placed the oval over her throat and clipped the clasp behind her neck. Opening her purse she took out the small mirror from her brush kit and admired how it shimmered.
The dining area Strongarm had booked for the Christmas party was a huge expanse of tables, chairs, food and furs. The dance hall was attached via a collapsible door to a very large room, enough for at least 200 furs at once, and tonight it was going to need it.
Nearly everyone had a cocktail or drink in one paw and a small plastic plate and party napkin in the other filled with hors d'oeuvres of some type. Sabrina was amazed at the amount of food, and this was just the starters! Marci was right though, the stuffed mushrooms were to die for. The white wine complimented it nicely, the only thing was the stuffing and the butter they’d been sautéed in made her thirstier, and soon she found herself with a second glass of wine.
Chris was talking to the ferret twins from accounting holding his own plate and a gin and tonic, smiling and trying to see if he could squeeze a few more dollars out of them for his next paycheck. So far all he had managed to do was to get stuck in a long and very boring conversation with them about the latest tax law and how comic books aren’t like they were when they were young. Chris was wondering to himself if the drink he held in his paws was strong enough to melt them when he found his escape.
Sabrina found name card at her place on the table. Someone had suggested placing everyone by department, that idea didn’t last long when someone else had mentioned people in their departments see enough of each other every day, and instead gave the option to sit with certain furs if they cared to. Sabrina was next to Chris and on her left was Dexter. She looked at her place setting and raised an eyebrow; she had three different forks, four different knives, one being a serrated steak knife, and three different spoons, soup, tea, and dessert. This wasn’t the problem though, they were on the wrong side of the plate for her. For some reason, and her parents had tried to stop her, she always ate opposite from everyone else.
Chris took his leave and quickly made his way over to Sabrina and sat down. “I know I’ve said it before but that dress makes your,” he motioned to his chest, “well you know, huge!”
“I love you too, Chris,” she said, poking her tongue out. “Why is it only fancy restaurants have this cutlery? I don’t think we have this many in the house!”
“I don’t know. Maybe they like to show off and make us feel like we need to buy more. That’s it, it’s a conspiracy, the hotels are in with the silverware industry.” After a sip from his water glass he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “You know you look wonderful, don’t you?”
Sabrina loved hearing his compliments, but her own self-consciousness always got in the way. “I guess,” she admitted, “I like hearing it from you, though.” She was about to kiss him back when Dexter and Angel walked over.
“I think we’ll need to sit away from you two.” As they laughed Chris and Sabrina stood and they all hugged each other.
“Angel, it’s been months!” Sabrina said. Then remembering, she pulled back and looked. “You’re not showing yet.”
Angel shook her head. “No, that’ll be a while still,” she said. “Thank God. Trust me, if and when you guys ever decide to have kids, try not to be pregnant in the summertime. It’s murder!”
“Would you look at all this silverware,” Dexter exclaimed. “Only Angel’s mother did this when they ate.”
“See!” Sabrina said. “At least Dexter knows!” She turned to the Collies and started to talk about cutlery and how the Amiga was doing when she remembered what she brought with her. “I was going to give the boys this when I next visited but I couldn’t wait; just say ‘Auntie Sabrina’ sends her love.”
“Gifts before Christmas?” Dexter said. “The boys will love you, Sabrina.” He was given a box about the size of a ream of paper, it was an Amiga game.
“This was one of the first games I played when I was a girl; it nearly made me fail my finals, I was up all night playing it.”
Dexter looked at the front, on it was a wolf carrying a sword and a huge skull in the middle. “The Secret of Monkey Island … ”
“Yup; don’t worry it’s not scary, it’s very funny. It’s got everything the boys will love in it: pirates, jokes, ghosts … ” She lowered her voice. “And cannibals.”
“Cannibals?” Angel repeated with a hint of motherly concern in her voice.
“Oh don’t worry, they’re vegetarian!” Sabrina stopped. “Yeah, that’s the kind of game this is. And it will make the boys think too, it’s a puzzle game.”
“Merry Christmas, Dex.” Chris said winking. “She’s corrupting your children and I didn’t think I would be able to do it at least till they were 18!” And he grinned wide.
“I think I really do need to sit away from you two.” Angel repeating Dexter’s earlier joke. Then she smiled. “You are going to make a very happy married couple, you know that? I’m glad you’re our friends.”
It was then Windy came into the hall, and as she did every male and a few female heads turned. She was wearing a gold and red corset that attached itself to a mid-length skirt, making her look like Lena Horne accentuating the positive.
“Well, there goes the neighborhood.” Dexter nodded in the direction that the jaws were hitting the floor.
Chris and Sabrina both looked, then looked at each other and back at her. “You think she does this without thinking?” Chris asked while trying not to drool over his fiancée.
“You should see Sheila in something like that, you wouldn’t be able to walk for days,” Sabrina said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“You think I could have a picture?”
He got a slight elbow in the side from Sabrina. Then, “Maybe for Christmas.”
Chris hoped she wasn’t joking!
Looking across the room, the hot vixen accountant saw her friends at their table. She’d put her name in to sit with them, I hope they managed to do it for me! Wendy stopped at the bar and got a large merlot before mingling her way over to the table. She smiled and nodded and greeted friends and associates; some gaping at her cleavage, some merely nodding with pursed lips who couldn’t believe someone would wear that to a company Christmas party.
Wendy sauntered over and greeted all with a wide smiling, “Hey everybody, how are you?” Casually she glanced at the table and spied her name card. Chris followed Dexter’s lead and stood to greet her.
“Good,” came Dexter’s neutral reply. There was just something about her he didn’t like; sure she was nice, very nice, but he knew she had her own motives. “Angel, this is Wendy Vixxen, Wendy, my wife Angel.”
“How do you do,” Wendy said, shaking paws and exchanging pleasantries with Angel. “I heard the good news, congratulations!”
“Thank you!” Angel replied. She was exactly the opposite of her husband, greeting Wendy with a warm pawclasp and a wide smile, the way she greeted everybody. “Oh, I like your earrings!”
Wendy brought a paw up to one and touched it from behind. “Thank you,” she replied. “My Secret Santa gave them to me, they’re really pretty.
“Hey, ‘brina, hey Chris -- oh, there’s my card!” She pulled out her chair between Angel and Chris, instinctively Chris placed a paw on it and held it for her before he and Dexter sat down. “How’re you guys this evening?”
“Very well, thank you Wendy,” was Sabrina’s warm reply.
“Great, you sexy thing,” was Chris answering more out of reflex than from wanting to. Suddenly clearing his throat as Sabrina cocked her elbow again, he quickly followed with, “ -- ahem -- that’s a nice dress your wearing tonight.”
Almost wearing, Sabrina thought in unison with Dexter and Angel.
“Thank you Chris, though I’m regretting wearing it now. I didn’t know the nerds from my department would be so … ” she didn’t quite know how to finish the sentence though everyone at the table knew what she meant.
“ … stuck up,” Chris finished her sentence for her. “I never met a bigger bunch of prudes than half the accounting department.”
“Payroll,” Dexter corrected.
Chris waved a paw. “Eh, I dunno, they just have no sense of humor. Try to make conversation sometime.”
“Oh, tell me about it!” Wendy agreed. “I have to work with those people. It looks like maybe two or three of them even bothered to show up. The twins, they were a given.”
Wendy’s outgoing personality began drawing everyone out, even Dexter, and they chatted and kidded freely up until the salads came. and went in a flurry of eating. A waiter came up to fill the table’s water glasses and offering coffee or tea. As people ate a leopard arrived with wine, something Strongarm decided to try for the first time ever. Wendy, seeing Sabrina about to accept some dry white wine, stopped her.
“Oh, you could have the wine,’ she said teasingly, “But I think having ‘Sex on the beach’ would be better, don’t you?”
Hearing this and seeing his fiancée with a half-shocked, half-terrified face made him shoot one of the last remaining chickpeas from his fork as he laughed, it hit Stacy’s glass at the next table with a ping. “It’s okay Sabrina, it’s a drink!” he assured her.
“Well, of course it’s a drink,” Sabrina covered herself, “What do you think I am, Chris, naïve??”
“Well I am,” Angel said, “What’s in it?”
“Vodka,” Wendy ticked off each ingredient with a tap of her finger on the table as she remembered, “Peach schnapps, cranberry and orange juices, want one?”
“Thanks,” Angel said, pointing to her tummy. “But pregnant, can’t have anything good like that.”
“Oh dear, I forgot, I’m sorry!” Then, turning her head, “Sabrina?”
Sabrina was about to turn her down, but then changed her mind. “Why not? It’s a party, right?”
“She can have mine,” Angel grinned over a mouthful of endive and vinaigrette.
Wendy got up. “Won’t be long,” she assured everyone, slipping a surreptitious wink at Chris as she walked away. Soon she returned with two plastic cocktail glasses and set one in front of Sabrina before sitting back in her seat.
“Merry Christmas,” Wendy said and took a sip.
Sabrina lifted her glass and took a sip, feeling her fur curl backwards. “Wow,” she exclaimed, “that’s a strong drink. Good, but strong.”
“Keep ‘em comin’,” Chris said.
“Hush, you,” Sabrina said back and took another sip. Wendy watched over her glass, she was getting the impression her former boyfriend’s fiancée wasn’t much of a drinker.
That was when Dexter introduced shop talk, engaging Chris in what they were there to get away from, work. This gave the ladies a chance to chatter and don’t ask how, but two separate conversations flowed easily across the same tabletop.
As they chatted the main course was served; Sabrina, Wendy, and Dexter had the stuffed chicken, Angel and Chris had the pork-turkeys. And with their conversations overlapping as they did, it went rather the same way as the salad … quickly.
Dessert was served, something they’d called a lemon roulade. It was an indulgent dessert, something Sabrina could never see herself making at home, much to Chris’ delight.
During dessert the corporate brass stood and made their welcomes to the party, saying how nice it was for everyone to turn out the way they had, seeing new faces, talking about how well Strongarm did this year, and a number of other things no one was listening to with the exception of some recognitions they handed out, along with some door prizes as they drew names out of a hat.
That was the sacrifice the employees had to make for a free dinner, dancing, and open bar. After a final round of half-hearted applause the lights lowered as music began to flow from the disc jockey in the connecting room.
“Always hate a good conversation about work being interrupted at a party,” Chris said.
Slowly some couples and as the evening wore on, some single females, found their way to the dance floor. Wendy dabbed the last crumbs of her rich dessert from her muzzle. She watched co-workers migrate toward the colored flashing lights and music. She’d eventually find her way there herself. If only she had a date of her own, if only her boyfriend she cared for hadn’t turned out to be such a jealous ass … “Excuse me again, please,” she said and slid out of her seat and toward the ladies’ room.
“Angel,” Dexter asked, “Would you care to dance?”
Angel smiled. “That’s the real reason I came,” she told him. They stood and, taking each others’ paw, waved to Chris and Sabrina and walked toward the dance floor.
“That’s something else we need to do tonight,” Chris said, drinking down the last of his gin and tonic and placing a paw on the table, ready to stand and lead Sabrina after them.
“Sabrina!” Jim was making his rounds and came over to shake paws with both of them, and began asking Sabrina how she was enjoying herself, how glad he was she could make it … Chris waited patiently as they talked, and talked, trying not to appear irritated; this was his boss after all, and the one who helped get Sabrina hired at Strongarm.
Wendy came back from the bathroom. She looked over the crowd of furs chatting and dancing and milling about … she began to miss her boyfriend. Her ex-boyfriend. Not a lot, but she would have loved to have an escort. Parties like this are important for rubbing elbows with others, particularly higher-ups, but they’re no fun on your own.
She saw Chris stretched over talking to another table and Sabrina waving goodbye to Jim. Wendy sighed, she needed an ear, an understanding ear if she could get one.
“Can we talk?” Wendy put her paw on Sabrina’s shoulder.
Sabrina took a drink of her dessert wine and smiled. “Sure, I guess so.” She pushed her chair back and set her wine glass next to her third Sex on the Beach. “Lead on.” She kissed Chris quickly, “Won’t be long and we can have that dance you have been desperate for.” Chris opened his mouth but he knew better than to say anything when two females talking was involved.
Seeing Sabrina and Wendy leave Chris to his wine and his own devices, Stacy decided to get up and fill the void the two women in his life left for a while. “Well Chris, just you and me, come on I want to dance!” she fluttered her eyes at him.
“I don’t know … ” Chris started.
“Oh please, Chris. I try and talk to you all day and all you have done lately to me is shoot chickpeas at me!” She pulled him up and out of his seat.
Outside the ballroom there was an arboretum that was dimly lit, no one around interested in using it. There was a windy walkway with a grassy area shielded behind a row of miniature evergreen trees with tiny colored lights, this is where Wendy and Sabrina found themselves on a park-type bench, talking about her moving and how she was growing accustomed to Pittsburgh and the Butler regions.
“Although this is nice,” Sabrina started, “I hardly think you wanted to talk about me this whole time.”
Wendy sighed, “No.” Another sigh. “I just wanted to talk to someone, you’re probably one of my only friends around here and even that’s because of Chris.”
Sabrina didn’t want to say yes to her but she was right; if it wasn’t for knowing women like Zig Zag and the connection she had with Chris, she wouldn’t have really wanted to know her. But the way she said what she said, it sounded so sad. “It’s not like that Wendy,” Sabrina assured her. “I do call you a friend, of course I do.”
Thankfully she was spared saying more by Wendy carrying on her story. “I was young and foolish when I left everything behind. I’ve been running ever since. I thought that when I finally got this job I would be able to find a nice guy and even settle down, but no matter what do I do I end up with the same idiot guys who just want me for these.” She grabbed at her chest.
Sabrina listened, something she was always good at doing. “I could help you find someone if you would like.” Sabrina stroked her arm slightly. She wasn’t sure what she could do, she really didn’t know many males in the area, certainly no single ones, but it seemed to be the right thing for her to say.
Wendy couldn’t stifle a “Heh” while shaking her head and looking between her feet. “Well if you want an impossible task then you have it!” She sighed again. “I started to get things back before … before I left the best life I ever knew. I went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving.”
Sabrina looked at the ground, thinking about her own family, for a second thinking even with all the annoying things they do to her, could she have just left and not said goodbye?
“I treated them like trash I know that,” Wendy went on, her eyes moistening. She sniffled. “When I was standing in their front doorway all I had was images of him chasing me away and never wanting me to come back. When he saw me and put his arms around me, I was home again with my dad. How was it after all I put them through he still loved me!”
Sabrina sniffled and gave a little weak laugh. “That’s what parents do,” she said, searching for words. “They don’t give up, and they keep their love for their children.”
Wendy bit her lip on the verge of total breakdown. “Please,” she asked, almost begged, “for a little while, please hold me.”
Sabrina opened up her arms and Wendy fell into them and started to sob. Not the way she meant to be at such a wonderful party, but she couldn’t help herself.
“Don’t worry Wendy,” Sabrina cooed and hugged her. “It’s okay now … ” She felt her head nod lightly in her shoulder.
Sabrina just held the vixen, rocking her slightly, her empathy bringing tears to her eyes as well.
They held each other for a while, just holding and hugging, after which Sabrina felt Wendy’s lips against her cheek. A sudden wash of embarrassment hit her. She felt Wendy’s paw run up the side of her dress. Sabrina finally pulled back when she felt Wendy put more effort into it.
“Please Wendy, I have already pushed myself to the limit.” While Sabrina was used to advances from her same sex, particularly her tiger-striped boss, Wendy lacked the imposing force Zig Zag used. “I’m sorry. I feel for you, I really do, and I will do anything in my power to help you. But I won’t put my relationship on the line for anyone.” She stopped, she saw understanding in Wendy’s eyes. Not lust, it’s possible she was acting purely out of instinct. “I’m sorry.” She got up to go.
Wendy nodded, and sniffled again. “It’s okay Sabrina, I understand. I guess my better judgment went out of reach, I’m so sorry.” She slowly got up too; some parts of her more excited than others and she had to do her best to hide them. “Thank you, thank you for the most romantic situation I’ve had in many years.” She said that sincerely, but with a hint of humor to try to relieve some of the uneasy tension she knew Sabrina was feeling now, and realizing the cocktails she’d asked to be mixed a little stronger didn’t give her any real advantage. She slowed to Sabrina’s pace. “Don’t worry, this never happened and I know it won’t again.” And with that sentence, months of fantasies and her heart broke. But at least a little bit of fantasy came true.
“That’s good to know,” Sabrina said. She couldn’t help, though, feeling just a little guilty. “I just don’t want you to think I’m leading you on to other things.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that Sabrina. I’m glad we were able to share that little moment.” She stopped her a few feet from the door. “Are we still friends?”
Sabrina, being Sabrina, smiled a tight smile. “Of course we are,” she said. And she let Wendy give her a hug, a proper one this time.
“Let me buy you a drink, you just have to try one I can’t tell you the name of until you decide if you like it or not.”
After Sabrina’s reaction to her advances, Wendy couldn’t bring herself to tell her what the drink was called.
“Okay, but only one. I’ve had way over my limit already. I’m just glad we’re able to come in late tomorrow!” She smiled at Wendy, and Wendy smiled warmly at Sabrina, and they went inside.
Sabrina stood next to the dance floor watching Chris get pulled around by one of the women from his department. Every time he looked at her he opened his mouth begging Sabrina to intervene, and every time she would raise her glass with Wendy and blow kisses to him, a little weak-kneed, and not realizing that Wendy’s limit higher than hers and didn’t take the shoulder rubbing as personally as Wendy may have meant it.
She turned to Wendy but she was trotting over to the DJ, she asked something of him and he nodded, then she turned back to Sabrina and pointed to her to dance.
She came over and pulled Sabrina out onto the floor. “This song will show there are no hard feelings.” She curtsied and put her paws on Sabrina’s hips. “After this dance you and Chris can do it ‘till daybreak … dance that is.”
Sabrina shook her head laughing, the alcohol making her laugh a little freer than it might’ve been otherwise. “I think I’d better. Chris may run off with Stacy if I’m not careful.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen somehow, I can hear him screaming.”
It was when I’m Not in Love started to play that Sabrina realized this is what she meant.
“I used to play this song to myself trying to imagine Chris singing it to me, telling me what I did was right. Boy, did I screw up.” She held Sabrina tighter again as the song went on.
As it ended she danced Sabrina near Chris, wanting to tell him that this was their song, but all she could do was give Sabrina’s paw to him as if in some symbolic irony.
“Welcome back, Kitten,” Chris said and took her close to him. “I didn’t think I was going to see you at all tonight!”
Sabrina held on to him and kissed him deeply, for a long time. Long enough for Chris to taste the alcohol on her breath and pick up Windy’s scent, making his brain draw conclusions of its own.
“It’s good to be back,” Sabrina said simply.
They danced the rest of the night together completely losing themselves in each other.
Windy thought telling someone about her reflection of her life was going to make her feel better. She felt something, both kindred and romantic affections for her replacement. She just shook her head, contemplating an early departure from the party she had so looked forward to attending all month.
Wendy looked up. She didn’t recognize him, he was a grey wolf with an athletic build and impeccable taste in clothing.
“I’m Brad, I’m new here. And I understand you’re on your own tonight, and I’m on my own tonight, and … would you like to dance with me?”
Wendy looked the wolf over, his tail swinging back and forth. She couldn’t help it, she smiled back while her body decided to swish hers back and forth as well.
“I’d love to.”
With that Brad placed a paw on her back and led her to an open spot as one of the faster songs started.
Back at the table, Angel leaned in to her husband and circled her arm around his. “That was a really nice thing you did for her,” she told him.
Dexter covered her paw with his. “She’s not really a bad person,” he said. “Just lonely.” He crossed his arms. “Besides, what’s a good Secret Santa for?”
“Oh I can’t wait to get to the sofa, my feet are killing me!” Chris opened the door and helped the worse for wear Sabrina into the house.
“Not to mention your head, Kitten, trying to keep up with Windy drinking is not a good idea; she sure made an art out of it.” He was surprised himself at that. If she hadn’t been with someone after she’d given Sabrina back, he’d have called her apartment to make sure she got home alright.
“I wasn’t trying to keep up with her,” Sabrina defended herself and tried to keep her stomach from making those noises. “She just brought them over and I didn’t have the heart to say no.”
“And your expression when she told you the name of that drink … ”
Sabrina remembered. “I know! Who on Earth names a drink a Screaming Orgasm! And after … ” She rubbed her head and sat down. “I need a coffee.”
“That and you were having the time of your life tonight, hey it’s a good thing! After all the work you did this month, having a few drinks and letting your hair down is just what you needed.”
“I know,” Sabrina agreed, “but what she told me was pretty heavy, didn’t you know she went to visit her parents for Thanksgiving?”
Chris heard what she said but didn’t answer, it was certainly news to him; he pondered the facts as he manufactured a half pot of coffee, after it had finished he poured some into two mugs, fixed his the way he liked it and sweetened Sabrina’s, and took them to the living room.
“Did you hear what I said? Oh thanks, Chris I need this!”
“Yup, sure did, Kitten.” Chris sat on the cushion beside Sabrina. “That must have been one heck of an encounter. I haven’t spoken to Daniel and Emma for years. Sure, after Wendy left we kept contact for a few months but after that we drifted without the common link. I wonder why now she decided to try and patch things up.” He shook his head in wonder as he gulped another mouthful.
Sabrina hated when he drank hot coffee like that. “Oh Chris, please don’t do that with your coffee, it puts my teeth on edge!” She took a quiet sip of hers. “Going back to Wendy, well, she has come to the conclusion she was wrong to leave when she did, it didn’t help her to achieve whatever she wanted at the time; she wants to settle down and be safe.”
“I can sympathize,” Chris said in agreement. “I guess everyone needs someone.”
Sabrina looked at the floor again. “I need you, Chris.”
“I need you too, Kitten,” he put his arm around her and squeezed her tight. “And I ain’t never lettin’ you go.” He took her cup and set it on the coffee table. “C’mon, let’s get to bed, I’m too tired to sneeze!”
Sabrina put a paw on his leg. “Oh that’s a shame.” She looked up at him with her big blue eyes. “Because I have a lot of dancing energy to use up.” She winked at him, “And I don’t feel like using my feet at the moment.”
End of Chapter 53
This way to Chapter 54