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A small dark road lies lonely between two towering houses. It is seldom used, if at all, by vehicles. A few alley cats, perhaps, use it as a passage from one side to the other, but even then, rarely.
A cold, pale, sickly moon hangs high in the starry night, shining into the frosty air. Barely a sound is heard, for the wind is dead. Only a constant rushing in the background, the cars from the far off highway.
The air, though still, is heavy and full expectancy, of potential.
A lone figure appears through some nearby bushes, trotting towards the dark road at a steady pace. As it comes to the shadow of the road, it stops and sits down, golden eyes taking everything in. A bushy red tail curls around slender legs, twitching slightly at every sound. A pointed muzzle raises towards the sky, sniffing the icy air for answers. Around the neck hangs a thin silver chain, and at the end is a small, golden cross.
The figure surveys the land before it. Houses loom above, too close together and far too noisy. Ears twitching, the figure hears the sounds of sleep and the muffled growls of common house dogs.
The figures’ lip curls in distain at the thought of those yapping, mocking replicas of the real thing. They gave their freedom away long ago, the foolish things. They had no real place anymore, except as slaves to a more dominant race.
The houses are lit with lights for that specific time of year, although the fiery red figure can’t quite remember why. Giving a sound that is similar to a sigh, the figure stands again and trots towards the rats nest of houses, eyes focused only on one.
I was washing the dishes that were left over from dinner. I stood in our cozy, warm kitchen, full and ready to sleep. But I had to finish doing the dishes. I also had a pile of math and chemistry homework waiting for me in my room after.
Scrubbing diligently at a particularly stubborn pot, I suddenly thought I heard a noise, rather like scratching. I fell still and listened closely. But I heard nothing.
“Crevana!” My mother said as she came into the kitchen, carrying another plate and a cup. She smiled warmly as I took them from her.
She looked nothing like me, of course. My long hair was bright red and her short hair was pitch black. I was short and rail thin, while she was tall and comfortably plump. I had eyes the color of a wild forest, while hers were as blue as a summer sky.
“I have a present for you in the dining room.” She said, looking excited. “I can finish those.”
I dried my hands on a towel and followed her into the adjoining dining room, where the small table stood, surrounded by chairs. I sat down in my usual chair and she sat down across from me, pulling out a box.
“Do you know what today is?” She asked, still beaming at me. I frowned a little, not quite sure what she meant.
“Um…I don’t think so…it’s not my birthday…” I said, thinking. She laughed a little and said “Not quite your birthday, but close, honey.”
And suddenly I knew and suddenly I wasn’t so sure I wanted to get a present. But before I could come up with an excuse to leave, she said “It’s been an entire year since I adopted you!”
I smiled with her but I didn’t feel it. A year ago, this had seemed like a brilliant idea. To have a mother and go to school and learn all sorts of things…but…I missed something.
“Well, open it up.” My mother said, tucking back some of her hair behind her ear. She did that whenever she was nervous, and I knew she was waiting for me to react to the gift. So, with pale, slender fingers, I pulled away at the bright ribbon and pull off the lid.
It’s a necklace. The chain was thin and shone like moonlight. At the end of it was a miniature heart, the same color as the chain. The heart had a hinge on it and I opened it up. Inside were two pictures; on of myself, and one of my parents. Adoptive parents, I should say.
“I know you don’t really wear any jewelry, but I see you wearing that other necklace, so I thought you’d like something new. Something to commemorate this occasion.”
Almost sub consciously, I touched the necklace I was wearing. It wasn’t anything fancy. Actually, the cross pendant was a dull golden color, faded and worn. The chain had been replaced many times as well. But I loved that necklace. It was the only thing that was with me all the time.
“Wow, mom. Thanks. It’s really…shiny.” I said, for lack of something better to say. It wasn’t awful, of course. It was just a little…I don’t know, but I really never did wear any jewelry. My cross necklace didn’t count. That was a part of my past and all of what I was and am.
Mom reached over and gave me a big hug. I smiled and again said something nice about the necklace, and then I put it on. She seemed so pleased as she went to go finish the rest of the dishes.
A little while later, holed away in my small room, I tried to work on my homework, but soon found it impossible. The words kept mixing up and made no sense, so I finally quit. Turning off the light, I sat in the darkness, staring out my open window.
It was a chilly, cloudless night. Christmas lights shone from the house across the street, blinking in an excited manner. Listening closely, I could hear the sounds of the night in full blast: cars on the highway, sirens going off, TV’s and radios chattering about nothing. And there were so many lights around, even though it was getting late. I looked up and tried to see some stars, but it was difficult, even though we were barely at the edge of the big city.
A slight breeze wafted into my small room and spoke of times past. I sniffed the air and sighed. I remember what it was like, outside all the time, in the forests…the lovely forests…
No. I couldn't think about the past. I had been here for a year now. This was what I had decided and this is what my life would be like, from now on.
At least, that was what I kept telling myself. But no matter how much I did, I’d been feeling more and more restless lately. I kept having moments where I’d almost remember something, but then the memory would flit away as soon as I tried to grasp it. Something still wasn’t right, even though I’d been living here, with this family, for a year now.
The family was great, really. I loved them and they loved me. Yet I knew that something wasn’t right and that things were bound to change soon.
Lost in such thoughts, sitting perfectly still in front of my window, I didn’t hear him until he spoke.
“Has it been worth it?” He asked in his low, gravelly voice.
I nearly jumped out of my skin, a thousand and one emotions dancing and screaming to me at once. Trying to remain calm, I looked through the screen and saw him standing on our lawn, nearly hidden by a tall bush. He was tall and strong looking. His hair mirrored my own in color, though it was shorter, of course. As I looked closer, I caught sight of his familiar eyes, glinting in the light.
Golden, like the sun, betraying nothing that happened within.
“Tokala.” I whispered and then smiled, despite myself.
He slunk towards the window, until he was only inches away from me. “So you still remember my name. And are you still Crevana? Or did your human family change that too?”
My lips curled and I frowned at him. “I’m still myself, Tokala. They never changed anything.”
“That’s a pretty necklace. Is it like the collars worn by those pampered house dogs?” He said, sneering at me.
I tore through the screen and lunged at him. We fell onto the frosted grass and wrestled for a moment. Finally, he pinned me to the ground, laughing softly. “You still lose, just like normal.”
Torn between the desire to punch him and the desire to kiss him, I said “So I haven’t changed. And I still wear my other necklace.”
He helped me sit up and then looked at me for awhile. I gazed back at him, not flinching. A silent power struggle raged, and also a struggle of pride. Finally realizing that he wouldn’t bend, I said “I’ve missed you.”
Smiling, he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a long kiss. I kissed him back, so relieved that nothing had happened to him.
Pulling away, he said “Will you come back now?”
I sighed, pulling my knees up close to myself. “I…they need me, Tok.”
He growled. “No, you just think they do. They don’t actually…I need you, Crev.”
“So you’ve missed me too?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. He nodded. “Of course I have.”
I thought about what going back would mean. It meant that I could go back to where I belonged, away from the awful city, from the stench and the crowds and the….the humans.
As if reading my thoughts, Tokala said “You don’t belong with the humans. You belong in the wild forests. With the others. With me.”
“The others are still alive?” I asked, stalling. He nodded. “Of course.”
“There have been hunts recently, that’s all.” I said, still thinking. My mind was a mess of whirling thoughts and emotions. Trying to make sense of them, I thought of my old home and was hit with an intense need to go back. To go back and stay there forever.
Touching the new necklace, I thought about my mother, sleeping upstairs in the house. I thought about how happy she had been when she gave it to me. I thought about what the necklace meant.
Tokala was gazing at me intently. “Please come home.” He whispered, all pride gone now.
My mind was made up. Taking one final look back at the house, I said “Let’s go.”
She was jolted out of her sleep by a strange unfamiliar sound. Heart pounding wildly, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and got up. The small glowing clock said that it was almost one in the morning. She put on a warm robe and went to the window, but nothing was to be seen.
But there was another sound, echoing the first. An ugly sound, wrenching through the darkness and speaking of untold horrors.
She ran down the stairs and out the front door, looking around. Several other neighbors were outside as well, looking just as confused. “What’s going on?” She asked, but no one knew.
Finally, one of the neighbors appeared, carrying a gun. He was grinning, despite the dirty looks that the others gave him. “I finally got ‘em! The little rotters…sneaking around in my garden when they thought I couldn’t see ‘em.”
A man nearby rolled his eyes and asked “What are you talking about?”
The first man laughed. “Foxes! A pair of them, probably had little baby foxes that were learning to steal too. But now they’re dead!”
She frowned and went back into her house to check on her sleeping daughter. But when she opened the door, the bed was empty.
“Honey?” She asked, but there was no answer. A sinking feeling began to grow in her stomach.
Running back outside, she saw that there was now a police officer among the gathering crowd. Everyone was looking at something in the middle, on the ground. Pushing through and getting closer, she bit her lip as she saw them. The two red forms, bleeding into the ground.
“Move along, folks. Go back to your beds.” The police officer said, kneeling down to get a better look. He touched the neck of one and frowned. She watched as he ran something through his fingers. Then he looked up and saw her.
“Ma’am? Is something wrong?” He asked, kindness in his eyes. She knelt down and touched the fox gently. Then she too touched the thing around its’ neck.
She stared at the chain and little silver heart for a very long time. Then she stood up and went back to her home, closing the door softly.
She gazed out of the window, sighing for probably the millionth time that day. No sign of her daughter. At all.
She had known that their happy times weren’t going to be for forever. Something about her daughter had been…flighty. She just wished she knew that her daughter was safe. And happy.
Something flashed by outside, causing her to startle. She looked and gasped. Two red foxes ran across the lawn from one bush to the other. One stopped and looked right at the window. Two chains around the fox’s neck glinted in the sunlight. The fox gazed right at her, and then vanished into the bushes forever.