About a Fox and Love

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During the past weeks, the spring sun had slowly regained her power and did her best to melt all the cold, white, glittering snow into fresh meltwater. The stream that came down from the mountains, where the snow would stay until June, had grown and now moved the big, wooden water wheel next to the little mountain hut where Michel, the old Bernese mountain dog, Max, and Michel’s granddaughter, Rosa, lived. The calm sound of the water could be heard in the house, and the Auricles, and crocuses slowly grew the courage to welcome the warmth of the sun.

Rosa lay in the grass in front of the house. Her head rested on her forearms. The girl’s dark green coat functioned as a blanket on which she comfortably rested in her yellow pyjamas and black rubber boots swung in the air from side to side. Not far from her, a tiny, fluffy fox baby tumbled and jumped from left to right, playing with its own tail.

Girl lying in grass near fox

Four weeks ago, when Michel had driven back up the mountain after buying a few building supplies down in the village, a dead fox had lain on the side of the road. If it hadn’t been for the struggles of his old Land Rover or the snow still covering nature in white, he probably would have missed the little red pup cowering next to his dead mother’s body. Without hesitation, Michel had taken the baby fox up to the hut, and since that day, eight-year-old Rosa had become the fox’s new very best friend. The girl and the fox, whom she had named Amor, had grown a strong bond and were comfortable enough together for the fox to play outside by the forest. Whenever Rosa would click with her tongue, the little fox rose its head and came running into her arms.

“Tztztztztz,” Rosa clicked with her tongue, and just as always, Amor hipplidi-hop-jumped its way onto Rosa’s coat.

Carefully, the girl picked up the fox, turned onto her back, and placed it on her belly.

“Isn’t the spring beautiful, Amor?” She asked the fox stroking its fur, “It’s my favourite time of the year. Everything is so fresh and comes back to life.” With a big sigh, Rosa closed her eyes and enjoyed the tickling rays of sunshine on her cheeks.

Dark….Light…Dark..Light…Dark…

What are these shadows? Rosa asked herself, wondering what was going in up the sky behind her closed eyelids.

Before she had the chance to open her eyes a shrill scream rippled through the air.

Eagle!

Everything happened at the same time. Rosa reached for Amor. Before she could grab him and run inside, the little fox had already jumped off her chest, and faster than she had ever seen him run, he headed towards the forest. The eagle got ready to plunge and catch Rosa’s best friend. Without thinking twice, Rosa grabbed a stick, and faster than her mind could grasp, she threw the stick up in the air in the direction of the eagle. She waved her arms and screamed while running after Amor, not letting the eagle out of site. The stick didn’t hit the bird, but the attack had its effect; jumbled, the eagle circled over the girl one more round, then rose higher, and with another scream, it left the scene. Rosa ran into the forest where she had seen Amor last.

“Amor? Amor?” she first whispered and then shouted, “Tztztztztztztz” she tried, but her fox was nowhere to find.

For hours, Rosa, Michel, and even Max, the old, friendly dog, searched the forest near the house to find her fluffy friend. The fox was gone. Rosa crawled into every bush and even lifted heavy pieces of wood to find Amor. When the sky turned orange, and the shadows of the trees grew longer, Michel took the young girl by her hand and guided her towards the house. Rosa’s yellow pyjama had brown stains on the knees, her hair was full of sticks, and though her heart was aching, her eyes felt heavy, and her limbs hurt. She surrendered and allowed her grandpa to bring her home.

When the search had finished for that day, and Rosa knew the big box next to her bed would stay empty this night and big, glassy tears ran down her cheeks. Before Michel sent Rosa to bed, they stepped outside into the cold spring night one more time.

“Tztztztztztztz” she clicked her tongue, but nothing moved, nothing snorted or rustled, only the steady rushing of the meltwater stream filled the crisp air. The moonlit the clearing in front of the house and the forest was nothing but a big black hole. Michel placed the straw-filled cardboard box he had prepared next to the front door, and Rosa dropped a few cat-treats in it.

Many times, Rosa woke that night and desperately looked out of her window, hoping to spot anything red under the moonlight. Michel woke a few times to check on the box, too, and even Max kept turning and moving around.

About an hour before the sun rose, Michel got woken up by Max whining at the front door. The old man grabbed his raincoat and stepped out with Max. Surprisingly, Max didn’t just walk into the forest to take care of his morning business. He directly headed to the wet cardboard box. Michel bent down. Relieved, he picked up the sleeping fox and brought it up to Rosa’s room.

“AMOR!” Rosa exclaimed when her swollen eyes opened and noticed the little fox in Michel’s arms.

This whole morning Rosa, Michel, and old Max felt so relieved not even the rustling rain darkened their moods.

“Oh, Amor. You have no idea how happy I am that you are back. It had to be so scary and cold out there in the forest all by yourself. You know, I was looking for you all day. I am never going to let anything scare you ever again. I promise.”

The next morning, the spring sun shone bright and warm, birds sang their songs, and Michel could smell spring in the air.

“Rosa? Breakfast is ready,” Michel shouted.

A brief moment later, Rosa climbed down the steep stairs from her bedroom to fill her grumbling tummy.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day today?” Michel asked his granddaughter.

“Yes,” she replied.

“You should go to the lake. The ice has melted, and the baby ducks are taking their first swims during this time. I know how much you love watching the ducklings.” Hesitantly, Rosa nodded, wiggling on her chair from one side to the other. Rosa did not go to the lake to visit the ducklings.

One beautiful, sunny spring day after the other went by. Michel’s cheeks started to darken to a healthy glow, and nature grew colourful and lush. Rosa, on the other hand, had not spent a single day outside since the incident with Amor. No matter what Michel offered to lure the girl out of the house, she would not go.

All-day long, she sat inside her room, monitoring Amor, making sure he was kept safe and protected.

“I am worried about Rosa,” Michel addressed Max one evening when the two sat side by side, warming their feet on the open fire. “She has not spent one day outside, and I haven’t seen Amor outside in days either. She looks so pale and tired.”

Max snorted, and Michel nodded as he sipped on his pine needle tea. When the birds finished their songs for that day, Michel climbed up the stairs to Rosa’s Room.

“Rosa? Can I come in?” he asked before opening the trapdoor and peeking its head into the room.

“Sure,” he quietly heard Rosa answer.

When Michel had climbed up and could see around the corner where Rosa’s bed stood underneath the window, his eyes widened. Immediately, he saw the glittering tears on Rosa’s cheeks. Michel sat next to his granddaughter and gently stroked over her back. The young girls pale fingers notoriously stroke the orange fur of her fox repeatedly. Glancing at the small animal for just a moment, Michel already knew why Rosa was crying. The fox’s soft, black nose, still wiggled and his ears moved with the sounds in the room, but his fur looked dull and flattened, his dark round eyes were filled with eye mucus, and its little body looked boney under the fluff.

“He hasn’t eaten anything in days…” Rosa sobbed. She looked up, and in her young eyes, Michel saw the girls pain and desperation, “I have tried everything, Grandpa. I even took some of your liver pate from Christmas. I am trying so hard to keep him safe and healthy and happy, but…I don’t know what I am doing wrong. Amor is not good.” Big glassy tears rolled from her eyes and dripped down over her chin and onto her shaking chest.

“Oh darling, don’t you think it is time to let Amor outside again? It has been your best intention to keep him locked inside here, but…Amor is an animal of the wilderness, after all. He needs to breathe forest air and feel the sun on his little body. Keeping him away from where he belongs makes him sick-“ Michel tried to explain.

“But the eagle! What if one day he catches him? What if Amor runs away again and never comes back?”

“Rosa, that is the risk we need to take for our loved ones to be free. Keeping them locked away and guarded is to soften our own fear, but not for Amor’s happiness. You need to trust in him that he wants to come back to you every evening, and you need to trust in life that something out there is protecting him. I remember the day you went to the city to visit your father. Max and I were shaking from fear you wouldn’t want to come back to us. But not allowing you to go would have pushed you further away from us. We had to trust that you would take care of yourself and that you would choose to come back to us, and isn’t that what happened?”

Rosa stayed silent for another moment.

“You wouldn’t want me to trap you inside just so you wouldn’t get hurt, do you?” Michel added.

Rosa stared at her fox but didn’t say a word.

“Think about it,” Michel said finally. Then he got up, placed a kiss on Rosa’s messy curls, and stroked Amor’s body one gentle time. He left the girl and her fox in the room and went outside for a walk with Max.

The next morning Michel woke from the sound of the front door opening. The grass was still wet and cold, the sun had not yet made her way high enough over the Mountain summit to shine onto the house, but when he peeked outside through the window in his bedroom, he saw Rosa walk out on the clearing. She wore her yellow pyjamas and the big green coat. Her cap hung wonkily on her head, and in her hands, she carried the little fox. Gently she put Amor down on the wet grass and took a few steps back.

Girl holding fox

For a moment, neither Amor nor Rosa moved. But then, Amor started sniffing and crawling around in the grass, and just like the ice of the winter, Rosa’s shoulders melted down away from her ears, and the spring air entered her lungs.

For six years, Amor kept coming back to Rosa every day, until one February evening. That day, Rosa’s heartfelt heavy, glassy tears framed the young woman’s face, but it was ok. For whatever reason, Amor had decided not to come back, for six years, he had chosen to do so every single day, and that was what mattered in the end.

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- Total nr. of readings: 182 Copyright © The author [2020] All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the author except for personal use.

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