"Seeing is believing. At least that is what most people say. Actually, it's the other way around."
I woke up this morning to find Kitsune in my bed.
I didn't open my eyes. I froze there, in the brown void of closed eyelids. I felt her soft pelt against me, her warm and rhythmic breath on my neck. I heard the whir of the electric alarm clock, the click as a new minute flipped into place. And for a few minutes, I tried desperately to remember if she had been there when I went to sleep.
Now Kitsune -Kitsuyana Shoko, but she lets me get away with the "pet" name- and I have been close friends for a long time. I'd lie to say I hadn't thought it would progress to this some day. I may have even fantasized about it just a little... This is all in the strictest confidence.
Just making sure. But I don't think I'm ready for this progress in our relationship just quite yet. That's kinda why I came.
Anyway, I did open my eyes. If seeing is believing... well, there she was, looking at me with those beautiful cranberry eyes. Sometimes I find that really disconcerting. The purple eyes, I mean. It's almost as wierd as the mirror thing. Really striking sometimes. Once or twice I've wondered if she could change that with contacts. Usually I find I don't want her to change a thing.
Back on track. Sorry about being so scattered.
That's all right. Just say what comes to your mind.
Sure. Where was I. Okay, so she was staring at me. "Ohayoo gozaimasu. Would Jason-san like breakfast in bed?" Her voice is velvet, a perfect pitch for singing... and if I keep describing her we'll be here for hours. And I can't afford that. It was too early and too weird a morning for questions. I had a dozen or so of my own running through my head - most of them wanting to know just how much integrity I had left. I mumbled the first thing that came to mind. "You can cook?"
Dumb. Of course she can cook. You won't find a better chef on campus.
"Hai. Now you go and build a kitchen and I will cook you delicious sushi."
I blinked several times. It was way too early and to weird for sarcasm.
Now the fact that she didn't expect me to construct an add-on to my dorm room and the fact that she could have been on my bed just to ask about breakfast both sunk in about the time I noticed the open box of donuts on the bureau. I had bought them yesterday when Kitsune and I went shopping at Thriftway. We were comparing prices on potato chips, and I had just started to explain to her that I was comparing price-per-ounce. Kitsune was shaking her head stubbornly and holding a bag of Lays and Sun Chips up to show that Lays appeared significantly bigger. "This is bigger and costs $.56; this is smaller and costs $.73. Which is better?" she asked, her muzzle parted in a very un-vulpine grin.
She jumped, dropping both bags, when Penny called out from behind her. Actually, we were both surprised. The bags hit the tile with a flakey crunch. I stooped to get them.
"What have you been up to I haven't seen you in ages how are your classes didcha check out the fresh donuts at the bakery section you were talking to yourself again weren'tcha?" All of that in the same breath as she stuck out a slightly sticky hand.
"You bought some donuts, didn't you." It wasn't a question. Even I could smell the rustic scent of baking bread from aisle four. Kitsune had remarked on it as soon as we had entered the supermarket. Penny could never pass up a good smell. At least where food was concerned. Anyone else might be surprised that she stays so slim. "You know you shouldn't eat sweets with your diabetes, Penny. You're hyper enough to breach orbit."
"Aw, I'm fine okay, okay I won't eat any more sweet things till I calm down a little I'm not bad just a little tense you didn't answer my questions."
I hesitated and sighed. I didn't know what else I could do but warn her again. Kitsune was looking at her, quite worried. I know how she felt. I feel the same thing every time I watch a friend smoke. I answered her just to break the somber air. "We've been around." I ignored the way her eyes got wider. "My classes are tough but I can manage. I can't believe I once thought the workload would get lighter in graduate school. Kitsune won't let me take any more philosophy courses. She doesn't want me screwing up my head." Penny took a motherly look, sort of. Try to imagine hyperactive pity. "So I guess I won't be getting that double major. A minor's fine, as long as I get my M.A." I glanced to Kitsune. I knew what was coming.
But instead, "Well, you really should check out the donuts I gotta go have fun." I was surprised. I seem be be surprised a lot lately. I went to the bakery just out of thanks. I left with two rolls of French bread, one roll of sourdough, and a dozen assorted raised donuts. Kitsune's sense of smell got the best of her and she can be very persuasive. Not that my nose needed any persuading either.
And there they were this morning on the bureau. The box was open. For a moment I feared I had left it open all night. I didn't want dried-out donuts. But Kitsune had opened them, of course.
I suppose you want to know what I was afraid Penny was going to say.
The question had entered my mind.
I was afraid Penny would jump on me about Kitsune again. Especially about letting her control what classes I take. It's not like that. I had scheduling trouble and Kitsune helped me decide which classes I would pass up. It's not like she tells me what to do. Penny just wouldn't be able to see it that way. I understand where she's coming from, but sometimes it's hard to put up with the anti-Kitsune tirade.
Does Penny dislike Kitsune or does she disagree with your relationship?
She doesn't believe in Kitsune.
But I'm not here to talk about my trouble with Penny. Or Kitsune's trouble with Penny. Or Penny's trouble with anybody or anything. I'm worried about me and Kitsune.
Oh, I don't know what I'm worried about.
If Kitsune wants a closer relationship... Well, why not. It's not like we haven't been living together for several years now. It's not like we haven't stuck to each other like we were handcuffed. It's crazy sometimes. You can't know what it's like to have a woman you really like watching over you all the time. Well, if you're married I guess, but it's not the same. She stands outside the shower and talks to me while I wash my hair. It's like I'm always on my best behavior. I can't even, you know, masturbate. I probably could by pretending to use the men's room, but even if I did, I'd feel guilty. And that's not a sure thing. I remember the first time she walked into the men's room with me. I could have died. I could have just about anything but urinated. That function locked up tight. Sometimes I think she finds modesty "cute". I've tried to tell her, "There's a big difference between you walking around without clothes and me walking around without clothes: you have fur." Not that she doesn't wear clothes. It's like, on her, clothes are ornamental. It's a kitsune no-henge thing. What I'm getting at is that I have no personal space. I have a Kitsune-saturated, compound, integrated kind of space. And I don't dare ask for some space. If she leaves, she might not come back. I don't think I even want my own space. I couldn't stand to lose her. I'd rather have her within eyesight at all times than risk her disappearing.
Where is Kitsune now?
In the waiting room. She won't come in. She was dead set against me talking to you. She'd have me as paranoid of you as of Pastor Lark. Religion in general, I think.
Why is that?
Because religion wants to make you believe what they believe. They alter how you believe, how you think, how you perceive things. They mess with your mind. You mess with people's minds.
I help people who have problems.
That's what Pastor Lark says, too. It doesn't matter. If you control people's minds, you control what is real for them. I don't want other people to decide what's real for me. Kitsune doesn't either.
Now shall I finish my story or not?
Doomo. I checked the clock just as the one flipped over for 7:21am. My first class wasn't until 9:30. I had classes scheduled through 12:30 and a work-study in Latin in the afternoon. That left me with almost two hours free. Breakfast in bed sounded good. Finally getting my bearing straight, the weirdness of the situation dissipated and I accepted Kitsune's offer. Abracadabra, she was in bed with me again, this time with three donuts in one hand and pulling the sheets over her with the other. "Watashi to tabemasen ka..." A formality that sounded fluttery in my throat. We had never really needed to invite each other to eat together. Especially just then. If this seems forward to you... Well, it did to me too. She handed me a donut with white glaze and tore off a piece of a chocolate one, savoring the taste then swallowing it. The third donut rested like the odd one out on the folds of the electric blanket.
I respectfully ate my glazed donut -Kitsune knows my favorites- and regarded her as she regarded me. Why were there butterflies loose in my stomach? Because this was the first time she had ever gotten into my bed. Well, no, that's not quite true. There was that overnight ski trip with Brad and Penny.
We arrived at the cabin around five that evening. The sun was dipping into the treetops, imbuing a pink tint to the air that glistened off of the snow. Shadows turned the tracks we had made into dark blue ribbons across the park. There were only three sets; Kitsune had never skied before and stayed in my tracks almost the whole time. The cabin, an old log structure that had once been a forest service storage shelter, probably had has many icicles growing on the inside as on the outside. Once, you could have seen out of the two filthy windows on the south wall. The stone wall with the fireplace was towards the east, fortunately, blocking out most of the wind. Still, there was enough draft to make a challenge out of lighting the once-green Coleman lantern Brad had dug up from Mr. Foster's garage. There was a table with a thin glaze of frost on it but no other furniture. I started unrolling sleeping bags as Penny went out for firewood. Kitsune double-checked our canned food supplies and rummaged through the card games. "Would Jason-chan like to play Waterworks after supper tonight?"
I was still fumbling with the knot on Penny's bag. She had been a girl scout when she was in grade school and carried reminders of it in her knots and fire building. "Kitsune suggests Waterworks after dinner. What do you think, Brad?"
His face twisted in a frown as he lit a fourth match for another try at the lantern. It was clear to both of us that neither Brad nor I had chosen the card games this trip. "Don't tell me we have to deal four hands of cards." Very politic of Brad. I wasn't sure if he was objecting to Kitsune playing or himself. "I guess, if you... oh boy." I had just unrolled the second, and last, sleeping bag.
"What's wrong now?"
"We only have two sleeping bags. Penny forgot to pack enough for everyone." It turns out that wasn't all she forgot to pack.
Brad assessed the situation with the air of a general. "No problem, I'll share my bag with Penny. It's large enough for tow."
"You'll share your bag with Penny." Meaning: and I would share my bag with Kitsune.
"Well, I'm not going to share my bag with you!" Brad mocked. I stood up and broke off a nearby icicle to throw at him. He ducked.
I looked back at Kitsune's backside as she huddled over the sack of card games. It was going to be cold. I'd be cold, even in the sleeping bag. Kitsune... her fur would keep her warm, I argued to myself. But warm enough? Vulpine fur isn't that heavy. If she stayed with me we'd both be warm enough. Better all around and more chivalrous.
Penny came in with an armload of twigs and started building a major cosmopolitan structure for termites in the fireplace. A bright fire was crackling in the stonework even seconds before Brad had gotten the lantern to light.
"Brad" I nudged, under my breath. "Why don't you and Penny take another lap around that little wood's trail outside; you know, the one with the hill. You can talk about sleeping arrangements."
Brad caught on. "And you?"
"I'll clean the place up a little, and Kitsune can cook us up dinner."
Penny's ears are sharp. She muttered something semi-playful about "A woman's place...", and I wondered what all she had heard. Brad frowned again. He muttered something but I didn't catch it; I was retorting about a man's place and having to wash the windows. True friends are the ones you can be politically incorrect around.
Brad stared at me, suddenly upset. "Kitsune can't cook." As I've stated before, she can, and very well. I told him so. He became flushed and his voice matched the cabin's temperature. "Kitsune can't cook because she's not here!"
Kitsune didn't look hurt. She'd gotten too used to it. Which hurt me. And made me mad. "Just because you don't believe she's here doesn't mean she's not! People don't see ghosts or atoms or air but that doesn't make them any less real now does it? I can prove she's here. Can I cook? Well can I?"
Brad was beginning to look like he wished he'd kept his mouth shut. He muttered a heated "Not even a T.V. dinner." and turned to leave with Penny, who was staring at us both like you stare at a car wreck.
Well, then, when you come back and see that she's cooked up a delicious meal then you'll see, won't you." I really hate myself when I do things like that. It`s stupid to feel I should have to defend my closest friend. It doesn't accomplish anything and I think it insults Kitsune. I worked out my frustration on the cabin. I had the place as clean as it ever would be by the time I was calm. You could even see out the windows again.
Kitsune did make a marvelous meal. As marvelous as you can get with a camping stove and canned food. Brad and Penny were late getting back, so Kitsune and I ate in healing silence. When Brad and Penny returned, we had finished. From Penny's face I could tell that they hadn't spent the whole time arguing about Kitsune. Thank fate for small favors. They finished up the rest of the meal. All of it. Brad had to admit that it was better than he thought I could do. Brad can't be convinced about anything if he sets his mind not to.
May I ask a question?
As long as it's not about my mother. I told Kitsune I was out of here if you started that nonsense.
Tell me, are you the only one who can see Kitsune?
No. And yes. I'm the only one who can see her and can talk about it. Dogs react to her presence. And our wing's pet cat -kinda a hall mascot- won't go near her. But nobody who can talk.
Have Brad or Penny ever noticed this?
Not when there wasn't something else they could attribute it to. Clerence -that's the cat- really likes Penny, so he doesn't run away if Penny's in the room; he usually tries to hide between her feet.
You and Kitsune did sleep together that night in the cabin?
Only a few hours. Brad woke me... us up. Penny was breathing funny. Like I said, she forgot other things. Including her candy bars. She hadn't had enough sugar and was going into some sort of... spell. Brad was in panic. "You stay right here with her, Brad." I had to grab him and turn him toward Penny. "You be with her."
"What are we going to do, man! Jason, what! She could die or something!"
"YOU are going to stay HERE with Penny. I am going to ski back to the lodge and get some candy and some help." I was already at the door, pulling on my coat and boots.
"No! I should go. I'm much faster than you."
True. I'm hardly the real athletic type. "But you could get lost in the dark. Kitsune won't." And I was out the door before he could protest.
I hadn't had time to fully gear up for the run. I'm lucky I didn't get frostbite or worse. Sometimes I wish I had fur too. The wind was slashing across the valley, shifting the top layer of loose snow so that our old tracks were gone. Kitsune charged ahead, often on all fours, occasionally sniffing the ground for the scent I would have guessed long gone. Her own tracks disappeared in the wind, and she circled me more than once for fear I would lose her. I caught up to her once while she was crouched over, nose in the snow, and it struck me how not human Kitsune actually is.
By the time we reached the inn, I was numb. I did my best to explain Penny's situation; it took me several tries to get my lips to work right. A cross-country run in coat, boots and pajamas was unintelligent. Help was sent, but I was stuck in front of a fire with a hot cocoa clasped in my hands. Kitsune curled up into a fetal position in front of the fire and fell asleep at my feet.
You see, nothing really happened between Kitsune and I that night. But a whole lot actually happened between us.
Same thing this morning, I think. All that happened was that Kitsune casually got into my bed with me. Nothing sexual or anything... just that. And to me, that means a lot.
What does it mean to you?
It means, well... just a whole lot.