Gromet's PlazaPonyGirl/PetGirl Stories

Animal Cafe

by Tigerstretch

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© Copyright 2021 - Tigerstretch - Used by permission

Storycodes: FF; fpov; latex; petgirl; costume; polyamory; rom; cons; X

Continues from

Chapter 31 - Lucy

"Why did Lucy want all of us to come to the café today? Usually, she is like, "No, Trixie! I don't want to see your rat face at the café when you are not working," and then she refuses to give me a piece of cake, and I have to steal one."

"I don't know, Trixie. Maybe she is going to scold us because we sneaked out of the pethouse while wearing the rabbit costume the other day."

"Oh, I almost forgot about that, Clara. Yes, you shouldn't have done that!"


"Trixie! Leave Clara alone! You know it was your idea!"

"No! It was yours, Misti!"

"Oh? So, a second ago, it was Clara's idea, and now it was mine? They should have put that cast around your head instead of your arm."

"Keep quiet, shrimp. Lucy didn't sound like her normal self. I hope everything is alright."

Meeka was always the mature one, and once more, she was right. The last time we did something with all the pets together was during the Christmas event. It was highly unusual for Lucy to ask all her employees to show up at the café for a meeting. And even if I wasn't a pet, my presence was also required. The theory that we would all get scolded for what we did a while ago was not void of sense, but at the same time, it didn't perfectly match the situation. So, for now, it was just that, a theory.

On our way to the café, Trixie bought a giant freshly baked pretzel using Meeka's money. That rabbit girl would never learn how to control herself when it came to food, or at the very least, how not to deplete the content of her wallet. Since she had not paid for it, there was no reason for us not to steam a piece of the pretzel just to make sure it was as good as she claimed it to be.

But then, we quickly arrived at the Cakes & Pets, where we became a little apprehensive. Meeka, who wasn't as stressed as the rest of us because she had never done anything wrong, opened the door and entered the shop first.

"Hi, Lucy!"

"Ah! You are finally here. Good. Everybody is waiting for you in the lounge."

"Waiting for us?"

"Yes… It's a special day today. I'm not opening the café, and we are going to spend some time together."

"Sounds good to me. I'll go cuddle the crap out of Savannah!"

"No, Meeka… She isn't here today. She finished her shift this morning and doesn't need to be here. She is too new."

"Aww… Okay. But you sound mysterious."

"Just get into the lounge, and I'll explain everything."

"Oookay! If you say sooo."

The rest of our little group also said hi to Lucy on our way to the lounge, but she was just casually finishing some paperwork at the reception desk as if it was business as usual. That said, she looked suspiciously happy today for some reason. Whatever was the reason for our presence here, it didn't feel like we would get into as much trouble as we had anticipated. We were definitely okay with that.

Meeka unlocked the lounge door and let us in. As soon as I stepped into my favorite room in the entire world, I quickly hid behind Trixie.

I retracted my previous statement. Now we were totally screwed.

Lucy's mysterious husband, Shane, was there, sitting at a table next to Vix. All the petgirls were in costume; Oreo, Vix, Accalia, and Asha.

I whispered in Trixie's ear.

"Trixie… Shane is here."

"I see that. That's a first. HEY SHANE!"

Nooo! Why did Trixie have to attract his attention by calling his name so loudly? She also hopped in his direction and landed on his lap without even asking permission first.

Oh, Shane didn't like that much.

"Aaah! Trixie! Get off me! I told you a thousand times. I'm not into petgirls!"

"I'm not a petgirl! I don't wear a costume today."

"You act like one."

"Ha! No. Don't push me. I'm staying! What are you doing here anyway?"

"Lucy and I need to talk to you."

"Oh? About what I think it is?"

"… Maybe. Get off me now."

"No. I'm staying. Grab my thin waist and hug me! I'm a cuddly bunny!"

"Arrr! I told you, I'm not into petgirls!"

Not only Trixie had no intention to get off of him, but she even wrapped her arms around his neck as if they were best buddies. She indeed acted like a petgirl. Shane didn't look like he approved the move, yet he didn't seem determined to push her away. Definitely, those two knew each other more than just a little bit. They probably had a history that I didn't know about.

Not wanting to get involved with any of this, I rushed to Oreo, my girlfriend, and used her as my new feline shield by sitting behind her and wrapping my arms around her torso. She didn't seem to mind too much. The small black and white cat seemed as confused as I was because she shrugged when I asked her what was going on and then pushed her back against my chest as if she sought the same reassurance.

What was going on here? Only Vix and Trixie seemed to be as decontracted as uncooked bacon. Something was definitely not normal today. But perhaps we would soon learn more about this impromptu event because Lucy entered the lounge with a serving tray full of mini-cakes, a coffee pot, and a few water bottles for the costumed pets. She placed it on the floor for all of us to access. How casual.

"Alright, everyone. Today is a special day. As you noticed, Shane is here, which is a bit unusual. We wanted to talk to you about something. Right, Shane?"

"Yes. A way overdue discussion."

"I agree. And that is all because of Trixie, the rule breaker."

Aww, crap! 

So Lucy knew about what we had done the other day, sneaking out of the pethouse in costume. What now? Would this be a public punishment? On the day of the crime, I was the one who wore the bunny suit, but I had not decided anything. So would I be punished as well? I crushed Oreo with my arms just a bit more.

Lucy continued.

"So, first of all, I want to apologize. Shane and I should have been open about this a long time ago, but life is not always simple. We had a very good discussion about this the other day, and for the first time in years, we managed to get on the same page. Only then we realized how much we had hurt some of you with our mysteries and secrets. Sometimes we think we are doing the right thing, but then we realize we do the opposite. There were no ill intentions, but today we decided to put an end to this vicious cycle and share something very personal with you."

While we were all trying to understand what Lucy talked about, Vix stood up on the bench and began pointing at herself repeatedly, making Lucy smile.

"Hehe. Yes, Vix. It's all about you, of course."

Uh? The mystery deepened. I knew Vix was one of the original pets, but I had no clue how she was linked to Lucy's life. With this small interaction, we all understood that there might have been more between them than we had first thought. I really wondered what kind of special connection they had.

Somehow, the mood was light and peaceful. Lucy didn't seem angry, so it seemed likely at this point that our infraction wasn't the root cause of this unusual gathering. Perhaps it would be best just to sit quietly with Oreo and abandon all my expectations during her storytelling. Usually, people didn't give cakes and coffee to the people that were about to get punished.

Fixating Lucy with uneasiness, I dared extend my arm and grab one of the cakes from the tray. The triple chocolate one.

"Aaah! Clara! That's the one I wanted!"

"Oh? Here, Misti. You can have it."

"Nah! That's okay, keep it. I'll just get the caramel one."

As if Lucy wanted to put us at ease, she simply paused her dialogue while we came up with a cake agreement. There was no rush to proceed with her story, which made everybody calm down a bit more.

But after we planted our fork in the high-calorie food, Lucy initiated what would be a lengthier tale than any of us could have expected.

"Alright. So, let's start from the beginning. Bear with us because this is all going to sound strange to many of you."


Many years ago…

"AAAAH! Stupid car!"

Furious, a young woman violently kicked her car tire. Unsurprisingly, the vehicle didn't react to the aggression and stayed immobile on the side of the road, refusing to cooperate. It died a few minutes ago at the worst possible time. Even if the girl looked pretty and gracious, her aura emanated strength and determination with a darker shade of evilness. If this violent kick didn't fix her mechanical issue, the next one surely would.

"No! No! No! Not today! Not today, you piece of junk!"

And her second kick did confirm that the car didn't care about her feelings one bit. Her short heel efficiently printed her shoe's brand in the back panel of the vehicle. Maybe she shouldn't have done that, but at least she got some relief out of her irrational action.

A display of mental strength, however, wasn't a substitute for her lack of knowledge. Troubleshooting a car problem wasn't something she had ever done or had an interest in. Unfortunately, such knowledge would have come in handy today. With nothing else to turn to, her rage resumed.

"Uuuurgh! I'm never going to make it! Raaah!"

Indeed, it was terrible timing. The pretty woman wearing a very classy business suit let herself fall on her back on the top of the burning hood that her now-dead engine had heated up. Even the metal scorching her back wasn't enough to make her disappointment evaporate.

She closed her eyes, and her perfectly feminine lips let out a profound message destined to the Gods.

"Fuck my life! I wanna die!"

One should never underestimate the power of coincidence, though. As her last sentence got lost between the clouds above her depressed face, an answer to her hateful prayer came not from the sky but a few inches away from her right ear.

"Dying wouldn't be fun."


"Too early. Can we go on a date first?"

The young woman tumbled down the car hood and ended up on her knees, powerfully startled by the unexpected male voice which pulled her from her abandonment using misplaced sarcasm. As the cars were flying on the road beside her, accompanied by the deafening tire noise eating the asphalt, she stared at a well-dressed young man who was seemingly proud of his bad joke. That said, his hands stuffed deep inside his pockets signaled that he wasn't a threat to her.

"Who… Who are you?"

"My name is Shane. I just stopped to check if you need assistance."

"Oh… Well… No. I have to call a tow, and… Ah, whatever… I'm fucked anyway."

"You swear a lot. Do you need to go somewhere?"

"Yes. An interview for a job I really wanted. But I won't make it now."

"Where is it?"

"… Downtown… but…"

"I'll get you there. Follow me…"

"Hey! Wait! I… I don't know you…"

"I don't know you either. So please, don't murder me."


"Hurry! I'll get you there."


He wasn't funny. So why did she rise to her feet and followed him to his car? It wasn't safe for a twenty-three years old woman to do this. Why would she trust this guy who didn't seem any older than she was? She grabbed a few things from her dead car and trotted to the passenger side of his vehicle after unconsciously having accepted his ludicrous offer. Every aspect of this emergency plan was terrible. Not only was it not recommended for a defenseless woman to climb aboard a stranger's car, but on top of that, she was already very late. The long minutes spent battering her iron corpse had caused her appointment to be improbably achievable.

So, why?

She sat in the vehicle, just to feel even worse about the whole thing. Why was his car so much better than hers? There was no dust, and everything was made of leather. Why was it not full of scratches and smelling funny? It was as unfair as intimidating.

"Shane… are you rich or…"

"Seatbelt, please?"

"Oh… yes.. Sorry. But hey… don't drive too fast, right… it's… it's okay if I miss my appointment."

"You said it was important to you?"

"Yes but… YAAARG!"

She had never experienced something as terrifying as this. Shane got back on the road and obliterated his accelerator. At that moment, the small woman sank in her seat and felt her internal organs turning into mashed potatoes. No cars should be allowed to go this fast.

At that point, two thoughts crossed her mind.

She wouldn't be late for her appointment.

She would murder this guy.

The first had to occur before the second for her own benefit, so Shane would be allowed to live until later that night.

Breaking all the road rules and risking a hefty traffic ticket, the silver luxury car floated on the highway and zigzagged effortlessly between the other vehicles as if they had no other purpose than enhancing this action scene. How was it possible that such reckless behavior, something so scary, felt safe?

What was this about?

Keeping his eyes on the road for a good reason, he didn't look at her, yet she stared at him. Her soul wanted to scream. Slow down! You are going to kill us! Yet, her heart entrusted him. This made no sense. Why?

Why do I trust you? You imbecile!

"What's the address?"


"Where are we going? We are getting close from downtown now."

"… 275 Slater…"

"Ah, yes. Gotcha. You work in finance?"

"… How… how do you know?"

"You just told me, and I also see how you are dressed."


The last stretch of the trip was as disturbing as the first. Why would this man risk a ticket so that she could attend an interview that was meaningless to him? Why would he help her? What was the goal?

As they performed the last turn before arriving at their destination, she stared at him once more, trying to get some answer using her own eyes, but he wasn't communicating anything. His goal was to save her, and that was it. His focus prevented him from having any secondary intentions. It was a genuine act of bravery to help a damsel in distress. One of those acts… The ones that counted the most in life.


"That's it. We are here. Go now!"

"… Shane…"

"Just go! Hurry! Good luck with your interview."


No thanks were necessary. He didn't want any. He didn't need any. With his mission fulfilled, he would return to his regular business, whatever it was. She opened the door and stepped outside of the warm vehicle before slamming it closed and turning around to enter the building.

But just as she was about to do that, one last thought crossed her mind.

"Fuck me!"

She returned to the car and knocked hard on the window. Before it broke, Shane lowered it and leaned over to look at her. Yes, she had an important message for him.

"My name is Lucy, and if you are not at this exact same spot at 4 pm, I swear, I will hunt you down and slash your tires."

"… Uh? Why?"

"Because I want you to fuck me so badly."

"Oh, I will be here, then."

"No condom!"


Lucy turned around, young and empowered. She had decided on the way to repay him, it was her prerogative, and she needed to do it. Her upcoming interview seemed quite unimportant at this point.


3 months later…

"Are we really doing this?"


"Okay, then put some more energy into it."

"Shhh… Lucy. Try to be romantic for once."

Inside a luxurious penthouse at the top of a big insurance building, Lucy rested on her back on the big bed. On top of her, naked, was Shane, fucking her with passion while trying to ignore her usual sarcasm and strong woman attitude. For once, Lucy could tone it down, just to make things easier. This fuck was nothing like their normal lovemaking.

Their new premature goal as a couple was to create a new human, a very small and fragile one.

Months ago, on the day she met him, her interview fell flat. As important as this job had seemed to be on the very day she tried to convince these people to hire her, as disappointed she had been after meeting with them. She had landed into a macho nest, and they had looked down on her because she was a woman, which had drastically clashed with her core personality. Lucy was way too strong-willed to accept this kind of caveman attitude. She had put an end to the interview, not even halfway through it, switching the table on them. They had tried to convince her to stay, but once her mind was set on something, there was no coming back. Lucy never had that kind of patience with the people she disliked.

As she had promised, at 4pm, she returned to this same location with the objective of rewarding her knight in shining armor, Shane, this odd guy who had selflessly allowed her to enjoy this rare opportunity.

He had come back. He was there, waiting for her. She had unhesitantly climbed back in his car, and he drove her to a nearby hotel where they had hot sex all night. This tale sounded oversimplified, but it was an accurate one.

Of course, Lucy and her lack of shyness and reservation had extracted all there was to know about this guy while having a blast enjoying the wild human chemistry coursing through young adult veins. It turned out that Shane was a gifted entrepreneur who had started a very successful and growing insurance company. He was so proud of his accomplishment that he had taken residence on the top floor of the big building he leased at the time.

Instead of being in awe while facing his great success, Lucy expressed her strong desire to join the adventure and change things for the better, which was extremely appealing to Shane. He had never met such a gutsy woman and finding someone so motivated to improve his business while sharing a personal relationship was an opportunity of a lifetime.

They didn't have to ask each other; a long-term relationship needed to take place. The intense love flowing both ways was undeniable and couldn't be questioned. On that night, they had made their choice.

And tonight, on this big bed located in the penthouse at the top of the big insurance building, as an ultimate symbol of love, Shane unloaded all his love inside Lucy's womb, hoping to enter the next chapter of their life.

"Mmm… That's all?"

"Hey… Lucy… Stop it."

"Okay… It was still a good load."



"I love you."

"Hehe. I love you too."

"I know."


Ten months later…

"She is so cute and small."

"Haha. Yes. She looks like you, Shane."

"Nah… She looks like you."

"Like us?"


A tiny human unable to control her limbs rested in Lucy's arm, looking more like a burrito than a baby because of the way she had wrapped her to keep her warm. Resting on the hospital bed next to them was Shane, with a smile tattooed to his face.

This was everything.

Money was irrelevant.

The penthouse was irrelevant.

His career was irrelevant.

Lucy and his baby were everything.

"What are we going to call her?"

"Mmm… You suggested Sammie the other day. I think I like that."

"Yes. Sammie is nice. So? Sammie?"

"Yeah. Sammie. It's cute."


Three years later…

"Sammie! It's time to go home."

"Nooo! I want to keep playing with my friends!"

"No, that's enough for today. Remember what Dr. Layton said. You have to rest more."

"Okaaay! But can I hug Elody first?"

"Hehe. Sure. You can hug her before we leave. Hurry."

Lucy sat on the park bench, seeing her beautiful kid running around. Of course, apples never fell far from the tree, so Sammie, a strong-willed person, didn't only hug her friend, she also decided she was going to play some more anyway. A few additional minutes of activity wouldn't be the end of the world despite her fragile condition.

For Shane and Lucy, the past three years have been a blessing. Sure, there was now some seriously bumpy road ahead, unexpected things that life could bring, but nothing could be more potent than love, and no matter what they would have to face, they would prevail. It was a certainty.

"Okay, Sam! It's time to go home, now."

"Okaaay mooom!"

After being granted this extra moment of joy, Sammie trotted back to her mother and placed her small hand in her big hand. They both slowly walked away towards the penthouse perched atop of the big insurance building, their home.

Along the way, Sammie, without understanding really what she was asking or how much it would hurt her mother, spat a painful direct question.

"Mommy? Why am I sick?"

"… Oh… It happens. Everybody gets sick at one point or another. Don't worry too much about it."

"But, it's in my belly. My friend Elody said she has never been sick like me. She said that one day she had puked her oranges everywhere, but it didn't hurt for months like it does to me."

"Sam, there is all kinds of sickness. Yours is just a bit different… a bit more complicated."

"This is why I have to return to the hospital to see Dr. Layton?"

"That's right. Tomorrow you'll see him again. You like him, right?"

"Oh, yes…"

Pain. There was nothing worse for a parent than to deal with a sick kid. Having your most precious person in the world in such a bad place was not normal. No parents should go through this. Just thinking about it was like being stabbed in the guts by a thousand knives.

Yet, a child couldn't understand this. It was impossible to tell Sammie the truth as she wouldn't comprehend it. It was impossible to come up with a beautiful story that would make the suffering go away. The parents had to scream in silence while the kid would continue living, oblivious to a world of risks and worries. Severity, treatments, none of this could be discussed rationally with the small human. All that could be done was to listen and answer the innocent questions that only hung to reality by a thread.

"… I like him a lot."

"We like him too."

"Are you sick too?"

"Me? No, Sammie… I'm not sick."

"So, why are you going to the hospital then? You are always there when I'm there."

"Yes… To keep an eye on you."

"I like that."

"Me too."

That was another gut shredding lie. Lucy hated it. She hated it so much. Every single second in the hospital was an absolute nightmare. Countless hours were shared with Shane, sitting on this uncomfortable chair, keeping an eye on Sammy and trying to cheer her up after her rough treatments. How many times did she have to read that book about that fox and their friends? It was Sammie's favorite story, and she had read it so often that she had forgotten the title.

Sammie always loved foxes. Her entire bedroom was decorated with this theme. Fox blanket, fox wallpaper, fox pillows, fox stuffed animals. Foxes made Lucy sick in her stomach. Each and every of those animals she saw on TV, in pictures, in books… They all reminded her of Sammie's grave sickness. Yet, there was nothing she could do to push them away. It was the opposite. They made Sammie so happy that she purchased more of them despite the devastating pain that looking at them caused. More books, more pictures, more socks with fox faces on them. This act of generosity from a mother was as beautiful as it was self-cruelty.


"Yes, Sammie?"

"Why are you crying?"


One year later…

"Dr. Layton. There MUST be something we can do! I told you! Money isn't a problem!"

"Shane, Lucy, listen to me… You know this as well as I do… It's not about the money."


"We tried everything and beyond. Sammie is no longer responding to her treatments."


"I suggest that you spend as much time with her as you can in the upcoming days."

"What… What are you… suggesting?"

"Listen. Sammie is exhausted. She may act brave, but she is truly stretching her limits. You know that better than anybody else… You've seen her health deteriorating every single day."

"I… I know… but…"

"I will never lie to you. It's unavoidable. I will explain your options soon. But I think you know what they are already. Perhaps it would be good for you to start preparing her for what will come next."

"What… will come… next?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry. We did everything we could."


Shane had a very hard time accepting the reality of the dire situation, and Lucy just sat on her chair staring at nothing. On the one hand, they knew for the past four months that things were going downhill… scaringly downhill. Sammie had not left her hospital bed in such a long time… She became so skinny and so pale. But still… Neither of them dared to discuss the possibility of an unhappy ending. Life wasn't always going the way people expected, and despite the power of the collective human mind, there was not always a way out. Some problems had no solutions, some paths had an end, and even the world's riches wouldn't be able to escape some of the worse predicaments.

In all cases, life meant death. It was the most absolute and absurd rule of the universe.


"Did you see Dr. Layton today, mom?"


"Am I going to get better?"

"… No. I'm sorry."

"Oh, it's okay. But does that mean I can stop the medication that makes me feel bad?"


"So, what is going to happen to me then?"


"Am I going to die?"

"… Y… yes."

"What's death?"



"It's… It's okay…"

Lucy tapped in her pool of motherly strength, the one that seemed to be bottomless, and forced an unnatural smile on her own face. There was no point in showing Sammie a devastated face while she was asking a barrage of agonizing questions with her small voice. It wouldn't change anything but make her uneasy about her own destiny. Sammie was a child, not an adult. She didn't have to endure any more pain than she had already gone through.

There was only one right thing to do.

Lucy, while Shane sat in the darkest corner of the room, would lie.

Only lies could hide the ugliness of life. Only lies could bring Sammie this last moment of happiness.

Lying to a child would keep the family together just for a bit longer.

And believing that lie as she told it to Sammie would also bring Lucy happiness, even if it was a temporary one.

"Sammie. Death is a beautiful thing."

"Ah yeah?"

"Yes. You'll see. There will be no more pain."

"Oh! I want to die then!"


Lies hurt so much. But Lucy had to endure it.

"So, will I leave the hospital?"


"Where will I go?"

"Somewhere in the sky… With the stars."

"Really? But… that's super far."

"Haha… Sammie. Yes… Yes it is."

"So how will I get there then? Will someone come with me?"

"Mmm… Probably a fox…"

"A FOX!?"

"Yes. A very cute fox will come to pick you up and bring you there."


"Yes. It will keep you company until dad and mom are ready to go there too. We will be a bit late."

"Oh, it's okay. If I have a real fox to keep me company, I can wait."

"Good. What are you going to name your fox friend, Sammie?"

"Mmm… VIX! Because it's super cute!"

"Haha. Okay. Vix it is. Make sure to tell Vix everything you want. Then if I see a fox named Vix, she will tell me everything you told her. She will tell me how happy you are in the sky."

"Okay! Will do!"


Two weeks later, in a nearby neighborhood…

"Vicky! Do you want to come with us to the park!"

"YES! I'm coming!"

"Bring your baseball glove with you. We can play ball!"

Vicky was smaller than everybody else her age, but at ten years old, she was a lively little kid always ready to play with her many friends. It was no surprise that all the parents in the neighborhood adored this little ball of energy.

"MOM! I'm going to the park with my friends to play baseball!"

"Okay, but don't come back later than 5 pm."

"I will! See yaaa!"

After grabbing her glove and cap, Vicky bolted out the front door, forgetting to close it behind her as usual. Her mother just smiled and shook her head. Kids.

Accompanied by her friends, Vicky carefully crossed a few streets and quickly reached the little park. There were a lot of people today, but they would still find some room to throw the ball.

"Over there! Near the fence!"

"Ah, yes! That's perfect! Go over there. Not too far. I can't throw very far!"

"It's because you are so small, Vicky! You need to eat more!"

"Baaah! My mother says I'm cute the way I am!"

Then the fun began. None of the kids remotely knew how to throw a ball properly, but it didn't matter one bit. Too far, too short, over the fence… It was ridiculously clumsy and fun. The three girls had a blast.

For many long minutes, the inexhaustible girls ran around and faked amazing catches, challenging themselves more and more.

"Alright, Vicky! I'll throw super far this time."

"Okay! I'm ready!"

It was indeed a nice throw. The ball flew high in the air and was clearly going to land behind Vicky. So she ran… and ran… There was hope despite the shortness of her tiny legs. With her arm stretched above her head and her eyes fixated on the black dot in the sky, she was falsely convinced that she could catch that one. It would undoubtedly be her catch of the year.

But then…


It was like being swept at the hip level. She was so small, and it was so big. Vicky had bumped into a large furry mass that had thrown her legs up and her head down. After a mighty pirouette, she landed flat on her back on the hard grass, knocking the wind out of her tiny lungs and causing her to see stars.

When she sat up, she barely had time to see a demonic face staring at her. A large black dog, fixating her with his terrifying eyes and foamy mouth. It looked so scary… so aggressive… Vicky's instinct screamed danger, but she didn't know what to do. She was paralyzed by fear.


The ball fell loudly between the two of them.

Why did this trigger his rage? Nobody would ever know.

An incredibly large set of fangs, fast as lighting, rushed to Vicky and dug cruelly in her head.



Vicky had never screamed like this. A scream that nobody had ever hoped to hear. It was her only defense. Her only way to express her profound distress! The pain was unimaginable. The intense pressure on her small child-like skull made it crack… She could hear her own bones breaking, and her eyes felt as if they were about to pop out of their orbits. Her small body was thrown left and right without pity as the dog shook her violently like a ragdoll, threatening her neck to snap. There was nothing she could do. She was too small. 

It hurt! 





An aluminum baseball bat smashed the dog's head, forcing him to release his deadly grip from the girl's head, but not without pulling some fragile children's flesh in the process.

A veil of blood covered Vicky's vision as she collapsed on the ground as a dead person would.

Voices… a lot of voices… Screams…

Fading voices…

Vicky passed out.


A moment later…

"Sammie is gone. I'm very sorry."


"Take the time you need. Maria will come to see you in a moment."

"… Thank you… Dr. Layton… For everything."

"No worries… Sammie was a fantastic child."

How was this possible? How did this happen? Shane and Lucy held each other's hands, observing their inanimate child on the pure white hospital bed. It was over. Sammie was gone. Her magical fox had come to escort her to the sky.

How was this possible? Instead of pain, the two mourning parents felt just a bit lighter. The love of their life was gone, their beloved Sammie. Yet, the relief to know she was no longer suffering and had departed peacefully and happy, thanks to the doctors and nurses' outstanding work, the ones who cared for her for so long, made it feel better. Somewhat…

Then guilt.

Lucy wondered if this was normal. Confused beyond what was possible to describe, she couldn't help but question herself as to whether or not she was suffering enough. She had to suffer more. It was her child that she had just lost, after all, not a mere stranger. Why wasn't she feeling despair and a deep desire to die? Was there even some happiness in her soul?

Her lie fissured.

Once the child had departed, the foundation of the lie had collapsed and wasn't worth shit anymore.

There was no fox… There was no sky… This reassurance didn't serve any purpose anymore. Sammie was gone, and it was a brutal undeniable reality.

Yet, Lucy was incapable of feeling worse than she already was. Why? Why? It was not something she could share with Shane. It was simply too shameful to share. And she didn't even want to know if Shane was experiencing the same mixed emotions. If he were, she would get angry at him for being as heartless as she was.

Why did Lucy feel so strong? Why did this final day go so well? Was this just an after-effect of death? Would this wall crumble in a few minutes, a few hours, a few years? Never? There was certainly this numbness raging inside her heart as she attempted intensely to trigger her own dark emotions.

To no avail.

She squeezed Shane's hand one more time.

"I need to go for a walk. You'll be okay?"

"… Yeah. I'm okay. You?"


"I love you, Lucy."

"… Yeah."

She couldn't find the strength to return the same kindness. Perhaps that was it, the broken part. Maybe her love was entirely gone. Maybe all that was left of her love traveled on the back of Vix with her child. She had given them all that was left of her love, and now they were gone. They left her behind with nothing but emptiness and a reservoir full of pain.

Lucy exited the room, unable to cry.

Where was she? She had no idea. Her eyes saw the hospital floor striped with black marks caused by the constant traveling of the stretchers, but her memory had been wiped clean by what had just happened a moment ago, and she couldn't identify this place. The only direction she could pick was no direction. Step after step, she moved without guidance, without a goal, without purpose. The hallway was large, yet, the walls seemed oppressive… suffocating. Her lungs struggled to take in enough oxygen to push this mental fog away.

Would it be this way for the rest of her life, moving through time and space without feeling part of it? Did ghosts exist? Did she become one?

At least she could still hear. The air going through the vents, the random beeping from the various machines, she became familiar with so many of these after all the time she had spent in this place with Sammie. From those hospital sounds, she could tell a child had a healthy little heart and would make it just fine. Then in the room on her left, it was a bit more laborious, perhaps this one would find itself playing with Sammie very soon. She had sadly memorized all those sounds after spending over a year in this children's hospital.

Another sound filled with anguish… A crying woman could be heard far away in the distance… There was such pain in her voice… such distress… Yet, it didn't affect Lucy. She went through all those emotions already and had none left at the moment.

But this female cry… Such a lament… No, she had not heard that one before… This one was filled with violence, with hopelessness… It wasn't normal.

What could have happened for this invisible woman to agonize this much. It was almost unparalleled with what she had herself experienced. It sounded like she was trying to die but wasn't allowed to.

Lucy followed this cry of disconsolateness echoing through the large hallways without knowing where they were coming from. Her instinct led her left and right in areas where she knew she shouldn't be, but nobody noticed her. She certainly had become a ghost tonight.

She then pushed a double door using her two hands. Definitely, her strength had come back since Sammie had passed away as if her continuous tiredness for having cared for her for so long had suddenly vanished.

The cry. Lucy found it.

Alone, sitting on an uncomfortable bench, was a woman folded in half, crying her lungs out over her knees. She was the embodiment of suffering. No matter what had happened to her or her child, as the latter was far more likely the case, at first glance, it didn't seem that any words would have been able to reach her soul to soothe her limitless pain.

So Lucy didn't say a word.

She walked to the bench and sat right next to the woman, not interrupting her, and blankly stared at the wall in front of her.

Why was she here if she could do nothing to help? How did this happen? Why was she here while her dead child was resting in her deathbed not too far away from here. Shouldn't she be with her husband, who undoubtedly had a broken heart and needed her support? Why did she follow some random cries that led her to even more misery?

Lucy placed her hand on the woman's back.

She didn't speak a word, but the sobbing diminished. After a moment, the lady turned her head to look at her through her blurry eyes.



There was nothing to answer. The warmth of Lucy's hand wasn't something she needed to be thanked for. It was the only thing to do, an instinctual gesture from a mother to another. No matter what the issue was, this warmth meant the same thing.

It's going to be alright.

"Her… her name is Vicky…"


"She…. She got attacked by a big dog at the park… She is so small… She is severely wounded."


Lucy had not asked for the details. So why was this woman telling her about this horrible story? How was she supposed to reconcile the loss of Sammie with this horrendous story that she had just heard? How was she supposed to establish precedence?

She froze as the distressed woman continued her hideous depiction of the events.

"Vicky… They are trying to save her… She got disfigured… I… I don't know how bad it is… they wouldn't tell me…"


"What… What am I going to do? I'm a single mother… She has no father… I don't know… I don't know what to do… I'm poor…"



How could Lucy have forgotten this? She and Shane were wealthy. That was the result of hard work, and it was well-deserved, but they were wealthy nonetheless… Withstanding the loss of a child was universal, and no amount of money could ease the pain… or so she thought…

What if they had been poor…? All those extra treatments and little extras didn't cure Sammie but made her life so much more comfortable. This absence of worry about real-life necessities such as rent or utility bills had made a huge difference.

Their money had made a notably positive difference in Sammie's quality of life.

On the other hand, this woman's financial condition had made things instantaneously worse for her. In a fraction of a second, the time of a vicious dog attack on her defenseless child who didn't deserve it, her entire life and means of survival had been demolished due to her inability to absorb an unplanned event.

Lucy didn't judge her. She couldn't. She didn't know this woman's story, so she kept listening.

"I… I didn't see Vicky yet… but they told me it was not good… She should live… but how… She will need treatments and … How am I going to pay? I don't even have insurance."


At the articulation of that last word, a lightning bolt shot down Lucy's spine, smoldering the remainder of her already overtaxed nervous system.

Was this a bad joke? Was this a message? Was this Sammie's way of trying to tell her mother something from wherever she was? Did she send her giant fox to lead her to that woman?

No matter what it was, no matter if this was real or not, Lucy's heart started pulsing again. Her blood got warmer and was pumped with a painful strength throughout her body, providing an unexpected influx of life. Her lungs filled with fresh hair, allowing her to exhale the stench of death for the first time since Sammie's death. Fresh oxygen was now reaching her brain, and all her synapses began sparkling like the milky way on a clear night sky.

Her lips parted ever so slightly, just enough to let out the first words that came to her mind… A mix of sarcasm and resolve.

"I hope Vicky likes foxes…"

"… uh? I'm sorry?"

Such a bizarre sentence snapped the miserable mother out of her distressed state. But Lucy didn't acknowledge her puzzled gaze. Instead, she reached into her pocket and pulled a business card out of it. She placed it between her two fingers and flicked her wrist toward the woman for her to grab.

"Listen. Call this number tomorrow."

"… What… What is it?"

"You are the new owner of the best insurance policy in the world. Also, you are going to be rent-free for a while. I hope you will like living in a penthouse."

"… What… What are you saying?"

Lucy stood up, placed her two hands in her pockets. For the first time, she looked at the woman.

"Vicky will get the care she deserves. You must call this number tomorrow, and we will explain everything. Trust me."

"But… Who… Who are you?"

"You know… I'm not even sure myself. Let's say I'm just a friend."


"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes, Shane. It's the right thing to do."

"But it's my home too. Where are we going to go if you let those people live here?"

"I'm going to find a small apartment nearby."

"You? Do you mean…"

"Yes… Me… Alone."

"Are you… leaving me?"

"… No. I don't think I am… But I'm broken, Shane. I'm so very broken. I need some time."

"Yeah… I am too… Maybe you are right… Are we still a family without Sammie?"

"I don't know…"

"… When are they moving in?"

"I'm not sure. Her daughter Vicky is not out of the woods yet. She has many surgeries to come."

"It's terrible."

"Shane, let's sue the crap out of that fucking dog owner."

"I'm on it. The mother won't have to lift a finger. I'll make sure the penthouse is ready too."



"Don't change anything in Sammie's room. I get the feeling Vicky won't mind the foxes."



Two months later…


"Shhhh shhh! It's okay, Vicky. It's okay. The dog is not there."

"Moooom! Mom!Aaaah!"

"I'm here… I'm here… It's okay… I'm here."

Another night, another series of nightmares. Neverending nightmares. For Vicky, the wounds weren't only physical but were also deeply engraved inside her memory as if someone had scored her brain with a sharp razor blade. For the past couple of months, the poor girl went through hell and back, underwent surgeries, and received a lot of psychological help, which had been barely enough for her to be capable of returning home.

And her home wasn't her home anymore. For some inexplicable reason, her house had changed during her stay at the hospital, and her usual bedroom had changed. Her mother told her that she would now be living in a castle overlooking the city and had the best bedroom in the world.

After this latest nightmare, when she received her discharge from the hospital this morning, Vicky wore her most concealing hoodie to make sure nobody would see how much of a monstrosity she had become. It was her own perception, of course. The fresh scars on the side of her upper cheek and head were still very sensitive and bright red. She wasn't able to look at them without crying. Nobody would call her adorable anymore. Nobody would ever call her cute anymore. Nobody would want to play baseball with her anymore. In Vicky's mind, a barely ten years old child, her life was already over before it even had a chance to start.

Clinging to her mom's arm tightly, they both walked toward the hospital exit where a big black car waited for them to make sure Vicky wouldn't have to stay exposed to the public stares for too long. The small girl crawled on the back seat, followed by her mother, and when she sat, she noticed a stranger sitting in front of her. She had never been in a car where people could face each other. But still… Who was that woman, and why was she there? It was so confusing. Her mom had sworn to her that nobody would be able to look at her today. So why was this person there?

Vicky pulled on her hoodie a bit more to increase her stealth level.

"Hi, Vicky. I'm Lucy."


"Vicky, say hi to Lucy. You know. I told you about her. She helped us a lot."

"No! Tell her to leave!"

"Vicky… Don't be like that. It's not polite. Lucy is letting us borrow her nice car and…"

"No! She has to go away! You promised!"

Lucy shook her head and signaled Vicky's mother not to worry about it. The kid was traumatized, and it was entirely understandable that it would take her a long time to get comfortable after so many sudden and difficult changes in her life. Anyway, socializing with the kid wasn't Lucy's goal today.

Lucy handed a thick envelope to Vicky's mother and coldly gave her some information.

"This is the lawsuit resolution."

"… Resolution?"

"Yes. I spare you the details. But you'll never have to look the dog owner in the eyes, and I encourage you not to seek further actions against him. Believe me. He has his hands full with the criminal justice system already. It's unlikely that you'll ever have to be involved again. There is a solid monetary compensation for Vicky's care and future. Use it well. All you need to do is to sign and return the envelope to our lawyers. They will let you know if anything is missing."


"Also, this is your key to the Penthouse. It will be a comfortable environment to raise Vicky until she gets better. If you wish, we will offer you a job in the same building, so it's easier for you to balance work and family. Feel free to take it whenever you are ready to do so. When you arrive, a valet will explain to you what is included, like food and housekeeping. It should make Vicky's life easier and also allow you to spend more time with her."


"One more thing… Just make sure you do not change anything in the penthouse. We would like to keep it as is. Vicky's room is already well decorated, but if she doesn't like it, just let us know, and we will change it for you."

"… Lucy…"


"… Why? Why are you doing all of this for us?"

"… Because I can. And because I need to…"


"Here, Vicky. Grab the card and swipe it on the reader. It's a very cool lock."

"No. I don't care."

"Okay… It's alright."

Making Vicky feel welcome in her new environment wouldn't be easy, but that was expected, so her mother wouldn't give her a hard time for that. If unlocking a door with a special magnetic card wasn't interesting to a child her age, it was a sign that there was a lot of hard work ahead.

Vicky's mother pushed the door open and walked in with her.



"Woaaaaw… Vicky! Look! It's a real castle like I told you!"

"… mmph!"

"Ah, come on. Take that hoodie off and look around."

It was the perfect home with a large carpeted staircase, an open concept kitchen, and a luxurious living room facing a giant window wall overlooking the city. Wishing for her kid to savor the beauty of this place to the same extent as her own soul perceived it, Vicky's mother gently pulled on her hoodie to pull it back, but Vicky immediately pressed her hands on her head, which also sent a jolt of pain through her recovering skull.


"I'm… I'm sorry… It's okay… It's okay… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to."

It was so heartbreaking. Vicky had nowhere to hide. Usually, she would have run to her bedroom and slid under a protective blanket, but she didn't know this place at all. It wasn't home. She had nowhere to escape. Her safest place was still next to her loving mother, but she didn't want her to pull on her hoodie like that.

Fortunately, a mother knew her kid.

"Let's try to find your bedroom, okay? Lucy said it was adorable and that you might like it a lot. Then you can have a nap and explore our new house whenever you are ready. Okay?"

"Mmm… Okay."

Hand in hand, the two of them climbed the giant stairs, looking for the special room. Vicky was so small that she had to put her two feet on each step before tackling the next one. From an outsider's perspective, this was very cute. From Vicky's perspective, it was strange and made her feel like she was two years old.

First, they quickly located the master bedroom, which caused Vicky's mother to slap a hand on her mouth. She had never dreamt that it would be possible for her to sleep in such a luxurious place. Since Vicky's birth, she had been renting cheap apartments barely big enough for the two of them. It had never prevented them from being happy, but a bit of special comfort wasn't something she could say not to after having slept on cheap mattresses all her life. Lucy's endless generosity felt like an ultimate reward for all the sacrifices she had made to raise Vicky well. She did her best to conceal the tears running down her cheeks. Even if she was overwhelmed by this change of fortune, she thought it would be better not to show Vicky that this was what a normal life should be.

"A… alright, Vicky… This is my room. You can come in whenever you want. Let's try to find yours now."


Vicky's mother turned around and pulled on her hand to go toward the other bedroom. But with her hoodie so low on her face, Vicky bumped her head into the doorframe.


"Oh, sorry. Just lift your hoodie up a little so that you can at least see where you are going. I'm not going to look at your scars. I promise."

"Mmm… Okay…"

Cautiously and having no other options, Vicky pushed her hoodie up just enough to see something else than the thick carpet. After all, there was no one else around here, so it wouldn't be too risky. She followed her mother to the second bedroom.

When they pushed open this new door, both were assaulted by a wave of fiery red and white colors that left them speechless.



As they walked into this nicely decorated kid room, which was almost as big as the master bedroom, they gasped in their own little way. Vicky's mother had the most challenging time retaining her laughter, and Vicky almost got offended.


"MOM! There are foxes everywhere!"


"MOM! It's not funny. Why are there foxes everywhere!?"

Vicky's mom, cheek hurting, walked inside and grabbed a very cuddly object from the nearby dresser. No matter what, she had to find a way to turn this day into a positive one, and this was such a perfect opportunity.

"It… it's okay, Vicky… It's not… that bad. Pfff… Look at this little fox plushie. It's adorable."

"Aaah! Don't give it to me. Why is this room filled up with fox stuff? Even the bedsheets have foxes on them."

"It's alright, Vicky. Don't make a fuss. Lucy did all of this for us, so you have to be very respectful. She told you. If you don't like it, she will change it for something else."

"Urrgh… So many foxes. Whyyy?"

It was indeed a bit over the top. Vicky didn't have anything against foxes per se, but all those pictures and stuffed animals were not really her age. Even the alarm clock had ears on it. She walked to the bed and sat on the corner of it.

"Mom, can we go back home?"

"No, Vicky. I explained this to you already. We are not renting that apartment anymore. Anyway, you told me that you didn't even like our old place."

"But I won't be able to see my friends."

"Oh, you'll see them again from time to time. We can invite them here. But yes, you'll have to go to a new school and make new friends too."

And that was when Vicky's head started to spin. In her mind, she had been disfigured, and nobody would want to spend time with her ever again. Maybe her existing friends would have had a chance to accept her even after what she became, but with a new school and new people, there was not a chance that it could happen. She felt ugly and didn't understand how she would ever be able to reintegrate into the normal world one day.

Instead of arguing with her mother, Vicky suddenly felt exhausted. Still medicated, she climbed on the bed some more. Even though there was a fox on it, this fuzzy blanket was actually very soft and smelled good. It was not a thought she would have shared with her mother, but it wasn't necessary as her body language had already said everything.

"Alright, Vicky, just close your eyes and take a little nap. You are very tired. We can talk about this later. Okay?"


It was too late already. Vicky had not heard half of what her mother had said. She was already deep asleep even though she knew the terrifying black dog would come back to wake her up soon, like every time her eyes closed since the incident.

And Vicky's mother began to cry, like every time Vicky closed her eyes.

The only moment when she could show weakness was when Vicky was asleep. When her child was asleep, nobody could protect her from the relentless black dog. When asleep, Vicky was vulnerable and lonely… so lonely…

Her little kid was so adorable, so cute. Why did this happen to her? Vicky didn't deserve that. All her short life, she had been a beacon of light and happiness. Since she got bit, her blood had been poisoned and turned into black goo. Why, why, why? Why Vicky?

Her mother looked at the stuffed animal she had picked up from the dresser earlier. With its little ears and tail, it was a bit cute. She brushed its cheeks with her thumbs and whispered some instructions to it.

"Okay, little one. Your job is to protect Vicky from the black dog, okay? Don't disappoint me, or I'll put you in the washing machine with some bleach."

She then forced him to nod cutely before placing it in Vicky's heavy arms.


Vicky cracked her eyes open… 

It was odd.

She got a little wave of anxiety, conditioned by her recurring nightmares, but she quickly calmed down when she realized that she had not dreamt about the demon dog. It was the first time in two months that she didn't have nightmares about the black dog attacking her. Was it because of this soft fuzzy blanket?

"… uh?"

In her arms, she found a big and cuddly fox. What was it doing here? … It was warm… and kind of cute. It was still not her age, but nobody else was in the room to judge her actions. There was no real reason to let it go just now.

She painfully rolled to her back and looked around. This room was definitely better than her previous one. Her mother was right; she didn't like her last apartment because the neighbors' food smelled funny, and the odors seeped through her bedroom walls. Also, there were a lot of ants. She didn't like ants.

But here, there were no unpleasant smells, no strange noises, and even though there were a bit too many fox things, she felt safe. Safe enough to pull her hoodie off her head, revealing the entirety of her fresh scars running on the side of her head. The air brushing against them was enough to remind her of her sensitive wounds. She slid her fingers on the scars, and it triggered some pain, which meant that it was probably time for her medication. But before going to her mother to get it, she lifted the stuffed fox above her face.

"How did you get here? Did you protect me from the black dog?"

"Yes. I'm your friend."

"You can talk?"

"Yes. Do you want to be my friend?"

"I don't know. I'm ugly now. Nobody wants to be my friend."

"I want to. I don't mind."

"Okay, then. You can stay. I'll tell my mom not to get rid of you."

"I would like to stay with you, Vicky."

"How do you know my name?"

"Your mother told me your name."

"Oh. You talked to her too."

"No. She just told me."

"That makes sense. Do you have a name?"


"What is it?"

"My name is Vix. I'm your friend. I want to stay with you forever, Vicky."


Sitting in front of the giant window wall in the living room, Vicky's mother was in the long process of reading all the lawyer paperwork provided by Lucy earlier. It was head-spinning. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the amount of money Vicky would get as compensation for the incident. The kid wouldn't know anything about this for the many years to come, but for the moment, it could be put to good use for her various upcoming medical treatments. As mysterious as she has been so far, Lucy has been a real blessing in their life, an angel sent by the Gods. That strong woman had used all her resources to save them and remove all pain from the heavy judiciary process. And, of course, letting her occupy this penthouse for free without asking anything in return was absolutely and incredibly generous.

Vicky's mother was a proud person who had always managed to survive by herself no matter how many times life circumstances had tried to push her down. Being a single mother certainly came with many challenges. But this time around, Lucy's help has been indispensable, and the way she had offered it didn't leave room for interpretation. It was crystal clear at this point that Lucy had a personal reason for doing all of this, and it had nothing to do with her or Vicky. Something else was hidden behind this generosity, something perhaps as dramatic, dark, and gut-wrenching, and having refused her help would have broken something inside this businesswoman. Maybe one day, the whole truth would come out, but somehow, at this point in time, this life-saving arrangement seemed to be highly beneficial to both of them.

"Mooom… It hurts…"

"Oh, Vicky. You are awake?"

"Yes. Can I have my medication?"

"In thirty minutes, yes. Come here. Sit next to me. You'll feel better."


Hoodie hiding her upper face, Vicky walked into the living room and climbed on the oversized leather couch. This small kid looked even smaller when sitting on it. After putting her documents aside, her mother couldn't help but notice that Vicky carried the fox plushie that she had placed in her arms before her nap.

"Oooh. Who is this?"

"That's Vix."


"Yes. She is my friend. She protected me from the black dog."

"Really? You didn't have your nightmare?"

"No. Vix said she would not let him come close to me again."

"Oh? She said that?"


Perhaps it was a coincidence, or perhaps it wasn't. Vicky's mother knew that the nightmare would eventually come back, fox or not, but for the moment, if this cute fox plushie could bring some peace to her child, there was no reason not to play this harmless game.

"So, do you still want to redecorate your room?"

"No. Vix said she likes it the way it is."

"Oh, okay then. I'll let Lucy know that you like your new room."

"No, mom! Not me… I told you! Foxes are for babies! It's Vix who likes it."

"Ah, of course. Then we will keep your room like that for Vix."

"Yeah… She likes that room a lot. We can't change it."

The inner strength of a person often took the strangest forms.


Six years later…

"Vicky! You are going to be late for school. Turn off the TV and come eat."

"I don't want to go."

"Sure you want to. School is fun."

"People call me names because of my scars."

"Yes, and they get punished for it. And that boy who stole your lunch got suspended. And it was not because of your scars. It was because you are smaller than him, and he thought he could intimidate you."

Vicky turned off the TV and walked to the kitchen to grab her now cold peanut butter toast that her mother had prepared ages ago. She climbed on the stool and knelt on it.

"I don't want to be small anymore!"

"Why not? You've always been small. That's a blessing. You are adorable."

"People pick on me because of my scars and also because I'm small. I don't want to live like that."

"Ah. Seriously. That's not because you are small. That's because you let them do it."

"MOM! What do you want me to do!? There is nothing I can do to make them go away."

"That's not true. Look at your chubby friend… What's her name? She is as short as you, and nobody bugs her."

"Beatrice!? That's because she kicked a boy in the nuts really hard last month. The nurse had to put ice on his crotch. She thought he had a fractured testicle. People fear her now."

"See, she found her own way to deal with her problems. I can't picture you hurting someone physically as she did, but I'm sure you can find a way to solve your issue."

"Mmm… I don't think so. Beatrice has no scars to deal with."

"We talked about this, Vicky. Everybody has scars. They are just not always visible. But in the case of Beatrice, she is very chubby, so I'm sure people are making fun of her because of her weight too. Why don't you spend more time with her, anyway? If people fear her, maybe they will leave you alone."

"Meh… She is not my real friend. We never talk."

"Well, start with that then. Go see her and have a chat. Invite her over to watch a movie or something."


"Alright… You'll be late again. Go to school now."


Vicky jammed the remainder of her concrete-textured toast between her teeth and grabbed her lunchbox, the one with the fox on it. She waved at her mom and trotted to the front door. When she was like that, it was almost a reminder of how energetic she was as a kid.

As she was about to exit the penthouse, the front door magically opened. In the doorway was Lucy, who came for an impromptu visit like she often did.

"Hi, Vicky! Late for school again?"

"Yeshhh… Showwy…"

With her toast between her teeth, she ducked under Lucy's arm and headed to the elevator. She was the cutest thing in the world. Lucy entered the penthouse and closed the door behind herself before addressing Vicky's mother.

"How does she manage to be so darn adorable?"

"I have no idea. I might have passed an odd gene."

"Apparently. So, how are things?"

"So good. There are some challenges at school, kids being kids, but outside that, I think Vicky will be just fine. She is never going to get rid of her hoodies, though."

"Ah, that's fine. It just makes her look even cuter. And what about you?"

Vicky's mother and Lucy had learned to become friends over the years, allowing this familiarity level. Lucy had eventually shared her true story with her several years ago and explained the whole reason for her involvement with everything that had helped Vicky grow as a healthy sixteen-year-old girl. The bond that this trust had created had metamorphosed into a healthy friendship between two mothers who had gone through hell. To make things even better, Vicky had learned to love Lucy as well and to treat her like a cool aunt.

After brewing some coffee, they both sat in the living room for a little chat. Things were about to change, and there were some risks involved.

"So, are you still sure you want to leave?"

"Oh yes. Downtown is not for me, and this overseas job will do me some good… I think."

"And Vickie is still okay with it?"

"Yes. She is actually looking forward to it so she can have all the penthouse to herself and watch as much TV as she wants."

"Haha. Don't worry. I'll keep an eye on her."

"And you, Lucy? Have you talked to Shane recently?"

"… Nah."

"Why not?"

"Too busy. Maybe next month when things calm down a bit."

"You've been saying that for years. You have to do something about it."

"I know… maybe…"

"Do you still love him?"

"… Yes. But it's complicated."

"Alright. But don't wait another six years, okay? My man left me when I got pregnant, so don't turn your back on love if you can have it. You'll regret it."

"I know… I know that…"

Both women took a sip of coffee. The silence was a bit heavy. Shane and Lucy had never divorced for some reason, and they kept a cold business relationship. Love wasn't the issue. Pain was.

How was it possible to look into a pair of eyes that were so similar to her lost child? Even her nose was the same… her smile. How would it be possible to endure this reminder that burned her veins worse than an injection of sulfuric acid? That was impossible. Lucy had never found a way around this. No, she didn't hate Shane, nor did she want him to get out of her life, but all the doors she had tried in order to reach him had always led to the same thing… pain.

On his side, Shane had managed to end his mourning healthily with the support of friends and family. To his credit, he had been more patient with Lucy than she had deserved, but he never really considered leaving her, living in the hope that, one day, she would find a way to return to him. Some days, working with her at the insurance firm had been extremely difficult, and others occasionally showed signs of hope. Lucy was still this fantastic person he loved unconditionally, but she just couldn't get herself to embrace the death of her child as a fact of life and move on.

But still, there was hope.

Shane had also befriended Vicky's mother and Vicky herself. Actually, Vicky loved him very much, particularly when he brought her some fast food on Sunday night when Lucy and her mother went out for a movie or to a restaurant. The young girl was definitely entertaining, and the way she held her burger with her two hands was oddly adorable. Vicky was definitely a balm on Shane's heart. Next to her, even if for a brief moment, he could experience a little bit of what he would have enjoyed if Sammie had still been around. This small girl was the living proof that life didn't stop with one person's tragic destiny.

After her coffee with Vicky's mother, Lucy grabbed her purse and headed to the front door. She, too, had some work to do today, and since she was a reliable businesswoman, she had to be an example for the others below her. Punctuality was a good trait to develop for an employee who desired to keep his job.

But on her way out, she noticed something sitting in the staircase; a small fox plushie that had seen better days. She had not seen this creature since… Sammie.

"Oh my… Is this what I think it is?"

She picked up the fox and brought her up to her eye level. It was indeed one of Sammie's plushies.

"Haha. That's Vickie's fox. Not sure why it's there. She still sleeps with it even though she says she doesn't anymore. That thing was a lifesaver when Vicky had her nightmares about the black dog attacking her. For some reason, it managed to protect her from those. Psychology is a funny thing."

"Sammie loved foxes so much. She clung to that one a lot when she was sick. I'm glad it was useful to Vicky."

"Oh yes. So useful. You have no idea… But now that I'm looking at it, it's due for a washing machine trip. Vicky will hate me for it, but germs are germs, and they must be obliterated."

"Haha. Here, catch."

Lucy tossed the dirty fox over to Vicky's mother, who caught it like a pro. The fox's fate was sealed.

"Haha. Alright. Thanks for the coffee. I'll see you this weekend."

"Sure thing. Have a great day at work, Lucy. Alright, now. Come with me, Vix. It's time for your bath!"


Lucy's blood turned to ice. Did she really hear what she heard? Her throat clamped shut, her lungs burned, and her heart began pumping blood like there was no tomorrow. A single word, or at least the one she thought she heard, had pulled her back in time, six years ago when she announced death to a child who didn't deserve it.


Yes. A very cute fox will come to pick you up and bring you there.


Yes. It will keep you company until dad and mom are ready to go there too. We will be a bit late.

Oh, it's okay. If I have a real fox to keep me company, I can wait.

Good. What are you going to name your fox friend, Sammie?

Mmm… VIX! Because it's super cute!

Haha. Okay. Vix it is. Make sure to tell Vix everything you want. Then if I see a fox named Vix, she will tell me everything you told her. She will tell me how happy you are in the sky.

Okay! Will do!

"Lucy? Are you okay?"

"What… what did you just say?"

"I'm sorry?"

"The name… the name of the fox? What is it?"

"That thing? Vicky named her Vix on the first day we moved here. She has never left her since then. I guess it's a good name for a fox, no?"


Uncontrollable tears started to run down Lucy's cheeks. She had not noticed them so much she was confused about what she had just heard. How was this possible? A creature that only existed in Sammie's imagination a few days before her death was now in the hands of Vicky's mother.

"Lucy? What's going on? Are you okay?"

Unable to add a single word, Lucy turned around and ran out of the penthouse, not even attempting to slow down the flow of her sadness.

"Hey! Wait! Lucy! Come back!"


Two months later…

Lucy arrived at the penthouse with a bag full of hamburgers for the movie night she had promised Vicky a while ago. It was important to keep an eye on the young girl since her mother had left a couple of weeks ago for an overseas job. A mother leaving her sixteen years old daughter behind may have seemed cruel, but with Lucy and Shane around to take care of the little teenager, there were no real worries to have, and at the end of the day, it was an excellent exercise. So far, everything was going really well, and Vicky was satisfied with talking to her mother over the phone every night.

After swiping her magnetic card over the lock, Lucy pushed the big wooden door open and let herself in.

"Vicky! I'm here!"

"Hi! We're here!"


Two little heads pop up from behind the couch's backrest. It was Vicky's ruffled brown hair, not hidden by her hoodie, which was exceptional in itself, and another blonde one sitting on a very chubby but cute teen face.

"Vicky? Who's your friend?"

"That's Beatrice…"

"… but everybody calls me Trixie or Trix. Oooh! Are those burgers I smell?"

Lucy smiled at Beatrice's boldness, a trait that she valued. She had heard this name before as she was one of the rare girls who accepted becoming friends with Vicky and didn't seem to care one bit about her physical appearance. Since Vicky's mother had often referred to her as the "chubby friend," it was pretty easy to confirm her identity even though she had never seen her before. Perhaps she should have brought a few extra burgers for the occasion.

"Hi, Beatrice. Nice meeting you. And yes, I have some delicious burgers for you two."


"What are we watching tonight?"


"Balto? What is that?"

"A kid movie."

"… Uh… okay? Aren't you girls supposed to be into horror movies or something your age?"


"Alright. Balto it is."

Who was she to argue? They were two against one anyway. Lucy placed the burgers on the coffee table and sat next to the teens on the couch. The point here was to spend time with them, so the poor movie selection was secondary in this evening's plan.

On that night, Lucy discovered two things about life. Grizzly bears are terrifying, and Beatrice had a bottomless digestive system. While Vicky barely managed to finish a single burger and herself only one, Beatrice had eaten three and was now binging on the pretzels. No wonder why her body mass index was catastrophic.

The good news was that everybody had fun, and Beatrice even called her parents to ask permission to stay overnight. The two teenagers went to Vicky's room and spent the night together doing girl things, probably dreaming about sexy pop singers and talking about cute boys, which was a very healthy activity for girls their age. It was good to see that Vicky, still very sheltered because of her head scars, had finally found a reliable friend. A friend who didn't care about her physical appearance and that always seemed joyful. Apparently, from what Lucy had heard, Beatrice had quite a powerful kick as well, so she could keep an eye on Vicky at school and protect her from the other ill-intentioned kids. She had overheard something about a fractured testicle at some point.

The next morning, Lucy woke up in the master bedroom, her former master bedroom. Somehow, it didn't feel strange. It felt very much like home but without painful memories. Spending time with Vicky and Beatrice had been a great experience and kept her grounded and away from darker thoughts. If she could at least have those peaceful moments in her life, it would be a great victory.


It was probably too early to wake up, but work was necessary, and staying in bed was a luxury. So Lucy dressed back up and made her bed as she had a few work meetings with Shane later in the morning. 


Why did she never manage to reconnect with him after that last day at the hospital? What could have happened between the two of them for being unable to re-establish their lives the same way as when they first met. Surely, that was what Sammie would have wished for. There was no question about it. But it didn't work that way. Lucy still liked Shane, and Shane still liked her. That wasn't the problem. No, the problem seemed to be more mystical than that. Somehow Sammie had become a crucial part of their relationship, and her absence acted as a missing link.

At least there were no ill thoughts within their now defective relationship. This bedroom where they had conceived Sammie still felt great. It was the same sun seeping through the curtains cracks and the same perfect view over a sensibly distant world. Lucy still loved the penthouse even though she had no explicit desire to get it back one day. For now, at least, she much preferred seeing Vicky feeling at home and becoming an accomplished adult despite the formidable challenge she had to go through. To stick to a promise she once made, to take care of Vicky for as long as it would be necessary, she would never put any pressure on her to leave the penthouse. If Vicky decided to stay here for two more years or twenty, it would be just fine.

Thinking about this little girl and her voracious friend, Lucy got curious. She was fully aware that Vicky and Beatrice had no intention to go to bed at the same time as she did last night, but still, she hoped that they would have at least gone to bed at a reasonable hour, and they wouldn't look like grumpy zombies all day.

Lucy left her bedroom, and on her way to the washroom, she decided to peek inside Vicky's room to confirm that they were indeed asleep. Her hand pushed the door handle carefully so as not to make a noise…

If she had successfully managed not to make the door creak, her voice, however, failed to remain silent when she saw what she saw.

"Whaaaat in the wooorld!?"


"That wasn't nice, Lucy!"

"I know, Vicky. I'm sorry."


"I said I'm sorry. I know you are no longer a child. I shouldn't have peeked in your room."



"… So what!? "

The small teenager with her head buried inside her hoodie, this time with a different goal than hiding her scars, purposely feigned ignorance. Her mother was gone, but she knew how motherly Lucy could be. In fact, there was almost no difference between her mother and her. And since what Lucy attempted with her unfinished question would surely lead to some moralization or an education session, was there really a way out? She totally expected Lucy's next question, but it still annoyed her.

"Do you like girls?"


"Whaaat? I'm just asking."

"I'm not a child!"

"I know. I'm not judging you. I'm just happy to learn more about you. I didn't expect to find you making out with your chubby friend and…"


"Okay… okay… I'm sorry. Not talking about it anymore. One or two eggs?"

"Just one."

"And how many do you think Beatrice will want?"

"Trixie? … Probably three…"

"Three eggs?… Okay…"

Lucy returned to her pan, cooking breakfast for her two embarrassed teens. Actually, that was a gross assumption. There was no way to tell what Vicky's friend felt like after being discovered. That girl was a strong-willed little girl, so it was possible that she wasn't too affected by this delicate situation. Shortly after being caught, Beatrice had headed to the bathroom for a shower. The blonde girl didn't have such a luxurious bathroom back at home, so it was hard to pass on such an opportunity. Her goal this morning would probably be to empty the hot water tank.

Lucy didn't have to wait too long to confirm her suspicion. Only wearing a towel, Beatrice bounced down the stairs and headed directly to the kitchen like a food homing missile.

"Aaah! Food! Sweet!"

The happy teenager, despite her considerable weight, had no issue jumping on the stool next to Vicky, who instinctively knew that her friend would have no difficulties discussing what happened earlier if Lucy dared to bring up the topic again.

And as a matter of fact…

"Kissing Vicky like this must have made you hungry, Beatrice."

And that was totally on purpose. Lucy found out a long time ago that mentally playing with teenagers and torturing them was fun. But her new target didn't seem to mind one bit.

"Oh yeah! Vicky is delicious but not nutritious! Haha!"

Vicky let her face fall flat on top of the kitchen island and groaned, wishing Lucy to give Beatrice her food so she would stop talking, even if that was not even a guarantee.


Three years later…

"Why are you still wearing that hoodie, Vicky?"

"People will make fun of my scars."

"Come on. We are going to visit a restaurant for sale. It's not like we are going to a party."

"Lucy! Lucy! Look! They are selling giant pretzels over there!"

It was always the same. Every time Lucy and Vicky were going out with Beatrice in tow, they could count on her to act like a child. The now very skinny blonde girl had lost nothing of her appetite and still naturally targeted every source of calories on her way.

Lucy and Vicky turned around and looked at Beatrice drooling in front of the pretzel stand. Hearing the distressed plea, it was almost too passionate, Lucy pulled her wallet out and went to meet her.

"Beatrice, I will never understand how you managed to lose all that extra weight while still eating this much. You are defying all the laws of thermodynamics. Alright. I'll get you a giant pretzel."

"It's because of all the hot sex I have with Vicky. I didn't change anything else."

"Ahan. You keep saying that. Yet, you keep claiming that you are not her girlfriend."

"Yes. We are just friends, but we like sex a lot. Right, Vicky?"

As usual, even if Beatrice spoke nothing but the truth, Vicky pulled her hoodie a bit lower over her face to hide her red face. 

The bad thing was that her friend was very vocal about sex and their open relationship, but the good news was that Lucy, at least, seemed to roll with it without any issue. Lucy loved Beatrice as a person, probably seeing in her the same kind of boldness that she once had, and the fact that Vicky had one very precious friend was an extremely important factor too, no matter how strange their intimate relationship was at the root. Beatrice was good for Vicky, so it was worth feeding the beast.

After purchasing the big snack, Lucy resumed her course to a local restaurant for sale downtown while her two young friends distractedly followed her while chewing on the pastry. Beatrice may have been a pig, but she never hesitated to share her precious food with a friend.

Through some work contact, Lucy had heard of this small pub for sale. The owner was older and wanted to retire. Having no kids to pass down his business and with a burning desire to return to his hometown somewhere in Europe, all he wanted was a decent lump of cash, something that would be enough to put his dream into action. A perfect opportunity for a woman who had recently decided that her life needed a new direction.

Working at the insurance company for so long and seeing Shane every day grew old. She wasn't unhappy per se, but perhaps heading in a new direction was a better course of action to turn her life around. After all, when she was young, she had joined Shane in his adventure, but this time, she would be creating something from the ground up. At this point, it was just an idea to explore because running a restaurant was not something she was remotely familiar with, but just considering it had put some life back into her.

When they arrived at the place, Lucy had some difficulty understanding her own feelings. This little two-story building, which was quite rare to find downtown, had its charm. It was not pretty, but this glass door in one corner and those large square windows populating the entire front had some retro feel. She could see a few tables inside and people eating unhealthy food. It would be a perfect burger place to exploit.

"Wait for me here. I don't want you to mingle with my business strategy."


"Yeah, Vicky and I will go to the sex shop across the street instead."

"What!? No! Trixie! I don't want to go there."

"Sure you do. You love latex. Let's go find you a sexy suit!"

"AArrr! Don't say that out loud!"

That was interesting. Lucy turned to Vicky and crouched a bit to look under her hoodie.

"Oooh! My little Vicky has a little deviant side?"

"Aarrr! LUCY! Go visit your stupid restaurant!"

"I could totally see you wearing something sexy like that."


"Haha. Alright. Go have fun with your girlfriend at the sex shop. I'll be back in about thirty minutes."

"Trixie and I are NOT dating!"

"Yeah, yeah! Whatever you say, Vicky!"

Proud of having embarrassed Vicky further, Lucy turned heels and headed to the restaurant to meet with the owner. She couldn't help but think it would be nice if those two young girls could work for her. The chemistry was already there.


The sex shop was nice. It was the biggest in town, and it was not even creepy. Everywhere where eyes would land, something was interesting to look at. Beatrice was totally comfortable in this environment, but Vicky, not so much, so the blonde girl led the visit and decided what was worth touching and trying, resulting in those small friendly fights.

"Haha! Wear those!"

"Awww… no! Trix! Not here!"

"Wear them, I said!"

Beatrice was one of the only people who could force Vicky to pull back her hoodie in public. For some reason, her presence reassured the small traumatized girl. She knew that if someone were to make fun of her scars, Beatrice would kick them in the nuts really hard.

So when her friend approached her with a pair of fluffy fox ears and tried to place them on her head, Vicky didn't object too strongly. She always liked foxes a lot, and those ears were definitely cute, so she half-reluctantly let her friend install them on her head.

"Awww! This is SO you!"

"… I dunno about that…"

"Come on, Vicky. Look at yourself in the mirror."

"Aaaaah! No! Not the mirror! I don't want to see what I look like."

"Enough. Stop worrying about your scars for once. Trust me. You are SO adorable. Just imagine you are going to the bathroom to brush your teeth. You look at yourself in the mirror when you brush your teeth, no?"

"Mmm… Yeah… but it's not the same."

Nobody could get mad at Vicky for having trouble coping with her physical appearance. What she went through as a kid when this demonic black dog had attacked her was no joke. Even an optimistically supercharged Beatrice knew that Vicky required a lot of guidance and support whenever a challenging situation arose. This uncomfortable trait was certainly a problem at times, but on the other hand, it was also what made Vicky so cute. When a bit shy or cautious, Vicky's body language turned into something out of the ordinary; this, paired with her small size, just motivated Beatrice to hug her and cuddle with her. If there were a bright side to Vicky's trauma, it was that it had turned her into something extraordinary.

When Vicky arrived in front of the mirror and looked at herself, she saw two things. The cute fox ears on her head, making her almost squirm of adorability, and Beatrice's chin on her shoulder, who shared the reflection. By pressing her soft cheek on hers, the blonde girl managed to hide most of her friend's scars. Beatrice was very pretty with her pale skin and blue eyes. She was even hotter since she lost half of her total weight in the past couple of years. Vicky placed her hand on Beatrice's cheek.

"Those ears… They are very cute."

"No, Vicky. YOU are very cute."

"I… I can't see my scars."

"That's how I see you all the time. You have no scars. You are just very cute and sexy."

"Where are my… scars?"

"Today, you don't have any."

Vicky turned to Beatrice and looked into her eyes for a long moment. How could she do this? How could she make her feel so good? Vicky wrapped her arms around her friend's neck and kissed her, which only caused the blonde girl to laugh.

"Hahaha! Vicky! Stop! Stop! We are in a shop. Even me, I know better!"


"Hey! No! Keep your ears on, Vicky! We are totally buying them."

"Okay. But don't tell Lucy, or else she will make fun of me again."

"Nah! Lucy is nice. Alright. Come. Let's find more cool stuff like… OH MY GOD! VICKY! LOOK!"

Beatrice sprinted to the very end of the alley like a bullet and landed on a rack full of shiny clothes.



"Wow… I didn't expect this. So the top floor is empty? And the basement is also empty?"

"Yes. We never had the money to finish the renovation. I know it is less appealing, but I think I'm asking for a fair price to compensate for this."

"No… no… On the contrary. I love it."


When Lucy climbed upstairs to visit the restaurant, she only found half-finished rooms and many empty spaces. For some reason, it didn't turn her off, and in fact, it was even better. Not only would the purchase price be lower, but on top of it, this discovery was convenient.

"See, I'm not entirely sure what kind of restaurant I want to run yet. So starting with a blank slate is a great thing."

"I suppose it makes sense if you planned to renovate the place."

"Alright. So that would be it for today. Thanks for letting me visit. I will contact you back very soon."

"… With an offer I can't refuse?"

"Hahaha. Possibly."

Business humor was reserved for business people because it wasn't funny. Even though this building wasn't perfect and that Lucy would need more time to make up her mind about this transaction, it couldn't hurt that, at the very least, the owner seemed to understand her world.

After a good handshake and polite goodbye under the gaze of the staff who were wondering if their jobs were in jeopardy, Lucy exited the place to return to her two nineteen years old balls of craziness.

But when she stepped out, she didn't see them. Lucy entertained the idea of tossing some chips on the walkway or hitting a can of soup with a metal spoon to attract Beatrice, but instead, she sighed.

"Aaah! Don't tell me they really went to the sex shop. They are so impatient. Ah well, I suppose I could go take a look over there."

Lucy never had a problem with kinky stuff. Her personality has always been a bit wild, and even though she had never really needed extra spicy things in her life, she fully understood why people were attracted to new ideas. Perhaps they were right, and she should have jumped on the bandwagon of kinks as well, but it was a bit unappealing without a partner, at least one with whom she would share a bed.

Without any shame or fear to be seen, she crossed the street and headed straight to the large sexy store. It was much bigger than her potential restaurant.


That shop was vast and well supplied. It was a beautiful store, actually. Somehow they managed to evacuate the creepiness from the place, which meant there was not a row of fake oversized penises on the first shelf in front of the door. Instead, it was a lovely silver mannequin wearing a very classy nightgown. Without thinking about what she was doing and being a sucker for cute lingerie, Lucy pulled the bottom of the skirt using her fingers, feeling the satiny texture sliding between her light grip.

"Mmm… Oooh, that's nice. Okay, I'm in trouble."

As she attempted to locate the price tag to figure out how much money she would spend today, a feminine voice interrupted her.

"Welcome to our store. May I help you?"

"Oh… Ah, yes. I'm looking for my two little friends. A girl with a hoodie and another with blonde hair. You can't miss her as she is probably chewing on a shoe or something."

"Ah, yes. They are at the back of the store near the fitting room."

"Fitting room?… oooh… perfect."

"Do you like this nightgown?"

"Yes. Very much so. But I'll come back for it a bit later."

"Okay. Let me know if you need anything."

"Will do."

Armed with precious information, Lucy crawled like a leopard toward the back of the store. She could already hear Beatrice's loud voice from afar, and clearly, she seemed to be doing something a bit too exciting to spoil, so she hid behind a clothes rack and raised on her tiptoes just enough to scan above it.

What she saw was amazing… It would earn Vicky and Beatrice years of endless teasing.

"I'm going to eat you!"

"Noooo! I'm just a little bunny!"

"And I'm a fox! Raaawr!"

It was incredible. Vicky was wearing a fiery red latex catsuit, molding her frail body to perfection, along with two fluffy ears and a fox tail. Her friend Beatrice, wearing some blinding white rubber with a pair of bunny ears, pretended to cower in fear in front of the fox girl who attempted to eat her playfully. This scene had a feel of an elementary school theatre show mixed with some poor adult roleplaying.

Lucy wanted to hug them both so badly. They were the most adorable thing she had ever seen since Sammie. That said, she knew it would be highly inappropriate to interrupt them. She knew it would embarrass Vicky like there is no tomorrow. She knew she was much older than them and should let the young adults do young adult things…

She knew that…

But… But…




The overly emotional Lucy ran from behind the rack and wrapped the two glossy cute girls in her arms. They could scream all they wanted, but Lucy's day just got a whole lot better all of a sudden.


"Lucy! That was wrong!"

"Pfff… Vicky, you two were too adorable to resist. You should have bought those costumes."

"Absolutely not! We were just… playing… We didn't like wearing those…"

"I did! Loved it!"

"Trixiiie! Don't encourage her!"

"Whaaat!? I felt super sexy as a bunny!"

While walking out of the sex shop, Vicky's face was still as beet red as the latex suit she had worn. Lucy was almost a mother to her, and the fact that she caught her wearing a very skintight latex suit along with fox ears had been so humiliating. On top of that, Lucy had loved it excessively and even went as far as trying to polish her skinny rubber body to make her look even sexier. Her birth mother would never have tried that, but since Lucy was very bold and had no family ties, nothing had prevented her from trying to take advantage of this golden opportunity.

While Vicky ran away from her oppressor, Beatrice was more than willing to receive that special polishing. Lucy had always been fun to be around, so confirming that she was this open-minded made her look even more awesome.

Beatrice pulled her rabbit ears from her little shopping bag and placed them on top of her head, making Vicky feel even more uneasy.

"Look, Vicky! I'm a rabbit!"

"Aaah. Trixie. Take those off. People are staring at us."

"Here are yours."

"No! I'm not wearing them outside!"




"No! No! No!"

"Okay, enough, you two. We have a bit of time before going to the art show. Do you want to go eat a burger?"



This moment felt surreal. Lucy had offered free food before their next activity and only obtained half of the votes. But what was very unusual this time was that the negative answer came from Beatrice, a living stomach. Both Vicky and Lucy shared the same thought.

Did Beatrice just refuse food?

Together, they stared at the bunny girl who was distracted by her shopping bag. Somehow, Vicky's ears didn't fit inside it anymore. Maybe it was because of that fluffy tail. But after battling this problem for a moment, she leveled her head and felt observed.

"Uh? What? What did I do?"

"… Did you just refuse a burger?"

"Well, yes! Lucy! We eat burgers all the time. Nobody eats burgers anymore. It's not trendy!"

"Not trendy!? What are you talking about? Everybody loves burgers."

"False! Look at me. I lost all this weight. Do you really think I want to get it back?"

"… Some days I wonder…"

"Ah! No! Burgers are evil."

"Okay… No burgers then… What do you want to eat, then? Veggie egg rolls?"

"Ah! No! Vegetarian food is gross! I want CAKE!"

"… Cake? Where does that come from? And how is that supposed to be healthier than a burger?"

"It's not. But at least they are tasty. Right, Vicky?"

"Yeah. I mean, I could go for a cake too."

Left, right. The two girls in front of Lucy had definitely grown up. They had ingested a majestic amount of burgers during those movie nights since they were young, and now they wanted cake.

Vicky pulled her phone out and located the nearest cake shop.

"That way!"


"They were SO good!"

"I told you, Lucy. Burgers are not trendy. It's all about cakes now."

"I believe it. Maybe I should start a cake shop instead of a restaurant."

"It would be wise."

Rubbing their bellies, the three women walked out of the cake place, stuffed with sugar and coffee. It was way worse for health than a burger, but Lucy could see the point, cakes were delicious.

Food for thought.

"Anyway, why do we have to go to this art thingy again, Lucy? It will be boring."

"It's an art show, not an art thingy. And it's because Shane and I are sponsoring it every year through our insurance company. It's to give a platform to the art student so they can show what they are made of."

"Painting… sewing… filming… musicing… How interesting!"

"Musicing is not a word, Vicky. And this sarcasm of yours is why I want you to come with me. It will open your mind to something other than TV."

"Pfff… We go every year. Can I not skip one year?"

"No. And let's go or else we will be late. It's at the other end of town."


"Awww! So cute."


After traveling to the Art college, Vicky and Beatrice were let loose while Lucy went to take care of some sponsor obligations with Shane, who was already on site. For some reason, despite their less than ideal relationship, they had never abandoned their charitable goals, and they were always happy to participate together in this kind of event.

After roaming for a while around the busy exposition floor, Beatrice crouched in front of a little animal statuette… or toy… whatever it was. Black like night, this cat thing had a wobbly head, and its two eyes were mounted on little springs, making it look like something in between silly and monstrous. For a long moment, Beatrice, hypnotized, poked the black cat's head with her finger to make it shake some more.

"Vicky. Maybe I should buy it. I kind of like it."

"Eww, no!"

"Give me some money, Vicky."

"Nooo! You are not buying this thing with my money."

"But she is so cute."

"How can you even tell this cat is a female?"

"Her attitude."

"Ahan… Come, Trixie. Let's go see something else."

"No, wait… We can't abandon Misti."

"Oh, no! Don't start giving it a name."

"We are bonding."

"Arrr. Enough, Trix. Come."

"Alright. Alright. Stop pulling on my arm. We will abandon her. We will leave her behind in the cruelest way. But you'll see, Vicky. Because of your action today, one day, Misti will come back and haunt you."

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, bunny."

"Misti will sneak in your bed and climb on top of you, and then she will have sex with you!"

"TRIX! Stooop! The cake burned your brain cells! Let's go. I don't want to spend the entire day here."

"Hahaha! Misti will haunt youuu!"


A bit later, in the college lobby, Lucy walked toward her two little companions with a big smile. That art show always cheered her up for some reason. Seeing all those young students displaying their talents for the public because of her generous donation had always made her feel somewhat satisfied.

"Aaah! That was great. Did you enjoy yourself, Vicky?"

"Not really. It was boring. That's why I don't want to go to college. I have nothing in common with those people."

"Well, they are art students. You are not the most artistic person I know. But I'm sure you'd be happy going to a different college and studying something else."


"And you should have seen the winner of this year's competition. She is a costume maker, among other things, and she was sooo pretty. She is by far the most talented artist I've ever seen, and it's only her second year."

"And her name was Lady Van Gogh?"

"No, it's Elizabeth. And watching her work gave me a great idea for my new restaurant."

"Are you going to open an artsy café for snob people?"

"Mmm… A café?"

What a grumpy Vicky had sarcastically suggested made Lucy react in a very unusual way. Immediately, the woman began imagining something new that she had not thought of before. For some reason, this busy day filled with pleasant surprises had shaped a set of new ideas into a vision.

As if all the pieces of her puzzle had suddenly fallen into place, Lucy placed her two hands on Vicky's shoulder and displayed one of those worrying devilish smiles.

"Vicky! You are a GENIUS!"

"Uh? Am I?"

"Yes! Let's go home now! I have work to do."


Two days later…

"Ah! Perfect! You are both here. Beatrice, make me a coffee!"

"Heeey! Why me?"

"Because you are small."

"Small!? But I'm the same size as Vicky! I even have bigger boobs."

"I let you stay in my penthouse for free! So make me a coffee!"

"Aaah! That's slavery!"

Without warning, Lucy had entered the penthouse, a binder pressed to her chest, and determined to keep the energy high, she ordered her fifth dose of caffeine of the day. As Vicky and Lucy headed to the dining room, Beatrice slammed a pod into the coffee machine before selecting the old mug with Shane's picture on it. That should be sufficient punishment for having been mistreated like this.

The coffee machine peed the dark liquid into the mug, Beatrice attempted to catch the steam with her little hands because it was fun, and quickly, she was ready to rejoin her companions in the adjacent room. Holding the overfilled mug with her two hands to make sure not to spill any, she tiptoed toward the dining room.

Good intentions were not always rewarded by perfect timing. As soon as the blonde girl stepped into the room, her friend Vicky, who was generally quiet and nonchalant, emptied the full content of her lungs in one loud word.


Startled, Beatrice lost control of her nervous system and tilted the mug left and right to the point where she spilled the hot liquid on the floor.

"Heeey! Stupid Vicky! What's the big deal! I was performing a dangerous mission and…"

"Trixie! Tell Lucy that she is out of her mind!"

"Uh? Why?"

"She wants to open a café!"

"Well, restaurant… café… we knew that already."

"NO! She wants US to be part of it!"

"Oh cool! Are we going to get rich?"

"NO! Look!"

Offended, Vicky showed a sheet of paper to her puzzled friend while Lucy calmly took her coffee mug from Beatrice's hands. The small blonde girl inspected the document. It was a very childish drawing of a coffee shop. It looked a lot like the restaurant Lucy wanted to buy, and the banner read "Cakes and Pets," and next to it, a text bubble pointing at the store with the words "Animal Café." Obviously not on the same wavelength as Vicky, Beatrice expressed her happiness.

"Oh! Cool! An animal café. I love animals! I vote yes!"

Vicky jumped down her chair and pointed elsewhere on the sheet of paper since Beatrice had visibly missed the point. Next to the coffee shop drawings, there were two cartoonish animals with big eyes that betrayed two things; Lucy's art skills were abysmal, and a much more nefarious plan hid behind those two creatures. A rabbit and a fox. An arrow from the fox pointed to the word "Vicky," and another from the rabbit pointed to the word "Beatrice."

Vicky slapped the sheet out of Beatrice's hands and placed her two hands on her narrow shoulders.



Beatrice's eyes grew a bit bigger as she had finally connected the dots. She approached a very relaxed Lucy who was busy ignoring Vicky's fuss and sipping her coffee. Her eyes were closed as if she wasn't willing to witness revolt anymore. She then felt Beatrice's warm breath brushing on her ear.


"Yes, Beatrice?"

"Will we get free food?"


"Okay, I'm in."


Obviously, Vicky wasn't as easy going as her friend, and her mental state deteriorated at a rapid pace. However, her extreme agitation was only a symptom of something much darker, and Lucy knew it very well; she had expected it and perhaps even hoped for it to some degree. Feeling that it was the right moment to enter the storm, Lucy placed her steaming mug on the table and calmly walked to Vicky.

"Vicky? What's wrong? Don't you want a job?"


"Why? You don't have a job, and you are not going to school anymore. So what is preventing you from coming to work for me? You like me, right?"


"What's the point then? You don't like cakes?"


"You were happy dressing up as a cute fox in the sex shop with Beatrice. Since I know you, you are a little fox lover! Why not do it for a living for a while?"


"Stop screaming then, Vicky, and just tell me. "


"You mean what?"


"You can't what?"

At that point, without even being conscious of it, Vicky was in tears. The more Lucy pushed her to share her feelings, the more her panic grew. The way she carelessly gripped Lucy's vest and was halfway between ripping it off and hugging the person who had partially raised her betrayed a raging conflict within her heart. Not knowing how to handle herself, she turned to the next person she loved the most.


"Nope. Vicky… Just let it out already… You'll feel better…"

"… BUT BUT…"

At that point, both Lucy and Beatrice were on the same page. They understood precisely what bugged Vicky so much, but they had to let her express her true state of mind. But instead of that, Vicky tried to flee and run out of the room. Beatrice stopped her with a hug.


"Vicky, you can't hide behind that hoodie all your life. Just do what you want to do for once."


Unable to stay on her legs anymore, Beatrice fell on her back on the thick penthouse carpet, tightly holding her best friend in her arm, her friend who was crying her life out. Vicky had finally reached a crossroad between her pains and her desires. She let out her pain, her fears, her misery.

Not one second since the beginning of this drama, Vicky thought that she didn't want to do it. At nineteen years old, she was the same child as when she was ten. Before the dog attack that left her with unconcealable scars on her face, she had always been a playful child who loved being around people so much to have fun. She was the same attention-grabbing child, the one who loved being told she was adorable and cute. She still was the same child who grew to love foxes so much after her accident. The same teenager who had learned that cuddling with her best friend was worth more than gold. The same young adult who had enjoyed this little cosplay session at the sex shop before being interrupted by an ecstatic Lucy.

She wanted all of this and more. Inside her heart was this burning desire to live again, to be around people, to stop hiding. But there was this wall in front of her. Those big scars on her head and face that had sealed her destiny, the ones she had never learned to live with, the ones that would make the rest of her life miserable. They were the problem. As much as her heart wanted to say yes to this crazy project that Lucy had presented to her, yes to act cute and adorable around people, she just couldn't get herself to do it. She desperately wanted to do what Beatrice was going to do. She just couldn't. It was so unfair.

Laying on top of her best friend, crying her pain out into Beatrice's chest, she was the saddest person in the universe. This isolated world she couldn't experience anymore made her feel so lonely.


"Shhh… shhh… It's okay, Vicky. Cry all you want."

Calmly, even while listening to the drama unfolding at her feet, Lucy took another sip of her coffee. She had not necessarily expected Vicky to break down today, but she always knew it would happen one day or another. She had suspected that her little plan was going to stir some complex emotions inside the girl's heart, but it happened before she even had an opportunity to go into all the full details of her idea. 

Vicky's crisis was a good thing.

This pain was good.

These cries were good.

The fox girl and the rabbit girl at her feet were good.

Lucy had endured her fair share of excruciating pain. Nothing could hurt her more than what she had experienced during Sammie's loss, and at that very moment, she understood something very important. Through the misery of her almost-daughter, she realized that there was only room left for happiness in her heart. Her pain reservoir was full and saturated already, but her happiness one was still empty.

It's time for happiness.

As Vicky's tears soaked Beatrice's t-shirt some more, Lucy discreetly smiled. This little project of hers would be the cornerstone of Vicky's reintegration into the normal world. The one that would allow her to be herself again, to be this playful people-loving child that she has always been. The one prisoner of those undeserved scars.

Many long minutes dragged by before Vicky finally calmed down and sat on Beatrice's hips, trying to dry her leaky eyes and runny nose.

Lucy got off her chairs and went to sit on the floor, resting her back on the wall, making sure to carry her binder with her. She looked at Vicky and helped her dry her tears with her thumb.

"You would have loved to work at my café, right?"

"Y… yes… But… Lucy… I… I can't…"

"Yes, you said that. But before you say no for good, I want to show you something."


"Do you remember when we went to the art show the other day? I told you about a promising young artist. Her name was Elizabeth."

"… Yes… What… what about it?"

"I asked her to make me a sketch for a potential pet uniform for the café."

"… You… you did?"

"Yes. But she got it all wrong. It's not at all what I asked her."

"… O… Okay?"

"Vicky, I wanted to show what she created to you first. I want to know what you think of it."


"Here… Take a look."

Lucy cracked her binder open and pulled out a thick sheet of paper with some drawings that clearly came from a very talented artist. She placed it in Vicky's hands.


Vicky's eyes doubled in size as her throat clamped shut. On the sheet of paper was an incredible fox drawing, something she had never seen before. It looked like a fox but was shaped like a human being. What was this? A costume? Sitting, jumping, sleeping…? Around the main drawing was a series of smaller ones showing the fox girl performing different actions. And what were those tiny white bubbles all over her body, the ones that made her glow? Did it mean that the costume was made of… latex? Rubber? This shininess… What else could it be? And this mask… Those big black eyes hiding the wearer's identity and this cute muzzle preventing people from seeing her face, there was something so mysterious about it. Gradually, Vicky began to sense a possibility, and her heart felt a bit lighter.

Seeing Beatrice still prisoner under Vicky's butt while being extremely curious about what her friend was looking at, Lucy felt merciful and pulled out another sheet from her binder.

"Here, Beatrice. This one's for you. Do you like it?"

The blonde girl grabbed the piece of paper and placed it above her face. Hers was a rabbit girl with very long ears, one of them folded in the middle.

"Whaaaaaaaaaat!? Is that our café uniform? IS THAT RUBBER!?"

"Yes, if you want to. Elizabeth messed up big time, but now that I think about it, it's perfect. With these costumes hiding your entire body, nobody will be able to find out who you are. Vicky will be able to work without worrying about her scars, and you, Trixie, you'll be able to express your playful side without suffering the consequences."

"Woooow! I love it so much! What do you think, Vicky?"

Eyes still fixated on her fox drawing, Vicky's brain was fried. She was inconsolable only a moment ago because she knew she wouldn't have the strength to work in public because of her scars. She wouldn't have been able to withstand the neverending comments from the clients. Not being able to work with Lucy and Beatrice would have been devastating.

But this…


This could work…

"Well… I… I like it too. It's… cute."

"Ha! With you wearing this, I'm sure you'll be the favorite pet at the café."

"Oh… I don't think so. Show me your drawing, Trix."


It was time to fill her happiness reservoir. Lucy looked at her two little friends sharing their drawings and commenting on them. The world had restarted to spin again. It was time for everybody to move on.

"I can be Trixie, because you call me that all the time."

"Oh! And I could be Vix, like my fox stuffed animal."

"Aaah, you and your fox plushie… It's old."

"Yes, but I love Vix a lot. What do you think, Lucy? Vix and Trixie."


This damn fox…

Perhaps this lie that Lucy had told Sammie to reassure her before her death, this innocent lie that came out of nowhere, to bring peace to a small child… Perhaps it was real after all…

Was it Sammie who had sent her fox back with an important message after she passed away? The one that had carried her to the sky.


That imaginary fox that had accomplished its first mission came back for its second one.

Vix had come back to keep Lucy company until she was ready to go back to Sammie.

This could take a very long time… So Lucy couldn't stay alone for all this time.

Lucy placed her hands on both sides of Vicky's warm face and looked deeply into her deep brown eyes.

"Vix… I think that's a perfect name for you, Vicky."

"Humm… Why are you crying, Lucy? Is it because of me?"

"Oh, no… Not at all… I'm happy. I'm just very happy right now."

Shamelessly interrupting this somewhat tender scene, obviously not in a position to understand what was going through Lucy's mind, Beatrice extracted herself from under Vicky and pulled her up back to her legs.

"Come Vix! We need to go back to the kitchen!"

"Uh? Why?"

"We need to eat more, so we are super cuddly while wearing latex at the café!"

"Hey! I don't want to eat more!"

"Come! Quick! I saw some macaroni salad in the fridge."

"Heeey! Don't pull on my arm like that, stupid rabbit!"

Her two balls of craziness disappearing around the corner, Lucy leaned her head back against the wall and looked at her drawings.

It was a bit too embarrassing for Lucy to admit that Elizabeth had NOT made a mistake and that those suits came directly from her own imagination, but it didn't matter. Those latex animal costumes had pleased her two little friends, and just like that, her new café had all the chances in the world to succeed.

She let a long sigh out…

"Vix… You damn fox… What are you doing to me? Hehe."


Back to the present…

Trixie had bounced from her seat and landed right on Lucy's lap.

"You TOLD us Elizabeth had made a mistake. And now you are admitting that those costumes were YOUR idea?"


"That's terrible!"

"Whatever, Trixie. You like it anyway."

"Yes, but you don't look as innocent as before to me."

"Ahan. And look who's talking."

I squeezed my girlfriend so much during the story that people thought I had killed her. But no, she was just fine. Oreo was very squishy.

Vix didn't leave Shane, and I now knew why. He had acted as some sort of father figure for her after her accident. They were not family, but it was as if. Same with Lucy. I finally understood why her pets were so precious to her. What she went through must have been incredibly difficult, but she had finally found serenity through her café and her pets.

I would probably never know if the whole Vix story was real or not, if it was just a coincidence or not, it was well above my paygrade, but it didn't matter one bit to me. The only important thing was that Lucy had managed to close her wounds and bring happiness to herself and all of us. Without her, we would all be lost. She was the embodiment of a person who had turned her excruciating pain into something positive to help others.

Was she really happy or just pretended to be for our sake? Nobody would ever really know, but personally, I was very positive about her situation. Now that everybody knew her story, I was pretty sure she would find a way to fully empty her pain reservoir eventually and refill it with joy.

While everybody was busy reacting to what they had heard tonight, I discreetly stretched my arm to acquire the last piece of triple chocolate cake that was left in the tray.

It was a good thing that my girlfriend was wearing her costume. That way, I wouldn't have to share my cake.


Later that night, after the pets decided to sleep at the café, Lucy and Shane exited the shop. Lucy closed the door behind her and stuffed the key in her pocket.

She turned around and rested her back on the glass door.

Her story wasn't yet over.

Shane was standing on the walkway, a few steps away, looking at the sky. It was not difficult to know what he was thinking about… who he was thinking about. There was no specific reason for it, but he had found serenity long ago and had less difficulty moving on in his case. That said, he had never forgotten a single second of his time with his daughter.

He still loved her so much.



"You okay?"

"Oh yeah… It felt great. It was the right thing to do."

"I think so too."

"Is it too late for us, Lucy?"

"… It's getting a bit ridiculous, isn't it?"

"Yeah. Let's decide tonight. Once and for all. Do we move on together… or do we walk away from each other…"

"What do you want, Shane?"

"You know what I want. I told you a thousand times."

"You did. I'm sorry."

Shane still showed his back to Lucy and kept stargazing. Despite the luminous city erasing most of the sky's beauty, there were still a few visible bright dots. He had nothing else to say. No more arguments. No more expectations. Their lives had been broken in the harshest of ways, and it wouldn't have been fair to pressure Lucy toward a direction or another. He had laid out the choices as clearly as he could, and it was up to her to decide where to go from there.

A few light footsteps, feminine ones, on the cold walkway… an arm sliding under his. This body warmth that he had not felt in years radiated through his entire body.

"I miss her so much, Shane… so much."

"I know… Me too…"

"Let's try… Let's try again… Let's try to be happy again."


"There is nobody at the penthouse tonight."

"Sounds like a plan."

With rivers of tears flowing down her cheek, Lucy hung on Shane's arm a bit more tightly. For the first time in so long, she allowed herself another chance to love, a love for herself alone. Was it her pain reservoir that had started to drain, allowing something new to take place in her heart?

It felt that way.

Apparently, Vix had no intention to allow her a simple passage to the sky. Lucy would have to take a long way around before getting there.

For a while, she would walk the same path as Shane… She would walk the same path as her pets and Clara… The ones who had the innate ability to support her without really knowing it.


Continues in

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