We sit with a rather shocked silence for a few moments and then Agnes drops her shape-shift and clears her throat to speak. “You are quite right to wish to continue this elsewhere, the night is drawing to a close. But what of your cub?” The vixen glances at her swollen mammaries and distended belly for a moment. As with all previous cubs, it was a still birth. I may be able to procreate in this form initially but I cannot produce live offspring, the underlying human make up does not allow it. A human cannot breed successfully with anything other than its own kind, the offspring produced are monstrous to say the least. Thankfully they do not survive the birth. I have no one to care for but myself… She looks up with her deep brown eyes, a sadness so deep it makes them appear black… and until now, no one to care for me, but me. We are all silent again until Agnes straightens herself and agrees to allow the vixen to stay in their cottage for a time with a stern warning of what might happen if she dares to look the wrong way at Joe, Joe then drops his shape-shift and looks at Agnes and asks what it matters as he would never be swayed into infidelity anyway. Agnes stands her ground. “I want a firm promise that there’ll be no shenanigans, and I won’t be swayed on that.” I can’t help but giggle at the word she chooses and that seems to break the tension. The vixen stands then lowers her head and promises that she has no intentions further than breaking the spell upon her and leaving to continue her life. That settles it and we close the circle before heading back to the car to go home. I have started calling Agnes and Joe’s cottage, home. They are such a lovely couple and keep a good table and hearth that it feels like home where my own small flat does not, I spend more time with them than I do in my own place, so, home it is.
My mind races on the drive home, wondering what she will tell us next, wondering how we can help her, wondering if we can help her. She herself is quiet and subdued, the vehicle does not seem to be of concern so I can only surmise she is lost on her own thoughts of two centuries without children and her maternal instinct as strong as it would have been when she was first changed. A tear forms in the corner of my eye and I brush it away discreetly. She is curled up next to me on the rear seat of the car, close enough to touch and more than close enough to catch my thoughts still and she glances up at me briefly before hiding her head between her paws. We all seem quite subdued by the sorrow we can feel clinging to this little old woman in her fox fur like the cloying smell of mothballs on a second hand suit in a thrift shop. I start to admire her, she holds herself with pride even when talking of sordid things and does not invite pity when telling us her sorest issue, she holds herself with grace and is almost demure, I wonder if those are her natural traits or if they belong to the fur she lives in. But then, having been so long in this fur even if they were not her traits back then, they would surely be by now.
We arrive home, the light is on in the kitchen and we enter through the side door. Agnes sets about making something for us all to eat, pulling a ham from the larder and some fresh lamb from the refrigerator. Joe stops off at the garden shed and comes back with a box of worms and snails for Quoth. I make myself useful and fill a bowl with water and then take juice form the fridge for Joe and raid the cupboard for tea for Agnes and myself. The vixen looks around, almost uncertain. She finally decides to sit near the Rayburn apparently feeling the residual heat from the wood that was fed in this morning before breakfast. Although it may feel a little chilly to us, it must be the warmest and most luxuriant heat she has felt since who knows when. She curls up as we organise the early morning supper,or perhaps breakfast would be closer, and closes her eyes, sighing softly, her slow deep breathing soon after tells us she has drifted off to a doze. Agnes leaves the fresh meat on a plate close to her and we take ours in the living room. Joe and Agnes look very tired and I suggest they take a few hours rest while I watch over our new guest and they rather gladly agree. This was not the night we had planned but we felt as if something was achieved and looked forward to hearing the rest of the tale in the light of day.