The cool weeks had since passed, and the warm summer months brought with them an abundance of new colors. Pale purple blossoms nestled themselves in the warmth and safety of the lush, green trees. The pink roses that had been previously pelted by hail had completely replenished themselves leaving no sign of their recent trauma. Lilian sat out on her cedar lawn swing, letting the warm morning breeze wash over her as she reveled in nature’s beauty. She closed her eyes and let the sweet aroma of the blossoms fill her nostrils; summer’s sweet scent never lasted long. The neighbor’s dog barked off in the distance and the cheerful songs of the birds who frequented her trees sang out in appreciation for the abundance of new seed that Lilian had scattered for them.
The swing continued to glide back and forth and Lilian could feel the soothing motion begin to usher her into a light slumber. The fatigue could be overwhelming at times and she didn’t want to fall asleep outside. There was a time for that of course, but her day had just begun. As she forced her heavy eyelids open, she stood up and walked inside, closing her front door behind her.
Lilian opened her fridge in search of a snack. Scanning the shelves carefully, she studied each item. Her adult children had insisted on doing her shopping for her. While she had initially refused and insisted she go with them, she could see the satisfaction it brought them. So, she obliged in having them help. She always liked to throw a few random items on her list just to have fun with them.
“Carrot juice?” She said out loud as she read the label on the bottle before pouring herself a glass. She laughed at the bizarre items her children had bought for her, but nonetheless enjoyed being adventurous and trying new things. After all, maybe she did deserve a little pay back for sending them hunting for blackberry ice cream and lime (definitely NOT lemon) scented dish soap. To Lilian’s surprise, her daughter was able to find lime scented dish soap last week (she still preferred lemon scented).
“I would just prefer some milk, please,” a small voice said.
Lilian held the glass of carrot juice steady just before it hit her lips. Her body froze as her eyes scanned the room.
“Hello,” the small fox said, when Lilian’s eyes found her. She was sitting beside the fridge. Her vibrant orange fur was pristine and groomed and her bright pink tongue ran over her lips at the sight of the carrot juice.
“How did you get in here?” Lilian asked casually, gently placing the glass down on the counter and rustling through the fridge for some milk.
“You let me in,” the fox replied. She pawed the side of the fridge. “I’d really like some milk though, please. It’s hot outside already.”
“Of course.” She was happy with how polite the fox was and pulled out a glass from the cupboard. “Or, would you prefer a bowl?”
“Yes, a bowl please.” Her dark eyes followed Lilian’s every movement curiously.
As Lilian bent down to place the bowl on the aged wooden floor, her body didn’t ache the way it had been before, and the fatigue had diminished to the point that she no longer felt the desire to go to sleep. She sat down at her table while watching the fox elegantly lap up the milk. The small creature’s eyes gently closed as she savored every taste. Periodically she’d stop, bringing one foot up to her mouth to gently lick off any milk splatter before resuming. When there were only a few drops left in the bowl, she licked it clean. The power of her tongue pushed the bowl to bounce along the floor, making a loud scraping sound. To make sure she was in fact done, she stretched out her pointed noise, wiggled it, and sniffed. Yup. It was all gone.
The fox casually walked over to the kitchen table. With one giant, effortless and silent leap, she planted herself on the chair directly across from where Lilian was sitting and proceeded to lick her paws again, her eyes softening.
Golden sun rays danced through the windows, emphasizing the fiery red fur of the fox, and the white bib that sat perfectly across her chest. Lilian sat in her chair, her legs crossed, waiting patiently for the fox to look up.
“You know, I didn’t let you in,” Lilian said matter-of-factly. While she wasn’t bothered by the fox’s presence, she did feel the need to clarify the situation.
“Yes, you did.” The fox said without opening her eyes. As she continued to groom herself, she let out a sigh and a yawn. “The door was open so I came in. I like it here. And I like that you can hear me.”
Lilian leaned out of her chair slightly and glanced at the front door. It was closed tightly, just like she had remembered. Confused, it suddenly came to her that maybe the fox wasn’t referring to the front door. The small animal was now sleeping across from her so Lilian jumped up and ran to the back door, her aches and pains now non-existent.
The door was bolted shut. In fact, she couldn’t remember ever using it. The confusion grew so she walked upstairs. With each step, the floor boards creaked so she went especially slow, careful to not wake up her visitor. Which door did the fox come in? And more importantly, which door did she leave open? She was always very diligent with keeping her house secure.
She quietly wandered the hallway, While each door to each bedroom was already open, she grabbed each one, one by one, by their round brass handles and shook them back and forth, inspecting each side of the door up and down. She even opened the linen closet and as she did, a pile of towels toppled down onto her head. Lilian bent down to pick them up and startled when the little voice crept up from behind her.
“It was the front door.” The fox was laying on the floor behind her, her head softly between her paws. “Those ones aren’t open yet.”
“But the front door is closed,” Lilian said. This was an obscure conversation to be having, but nonetheless, she continued to neatly stack the towels back in the closet. When she placed them in the closet, they immediately tumbled back towards her. Frustrated, she forcefully shoved them in and closed the door quickly. There was a soft thud inside. They had fallen again.
“I’ll go check it though I’m sure it’s closed,” she said as she left the fox by the closet and went back down the stairs. The creaks of each step were a choir. It had been a long time since she had bounded down the steps with such speed. Just as Lilian suspected, the front door was closed tightly. Placing her had on the handle, she turned the knob and pulled it open. Instead of her ripped screen door that led to her deck, the deck that she had been sitting on only minutes ago, was the pathway to a lush forest. The greens were more vibrant than the ones she had spent months tending to, the aromas more vivid than ones she had ever welcomed into her psyche, the beautiful songs of the birds unlike ones she had ever heard. Stunned, she turned around to see the fox sitting dutifully by her side.
“I told you,” the little fox said matter-of-factly. She brushed passed Lilian, her long tail swooshing. She stepped through the threshold to make her way to the path. Lilian, now more curious than ever, stepped through the door to follow her.
Image Credit: Kondor83/Adobe Stock