I got at least four more hours of sleep until Charmy started flying around like a crazy little maniac. Luckily for me, a little later that morning, Vector thought it was a good idea to take a day off from work. A bit of relief, I thought.
"What're we gonna do today?" Charmy asked.
"I heard about this carnival that's happening this week," Vector said. "I think it's in Bridgeport or something."
"Vector, that's two days away," Espio said. "And that's if you have a car. On foot, it's about a six-day walk. We'd probably miss it."
At that moment, Zephyr entered. "Hey, guys," he said. "You don't mind me barging in uninvited, do ya?"
"Nah," the croc replied casually. "As long as you keep our Kid happy, I don't have any complaints."
The feeling of annoyance rose in me. I wish I could burst Vector's bubble...
"The day will come," Zephyr whispered in my ear. "Trust me." Aloud he said, "So what are the plans for today?"
"We're going to a carnival!" Charmy excitedly said.
"A carnival, huh? Where at?"
"Bridgeport," Vector answered.
"Hey, you're from Bridgeport, aren't you?" I asked my cousin. "Why don't you come with us?"
A big smile came on the timberwolf's face. "I'd love to join! I always loved going to the Bridgeport Carnival. The rides, the shows, the food... It was so fun when I was a kid."
"You had me at fun," Vector said. "It's official: we're going to the carnival, boys."
"Yay!" Charmy cheered.
And by fun, he means food.
"But how are we going to get there?" Espio asked. "We don't exactly have enough for bus fare."
"You can leave that to me," Zephyr said confidently. "I know a trick to go from one place to another in the blink of an eye."
"You mean like magic?" Charmy asked, his eyes so wide with wonder and amazement.
"You bet, little bug." He looked at me and gave a subtle wink.
Now what is he planning?
"I'd like for you all to close your eyes."
The Chaotix closed their eyes - I did as well, just in case. But I decided to be sneaky and kept one eye open.
"Now, just imagine the smell of cotton candy, hot dogs, and churros, and the sounds of fun and laughter." His body started lightly sparking. As did the rest of us. Both my eyes open, I saw the background of the detective agency starting to fade away.
Oh my god, we're teleporting!
"You'll open your eyes on the count of three," Zephyr continued. "One..." The agency faded away, a sunlit sky and carnival attractions in the background. "Two..." Everyone stopped sparking as the carnival came in clearly. "Three."
The detectives opened their eyes, and they were all in awe.
"WOOOOOOOOW!" Charmy exclaimed. "WE'RE HERE! WE'RE REALLY HERE! OH MY GOSH, THIS IS SOOOOO COOOOOOOOL!"
"That's a neat little trick," Vector said impressed. "How'd you do that?"
"A magician never reveals his secrets," Zephyr said. "And welcome to the Bridgeport Carnival."
"It looks just like a county fair," I said as I looked at the different attractions.
"Go on and have fun. It's on me."
"You don't have to do that," Espio spoke.
"Nonsense. This place taught me to be hospitable to out-of-towners, so, please. I insist."
"WOOHOO!" Charmy quickly flew off in a random direction.
"Charmy, get back here!" Vector ran after him.
Espio let out a sigh. "I'll make sure they don't get us kicked out," he said and quickly went after his teammates.
Poor Espio. He deals with so much in the agency.
"Why Zephyr Timberwolf! It's been too long!"
The two of us were approached by a light purple armadillo and a golden yellow jackrabbit, both women. The armadillo had deep blue eyes and wore a cyan dress and cowgirl boots. The jackrabbit had bright green eyes and wore a red tube top with skinny jeans and cowgirl boots. They were about the same height I was.
"Melissa! Tracie!" Zephyr happily said, hugging the two women. "I missed you guys."
"It's been too long, Zephyr," said the armadillo. She spoke with a southern accent.
"We haven't seen you in a couple of years," spoke the jackrabbit, then she looked at me. "And you even got a girlfriend. Boy, what other secrets are you hiding?" She playfully punched his shoulder.
He pulled from the hug, placing a hand on my shoulder. "This is Cheyenne, a really good friend of mine," he said. "Cheyenne, this is Melissa..." He gestured to the armadillo. "...and Tracie." He then gestured to the jackrabbit.
"Nice to meet you both," I said with a smile.
"You're quite a sweetheart, ain't ya?" Melissa said. "It'd be no wonder if you were to win this young man's heart."
"Alright, alright," Zephyr interjected. "That'd be enough, Melissa. Is my mom around?"
Melissa and Tracie looked at each other with uncertainty.
"Uh, Zephyr," Tracie started, "your mom isn't here."
His ears drooped. "What do you mean?"
"Well, while you were gone, she said that going to the carnival without you wasn't the same. She hadn't come to the carnival in about two years, the same amount of time as you've been gone."
"You should see her, Hun," Melissa chimed. "She misses you more than the hummingbirds miss their feeder this time of year."
The timberwolf somberly looked over at me. "You can go and have fun, Cheyenne," he said. "I'll be around later."
"Oh, uh, okay," I said. "I'll see ya later, then."
He weaved his way through the sea of carnival-goers, blending in with the crowd as he went along. I couldn't help but wonder and worry at the same time.
The day went on, riding the rides, winning a prize here and there. But Zephyr hadn't returned, and that made me even more worried. I left the carnival without the guys knowing, and took a paved path that led into town. The sun was starting to set into the water. Bridgeport, as I could see, was a small porting town, and it was very easy to get around on land and sea. It was kind of cute.
It wasn't long until I came across a dirt road at the end of the paved street. My gut instinct told me to go down the path, which led to a strange bit of forest. And since it was still bloody cold, there wasn't any snow on the ground, which was not all that strange. Back home, there was one year where it didn't snow, but it was cold as hell. I continued down the path until I came to a clearing. And in that clearing, a small house.
Why is there a house out here? This is just so weird... I walked up to the door and got ready to knock when the door suddenly opened. A female timberwolf stood there. Her fur and hair were a dark gray color with a white muzzle, her hair mid-length and wavy. She stood a half-inch shorter than I. She wore a teal short-sleeved T-shirt, a white skirt, and seafoam green colored flats. Her eyes were like a bluish-gray, but they didn't shine when the light hit them.
"Hello?" she asked.
"Oh, uh, I'm sorry," I apologized. "I don't mean to intrude on your property."
"Nonsense," she said sweetly, then took my hand. "Come in, come in. My son is making tea now. Join us." I tried politely refusing, but she led me inside nonetheless. It was as small inside as it was outside, but very quaint. I looked at her eyes again. Something about them just didn't seem right. "By your smell, you must be from out of town."
"Uh, yes ma'am," I answered.
"Oh, you don't have to be so formal. My name is Alicia. And you are?"
"Cheyenne. It's nice to meet you."
"You as well. Please, sit." She and I sat down on the couch, her letting my hands go.
"I don't mean to impose, but... Are you blind?"
"I'm afraid so. But it's not so bad. My other senses are heightened, so I can get a better feel, smell, taste, and sound of my surroundings." She started smelling me. "Hmm... your species isn't quite familiar to me. Are you a skunk?"
A skunk?! "No, I'm not a skunk."
"Hmm... Perhaps an otter? Or maybe a lioness?"
"No. Truth be told, I'm not of the, uh, animal variety."
"Oh? What are you, then?"
"Are you alright?"
She hesitated. "Oh, yes, I... I'm fine."
I think when I said human, I might have offended her or something. "I, uh, can't stay long. My friends might be looking for me. We came to the carnival together, and they'd go crazy if I-"
"Oh, I'm sorry. It's just... there was someone from my past who was human, and... well..."
"I see... I'm sorry that it didn't work out."
Alicia smiled. "You're so sympathetic. If there were more good people like you, the world would be a much better place."
I smiled back. "Thanks. So you have a son? What's he like?"
"Oh, he's such a good boy. Although, he had been away for two years, and without him here is very lonely."
Two years? Then it hit me. Oh, boy. "I think I know who you're talking about."
"Alright, Mom, the tea's ready. And it's your favorite: strawberry peach-" From the kitchen, Zephyr had walked in, holding a tray with two ceramic teacups and teapot. As soon as he saw me, his eyes widened, and you could just feel the awkwardness in the air. "Cheyenne, wh-what are you doing here?"
"Well, I thought we were gonna have fun at the carnival," I answered. "I'd been waiting for you to come back, so I had to come and find you." He opened his mouth to talk. "And before you say anything, no, the guys didn't know that I left without them."
"Zephyr, is what I'm hearing true?" Alicia asked her son, turning her head in his direction. "Did you leave your friends because of me?"
His ears drooped in shame. "I can't lie to you," he said. "But you should blame Tracie and Melissa; they said you hadn't gone to the carnival about as long as I have, two years."
"Now, Zephyr, I'm glad to have you back home, but that doesn't give you an excuse to give up your social life for my sake. Go and have fun at the carnival, you and your girlfriend."
"Girlfriend?!" Zephyr and I questioned simultaneously.
Great, another bubble to burst...
Zephyr and I returned to the carnival, the Chaotix finding us shortly after, and were ready to go home. Once again, Zephyr had to perform his 'magic trick' to send everyone back. The timberwolf had thanked everyone for a good time today and left without another word. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep then and there. However, once again, Charmy was wired and buzzing around like a Tasmanian Devil. Espio explained that the little bee had eaten too much cotton candy and the sugar rush won't wear off for a while. A while happened to be two hours when he sluggishly started hovering over the stairs and then walked up the rest of the way.
Later that night, I kept tossing and turning. Usually, I wouldn't be doing so; I would be out like a light, unmoving. I stared at the ceiling once more. Why couldn't I just be still? My head started throbbing a little, but then the pain increased, making it unbearable. I wanted to scream, but the guys were asleep, and I didn't want to wake them. It wasn't long until the pain became so intense that I fell into some kind of unconscious state.