“Come on girls! You can do it, almost there!” the coach called, timer and clipboard in hand. Coach Sims was as driven as any track and field coach, insisting that they run the mile as a team after every practice to give them the team spirit they lacked.
The two girls at the front of the pack proved just how much team spirit the girls track team lacked. Running side by side, elbows jabbing into rib cages as they tried to shove each other out of the way. The two tumbled at the finish line, rolling clumsily as the runners behind leaped over them in order not to trample the girls.
Viola got to her feet first, fuming, and turned on her rival, “What do you think you were doing?? You cheated!”
The other girl, a tall blonde with brown eyes, got to her feet and glared at her, “I cheated?? You cheated first!”
“Viola, Chloe, you both cheated, now go home. Practice is over for today,” Coach Sims shouted at the girls.
Viola smiled and ran across the field to get her bag, Chloe following behind her. She threw herself on the ground to change out of her track spikes, “Wanna come to my place?” Viola asked.
She shook her head, “No, I can’t today, I’ve got to study. I can walk halfway with you though.” She offered a hand to her.
“That’s too bad, my brother is coming for a visit this weekend.” She slapped her hand into Chloe’s and hauled herself off the ground.
“How long has it been since he’s been home??”
Viola thought for a moment. Cedar was always busy with something and was hardly ever home, only showing up for holidays lately, “About six months, I think?”
Chloe tapped her chin, “So I wonder what keeps him away so much? Does he have a secret family somewhere else?? Maybe something your parents wouldn’t approve of?”
She wrinkled her nose, “I doubt that, he’s a teacher, nothing scandalous about that.”
The girls walked together until they came to the fork that split the roads to each of their houses. Viola waved to her friend and track team rival before jogging down the block toward her house.
Not only being her rival at track, Chloe had been Viola’s closest and only true friend since the two of them were in kindergarten together. Hitting it off was a given, since the girls were both competitive and imaginative, it helped that they were interested in the same type of books. Anything otherworldly seemed to draw the two of them in; as children, both girls enjoyed exploring the forest around their homes, searching for fairies and pixies and anything else from their dreams.
Once at her house, Viola noticed a familiar face watching her from the trees. A red fox stood watching her approach. She was shy but she always poked her head out to greet Viola when she returned home.
She quickly checked the house to be sure her parents hadn’t seen her furry visitor. Their cars weren’t in the drive meaning they were either picking her brother up, or still at work.
With a grin, she ran inside and heated up some leftover chicken from the night before. Then she took the food outside and placed it at the edge of the yard. She didn’t know what foxes ate but this one never seemed to have any complaints about the leftovers Viola gave her every now and again.
She sat on the ground about twenty feet away from the fox so she wouldn’t spook her. Her mother’s cat, Sphinx, sauntered over beside her and plopped down lazily beside Viola, staring at visitor.
Viola sighed and stroked the large sandy cat’s head, “Be nice, Sphinxy,” she warned.
The cat only responded with a yawn and began purring as she stretched out beside her on the dead leaves of autumn.
She watched as the fox slowly crept up to the plate of chicken, her yellow eyes never leaving Viola and Sphinx. Once she was close enough to snatch the chicken and run like she normally did, she just stood staring at Viola instead, foregoing her meal for the time being.
Suddenly, she stepped over the plate, until she was slowly approaching her, one tentative step at a time. Her eyes never left Viola’s, as if she were trying to tell her something.
Sphinx sat up enough to watch the fox, her tail flickered a bit but she just yawned and closed her eyes lazily. Viola wondered if she should run. What if she meant to harm her? She didn’t think she was a threat to either her or Sphinx, though she wasn’t sure why.
Viola slowly, and carefully held her hand out to the red canine. When she was close enough, the fox sniffed the tips of her fingers before hesitantly bowing her head, the way Sphinx did when she was allowing someone to touch her.
She stared at her for a moment but as soon as the tips of her fingers touched the soft red fur, a car door slammed and the fox bolted back into the forest, only stopping long enough to snatch up her meal.
Sphinx stared up at Viola for a moment before yawning again and getting to her feet. She padded to the back door, pausing to look back at Viola as if waiting for her to follow.
Viola sighed, disappointed that her furry friend ran and still reeling from the experience. Maybe the fox trusted her because she fed her occasionally. She hoped she’d see her again soon.
She got to her feet and trudged to the door, opening it for the cat and then following her inside after brushing the crunched up leaves from the both of them.
“Mom? Dad? Vi? Anyone home?”
Viola stretched, “I’m home, Cedar. Mom and Dad haven’t gotten back yet.” She grabbed an apple from the fridge before hopping up on the counter.
Cedar poked his head into the kitchen and grinned at her, “Hey little sis, were you just outside?” His brown hair hanging in his eyes.
She nodded, “Yeah, how’d you know?”
He pointed at her shirt, “There’s a leaf dangling from your t-shirt.”
She glanced down and quickly brushed it off, “Anyway, how’s work?? Anything interesting happen while you were gone? I want to hear all about it!”
“I’m just a teacher, what do you expect to happen?”
She shrugged, “I don’t know? Runaway students, fights that you have to break up, mouthy kids, pranks? The school blew up? Anything?”
He shook his head as he set his bags down, “All my students are angels compared to you, Viola.” He ruffled her hair, “Go get cleaned up, I’m taking you out to dinner tonight.”
“What about Mom and Dad?”
“They’re not here, besides, it’s been a long time since I’ve treated my little sister to dinner. Now, go change. You’re all sweaty and gross,” he teased, gently shoving her off the counter and toward the hallway.
Viola laughed as she headed up the stairs, “Your personality is getting worse every time I see you--.”~~~
Viola sipped her drink, “So what have you been up to all this time?”
Cedar shrugged, slathering cinnamon butter on his fourth roll before taking a bite from it, “Not much, really. I told you, I’m just a teacher.”
“Well, you’ve been up to something if you’ve been too busy to call.”
He gave her an impatient look, “I’ve been busy, that’s all.”
“With a girlfriend?” she asked, with a raised eyebrow. “Afraid to introduce her to mom and dad or something?”
“No girlfriend, Viola.” He sighed, “I didn’t bring you here for an interrogation.”
She frowned at him and shrugged. “Fine,” she said as she took a bite from her buttered roll.
“Do you?” he asked suddenly.
She glanced up at him, “Do I have a girlfriend? Nope, but I have loads of boyfriends.”
Cedar blanched and shook his head, “I’m just going to pray that that was a joke. I can’t handle you dating.” He sighed, “Anyway, how’s school going for you? Track?”
Viola shrugged, “It’s the usual, I guess? Track is more fun than actual school and I’m keeping my grades up.”
“Oh, so nothing interesting? Nothing cool?” he asked in a mocking tone, grinning at her.
She kicked him under the table, “Hey, I have more of a life than you do, all you do is teach!” she protested.
Cedar winced, laughing, “Oh, what else do you do besides run and study?”
She thought for a moment, “I read and I hang out with Chloe and um… Oh! I have a fox that follows me around!”
He looked up from the roll in his hand, knife pausing mid-cut, “A fox follows you around?”
“Yeah, but I feed her sometimes so I think she just associates me with a free meal,” Viola said shrugging her shoulders.“What of it?”
He shook his head, “It’s just weird. How long has it been following you?”
“Just a couple months now. It’s not exactly following me but watching me from the forest.” Viola watched him, “What’s this all about anyway?” It wasn’t like him to ask her so many questions on something so innocent. Her parents would tell her not to feed wild animals but Cedar usually understood these things, she’d even caught him feeding a falcon once when he a kid.
Cedar shook his head, “Nothing, it’s fine.” He smiled and then glanced around the restaurant.
Viola followed his gaze, the place was the same as it had always been, bright as sunlight filtered in through the huge windows onto perfectly polished wooden tables, the carpet’s busy but nice pattern surprisingly free from signs of the traffic of years, each table set with a tiny metal rack of shakers, holding tri-fold laminated menus. She remembered coloring little pictures on them before they were laminated--probably why they were laminated in the first place. Actually, she wondered if there were still any with her little smileys or her name scrawled across it, or even the little crayon doodles of what she thought of her brother when he stole her fries floating around the restaurant.
“I wonder how this place has never changed?” Cedar asked suddenly.
She looked up at him, “What do you mean?”
“They’ve always managed to have the place the exact way it looked when it opened when we were kids. Except for maybe a few changes.”
Viola shrugged as she looked up at him. She could tell he was just trying to change the subject and that something else was on his mind, he was trying to be too nonchalant. She’d learn to tell that his normally bright blue eyes were more gray when he was worried or concerned about something.
Usually she envied her brother’s eyes and hair. He’d inherited their father’s brown hair and mother’s blue eyes while she got their mother’s red hair and the green eyes of their father. The red hair made her stand out in a crowd. She felt like she was picked out of a crowd at school, in fact that was how her friends found her.
“So what brings you home so suddenly? You usually only come home for holidays and stuff like that? Is something going on?” She asked as she bit the end of a fry.
He eyed her for a moment, “I’m just here to get mom and dad’s help on something.”
“Like money or something?”
He shook his head, “No, someone suggested that I should check some things here. I thought I’d talk to mom and dad about it first, though.”
“Some things? Like me? Who told you to check on me, Cedar?” she said, frowning at him.
“Just a little birdie, don’t be so upset, Vi,” he said with a laugh.
She shook her head, “Mom and Dad worry too much, I haven’t done anything--I think.”
He laughed again, “No, but I don’t think I see you often enough. I’m thinking maybe we should spend some more time together. Brother sister bonding, you know?” he asked as the check was brought to the table.
“But you’re always across the country, how could we do that?”
“We’ll cram as much as we can into the short time that I’m here for then!” He looked at her, “When do you go back to school?”