Cecily slouched in her seat, bare paws on the dash in front of her, sketchbook propped against her thighs. A set of oversized headphones sat around her neck playing pop song from a CD in the player loud enough for her to hear over the wind coming through the open windows. She looked over at Lilly who had been driving and making phone calls for the past four hours. Cecily had not paid much attention to who or what she was talking about, with the one sided conversations becoming more chaotic and apparently disorganized with each call. More often than not Cecily had no clue what the calls were for, and thought that Lilly may have been speaking in some kind of code trying to keep her in the dark. Finally she slipped the Bluetooth ear bud off and tossed it on top of the dash. Looking over at her Lilly said, “I don’t know about you, but my stomach is starting to talk to me. Any Ideas on what you want to eat? I was thinking burgers from some greasy spoon truck stop.” Cecily mumbled some inaudible comment muffled by the high speed air moving through the car. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
They had pulled off the freeway at a Flying “J” with a Grandma’s Kitchen. They sat at a table looked over the menu as Lilly quickly picked out the burger of the day and set it down. She Looked over at the mouse that sat across from her and said “Cecily, you keep saying something that bugs me as much as it probably bugs you. We really don’t know anything about each other. Well, I kinda got a rundown of your life from Susan, but those reports don’t really tell me about you. The thing is, I plan on going through with all this and you seem to be scared. Would it make you feel any better if I gave you free reign to learn anything you wanted about me?” She tried to look at the mouse over her menu “We can do a quid-pro-quo, you answer one of my questions for each one I answer for you. For each time one of I don’t answer a question you get a free pass to not answer mine. Sound fair?”
Cecily seemed to be hiding behind her menu, motionless and silent for a long time. Lilly sipped at the complimentary water and just patiently waited. The liger had plenty patients, she had spent years building them up. The arrival of the classic greasy spoon waitress in a dress and apron finally broke the standoff, the shorter than average bunny walked up to the table, “ya’ll ready to order?” Silence continued to emanate from the mouse behind the menu.
After a moment Lilly spoke up, “I’ll have the cheeseburger, medium well, with the works, and a loaded Baked potato. Squeakers will take the chicken tenders and fries.”
“Anything to drink?” She asked.
“Rum & Coke for her, hold the rum and I’ll have a coffee.” As the waitress walked away with a slight grin on her face, the cold war of silence continued. Several moments passed before the waitress brought their drinks. Taking a sip of the black coffee, Lilly finally caved. ”Cecily, I am going to give you a freebie here. I am going to tell you about the second most frightening time of my life... When I graduated high school I didn’t have the grade to go to college so I joined the army. I scored high enough on the ASVAB that I could get any job I wanted, so I decided to go with Computer Information Systems Analyst, fancy way of saying computer geek. My first year was not bad. I learned I really loved to shoot. I spent as much time as I could on the range. I fired everything from a 9mm to a Howitzer. God, I loved firing that. My second year was my first deployment to Afghanistan, that was not that bad as an IT specialist, but I wanted to see more action. When I got back to the states I volunteered for sniper training. I graduated top of my class and was swiftly assigned to a special task force. Our team was called the Dark Riders. Our mission was twofold; infiltrate and secure enemy strongholds, and gather intelligence from these strongholds. I made the team for two reasons; they needed a sniper and Info Tech for intelligence gathering. Both of which I was highly skilled at. During the next six months they trained me on black hat security practices, hacking for the layman. After that our team was sent to Iraq. There were twelve of us when we left. “
She paused for a moment, when Cecily finally spoke, “did you have to kill anyone?”
“Oh yeah, I shot a lot of people. It was part of my job. My sniper cell was PFC Heartken and myself. I was a Sergeant by then. One day we were sent into a small village not too far from Kandahar. Getting in was easier than expected, and for good reason too. Once inside and ‘secure’ we gathered what we could. I pulled a few drives from some PCs then we readied to move out. That’s when they ambushed us.” Lilly stopped and took a deep breath. “We were pinned down in a three story building with no place to go. Hank... PFC Heartken and I went up to the roof and lay out. We took one corner with a nice long road. For three hours we sat picking them off one at a time. They knew where we were, the rounds kept falling around us. There the snipers live by one rule, One Shot One Kill, I had to take that to heart, Hearken and I were not going to leave that place. Our job was to clear a path for the others. I stopped counting bodies. Hell, it didn’t matter, I thought I was one of them. Thank god Hank was a good shot also. Together we managed to knock out some of the RPGs and a good number of enemy forces. I watched as one by one our team made their way out of the hot zone. A few hours into our standoff I heard an explosion. I don’t know what happened but they tell me seven of us were killed in it.”
After a long moment of silence, Cecily asked, “How did you get out?”
“That’s the thing, I don’t remember. The last thing I remember RPG flying at our location. I don’t even know what I did. The next thing I remember was waking up in a medic shop in BIOP. The concussion from the explosion knocked me senseless; thankfully the short wall we were using for cover shielded me from the brunt of it. Hank tells me I pulled the trigger and shot the thing. He says he was too busy running to do anything, but got far enough away he didn’t get hurt, and was able to drag me out. They say my shot is what saved everyone. I don’t buy it, but they act like it. Everyone on the team has stayed in touch, all five of us that made it anyway. Those are the people I have been calling today. There is Susan and General Helfgrad from yesterday also. They are all doing things to try and help out with this custody stuff. You will get to meet Susan and Hank when we get to Oregon. I think you will like Susan, she is an interesting one.”
As Lilly finished her tale the waitress returned with their food. Wide eyes Cecily looked at Lilly, “If that was only the second most frightening thing, what was the first?”
“Hold on there, not so fast Sisy. During my story you asked two questions, and that makes three.” Lilly said with a smile. “I think its my turn now. What was your most frightening moment?” Looking down at the table, “That’s not fair; you said it was a freebie.” Cecily said quietly. She lifted her cup of coffee, “Touché Short stack, I did say that. Ok, most frightened I have ever been is the past three days. And hopefully the next three years, if this all works out right.”
“What do you mean?” Cecily asked in an almost normal volume.
She pured ketchup on her burger, “Nope that’s a new question. Now it’s my turn. But first we eat.” As she looked over at Lilly, Cecily started to talktalk in a low voice. “It was a long time ago, the first foster parents I can remember.” She paused from a moment as if to think of what to say. “They were a nice couple… I think. It’s hard to remember. After about a year, things changed. Dad, he made me call him dad… well he lost his job and he really changed after that. He got mean. They were arguing all the time. Sometimes he would hit Momma. I think he started drinking a lot. I didn’t know about that back then.” She stopped for a moment to nibble on some fries. She took a deep breath and went on. “Soon Momma went to the hospital a few times, that is when the Family Services lady started coming around more. After that, they had a really bad argument, momma said she was going to leave him if he didn’t straighten up and get back to work. All I really remember is she was put in the hospital for a long time.” her voice started to get quieter with each passing moment, “He started going to my room at night. He brought me drinks and candy. I would fall asleep, the next morning I would be sore down there, I didn’t know why back then, I do now.. Then one night when he was really angry and mean, I went and hid in my room. I managed to get the dresser in front of the door to keep it shut.” With that she went completely silent, just looking at the plate before her on the table.
Stunned for a moment at the revelation, Lilly was at a loss for words. She sat with her mouth agape and a half eaten burger in her paws. After a moment, she sat the food down, “Look Cecily. None of that was your fault. You were so young back then. I saw the case file on the incident. The Family Services people messed up that one. They should have removed you from there long before that stuff happened.” She sat for a moment, and tried to put her thoughts together. Lilly stared at the tiny mouse. This child has been through so much so young. How can monsters like that be left free to do more harm? Clenching her fists beneath the table, “That… That shit right there… That is what I HATE. .. Shit like that just make me so… AAARRRRR!!!” She looked over at Cecily with new tears forming in her eyes, “That is what’s fucked up about the system. And they know it’s fucked up. And what do they do to fix it.. Make it harder for people that really want to help… do good by you kids. I don’t care what I have to do, YOU are not going back into that system… I wouldn’t wish shit like that on my worst enemy.. It would be better to just shoot the fuckers and put them out of our misery…” She stood up from the table and started to walk away. “I’ll be right back I got to hit the head.”
Slumped over the porcelain sink attached to the wall, Lilly looked her reflection in the eyes. “Calm down Lilly, you’re getting worked up over something you can’t fix.. The past is set in stone. All you can do is work for the future.” A snarl worked its way across her muzzle, Sh showed her white teeth to the angry reflection. She closed her eyes and heard the Glass mirror shatter as her fist slammed into the cinderblock wall. “I will fix this somehow. It's just not right.”
A moment later Lilly was brought back to reality by a knock at the door. “Is Everything OK in there ma’am? We heard glass breaking.”
She inally looked back at the wall where her bloodied fist was pressed, “It’s all right, I will be just a moment… Do you have a broom I could borrow to clean up a little mess?”
“There is no need for that ma’am, we…”
Lilly interrupted the person at the door, ”This is my fault, and I am going to clean it up. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you keep it to yourself.” the growl in her voice served to emphasize her stance.
The slightly humbled voice came back, “If you must, ma’am, please give me a moment.”
Cecily sat in the booth, confusion raced through her mind. What was that all about? She looked really angry. She picked at her chicken as she sat and pondered the past three days, Why was that more frightening to her then being shot at? She just does not make any sense. I don’t get her. And the look in her eyes just then. She tooke a bite out of a tender in her paw. And her friends, why would they all do stuff for someone they never met. She sat back and looked up at the ceiling. If this is all real, where do people like that come from? The sound of shattering glass brought a deafening silence to the restaurant, as everyone looked to the restrooms. As she looked in the direction of the sound herself Cecily thought, If all of this is real… if she is really like this all the time… So concerned for me. She seems to be trying so hard. Why? She turned back around in her seat and pulled out her new CD player and sketchbook. She turned on some soothing Celtic music and began to draw what flowers she could remember while munching on the cooling fries. Maybe it will work out this time. Maybe she really is different. She thought to herself as she doodled semi-contently.
Several minutes later Lilly came out of the restroom, paw wrapped in bloody paper towels and broom in paw. She walked over to the counter, ”Excuse me.” she said trying to get the attention of their waitress, “Here’s your broom. And could I get some to-go boxes?”
“Here you go, ma’am.” the waitress said handing her some Styrofoam clamshells.” Oh my god, Is everything OK? Can I get you something for your cut?”
“No thank you, it’ll be fine. I just had to regain my composure so I don’t scare my little squeaker over there. By the way,” She handed the waitress a $100 bill and a business card “This should cover the food and mirror. If not, give me a call.”
She walked over and flopped down in the booth with a sigh, “Sorry about that Sisy. I didn’t scare you did I?” She asked as she looked over at the mouse who now had her headphones on and swayed to an invisible band with her nose in her sketchbook. “I’ll take that as a maybe.” She smiled and leaned back hard against the booth wall, “I really need to work on this. I can’t be doing shit like that all the time.”
“Can’t keep doing what?” came from across the table.
The liger opened her eyes, she looked over a Cecily, “Hey there Sisy, you about ready to head out? we have six or seven more hours before we get to Nashville.” She asked with a smile.
“OK” she said quietly, slipping her book back into the B&N bag. She stood up and reached out for Lilly’s hand. This is new, maybe I can do this mother thing. She thought to herself as they left the restaurant paw-inpaw.
This is a work of fiction and is meant for entertainment purposes only. All names and characters in it is fictional, a composite drawing from several individuals and from imagination. No reference to any living person is intended or should be inferred. No animals were harmed in its production. Businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. All art of minors are simulated pictures. All models over 18 years of age. Some actions and activities may be illegal or dangerous and should not be attempted. All products, services, and characters copyrighted to their respective owners. Some content may not be safe/suitable for work or school. Some content and depictions may be illegal to view in some areas. Some content may be illegal to view by those under legal age of connect.