It had been two nights since any of them had slept inside the cabin. The nights were spent by the bonfire in the clearing, talking about happenings over the years, sharing stories past and present, and laughing at each other’s exploits. Cecily sat in amazement at the antics of this strange, small clan.
That Saturday morning was filled with training and practicing clutch and shifting in the Camaro. The afternoon held the most excitement Cecily could have imagined for herself. The vacant weekend mountain roads and logging trails turned into a driver’s ed course. Lilliy sat in the passenger seat talking her through everything; Braking, Uphill starts, Downshifting to slow faster, and always the rule of neutral. “If you’re ever scared, or have any issue, always put it in neutral. That disengages the engine from the transmission. If the accelerator is stuck it will just burn out the engine, otherwise you will roll to a stop.” Lilliana told her over and over. Cecily felt so free, something she was told again and again she might never be able to do because of her size was suddenly a reality. They spent hours driving the deserted mountain passses before returning to the cabin and base camp well after dark. The excitement of the day took it’s toll on her and Cecily fell asleep, stretched out on the ground in front of the fire. For the first time she could remember, she felt safe and happy; she had not been haunted by the bad dreams in days, always waking to Lilly at her side, and now Hank and Susan. This must be what a family is like, she thought to herself as the darkness of sleep overpowered her.
June 16, 2013
Cecily awoke to the sound of an engine and the smell of bacon cooking. The hood of the old Chevy truck was up. Hank worked with tongs and tinfoil on the engine block to cook them breakfast. She pulled the blanket covering her off; the cool morning breeze chilled her body. She was wearing only one of Hank’s coveralls with a sports bra. The straps were tied in several knots to shorten their length and the legs were rolled up almost half way. Cecily sprang up with the sudden excitement of remembering tomorrow’s plans. She reached over to the log next to her and grabbed the driver’s manual. In the morning to come she and Hank would be going into town to take the driver’s written test, and Hank to renew his license. Susan and Lilly had left with plans much earlier that morning.
Another event she looked forward to was tonight. She would meet the rest of the… DARK RIDERS… If they were like Lilly, Susan and Hank, she could only imagine what kind of people they might be. As if to answer her unspoken question, the sound of a melodic custom horn rang through the trees. A yellow Corvette zr1 rolled into the clearing and pulled alongside the Chevy truck. A five-foot-nine bald eagle stepped out;. She brushed down her white head feathers that had been ruffled by the wind. Her dark brown body feathers almost blended into the business suit she wore. She looked at Hank and said, “Long time no see, Mista Wiggles. And sober fer once I see. Where can I change out a dis monkey suit inta somethin more suitin’ da atmosphere?”
Hank looked over at her and replied, “There's no one in the cabin, but you should at least say hi to Squeaky first.” He tilted his head toward the smoldering fire pit.
The eagle walked over and sat on the log near Cecily who was still sitting on the ground. “You mus’ be Cecily. I’ve ‘erd a lot about’cha, and about what we’re tryin’ ta do fer ya. My name’s Alexis ‘awkins, but you can call me Booma if ya wan’.” She said as she looked down at the mouse with her big golden eyes and as much of a smile as any bird can manage. “So, what’cha got there, Squeaky?”
Cecily looked up at her and sheepishly said, “Oregon Driver's Manual, Miss Hawkins.”
“Ya call me Miss ‘awkins again and I migh’ have’ta slap da squeak ou’ a ya. It’s eider Alex or Booma ta ya. I’ve already put too much time and effor’ inta dis for ya to trea’ me like a stranga.” Alex said. She looked to either side the leaned down to Cecily, she whispered, “Ya wana drive a real car?” Cecily looked up at her slightly confused. “Look, I know Longshot mus’ be teachin’ ya in her custom rust bucke’, how would ya like to try da Corvette.” She said with a smile.
As Cecily looked up at her wide eyed, she could see the shine of Alex’s polished manicured beak, and lost herself in the deep black pools in the center of the Golden rings of her eyes. Caught in the gaze of the predatory bird, Cecily’s heart raced, but the look in her eyes told her not to run. She shook her head to clear the thoughts like an echaskech, and jumped to her feetpaw with with a smile that stretched from ear to ear, “Yes, please.” She said in an uncharacteristically normal tone.
Alex almost fell backward off the log as she saw Cecily at her full three foot stature, “Jesus ya small.” She looked the mouse up and down, “How can we dodis?”
Hank shouted over at them from his makeshift stove, “You can do it after breakfast. Eggs and bacon are ready.” He spin on his feetpaws with three paper plates in paws. Handing each of them a plate he said, “Breakfast of champions, powdered eggs and rehydrated bacon.”
Alex looked down at the plate, “Oh… My… God! Wha’ da fuck ya feedin’ dis kid? No wonder she’s only knee high to a grasshoppa.” She tossed the plate, eggs, bacon and all into the ashes of the fire, and grabbed Cecily’s hand, “Come on, Squeaky. We’re goin’ ta get some real food.” She flung her flip phone open and pressed some number before putting it to her ear, “Ok, Fluffy Muffins, I am no’ eatin’ da slop ‘ank jus’ ‘anded me… Mee’ us at da Roadrunna cafe… What’cha mean bring ‘ank, he’s not gettin’ in my car dresset like dat… I know she’s wearin’ da same tin’, but she can get away wit’ it, she’ cute… Fuckit…” She slaped the flip phone shut and looked over her shoulder, “‘ank, we’re takin’ ya truck. You get in da back. And where da fuck are ya towels? I can’ sit in dat dusty ting in dis suit.”
Hank scooped the food he made into his mouth and said out one side, “Just go get changed into your country bumpkin outfit, Boomer, otherwise you will stand out like a sore thumb. For Christ's sake you're on vacation this weekend, you can look all lawyer-like next week.”
“Guh! Fine den, come on Squeaky, we’ll dress ya more like da hot stuff ya are while we’re at it.” Alex pulled Cecily to the cabin and slammed the door behind them. She looked down at the mouse and said, “I forgo’ my bag in da car.” then started laughing.She press a button on her key and said, “Can ya run out and get it fer me? It’s in da passenga seat.”
Cecily went out to the Corvette and saw the same military duffel she was now used to Lilly carrying. She hefted the large bag over her shoulder she returned to the cabin where Alex had already removed most of her cloths. The eagle looked down at her and said, “Ok, sweetie, let’s get ya into sometin’ dat’ll knock da boys on deir asses, and I tink I’ve got just da tin’ fer ya.” She knelt down by the bag, unhooked the top and pulled out two rather small sleeveless plaid button-up shirts. She handed one to Cecily and slipped the other on herself. The shirt was just the right size for Cecily, but several sizes too small for Alex.
“No, don’ button it up, show off some fur. Tie it like dis.” the eagle said as she took hold of the loose shirt tails and pulled them together over her breasts and tied them in a knot forming a makeshift bra-shirt. “Now fer da shorts.” She dug deep into the bag and pulled out a large teddy bear dressed in daisy duke shorts and a top similar to what they had on now. “I was goin’ ta give dis to ya, but I tink da shorts on it are jus’ your size.” She pulled them off the bear and handing them to Cecily. She pulled a similar pair out of her bag for herself, slipped them on and wiggled to get them over her hips. She zipped them up and looked down at Cecily. “Come on hot stuff, I’m ‘ungry.”
Cecily followed Alex’s lead and put the shorts on. Together the outfit showed off their slim tummies and a fair amount of cleavage. Cecily skinny frame had put on some weight over the past two weeks, her ribs were no longer showing as prominently through her short fur. Her fur and hair now had the shine of health. Not having a mirror to see her reflection Cecily felt naked and ashamed of her appearance. Alex looked down at her, her dark brown feathers a sharp contrast to the cutoff blue denim shorts and white gray plaid shirt. She said to Cecily, “Now dere is da mose sexy mouse I’ve ever seen. You should show off dose legs more, it’ll drive da guys wild. Den you jus walk past like they don’t even exist.” With as big of a smile as her beak would allow she added, “Now let’s go knock dat otter off his feet.”
The stepped out of the cabin. the two ladies watched as Hank looked over his shoulder at them. Alex stood with her hands on her hips proudly displaying her feathered body with her white tail feathers fanned. The dark brown feathers of her thighs stood out brushed back and down, her golden orange shins and feet shown in the sunlight, her talons painted red. Every inch of her was cleaned and proudly maintained. Cecily stood slightly behind her shyly looking at the ground with her arms crossed over her abdomen. As he looked at the two, Hank fell off the log nearly choking on the food he had in his mouth. He stood spitting out what he could and said, “Wow, now there are some girls to die for. You think you could get Susan in that get up?”
Alex laughed at him, “Fluffy Muffins would die befer she would le’ me put dis on her.” She pushed Cecily to the front, “But look at dis, God I wish I had dose legs. She could make Longshot jealous.” Hank just shook his head, mouth agape. Underneath that shy, genetically clad exterior was hidden a beautiful kangaroo mouse. “Ok guy, ‘ank in da back of da truck, Cecily and I get da bench. We’re headed to the Roadrunner. Everyone’s goin ta meet dere.”
The small cafe had full wood shingle siding and roof. the inside was not much more than a small kitchen and several randomly selected tables and chairs in the dining room. Alex, Hank, and Cecily sat at the large table in the center of the dining room and looked out the window as they waited for their fellow unit members to arrive. The first to show was Lilliana in her candy apple red Camaro with the General, Detlev Helfgrad, in the passenger seat. The liger and badger got out of the car and walking into the cafe. Lilly was wearing her usual faded jeans and rock concert T. Detlev was dressed in an old army slogan polo shirt with khaki pants. His graying hair and fur were all that showed his age. he walked straight and proud as any soldier would. As they entered the dining room Alex jumped out of her seat and ran to Lilly’s open arms as she screeched,, “Longshot” , Lilly returned the call of “Boomer!” The two crashed together in an audible thud of power.
They held each other tight for several moments before the general walked in, “Break up zee PDA ladies, you’re goink to make Hank pass out.” He sat in front of Cecily and laid his head on the table closing one eye, “So zis is zee Squeaky you’re all vorking so hard to get out of the system.” he opened both eyes again and leaned back in the chair as he asked, “Do you know who I am , Little one?” Ceciley, too intimidated to speak to the old badger, just shook her head. “I am General Detlev Helfgrad, former kommander of zee Dark Riders, and apparently still part of zee team even in my old age. You kan just kall me General, I’m not sure if I vould answer to my proper name anymore.” he said with a smile. As Ceceily sat in silence looking at her paws, the general looked over at Hank, “Ok, how do you get kits to like you zese days, candy?”
“I’m not sure, but I do know to avoid the topic of skinny dipping with this one.” Hank replied. Alex swiftly sat in the seat opposite Hank next to the General, Alex said, “Shit, I ani’t ‘erd dat one yet. Spillit Mr. Wiggles.”
Lilliana Snickered as she took the seat next to Alex, “Yeh, Hank, tell them what Sisy did to get you to stop drinking.” She glanced over at Alex, “Susan should have done it years ago.”
As Hank began to recount his first encounter with Cecily and the S.T.R.I.K.E.R. his story was interrupted by the bell above the door demanding their attention. When she saw the chinchilla walk in, Alex jumped up again and throws her wings around her, “Fluffy Muffins!” She leaned back a bit and continued, “I saved ya seat next ta Mr. Wiggles.” She said with a wink.
Susan sighed and looked Alex in the eyes, “When will you drop the Muffins like everyone else?” With a look of mock shock, and a wing to her chest, Alex said, “Drop da Muffins? Never, I love da muffins.” With that she pushed Susan over to the seat by Hank. Wide eyed, Alex looked over at Cecily, “ooOOooo, Ya’ll gots ta see dis hot man magnet Lilly found. Stan’ up girl, show off dem legs.”
Sheepishly Cecily stood, everyone oohed as she did. Lilliana spoke up first, “Now that is a beautiful mouse. So much better than the scrawny thing I found. Where did you get her?”
“Dis pervy otter add ‘er.” Alex replied.
Susan looked up at Alex, “That’s enough of that for now, Boomer. Leave the poor girl alone, she’s not your personal Barbie doll.” She then fished a file out of her bag and dropped it on the table in front of Lilliana. “I need you to sign these.” she said.
Alex’s smile melted from her face as she sat down folding her hands with her elbows on the table, “Susan, do I need to leave the room for this? I do have to set up court hearings for the expedited custody, and don’t want to be part of anything that might hinder that.”
“Damn girl, calm down. This is all above board. It is only a Living Situation investigation that was conducted over the past two years.” Susan said as she looked at Alex with as stern of a face as she could manage. “These were started when she first thought about adoption and an option…”
Lilliana began to interrupt, “But, I…”
Cutting her off, Susan, said, “Shut up and listen.” she looked back at Alex, “I had them sent out here from D.C. for this occasion. You are free to look them over if you wish. You will find all the information is accurate and dated properly.”
Alex looked at Lilliy then back to Susan, snatched the paperwork up and pulled a set of glasses from her purse. She looked over each page, rereading some portions several times before she tossed it back on the table, “Okay then.” she lookedat Susan she said, “I just hope you are all on the same page for the court appearance.” She shoved the glasses back into her purse she looked back to Hank, “Now where were ya in da story? Ya jus said skinnydippin, den wha?” Alex asked as the smile returned to her face.
Lilliana looked through the papers Susan had brought it. From the corner of her eye she saw Cecily fidgeting in her seat and looking at the floor. “Hey there, Sisy. Is everything Ok?” Cecily just continued to fidget as if trying not to be noticed. “Look guy, I’m going to take Squeaky back to the cabin. See you guy when you get there.” She stood up from the table and took the papers with her, “Come on short stack. Let’s head out, I’ll let you drive when we get out of town.” Cecily got up from the chair and followed Lilly out of the cafe to the car and climbed in silently. The liger looked over at her with a smile as she started the Camaro, “Alex can be a bit overwhelming at time, and pushy. If you don’t like what she is doing just tell her to stop, Ok. And if you don’t like wearing something, don’t do it. You are free to say no to any of us if you are uncomfortable or scared, ok. If you don’t Alex will have you dressing like that all the time. But to tell you the truth, I think you look awesome, Cecily.”
“Wha was dat about?” Alex asked as she looked over at Susan. Susan looked back and said, “That little girl has been through a lot, Alex. You might need to move slower with her.”
“Damnit, Fluffy, why ya no’ tell me dat? Now I feel bad. An jou ‘ank, Why ya no’ said notin’?” Goodamit, jou guys, I got fix dis.” Alex said as she jumped up and ran to the old chevy truck to leave. The general, still looking at the menu, said, “Does zis mean lunch is ofer, or can we still order? Airline foot is for zee birds.”
Hank sat back and put his hand on Susan’s, “Eat to your heart's content, Old man. We got all day.” Susan smiled at him as she saw a look in his eye she had longed for over the past six years. A smile rolled across her face, I’m not sure how, but that mouse is a miracle worker.
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