It was raining.
The fox didn’t notice, though, he just watched out the cab’s window as the darkened, early morning city sped past. He was excited, opening the ring box every couple of minutes, looking at the platinum engagement ring. A streetlight caught the aquamarine gem, inset into the top of the ring, making it sparkle beautifully; the gem had a special meaning, they shared the same birthstone having been born almost exactly one year apart. Only a few more minutes and he’d be to her house; it had been a long ten months, and he couldn’t wait to just hold her close.
She lived in one of those small houses that had sprung up in downtown after the war ended; small, but but comfortable, and you couldn’t beat the price or location. There were three cars parked out front, a green Honda sedan, a black Ford sports car, and the fox’s pride and joy, a silver Volkswagen sports car. Only one person he could think of that drove that model of Ford car would be at her house, and that thought made him smile more, he hadn’t seen any of his old friends in quite a while. He got to the door and found it locked, with the lights off. Curious. Well neither of them knew he was coming back today…
A thought hit the fox harder than the baseball bat had, and brought a weight to the pit of his stomach…but they wouldn’t do that, it was a silly thing to worry about; he shook his head at the ludicrous thought and got out his keys. The door opened as the fox reached for it, and a large red dragon was in the doorway, chuckling at something or other and saying goodbye to the leopardess that stood just inside the room in just her bathrobe. The fox was delighted for a moment, what luck that he got to the house when he did, else he might have missed his old friend! Then the weight returned to the pit of his stomach when he saw the look of shock and fear on the leopardess’ face.
“Alec!” she said, surprised.
The fox tried to manage a smile but failed, “Hello, Rayna.” He looked to the dragon, “Hello, James.”
James looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights, “Hey, Alec…”
Nothing happened for a moment, and then Rayna walked up to the fox and hugged him, “My god it’s good to see you, it’s been so long.”
He didn’t hear her, the weight in his stomach turning to an icy ball as he caught an all too familiar scent. He looked between the dragon and leopard, who avoided his gaze; after a moment he walked back towards his car, taking his keys from his pocket.
“Alec, wait. It’s not what it looks…” Alec cut Rayna off with a wave of his hand and walked to his car.
“Alec, please…” she trailed off when the fox turned, her ears pinning flat when she saw the look in his eyes, the raw pain and anger and self-doubt. He turned slowly to James, then walked on. The dragon followed him, “Alec, seriously, it’s not what it looked like. We had a party and I ended up getting so drunk that I threw up and passed out on the bathroom floor. You know, like old times.”
The fox spoke quietly, “Yeah. Like old times.”
“You’ve been gone for ten months, Alec.”
“People get lonely.”
“How many times?”
“How many times?”
“How many times what?”
“Did you have sex with my fiancee while I was in Israel?”
The dragon stopped walking, “I didn’t.”
The fox stopped, too, feeling the proverbial knife in his back twist a little more, “You sure?”
“You could at least have the courage to tell the truth…”
Rayna walked up just then, and Alec turned to her, “How many times?” The leopardess said nothing, just looked away.
Alec closed his eyes and shook his head a little, “Bye.” The fox got into his car, and Rayna came up beside him just before he closed the door, “I’m sorry, Alec…it was…it was a horrible thing to do, the worst thing I’ve done in my life, and I’m sorry. It won’t happen again, I promise you.”
Alec turned to her, “Ten months is a long time, and I know he’s better than I am…”
“Let me finish. I know he is, okay? I understand. He’s got everything on me: looks, charm, money, and he’s better in bed, so I don’t blame you, alright? I’m just in the way, I shouldn’t have tried to keep you all for myself.”
“But Alec, I don’t want to be his. I love you, not him. I want to be with you, not him…”
“Then why did you go to him? Ten months is a long time, and it was hard on me, too, but every time I got lonely I thought of you and got so happy that I was going to see you…I never once even thought about being with another.”
Alec sighed, “Don’t be. Like I said, I understand. I need to go.”
“So is it over?”
“A good man once said, “If you love someone, you have to trust them, you have to give them the key to everything that’s yours. Otherwise, what’s the point?” I need to go.”
“So you can’t trust me…”
“I’m sorry.” He pulled the door shut and fired up the car.
Nothing felt right the next morning, like Alec wasn’t really awake. He acknowledged the well wishes of his co-workers with his usual politeness, he went through his meetings and filed his post-assignment report, and he didn’t really feel like he had done any of it. His boss came into his office around clock-out time, “Hey, Fox?” His boss always called people by their last names. Never “Mr. Fox” or “Mrs. Smith”, but just “Fox” or “Smith”.
The fox looked up at the tall, burly equine; he had been staring at a blank notepad, “Er, yes Mr. Wallace?”
“Something’s wrong, alright? I can tell. And I think I know what it is…Blake and Bowen have been acting almost the same way, too. All three of you are going to take at least a week off. That’s not a request, or a suggestion. You all three will take a week of paid vacation starting now. I don’t want to see you until next Monday, capisce?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Wallace.”
“You’re off the clock, Fox, just call me Jake.” With that, he closed the door.
Alec looked around the office, sighed, and stood. Tossing some files into his briefcase and snapping it closed he started to stand and leave, until he noticed the framed newspaper clipping on his desk. It was a picture of he, James, and Rayna, and some other friends. He read the caption, “Wallace Security, Inc.’s new counterterrorism division. Pictured, from left to right: Alexander Fox, Rayna Blake, James Bowen, Ian Campbell, Auroriana Romero, and Eric Fox.” After a moment he picked it up and put it in one of his desk drawers, then left and locked his office door behind him.
It was eleven seventeen at night when the janitor entered, walking over to the computer and slipping in a disk before going about his cleaning duties. The computer whirred quietly as it autoread and executed the program; after all, it had the right coding on it. The computer made a soft chime; the janitor retrieved the disk and slipped it into the pocket of his overalls before making his way to the next office.
It was raining.