literature

A Rare Friend - Part 1

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Spring.  A time when people say goodbye to winter and enjoy the warmer climates, when plants begin to sprout and flowers bloom, and a chance to clean up houses and gardens.  Anthony and Claudia Sheppard remember what spring meant to them, a time to shed off jackets and wait for the days to waist time at the beach.  But in the months past they suffered a great loss in their family, and moving to a new town made it worse for them.  Coming back to their new home after their father picked them up from high school, Claudia wished every day she could turn back the clock.

They went inside first, into the cold and unlit house.  Anthony set his backpack on the empty sofa and sat in it, combing back his brown hair while sighing.  Claudia set her messenger bag on the stairs, then sat down in the chair next to Anthony, using her long brown hair to hide her face.  Her spirits were down, almost making her sad.  Her brother felt the same, but deep down he was frustrated with her.

Their father, Brandon, came in and set down his briefcase on the table with a phone, notebook, and key holder.  The light blue dress shirt still had evidence of sweat after he came from work.  He turned at his children and folded his arms, staring at Claudia with her head hanging low.

"Detention," he said, feeling the pain from his clenched jaw.  "This is the third time Principal Carothers called me, Claudia.  I'm sick and tired of this."

Anthony took of his denim jacket and tossed it near his backpack.  "Dad, it wasn't her fault, those jerks didn't."

"Don't defend her, Anthony.  Claudia, I assumed that you controlled yourself, but it looks like you still have the same stubborn attitude."

Claudia didn't want to look at him.  At high school, she spent two hours in the principal's office, hearing both Brandon and Ms. Carother's side of the argument.  She had a temper problem, triggered by the minor mention of the family's loss.  Her jeans and blouse felt clammy and all she wanted was to take a shower and calm down.

"Look, guys, we've been here for four months.  I thought taking the job with the city was the best for us.  I thought wrong.  Anthony, I'm telling you to help your sister in this, but not be her shield for goodness sake."  He scratched his brown hair cut down to a short buzz.  "And all this time, Claudia, I've never seen you with friends."

Claudia blinked.  "I do have friends," she lied quietly.

The air felt stale to Anthony like bad AC wind.  Her sister was beginning to be a toll on him.  Trying to make friends after moving was half good and half bad.  "Name one," he asked her.

Claudia opened her mouth, but failed.  Being in trouble she was used to, but this moment took a toll on her father's heart.

Brandon went on.  "I'm serious, Claudia, if you don't find a way to live here, then I guess I have to forfeit the job and move back."

Those words made little effort in her spirit and she hid any outside reaction.  Anthony didn't like his choice and said, "Dad, don't, we already sold the house and the site is nearly complete."

"I don't care, Anthony, you two I care about the most.  If your big sister doesn't shape up soon, then our time here is over.  It's how life works: If you don't accept it, it will eat you up."  He looked at his watch.  "Now I'm going to take a nap before dinner.  You sit there and think about what you've done."  He then went to the stairs and made his way up.

Infuriated by Brandon's result and choice to move again, Claudia looked at her father.  "None of this would've happen if mom didn't die," she said with a harsh tone.

Brandon stopped dead and clenched hard on the handrail.  Anthony's eyes went wide and shook his head.  It was all she said since moving to Riverdale, making what's left of her family remember that tragic day at the hospital.  Saying it at the most inappropriate times was like shoving a steak of regret in their stomachs.  Before, Brandon let go of his emotions and yell at her, but he was too tired to talk anymore.  All he could do was turn his head, glare at her with his brown eyes, then looked away in disappointment.  He walked up the steps and both heard his door close.

Anthony scooted to Claudia and smacked her in the arm, making her moan in pain.  "Nice going, sis," he said.  "You just had to say it."

Claudia rubbed her arm and looked at him.  "Hey, you said it wasn't my fault."

"Yeah and look where it got us.  Were trying to make a new life and your still living in the past.  It's practically killing you.  At least I have friends."

"But they are the 'okay' friends.  All the ones we met are either crazy or high on love."

"You tell me." Anthony leaned back.  He's the kind of guy that likes puzzles.  Whenever he sees a Sudoku book, he grabs it and spends all day on every one for hours.  Being the analytical one of the family, it had its benefits toward school.  "At least that jerk got what he deserved, with a broken nose and all."

Claudia had enough for the day and went to the bathroom, stripping down to nothing and letting the warm water wash over her thin teen body, sobbing.  What came out if the shower was the memories of her mother.  Half an hour and with red skin she put on loose shorts and a clean t-shirt, trying to feel comfortable while in her room doing homework.

Dinner came and Claudia wasn't feeling well to eat her little brother's tuna noodle casserole.  Managed to have a dry turkey sandwich and water, close to comfort food for her mood.  She didn't talk to Brandon, avoiding any sort of fight.  She then excused herself and sat quietly in the backyard.  Anthony talked Brandon out of making her do the dishes, feeling she still needs time to be alone.

She sat on the porch until sunset, seeing it through the forest that border the backyard.  Since they got the house, it was advertised as a "fixer upper away from the suburbs."  Took them a month to repair the holes, rewire, and set a suitable but not labor-intensive yard.  The backyard still needed work as she looked at the unfinished garden plots.  The grass was watered thoroughly and began showing color a few weeks ago.  In a month it will be ready to cut and the scent of fresh cut grass will fill her, then open the memories of playing with her mother in the garden back home.

It seemed that when spring arrives, it would be a sorrowful memory after the next for Claudia.  Everything she sees or touches that relate to flowers will remind her of her mother; Jane Sheppard's bright smile, her love towards gardening, how her dad smiles at her-happy memories, dwindled into memories of loss.

As the most hurt of the three, she was also the last person to see her on her deathbed, seeing Jane take in her last breaths after a brutal fight against cancer.  Removing Claudia was a struggle, sticking to the body like glue.

"God," she whispered to herself, "why did you have to take her away from me?"  She covered her face with her hands and cried quietly, then curled on the patio couch, the one thing Jane loved to sit in.  It was worse when her indent was disappearing and the small traces of her mother's perfume fading.

The weeping went down to soft breathing.

Bushes rustle in the distance, then a shovel tipped and fell to the grass.  The sound brought Claudia to attention.  "Hello?" she asked.  More sounds came, none human.  She sat up and hugged herself, both from an imaginary stomachache and a sense of uneasiness.  "Is somebody there?"

She couldn't see through the darkness, but she knew someone, or something, was approaching her.  Her legs were brought up to her chest by instinct.  A board creaked on the patio and she heard footsteps approach her.

"It's got to be a cat," she said and brought her legs down, but the footsteps scampered under her as she felt something soft brush against her ankle.  The touch freaked her out and tried to look for the animal.

"Come on, where are you?"  She gave up and wanted to duck down but as she looked towards the barbecue, she was looking dead center at the animal, or creature, or a really hairy cat, but she didn't picture it as one.  It stared right back at her.

It sat on the armrest far from the view of the kitchen window, mostly in the light.  The creature had bright orange fur covering from its muzzled face to the tip of a short, bushy tail.  Along its chest, belly, and long muzzle was fluffed pure white fur.  A little ran along the inside of its legs, ending with four black paws with extended white claws.  It's eyes were orange too and stared at Claudia's with deep concern.  On top of its head were two ears, but were white horns, curling back with orange rounded points.  From its stance, it appeared as a ferret, but with more fur, bigger than a house cat, and minor lizard-like qualities.  Everything about it was alien.

Claudia was speechless and froze.  The creature blinked and tilted its head.  She didn't know what to do.  All her sadness of her deceased mother ceased, focusing on the creature.  It made a short cry, which made Claudia flinch and pull back.

"Okay," she tried.  "This is too weird."  The creature reacted and stirred a little, making short chirping sounds.  Claudia heard it and began getting farther away.  Her back touched the other armrest and felt pinned.  The creature got on all fours and started to approach her, slinking off the handrail like a curious cat.

"Are…are you gonna eat me?" she asked.  Not the smart thing to say, but she was scared.  It came to her leg and rubbed against her calf.  Her skin tingled, feeling the soft and smooth fur along its body.  Then with no signs of having an appetite for human, it climbed on her leg, stopping on her chest, still staring at her.

Shall I swat it away?  She thought.  The creature dipped its head, opened its mouth, and licked Claudia's cheek.

It caught her off guard.  She saw that it was smiling as it laid on her chest, scratching against her t-shirt and against her bare neck.

My, God, this thing's soft as silk.  She raised her hand and gently placed it on it's back.  It made soft moans and chirps as it expressed its love to its newfound friend.  Claudia was flabbergasted.  Then it came away and started moving around her, on her shoulders, and flopping it's tail in her face.  She couldn't help but smile and laugh softy so the boys didn't hear.

"Well, 'aint you a playful one," she whispered.  The creature let out a small harmonious call.  "But what in the world are you?"

"Claudia," her dad asked.  "Are you still out there?"

The creature heard the new voice and it's eyes changed.  It jumped off Claudia's shoulders and scampered off into the forest faster than she realized what was happening.

Brandon opened the screen door and saw his daughter, sitting upright in the couch.  Claudia felt alone but as she looked at her father, her hate towards him surfaced.  She leaned back and looked away.

"Wanna talk?"  He got no response.  Brandon came around and sat beside her.  "Look, I'm sorry for what I said today.  I'm just stressed out that's all."  He placed a hand on her shoulder.  "For better or for worse, it's what we have left.  I like it here and so does your brother, not to mention the forest.  At this time you could've been with friends and hanging out in town or something.  Hear me out, once we settle down, I promise things will get better."

She couldn't give him the stone silent treatment anymore-it was eating at her.  "I'm sorry too," she managed.  "But do we have to stay here until fall?  Why can't it be lower than that?"  She didn't want to mention her brief encounter with the orange furred creature thinking it was long gone.

"Because I signed a contract.  The town needs my skills.  Maybe when the building is finished, we can go on a real vacation.  Cedar Point perhaps?"

Thoughts fired in Claudia's mind of riding the roller coasters and walking through the island.  She couldn't help but smile.  Brandon caught it.

"That's the spirit.  Making friends will help a lot."  He kissed her forehead and got up.  "You need anything else?"

"Nope," she answered.

Brandon nodded.  "Sleep well."  He went inside and closed the door behind him.

Claudia stared back at the forest, hoping to see the mysterious creature one last time.  Hope was fulfilled when she spotted an orange object walking through the grass.  It stopped short of the patio.

"Did he scare you?" She whispered at it and could of sworn it nodded in the dark.  "So what are you?  Not like a mutant ferret I bet?"

Then she noticed it had something in its mouth.  The creature dropped it on the patio, then with a playful cry it dashed off back to the forest.  She felt empty then looked at the object.  She picked it up and realized it was a folded piece of paper.  Unfolding it, her jaw dropped.

I'm a furdrake.  Name's Citrus.  See you tomorrow ;)

She felt shivers run down her spine while looking all over the backyard.  "Okay who's out there?"  She called out.  "This better not be a prank."  No answer.

Her heartbeat raced.  She imagined there was somebody hiding behind the trees, watching her, and planning something devious.  But she could not deny that what she touched was impossibly real.  She crumpled the paper up, locked all the doors, and went to bed, saying goodnight to Anthony as normal as she could.  Lying in bed, she didn't sleep until late at night, wondering if her emotions were finally messing with her mind.

*****

Riverdale is a scenic town in the middle of a vast and thick forest in northern California.  The small town of over five thousand was once a rest stop for the adventurous miners of the Gold Rush, now an almost forgotten place on the map.  At the time when Brandon took the job, the city was just putting its foot through the door to enter the twenty first century, starting with technological expansion.  He was hired to help construct a new state-of-the-art nursery to spruce up the town's image with indigenous flowers and edibles.

The following day she was serving detention in the library after school.  The homework was a bore to her, not to mention she had to be there every afternoon for the whole week, even on Saturday.  After talking to her father, it seemed that if she wanted to fell better, she had to make the best of it.  Sick and tired of getting into trouble at least.  She still stared and listened to the most interesting students, how they treated others, how they're smiling a lot, and how they seemed to be living life to the fullest.  As a new girl, she still felt unrelated to them as she tried to find students with the same interests as her.

Brandon picked her up before dinner started, but the thought of the furdrake haunted her.  After she did the dishes she kept looking out to the backyard for any signs of the creatures bright color.  To her amazement, Citrus, as it called itself, came as promised.

Claudia went out to see it, letting it rub against her, have her scratch the head and back, and how playful it really was.  The experience lasted for a couple of hours, out of sight, until her family called her inside.  She obeyed, and the same time she sees Citrus run off into the forest.  Days past and the meetings kept coming, but she still kept her strange friend a secret.  One day Citrus found a rubber ball to play fetch with and bite it like a cat toy.  Over time she admired how friendly, soft, and loving it was.

In essence, Citrus was her first friend of Riverdale ever.

Detention was over and she spent more time with Citrus.  To see if it was possible, she waited for it to come and try to bring it into the house.  Citrus was scared at first while hiding in her laundry basket, then relaxed as it explored her room, ending up on her second pillow and sleeping through the night.

Then she decided to get a better look at her friend.  With dad gone and Anthony at the movies, they were alone.  She did some safe prodding: tickling it's feet and hear it laugh, how agile and fast it moved, and how intelligent it appeared from recognizing Claudia's words to looking at the collection of books under her nightstand.  She didn't want to dive in the note thing out of fear.  In her examination, Citrus was a girl.  Once she soaked up the cuteness of the furdrake, she hugged her, being lost in the soft fur and quiet heartbeat.  Citrus returned the favor by wrapping its front arms and paws around her neck and lick her ear, making Claudia giggle.

The front door opened and closed fast as she heard someone in the living room.  "Claudia, you home," Anthony yelled.  "I found out what's been making the guys loopy!"

Citrus whimpered and jumped off Claudia, hiding under the bed's blanket.  The little ball shivered.  "I'm here.  Hang on a sec," she said and came to Citrus.  "Don't worry.  Nothing will hurt you.  I'll be right back."

She closed the bedroom door and came down the stairs to see Anthony in the kitchen.  "What is it?"

Anthony gulped down a glass of orange juice and set it down, gasping and having a surprised expression.  "It's so simple.  I just had to ask my friends what's up with everybody and he gave me what I wanted."  He reached for his backpack, unzipped the front pouch, and pulled out a full color drawing.

"There art fanatics," he said holding the picture to Claudia.  "Not the Picasso kind, but they're obsessed with these creatures they draw.  My buddy says their called furdrakes and says a secret club sprang in the school just from these."

Claudia recognized it but didn't show it.  It looked just like Citrus, but this one had lime green and white fur with spots along its tail.  It smiled as it sat straight next to a red tulip.

"What did you say afterwards?" She asked with a straight face.

"More questions, but he couldn't answer them for some weird reason.  Sounded closed off.  This is what I've been hunting for since we got here."

"And what do you suppose you gonna do about it?"  She noticed she sounded protective and was afraid it tipped Anthony.

"How should I know?  This is just a piece of art, nothing more."  He went on finding something for lunch.

At least he doesn't know the real truth, she thought.  But something inside her said that her secret won't last, not even keeping Citrus in the house.  The thought of her father discovering the furdrake was well beyond her grasp if he ever takes her friend away.  Anthony could see the pieces to the puzzle faster than she can hide them.  I can't lie to him, but how will he react?

"Anyway that's my day.  What about you?"  He asked fixing a turkey sandwich.

"Oh I had things," she said, gulping.  "Hey, can you trust me?"

He was about to take a bite of his lunch.  "Like what?  Did my emotional big sister get into trouble again?"

She shook her head.  "No, but I found something interesting in the garden patch. Can you check it out for me?"

He took a bite and swallowed.  "This better be good, I'm behind on my research paper."

Claudia felt her heart beat so hard it was about to punch through.  Walking up the stairs she tried the hardest not to trip.  She entered her room, seeing the lump in the bed, moving by Citrus' breathing.  She gulped and thought, what am I thinking?

"Okay," Anthony said looking around.  "So…what is it?"

She faced him, hands flexing.  Anthony noticed she was nervous.  "What you said about those…furdrakes," she said with a small sign of shaking, "I've been thinking.  I think I have the same conclusion as you."  But way off, I think.  "I've known it for a week."

Anthony's eyes leveled.  "Wait, you knew?"

"Kind of."

Citrus didn't like the conversation and started whimpering.  Claudia's eyes widened.  Anthony looked at the lump in the couch.  "Claudia…"

"Look, just," she interrupted, "just, don't freak out.  The last thing I need is you turning into dad."  She approached the bed and with a trembling hand, pulled the covers.

Anthony's mouth opened slowly, no sound came out.  Citrus was hiding its face with it's tail, then one eye opened, looking at the newcomer holding food.  It became agitated and picked itself up, not having any idea what to do.  It let out soft breaths.

"Anthony, meet Citrus.  Citrus, meet Anthony."  Her brother didn't move and it worried Claudia.  "She's been with me for a week now, eating from the fruit bowl and keeping me company.  I know it sounds unbelievable, but I think the locals know that these creatures are real."  She scratched Citrus' back to loosen her mood.

Anthony took a bite and chewed, relaxing a bit.  He then leaned on the door jam, eyes locked on Citrus.

"Well" Claudia asked.  "Are you gonna say something?"

He blinked and looked at her with eyes she seen many times, of disappointment and awe.  "Please tell me you named it?"  He asked.

Claudia huffed.  "No I didn't, it already had a name.  That's something I still can't figure out."

Citrus noticed the food and jumped off the bed, coming up to Anthony and sit on its hind legs.  She looked straight at the sandwich and started to beg and wimpier, eyes getting bigger.

Before Claudia said a word, he lowered it to Citrus.  She smelled it and took a bite from an untouched corner.  Chewing and swallowing, she yelped with a big grin.

"You know, from the looks of it, she's not that bad," he said.  Citrus then grabbed on his legs and began climbing.  Anthony freaked a little, then she rested over his shoulders to lick his cheek and fluff her tail in his face.  "Okay, now she's just rubbing it in."  He spat out the fur as he talked.

"So your not made at me?"  Claudia asked.

"Mad?  This is the most greatest discovery since Slim Jims."

Claudia felt a weight lift off her shoulder and her breathing relaxed.  "Oh thank you.  For a minute I thought you had the look of 'wait until dad see this.'"

Anthony scratched Citrus' head.  "Sis, remember the time we found that cat and dad sent it to the pound when he found it under your bed?"  She nodded.  "Think of that, but with a government lab.  No, I'm not telling him."

Then Citrus came to attention and looked in random directions.  She yelped and jumped off of Anthony's shoulder and ran out to the hallway.  Claudia gasped and ran after her, calling her back, Anthony behind her dropping the sandwich.

Citrus was faster than them and reached the bottom floor, then down to the patio door.  The kids saw her but Anthony saw something odd but fascinating.  In quick response Citrus jumped on the kitchen counter, jumped at the patio door's handle, used her momentum to push it open, push open the screen door, dashing out to the backyard.

"How friggin' smart is this thing?" Anthony said.  Claudia screamed for her to come back but as she stopped on the patio, the orange furdrake was already in the forest.

Claudia felt the loneliness rise inside her as she looked at Anthony, and punched him in the shoulder.

"Nice going you jerk," she said.  "You scared her."

"Me?  I just pet it.  I mean her.  I…"  He tried to explain but Claudia kept on yelling.

Then she stopped when she heard Citrus call out and looked.  She didn't see her.  Then another call came as both stopped when hearing a different tone.

"What was that?" she said to herself.

Citrus came out of the bushes, grinning and almost prancing.  Claudia felt happiness again and relieved she won't be alone anymore, but both didn't expect to see a SECOND furdrake popping out.

This was the same size as the first.  It had dark green fur covering the top half while the bottom half had lighter green fur.  As it came walking next to Citrus, they noticed it had white spots on its thighs and a single white ring on its tail.  The horns followed the same pattern as the fur.  Brown eyes looked straight at Anthony.

"Okay this is really trippy," Anthony said.  "Did you know there were more?"

Claudia shook her head.  "Awe.  You had a friend hiding this whole time?"

Citrus nodded.

"Well, looks like we won't have a problem sharing?"

Anthony rolled his eyes of how keeping them was near as impossible, but noticed the green furdrake biting something.  "Hey, what is that in his mouth?"  Claudia noticed it and hoped it was what she believed.

The green one jumped on the porch and climbed on the couch.  It whimpered as it nudged at Anthony with a wad of brown paper in its mouth.  Anthony reached and the paper fell in his hand, opened it, skimmed it's contents, and started looking all over the yard.

"All right who's the mad scientist here?"  He said, distressed.  "Ha ha.  You're making laugh.  Come on out and explain yourself!?"

"What is it?"  She said sounding clueless.

He handed it to his sister and she read it.  My name's Rogan.  Glad you didn't freak from seeing Citrus.  Wanna play?

"Wow," she said.  "Now I'm scared."

"You tellin' me.  Come on out!"

"Anthony, it happened to me too.  Citrus had a note with her name on it."

Anthony settled down a little.  "If that's the truth, then how did they see through the bedroom window facing the street?"  He walked back and forth looking past the trees and bushes.

Claudia's eyes went wide.  How could she not realize it?  Being with Citrus must've messed with her mind, but she remembered it all thank goodness.  Looking at the furdrakes sitting next to each other, watching Anthony having a fit, they looked sad.

"Anthony, if there was somebody hiding we would've hear them already.  I checked myself."

He slowed down and looked between her and the forest.

Between the furdrakes, they couldn't stand seeing them panic over a simple note.  Rogan, after meeting Anthony for the first time, regretted giving him the note.  Citrus nudged her head and both furdrakes walked off.  Claudia looked down, turning to see a pair of tails entering the house.

She came in and saw the two getting on a chair and jump from the dining room table to the kitchen counter top.  Stopping at the phone, Citrus rummaged through the coffee mug full of pencils.  She bit one and hunched over the pad of paper, moving her tail as her head swerved and angled.  Claudia realized what was happening and called Anthony in.  He did and stopped, eyes blinking from the message.

Rogan is sorry for scaring you.  He's just excited to meet a human while sitting out there all week.  Can you forgive us?

Citrus and Rogan were sitting next to the pad, eyes as puppy dogs.

The siblings were speechless as they witnessed a level of intelligence from a cute and cuddly creature.  Inside Claudia, she felt that if they wrote that, then they must've wrote the note when they met.  She asked her friend and wrote a big yes.  Discovering a new species of animal didn't compare to the gift of communication.  Then she asked why didn't they tell then before and they wrote they needed their trust.

"Trust?"  Anthony said.  "Kind of makes sense.  What do you think?"

Claudia was stroking Citrus' fur.  "I think it's kind of cool they can do this.  Who would thought that as cute as these two are they have a nice way with words."

"I call it a random surprise."  Anthony later gave up and let Rogan sit on his shoulders, the furdrake lapped in the embrace.  "But were still not telling dad about this.  Got it?"

Claudia nodded and picked Citrus up, giving her a hug.

In a popular vote, the furdrakes wanted to stay in the house with their masters.  Anthony were a tad against it seeing how or when Brandon will discover them, but the furdrakes promised-on paper-that their presence will be unnoticed.  It was settled to have them for a week.  Rogan felt very happy and began eating everything in sight, the food better than the scarce berries and bugs he found.  With a full stomach, he slept on Anthony's bed.  Claudia and Citrus slept together, but Claudia held the furdrake like a teddy bear, letting the fur lull her to sleep.

Late at night, everybody was asleep.  Rogan slept at the foot of the bed, balled up with his tail over his face.  As the witching hour approached, Rogan suddenly woke up.  He stretched, yawned, and jumped off.  The room was pitch black, but his night vision didn't stop him to jump and bite on the door's handle to open.  It didn't creak.

He saw Citrus sitting at Claudia's open door, waiting for him.  In soft whispers and chirps, they talked to each other of how trustworthy the humans are and agreed that they can broaden their friendship.  The furdrakes faced each other and bowed their heads.  The horns touched and as they did, they glowed for a second.

Strands of black fibers grew from the base of the horns.  They wound themselves as smaller strands grew.  At the ends, blue jewels grew to the size of countertop pills.  Both furdrakes pulled away, said goodnight, and went back to sleep.
Based on :iconakuoreo:'s furdrakes. By the way this is my interpretation of the creatures. Two more parts are coming, the next will be up next Friday.

Oh and will have a spot.

Characters belong to me
Furdrakes belong to :iconakuoreo:
© 2010 - 2021 Cooper3
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writermartin42's avatar
Wonderful story, not sure what Citrus and Rogan were doing at the end but I'm sure we'll soon find out.
thelastgunslinger23's avatar
Awesome Story, I really Liked it. On a side note there were a few misspelled words and there were a couple places where there you skipped some words, other than that its a really good story
Cooper3's avatar
thanks ill try to find them