By Bernard Doove © 2008
Jazmyn spent most of the rest of the morning sitting on the sofa in a state of shock. Lacking anything better to do, Ken started up his computer to do the work that he had promised Rick that he would do. Twice he got up to make them both a drink. He tried coffee the second time, and Jazmyn drank that as readily as she had drunk the tea, but she didn’t really respond otherwise. Then the drinks worked their magic on her bladder and she started to get up to go to the toilet, only to realise that the crutches were still back at the lookout.
"Ken," Jazmyn called.
Ken looked around and Jazmyn indicated her need for the crutches. He nodded and went to fetch them. He returned shortly and Jazmyn left to take care of her needs. When she came out, having been stirred from her apathy, she could no longer just sit around inside, so she went out onto the porch to look around some more. She noted the half-hearted attempts at garden beds and shook her head in dismay. She loved gardening and couldn’t understand why people took so little care of theirs. She kept hobbling around the cabin to get a better look at the framework. The weathering on the framework indicated that progress on the extension had been slow, but when it was done, it would add a fairly large room to the cabin. Jazmyn wondered why he needed it though – he was a single man in a roomy cabin. Perhaps that was the reason – he planned not to be single, but the cabin would be a bit small for a family. There wasn’t much more to see besides a pre-fab storage shed. She went back to the porch and sat down on a chair that had an open back to suit her tail. She sighed in relief – the effort of looking around taking more of a toll on her than she thought it would. She relaxed and watched the scenery and listened to the sounds of the forest. It was so comfortingly familiar that it began to soothe her woes. She had suffered a huge loss, but she was still alive and safe. She was no weakling! She would rebuild her life in some way, although right at the moment she had no clue how. First thing though was to overcome the communication problem.
Her resolutions made, Jazmyn relaxed completely and enjoyed the sunny day. About an hour later, Ken came out to find her asleep in the chair. He smiled at the sight and left her undisturbed.
Jazmyn woke up after a lengthy nap, feeling much better. She hauled herself out of the deceptively comfortable chair and made her way inside. Ken looked up from his work and smiled.
"You look a lot better than earlier," he commented. "Hungry now?"
Jazmyn nodded and said, "Hungry!" having learned the word from previous usage.
Ken’s grin widened. "Good! So am I. He walked over to the kitchenette to make some lunch, but was surprised when Jazmyn followed him. "It’s okay, I can make it by myself."
Jazmyn shook her head and ignored whatever he had said. Picking up a mug from the bench, she mimed pouring something into it. "Tay," she said. "Copola da tay."
"You want a cup of tea?" Ken asked, reaching for the kettle.
Jazmyn stopped him and held up the mug again. "Cup of tea," she repeated. "Copola da tay. Cup – copola. Tea – tay."
Ken’s eyes lit up with comprehension. "Oh! You want to know the words. OK, we can do that." He picked up a bread knife and said, "Knife".
"Knife," repeated Jazmyn.
Ken picked up a table knife and said "Knife" again.
Jazmyn smiled and said, "Knife allzuch."
Ken then said, "Bread knife, table knife," thus establishing the class of knives with the subset of different types. He then named forks, spoons, teaspoons, plates, bowls, and so forth. He then started preparing the lunch, naming every ingredient and item that he used, with Jazmyn dutifully repeating every word. Once he deliberately picked up something that he had named earlier and misnamed it. Jazmyn promptly corrected him, aware that he was testing her. He grinned and she grinned back.
Ken insisted that they eat the lunch that he’d prepared before they continued the name game. Then they went on an orgy of naming everything in the cabin. After a while it occurred to Ken that she was remembering every single word after hearing it just once. That was very impressive. He knew that he stood no chance whatsoever of matching that feat. He switched to more abstract words such as ‘breakfast’ and ‘morning’. She caught on very quickly, and Ken suspected that she would do so even faster if he was better at explaining the concepts. Then there were the verbs and adjectives, and very quickly they built up a very basic vocabulary for her.
Ken was startled to realise that they’d spent all afternoon on that exercise, his programming work completely forgotten. He realised that he would have to make up that time in the evening, but there was another priority making itself known. "Are you thirsty and hungry" Ken asked.
As usual, Jazmyn caught on immediately and nodded. "I am much thirsty and hungry. I like to… no word, sorry." She got up and hobbled over to the kitchenette and made motions indicating preparing food. "I like to… work food."
"Ah! You mean that you like to cook," Ken clarified.
"Yes, I cook much."
"It’s OK, I can cook for us both…" Ken started to say.
"No, you cook, I cook," Jazmyn insisted.
"But your leg…"
"No. Leg OK to cook."
"OK! OK! You can help me to cook the food." Ken gave in to the inevitable and went to the fridge and pulled out a couple of steaks, plus some cabbage and carrots from the crisper. He held them up and named them, then asked, "What do you cook?"
Jazmyn grinned. "I cook steaks good."
Ken handed them to her and said, "Right, let’s see what you can do with these." He then got the frying pan out for her and she started immediately. Ken hastened to get the vegetables prepared, peeling the carrot and slicing them and some cabbage into a steamer. Then he put on the kettle to make them both tea. Meanwhile Jazmyn looked through the shelves for spices. She opened some and sniffed the contents, rejecting a couple but using others. She carefully regulated the rate of cooking after asking Ken, "Cook much? Cook little?"
"I like mine cooked medium. Not much, not little," Ken replied.
Jazmyn nodded. "Medium. I like medium little."
"We call that medium rare. Cook steak a little is rare, cook it much is well done."
Jazmyn nodded again in understanding, and they continued the language lessons with cooking terms while drinking their tea.
Ken cleared the table of the clutter upon it, then put the cutlery there. When the steaks were ready, Jazmyn served them onto plates, Ken added the vegetables and then carried them over to the table. Jazmyn hobbled over to the table and sank down onto a chair with a sigh of relief. She had pretty much reached her limit for the moment.
"Bon appétit!" Ken said. Jazmyn looked puzzled and Ken hastened to clarify. "Good appetite," he said as he rubbed his stomach, vowing to remember not to use foreign words while trying to teach English.
They started eating. Ken tried the steak first, and found it to be cooked exactly as he liked it, and the spices were very well used. Jazmyn very obviously knew what she was doing. He smiled broadly. "Good! Very very good!"
Jazmyn looked modest and said, "Danka. Thank you."
When they finished, Ken cleared the plates and utensils as he said, "I’m going to make coffee. Do you want coffee also?"
"Yes, coffee please."
Ken made them both a cappuccino with his little coffee maker. Jazmyn was obviously pleased, recognising the style of coffee. Ken started laughing though shortly after she began drinking hers.
"Why you…?" Jazmyn mimicked his laughter.
"Why am I laughing?" You have foam on your muzzle," Ken answered, indicating what he meant. "It looks funny."
"Ah! Foam is funny." Her long tongue quickly cleared her muzzle. "Not funny now."
"No, it’s good now," Ken agreed.
With the coffee finished, Ken started the clean-up. Jazmyn again insisted on helping.
"OK, I wash, you dry. No wet fur," Ken said.
Jazmyn replied, "No wet fur is good."
They washed up everything, then Ken had Jazmyn pass him the dried items as he put them away where they belonged. It was more than he usually bothered with, but he didn’t want to appear messy to his guest.
With that job completed, Ken hesitated and then said, "I need to work," as he pointed to his computer. "What do you want to do?"
Jazmyn pointed at the bookshelves. "Look at books," she answered.
Ken was puzzled as he knew that she hadn’t learned many written words as yet. Then Jazmyn went over to the shelves and pulled out a large illustrated book. Opening it, she pointed at an illustration and said, "I look at pictures."
"Ah, OK." Ken then busied himself with his work.
Jazmyn checked out the other illustrated books and some magazines, trying to find any that would help give her an idea what this world was like, and if there any other familiar similarities with her own. She found some beautiful books on big cats, one on gigantic machinery, a couple of science-fiction magazines, souvenir books for various places – mostly national parks, and an atlas. Jazmyn immediately turned her focus on that last item. Eagerly opening it, she quickly found the world map was very familiar. Although the political divisions varied a lot, the continents themselves hadn’t changed noticeably. She knew that her town of Spirit Creek would not be there even on her own world’s atlases because it was too small, but she did try to find the major cities nearby. Some were where she expected to find them, but a couple weren’t. Overall it seemed that this particular area was less developed than on her world. She wondered if that was significant, or whether it was a consequence of differing growth.
Eventually she gleaned what information that she could from the reference books, and then she amused herself with the picture books until Ken finished his work. As he shut down his computer, Ken said, "I will show you how to use this tomorrow. Maybe we can find something to teach you more."
"Computer teach me English?" Jazmyn asked. That sounded like some datanetwork program. If this world had d-net tuition programs also, that would be a huge advantage.
"Yes," Ken affirmed. "We will look tomorrow. I will go to work tomorrow also. Will you be OK here by yourself?" He had to explain himself more before Jazmyn completely understood. She then nodded."
"I understand. You go to work. I learn here."
"Good. I’m going to have a shower and go to bed." He then frowned as he thought of something. "Jasmine, do you need to shower also?"
"Yes. Need thing to dry fur."
"A hair dryer? Or in this case, a fur dryer. I do not have one, sorry."
Jazmyn shrugged. "Need shower. My fur…." She stuck her tongue out.
Considering the condition that he had found her in, Ken quite understood what she meant and mentally kicked himself for not thinking of it sooner. "I will try to find something for you tomorrow," he promised.
Jazmyn said, "I shower tonight. Fire dry fur again tonight."
"What about a bed? Is the sofa okay?"
Jazmyn smiled reassuringly. "Sofa is very okay."
"Great!" Ken then went to have his shower.
While he was occupied with that, Jazmyn went out onto the porch and sat once again in the comfortable chair. She listened to the familiar night sounds and enjoyed the cool night-scented air. It might not be her world, but it was still so familiar and reassuring. Considering the shock that she had gotten this morning, she needed every bit of comfort that she could get. Even the limited amount of English that she had learned so far was reassuring because she could communicate a bit again now. Familiar work such as cooking and washing-up kept her mind off her plight, and hopefully lessened the burden that she was being for Ken. She wondered how long it would be before he tired of his unexpected houseguest and what she would do when he did. She needed to learn as much as she could as soon as possible in order to be prepared, and help out whenever and wherever possible to keep from being a nuisance. She hoped that her leg would heal quickly so that she could do more. While it had not been broken, she could not be sure if it hadn’t been fractured, or whether it was just severely bruised. The other various aches and pains from the accident were already fading, so she was optimistic that the leg wasn’t too bad. She wasn’t a medic though, so she could only guess. Going to see one in this world would be out of the question if it was true that there were no others like her. She shuddered at the thought of what could happen under those circumstances.
Ken came out to find Jazmyn in her contemplative mood. "The shower is yours now," he said as he held out a hand to help her up.
"Thank you," Jazmyn said and followed him inside.
Ken stoked the fire before he said, "Good night, Jasmine."
"Good night, Ken," Jazmyn replied.
Ken went to his bedroom and closed the door behind him. Jazmyn hobbled into the bathroom and took off her clothes with a sigh of relief. "That’s going to take a lot of getting used to," she muttered. She used the toilet before stepping into the shower stall. The hot water felt wonderful, and she enjoyed the delicious sensation for a minute before she looked around for some form of fur cleaner. She sniffed Ken’s shampoo suspiciously before trying a little bit of it on her arm. Deciding that it would do for now, she used it all over. She tried to be as sparing as possible, but knew she was using a large proportion of it nevertheless. Then she rinsed off and realised that she was going to need some conditioner also because the shampoo was not the combination type. She wondered what the chances were of getting something like that for her, perhaps from a pet shop? Finally she felt completely clean and hopped out of the shower. For an instant, she looked for the fur-drying booth before she remembered that there wasn’t one. She noticed though that there were a couple of towels on a shelf that hadn’t been there before, and she guessed that Ken had thoughtfully left them out for her use. She put one on top of the toilet seat so that she could sit down and take the strain off her sore leg, and then dried herself off as best as she could. There was a hairbrush on the shelf also, so Jazmyn used it to first brush her hair, then to straighten out her fur as much as possible. She then carefully picked out as much of her fur from the brush as she could, thinking that Ken would probably not appreciate her fur in his hair. Finally done, she grabbed the crutches and hobbled back out to the living room. After turning off the light, she laid down on the sofa with the fire once again warming and drying her. It was a really comfortable sofa, and she enjoyed watching the fire from it
She didn’t watch it for long though as tiredness overtook her and sleep came quickly.
Ken was bemused by Jazmyn’s nudity again, but had to admit that her fur looked a lot nicer now. He left her undisturbed and went to prepare some cereal for breakfast. While eating the cold cereal, he started up the computer to do a search for online language teaching sites. One came highly recommended but wasn’t cheap. He shrugged and paid for a month’s worth of lessons anyway. He wanted Jazmyn to learn as best as she could so that they could have real conversation and clear up some mysteries. He had considered learning her language before he realised how adept at learning English she was, and how bad he was at remembering words of hers. He thought that she would probably be a lot happier if she could communicate freely, and he was curious as hell. She was the most interesting thing that had happened to him in a long time, and he considered her worth the expense.
Ken left the site up, ready for Jazmyn, and then went to the bathroom to shave in preparation for going to work. Although Rick could probably handle the meeting, it really would be better if Ken was there to discuss issues with the customer. He’d decided that he could trust Jazmyn, but he was more concerned about her emotional state, and leaving her alone might not be the best idea. Jazmyn was still asleep when he went into his bedroom to get dressed in his good work clothes, but she was stirring when he came back out. He showed her the website, and she seemed delighted by it and very eager to get started. She seemed to be quite familiar with computers and the internet, so he was glad that he had created a separate account for her on the PC so that she could experiment while he was away. He did insist that she have breakfast first though. As she ate, Ken said, "I’m going to work now. I will be back home about six o’clock." Their language lessons had proven that she used the same twelve hour clock as him, so that had been easy to explain.
"You go to work. Home six o’clock," Jazmyn repeated. "I understand."
"Have a good day, Jasmine!" Ken said and then left. Moments later, she heard the car start, back up, then drive down the track and fade into the distance.
Jazmyn was relieved that it seemed that Ken trusted her alone in his home. Perhaps it was a bit naïve of him, but she liked him better for it anyway. At least she didn’t have to wear those clothes until he came home! Then there was that language teaching site that he had found. It was obviously designed for teaching immigrants the local language, and it did so in a clever and clear manner with visual demonstrations and the spelling of all the words with their pronunciation. Thankfully most of the alphabet was the same as hers, but with a few less letters, plus a couple of strange ones. Nothing that she couldn’t handle though. She was soon deeply immersed in the lessons.
She was so focused on the tutorial that she never noticed the passage of time, scarcely taking a break for a toilet break and to get a drink. When she noticed the sound of Ken’s car coming down the track, she glanced up at the clock to see that it was nearly half past six. She guiltily realised that she had neglected to clean up the breakfast dishes, etcetera, as she had intended. ‘Too late now,’ she thought, ‘but at least I can keep Ken from feeling uncomfortable by putting on my clothes.’ She just managed to do so before Ken came in the door carrying several bags.
"Good evening, Jasmine. Sorry I’m a bit late. I did a bit of shopping first," Ken said as he held up the bags.
"Good evening, Ken. I did not know that you were late. What did you buy?"
Ken blinked in surprise. Although slightly accented, her speech was perfectly clear. He looked at the computer monitor as he said, "Good grief! How much have you learned already?"
"I learned a lot today. That is an excellent teaching site.," Jazmyn replied.
Ken checked the lesson numbers and his jaw dropped. "You’ve learned over five month’s worth of lessons in one day! Do you really remember all of that?" he asked incredulously.
Jazmyn replied, "I learn very fast, and I remember it all. The lessons are slow. I can learn faster."
Faster? Ken was flabbergasted. She was learning and comprehending faster than the website could deliver the lessons! How can you do that? That’s awesome!"
"I needed to know and understand words for my… sorry, I have no word for that… for the man with whom I lived."
"The man? Was he your husband? Partner? Mate?" Ken prompted.
Jazmyn shook her head. "I do not know, sorry. Tomorrow I will learn more. Tomorrow I will know, yes or no."
"Tomorrow, maybe," Ken corrected.
"Maybe," agreed Jazmyn.
"Can you tell me who you are and where you come from?" asked Ken.
Jazmyn shrugged. "I have not enough words to explain. Maybe tomorrow."
Ken had been expecting a far longer wait than that to have a deep conversation with the vixen, so he could certainly wait another day or two, although the unexpected language skill she had demonstrated had sharply whetted his curiosity. "OK. Did you learn the word ‘guest’ today?"
Jazmyn said, "No. Is the word needed?"
Ken smiled. "It is. It applies to you. When you learn it, you will know what I mean."
"OK. What did you buy?" she asked again.
"Oh yeah," Ken said, suddenly remembering the goods that he had brought inside. He started pulling them out of the bags. "Heavy-duty hair-dryer – for you a fur-dryer. Two actually. I suspect you will need both."
Jazmyn was delighted. "Thank you! My fur dries slowly by fire."
Next Ken pulled out a couple of bottles of dog shampoo. "To clean your fur. The salesman recommended it for show dogs, so it must be very good."
Jazmyn only understood about half the words, but correctly inferred most of it. She was very pleased that Ken had thought of it. She opened one of the bottles to sniff its contents, and approved of the scent. "Thank you. It smells nice."
Ken then pulled out a couple of brushes. I think that you will need these after using the shampoo. Your red fur doesn’t go well with my black hair."
Jazmyn understood enough of that to feel a little embarrassed. Apparently she hadn’t been entirely successful in cleaning the brush after she had used it. "Sorry. Thank you for the brushes."
"You’re welcome. And now for the final bag." Ken started pulling out clothing. He had peeked at the size tags on Jazmyn’s clothes and had had picked out three tops, another pair of shorts which he would have to modify, and a skirt. He wasn’t sure about the last item, wondering if she could wear it with her tail underneath, or modifying it like the shorts.
Jazmyn was chagrined at seeing the clothes. Apparently she really was going to have to get used to being clothed, at least while Ken was at home. Thankfully he hadn’t picked out anything horrendous. At least he did not seem to have thought of underwear. She really didn’t want to refuse that outright and offend him. "Thank you," she said ironically.
Ken was feeling quite pleased. He had been able to help his houseguest, and that made him feel happy. This was turning out to be an amazing experience. He wondered what other surprises were in store for him.
"I will help you to make dinner, yes?" Jazmyn asked.
Ken replied, "OK. How are your injuries?"
Jazmyn shrugged. "My leg hurts less and less. The other injuries hurt less also."
"That’s good news. Let’s see what we can cook up tonight."
Jazmyn did her share of the preparations, and they soon had their meal ready. The vixen didn’t realise how hungry she was until the delicious aromas filled the cabin, and she ate with a very healthy appetite. They finished with ice cream for dessert, then Ken urged her to sit out on the porch while he made them both coffee, and they both sat there in quiet contemplation of the evening. Whether by accident or intent, Ken had taken the best course of action to let Jazmyn recover from the physical and mental shocks of the past days. Her mind had been kept busy with the task of learning a new language as fast as her talent would allow, then the peaceful rest afterwards in this beautiful location. She could learn to really like it here, but she knew better than to count on Ken’s hospitality indefinitely. However, it would be nice while it lasted.
Later, Ken had Jazmyn try on the new clothes after he had modified the shorts. After Jazmyn’s tail had flipped up the skirt to moon him, he decided to modify that also. He cut it from the bottom hem to just short of the waistband, then folded the edges over to do a quick hem of the cut edges. When she tried the skirt again, the tail slipped past the slit when she raised it without exposing her backside, then slipped back inside when she lowered it again. Ken breathed a sigh of relief that he had gotten the sizes right and the modifications seemed to work well, and he sincerely hoped that the vixen liked the choice of styles.
Ken had one more surprise for Jazmyn. He brought out a spare laptop that he had brought from work, and networked it with his PC. He indicated it as he said, "That’s for you to use whenever you want, for whatever reason. That way you won’t interfere with me if I need to use my computer at the same time."
Jazmyn started to wonder just how far Ken was going to go to help her out. He seemed unusually eager, and it was hard for her not to be a tiny bit suspicious of his motives. Aside from limping off into the forest however, she did not have a realistic alternative to her present circumstances, so she decided just to count her blessings for the moment.
When Ken watched the late night news that evening, Jazmyn paid close attention, able now to comprehend a large portion of the spoken parts. What she learned still puzzled her, but not as much since she had accepted that this was another world. At no time did she see any anthro Companions on the television, nor any hint that any such existed. Also it seemed that the politics of this nation were radically different from hers, a fact that was quite comforting actually. She started thinking that there was something positive about her translocation after all.
Jazmyn didn’t really need a shower that night, but she enjoyed them, and she wanted to try out the shampoo that Ken had bought. The shampoo felt very nice in her fur, but when it came time to dry herself, she found that one dryer just wasn’t cutting it. She opened the bathroom door and called out to Ken. "Please help me dry my fur. One dryer is slow."
Ken was a little startled to be asked to assist, and it didn’t help that her wet fur moulded itself to her body’s contours to present him with a very sexy feminine pose. He shook his head and muttered to himself, "Good god! She’s not even your species! What are you thinking?" Keeping a firm grip on his thoughts, Ken did manage to help Jazmyn dry her fur successfully.
Jazmyn was extremely pleased with the result, but a little amused when she realised the kind of reaction that Ken was having to her. Perhaps she had better be sparing in requests for help in that matter.
She dressed herself in the skirt and one of the new tops, and then rejoined Ken in the living room. Her fur felt the best that it had in far too long, and that made her feel good overall. The hot water had soothed her aches also, and she was nearly back to her old self except for the leg injury. Still, it was coming along much better now, and not giving her much trouble when she moved about.
Ken gave her a polite whistle of admiration. "You look very nice, Jasmine."
"Thank you, Ken. I like the shampoo much."
"Good. If you need anything else, just ask."
Jazmyn understood that well enough to nod and say "Thank you" again.
Ken went to bed shortly after. Jazmyn toyed with the idea of getting back on the internet and doing a few more lessons, but decided it would be better to keep synchronised with Ken’s schedule. She took off her new clothes and laid them carefully aside before making herself comfortable on the sofa. It was beginning to be comfortingly familiar, and she was quickly asleep.
Jazmyn woke before Ken the next morning, and she decided to prepare breakfast for the both of them. If he stuck to the same schedule as the previous day, she could have it ready just in time. As it turned out, he was a little earlier than she had estimated, but he took care of other things in the meantime. He helped her to carry the plates of food to the table, but she managed the rest by herself.
"An excellent breakfast. Thank you, Jasmine."
Jazmyn smiled. "Thank you," she replied. "Will you go to work now?"
"Yep. I’ll be home around six o’clock again."
Jazmyn nodded. "I will learn more words. We will talk better soon."
"I’m looking forward to it," Ken said fervently. So many questions waiting to be answered!
Ken had a difficult day at work because he found it hard to keep his mind on the job. It had been almost as bad yesterday, but at least then he’d had the meeting to distract him for part of it. This day was turning out to be a lot harder, and he ended up quitting early rather than trying to futilely push on. He stopped at the shops again, this time to stock up on food. After all, he two mouths to feed now, at least for a while.
As he drove up to his cabin, the door opened and Jazmyn stood in the doorway, waiting for him. When he had parked his car, he grabbed the grocery bags and walked up to greet the vixen.
"Good afternoon, Jasmine. What are you in the mood for today?"
"Hello Ken. If you are talking about food, I like any fresh food in preference to frozen or canned."
Ken noted that her sentence was much more sophisticated than it previously, and if it wasn’t for her charming accent, he would not have noticed anything unusual. It was an astounding accomplishment, but this time he was prepared for the impossible. "OK, I’ve got a good selection to select from. Choose anything you like – you deserve a reward. You’ve accomplished a lot with your studies in only two days. Are you ready to answer questions yet?"
Jazmyn reluctantly shook her head. "No, sorry; not quite yet. I… lack a few important words to explain properly, and I need to understand a few things better first. Please be patient just a bit longer."
"I see," Ken said with a twinge of disappointment. It had really been too much to expect too much so soon, but he had hoped that she would at least give him a few answers.
Ken found that Jazmyn had cleared up the breakfast mess, and if she had made herself lunch, there was no sign of it. "Thanks for cleaning up the kitchen."
"You are welcome. I wanted to do my share of work."
"Remember me asking if you knew what the word ‘guest’ meant?"
Jazmyn replied, "I do, and I now know it."
"You’re my guest, Jasmine. You really don’t need to do all that, but nevertheless I am very grateful."
"I am imposing on your generosity, Ken, so I feel better if I can do whatever I can to help."
"Jasmine, I love living out here in this small cabin in the middle of the forest, but that doesn’t mean that I am a loner. I enjoy company, and yours is the most interesting that I’ve had in some time, so don’t worry about imposing on me."
"I see. I will still do my share, but I will not worry about it now."
"Good enough. Let’s get dinner made. Make your choices and we’ll get started."
That evening proceeded much as the previous one had, except that Jazmyn didn’t shower that night. She did spend more time sitting out on the porch just listening to the night sounds. With time to think about things other than learning and housework, her thoughts inevitably turned to her lost Companion and home. In the darkness, Ken could not see the tears welling in her eyes. She knew that it would be a long time before the loss would fade, but these peaceful nights were helping.
Jazmyn rose before Ken once again. She was pleased to find that her leg had dramatically improved overnight, but she still used the crutches so as not to undo any of the good done by the rest. She started making breakfast again, then wondered why she had not heard Ken’s alarm as yet. She wondered if he had forgotten to set it and was contemplating whether she should wake him when it occurred to her that there might be another explanation. She suspected it might be his equivalent of week’s-close, but she wasn’t sure as his calendar differed from hers. She decided to err on the side of caution and stopped preparing Ken’s share.
It was indeed Saturday, and Ken enjoyed his sleep-in on that morning. He frequently went out on Friday nights, came home late, and slept until noon. However he had gone to bed only slightly later than normal this time, and only slept an hour and a half later. He emerged to find Jazmyn cooking, and he was amused at what he saw. She had apparently found his barbecue apron, and she was using that at the stove. It was a good idea considering how much harder it was to clean spatter off fur. What was amusing though was that it was the only thing that she was wearing. It reminded him of some of the sexy photos he’d seen of nude women artfully clad in aprons that just covered their breasts, only Jazmyn was wearing it for practical purposes with the side-effect of looking like a set-up pose. He wondered if she was aware of the comparison.
"Good morning, Ken. I heard you as you got out of bed. I started breakfast earlier, so I had your food ready to cook. I did not know for sure if you wanted to sleep or not."
"Oh yeah, I should have mentioned that it was the weekend." Jazmyn noted the word and nodded. "So, what’s for breakfast today?" Ken asked.
"I am cooking French toast. I found the name in the cooking book in the drawer, but I was already familiar with the recipe."
"Sounds good. I’ll freshen up a bit and be back in a minute."
As Ken ate his breakfast, Ken asked, "Are you planning to finish those lessons today?"
Jazmyn replied, "I will finish them by later this morning. I will then look up some other things to understand them better."
"OK. I think I’ll work in the garden."
"What will you do in the garden? What will you plant?" Jazmyn asked curiously.
Ken shrugged. "I’m not sure. I need to prepare the flower beds and vegetable garden first. They were a bit of a disaster last season. I’m not exactly a green thumb."
‘Green thumb’ was a new phrase for Jazmyn, but she easily figured out what it meant, and privately she agreed wholeheartedly, but she was not going to insult her host by saying so. It was okay for him to denigrate his own efforts, but not her place to do so. However, there was something positive that she could do. "I like gardens. I will help you later."
Ken wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. "If you like," he replied.
And that’s what they both did until a little after midday when Ken came inside, red-faced and sweating, to take a much-needed break. When she saw him, Jazmyn insisted that he wash up and sit down while she prepared them both food and drink. The day had gotten considerably warm, and Jazmyn had anticipated that Ken would be very thirsty, so she had cold drinks ready.
"What’s this?" Ken asked as Jazmyn poured the drink into the glass in front of him.
"Oh?" Ken sipped some and smiled. "Delicious! Is there no end to your talents?"
Jazmyn grinned. "Not yet. The greatest feat was making it while hopping on one foot!"
Ken laughed. "Yes, I can imagine so. How is the leg, by the way?"
"It is healing very well. If I keep off it and completely rest it, I will be walking on it again more quickly, so I will hop or use the crutches for a few more days yet." Jazmyn picked up a tray loaded with sandwiches and passed it to Ken to place it on the table, thus obviating the need for her to carry it. "If you want more, just say so," she told Ken.
"This looks like enough for the both of us. I needed the drink more than the food. Thanks for all this, Jasmine."
"You are very welcome, Ken."
They ate in silence for a while. When Ken finished, he pushed back his plate with a sigh of satisfaction. Jazmyn had finished hers already and was sipping her ice tea.
"So, did you get those language lessons done as you predicted?" enquired Ken.
"I have done as much as I can do with those internet lessons. I have been reading the dictionary to learn more words. I now have a much larger vocabulary than the average person."
Ken shook his head in amazement. "Just like that, you're an expert in English in less than three days?"
"No, I am not an expert. The lessons teach the words and the correct grammar, but they do not cover such things as idiom, slang, and contextual usage. That kind of thing can usually only be learned through experience. Such simple things like the contraction that you just used – you said ‘you're’ when you meant ‘you are’ – that is not covered by the lessons. I have also been listening to your speech carefully since I arrived, so I can improve my own."
"But you know enough to answer questions now?"
"Yes I do, and I am ready to answer your questions now," Jazmyn agreed.
"Great! How in Heaven’s name did you learn so fast?"
Jazmyn laughed. "I thought that your first question would be to ask what I am. The simple answer to your question is that it is because of the way I was bred. I am fluent in eight languages; nine now. You might call it an inbuilt skill."
Ken said, "I was going to ask about you first, but I was just too flabbergasted that you’re fluent in English so quickly. Anyway, what are you, Jasmine? And what do you mean by ‘the way you were bred’?"
"I am a Vulpeen, one of several kinds of anthropomorphic Companion, and like all such, I was bred to be an ideal match for my future Companion. He is… was… a writer and orator, skilled in words in many languages and, as his Companion, I needed to be also."
"You keep saying ‘bred’. Forgive me for saying so, but it makes it sound as if you are something like a glorified pet."
"The first primitive Companions were much like that, but we are so much more than that now. We are true intelligent beings, able to interact with humans at all levels. We are friends, helpers, confidantes, supporters, assistants, and even lovers."
"Lovers? You mean… humans and… vulpeen… having sex?" Ken asked in shock.
Jazmyn was amused by his reaction. "Of course. We are made to fulfil our Companion’s needs, and if sex is one of those needs, then that is what we give them."
"Sounds more like fancy slaves to me," Ken said in distaste.
"I am not a slave!" shouted Jazmyn, momentarily baring her teeth in a snarl that she quickly brought under control. Ken had flinched back from the angry vixen, and she regretted snapping at him. He could not help his ignorance and preconceptions. "We are not slaves," she said more quietly. "We have the same rights as humans, even if our genesis is different. Companions have been part of our society for decades, and while there are human elements that do not like us, the majority accept us as the people that we are."
"But you are still bred to match to someone. Forgive me, but how is that different from breeding animals for certain traits?"
"As I said, that is how we started out, but we have evolved far beyond that. The trouble is that you are seeing the situation in terms of your experience only. You expect a child to be conceived naturally, born after nine months, years spent in being raised, the uncertainties of youth, and the challenge of finding a life-mate. We Companions bypass the majority of that. Our lives only truly start we meet the person for whom we were bred to match. And it is not a one-way thing. While we are made to fulfil our Companion’s needs, so they also fulfil our needs in the ways that they are best at doing. We have common interests, needs, desires and goals. We love and support each other. Together, a Companion pair of human and morph is far greater then the sum of its parts. Together we are both happy; apart we are both the lesser…."
Jazmyn’s eyes had been filling with tears as she spoke passionately, and her voice broke with emotion at that point.
Ken felt awkward and a little helpless. He asked her gently, "You've lost your Companion, haven’t you?"
Jazmyn nodded. "Lost is a good word for it."
"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you sad."
"It only happened the night that we met. I have not had enough time to come to terms with my loss as yet. However…" Jazmyn wiped the tears from her fur and pulled herself together. "…I will not succumb to despair. My Companion was a lot older than me, and we always knew that he would die before me. He made me promise to be strong when that day came, but the day came much sooner than either of us realised that it would. I have kept myself busy so that I would not dwell on that fact."
"So, is it like losing your husband? That must be terrible."
"Yes, it is terrible, although ‘husband’ is not the right word. Julius had lost his wife to cancer and he had been devastated. They had been deeply in love, but she had died in middle age. Julius became a recluse for a while until his family persuaded him to see a counsellor. As part of his treatment, it was recommended that he get a Companion, and so I came into his life. I helped to fill the hole in his heart, and he taught me the joys of his life so that we could share them. We became extremely close and I loved him, but it was never my purpose to replace his wife."
Ken nodded thoughtfully, then said, "That sounds wonderful. And you say that you're just one kind of Companion?"
"Oh yes. There are also the feleen and the caneen – cat and dog morphs. They were the very first Companion breeds. Then there were the lupeen – wolves, mureen – mice, lapeen – rabbits, and several more."
"Amazing!" Ken said in wonder. "But where do all these incredible Companions come from? I’ve never heard of anything like it outside of a fantasy genre."
Jazmyn got up and grabbed her crutches. "Walk with me, will you, Ken?"
"OK," Ken said and followed her.
Jazmyn headed off down the path to the lookout, and as she did she said, "My origin is a place both strange and familiar. You will recognise it when I tell you, but you are unlikely to be able to visit."
"Why so cryptic?" Ken asked, although he had his suspicions.
"You will see," was all that Jazmyn said.
They reached the lookout, and Jazmyn pointed out into the valley. "See that glint of light there in the middle of the forest?"
"Yeah," acknowledged Ken. "That’s the lake that the creek runs into."
"My home is about a hundred metres this side of the lake, and nearby is the township of Espiru Beck, or Spirit Creek in English. I have lived there for about a decade… or at least I would have if this was my world. I don’t know the exact means, but somehow I seem to have crossed into a parallel world. This is not even my universe!"
All characters and this story are copyright © 2008 Bernard Doove.
To be continued in episode 3.
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