Browneyes smiled to hirself as shi relaxed in the hot tub. Shi was glad that shi had shelled out a little extra money to have the units installed in hir designed-for-tauroids bathtub. Not that shi had the time to use it, being busy with hir child and hir half sister, not to mention hir studies; every day shi thanked the Makers shi didn't have to work; the government of Chakona provided hir with a monthly allowance of credits due to hir status as a single mother, and as a university student. Not that shi was complaining of course; shi loved hir duties as a mother, however trying, and was grateful that shi had a loving family that allowed hir to continue hir education even while being a mother. Still, shi enjoyed having time to hirself when shi could.
Then shi frowned. The reason shi was alone in hir condo was due to Makrana generously looking after Sugarback, but today was hir daughter's first day of schooling. As a mother, shi couldn't help feeling a bit nervous and worried something would go wrong. Chakona is, and had always been, a very safe place, at least outside of the wilderness, but still shi worried. It likely didn't help that the emotional bond shi and Honeymane shared was telling hir that hir daughter was also worried, nervous and frightened. In fact, part of the reason hir sister had suggested shi go and take ‘the day off' and relax was because the bond worked both ways; shi had pointed out that doing so would help calm both of them down.
Sighing to hirself, shi allowed hirself to sink a bit deeper into the bubbling, warm pool of water. There was no point in getting hir tail in a knot over something shi couldn't change, and thankfully, it would be over soon...which also meant shi'd have to get out soon. "Best enjoy this while I can," Browneyes mused. Groaning in pleasure as the jets automatically refocused themselves onto hir back, massaging hir, shi allowed hir muscles to relax even more so.
Suddenly shi heard the front door of the condo slam shut, and shi bolted upright. Shi had fallen asleep! And what was worse shi realised hir daughter was extremely upset.
Cursing hir stupidity, shi moved to get out of the tub, but it was too late. Honeymane, hir faced streaked with tears, appeared at the open door of the bathroom, stripped off hir top, jumped into the large tub and swam over to hir mother for hugs and cuddles.
After a few minutes of Honeymane burying hir face in hir mother's hair, crying, some gentle empathic nudging eventually coaxed the story out of the child.
"Mommy?" shi began, still sniffling, "Am... am I stupid?"
Brown smiled gently, and gave hir child a lick-kiss on the forehead. "Of course not, sweetie. Whatever made you think you were?"
"The kids at school; they said I was," Honeymane replied, feeling a little bit better, but not much.
"Honeymane, sweetie, children can be extremely cruel sometimes." Browneyes gave hir daughter a squeeze. "You needn't listen to them. Why do they think you're stupid?" Browneyes didn't think the teacher would spring a test on the students on their first day, but they can be somewhat mean sometimes.
"Well," Honeymane began, "the teacher was telling us about how different groups of people had different beliefs and ways of doing things."
The calico chakat nodded hir head in agreement, before urging hir daughter to continue.
"And...shi gave us an example of how everyone had a different sort of name, like how a lot of morphs have a given name and a last name, and how chakats just use their mommy's and daddy's names to tell people where they come from...."
Browneyes felt hir hearts sink; shi knew where this was headed.
"...and shi had us go around the classroom and introduce ourselves." Honeymane paused and tears began to well up in hir eyes again. "And... I didn't know who my daddy was. Everyone laughed at me."
Brown had always known this day would come, and hir family had urged hir in private to explain to the child hir origins, but in a lot of ways shi couldn't bring hirself to explain that Honeymane' sire was trillions of kilometers away on some strange mud ball, and didn't even know shi existed. Brown had, of course, planned to tell hir, but mentally shi kept putting the event off ‘until shi was older.' Of course, shi had kept chickening out every time hir daughter approached the 'old enough to tell' mark. Never had shi thought the event would be taken out of hir hands!
Honeymane could sense hir mother's internal conflict, and gave hir mother a hug to see if it made things better. When it didn't, shi plunged ahead with hir question anyway: "Mommy, who's my daddy?"
'Might as well come clean', Brown thought. "You're daddy's name is Darktoes, sweetie, child of Pond and Spadespot."
The cub's eyes grew wide. "You mean Grandma's denmates?"
Browneyes nodded. "The very same, though Darktoes was their surrogate child."
Honeymane's curiosity was quickly overriding hir previous sadness, as shi asked more questions. "What happened to hir, mommy? Did shi die like Auntie Sunspot's mommy and daddy?" The cub paused, but before Browneyes could formulate a response, shi asked another question. "And what does sir-o-gate mean?"
"Well, sweetie, surrogate means that Darktoes wasn't conceived like me or you." Browneyes answered the last question first, stalling for time while shi thought about how to answer the others, although it was likely leading hir down another dangerous path. "But that doesn't mean that Pond or Spadespot aren't any less hir parents."
"Oh." Hir cub pondered a moment. "Did shi die?"
In many ways, this was what Browneyes had been dreading the most – it was relatively easy to explain hir daughter's sire's absence through death, but what had really happened was a lot more complex and, in Browneye's mind, harder to understand. Shi debated whether shi should just lie to the cub and say shi had in fact died, but deep down Brown knew it would just make things harder in the end, when shi did discover the truth. Time to bite this bullet.
"When your father and I first met, we fell in love almost right away," Brown said, hir own voice getting a bit sad as shi relived the memories, "but...you know how I said Darktoes' parents are surrogates? Well, Darktoes was a very special person, sweetie, because shi was born as part of –" Shi didn't want to say ‘project', so shi thought of a euphemism. "A group of very special people, like hirself, that Star Fleet wanted to go live on other worlds and make them prettier for other people who weren't as special."
"Star Fleet? Like what Auntie Makrana works at?"
Browneyes nodded. "So...Darktoes had to leave, because shi'd promised Star Fleet shi would, and we had to part and go our separate ways. But, before shi did, shi left me with a very special gift: you." Shi left out the part where Darktoes had no idea shi had given hir that special gift, and shi was hoping shi'd be able to explain that later.
But, unfortunately for Browneyes, hir daughter was the opposite of stupid, and far more intelligent than hir peers had given hir credit for. "Why haven't I heard from hir, mommy?"
The calico felt trapped, but shi knew shi had to go forward, not backward. "Well...sweetie, do you remember when I told you about where kittens come from?" At Honeymane's nod shi continued, "Well, sometimes...I...oh, damn it," Browneyes swore. "Sometimes people get pregnant, without knowing that they're getting pregnant." It wasn't the whole truth, but shi hoped against hope that perhaps hir kitten would find it cryptic enough not to fully understand what shi had, and hadn't, said.
And for a moment Browneyes thought it had worked. Honeymane's face was screwed up in deep concentration (for a cub) as shi thought about what had been said. "So...Daddy didn't know you were pregnant...and shi left because shi didn't want to break hir promise...." The cub frowned. "But shi doesn't know I was born."
Browneyes steeled hirself, and wondered what would happen next.
"I'm sorry, mommy," the child finally said after a long moment of silence.
Needless to say, Browneyes was quite surprised. "Whatever for?"
"I made you sad," Honeymane said simply. "You must miss daddy very much."
Browneyes let out a breath shi hadn't even known shi was holding in. "Yes sweetie, I do. I wish shi could have been here, for both of us."
Honeymane nodded in agreement, before asking one last question. "Mommy, what does daddy look like?"
Browneyes smiled, glad hir grilling was over. "Let's dry off and I'll show you." Shi lifted hir cub out of the tub, placing hir on the edge, before rolling over and pulling hirself out. After a few minutes of quick toweling and a short burst of hot air from the drier, Browneyes led hir daughter to a cabinet in the far corner of their toy-strewn den. Unlocking the wooden cabinet only took moments, and when it was unlocked, Browneyes lifted the cub up into hir arms, then shi opened it. Inside the cabinet was all of Browneyes' pictures and memorabilia from the short time shi and Darktoes had been together, including the letters shi had sent and pictures shi had taken together with hir. Shi had been keeping them locked up, partly to protect them from hir cub's sometimes destructive play, but mostly to keep hir child from seeing them altogether.
Browneyes selected one of hir favorite pictures, showing hir and Browneyes holding hands and kissing, and handed it to hir child to look at. After a moment or so, Honeymane spoke. "Wow mommy! Shi's beautiful!"
Browneyes grinned and licked the top of hir child's head, "I certainly thought so."
"Can I have this picture, mommy?" Honeymane asked. "I want to put it in my room!"
For a moment, Browneyes wondered if shi had made a mistake handing hir child one of hir favorite pictures, then grinned. "Sure, sweetie, but I think I'll get it framed first okay? That'll make it even prettier."
Honeymane nodded hir blonde-haired head excitedly, before asking if shi could go play with Sugarback and tell hir about school, and hir new discoveries. Browneyes agreed and placed the picture back in the cabinet, before readying hir and hir daughter's stuff and heading down the hall to hir parents'. Soon enough the two cubs were rolling on the floor playing. Browneyes, on the other hand, was deep in conversation with hir sister.
"So you told hir?" Makrana asked; of all hir relatives, Makrana was in many ways a god-send for Browneyes, because shi had someone to confide in on a level shi couldn't with hir parents or friends. Shi alone knew the full extent of Browneyes' fears in relation to telling hir cub about hir origins. "And shi was okay with it?"
Browneyes shook hir head. "I was shocked too, but..."
"I think maybe shi's just in shock," Browneyes said, looking at hir cub a bit sadly, "or at least shi doesn't quite understand everything I've said. One day shi will, though. I hope shi doesn't hate me."
Makrana gave hir sister a hug. "You're hir mother. There's no way shi'll hate you."
Browneyes returned the hug fiercely, "I hope you're right, I really do."
To be continued in Festival.
Chakats, Stellar Foxtaurs and other concepts © 2009 Bernard Doove
Skunktaurs (Chakat-kin) are © Robert Reijns
Browneyes, Darktoes and other characters are copyright me, Honeymane
Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please send your questions, comments, etcetera to HoneymaneFeedback@gmail.com
And a special note of thanks for Sandwalker for his help putting these stories together.
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