Silence. It is such a rare commodity these days. If it wasn't Peanut, it was the neighborhood dogs or the forest creatures or the TV or Max. Sigh. Max. Maxwell, Maxwell, Maxwell. Such a sweet cat - almost as sweet as Peanut, but... So needy.
It's hard to blame him though. Bad parents, semi-bad reputation, not the best friends in the world. It's no wonder he leans on me. But I want a mate, someone who'll always be there for me as I'm there for him. And Max - dear sweet Maxie. He's there for me, I know he is, but he feels like a kitten sometimes. Always needing me to hold him, cherish him, tell him everything will be fine. It feels like... like... what's the term I'm thinking of? Oh yes, that he's taking and I'm giving and no vice versa.
Perhaps... perhaps I'm just over thinking it. Yeah, that's it! I'm merely over thinking it. After all, he takes me out to dates, asks how my day's been, calls me. Most importantly, I'm so happy around him, my heart flutters and I can't help but smile. That's love.
Well there goes my silence. Opening my eyes, I gazed up at the tree canopy. I simply laid there on the tree branch, enjoying the shifting sunlight as it filtered through.
"Come on! We've got to go. Where are you!"
I rolled to the side, easily dropping down and landing with the skill that'd impress a true huntress. It me took a couple of seconds to locate Peanut and a couple more seconds later I was by his side. He had that dorky, expectant look on his face. Try as I might, I still ended up grinning at him. "No Peanut, I was not napping."
Laughing, I ruffled the fur on his head. "Maybe next time." I sighed and stretched. "So any idea where we're actually going?"
"Yep. Dad tried hiding it, but it's really hard to hide the fact we're going camping when he ha-"
Not again. Please, not again. I don't want to be cold and wet and hungry and... and....
"-parently a lake and there'll be other people there. I asked Tarot about it and she went once as a little puppy. Can't remember much, but it was lots of fun. She wanted to come with us, but dad wants it to a bonding trip for the family." He looked up at the sky. "Oh, and Max is here too. Wanted to say goodbye be- Hey!"
I was already sprinting down the road. I took a sharp right corner, passed three houses then jumped over the fence. Max! Max was here. I was grinning like a fool and I didn't care. My Maxie was here! He was standing in the doorway with that grin on his face. Taking the steps up to the main door in one leap, I threw myself into his arms. We went down in heap of fur and tail and kisses and nuzzles and purrs. I ended up on top of him, tails entwined, our noses rubbing against each other.
"So... what brings you here?" I purred.
"Well, word on the street is that there's this beautiful purple cat who lives here. I decided to come by and to see if it's true or not. You know how rumors are."
I giggled softly before licking his cheek. "And?"
"Well turns out the word on the street is wrong." I cocked an eyebrow at his comment. "The purple cat is not just beautiful, she's downright gorgeous, divine, angelic, elegant, exquisite, stunnin-" He melted into my kiss and I just had to giggle at his reaction.
"Someone's been reading a thesaurus before bed."
Max grinned up at me impishly. "Now, whatever gave you that idea?"
"Kids, we need to go now!"
"Coming dad!" I gave Max a quick kiss before scrambling to my feet. "And as for you Maxie..." I grinned and winked at him only to saunter off with a gentle sway of my hips while my tail swished slowly behind me. Of course, I had to draw my tail across his check before I got out of range.
Half way to the car, I looked back and Maxie was still standing there. However, he had a vacant look in his eyes and his mouth was hanging open. Giggling, I climbed into the car and sat down next to Peanut. One look at him though and the mood died. His eyes were down cast, ears drooping, the half-colored Spot comic lay in his lap. Even his tail was between his legs.
I nudged him. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"Nothing, nothing. Just lost in thought" Peanut gave me his best happy grin, but I knew he was faking. You don't live with someone for years and not know when they're faking. He must have realized that too for he sighed and added, "We'll be gone for the weekend which means three days without Tarot is all. We said out goodbyes earlier."
I glanced up at his eyes, but he had turned to look out the window. I wanted to say something, do something to help him, to get whatever he was hiding out into the open, but nothing came to mind. Whatever it was though, I'll wait for him to say it. After all, I don't want to push him into saying something he regrets.
"You ready kids?" said mom.
"Yep!" we answered in unison. I took the time to cast a quick glance at Peanut and he seemed like his usual self. The grin was back; he was bouncing in his seat and bobbing his head to the beat of the music.
"Oh yeah, before I forget," whispered Peanut as the we exited the drive. "Here, take this."
I unfolded the scarf and blinked at the assortment of items. There was a torch, Swiss army knife, some first aid, waterproof matches and a compass. "What's all this for?" I asked.
"Torch is rechargeable. Just squeeze the handle a couple of times. The rest is pretty obvious. The scarf has a compartment here, here and here." He pointed and opened each one in turn. "That way you can store off this stuff."
"I gathered that much. I mean, this must have cost a fortune. Where'd you get the money. Why did you get this for me at all?"
"Well since Fox got kidnapped a couple months back, I started saving up." He shrugged. "I know you were abandoned at a young age and most it takes awhile for people to get over that. I figured that with all this, if you get kidnapped or get lost, it'll help kee-"
The rest of his words were lost as I hugged him tight. "Thank you Peanut."
"You're welcome." He words sounded strange and it was only after I let that I realized the seatbelt must have strangled him. He coughed a couple of times before continuing, "I was going to be your birthday present, but I noticed your reaction when I told you we were going camping, so I thought now would be the best time."
"Thank you Peanut. Thank you so much." I wrapped the scarf around me. "So how do I look?"
He blushed, but smiled at me. "Beautiful as always."
Checking mom and dad weren't paying attention, I gave Peanut a peak on the cheek. His cheeks turned crimson as I pulled back. It took a couple seconds for the color to fade. When it did, he turned back to me and whispered, "Thanks."
"Well you did earn the right to be mushy with me."
He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. A couple more failed tries later, he just gave me the most radiant smile ever. Perhaps, I merely imagined his sadness earlier. Before I could ask him though, he had turned to the window.
Closing my eyes, I snuggled down into the seat in an attempt to get comfortable. At some point I must have drifted asleep for when I opened my eyes we were already in a forest somewhere and Peanut? He was asleep with his head on my shoulder, hand in mine and his most recent Spot comic on his lap. How he manages to draw and color while in a moving vehicle is a mystery.
And he's managed to improve. By a lot even. It seems like every time I turn around he's added something extra to his comics. First, it was the dialogue and storytelling. Then it was the line art. Now it was the coloring. Shading, highlighting, color choice - he was doing it all. Really scary.
I closed my eyes once more and squeezed his hand. It was nice having it there. It was comforting. Occasional growls and soft barks came from Peanut as he dreamed - probably of a bone. My thumb ran along his knuckles as I let myself get lost in thought. Thoughts about Peanut and Max and life and love and all those big questions.
Peanut. He was a brother to me, the one person who I can always trust. I know he'll always be there for me just as I'm there for him. Give and take. But... I just can't show weakness around him. Got to be the big sister. Got to look after him. And he can be so annoying sometimes. And he's a dog.
Max. Maxwell. Tender Maxie. Funny, amusing, always got a compliment waiting to be said. He's there for me, I know he is, but at the same time he's not. He can't read me the same way Peanut can. Now whether that's a good thing or not is another question.
All of this was useless anyways. I do hang out with dogs, but I don't like them in that way. Plus, I'm with Max and I love him. That's enough. I just wish my mind would turn off about this.
I opened my left eye to take a quick peek at Peanut. He was still sleeping, a calm expression on his face and his tail twitching every so often.
"How much longer dad?"
"Five minutes or so. You might as well wake Peanut up now."
I nodded and looked over at Peanut. "Nah, I think I'll wait."
"Prefer the peace and silence?" teased mom. "Sure you don't want to? I mean, it'd be good pay back for all the times he interrupted your naps."
"There's more to life than just revenge." I unsheathed my claws and examined them in the sunlight. "Plus, it's all a matter of timing..." I grinned over at them.
"That's my girl!"
"Dear," started dad, "we've talked about this before. Some would say you're being a bad influence on Grape."
"And some would say you're being a bad influence on Grape and Peanut," mom retorted. "After all, Peanut needs to learn to not mess with a female and Grape needs to learn how to rule the roost. And keep your eyes on the road."
Mom turned around. "Taking notes Grape?"
"Yep!" We both burst out laughing.
Sometime during our exchange, Peanut had woken up. He kept looking back and forth between me and mom, trying to figure out what was so funny. Too bad his expression only made dad join in on the laughter. Poor Peanut, I ended up pulling his head down and ruffling his fur playfully until he started joining in.
By the time Peanut and I had caught our breaths, we had arrived. Turning off the main road, our car travelled along a dirt road. The trees were massive, easily ten times dad's height to the lowest branch.
I turned around to point out a bird I've never seen before, but stopped as I stared at Peanut's butt. Rolling my eyes, I grabbed his tail and yanked him back in. "Peanut, put your seatbelt back on and don't stick your head out like that. It's dangerous."
"But Graaaape, just smell the air. It's so... so... pristine." He must have seen my skepticism. "Try it before you hate it."
There would be no end to him if I didn't try so I rolled down the window and stuck my muzzle through. The air was... well pristine. Sweet to the taste, like drinking spring mineral water for the first time. I couldn't smell the fumes from cars or trash or the body odor that can become overwhelming sometimes in summer. It was just clear air. I could still detect the traces of the early morning dew in the air and it was almost lunchtime.
And the sounds. The rustle of the leaves, the insects chirping away and the melody from the birds. Even in the suburbs, they didn't come together in such a complex symphony.
"See? See? I told you didn't I?"
I laughed and nodded. "That you did." We both turned out attention to our separate windows.
Soon a cottage appeared in the distance. Making our way over to it, dad parked the car off to one side and we all got out. First things to be stretched were my legs and tail then my arms and neck. Car seats are fine for humans who don't have tails. For those of us who do have tails, it's a serious killer. And those specially designed seats that give extra room for tails looks like those baby seat things? Those are a real self-esteem killer.
Next came Peanut and I running to the edge of the clearing to marvel at the size of the trees, the scents, the feeling of the soil between our toes. All the while mom was trying to drag us into the cabin. If it wasn't a new scent, it was a new animal or bird or sight or sound. In the end mom had to bribe us with candy.
We meet the ranger in charge who gave us a wrist collar each so that if we got lost they could find us easily. It fit snuggly and we were given a quick rundown of how it works. Personally, I was more interested in the house. Pure wooden house, a nice cozy fire with ornaments above it. It was the clichéd hunter's lodge and it was epic. Nonetheless, I still listened. Knowing my luck, we'd have to use it. If my life were a novel, it'd probably get broken somehow.
From there we exited, grabbed our stuff from the car and headed off into the woods. With the tracking collar, I was confident in my chances of being found within a couple of hours if I got lost. Add in Peanut's scarf, I'd still be able to fend for myself for a short while.