Valentine's Day in Sawtooth
Roses are red, violets are blue; it’s been almost two years and I still miss you.
Roses are red, violets are blue; I’m almost ashamed to admit, I’ve started dating someone new.
Roses are red, violets are blue; her name’s Anna, and you’ll be pleased to know she’s nothing like you.
Roses are red, violets are blue; Only the other night, we finally said “I love you”.
Roses are red, violets are blue; don’t worry, it’s completely different, it’s completely new.
Alright, miss prissy whiskers, I can’t keep that up, sorry! I promised I’d only write you on on your birthday, but I just wanted to say that. I’m moving on, slowly, but I’m still here. I love you, I miss you.
Pad Thai was the order for the evening. Malina had learned early on to cook something simple on holidays, where the focus was company rather than amazing food or flare. It was too easy to mess up something and spend the rest of the night feeling bad.
Luckily, everyone seemed delighted by the Pad Thai.
Their arrangement around the table was a curled line: Aiden, Sélène, Malina, and Saul. An unbroken line of relationship kinked into a neat square by the corners of the table.
Aiden and Sélène had already plowed through their first plate of food and were eying the dish at the center of the table, and Malina had nearly finished. Poor Saul, though, hadn’t gotten much more than a few bites into his plate. A three-on-one interrogation leaves little time for eating. The badger took it calmly, serenely.
As if on cue, though none had been arranged, Aiden and Malina looked to Sélène. The fox toyed with her paper towel of a napkin, tugging small corners free, and rolling them into small, white torpedos.
“Uh, is everyone alright?”
“Yes dear,” Malina smiled. “Just wondering what you’re thinking.”
“About Saul,” Aiden added.
Saul perked up and focused on Sélène.
Malina watched those nervous paws tugging and rolling, tugging and rolling, and took pity on the vixen, holding out her paw, pads up, by Sélène’s. Aiden mirrored the gesture to the other side of her.
The fox smiled bashfully and carefully set the paper towel and a small pile of rolled up paper up on the table before setting her paws in those of her partners. Malina gave a gentle squeeze.
“I like him,” she said.
Malina grinned widely. “Good, I do too.”
Aiden laughed, “It’s decided then. We like you.”
Saul blinked and looked up from his food. He’d been racing to catch up. “Was this an audition, then?”
“I…uh, are you alright, Saul? I’m sorry.”
The badger shook his head, “I’m fine, Sélène. I just–”
“It’s my fault,” Malina smiled, looking surprisingly bashful. “I wanted them to meet you, and vice versa, before things got too far along. I love Sélène, and we’ve built ourselves a family, I just…”
“Wanted to make sure I’d fit in?”
Malina nodded. “This is the first time we’ve done this. Uh…perhaps obviously.”
Saul nodded. “I can’t say I’ve been on a poly-date-slash-audition before, either.”
“We just wanted to be deliberate,” Aiden offered. “After Sélène and Malina, I mean.”
“We that was a mess,” Sélène said.
Malina laughed. “A beautiful one!”
The foxes nodded, falling easily in sync with one another.
“So?” Saul said, grinning. “Do I pass?”
The foxes nodded eagerly once more.
Malina grinned and leaned in to kiss Saul on the cheek.
Malina felt the vix’s paw tense and un-tense in her own, as if itching to do something.
“Do we?” Sélène asked.
Saul tilted his head, working to swallow another bite of food. “Pardon?”
“Do we pass?”
Malina watched her partners’ faces. Sélène looked anxious, eager for approval. More than that, she looked excited. She looked like she wanted this to work.
Saul looked thoughtful, a touch concerned. The silence stretched.
“You do,” he said finally. “I mean, of course you do, but I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s going to take some time to adjust.”
“It will,” Aiden confirmed. “We’re still adjusting, the three of us, and it’s been months.”
“Think it’ll be worth it?” Malina asked, feeling her own anxieties show through in her choice of questions.
Saul’s expression softened, and he took Malina’s paw in his own and gave a firm squeeze. “Definitely.”
Dani rarely thought of Amber.
Initially, the idea had concerned her, that someone had affected her life so greatly had slipped so easily from her mind. She’d wanted to latch onto that weekend and try to internalize it, but some part of her either already had or wasn’t ready to. Which one it was depended on the time of day.
The ringtail had accepted the warmth Dani had offered, gratefully and gracefully, and then left without a sound, minimizing the impact her presence had had on the otter. That was the safe path, and, when Dani did think about it, she realized that it was Amber’s way of staying safe; to expect anything more would be to impose her will on someone with plans for her own life.
And so Dani rarely thought of Amber. She worked. The cold-spell lifted. She read and watched movies. She ate alone.
And while she wasn’t happy, neither did that fog of depression settle down on her after her guest had left. They’d both made it through the spell, each in their own way.
And, once a day, almost without thinking of it, she’d tell herself a story in her head.