Catalina woke to her daughter crying again and she rushed out of bed, followed by Shade almsot instantly. Sirabi had thrown up again “Oh baby” It was killing Catalina seeing her daughter so sick. This was the first time in her life Sirabi had been throw up sick.”Mommy, help” she cried. This time she hadn’t made it to her bathroom and was bawling. “I’ll take care of her room, you get her in the bathtub” Shade said and Catalina took her daughters hand to guide her out. As Catalina was running the bath Sirabi said “I’m sorry momma”
“why are you sorry honey?”
“I couldn’t make it to the bathroom”
“Oh Sirabi don’t worry about that. This is what parents are for okay. She set her already naked daughter in the tub then went for a clean rag. When she returned she said “You just worry about getting better”
“I want to see grandpa”
“as soon as you’re better I promise you will. We’ve already talked to him. He’s going to come right away when you aren’t sick” When she was dry, in clean pajamas Catalina went to get her medicine. As of two hours ago she was able to have more. “Damn” she cursed as she realized this was the last dose they had for her. She gave it to Sirabi then threw the bottle away before crawling back in bed with Shade. “After my morning run I’m going to go to the store for more medicine for her. We need a couple other things too so I’ll grab them and rush back.”
“was she apologizing for not making it out of her room?”
“Yeah, poor baby”
“You should buy her something while you’re out to make her feel better. Like a toy or somthing with those horses on it”
“Those horses?” she giggled. “I forgot what they are called. I’m tired”
“My little pony Shade”
“Yeah, that’s it, she likes the one with the rainbow.” Shade wrapped his arms around her and snuggled close, his nose pushing into her hair. “I love you.”
“I love you too you silly fox.”
“Don’t worry about breakfast okay, I’ll take care of it. You’ve been getting up every time Sirabi pukes.”
“I don’t mind Shade.”
“I do, let me spoil you and our little one.”
She kissed the top of his head. “Alright.” He fell back asleep almost instantly, but she knew he would be awake the moment he was needed. He was always so alert, especially when it came to their baby girl.
Catalina didn’t wake again until Shade kissed her awake. “Hm? Is Sirabi okay?”
“Yes, she’s actually eating a little breakfast. She slept the rest of the night”
“come on beautiful, you need to eat too so you can go on your run and buy our little girl more medicine. She’s eating a little but still doesn’t feel good.” Catalina sat up in bed, stretching her arms then tossing the covers off of her to get dressed. She put on a tank top and running shorts since she would be going on her run right after breakfast then brushed her hair into a ponytail. “Morning momma” Sirabi said as Catalina sat down “good morning beautiful. I’m glad to see you eating finally”
“I need to eat to help me get better so grandpa can come see me”
“why don’t we all Skype him when I get back from the store” Sirabi looked so excited and it ,made her mother smile. It was good to see Sirabi happy. After breakfast with her family Catalina put on her running shoes, kissed Shade and ran off. It was a little chilly today but she liked it that way when it came to her runs. The air smelled so fresh and amazing, it was the best part of living away from civilization. She couldn’t wait to see her dad and wondered why Sirabi being sick kept him away. Normally germs didn’t scare him, especially when it came to her. Maybe it was how old he was getting. Catalina’s mind stayed on her dad as she completed her run.
“that was short” Shade pointed out when Catalina came inside “Sirabi needs more medicine so I cut my run in half.” Shade kissed her cheek I’m going to make you a strawberry smoothie while you’re in the shower to have on the way to town.”
“Thank you” Catalina took a quick shower, grabbed her smoothie then went to her car. It was a long drive to town and she wanted to hurry and get back. Catalina pulled into the Target parking lot, happy she managed to get a space so close to the door. It was probably the first time she had gotten a space so close. She did all her grocery shopping first then went to the toy section to find something for her daughter. She decided on My Little Point Chutes and Ladders. Her daughter really liked that game and it would be somthing fun for her and her grandfather to do once he came. Catalina also decided to check out the clothes. Target always had sale children’s clothes so Catalina hoped she might see something Sirabi would like.
Catalina heard a couple fighting but did her best to ignore it. From the sounds of it the woman had just told him she was pregnant and “He wasn’t going to be trapped like that” She felt disgusted but tried not to judge. She didn’t know either of them or why he thought she was trying to trap him that way. Regardless though it was hard, children were a blessing, not a burden. Catalina was pulling a shirt off the sale shelf when she heard it. Gun shots coming from the direction of the couple. She had only just looked up when he shot her in the shoulder and ran, shooting as he went. Catalina’s first instinct was to run to the pregnant woman. Catalina was going to ask if she was okay but he had shot her directly in the face and she was obviously dead. She felt such sorrow for the baby and her mother Catalina barely felt the bleeding wound in her shoulder.
She sat with the woman anyway and called nine one one.
Shade had a very bad feeling and it froze him in place on the front porch where he was reading to his daughter. He could feel it on the wind. “Daddy?” Sirabi said, sensing his distress.
He picked her up and took her inside, sitting her on the couch with her favorite blanket then going to get his phone. Before his hand could even touch it, it rang. He snatched it up, seeing it was Catalina and answering as quickly as he could. “Catalina?”
“I…I’m in an ambulance.”
His heart gave a lurch. “What happened?”
“He just…I was shot and…I couldn’t do anything.”
He heard someone else talking and the phone was taken from Catalina. “Are you her husband?”
“Yes, please tell me what happened.”
“Your wife was shot, she’s going to be alright, but you should get to the hospital.”
“I’ll be right over.” He hung up and immediately called his father in law, needing someone to watch Sirabi while he went to Catalina.
“Hello?” He sounded tired which was surprising. Maybe in his old age he was taking naps during the day. “Hi, Catalina was shot and I need to go to the hospital. Could you hurry over to watch our daughter. As you know she’s been sick and she doesn’t need to see her mom right away anyway.”
“Okay, I’ll be over as fast as I can.” he heard his father in law getting up and gathering things. Aciano asked “Do you know what happened?”
“No, I’ll call you from the hospital once I’m told”
“Please do, I have to get off the phone but I promise I’m going to be there as fast as I can” The line went dead and Shade ran a hand through his hair, feeling scared for Catalina. She and Sirabi were everything, he couldn’t lose either of them. Aciano arrived by helicopter as he often did. They didn’t speak much, Shade was in too much of a hurry. All Shade said was that Sirabi was probably done throwing up at this point since she hadn’t since last night. Shade hurried to his car and drove off “Grandpa, why’s dad worried about mommy?”
“She got hurt but don’t worry, doctors are helping her.” Sirabi hugged her grandfather and he said “why don’t we watch one of your DVD’s and order some pizza. Hopefully you can keep it down”
“Yay!” she said then ran inside. When Shade arrived a doctor told him Catalina was still in surgery but he could watch in the viewing area. Anytime the hospital was involved He and Catalina got to do things most couldn’t because Aciano made such generous donations every year. Shade accepted that and was guided to where he could sit down. Tears slid down his face as he saw his wife being worked on. It looked like they were trying to get the bullet out still. A nurse came in and gave him the whole situation as far as they understood it. She ended with “I know you can’t tell sir but the surgery is going well. She’s not bleeding too badly and the bullet didn’t do permanent damage to anything important. As long as she lets that arm rest and takes cares of it as we instruct her to it will heal perfectly”
Shade nodded, tears still sliding down his worried face. “do you need a drink sir? Can I call anybody for you?”
“No thank you, is it safe to use a cellphone in here?”
“yes sir, if you need anything don’t hesitate to come out and let us know” The nurse said then left. Shade called home to give Aciano an update. “how’s my baby?” Aciano said as he stepped out on the porch “it’s going well they say. She’ll be okay. Apparently a couple was fighting and the man shot her and then ran out the store shooting others as he passed them. Catalina was apparently right by the couple when the man snapped.”
“Fucking psychos, it’s why sane people have such a hard time owning guns.” Aciano glanced around having cussed to make sure his granddaughter wasn’t out there. He was relieved to see she was still inside with her movie. “How’s Sirabi?”
“Fine, I ordered her some pizza. She’s keeping it down”
“Good, thank you. Is she asking you anything about Cat?”
“She accepted her mommy had gotten hurt and doctors were helping her. I don’t think she’s worried”
“I’m going to go but I’ll call you when she’s out of surgery.”
“My little girl will pull through, she’s tough.”
“I know, give Sirabi our love.”
Shade hung up and went back to watching Catalina. He didn’t want to take his eyes off of her. He wasn’t sure how long he was standing there when they finally pulled the bullet out, but he felt such relief at the triumph in the doctor’s eyes. He could see it as the man dropped the bullet into a small bowl. “Sir?” His eyes jerked away from the window.
“They’re going to sew her up now, would you like to wait in her room?” He looked back at his mate. “I promise she’ll be there soon.”
He sat down once in the room they showed him, anxious for her to get there. His phone blipped and he saw it was a picture message from Aciano. Shade smiled, it was his daughter laughing. What felt like an eternity later They wheeled Catalina in the room. They talked to Shade about the surgery then went over careing for the wound afterwards. The elderly man said “we know it rests on you to make sure she does what she needs. She is Aciano’s daughter so we know without somebody to make her she will be too hard headed to take it easy with that arm”
“I’ll make sure she takes care of herself”
“Good and if there is any sign of infection please bring her in immediately.”
“I will, thank you so much.”
The older man patted his shoulder and Shade took Catalina’s hand gently in hers and brought it to his lips. “Hurry and wake up okay, I want to hear your voice.”
Catalina was already back there, back to that moment with the young woman. She seemed so young and fragile, her life snuffed out in an instant and the life in her. Her animal instincts had sensed something there in that moment, the minute the lights went out behind that woman’s eyes. It was like some unseen force had come for her, for the child. “Don’t be afraid.” The voice startled her, but there was no one there, even the woman was gone now. “They’re okay, you should wake up now.” She gasped, the sound making Shade jump to his feet and lean over her.
“Cat?” He gently stroked her cheek. “Catalina can you hear me baby?”
Her eyes fluttered open and she could feel the aching in her shoulder. It was numbed by pain meds, but it still hurt. “Sh…Shade?”
“Thank god.” He kissed her forehead. “You’re in the hospital baby, you were shot.”
“That poor woman” Catalina said sadly and Shade took her hand in his “Your father is with our daughter”
“Oh I don’t want to stress him Shade, call him and tell him I’m awake”
“I’ll text him, I really don’t want to get on the phone again right now. I’ll call when you fall back asleep if he hasn’t answered. I’m sure he’ll understand my want just to pay attention to you” Shade pulled out his phone and sent Aciano a message. Shade comforted his wife saying “He wasn’t stressed. He knew you’d pull through”
“I think she’s better. Your father is feeding her pizza and she’s kept it down”
“Oh good” Shade pulled out his phone again to show her the picture Aciano sent him earlier. Catalina was still looking at the picture when her father texted back. She read the message then responded, letting her father know it was her on the phone.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cuss this much just texting.” She showed him the next message and Shade laughed. “He’s more than mad, he wants blood.”
“You’re his little girl, I would do the same for Sirabi, I’d chase anyone who hurt her to the ends of the earth and then pitch him into the ocean.”
“Do you know if they caught the guy?”
Shade shook his head. “They didn’t say so probably not.”
“Dad’ll be looking. How was he when he came over?”
“Same as always, very much your dad, helicopter and all. He did sound a little tired when I called, but the moment he stepped off that helicopter he looked completely alert.”
She huffed out a laugh. “I hope he’s not working himself to hard.” She told her dad she was going to rest and if he wanted he could take Sirabi to his place.
Catalina relaxed into the bed “she was pregnant. He not only killed her but he killed their baby”
“Some people don’t understand what a gift they are being given when they are expecting a child.”
“I want to hold Sirabi so bad”
“Speaking of which you are going to have to be easy using your arm and shoulder until you’re healed if you want everything to heal properly” Catalina nodded, feeling sleepy again. Seconds later she was out and Shade kissed her cheek before crawling into bed to lay with her. Aciano got into a coughing fit when he went to answer Catalina’s message and has to set his phone down, stepping away from Sirabi. Sirabi stayed watching her movie for a little bit but eventually went to see if her grandfather was okay. She stood outside the bathroom door “You okay grandpa? Did I make you sick?”
“I’m fine baby, just a little nauseous. You didn’t make me sick. I’ll come out when I know I’m going to be okay.”
“I love you grandpa”
“I love you too little one”
“Should we call dad and tell him you’re sick too?”
“No sweetie, I’m going to talk to them when mommy is home”
“Okay, I’m going to play with my LeapPad. Can we color when you feel better?”
“Of course, we can color something for your mommy” Aciano sat on the cold bathroom floor hoping he wasn;t going to start hurling. He had only had one treatment for his lung cancer and he was miserable. It was so hard to tell his daughter and even though she had just been shot he knew he still had to tell her. He hadn’t told her yet because there were always reasons to hold it off but he knew he might never tell her if he kept waiting and any much longer and he knew it would hurt her feelings. He hadn’t found out long ago, had scheduled his first treatment the next day when he was told. It was hard to tell her because after his first treatment he didnt know if he wanted to keep treating it. He was old anyway and he would rather spend what time he had playing with his granddaughter and just enjoying his life. They had already been straight with him, telling him the chemo would just give him more time and there was little chance he could be cured of it given it’s late stage and how old he was. He didn’t look his age but nothing made him feel his age like his lung cancer.
He still felt it ridiculous that he had it when he hadn’t smoked a day in his life. It was probably all that second hand smoke from his friends and family. Eventually he was able to get up and he went to where Catalina kept Sirabi’s coloring books and crayons “Sirabi” he called. When Catalina was discharged she was excited to get home. They called Aciano who promised they’d be there by the time they arrived. He had taken Sirabi to his own home the second day her mother was still in the hospital. They arrived at about the same time and it was all Catalina could do to resist picking up her daughter. “Mommy” Sirabi said as she hugged Catalina. “I missed you so much. Did you and grandpa have fun?”
“Yep, he bought a bunch of new things for me” Catalina laughed. Her daughter probably had more stuff in her room at her grandparents than she did at home. “Thats so awesome”
“I brought some home. Want to see?”
“Of course I do” They ran ahead and Aciano stopped Shade “son, I need to talk to my daughter. You think she’s ready for a not so happy talk? I need to talk to her soon and I know she just got shot but it’s important”
“You know she’s tough. If somethings wrong she’d want to know right away.”
“After dinner then I guess”
“It depends on what you mean by that”
“Could I have a synopsis of what you want to talk to her about?” Shane by nature sniffed and realized somting he was surprised he hadn’t already. He had been ignoring the animal inside him too long “Oh my god Aciano….you have cancer” Aciano gave him a confused look “How did you guess? I look that bad?”
“I’m an animal Aciano”
“I swear I haven’t known long”
“well you’re sure as hell aren’t going to die from it. I have many friends who might be able to help.”
“As I can use the sun to form attacks I know people who can do even more amazing things. You go inside with your daughter and help her. She isn’t supposed to be lifting. Your cancer has gotten out of hand and I wont have my mate lose her father. Especially not because I’ve been ignoring my animal and didn’t catch it sooner. I can’t live with that guilt” Shade shifted and ran off, not giving Aciano a chance to say anything else.
The moment Aciano was inside, Catalina grabbed his arm and pulled him to the kitchen, her face worried. “Dad, Sirabi said you’ve been coughing really hard, what’s going on?”
“Don’t lie to me dad, you and I don’t have secrets. You’ve been acting strange.” He let out a sigh and pulled her into a hug and for a moment she caught a whiff of something strange, a smell that wasn’t quite right. “Dad, tell me.”
“I went to the doctor because I had not been feeling well, I was coughing a lot and I thought it was just some cold or allergy, but he told me that I have…I have cancer and it’s…”
Catalina pulled back, her eyes wide. “What?” He felt his heart wrench as her face crumbled, her eyes filling with tears. “You…you’re…why didn’t you say something, why didn’t you call me?”
“I didn’t want to worry you and then this happened. Please listen to me sweet heart.” He wiped her tears away. “Shade said he may be able to help, but if he can’t…”
She held up her hand and shook her head. “Don’t, don’t you dare give me an if. There is no if because Shade wouldn’t say something like that and not mean it. You…you can’t just up and leave us.”
He couldn’t stop his own tears from falling as he pulled his daughter back into him “I love you so much Catalina. I really hope he can..I…I don’t want to leave you and that sweet little girl. Even without cancer I know I probably wont get to see her get married but I’m not ready to leave yet. She’s so smart, she’s just like her mom. You just watch, she’ll graduate High School even earlier than you”
“Would you become a fox like me dad? I know that wont cure cancer but it will give you forever. Maybe the fox I’m descended from is on your side of the family…we don’t ever want to lose you dad..we can’t…Shade and I have been talking about a second child dad. They need to know you too”
“If Shade can make me a fox along with cure my cancer of course I will”
Shade weaved his way through the forest, determination in every step. His friend lived a ways out, his home the forest itself so he wouldn’t have to spend much time with humans. He trusted them very little and did his best to stay out of sight unless Mother herself called on him. His nose caught the scent of his friend and he followed it. His ears picked up the sound of running water, loud, a river. His friend was sitting there, his eyes closed as he lost himself in the world around him. “Ahanu.” He said when he shifted back and the coyote’s eyes snapped open, revealing blue irises.
“Shade, you’re distressed.” He said as he got to his feet, his eyes looking around. “Did something happen?”
“I need you’re help.”
Ahanu sniffed. “You smell of humans still, is it a human?”
“My mate’s father is very ill, I want you to save him for me please. Mother allowed my mate to become a fox, I believe she would want Aciano to live as well. I know you have no love for humans, but he is a good man and my mate loves him very much.”
Ahanu sighed “You are a valued friend Shade and I know how much you treasure Catalina. I will save her father for you, so you don’t have to watch her mourn” Shade hugged him “thank you so much”
“Are you going to ask mother to make him a fox too?”
“I hadn’t thought about it until now but yes” Ahanu smiled “Your mind is so hyper focused on Catalina I’m not surprised. She’s had you wrapped around her finger since the first day you encountered her. I could tell by how you spoke of the woman”
“She is my world. Lets get going, he has to be in a lot of pain” Ahanu nodded, shifting to run beside his fox friend. All Catalina’s mind was on her father living so she thought nothing of the nude man before her when Ahanu went back to human form. He may aswell have been fully clohted “You’re here to help my dad?”
“Yes” He walked over to Aciano “take off your shirt” Aciano did as he was told and Ahanu rested his palms on the mans chest and closed his eyes “don’t move or speak Aciano” Shade instructed. It took a few minuets but Aciano began to feel an odd sensation. It came close to hurting but didn’t quiet make it. Just before Ahanu opened his eyes Aciano gasped, his lungs felt new inside his chest “It’s gone” Ahanu said and looked at Catalina “I am Ahanu, has Shade spoken of me?”
“Well, I’m sure he’s mentioned my distaste of humans..I want you to know that does not include you. You make him happy and that means a great deal to me. I think of him as my brother. I’ve done this for him but I didn’t want you to think you are included in my dislike of humans” His eyes caught the little girl standing at the edge of the room they were in. He smiled at her and knelt down. He could tell she was Shade’s “Come here please” She pointed at herself and he nodded. She came over, looking confused at him. He gave her a genuine smile “Who would of thought a guy as ugly as Shade could produce such a beautiful daughter” Sirabi blushed and Shade laughed. Ahanu laughed, patted Sirabi gently on the head then stood “I’ll be going now”
“Please come back any time.” Catalina said and Ahanu gave her a smile.
“Next time the child is sick, bring her to me. My magic will take less time than what you give her.”
“Yes, of course.” Ahanu shifted back and they watched as the coyote loped away.
Aciano took another deep breath and smiled. “That feels amazing. Now I just have to figure out how to tell my doctor.”
“Miracles.” Catalina said with a wink. She hugged her father and just stood there for a moment listening to his strong heart and lungs. “Thank goodness, never get sick again, I’ll beat you up if you do.”
He hugged her tightly. “I will do my best, I promise.”
“You’ll really become a fox?”
“As long as you don’t mind having an old man like me around for eternity.”
“Shut up dad, you’re hardly old. You’ve never looked more than forty, if even that.”
He laughed and Shade said “lets get this going.” They went outside and Sirabi followed to watch. She was so happy he was going to live forever with them. To all their relief mother brought out the fox in Aciano just as she had done for Catalina. Cat had been through so much with getting shot, finding out her dad had cancer, him getting it cured and now him living forever with them she sobbed and held her father “oh sweetie” Aciano said softly. When she would let go Shade lifted his mate to put her in bed “You need rest. Your doctors said it was important”
“Dad will you please stay awhile”
“Of course baby” He answered. Shade took his mate inside and Sirabi hugged her grandfather. He held her, unable to express how grateful he was for all this. If he would have had to die he would have died a proud man. HIs daughter graduated school so early, had grown into a wonderful woman, married a great man and had a daughter that was every bit as amazing as her mother already and had completed college. Now he could see everything she would accomplish with her eternity, he would get to see Sirabi grow and get married herself, he would see his new grandchild do the same once Catalina got pregnant again. Shade had given this family so much and to think none of it would have ever happened if Aciano hadn’t bought his little girl this cabin as a graduation present.
Shade spent the next couple of days teaching Aciano how to shift while Catalina healed. His father in law was an incredibly fast learner much like Catalina and he took to it like a fish to water. Catalina could already tell her father was going to have fun being a fox. “Shade, I think I may be out of shape.” Aciano said one day after practice.
“Nonsense, it’s just using different muscles. You’ll get used to the fox’s way of travel.”
“Still, we’ll be doing more of this. I need to be able to keep up with my grandchildren if they wish to play. Lagging behind just won’t do.”
“Just give yourself time dad, you have forever now and Sirabi will be happy with you no matter what.”
He waved his hand to dismiss the idea of him staying slow. “I need to repay Ahanu by the way.”
“He won’t take anything monetary.” Shade replied.
“I’ll find something, I always do.”
In addition to getting used to being a fox Aciano stayed on top of the police department then followed the court proceedings closely to make sure that man got more than a slap on the wrist for what he had done. He had taken a life, injured innocent people, he was going to pay. Aciano was pleased when he got sentenced to twenty years. He took a life and should give up his life in prison but at least it would be twenty years. He was bipolar and his shark lawyer had managed to use that to claim he wasn’t in full control of his emotional state. Bi polar or not he knew right from wrong.He made peace with it, he had his family, his daughter was alive and before long he would have a second grandchild to spoil.
~ The End