Crow examined herself in a full-length mirror, admiring the twenty shades of black in her new dress. Each panel of the skirt, ruffle, and bit of lace held a different quality of blackness. She made a final adjustment to the tiny top hat resting on her curly dark hair. It just covered a missing lock. “Nearly perfect.”
Raven proffered a single black feather. “Perhaps this will do?”
She rewarded the gift with a smile as she tucked the feather into the hatband. “Perfect.”
Fox was sprawled in a chair, half-asleep. “Are we done now?”
“Finally.” Fox hopped up and paid for the clothes as Raven collected the bags. She held the door for them. “Are we even?”
“Nearly,” said Crow.
Fox sighed dramatically. “I really can’t take any more shopping today. That was the fourteenth store we’ve been to and that’s my limit for the decade.”
“I just have one question.” Crow took Raven’s arm as they strolled along the busy sidewalks, people passing around them like water parting for rocks in a stream.
“Ask away.” Fox pulled four black balls and one pearlescent one out of her pants pockets. She tossed them into the air.
“Is Mei your daughter?”
The balls changed direction, weaving a five-ball shower. “I suppose I may have enjoyed the company of a musician named Michi at one time.” She smiled enigmatically.
Crow and Raven exchanged a smile, realizing that was about as a straight an answer as one could get from Fox.
That evening, Raven assumed his priest persona and knocked on the door of Mei’s house. When Grandmother answered, Raven bowed and held out a package. “A gift for the young one from the priest who fished her out of the river.”
“How did you know where we live?” she asked suspiciously.
“The newspaper people were kind enough to tell us,” improvised Raven.
“Ah.” She took the package from him. “Thank you.”
Raven turned and walked away without another word. When the door closed, Fox peeked out from a bush. “Well?”
“She took it.”
Once he was around the corner, he twisted reality and took to wing. He landed on the balcony next to Crow. They looked into the living room where Mei was curled up reading her favorite book about a fish that swam to the moon. Her doll was dangling off the side of the couch.
“I wanna build a rocket ship!” Mei declared.
“Not today, dear,” her grandmother said absently as she came into the living room, reading the return address on a package. “This just arrived. I think it’s from that priest.”
Mei jumped up, knocking Fish onto the floor. “Can I open it?”
Grandmother set the package down on the table and read the attached note. “Dear Mei, Please be more careful with your dolls in the future. I may not be there to fish you out of the water next time. Enclosed is something for your doll shrine. May they keep you safe.” She carefully inspected the paper, then said, “I suppose that would be alright.”
Mei unwrapped the cedar box. The lid was carved with cherry blossoms; a small fox paw was hidden among them. She lifted the lid and found two white fox statues.
Copyright 2013, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved