The Color of Indigo - A FornaX Story.
|©2002 By Philip .J. Eggerding
Fornax Characters ©1999-2002 Matt J. McCullar
The honey badger in the advertisement was so pretty. Almost as pretty as those Fornax sisters.
Mira Leistung frowned at the memory. Band Fornax had hired her husband, DMago, as a security guard a year and a half ago. The pay had been fantastic, but the Fornax sisters relentless attempts to seduce him had forced him to quit after only three moons. Hed managed to remain faithful to her, but it could have been so different.
If only I were pretty
Irritated, Mira looked away from the ads on the make-up counter. This was crazy. Why was she looking at those ads? She was here at the Fur-Mart to pick up essentials, not pine for the impossible like some stupid youngling. Pretty was something shed never be, and she knew it. Looking around, she tried to locate the toddler section amidst the cacophony of store posters and banners. Altera, her little kit, was growing fast and would need a bigger outfit soon. Maybe something was on sale.
Suddenly, Altera began chittering from her stroller.
Oh Godesses! Not again. Not now!
With a huff of barely contained frustration, Mira pushed the second-hand stroller toward the stores hygiene/refresh room. Experience had shown her that when Altera began fussing, some serious yelling would soon follow. Where had she gotten that voice? The kits large size had come from her Patra, but her powerful voice was a total surprise. Banging through the hygiene/refresh door was Alteras cue to cut loose, and Mira grabbed the squalling kit before plunking down on the courtesy sofa.
"Oh hush, already!" she said as she fumbled with her blouse. "Matra just fed you this morning! Ive hardly had time to refill the tanks!"
Shed just gotten the buttons undone whe the little kit finally wormed her way inside and latched onto what she was looking for. Mira let out a yip. The little ones sharp teeth were coming in, making life painful for both of them. Mira bit her own lip and tried to resign herself to the pain and inconvenience, but sometimes it was so damned hard. Stabbing a look at the clock, she thought of everything she needed to do today besides calm Alteras fits. Her husband needed clean work clothes for that new job interview, and she had her own work clothes, plus Alteras things to do. Oh sure, Bad had offered to help, but he had no talent for laundry, and his cooking was even worse. He had a way with Altera though, and was more than willing to watch his little angel while Mira did housework, but her own job took up the weekdays, and she needed the weekend for shopping! With their modest income, shopping took so much time.
Mira looked at the second-hand stroller and then at her suckling daughters faded jumper.
Glancing up, she caught her own reflection in one of the hygiene mirrors, and for a moment, she didnt even recognize herself. Cutting her hair to shoulder length for convenience and putting on some weight had changed her looks, but not this much! All she could see in the mirror was a miserable, homely-looking ratel in shabby, worn-out clothes.
And the image suddenly shook her to the core.
That... that cant be me.
Looking away, she closed her eyes--her ears flattening against her skull. Gods! Who was she kidding? The mirror said it all. Theirs was not a modest income. She and her husband were poor. Maybe not dirt poor like when they were kids, but their combined income still fell short of basic needs most times. DMagos last construction job had ended almost a month ago, and he hadnt found anything else yet. Hopefully hed find something soon, but she couldnt count on it. Raising her head, Mira looked again at her meager possessions and then at her reflection.
Was this all there was to life? Living from job to job--not knowing if they would have enough. Was this all she would ever be?
Suddenly, the thought loomed over her, and she could no longer escape it.
You will be poor forever.
Shed always been the tough-as-nails, self-reliant honey badger. Nothing and no one could take her down. Growing up in a broken home and then as an orphan had toughened her, and the hard edges hadnt softened much with marriage. Yet looking at her reflection, all she could see was her own bleak future stretching away to infinity. Her poverty was so much bigger than she was. Mira let her head drop as if the weight was already too much to bear, and a black tear dripped from her muzzle to dampen the little head at her breast. She felt so helpless.
"Im sorry, Allie," she whispered, her voice choked. "I want to do better. I... I really do. Its just so hard sometimes."
Another tear dripped from her nose, but this time she wiped it away. This wasnt her! She never cried! Then Altera stopped suckling and chittered unhappily, which only made Mira feel worse. Laying the kit back in the stroller, she tried singing to her daughter as she always did after nursing her, but what came out was a totally unexpected sob--followed by another--and then another. Goddesses! What was happening to her? Shed never fallen apart like this. Putting her head in her paws, she tried to muffle the crying that wouldnt stop.
And thats when fingers lightly touched her elbow.
Startled, she looked up, ready to spring her claws at whomever had intruded on her sudden misery, but all she saw was white hair under a checkered scarf, glossy black facial fur, and the most beautiful gray eyes shed ever seen---eyes filled with genuine concern.
"Is something the matter? Can I help?" asked the strange honey badger in a low, musical voice.
Mira tried to gulp back her tears. "No. No, I... Im fine. I just need time to... I mean..."
The stranger sat down, took her paw, and began stroking it gently. It was a common greeting between furs, but Mira had rarely allowed this sort of intimacy from another female. She wanted to pull away, but the simple contact felt so... so very kind.
And all of a sudden, the frustrations and fears shed bottled up for so long burst out. Clinging to this stranger as if her life depended on it, she buried her muzzle in soft, black, shoulder fur, and bawled like a newborn--too overwhelmed to be embarrassed--too relieved to be afraid. And all the while, the stranger held her, stroking her head and crooning softly.
When Mira finally quieted down, the stranger held her out and smiled.
"Looks like you needed to do that," she said.
"I... I didnt mean to... I shouldnt have..." Mira stopped. Shed just noticed something. The mussed fur and dark streaks on her companions face showed shed been crying too. Slowly, Mira reached up and touched the dampness.
"Why you?" she asked.
"Im not sure," replied the ratel, sniffing and looking over at Altera in her stroller. "You seemed in such pain and I wondered why someone with such a darling kit needed to cry." The strangers eyes misted up for a moment. "Ill never have kits," she quietly said before looking back at Mira. "I had a problem a while back that left me barren. Its hard for me to look at such a beautiful kit and not long to have one of my own. This ones yours, of course."
Mira nodded. "You... you really think Alteras beautiful?"
The ratels black face split into a smile that almost lit up the room. "Oh yes. Shes gorgeous. And her name--Altera is it? Such a pretty name."
Mira looked fondly at her daughter and savored the pride that came from a strangers approval. Then she sighed. "Her looks must come from her father. Ive never been beautiful." She looked back at the stranger. "Beautiful like you, that is." Suddenly embarrassed at her admission, she looked down and wondered why she was talking to a complete stranger this way.
"Thank you," replied other ratel. "But what makes you think youre not beautiful?"
Miras head shot up. "Look at me!" she exclaimed, as if it should be obvious. "Im scrawny! My face would frighten a moondragon. My fur is like steel wool. My hair is either matted, or it sticks out in all directions. Im..."
"In other words," interrupted her companion, "it looks like you just got out of bed and had so many things to do that you didnt have time to freshen up."
Mira gave a snort. "Itll take more than a little freshening up to fix this mess."
"Im not so sure. Have you ever tried?"
Mira started to reply, but then stopped and stared. Now that she thought about it, sitting down to pretty herself up was something shed never even considered, let alone tried. Why bard a mule? Besides, even if she had a notion to do it, she didnt know how to do it! No one had ever shown her! She had no sors, no Matra, and no real friends, besides DMago. Suddenly, it hit her all at once. Great Gods and Goddesses! No one had ever shown her how to be pretty!
"Helloooo..." The ratel was waving her paw in front of Miras stunned face.
Mira blinked. "I guess... I mean, no, Ive never tried to pretty myself up."
"Then its about time you did."
"But nothing!" insisted the ratel. "I think a complete makeover is in order for you. Sometimes you have to take a break from the hard life and do something totally different. Thats what Im doing today. I love my job and my family, but it was getting to be too much of the same thing, so I decided to sneak away and do some malling. If my manager finds out hell probably have a fit, so Im in disguise today."
The ratel tightened the scarf about her head and looked around the refresh room conspiratorially before winking. "Today... you can call me Indigo. Thats my code name. Who do you want to be?"
Mira couldnt believe she was playing make believe with a stranger, but the idea seemed so right just now. "Im not sure..." she said, but then an idea struck her. "Yes. I think Ill be Lady B."
"Whats the B stand for?"
Mira felt her lips curl into a playful leer. "B is for Bad."
"Oooooo," replied Indigo. "Lean and mean!"
"Of course! Im a rrrrrrrratel!" Mira shot back, getting into the spirit of the thing.
Indigo looked her up and down and then nodded. "Yes. Youre lanky enough to pull off the lean and hard look. Me? Ive got too much bulk. Not fat, mind you!" she added. "Im just a bit more buff than you. Now, if youre willing, you can carry Altera, and I can fill up the stroller with a few things Ill need to do you up right."
Mira hesitated. "Um. I... I cant pay for..."
Indigo held up a paw. "Im not asking you to pay for anything. All the things well be getting are stuff I can use myself, but I want you to see that it really doesnt have to be expensive. If, when were finished, you want to keep some of it, I promise it wont break you. Come on. You look like you need to have some fun!"
Indigos enthusiasm was infectious and Mira found herself scooping Altera from the stroller before she could think of a reason not to do this. Exiting the refresh/hygiene, they were soon strolling the aisles of the beauty department with Indigo grabbing items here and there. Then they were off to the fabric section for a 2x18 piece of slivery, no-rip knit cloth, followed by a trip to house wares for colored pins, and finally, to hardware for some nylon rope. In fifteen minutes, Indigo was paying for it all and Mira was indeed surprised at the low cost. However, her curiosity was getting the best of her, and she pointed to the items in the stroller that were obviously not beauty aids.
"What are these for?"
"Youll see," hinted Indigo, as they head back to the hygiene. "As kids we were so poor that me and my sors learned quickly to make really elaborate outfits from the most mundane stuff. It was a blast."
"Indigo?" Mira was looking over her shoulder. Her naturally suspicious nature had caused her to become aware of something.
"Have you noticed that theres a male ratel following us?"
Indigo nodded. "Yeah. I noticed. Hes a friend from work--probably sent to look after my best interests. He thinks I dont know hes here, but well surprise him later. We can test your new look out on him."
Mira was relieved to know this other fur wasnt a threat, but she began feeling nervous for another reason. They were going to test out her new look on him? Other than DMago, no one had ever paid much attention to her. What would that be like? And what would DMago do if she started attracting attention? Mira was still mulling this over when they entered the refresh room, and Indigo quickly emptied the contents of the stroller onto one of the tables so that Mira could put Altera in it. It was good to set the kit down. She got heavy after a while.
"Before we get started," Mira said, pointing to a stall, "I need to use the necessary."
Indigo nodded and began sorting through the items on the table. Mira entered the stall and quickly finished her business. She was just readjusting her clothing when she heard Altera complaining, and a sudden, suspicious thought struck her. Gods! What if this Indigo fur was one of those crazies who was not above stealing a kit because she couldnt have one of her own? Bursting out of the stall, she saw that Indigo had indeed taken Alter from her stroller.
| "What do you think
youre doing with my kit! Give her back, now!"
Indigo quickly held out Altera, and Mira almost snatched the kit away.
"Im sorry," Indigo said, backing away. "She started fussing with you not here. I was just trying to calm her down."
"If theres any calming to be done, let her own Matra do it!"
Mira saw Indigo wince at her harsh words and look down. A prolonged silence followed, and when Indigo finally looked up she spoke in a whisper.
"Maybe I should go now."
The look on Indigos face deflated Miras anger instantly. This wasnt the look of someone whod been caught stealing. There was genuine hurt there. Silently, Indigo gathered up all the things shed bought and turned away.
"Please..." Mira blurted out. She suddenly didnt want this meeting to end the way so many others had when it involved females. "Please dont go. I was scared. Altera is just about the only thing I have and shes so precious. I thought you might... I mean..." Mira couldnt complete the thought. How could she think Indigo would do such a thing? Hadnt this total stranger willingly lent Mira a shoulder to cry on? Slowly, she walked over to where Indigo stood and held out her daughter, who was starting to fuss again--probably because of all the yelling.
"Would you... would you like to hold her for a while?"
A tentative smile brightened Indigos face, and she nodded. Then slowly, as if this was a very important step in her life, Mira relinquished her kit. She felt her claws beginning to inch their way out as Indigo accepted Altera and turned away to sit down, but when the ratel began crooning to the kit, Miras apprehension faded away. Indigos voice was so nice--silky and soft, like a newborns fur--and Altera was no longer fussing. In fact, she almost seemed to be humming along.
Mira sat down beside the two of them and just watched for a while before speaking. "Im sorry I was so nasty before. Id like to blame my kit-bearing hormones, but thats not true. I... Ive just never felt comfortable around other females."
"Competition?" asked Indigo, as Altera began playing with her hair.
"Yeah," Indigo continued, "I know a little about that, and theres some truth to it. I tried moving in on a married male once." The ratels voice dropped to a whisper. "Worst mistake I ever made." Just then, Altera latched onto Indigos blouse. "Oops. I think this ones looking for something I cant give," she said, handing the kit back.
Mira rolled her eyes and accepted the squirming bundle. "She cant be hungry again. I think she just likes to bite me. You said you cant have kits now, but believe me, youre not missing much. After six moons youre waddling around with a front porch sticking out to here, and," Mira pointed to her chest, "after the birth, you gotta carry around these refillable bowling balls for another eighteen moons!" She shook her head. "With all the weight shifted forward, Im surprised I havent blow a disk in my back. Adoption has got to be easier."
"I dont know," countered Indigo. "Ive thought about adoption, and though the birth part might be absent, you still gotta feed, change, clothe, cuddle, cosset, and constantly cajole the little critter."
Mira grunted as she stood up. "Erf! Were slaves to our offspring and dont even know it. Well, I think its time I put this slave-driver back in her stroller so we slaves can get on with my makeover." Mira grinned. She liked the feeling of actually looking forward to something.
Indigo grinned back and pointed. "I like it when you smile. Youve got a pretty smile. We wont have to do anything about that." Then, sitting Mira in front of the mirror, Indigo gave her another appraising look. "Remember, were not going for cloud-soft here. That look wouldnt do for you. We need to take what youve got and say This is beautiful, so I think Sleek and Sultry is the way to go." With that, the transformation began.
First, there was a quick hair wash, conditioning, combing, and fur brushing that established a clean starting point. Then it was on to the face and muzzle. "Highlights and shadow," commented Indigo as she worked. "Thats what its all about. Our facial fur is just a black hole surrounded by white hair if there isnt anything to distinguish the features." Fur gloss was applied so that the ambient light could bring out the high points and make the face look rounder. Colored fur-dust was applied to accent the eyes, whiskers, and the inside of the ears. White mascara then turned eyelashes from short and subdued into long and luscious, and the white eyebrows and pink nosepad were given a subtle glaze that would make them sparkle. Next came the hair.
"You can get as fancy as you want with hair, but itll cost you, so lets keep it simple. If yours was longer, Id consider a single, large tassel braid--something you could do yourself. Some furs think braids are for kits, but a single large one looks powerful. It usually says I mean business, which is good for the no-nonsense, sultry look. For now, lets just sweep it back and well do a special pony tail thing with it later. No bangs, please! Bangs arent you. Well also place more accents on the ears with a bit of gold dust, and, if youve got any ear dangles at home, use em." Then it was on to body and clothes.
"Clothes?" asked Mira, looking around the refresh room.
"Of course," replied Indigo, holding up the silvery cloth. "Youd be surprised what you can do with a strip of cloth and some pins. Now, off with everything except your underthings."
"Um... I havent got any underthings," Mira said, looking embarrassed.
"Good. Then I wont have to ask you to take them off, too. I didnt know how you felt about that sort of thing."
"It isnt that," protested Mira. "I... I just cant afford them."
"Then its a good thing we dont need them! I always thought the whole idea of underthings a bit silly. How many layers of opaque material does it take to cover something up anyway?"
When Mira had doffed her worn clothes, Indigo gave her fur a light coating of fur gloss for more accent and then approached her with the cloth. "Now we do the Crolusian Wrap!" she said, holding up the material and motioning Mira to turn around. "Actually, I dont know what its really called or even if it has a name, but we called it the Crolusian Wrap when we were kits because it looked so ancient and exotic. Okay, here we go. Pay attention so you can do this yourself later. Over the left shoulder, down the back and under the tail, up over the right shoulder, back down to the waist and around under the tail, back to the front and loop it through, reverse direction, around the waist over the tail twice, loop again, around under the tail and twice around the thighs, securing it with the other end of the cloth. Pin it here... here... here... and here to keep it in place and were done!"
Mira was surprised at how fast Indigo had applied the wrap, but it covered all the naughty bits and still allowed her free movement. Its silver color also gave it an expensive look, even though it was dirt-cheap. Mira would have liked to see how it looked on her, but Indigo was blocking the mirror and pointing to the table.
"Now, we need to choose some scents for you. Remember, even though we girls appreciate the variety of perfumes that are out there, we have to consider our males. You cant make it too complicated for them. Three different fragrances should do. Something light and breezy for the morning, something pleasant and long lasting for the daytime, and finally, a sensual, musky scent for those times when youre feeling playful."
Mira looked at the variety of perfumes Indigo had arranged on the table and saw that all of them were in utilitarian bottles with prices to match. "Do you use these?" she asked.
"I have. Some of my friends buy me the expensive stuff, so Im obligated to wear it, but to tell the truth, I wouldnt buy it myself. Somehow, paying for the name on the bottle rather than whats inside seems stupid. I may be wealthier now than when I was a kit, but that doesnt mean I have to be stupid with my credits."
Mira proceeded to try out all the perfumes, and picked three that she liked, actually applying the Silent Thunder scent, because she was feeling playful now.
"Now for the ponytail."
Mira noticed that Indigo had picked up the thin nylon rope. "I was wondering when you would get to that," she commented, pointing, and Indigo explained.
"Brand-new nylon rope, especially the smaller diameter stuff, is quite supple and has such a nice silky sheen to it. With a few knots and some teasing of the cut ends, I can make a really attractive brow circlet and ponytail tie. I can use it for other costume accessories, too." Indigo winked. "Dont tell your husband its only rope. Hell steal it and try to use it for something practical."
After a few measurements and some quick tying, Indigo had a silvery, braided brow-circlet with a cinched loop on the back. Settling it over Miras head, she gathered up her white hair, and with a twist, ran it through the loop. She then cinched it loosely, arranging the tasseled ends of the rope to either side and letting the hair fall in a natural cascade down the back of Miras neck. More rope and more braiding completed a shoulder loop and a waist cinch. Finally, Indigo stepped back.
"I think were done. Turn around and look in the mirror. See if you like it."
Almost afraid to, Mira turned around and was so shocked that all she could do was stare. The face that stared back from the mirror was as unrecognizable as the motley image shed seen of herself earlier. But this one... oh Goddesses... this one was soooo much better. Somehow, scrawny had become sleek, scary had become sultry, and ugly had been transformed into beautiful. Hers was a look that was sensual but still said she could kick some serious ass if needed. Hard, yet handsome. It was simply striking.
"Oh." It was all she could say for a while. "Oh Goddesses."
"And it was all done for," Indigo was counting on her fingers, "less than one weeks worth of groceries for two. However, this stuff will last a lot longer than a week."
Quickly, Indigo gathered up all the leftover items and put them in a bag. Then she draped the bag over the handle on Alteras stroller and stooped down to run a finger lightly across the dozing kits cheek. "I hope you like my birthday present, Altera."
"Birthday present?" Mira began, and then it hit her. "But, you... I thought you said I could pay for this. I dont want to be a freeloader. And its not Alteras birthday."
"Well, she was born on a day not so long ago," Indigo said, turning to scratch the now yawning kits chin, "werent you, little one? I think that warrants a present. And what better present could there be than a beautiful Matra? Of course, you knew your Matra was beautiful all along, didnt you." Altera grabbed Indigos finger and bit it.
"Ouch!" Indigo pulled her finger away. "Maybe a teething ring might have been a better present."
Mira chuckled, but then quieted. Indigo had stood up and now had her paw on the refresh door. "Its time to try out your new look."
Mira couldnt believe how nervous she suddenly felt, but there was no easy way to back out now. Walking behind Alteras stroller, she grabbed the handle in a vice-like grip and nodded. Indigo cracked open the door and peaked out. Then she motioned to Mira and they quickly stepped through. The male ratel theyd spied earlier was poking at some jackets in the clothing section, looking bored.
"Lets surprise him," Indigo whispered, and they proceeded to sneak up on their quarry.
"You looking for something!" Indigo shouted when she was right behind him. The ratel jumped nearly two feet in the air and knocked over the display stand. Mira and Indigo burst out laughing.
"Dammit all! Dont do that!" he said in a harsh voice as he began picking up the scattered clothing. "If I wasnt a professional, I could have attacked you without a second thought! You know youre not supposed to be here. What have you been doing in the refresh anyway? Its been nearly an hour."
"Ive been having some fun, and dont worry. Ive been discreet."
He finished straightening the display stand and eyed Indigo darkly, but then he turned his gaze on Mira, and a totally different look crossed his muzzle. Goddess! No male had ever looked at her that way before! It was thrilling and scary at the same time.
"So whos your gorgeous friend?" he asked, leering a bit.
"This is Lady B and her kit, Altera," Indigo answered. "Shes already taken, so dont you go getting any ideas."
"Me? Get ideas? Im a bought man. No need to worry there." He gave Indigo a squeeze. "But I gotta tell you, we have a ton of work to do this afternoon to get ready for tonight. I was just about to barge into the hygiene to get you. We need to leave now!"
"Okay. Okay. Well go in just a second." Indigo turned back to Mira. "Lady B? Its been fun, and Altera is a darling, but I really must get back to work."
Indigo gave her a hug, and Mira fought back an urge to cry because she didnt want to mess up her newly discovered face. "Will I see you again?" she whispered in Indigos ear.
"I dont know. Im just passing through town. My work involves a lot of traveling, so I wouldnt make a very good friend."
"But youre the only girl friend Ive ever had."
Indigo released her hug and gazed fondly into Miras eyes. "I think maybe you let your appearance stifle your ability to make friends. Theyre out there, and they dont have to be honey badgers either. One of my best friends is a Dalmatian. I know you can find someone closer to home. And who knows? We might see each other again."
As Indigo turned away, Mira touched her elbow. She had to ask one more question.
"Who are you? Really?"
Indigo smiled mysteriously. "Im someone you had fun with today, but I really must go now." She pulled off her scarf and shook out a great wave of white hair. Then she took something from her purse and, pressed it into Miras paw. "Here. Have some more fun tonight." Then Indigo grabbed her male friends arm, and they were off at a run.
Mira sighed and one black tear escaped her bejeweled eye. She and Indigo could have been friends, but life didnt always go the way you wanted it to. Still, life wasnt as hard as it was an hour ago. She now knew how to soften the edges. Tough could be tenderized. And Indigo was right. Maybe she could find a girlfriend--now that females were no longer the competition. Opening her paw to see what Indigo had given her, she found two glossy cards lying in her palm. They appeared to be tickets of some sort.
"Appearing in concert tonight: The brightest colors of the musical universe. Yellow, Violet, Green, Pink, and Blue--FornaX."
Mira felt a sudden, jealous anger and looked around for a trashcan but then stopped, her frown quickly melting back into a grin. Since she could be attractive too, going to see a band composed of the worlds most beautiful ratels was no longer a threat. And their music actually was very nice. Besides, even if they had made life miserable for her husband, hed explained how theyd paid a heavy price. Hadnt one of them even ended up in the hospital for...?
Miras eyes shot back to the tickets in her paw.
The things Indigo had said about herself! Her billowing hair when shed removed her scarf! Her make-believe name! Wasnt Indigo just another name for Blue? Mira looked up at the spot where shed last seen Indigo
Blue Fornax has just left the building.
For a long time, she just stared. Then, she gave herself a shake. Nahhh. It couldnt be. Indigo had been so nice. Yet... couldnt furs change? Couldnt ugly become beautiful?
Mira heard a whistle from behind her and turned to see a young lion giving her the eye. She couldnt believe it. She actually started blushing! Rolling her eyes, she pointed to her marriage necklace and the lion gave a too bad shrug before smiling and turning away.
Oh yes, she thought. Ugly could become beautiful.
And pushing Alteras stroller proudly, Mira Leistung left the building and went home to give her husband a very pleasant surprise.
© 2002 by Philip J.