Two foxes find each other
|Pod stepped out of his den, into the crisp autumn air. He was a prince among arctic foxes, strongly muscled from the endurance of hard winters. He stood tall and proud in the land. Finding all to his liking, he proceeded downhill to the stream for a morning drink. What he found there, however, caused him to forget his thirst. Someone had urinated on his tree! The odour slapped him in the nose as he halted, struck with shock. This had happened before and usually had a negative outcome. Strangers sometimes came through his territory, some passing through, and others with more sinister purposes. Only the boldest of them would signal their presence in such an audacious fashion. He stepped up to the marking-post and examined the calling card in detail. A female! Young, too. The information led Pod to think she was searching for a mate. Well, so were many, himself included. He’d missed out on meeting anyone in the spring and the urge to find companionship was intense. Pod sat and pondered how best to proceed. First, he doused the tree with his own mark, reaffirming his ownership. Then, with deliberate care and caution, he started out after her trail.
He met her amidst a herd of deer, by some bucks. Her fur was an unusual shade of grey–brown and with an iridescent sheen which marked her out as having exceptional health and vitality. Aye, she was fit, no doubt about it. Pod’s breath caught in his throat and his feet were suddenly too big, too heavy. She raised her head and was gazed at him without fear, mild amusement on her face. This female was enchanting. He strolled casually toward her and made polite motions with his head. This close, she smelt fantastic! He simply couldn’t fight the impulse to touch her – crouching and darting forward like a pup, he planted a lick square on her nose. Cold and damp! Not best pleased she was, yet still she stayed. They played a little, as younglings do, chasing and teasing, leaping and bounding over and around each other. Then suddenly she was gone, darting up the slope to the crest, quick as sunlight. He watched as she went, his confusion swirling inside him. Why was she leaving? She looked back once, eyebrow raised. Then she was gone as though she had never been. She’ll be back, thought Pod.
That had been two days ago and Pod cursed himself for his stupidity. He should have followed immediately, learned more of her and her life. Though it was late, she could still be tracked, if she was marking the trees as she went. The winter snows would soon be upon them and erase her marks forever. What if he never found her again? Pod ran. He ran on through pain and beyond exhaustion. The trail was growing warmer and he could not afford to lose it. Uphill through the tundra he ploughed. His tongue hung below his lips, a dividing line between the heat of his body and the frosty plains around. Food and water were secondary concerns, mouthfuls of melt snatched from shallow pools and the leftovers of bears were all he needed to continue. He was on a mission and would not allow distractions.
One day he came to a place and Pod knew her den was nearby. The vixen’s scent hung in the frozen air like perfume, dizzying his senses. The sensation of her awoke an ancient longing. A hollow inside him, previously unnoticed, was now an aching void, which could be filled by only one thing. Her. Yet, would she accept him? He finally came across her in the valley between two peaks. She was lying in a bed of heather, tip of her tail covering her nose. An idea struck him. Before she saw him he turned and left to forage. He found a nest of mice and grabbed the largest, a plump package of sweet meat. Holding it gently in his mouth so as not to damage it, he returned to her secret hollow. There he gave her his offering, and she accepted it. She seemed pleased to see him, her eyes were shining and bright and a lop-sided grin played about her lips. Again they gambolled amidst the winter snow, forging a bond that would not be broken easily. She took him to her den, a warm lair in the hillside. They slept that night coiled around each other, sharing warmth and space. In the morning they knew that this was merely the first of many. Pod and Peng, bonded together by play and passion, went out into the future together, two mature arctic foxes.