Taylor's Time!


Taylor -


Can you hear that?

Hmm?

That's my foot tapping on the floor.

You gave me two really strong chapters in what looks like a kickass paranormal story...

AND THEN YOU STOPPED!

I know life hit you hard - and I'm sorry about that! - but you'd best not leave me hanging!


Okay, in all seriousness - this is a fitting way to memorialize your companion. Keep going with it.

But don't forget about Ember!!


- Kendra


"For my dearest Maxine. I'll never feel love again the way I did with you."




Sanctuary


No one in the world has eyes like Maxine. I watch them flutter open in the long slanting morning light that streams in through the curtains, see the forest green of one eye, the icy blue of the other, gazing lovingly into mine.


"Hey Max." I say, sleepily.


She blinks slowly, deliberately, then reaches out for me. Her gentle paw rests against my cheek. Her voice, soft and telepathic, warms me in a way that our blankets don't.


"Hello, Anne."


I smile.


Our bed is a place of warmth and comfort, with its silk white curtains that mirror Maxine's fur and the fluffy fleece blanket I've pulled up to my chin.


"You think we'll be able to go outside today?" I ask Maxine.


Maxine yawns. Her shoulders move up, then down in a shrug.


"If the Caretakers let us."


I sigh.


Fiercely strict and overprotective, the Caretakers take each and every child's safety seriously, only letting curtain pairs of children and their shapeshifting Companions outdoors. Even then, they send Seekers to look after us, to be certain we wouldn't wander too far from Sanctuary, to ensure that we would never find the wall. Of course, Maxine and I are the only ones who have seen the wall. We are the only ones who have ventured into the woods.


"Max," I whisper, excitedly. "Just think of it, there could be a whole other world on the other side, places we've never been before."


My skin tingles. My heartbeat pounds in my ears. All my life, I had dreamt of exploring new places with Maxine, her bounding ahead of me in the form of a fox, and me dressed in my heaviest jacket, my face unhidden by a mask, my lungs able to breathe in the crisp air. Maxine purrs, no doubt reading my thoughts. She takes her paw from my cheek, curling it to her chest, comfortable in her favorite sleeping form - a cat.


"Yes," she says. "Perhaps there are others out there as well."


Others?


It didn't seem possible that there were adults who had never stepped foot into Sanctuary, that there were children being raised outside of the safety of its walls.


There's a knock at the door. A muffled voice calls out,


"Rise and shine!"

Lee, our head Caretaker, opens the door and comes into the room. I can tell it's him by the sound of his shoes on the hardwood floor. He opens the curtains, letting in a blast of sunlight. I shield my eyes.


"Just a few more minutes." I beg, pulling the blanket over my head.


Maxine laughs. I feel her stand up, feel her weight become next to nothing as she shifts into a smaller animal. A second later, I see a little white mouse with her eyes crawl under the blanket. Maxine nibbles at my nose. I giggle and throw the blanket off of me. In the space of a second, she shifts back into a cat and rubs up against me. I kiss her between the eyes.


"Put on your mask." Lee says.


My mask?


I look at Maxine. Her ears prick at Lee's words.


We're going outside!





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