Suffer The Little Foxes

Suffer The Little Foxes – a short story from the same universe as A LATENT DARK

He wore a scarlet coat, a gold chain attached at the belt. From the chain dangled a shiny brass whistle. Edgar stepped out in front of the full length mirror and gave a half turn, studying the cut of the material.

“You look splendid, Daddy,” said Victoria from the other room.

She was smiling for a change, her capped tooth covering the hole left by a schoolyard fight. Her long blond hair flowed down along her shoulders and along the lace of her dress. Her eyes studied him with a look that Edgar had at once thought was admiration. Now, he thought it seemed  cooler, more calculating somehow.

“Thank you my love,” he said to his daughter. “I think this will go nicely on the hunt next weekend, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes,” said Victoria. “I think it should suit you quite well. Will you be taking the horses? I do so love them.”

Edgar turned the other way, looking his reflection up and down. “Yes. Yes I think we will. Cars being such noisy things as they are.” He paused, then looked back at Victoria. “Speaking of which, have you seen my repair pliers? I seem to have misplaced them.”

Victoria blinked. “Why no, I haven’t Father. What would I possibly do with something like those?”

No,” he said, dismissing the thought. “I guess you’re right.”

But he did see her in the repair shop that one night. Or at least, he had thought it was Victoria. Edgar had been sleeping and there was a noise, like a hammer hitting the floor. A door closed and small footsteps slipped up the soft carpet steps right into Victoria’s room.

It might have been that Barkley girl, Dona. She had been staying over a lot lately, or maybe Harold and Francine’s girl, Melissa. He couldn’t keep all of his daughter’s friends’ names straight anyway: Melissa, Dona, Beth… His house felt more like a sorority than a mansion until just a few days ago when Melissa had stopped coming around.

Frankly, he had felt terrible at hearing of Melissa’s disappearance. He felt almost guilty at being able to relax for a change. Was it so bad that he could finally read in peace without a bunch of squealing, chattering girls?

Whoever it had been, they had gone back quickly into Victoria’s bedroom and closed the door very carefully. Then there was the unmistakable sound of giggling. Of course it had been Victoria. She was the only one who knew where the tools were, but why would she lie?

“Your smile looks lovely, Sweetheart,” he said, waltzing over to give her a hug and a kiss. “You can’t even tell it isn’t your tooth, can you? Does it hurt?”

“Only when I chew ice,” said Victoria. “And sometimes it twinges when I drink tea.”

Yes, he thought. Tea would do that. Only Victoria didn’t like tea. She had told him before. In fact, ever since she had lost that tooth to the little wench’s fist at school, Victoria had been acting strangely secretive.

And then, all at once, she seemed fine. Apparently she had been doing some important errands for the archbishop, a notable boost to Edgar’s family status. He had seen her in a flurry of activity one week, in and out of the house, delivering notes. She seemed… happy?

No.  “Happy” wasn’t the word. Focused. And content, as though she had finally made up her mind about something.

He had been planning to use carved ivory to replace her tooth. He had all the tools he needed to carve out a replacement for his daughter. The discoloration would be hardly noticeable. He fumed every time he thought about his poor daughter being hit—hit! By another girl! What was the world coming to?

But one day Victoria simply showed up with a tooth. Strange, that was, thought Edgar. Where did his daughter get a tooth?

When he asked, Vicky said that it was a replacement. It was special, blessed even by the archbishop himself. “It would be so much nicer than a fake tooth don’t you think?”

He looked at it, small and white in his palm, then at her. She had smiled back, not displaying her teeth or that terrible gap.

“A gift,” he said. “From the archbishop…”

She had nodded. “He said that it was special and because I helped the Church so much lately, it was mine. He said that he was sorry to hear about the fight and that I won’t have to worry about being assaulted anymore at school.”

And she hadn’t. In fact, the girl who had assaulted her had all but vanished, her home burned, her mother gone. Her friend, Melissa, also gone. He had to admit that it certainly seemed suspicious.

Small as her teeth were, Vicky did have a complete smile again finally. You couldn’t even see the metal brace that held the tooth in place. It was his finest work, for sure.

“When can I go hunting with you, Daddy?” she asked, bouncing slightly. She twirled a lock of flaxen hair on one finger.

“Oh,” he said, suddenly remembering where he was, how he was dressed. “It’s not really a girls place to be hunting animals. You might miss, after all. Or even worse, you could hit the fox all wrong. You wouldn’t want it to suffer would you?”

Something darker than disappointment passed over his daughter’s face and Edgar felt a small tickle in the back of his neck.

“No, Daddy,” she said turning away. “We certainly wouldn’t want them to suffer.”

© 2011 Marlan Smith

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