After accidentally posting earlier this week, it’s now really time for Flash Fic Friday!
**Okay, so this week I brought back Elliott and Nate. Remember them and their proposal at the zoo? They totally wanted to come back when we got this week’s challenge–a phobia, lost keys, and a birth. Enjoy!**
“Keys, keys, keys,” I muttered to myself, tossing the pillows off the couch and sticking my hand down between the cushions. I’d torn the house apart looking for my damn keys, and I was freaking out. I always tossed them in the bowl on the little table by the door when I came in, but they weren’t there. Panic was starting to rise in my throat. I had to go. I had to get to the zoo. I had to be there. There was no way I was missing this.
Nate’s nearly constant text messages weren’t helping any either. Now that I knew Amala was close to giving birth, and that I’d be allowed in despite not being an actual staff member, I was desperate to get there. I’d been waiting for this moment for nearly two years, ever since Nate came home and announced the young elephant was pregnant. He’d been just like a proud papa. I knew the girls were like his children. Hell, I loved them almost as much as he did. Indira was both of our favorite, and Amala was her daughter. I didn’t want to miss seeing the moment Indira became a grandmother.
But I couldn’t find my fucking keys!
There was only one place I hadn’t looked, and with sinking dread, I realized that it was likely the keys were in that room. Because Nate, the rat bastard, had been a good husband and taken my car for an oil change last night. And since he’d had the keys, and had gone straight to the freezer and gotten several pinkies the moment he’d walked in the door, probability was high that’s where they were.
I checked the freezer for the keys first, just in case. No such luck.
Fear welled in my gut, and for a moment I thought I was going to puke. I almost thought it would be better to call a cab and pay the exorbitant fees than go in that room. Which was just ridiculous. I loved Nate more than anything in the world, but I was going to kill him dead for making me do this.
It was just a snake. A baby, not even two foot long albino python. I dreaded the day she got big enough that she could no longer eat the tiny, frozen, naked baby mice. Nate swore Jezebel was a sweetheart. But I knew better. Snakes were gross and dangerous and they ate poor defenseless mice and other rodents. I hated snakes.
Okay, they scared the ever loving crap out of me, and the only reason I allowed one in the house was because she had her own room and was kept under lock and key.
My phone went off again with another text from Nate. His “hurry up, Elliott, you’re going to miss everything!” finally spurred me into action. I took a deep breath, and swallowed down the bile. I approached the room slowly. My hand was shaking as I lifted it to unlock the deadbolt. It turned easily. Slowly, every so carefully, I inched the door open a few inches. I closed my eyes, pressed my hand to my stomach, and peeked inside.
Instantly I saw the snake, high on a tree perch in the corner of the elaborate habitat Nate had constructed along the back wall. The door to the enclosure was firmly shut and latched. I stuck my head a little farther into the room, and tried to look around while keeping an eye on the snake and making sure she stayed put.
There, on the tiny table right by the snake, were my keys. Goddammit and mother fucker. Okay, okay. I could do this. The snake couldn’t get me from where she was, the mesh screen was firmly intact and there was no way she could get out. I inched into the room, took a deep breath and ran for the table. I snatched my keys up, and bolted, slamming and locking the door behind me. Panting hard, fear and adrenaline pouring through my veins, I leaned against the cool wood for a moment, trying to get myself back under control.
Another chime from my phone, and I was running from the house, barely remembering to lock the front door on my way out. It took barely twenty minutes to get to the zoo, and I parked illegally in staff parking before racing through the front door. I was there all the time, and I barely waved to the volunteer at the ticket booth. Agnes was a grandmother of eight, and the sweetest lady on the entire planet. She just laughed as I ran by.
It was late, and the zoo would be closing in about a half an hour, so there weren’t too many patrons still inside. Despite that, I had to dodge and weave around a few small children, and was ready to leap over a stroller until it was moved at the last second. I was panting hard and out of breath by the time I made it to the elephant enclosure, and ran around to the back where the stables were. Only then did I slow, take a minute to catch my breath, and then carefully and quietly push open the door.
I saw Nate right away, my beautiful husband wearing a huge grin. I walked quickly, my sneakers not making a sound on the concrete floor, and sidled up beside him. He startled, but as soon as he realized it was me, he tucked me under his arm and kissed my cheek.
“You made it just in time,” he whispered, and pointed into the stall.
There was no doubt about it, the birthing process was absolutely disgusting. And Amala was obviously in pain. It broke my heart to see it, and my already queasy stomach turned at the blood and amniotic fluid. But I still watched in awe as the tiny baby elephant made its way into the world.
Nate and a few other staff members went in as soon as they could, toweling off the baby and giving it and Mama a quick check. Amala had been born in this zoo fifteen years ago, and she considered Nate part of the herd, so she accepted the attention without fuss. I watched for a bit longer, before I headed down the aisle to visit with Indira.
Indira was still snuffling her trunk in my hair when Nate found us. He patted Indira’s trunk, gave her a few scratches behind her ear, and then turned a beaming smile on me.
“Amala is fine,” he told us both, one hand still on Indira. “And so is her calf. A beautiful baby boy.”
I had to admit, I was a little sad at the news only because it meant that the baby couldn’t stay with the herd. The zoo already had one bull elephant, and wouldn’t keep two. Jahi was only twenty or so, and had a lot of years left. The baby would be sent to another zoo in a few years, and that broke my heart.
Indira started making a growly noise, a stomach rumble she used to communicate with the herd. Nate did his best to soothe her. I knew she was anxious to check on Amala and the baby, but Nate had told me before that no one else would be allowed near her for at least a few hours. I reached up to pet Indira’s trunk too, hoping to help.
“What are you going to call him?” I asked softly.
Nate pulled a face. “The zoo will announce the birth in the paper and on the news, and then have a naming contest.” He rolled his eyes. “We won’t know for a few weeks what his name is.”
I scrunched up my nose. “We are so not doing that for our kids,” I teased without thought.
Nate sucked in a breath, and I realized what I said. I gaped at him, trying to take the words back, but I couldn’t make myself.
I shook my head quickly. “A conversation for another day. Let’s go look at No Name instead.” I gave Indira another pat, and then headed for Amala’s stall without a backward glance. I heard Nate following, and he caught up with me fast, grabbing my hand.
“I love you.”
I smiled. “I love you too. So much. I’m going to kill you later though, because I had to go in the snake room. So I guess we don’t have to worry about kids after all.”
Nate let out a happy laugh, and tugged me close, giving me a swift, deep kiss on the lips. “You can tell me the story while we watch No Name find his feet.”
I had to agree, that sounded like a pretty fantastic idea.