Oh what’s this just another heartbreaking scene. From Libba Bray’s The Sweet Far Thing. Move along now nothing to see here
A hedgehog flies from the safety of a bush, startling me. It darts past us in a terrible hurry. Kartik nods toward the furry little thing. “Don’t mind him. He’s off to meet his lady friend.”
“How can you be sure?”
“He has on his best hedgehog suit.”
“Ah, I should have noticed.” I say, happy to be playing this game-any game-with him. I put my hand on the tree’s trunk and swing myself around it slowly, letting my body feel gravity’s pull. “And why has he worn his best?”
“He’s been away in London, you see, and now he has returned to her,” Kartik continues.
“And what if she is angry with him for being away so long?”
Kartik circles just behind me. “She will forgive him.”
“Will she?” I say pointedly.
“It is his hope that she will, for he didn’t mean to upset her.” Kartik answers, and I am no longer sure we speak of the hedgehog.
“And is he happy to see her again?”
“Yes,” Kartik says. “He should like to stay longer, but he cannot.”
The bark chafes against my hand. “Why is that?”
“He has his reasons, and hopes his lady will understand them one day.” Kartik has changed direction. He comes around the other side of the tree. We are face to face. A palm of moonglow reaches through the branches to caress his face.
“Oh,” I say, heart beating fast.
“And what would the lady hedgehog say to that?” he asks. His voice soft and low.
“She would say…” I swallow hard.
Kartik steps closer. “Yes?”
“She would say,” I whisper, “‘If you please, I am not a hedgehog. I am a woodchuck.’”
A small smile plays at Kartik’s lips.
“He is fortunate to have so witty a lady friend,” he says, and I wish I could have the moment back again to play differently.