"Fergus and Marigold" by Andrea Wahbe — Our June 2019 Silver Medal Winner

by - Friday, August 16, 2019

Andrea Wahbe is our second place winner from the contest posted in our June, 2019 issue!

What the judges had to say:

"Great, unique approach!"

"The story is a simple, elegant parable. It does not cheat or give in to sentiment."

"I enjoyed the unique approach to this story, between animals rather than humans. It caught me by nice surprise, was somewhat serious but also whimsical. I enjoyed that paradox."

Meet Andrea:

Andrea Wahbe has been writing non-fiction stories and content for technology companies and blogs since 2011. Earlier this year, she challenged herself to try writing fiction. This is one of her first short stories. Andrea lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two children.

The photo prompt:

  the unedited story:

Fergus and Marigold

by Andrea Wahbe

Like many first loves, Fergus and Marigold fell fast and ignored all natural laws and reason. It didn’t matter that she lived in a burrow on one side of the stream that divided their houses; raised as a vegan with her affectionate race of rabbits. Or that he grew up in a den on the other side with his omnivorous fine-fellowed foxes. They saw beyond their differences—mismatched creatures with conflicting dietary requirements.

Their attraction was fierce from the moment Fergus pounced out from behind a hollowed out fallen maple tree and startled Marigold. Rather than fleeing for her life, she stayed put and glared at him as if to say: Take your best shot. Her valour blew his mind and captured his heart.

Sadly, the unexpected spark that almost set their Simcoe County forest ablaze was extinguished the day Marigold saw Fergus devouring her extortionist cousin Tabitha’s entrails. “You disgust me,” Marigold scolded Fergus whose heart sank when she caught him red-pawed.

“I can’t help what I am. The stomach wants what the stomach wants,” Fergus said as he spat out a half-digested clump of fur and foolishly tried to hide the evidence behind his back. “You hated her, so I thought you wouldn’t mind. Besides, she knew about our relationship and kept threatening to tell your father unless you brought her wildflowers to eat every day.”

“It’s not the point! You lied to me,” Marigold said, then told him she needed time apart to think. Fergus had sworn when they first met he would only hunt mice and birds. And never in front of her.

As the summer days bled into autumn, Marigold had to decide: would she grant her foxy man another chance or end it all? She wasn’t sure she could forgive his transgression. Nor was she certain Fergus could abstain from eating other rabbits forever.

Still, Fergus knew a prize bunny like Marigold might only come around once in a sly fox’s limited lifespan. She had it going on from her twitchy pink nose to her round bushy tail and those glorious, hippity-hoppity hind legs. Whenever they were together, Fergus would inhale her intoxicating
meaty aroma—making him salivate. The fact that their love was taboo is also what made him so irresistible to Marigold.

The days were getting shorter, and soon they would each hunker down for the winter on their respective sides of the stream. Fergus didn’t have much time to convince her to reconcile.

On a cloudy autumn afternoon, Fergus and Marigold stool still; not making eye contact in their secret meeting place by the fallen maple tree. Their awkward silence was interrupted only by the wind rattling the musty, termite-ridden bridge, which was only fifty feet away. Moments before their rendezvous, the ancient wooden structure had still supported a safe passage for Fergus—back to where their romance began. Yet, it desperately needed repairs.

Fergus’ pulse raced for what felt like an eternity, and each of the hairs in his fur coat stood on edge as he awaited her verdict.

“I’m not sure I can ever look at you the same way again,” she said finally, her eyes still peering down at the rough, decaying leaves beneath her front paws.

“I’ll do whatever it takes!” He pleaded.

“Prove it.”

“Okay, I’ll abandon my family and start my own den on your side of the bridge. I’ll only eat what you eat; even through the winter.”

“Just tree bark and shrubs?”

“Sure, if it’s what you want.”

“Alright, you have until spring to show you can survive like a rabbit. If you’re true to your word, we’ll run away together and start over in another part of the woods.” As she turned to hop away, she added: “Don’t disappoint me.”
Fergus scampered off and found a spot nearby where he spent the next few weeks digging his new home and eating whatever vegetation he could find. Marigold would often watch him from a distance, making sure he was sticking to his promise. Fergus could always smell her coming and would try to give her a little show by flexing the powerful biceps in his front legs—reminding her why she was attracted to him in the first place.

As more time passed, he began to worry about surviving the winter without any protein to keep him healthy and warm. His coat wasn’t thickening up like it used to, and he didn’t have his family or Marigold to snuggle up to on frigid nights, either.

In early December, Marigold noticed Fergus was looking thin and frail when she spied from afar one day. What am I doing to him? She thought.

The next night was the coldest of the season so far, and Marigold felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I must go to him; she decided and snuck out of her family’s burrow at midnight.

Fergus’ stomach growled as she hopped lightly into his den and lay down beside him. “Try to bite me, and it’s over,” said Marigold. “I’m only here to help you make it through the night.”

“Understood,” Fergus said, not wanting to test her patience. He stayed awake to savour every moment of her presence. She also smelled incredible, and he didn’t want to give in to primal urges. Fergus eventually fell asleep after Marigold slipped away at dawn. He awoke mid-morning and found a lifeless bird outside his den. A hunting rifle bullet had punctured its chest. Am I forgiven? He wondered.

Assuming it was a peace offering from Marigold, Fergus quickly swallowed the entire fowl. He let out a long, satisfied sigh and licked his lips. When Fergus looked up, he watched Marigold’s magnificent hind legs and white cotton tail disappear behind the fallen tree. A few minutes later, he heard a loud creak coming from the bridge that first led him to his love, and it finally collapsed under what he presumed was the weight of the newly fallen snow.

[Read the first and third place stories]

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