Part 2 of 2 of the Welcome Home series. Frinkel moves to the small forest town of Morning Vale to get away from it all. She soon finds this move out from the city will change her life in more ways than one.
By Calex The Neko
Having a plan was always helpful. How likely said plan was to pay off didn’t even matter. Just the act of doing something helped Frinkel feel more confident. Everything was going to be fine now! It was simple!
Find a job.
She tried not to think about the fact that this was more a hope than a plan. For now she continued to work her way through the forest back to the center of town. She was a little surprised at how easy this was. Despite the fact that she was barefoot the various sticks and leaves upon the forest floor didn’t seem to hurt her. It was as if her feet had gotten hardier over the last night. Considering she had woken up with a fluffy raccoon tail this morning… That was more than possible.
And she had become aware that there wasn’t just a physical change. She had been so nervous and freaked out when she woke up she hadn’t noticed at first. Even after that it took awhile to realize something was off… Or more accurately completely missing. There was no sense of lethargy clinging to her every movement. Frinkel felt… Strangely energetic! It even felt like she could breathe easier. Perhaps that was just a side effect of being out in the country? The air had to be a lot cleaner here than back in the city… That was certainly a logical explanation. If she didn’t have a pair of raccoon ears sitting upon her head she might have even believed it was the only explanation.
Frinkel reached the bridge that went over the stream that divided the town. The scenery changed from here. The area was more developed. It wasn’t up to the level that she would expect from a normal town… But now the buildings looked like small huts built from stone or bricks instead of wood. The walkway changed from natural paths where the grass had been treaded down to small cobblestone trail. There were lanterns alongside the trail. They were low to the ground and still unlit since it was early in the day. As Frinkel passed one she realized they weren’t electric. She could see the halfway melted candles within the glass containers.
What were the odds someplace would be hiring? She had to wonder that. This town wasn’t very big. How often was there actually a need for new workers? The odds weren’t in her favor that-
“HEY!” Frinkel was interrupted from her thoughts by excited shouting. It took her a few moments to see the source. There was a purple mouse in a modest dress and apron rushing towards her. She was roughly half Frinkel’s size. “You!”
“M-me!?” Frinkel squeaked. She felt her tail curl around her legs bashfully. The fact that her tail was giving away her emotions only made her more nervous.
“Yeah, you! Freakishly tall person! You’re new here!”
“N-new? Me?” Frinkel asked.
“I mean new to the town!” The mouse gave an exasperated sigh. “You visiting, or a new citizen?”
“O-oh!” Frinkel avoided her gaze. “I moved in yesterday… H-how did you guess?”
“I’m not sure if you’re aware but you kind of stand out here.” The mouse crossed her arms and looked Frinkel up and down. “You’ll fit in eventually don’t worry! But it’s really obvious right now.”
“I see…” Frinkel was the only human that lived in town. Well… Mostly human. Still she supposed if there were any other humans here they would have stood out.
“So look, getting to the point, you already have a job here or what?” The mouse placed her hands on her feet.
“W-well no…” Frinkel admitted. “I was actually looking around to see if any place was hiring and-“
“MINE!” The mouse shouted. “Everyone saw it! I found her first! She’s mine!” The mouse roared as she shook her tiny paw in random directions. There didn’t even seem to be anyone else around.
“Um…” Frinkel wringed her hands nervously. “I… Don’t mean to be rude but I have no idea what’s going on.”
“What’s going on is I just hired you.” The mouse replied haughtily. “I’ve been shorthanded for five years. We finally have some fresh blood and I am not waiting around and letting someone else get you first! Now come on! You can start right away!” She grabbed Frinkel by the sleeve and tugged on her.
“What?” Frinkel was pulled along in complete confusion. She did need a job but… She hadn’t exactly expected one to literally fall out of the sky. Though in this case it was more like one had just suddenly slammed into her on the interstate. “Hired!? For what!?”
“To wait tables mostly.” The mouse replied with a shrug. “Sometimes you’ll have to help out in the kitchen.” She dragged the raccoon through town until they came to a small brick building. The structure itself looked like it was only big enough to contain one room if even that. However there was a small pavilion set up outside consisting of about four tables each beneath an umbrella. There was a large sign hung up on the side with cursive letters that read ‘Macy’s Cafe.’
“I take it you’re Macy?” Frinkel asked.
“Yup!” Macy smiled wide. “The sole owner and employee of Macy’s Cafe! It’s not much right now, but it’s all I could handle by myself having to do all the cooking, serving and cleaning on my own! But now that you’re here! Big things are coming! You just take care of getting the customer’s orders and taking their food and that frees me up to be in the kitchen full time!” Macy unlocked a door on the side of the building. The inside was a little cramped even just for Macy. Frinkel wasn’t sure she could even get in there. Looking inside though it looked like it just a normal kitchen, just a small one.
“Okay so I’m just a waitress?” Frinkel thought she could handle that. Now that she had time to process what had happened she realized she may have just lucked out. Getting a job on her first day in town would keep her from having to tap into her savings.”
“Yup!” Macy came out of the kitchen holding a second apron. “I’m not too picky on what you wear… Just make sure you wear this over it! It’s basically your uniform. I know it’s probably an awkward fit now but it’ll be fine…” Awkward was a good description. As Frinkel donned the apron she found it was barely long enough to cover the top of her thighs.
“So… I just start right now?” Frinkel asked as she looked around. There weren’t exactly any customers.
“Yup! Right now is good!” Macy nodded eagerly. “It’s probably not going to be a huge rush today. No one knows I have new hired help! So enjoy the slow pace while you can! I bet this time next week we’ll be packed.”
“R-right!” Frinkel nodded. “I’ll do my best!”
The day was slow as promised. Frinkel didn’t mind that too much. It gave her time to get her thoughts together. After about an hour customers slowly started to appear. She had seen a fox, a cat, an old hen and a cute bat couple before the day was over. They had each been polite. Some had given her an odd look at first but they moved past that quick. Each of them identified her as someone new to the town. Frinkel was starting to get the feeling this was a really close knit community.
That or she really was the only human to ever come here… But that felt so unlikely. Sure this place was out in the middle of nowhere… But the train ran out here! And she had found her new cottage listed on the internet. The place was hardly completely cut off from society. Surely other humans came here.
Then again… As she finished clearing a table and taking the dishes to the kitchen she found herself looking down at her own tail. She wasn’t completely human herself anymore. She supposed that probably should have felt more strange… But… She kind of liked having a tail.
“Well looks like that’s a wrap.” Macy took the dishes from her and deposited them in the sink. It was too difficult for Frinkel to fit inside herself leaving just Macy to do the clean up. “Doubt we get anyone else today. Your wages are up on the counter. Make sure you’re back by 10 AM tomorrow!”
“Wait you’re paying me already?” Frinkel turned to the counter as she spied the envelope. She had never heard of any job paying the same day you were hired. Usually these things took two weeks.
“Yeah, yeah, you worked today didn’t you?” Macy seemed confused. She didn’t seem to understand that this was abnormal.
“Well yes…” Frinkel muttered. She opened the envelope then nearly dropped it as she counted the bills inside. It was hardly a fortune… But it was more than she made per day at her old job! And she had done so little.
“Then I guess that means you get paid today.” Macy shrugged. “Just remember you’re only getting paid for days you show up.”
“Uhhh riiiiight.” Frinkel didn’t understand. For days she showed up… Wasn’t she always supposed to show up to work? Macy almost made it sound like she could just play hooky anytime she wanted. “Thank you!” She turned to leave.
“Hey!” Macy called Frinkel one more time before she left. “Don’t forget this.” She shoved a white box up onto the counter.
“What is it?” Frinkel asked as she spun back around.
“Dinner.” Macy replied with a grunt. “Something tells me you’re the type that doesn’t always plan things out. Bet you hadn’t considered what you were eating tonight.”
“Um well…” That was true… Frinkel hadn’t bought groceries yet. She supposed with what she got paid she could have gone out to eat but she hadn’t really thought about it.
“Don’t expect a freebie every day.” Macy smirked. “I was just in a good mood! Well off with you!”
The walk back home was easy in the evening end. Frinkel was tired from a full day of work, but she wasn’t physically fatigued. Considering she had been up on her feet all day (and without even shoes) she figured at least those would be sore! But as she looked down at her paws she saw they were-
Frinkel stopped in her tracks. Her feet were covered in blue fur that went up to her shins. She lifted up one foot to stare at it. There was a black pad underneath the foot. That would explain why walking around barefoot was so easy now… But when had that changed? She still had human feet when she woke up this morning!
And yet… She didn’t feel that surprised. She already had a matching tail and ears, why not have paws?
For now she continued back to her home. There was a package waiting on her front doorstep. She remembered what it was as she saw the note from it.
‘These don’t fit me anymore! Hope they’re a better match for you! With Love, Brook.’
Frinkel smiled as she brought the box in along with her food. She doubted anything that Brook had outgrown would fit her… But it was a nice thought. She opened the box and found a series of sweaters and skirts inside. They were really cute. Frinkel blushed at the idea of wearing them. But… Brook had been so nice… It would be rude not to try them on.
Frinkel quickly slipped out of her clothes and into the new figures. She discovered an interesting feature in the skirt. There was a hole in the back for the tail. That wasn’t too surprising considering everyone had tails here… But she saw that it had a strap with an adjustable button. She could easily resize the tail hole to a number of different options. She fit it to her raccoon tail and then looked down at herself.
The clothes fit perfectly.
“I… I don’t understand…” Frinkel muttered. The clothes couldn’t have fit her better if they had been personally tailored! But… Brook said they didn’t fit her anymore… And Brook was a lot shorter than Frinkel. If the squirrel had outgrown them then Frinkel would have been way too big. It just didn’t make any sense…
They didn’t go out and buy her clothes did they? But why lie about them being hand-me-downs if they did that… Frinkel couldn’t figure it out. For now she decided it was best just to eat her dinner and get to bed.
The world was different the next day… But it took Frinkel a few minutes after waking up to figure out why. It was only when she got dressed in Brook’s old clothes that she figured out what. The skirt and sweater were slightly too big on her despite fitting perfectly the night before.
Frinkel had shrunk!
It wasn’t a whole lot… But her house was noticeably roomier now that she was aware of it. It was hard to figure out her exact height… But she was certain she was closer in height to her new animal friends than to a normal human.
Height wasn’t the only thing that had changed. The fur covering her paws had extended all the way up to above her knees now. Similar blue fur had also grown in over her hands. Her fingernails had transformed into short black colored paws. If this had happened yesterday she probably would have freaked out… But having had time to get used to the tail and after finding she had paws it wasn’t even surprising now. It was just… Expected.
In fact… It was almost embarrassing just to admit to herself… But she kind of liked it. Part of her wondered how far these changes were going to go. Would she be a full animal person like Brook or Macy? If that happened… It really wouldn’t be so bad.
Thinking about Macy reminded Frinkel that she had work! Ugh… But she hadn’t had breakfast yet! She still hadn’t had a chance to get groceries so there was nothing here to make herself. She could go see Brook again… But the squirrel had already done so much for her… It felt wrong to impose.
There was no choice. She was going to have to skip breakfast for now! She did work at a café at least! If it was slow maybe she could buy something for herself to eat! Frinkel nodded to herself. That was a plan! And she quickly headed out the door for Macy’s cafe.
“Well glad to see you’re an early riser!” Macy greeted Frinkel as she arrived. The mouse had been half Frinkel’s size yesterday. Now Frinkel was only two heads taller.
“Ten A.M. really isn’t that early…” Frinkel smiled politely.
“Maybe not for you.” Macy huffed. “Alright, let’s go ahead and get-“
“What… What was that!?” Macy’s eyes widened as her ears flattened. “It sounded like the bloodthirsty roar of a savage beast!”
“Um…” Frinkel clutched her stomach. It was embarrassing that it was making so much noise.
“Did you not eat breakfast this morning?” Macy asked as she backed away from Frinkel.
“I haven’t had time to get groceries…” Frinkel smiled meekly. “I was hoping I could sneak a snack between customers.”
“Unbelievable.” Macy rolled her eyes. “Take the day off and get yourself sorted out.”
“What?” Frinkel stared at the mouse in disbelief.
“Look, if you drop dead from hunger you’re not going to be a very useful employee.” Macy shrugged. “And then I’ll be back to doing everything myself. Besides, it’s not like you planned to work seven days a week did you? Gotta have some time to yourself. At least get the basic necessities of living out of the way.”
“Oh um thank you…” Frinkel bowed her head meekly. “I do probably need to grab a few things for the house and-“
“Oh…” She blushed at the noise her stomach made.
“Oh my gosh just eat a bagel or something!” Macy threw a toasted bagel straight at Frinkel’s head. “I swear if your stomach goes off one more time I’m going to have a heart attack!”
“Waaaah!” The bagel managed to smack Frinkel right in the face before she caught it. She didn’t need to be told twice to eat. She could feel the relief the second she began tearing in.
“And don’t you think about starving yourself before work in the future!” Macy growled. “I’m not going to save your tail every time you forget to take care of yourself!”
“Y-yes ma’am!” Frinkel nodded. She gratefully finished the bagel before leaving the café. A day off… Obviously the first step was to get some groceries. She hadn’t explored this downtown section much but she was sure there would be a market somewhere.
She was right.
The market was larger than Macy’s cafe. For starters there was room for Frinkel and other customers to get inside! Frinkel didn’t even have to bow her head to get under the door… Granted given her new shortness maybe that was going to be less of a problem going forward.
Shopping at least proved to be mostly the same here as it was back at her old home. Food was food. Considering the oddities she had encountered since moving here she half expected all the food items to look strange and unusual. Like weird shaped fruits and bizarrely colored vegetables! But… It was just a normal grocery store. The only thing odd about it was the fact that it had a deer at the cash register.
And at this point that didn’t even register as strange.
“Find everything okay?” The deer asked as he looked Frinkel up and down. She couldn’t help but feel like he was staring.
“Pretty much…” Frinkel replied. “Was surprised you still sell all the main brand stuff out here.”
“Most of it comes by train.” The deer replied. He continued to eye here while he bagged the groceries.
“Is… There something wrong?” Frinkel asked.
“It’s… Nothing…” He looked down for a moment. “Just… Ya know your clothes are a bit too big on you right?”
“Ah…” Frinkel blushed at that. “I would have sworn they fit me last night though…” She muttered.
“Yeah… I get that…” The deer looked strangely nostalgic for a moment as if he was thinking about something. “You know the town tailor is right next door. You might consider seeing him before you head home. He did wonders for me when I first moved here a few years ago.”
“R-right!” Frinkel remembered Brook had also mentioned the town having a tailor. She didn’t think hand tailored clothes were going to be in her price range anytime soon… But then again she hadn’t planned on having a new job so soon or getting paid each day she showed up to work. “I’ll go there next.”
The tailor turned out to be a cozy little shop. Whoever owned it wasn’t very neat. Rolls of fabric, many unraveled were thrown everywhere across the shop. It took Frinkel a solid two minutes after she came in before she realized the place wasn’t carpeted. She was just standing on top of discarded blue fabric.
“A customer!?” A short hedgehog appeared wearing thick glasses and overalls. He peered at Frinkel as she entered… Though that wasn’t right… He was studying those clothes. “These threads… I recognize them. I made those two years and seventeen days ago. Oh this will not do. They’re not fitted for you at all.” As he spoke he rushed forward to be almost face to face with Frinkel. He was studying how the outfit hung off her body as if making complex calculations in her head.
“Ummm you’re a little close…” Frinkel muttered.
“Sorry…” The hedgehog bowed his head. “I’m a bit near sighted, even with the glasses.” He took a few steps back. “So you’re another new neighbor huh? Guess that means you’re gonna need the works.”
“Well… Yes…” Frinkel said. “I don’t really own any properly fitting clothes right now.”
“Don’t worry about it!” The hedgehog smiled and held out a hand. “Gus is the name! And this is literally what I live for! I’ll make you a week’s worth of outfits to start.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea…” Frinkel muttered. “These did fit yesterday and… I’m not sure anything I get today will-“
“Nonsense.” Gus held up a hand. “I know exactly how to handle this. I’ve done this for everyone here for the last thirty years. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure the colors match both your tail and mask.”
“What mask?” Frinkel felt herself ask but she was already catching on. She slowly reached up a hand and touched her face. She could feel fur over it. Part of her face was pushed outward like an animalistic muzzle. She didn’t need a mirror. She understood what was going on by now and had a pretty good idea.
“Surely you didn’t just now notice your own face?” Gus clicked his tongue. “Youth today, so busy they can’t even see themselves.”
“Should I just let you work?” Frinkel asked.
“Perhaps… Let me just get your measurements and I should be able to guess the right sizes from there!” He grabbed a tape measure out from his coat pocket.
“What do you mean guess?” Frinkel’s tail twitched in annoyance. “If you have the numbers you have them!”
“I’m simply planning to make sure they fit you for quite awhile.” While Gus spoke he was moving in circles around Frinkel. He took out the tape measure multiple times and held it up close to her without ever actually touching her. The strange thing was it was almost as if he never looked at it. He simply seemed to understand the exact measurement he got simply from his fingertips touching the measuring tape as it came out. He was done in a few seconds. “I’ll have your first outfit delivered by morning! Rest of them should arrive in a couple days.”
“Thank you?” Frinkel stared in confusion. He was going to make an entire outfit from scratch over night?
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve gotten quite good and quite fast at it.” He nodded.
Frinkel found her back of groceries shoved back into her arms and then pushed out of the shop. Gus… Wasn’t quite as friendly as everyone else. But at least he meant well. She supposed for now she should probably just get home and get her food put away before it went back.
Plus… There was something else she wanted to check.
After the food was stored back at home Pilfer retreated to the bathroom. There she looked at herself in the mirror. Her face was covered in fur, as was her entire body at this point. There was a darker blue mask of fur that went directly over her face.
“That seems about right…” Frinkel stared at the raccoon person in the moon. It was hard to believe it was really her… Yet… It was hard to explain… But she almost felt like she identified with this face more than her human face.
For the most part she was looking like the other animal villagers now. She was just a bit bigger. She suspected that was going to change. She wasn’t going to be surprised by it… And she wasn’t going to be scared.
She was looking forward to it.
And when she woke up the next day she felt only relief that she had shrunk again. She was now half the size she had been as a human, making the house she lived in perfectly sized for her Outside her front door was a package from Gus. She was worried her new clothes would have been too big… But as she found a skirt and sweater similar to Brook’s she discovered they fit her new body perfectly.
This place… Now that she was used to it… It really felt like it might be where she belonged.
This was home.