The pair of tiny bright eyes stared at him from the shadows.
“I can see you.”
“No, you can’t. You only think you can see me because I want you to.”
“Oh?” He said, sipping his hot cocoa. “And why exactly would you do that?”
The bright eyes blinked behind the bushes.
“I know you have it.”
“And I suppose you want it back?”
There was a long pause while seven fluffy tails shifted around, as if trying to make up their minds.
“I’m… not sure.”
“Now that’s really unexpected. I was convinced you were ready do anything to trick me into giving it back.”
“Oh, I was, believe me.”
“So what changed?”
“You piqued my curiosity. You knew I was coming?”
“I just knew.”
“Is that why you put two cups on the table?”
“I thought you might be cold.”
The bright eyes disappeared for a moment.
“I can’t take it back, it’s become part of you now.”
“Is that what’s happened?”
“Yes, it no longer belongs to me.”
He thoughtfully took another sip from the steaming cup and carefully observed the bright golden pearl lying in the middle of the table.
“I thought you needed it.”
“I do, but it has chosen to stay with you.”
“I wonder why, I didn’t ask for it.”
The fox chuckled, nothing the surprise on his face.
“You didn’t try to bend it to your will, so it freely gave itself to you. You discovered it’s secret without even trying, that’s what made me curious.”
“What will you do now?”
The fox lowered its eyes.
“I don’t know. Return to the forest and go back to being Just a regular fox.”
“Maybe we can share? She did call you back and even let me know you were coming.”
The fox stepped out of the bushes and sat in the middle of the garden.
“Sharing a magic pearl with a human? I’ve never heard of anything like it, and I’ve been around for a really long time.”
“There’s always a first for everything.”
The golden eyes looked straight into his, probing deep into his soul. He could swear he saw a faint smile pass briefly thru the long silver face.
“You know? I think I’ll have some of that cocoa now, if it’s all the same to you.”
“It’ll be my pleasure.”
As he carefully filled the cups, the fragrant smell danced around them in the cool night breeze.
They both smiled.