The keys clattered as they fell from Susan’s hand. Tails. Right there in front of her were three red and white tails attached to her boyfriend. He turned and looked at her with a face filled with just as much shock as she must be wearing.
“Susan, I thought you were going to work.”
She couldn’t find any words as Mike quickly turned and shoved the tails behind him with both hands. Numbly, she finally spoke, “Jenny forgot her lunchbox.”
“Oh.” He turned to look towards the kitchen and all signs of the tails were gone. “Here, let me go grab that.”
As he rushed into the kitchen, she wondered if she might be going insane. Had they not really been there? Why would she have seen them then and why was he reacting so oddly now.
“Mike, what’s going on?”
“I’m sorry, in what sense?”
“Right now, what just happened?”
“Oh.. well, I just wasn’t expecting you home and you startled me.”
“You have three fox tails.”
“What? No, you must be seeing things.” He turned around to show a lack of tails. “See. Maybe you should call off work and get some rest. I can make breakfast in bed for you.”
“Don’t patronize me Michael!” Her voice cracked with strain that was matched only by the strain on her mind. “I saw fox tails.”
He sighed as he set Jenny’s lunchbox down and walked to her. Reflexively she pulled away as his hand came close, but he only shut the door behind her.
“I’ve been lying to you ever since we met. I am an Inari, a form of being that has been known as Kitsune.”
“Why, why would you play with my emotions, with my daughter’s emotions? Has this been a game to you?”
“No, of course not! Never. I fell in love with you and care deeply for both you and your daughter. You were never supposed to find out about this. It’s why I always refused to drink. I wasn’t willing to risk you finding out. I never should have let myself relax.”
“This is insane. It’s impossible.”
“Nothing’s impossible. Listen to me. I am not supposed to stay around if I am found out, but I refuse to leave you. I care about you too much. Promise me you will never tell a soul about this.”
“Mike, how am I supposed to even understand this, let alone hide it?”
“By trusting me like you always have. Take this.” He extended his hand and a small round gemstone rested in the palm. “I am tied to it. Keep it safe always and near to you. As long as you have it, I can never be far. Trust me that I will never lie to you again and will keep you safe always. You and Jenny, and her children and on until my final days. Please trust me, I love you and am never going to lie to you again. Just keep my secret.”
She stared at the tiny jewel in his hand, less certain of her sanity with each passing moment. Hesitantly, she took it from his hand. “I love you too.”