"Be my candle" Chapter 1

Dawn envelops the country landscape in warm orange light, as if it were tucking in the night for sleep.

Here there is no quiet morning, the birds herald each new day like nature's brass ensemble. The light of the sun shines brightest it seems just as it crests.

This rural farming town was named Pocamby, for it's founder. To those who call it home, it's their own dock on the lake called "Tri-burrows."

Rabbits call it home, but they aren't alone. Gone are the dark days of strife now, and all can lay their heads where they please. Fostered and built brick by brick, this paradise of soil and flora welcomes all.

But hidden under the surface, scars of the past bore their paranoia to the surface present. Manifested in mistrust, it undermines the calm peace and casts a doleful shadow over all beautiful mornings.

However sad, the sun's gift of gentle morning rays make their entrance as they always do and the community stirs.

Nick welcomes it, a little boy no older than nine. His life is an unwritten letter that stretches out before him. He's not written any sorrow in it, because he's yet to learn what it is.

With a yawn and a stretch he leaps forth into the day. Jubilated to meet with his friends, fellow literates still finding their voice...

"Momma, can we go to Bunnyburrow and play with Gideon?"

He was finding his voice, but he knew a few phrases. With any luck, his pursed lips and and pitiful eyes would see him to his desires.

His mother knew her voice. She'd written all of his phrases before, but his happiness was her favorite verse. So reluctantly she allowed his ruse to steer her decision.

"Alright... get your things."

With innocent joy for such small things he hurriedly gathered his belongings.

Gideon was his first friend, and a distant cousin. Even without their relation they were destined to seek each other out, because, they were the only two fox children in the county. Living a fair distance from each other meant that their play dates were a momentous occasion for Nick.

When they arrived the car could barely contain his enthusiasm. Despite his mother's stern reprimand he happily scampered to his cousin's doorstep without her. When it opened, Gideon's mother was startled but overjoyed to see her favorite nephew.

"Calm down Nicholas, Gideon is still sleeping I think, whoops-"

With a gasp she was skirted around by the little red whirlwind, who it seemed, would not be deterred.

"Oh my... I hope he's ready to get up!"

Reminiscent of her own youth she could only sigh and shake her head in amusement. Nick's mother shortly followed.

"He's got so much energy! It's hard to get him to do as he's told when he can't pay attention long enough."

They greeted eachother with a hug and got themselves settled in the living room.

"So... anything new?"

They were enjoying some coffee, and hoping they wouldn't hear anything breaking upstairs.

"Well..." Gideon's mother put on a solemn expression.

"Their little rabbit friend... Judy."

"Oh! You know I lover her, she's so scrappy!"

Nick's mother giggled, unaware of what was about to come.

"She's not doing so well..."

Gideon's mother was visibly concerned. Her face said that it was much worse than she was letting on. She put down her coffee and prepared her emotional strength to deliver the full weight of her words.

"She's blind... iris prolapse."

Nick's mother had seen alot of bad days. Her fortitude was like armor underneath her gentle and loving exterior, but this news didn't come easy to accept.

"Oh poor little thing, she had such big dreams... how are Bonnie and Stewart?"

"They're as well as they can be. Judy's getting better, but the doctor said she would likely never get her sight back."

Nick's mother looked deep into her cup of coffee. Reflecting on all the misery that came from such a beautiful morning, and counting her blessings.

From all of the sorrow she experienced in life, she drew the most important lessons. Be kind to everyone, enjoy your happy days, and should your neighbor fall down... pick them up.

"Nick! Come down here we're going to see Judy!"

The rumbling of little feet began and soon enough Nick and Gideon joined their parents in the living room. Gideon however was not so pleased at this news.

"Mom Judy's a girl, I just wanna play with Nick."

"I like Judy, she's a girl but at least she likes bugs."

Nick learned from his mother unlike Gideon. He saw her kind spirit and did his best to follow her example.

"That's my boy!"

She ruffled his hair with a laugh. She knew he looked up to her. So she wanted him to learn that true strength doesn't come from muscles.

"Are we going to tell them first?"

"No, sometimes you need to learn from experience."

On the car ride to the Hopps family farm Gideon's mother was wraught with anxiety. She didn't know how Gideon was going to react to Judy being blind. He wasn't as gentle as Nick and she wondered in hindsight if there was more she could have done to prevent it.

"Oh, I don't know about this..."

Nick's mother knew Gideon as well as she did, but she also knew Nick.

"Relax. Nick will take care of Judy. Right sweetheart?"

"Judy's crazy strong. She can take care of herself mom."

The Judy that Nick knew wouldn't let anything get her down. If trouble came knocking, Judy would answer. As sad as it was in the absense of his father Nick looked to Judy for courage.

Nick's mother giggled as they pulled into the farm. Judy's father Stu greeted them from the porch.

"Hey! It's the only foxes I like!"

Judy's mother Bonnie elbowed him in the ribs as a reminder not to be rude. She greeted them both with a hug.

"Oh it's so nice of you both to stop by. Judy's... a little down, but I'm sure her friends can cheer her up!"

She turned to Nick and Gideon with a wink and shooed them into the house.

"Jude's upstairs guys! Be nice!"

Stu made sure they had their bearings before resigning himself to the shed outside.

Nick and Gideon raced each other up the stairs to see who could get to Judy first, but they were stopped dead in their tracks when they saw Judy sitting in bed with the covers over her lap.

"Judy?"

Nick felt like something was off about her. He had basic instincts that he picked up from his mother.

"Nick!?"

Judy turned her gaze in the direction of his voice. Her face lit up with joy to hear Nick's voice. With a goofy buck-toothed grin she hopped out of bed... only to run into her dresser and fall.

Judy was still Judy. She was trying to live her life the same as it had always been for the short time that she'd been on this earth.

...But without her eyes she was slowly losing hope. Big dreams of escaping the farm and venturing out into the world, becoming a police officer and making the world a better place, and perhaps starting a family one day... all gone in an instant.

Gideon was not so empathetic. He pointed and laughed as Judy tried to pull herself up. Until Nick shoved him,

seemingly out of nowhere.

"Don't laugh at her!"

As Gideon rubbed his elbow and started to cry, Nick went to Judy and helped her up.

"F'anks Nick... I knew you weren't a jerk."

Her baby teeth gave her a slight lisp that Nick thought was funny, but his mother taught him well. He knew not to laugh at someone who was sad.

As Gideon continued to bawl Nick got his first good look at Judy. Her glassy eyes were fogged over with cataracts. Nick didn't know what was wrong, but he paniced.

"Mom! Something's wrong with Judy!"

The sound of four parents storming up the stairs made Nick feel like Judy was dying. This was his first sentence written in sorrow and it scared him.

"Judy! Are you ok? Why won't you look at me!?"

No matter how hard Judy tried to look right at Nick she couldn't tell where his eyes were. She tried to feel around his face, but she couldn't find them.

"Judy!"

Bonnie and Stu arrived in the room first, unaware of what was going on. Nick and Gideon's mothers soon followed.

"Mom Judy can't see me!"

Poor Nick was sobbing with regret, thinking only of all the times he was mean to her... that he was being punished somehow.

Stu scooped up Judy and brought her to her bed while Nick's mother sat down in front of him.

"It's ok sweetheart, Judy's gonna be ok."

She wrapped her arms around him and stroked his head to calm him down. She knew that Nick was going to be upset, but she didn't expect this.

"Dad is that Nick crying? Where is he?"

Judy was worried to hear all of the crying. She was starting to feel worthless, that she couldn't be there for her one good friend when he needed her.

"He's ok Jude, just worried about ya' somethin' fierce."

"I'm taking Nick downstairs for a talk."

Nick's mother picked him up and carried him back down to the living room and sat him on the couch next to her.

"Nick, Judy's ok." She wiped his tears and reassured him.

"But mom she couldn't see me!"

Nick was still bawling, he simply didn't understand.

"No she couldn't, but she's not dying. She's going to be ok so stop crying alright?"

Nick's sobs slowly weigned into the occasional sniff before his mother continued.

"Judy's gonna need you alot more now Nick. She's gonna be relying on you to look out for her because she can't do it herself anymore..."

"But why mom?"

"Well, she can't see very well. I'll tell you why when you're a little older but for now... I need you to be strong like mommy."

Nick wiped his nose on his sleeve. He'd been watching his mother for a long time and he knew what she meant. He was scared, but he wanted to be just as strong as her someday.

"...ok."

"That's my boy!"

She held him for awhile until Gideons mother came down. They decided it would be best to leave for today...

If Judy couldn't see Nick would look out for her, but he didn't know then tha he wouldn't get the chance for another twenty years...