Laying snuggled in between her Aunt Amy and Aunt Janelle, Cotton woke up to several songbirds singing outside and the early morning sunlight streaming around the curtain hanging over the window. She didn't move at first as she was super comfortable laying between her aunts, but then she remembered that they were going shopping today! With this, all thoughts of lying in bed deserted her. Sitting up with a bounce, Cotton looked back and forth between her aunts, then shook each of their shoulders, saying, "Wake up! Wake up! It's morning!"
Janelle and Amy both groaned at the interruption to their sleep, but Cotton ignored their lack of desire for waking up and said, "Come on, we going shopping today! So get up, get up, sleepy heads!"
Amy and Janelle laughed at Cotton's words, but realizing sleeping in longer would be an impossible task, they decided to roll out of bed with their exuberant niece so they could get their day started.
As Amy made her way to the bathroom while Janelle began getting dressed, Cotton skipped down the hall to Vivian's room. Pushing the door open, Cotton bounded over to the bed and up onto the flower-patterned comforter. "Gramma Viv! Gramma Viv! It's time to get up! We have to get me my flower dress for the wedding tomorrow!"
A soft smile touched the corners of Vivian's lips as she cracked a deep, sky-blue eye open to see the cream-colored bunny sitting on the bed beside her wearing an oversized, lavender t-shirt as a nightgown. Janelle had borrowed a few clothes from Judy for herself and a nightshirt for Cotton last night before they made their way to the loft apartment. With a wider smile, Vivian murmured, "Good morning to you, too, Cotton."
Hearing her grandma's greeting, Cotton sat up a little straighter and hastily said, "Good morning, Gramma Viv." Trying to be a little more polite, Cotton added, "Can we go shopping now?"
Vivian laughed softly, then reached over and ruffled the fur between Cotton's soft ears. "Yes," she replied warmly, "we can go shopping, but first we need to get ready and have some breakfast, don't you think?"
"Yeah, I guess," Cotton said as her ears drooped slightly. She really wanted to go shopping with her aunts and Gramma Viv and didn't to waste time doing anything else. Just then her little tummy growled, telling her she better at least eat first.
Vivian laughed softly at the young bunny as she stared down at her traitorous stomach. Throwing the covers off, Vivian stood up, saying, "Come, Cotton, let's get dressed and fill our bellies, then we can go shopping."
Looking up from where she sat rubbing her belly, Cotton flashed Vivian a bright, buck-toothed grin, saying, "Okay, I get dressed." Hopping off the bed, she disappeared back down the hall while Vivian walked to the closet and pulled out her outfit for the day: a nice pair of baby blue jeans and a dark blue blouse covered in little white, yellow, pink, and purple flowers with little green leaves. The dark blue of the blouse was the same shade as the darker flecks in her deep, sky-blue eyes.
After quickly dressing, Vivian nodded to herself in the mirror (she always liked the way this outfit looked on her as it set off her reddish orange fur), then made her way to the kitchen where she found Amy making pancakes while Cotton and Janelle were sitting at the breakfast bar and chatting with each other. With a bright smile, Vivian joined them at the breakfast bar, to which Cotton and Janelle began asking her more questions about the city and some of the tourist attractions they might be able to visit on Wednesday.
Finnick planned to take them to a few places, but Vivian mentioned a couple places she wanted to take the girls, especially little Cotton. One of the places wasn't necessarily a tourist attraction, but someplace she knew Cotton would absolutely fall in love with: an old toy store down in Savannah Central that was run by an old friend of hers and John's. She hadn't been there in years, so she hoped the family of bears was still in business.
Once the pancakes were made, they sat down for a hearty breakfast, then headed outside, across the backyard, and around to the front yard, with Cotton pulling on their paws and urging them to go faster. It had been so long since anyone had taken her out to get new clothes and she couldn't wait to visit all these new and fascinating stores. As they made their way across the soft, green grass (with the adults laughing softly at Cotton's exuberance and excitement), Cotton had a hundred different visions of her flower girl dress flashing through her mind. What would the dress ultimately look like? She couldn't wait to find out.
Since Vivian still had the jeep keys from using the jeep the previous evening, they were able to bypass the house and go directly to the sky-blue jeep with the black trim and hard freedom top. As they piled into the vehicle and started down the road, Cotton was a regular chatterbox as she asked about all the sights and places they passed by. Since she had been in a box when she arrived at Uncle Nick's place, everything was new to her.
In the Meadowlands, most of the neighborhoods and stores were clustered together here and there with large swaths of grasslands, rolling hills, and stands of trees and woods stretching out between them, with a lone farmhouse out in the middle of fields used to grow the tall grasses, hay, alfalfa, and grains the large herbivores and megafauna enjoyed eating. Many of the smaller herbivores enjoyed the grass and alfalfa, too, but they generally ate far more vegetables and fruits in their diet than the much larger herbivores.
To the bunnies in the car, the Meadowlands looked a lot like Bunnyburrow, just with areas where much larger buildings were built which had little Cotton's eyes going wide when they drove passed some of the large mammals' houses and stores.
Of course, after leaving the wide-open spaces of the Meadowlands, they entered the outer edge of the Rainforest District, with its towering trees and constant rain, before heading downtown on their way towards the larger shopping districts in Savannah Central. As they passed through the enormous skyscrapers of Downtown, it wasn't just Cotton's eyes who grew as big as moons as the bunnies stared at the massive glass-covered buildings towering over them, with their unique shapes to represent the mammals who built them. The sunlight reflecting off the thousands and thousands of windows that covered the skyscrapers further dazzled the country bunnies.
After several minutes of driving among them, Vivian gave a warm chuckle and pointed out that if the girls continued staring with their mouths gaping open, they were going to swallow a fly. The bunnies all snapped their mouths shut, even as Cotton bounced in her seat while pointing out the window. "But Gamma Viv, they're sooo big!" Tapping the window with her dull claws, she pointed at the colossal skyscraper covered in glass that was shaped like a massive horn that was slightly twisted as it soared up into the sky.
With a bright, toothy smile, Vivian replied, "Yes, Cotton, it is big, massively so. These are all corporate buildings where hundreds and hundreds of mammals work each day. I believe that particular building is for the Herds and Grazing corporation that deals with a lot of the larger herd mammals."
A thoughtful expression crossed Cotton's small face as her little pink nose started twitching, then she asked, "Is there a big building for rabbits to work in?"
Vivian's brow raised at Cotton's insightful question, then she nodded. "There are a couple of rabbit run corporations, and the buildings are quite impressive themselves, but they aren't quite as tall and massive as these buildings. Since rabbits are much smaller mammals, you can have the same number of rooms and floors of the buildings and yet take up a quarter of the space as these buildings built for larger mammals and the megafauna."
Cotton nodded, then turned back to look out the window. Janelle was just as awestruck at the massive buildings as her young niece had been, and so she had listened to Vivian's answers quite closely, even as she wondered where the rabbit corporation buildings were and what they looked like. Coming from Bunnyburrow, most rabbits, well, burrowed, so thinking of a two-hundred floor, or even a one- hundred floor building where a bunch of bunnies worked was hard to imagine.
Amy, too, was impressed with the skyscrapers as the thousands of windows made many of the buildings look blue as they reflected the bright blue sky and a few puffy clouds floating by. When she had seen the buildings from the sky two days ago, she thought they looked really cool. But getting a bird's-eye-view of them was a lot different from seeing them from the ground looking up. Seeing how the corporate buildings soared into the sky, she couldn't help but think of the incredible feats of engineering that went into constructing them.
Leaving the massive skyscrapers behind as they continued on towards Savanah Central, the jeep drove over several bridges that crossed over the many rivers that ran through the city, and then they entered Gnu York at the southern part of Savannah Central. There were so many stores and restaurants here, with a hundred different species coming and going on the sidewalks, that all three bunnies had their faces pressed to the dark tinted windows as they had never seen many of the species, predator and prey alike, that were found on the crowded sidewalks.
Smiling at the stunned bunnies, Vivian drove down one crowded street and then another until she came to the Kings Plaza Mall, a five-story mall where she planned to do most of their shopping. Pulling into one of two ten-level parking garages, with five levels below ground and five above, that were situated at either side of the mall, Vivian drove around to the fourth level above ground before she found a spot to park. After turning the car off, she turned to the excited rabbits she was now related to and asked, "Well, are you girls ready for some shopping?"
Cotton had her seatbelt off and the door open before Amy or Janelle had a chance to respond. Hopping up and down on the concrete floor of the parking garage, Cotton looked through the opened door of the jeep and cried, "Come on, you guys, let's go shopping!"
The adults all laughed happily to see Cotton's excitement, and then they hopped out of the jeep, to which Amy and Janelle immediately grabbed one of Cotton's small paws to ensure she didn't get lost in the crowds, as well as prevent her from taking off to look at something, and thus causing them to lose sight of her. Walking beside Vivian, the three rabbits walked through the door of the parking garage and into the Kings Plaza Mall and promptly dropped their jaws again as the sight before them stole their breath away.
As they had parked on the fourth level of the parking garage, they'd entered the mall on the fourth floor and the sheer size of the mall had the country rabbits gaping. The central part of the mall looked down onto the ground floor of the mall, with a large balcony/walkway circling it in a large oval shape, with all the stores situated around the central part of the mall. The balcony railing was brass with thick glass filling the spaces between the brass railings, allowing shorter mammals to look out and down the central part of the mall.
All three bunnies had the noses pressed up against the glass as they looked down through the mall floors. The ground floor had many kiosks spaced apart from one side of the mall to the other, with a large fountain situated in the middle with a lot of tables and chairs situated around it as the food court was situated on left-side of the fountain with its sculpted dolphins, sharks, seahorses, swordfish, and crabs spitting water from their mouths.
Looking up, they saw the roof of the mall over the central region was a vaulted ceiling made up of hundreds of clear-glass windows that allowed the bright sunshine to stream in and light up the whole central area of the mall, with the sunlight reflecting off the spray of water from the fountain and causing several mini rainbows to flash here and there around the fountain.
But as amazing as all that was, what really stole the spotlight was the huge aquarium that started on the ground floor and went up through all five floors of the mall. The aquarium was situated on the right-side of the central part of the mall, across from the food court.
Pointing at the colorful fish swimming through the clear-blue water, Cotton began hopping up and down again as she looked up at her Gramma Viv and exclaimed, "Can we go see the fishies! Pretty pwease!"
With a happy laugh, Vivian nodded, saying, "Of course, we can. But to get the full affect, we should start on the ground floor and work our way up." Cotton nodded her head repeatedly and Vivian led the rabbits over to one of the escalators leading down. Once they arrived at the ground floor, she led them over to the massive aquarium with its thick glass and myriad of colorful ocean fish, rays, small non-aggressive sharks, octopus, crabs, snails, and starfish.
The rabbits couldn't believe what they were seeing, and even Vivian wasn't unmoved by the colorful display of oceanic life. The floor of the aquarium was covered in soft, silky white sand, with patches of seaweed, sea anemones, and sea cucumbers scattered around it. There were also several rocks and large boulders, with a few of the boulders having arches in them. Growing atop the boulders were several species of colorful coral that gave the fish someplace to hide in. There were clownfish, angelfish, lionfish, and so many more they didn't know the name to. There were even several spotted eels playing among the rocks, along with several different species of octopus, a few of which had bright blue, fluorescent circles and spots.
And then, not least of which, were the sharks. There were several species, most of which were bottom/sand dwellers. The pale-yellow nurse sharks swam in groups, while the spotted leopard sharks were a bit more solitary, though they didn't mind the company of their own kind. The small, 3 to 4-foot, striped bamboo sharks were seen hiding among the shadows and crevices of the rocks waiting for night to fall before coming out as they were a nocturnal species.
Cotton and Janelle kept pointing excitedly at the different fish they spotted, with Cotton hopping up and down. Seeing such a young bunny jumping up and down in front of the aquarium brought a lot of looks from the mammals passing by, but none said anything, at least not to their faces.
Ignoring the crowd passing by behind them, Amy was quiet as her gaze roved all over the fish, sharks, and coral she saw. Although this wasn't Sea World, the older doe figured this was the next best thing. Lifting her paw, she lightly ran it across the glass as a large leopard shark swam by, even as a warm, wide smile spread across her lips. This trip to Zootopia was way better than she could ever have imagined. Between meeting Finnick and Nicholas, and then getting a personal tour over Zootopia, and now seeing these aquatic animals up close and personal—this was one vacation she would never forget.
With this thought in mind, Amy stepped back and pulled out her phone to take pictures. Cotton immediately agreed with pictures as she wanted lots of pictures to show her sister, Sasha. Although the crowds would be uncomfortable to Sasha, Cotton knew her sister would like to see pictures of this place so she could draw them later.
After taking pictures of the lower level of the aquarium, they went up to each level and took more pictures. Cotton was having so much fun looking at all the interesting fish that she momentarily forgot their reason for coming to the mall. Once Vivian reminded them of their main purpose of visiting, though, Cotton put thoughts of the fishies out of her head as she became focused on dress shopping.
As Vivian led them to the various dress stores in the mall, they all had a blast trying on different dresses until they found just the right one. Amy and Janelle found pale lilac dresses with a silky feel to them that had similar vine and flower patterns as the ones on Judy's wedding dress. Vivian picked out a green velvet dress that complimented Nick's eyes, seeing as Amy's and Janelle's dresses complimented Judy's eyes.
When it came to Cotton's dress, they ended up picking up two flower girl dresses as Vivian didn't want Cotton going home with a new dress while Sasha was left with nothing. Both dresses were white with large, bright flowers in pinks, purples, and reds with light and dark green leaves. The two dresses had the same design, but one dress's flowers were several shades darker than the other, though still bright. This dress Cotton picked out for Sasha as her fur was a dark-charcoal color instead of Cotton's light cream color. The adults all agreed with Cotton's decision and thought the darker dress would look beautiful up against Sasha's dark fur.
Once they had their dresses picked out and bought, Vivian took the rabbits to a children's clothing store to pick out several outfits for Cotton to wear during her stay over the next few days. And, of course, she also bought an equal number of outfits for Sasha. Although she hadn't yet met Cotton's twin sister, she still planned to spoil her and let the little bun know she wasn't forgotten, that someone was thinking of her.
Cotton had a blast trying on clothes and modeling for her aunts and gramma. The only thing she missed was Sasha's presence, though she knew her sister would be uncomfortable in the crowds and having to try on several different outfits. Cotton's only consolation was picturing the happy smile on her sister's face when she presented all the new clothes to her. Cotton also couldn't wait to tell Sasha all about their new Gramma Vivian and Uncle Nick and Uncle Finnick. She had so much to share with her sister that Cotton was torn between wanting to go home and see Sasha right away and staying in Zootopia longer to spend more time with her new family members.
After picking out new clothes for Cotton and Sasha, Vivian led the bunnies down to the food court to buy lunch. By this time, it was already 11:30 and they were all ready to sit down and enjoy some good food. Although several mammals had given them funny looks since three rabbit does were hanging out with a vixen, only a few mammals actually looked disgusted (which was a huge change from the last time Vivian was here at the mall many years ago). Most people were too busy going about their own business to care about a few crazy rabbits and a fox.
It wasn't until they were nearly done with their lunch that someone tried making a scene, but Amy and Janelle both were quick to put the specist aardvark in his place and tell him where he could shove it, with Cotton standing up in her chair to shake her finger at the small-minded mammal in defense of her Gramma Viv. The bigoted aardvark was taken by surprise at the irritated bunnies who told him in no uncertain terms that they didn't need his help and that it would be best if he left. The aardvark normally would have stuck around to argue, but in the end, he left with his tail between his legs as the irate rabbit does were scarier than he thought they would be. Bunnies were supposed to be quiet and timid, weren't they?
Vivian chuckled softly to herself to see Amy and Janelle stand up for her and put the specist prey in his place. It had been a long time since anyone except another fox was willing to stand up for her and it was a refreshing feeling. Not in her wildest dreams would she ever have imagined that she would be taken in and accepted by a bunch of bunnies, but seeing how her family had suddenly grown, Vivian wasn't about to complain. Nicholas had been right: the future was looking a whole lot brighter.
At the Bunnyburrow Train Station 211 miles away, Sasha stood with one paw clasping her Uncle Justin's paw while the other clutched her white stuffed bunny that reminded her of Cotton. The thought of leaving the only home she knew and traveling so far away scared her, even if it was just for a few days, but her twin sister was waiting for her and so Sasha tried to be brave. The fact she wasn't alone and that her Uncle Justin was with her helped immensely.
Most of her aunts and uncles were loud and moved too fast for her, so Sasha didn't like spending time with most of them, but Justin was different. He talked softly to her and was very patient with her, making Sasha feel more grounded. Uncle Justin also took the time to explain things to her so she understood what was happening and making sure she was doing okay. Her uncle's slow way doing things around her helped keep her from stressing out worse than normal. Uncle Justin even promised to find a less crowded part of the train to sit in. Knowing this helped Sasha get through the crowded train station as they waited for the train to arrive at noon, which was only a few minutes away.
With a twitch of her ear, Sasha's dark-charcoal ear twitched as the sound of the distant train could be heard above the noise of the crowd. Looking up, Sasha was too short to see the train, so she waited patiently until it thundered into the station. Uncle Justin waited until most of the other mammals had gotten on the train before leading her on, to which Sasha was grateful. She didn't like the idea of being jostled by the crowd.
As they walked down the aisle of the train looking for a seat, Sasha was surprised when Justin led her up to the observation deck of the large train. There were few mammals here and the large windows made her feel like she was outside in the open instead of crammed into a small box. This relieved a little bit more of her stress at being in an unfamiliar someplace. Although, as a rabbit, she was comfortable in small spaces, she only liked being in small places she was familiar with.
The idea of being stuck in a box with a bunch of other mammals she didn't know had upset her a bit, but now, she could breathe. Watching the trees and grassy fields speed by outside the large windows was also nice and gave her something else to think about besides the thought of being in a large, crowded city with lots of people she didn't know. But her sister was in that city, and she didn't want to wait another several days before seeing her again. Sasha took a deep breath and squeezed her Cotton plushie a little tighter while trying to be brave. Uncle Justin said the train ride would be just over two hours and then she'd get to see her sister again.
Sasha was feeling excited at the idea of finally seeing her sister again, even as she continued feeling anxious about being in a strange city, but neither emotion showed in her movements right now.
Unlike Cotton, who was very expressive in her words and actions and rarely hid how she felt, Sasha found it difficult to express her emotions. Whether she was happy or sad, anxious or excited, stressed or relaxed, she always looked calm on the outside. It was only those, like Cotton, who spent a lot of time around her who could tell with a simple look how she was feeling. The only time she really showed her emotions was when she was feeling her emotions especially strong, like today when she felt so depressed and lost. But most of the time, her emotions rarely showed on her face.
Sasha had even heard some rabbits and others back at Bunnyburrow saying how she was such a quiet and happy kit without a care in the world. Hearing things like this always bothered her as the other mammals had no clue what they were talking about. Most of the time, when she was in town (going to school was the worst), Sasha felt stressed and anxious while wishing she could just go home, so hearing other people say she was happy without a care in the world was like a slap in the face.
The only time she felt truly happy and at peace was when she had Cotton nearby as she sat and drew her pictures. Drawing always calmed her down and she hoped the foxes Cotton was staying with would let her draw (she'd been told that Nick's mom was visiting, as well). Would they understand her like Cotton did, or would the foxes think she was fine just because she didn't show her emotions like everyone else? Uncle Justin assured her that the foxes Cotton and Aunt Judy were staying with were very nice and wouldn't do anything to hurt her.
Uncle Justin even said that Judy and Nick were holding a special little party Tuesday evening which was the reason he was returning today. Cotton even had a special place at the party, and he thought she, too, would have fun at it. Sasha wasn't sure, but Uncle Justin assured her that the party was small and private, so she wouldn't have to worry about a large crowd. He also said he was looking forward to all the pictures she was going to draw of the party.
Sasha still wasn't too sure about the party, but if Cotton was going, she figured she could at least draw pictures of Cotton. She was also curious about what kind of party her Aunty Judy would be having with her fox friend. Since a bunny and a fox was throwing a party together, Sasha figured it would at least be interesting since most foxes and bunnies didn't get along.
Hugging her white plushie a little tighter, Sasha hoped this trip would be a good one and that she could actually make some good memories. What would it be like to live with a fox for a few days? What would it be like to live in a city? And was Nick's neighborhood really quiet and spacious if it was in a large, noisy city? She had heard several of her great-aunts and great-uncles complaining about how big and noisy the city was, with too many large predators, and how it wasn't any place a decent country rabbit would want to live. They especially got loud and obnoxious about this idea over the last few months, every time the news came on about another savage attack.
But Aunty Judy and her friend Nick put a stop to the savage attacks so it should be safe now, right? Sasha hoped so. But since her Uncle Justin said it was and her sister Cotton felt safe enough to stay, then it must be. With a deep breath, Sasha held onto this idea as the miles sped by.
WingedKatt here. Sorry this chapter is so late. I've been struggling to find some uninterrupted time where I can focus on the story. But here it is. Enjoy. Next chapter, we'll see Nick and Judy getting ready for their day in town, as well. Can't say when the chapter will be out, but I'm not giving up on the story. It's just taking longer to get them out.
I hope you all have a great weekend. Take care and be safe. If you have any thoughts or questions, let me know.