October knew she should go home. The sun sat low on the horizon, its golden light transforming the city from something ordinary to something magical. From her perch on the hilltop graveyard, she could see the whole thing laid open like a flower, waiting.
She knew she should go home, that her mother would be wondering what trouble she’d gotten into now, that her twin sister November would be hunched over a book in the floral-patterned armchair by the fireplace that didn’t work, that dinner would be filling the house with the tangy smell of onions frying in butter.
But October didn’t want to go home. She did not want to face the tension riding just beneath the surface, her mother a taut string ready to snap at a low grade or messy bedroom, a phone call from a boy or an impolite sigh. She did not want to guess what kind of mood her mother would be in, whether or not it was safe to bring up her desire for a guitar or November’s progress in taming the feral cat that lived behind their house.
October wanted to stay with her back against Temperance Overholt’s headstone until the light died and the chill settled in and she could imagine the grave was her own. She had picked that one because the woman it did belong to had died October 31, 1898—exactly 100 years before October was born. It wasn’t just a headstone, either. A long and ornately carved bed of granite stretched from the headstone to the foot of the grave, turning it into an excellent makeshift throne for a sixteen-year-old girl.
The fox emerged from the golden twilight so quietly, so gradually, that October didn’t notice his presence until he opened his mouth and deposited a small, white object at her feet.
She recoiled out of instinct, nearly toppling off the grave. When she recovered her balance, she looked from the object—a small bone—to the fox, and back again, unsure what to make of the animal’s gesture.
The fox sat expectantly, head tilted to the right, ears forward, whiskers trembling. Something about the way he held himself seemed familiar, but October couldn’t pinpoint what. His fur glowed fire red in the light from the setting sun.
Slowly, barely daring to take her eyes off the fox, she reached for the bone. She expected it to be dense and heavy, but when she lifted it, it felt more like air, smooth and cool to the touch. The bone curved like the outline of her mother’s ear, the ends of it flaring out where they would have connected with other bones and sinews that would have come together to form an animal.
“Why?” she asked out loud, to herself as much as to the fox.
The fox opened his mouth in a toothy smile and, just like that, he melted back into the twilight.
October sat on Temperance Overholt’s grave, her fingers wrapped around the small bone. That niggling feeling of familiarity buzzed around the edges of her consciousness, but try as she might, she couldn’t bring it to the surface.
So she sat until the light faded away, and the chill settled in, and her fingers had worried the bone so thoroughly she knew its every contour, waiting for the fox to return, to tell her, somehow, what it meant.
But the fox did not return. Compelled by cold and hunger, October walked home, worrying about the bone in her left hand. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come—an omen of death or catastrophe. She paused at her front door, her hand resting on the doorknob. She would turn the bone into a necklace, she decided. A symbol that she was not afraid of what might come. October opened the door and stepped inside.