As the animals roll like waves of sea and grass, Gretchen buries her face in the coat of fur belonging to a fox. The fox promptly screams, but not out of fear. Rather, its screams are that of excitement, for the fox has never before felt the touch of one unlike itself. Wagging its tail and panting, it doesn’t lessen the quickening of its feet, and yet it does allow the strange girl to accompany him. Homing in on the light, its eyes are mesmerized, and yet the touch of Gretchen’s nose upon its fur causes its heart to spin like a wheel. Raising its head, it leaps over a giant puddle of mud that to its tiny frame is more akin to a lagoon. Landing on the other side, not on its feet but on the back of a grumbling badger, the fox turns and eyes up the little human clutching onto his shoulders. The girl has no need to hold onto him, for like the birds overhead, she flies the same as them. No, the girl holds him tight so as to catch a sneaky sniff of his shiny red coat. Breathing deeply, Gretchen smells nature and magic. The scent of nature reminds her of wet leaves in autumn. The way they soak on the sidewalk before turning crunchy by the kiss of the chilly sun. Such leaves she picks up and takes home with her to place between the pages of the books her father passes her behind her mother’s back. Her mother only allows religious texts, but her father sneaks her tales of fantasies from The Jungle Book to Alice in Wonderland. Reading them as quickly as she can, she begs her father for more, and more often than not each week he slips her a new book to feed her growing appetite. She keeps them all hidden behind her wardrobe, crunchy leaves and all.