West Valley Safari Park Little Roots, Little Shoots


A cool breeze had picked up dirt and grains from the earth. Maxine shielded her eyes from the incoming onslaught at just the right moment, but that didn’t stop her, ”ACHOO!” which came from outside the wildlife centre.

She stood there, utterly still as she pulled her burrowed face back from her arm.

... Only to see that her jolt had caused half the pellets she’d purchased to scatter across the ground. :(


Parker was here out of cautious curiosity. She'd discovered while on a walk that the cat she always admired from afar on account of it being frightened of her decided she was not so scary after all. It'd let her pet it, which was a privately magical moment for Parker. Further experiments like walking beside dog walkers and feeding birds had resulted in... a change in behavior she hadn't expected. Animals seemed as friendly to her as they did for any human.

Testing it out on wild, exotic animals was daunting, but she had read about this place when exploring what Hollowstone had to offer. This was one of its shining jewels.

That was all beside the point. She was making her way back to her car, map and animal guide in one hand, cup of pellets in the other when the wind picked up. She lifted her hand to clutch at her hat, squinting at the dust, but jumped as the sneeze sounded from nearby. Blinking, Parker looked upon the woman who's presence seemed imposing, and saw that she'd spilled her pellets. Smiling softly, she moved to bend to start help pick them up, "I don't think the animals will mind a bit of dust." She reassured.
The last thing she could’ve expected was to be joined by another Were, but that was exactly what happened. A nice girl with a calm aura about her, dressed in fashionable fall clothes Maxine wished she would’ve known how to pull off.

The black bear loomed gently and curiously, as she did with most creatures that were smaller than herself. Her instinct to nurture was prevalent in moments like these.

”Don’t think so either,” Maxine returned just as softly, smiling. She lowered her cup and crouched with her, briefly pressing her nose against the sleeve of her t-shift before her fingers got to work picking the pellets up.

”Um...” She breached the topic with sheepish care. ”Didn’t expect to see someone else like me around here.”
The woman was very pretty and had a warmth about her that eased her initial intimidation. Whatever she was, she was large but seemed in control enough not to be a threat. It didn't stop the flutter of her heart in her throat at her willingness to address the similarities between them. Gathering the pellets in one hand, Parker nodded and averted her gaze away. "I... wanted to see if it worked with all animals." She explained, assuming the woman knew what "it" was. Or else she was here still under the assumption that animals hated their kind, and taking some kind of risk.
Shy thing, that seemed to hold her head away in a manner which was purposeful. And that was alright. Maxine understood the feeling. She pried her eyes away, dropping a handful of pellets and dusty earth into the cup. Didn’t look too pretty, but oh well.

She started picking up another handful.

”Far as I’ve seen, it works on horses and cattle,” Maxine huffed a laugh, trying to ease the mood. ”So I’m thinking it should be alright here, too.”

There was an offer to brave the task of novelty together somewhere there but hey, Maxine had just met her. And she was the one helping her be less of a mess, not the other way around.
Horses and cattle. Parker had not interacted with either in years, well before she had even been adopted. That being said, she felt some vote of confidence that things wouldn't turn disastrous on this excursion. Squinting briefly up at the woman, she smiled softly, "Do you spend a lot of time around animals?" Parker did, but they were much less alive than what she as implying now.
”Indirectly,” she told her, eyes bright to match her curiosity. Maxine even met her squinting gaze, pausing the task at hand for a second or two.

”I work wherever folks will have me on this side of town. Farms and ranches usually have some type of labour-intensive work to give me. So far... no problems with their livestock.” A small, content, shrug.

That was true. But she did also give them all an especially wide berth the closer the full moon got—but that was a separate topic.
Parker looked to the woman's hands as she explained. They were feminine, but not soft in a way that suggested she never used them. Instead, they bore the wear and tear of acting as tools. Her mother's hands had been the same way, she remembered. Her own hands were not so worn, but they were often dry from frequently being washed. She couldn't decide if she hated that. Anyway.

"That's good." Parker decided. Scooping up the last of the pellets, she reached to place them in the woman's cup, "I still think I'm nervous about this, though." She admitted. "I don't want a zebra bite." A small joke, delivered with a tiny sound that could pass for a laugh.
Maxine didn’t notice the small study she did of her hands. Timing and all that had her eyes back on the pellets. Not too many were left, but a few scattered to the wind all of a sudden, causing Maxine to laugh and groan at the same time as her own meek laugh.

”You could always hitch a ride with me. Make sure that doesn’t happen,” she offered then and there, just because it made sense to her.

And then she ushered the rest of the pellets onto her palm with the edge of her hand.
Oh. She looked to the woman's face briefly, wondering if it was some sort of strange joke. But she seemed genuine. Parker's initial response was to deny her, to assure her that she would be fine alone. But... well. She did think she may be less nervous if she weren't alone doing it. What if she talked herself out of feeding any animal because she was too cowardly alone? In the end, she also just felt too uncomfortable to deny the woman.

"Oh. Erm. Alright." She agreed with a small smile, sitting back some as she tucked her hair behind her ears. "I... don't want to intrude, though." She added her objection. Pitiful.
”No intrusion,” she quickly and easily abolished the thought, giving the cup a little shake. ”I was feeling sort’ve lonely anyway. No fun in doing this by myself.” Which was true, now that she’d said it.

Maxine rose with a smile, offering a hand to the young woman.
Right, Parker. It was rude to question her after she'd already offered it. Besides, she had her own intentions with inviting someone along, beyond trying to repay her for her help. Don't be so self centered.

"Well, in that case." Parker said with a small laugh, shaking her own pellets lightly. "Erm, who's car did you want to take? I have a Versa." Not quite an impressive car.
”Mine?” she said without much delay, dusting her dominant hand off the side of her pants. ”My Ford’s high up. Should keep you safe from any zebra bites,” Maxine spun it back around to her earlier concern with a chuckle.

It wouldn’t do much, really, but hey, maybe the sentiment would work?

Maxine... would begin leading them towards it, if the other Were was alright with it.
A truck was better suited.

"Alright." She agreed with a small smile, letting the woman take the lead. As they walked, she pressed her thumb against the side of her cup of palettes, squinting against another buffering wind. It would be better inside.... the woman's car. "Erm, what's your name? I'm Parker." She offered.
It was relative silence for a few moments. The sort that made Maxine a little nervous around strangers, but... at least there was a destination in mind. When the breeze picked up again, she shielded her eyes some with a glance to Parker.

”Maxine,” she revealed, smiling tightly like the sun was blasting her face. Except it wasn’t. Just dirt. ”You live around here or have you come from further in?”

Black Ford. There it was. Maxine unlocked it, but she wouldn’t swing around to the driver’s side until Parker had answered.
Maxine. It was an uncommon name, but pretty. Parker liked it.

As for her question, "Lauderhill." In short. She slowed as they neared the car, "But I visit Hollowstone often." Because it very stranger to keep it at a one word answer while readying to climb into a stranger's car. God, was this a stupid idea? No. She didn't seem untrustworthy. But wasn't it foolish to assume a woman had any better intentions than a man? What if...

Parker. It was fine. This was broad daylight in an enclosed park. It was going to be alright.

"What about you?"
To Maxine’s ears, that just meant she worked here or something along those lines. Though... Maxine wasn’t sure what a pretty girl like herself had to do in Hollowstone. Family business? Yeah. Not sure.

She answered her question when she’d lifted herself into the driver’s side, her own cup of pellets sitting between them. ”I’m over in Camp Baron myself. There’s a group of us over there,” Maxine confessed readily now they were... inside.

Oh, and she opened the windows after she’d turned the ignition on. Car safari things.

”Don’t know how familiar you are...?”
Camp Baron, not far at all. Parker had shifted there many times. She nodded in understanding. "Erm, a group of bears, right?" She questioned. Either Calvin or Adina had told her that. She settled into the seat, feeling uncomfortable in a stranger's car. There were small things that stitched together what type of person Maxine was, and she observed them as she buckled herself out of impulse.

The front was extremely clean, but a swift glance back through the rearview illuminated where the woman stored stray belongings. Nothing uncleanly, likely things for her job, possibly necessities for Weres. She'd learned after her two public shifts to always keep spare clothing in her car.

Anyway. She set her eyes on the road ahead.
Oh, she knew. That was gratifying in some strange way. ”Yeah,” Maxine huffed easily, fondly, as she began along the road. ”It’s um... five of us. You have a group of your own by any chance?” Or know anyone like her?
Yes, five bears. The number was needlessly intimidating. It was only one more than they had. But there was a difference between five bears and... really and amount of small cats. Though, Parker knew the size of their beasts held no stock in the threat they posed. Thus far Maxine was proving to be kind, so it was easy to assume the others she associated herself with were kind as well.

"Um, four of us." She answered. Four, what? "Cats. Black footed cats."
Hey, that name immediately rang a bell. Maxine gasped lightly in pleasant surprise, teleported to what... ten years ago?

”That’s sweet,” she said before correcting herself, offering a glance Parker’s way. Didn’t mean to sound patronising. ”Sorry. Mean they’re sweet. I’ve seen them before. Don’t reckon they might have them at this park?”

Not that they’d see them if they did, but!
It was sweet. Parker didn't read too much into it before Maxine rushed to elaborate. She meant black footed cats were sweet, that she'd seen them before. Oh, had she met someone else? Suri and Hope came to mind with the word "sweet", sorry Shane. But then... she wondered if there would be any here. "Oh, you mean wild ones." She said, unstitching her brow with a sheepish smile.

She hadn't thought about the fact that in some places, black footed cats were kept in captivity. They were wild cats, after all, for all they were small and unassuming. It was easy to live with your head in a bubble, believing you were some sort of rarity. Right. She opened the booklet she'd gotten with a guide to the animals in the part, scanning through the pages. "I think I only read about cheetahs."
If that wasn’t the expression of someone who wasn’t keeping up, Maxine wasn’t sure what was. So she uh... bit her lower lip in, glancing back ahead, eyes on the road.

”That’s alright then. They’re not too bad themselves,” she said brightly, but it was sort of a question?
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