[ 1 ] Hanna

Hanna spends all of her time sleeping or scrounging for her next meal. She tends to forage, and eat, alone. Insects are her favorite, and if it rains, earthworms. She’s having no problem at all finding either. It’s springtime. In no hurry, she digs into a thick layer of leaves matted against the trunk of a chestnut. Rooting through the humus she unearths an ample breakfast. This is earthworm paradise.

She senses the presence of another hedgehog. She never ever sees other hedgehogs. This one bumps up against her and retreats. He returns, nudging her with his nose. Again he retreats. Hanna is confused. She is intrigued. She waits on the chance he will return. He does, brushing against her hip. She turns. Her quills snag briefly in his. He slips away, returns, burrows his snout in her rib cage, and retreats. He circles back, easing up to Hanna, more waddle than swagger. Hanna gives him a poke. He stumbles, regains traction, lingering briefly on her quills. Then he disappears. Hanna flushes. She hesitates, rolling up into a ball. She waits, unfolding herself, blinking into the low streaming sunlight. She stretches. Here he is again, nipping at her hind legs. She turns, he is gone. She peers into the haze: nothing.

Then a rustling sound, muffled. She senses him before she sees him. He presses his side against hers. He rubs his back against hers, quill to quill. That tickles. With her snout she massages behind his ear. He makes some high-pitched chatter, hedgehog giggles. He sighs. She murmurs. Bumped now from the right Hanna rolls back into a defensive ball. The ball that is Hannah tumbles into a crevice between rock and tree. Fearful of getting stuck, she unravels herself and gets back on her feet. She backs out of the crevice tail up now bumped again, stung? Stung! Her muscles tighten a warmth oozing radiating from behind all the way to in front of her ears. Her inamorato buries his snout in her bosom, rolls against her quivering quills, lingers just a few more seconds on her prickly veneer, and is gone.

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