I crouch low and swat at the fly buzzing around my head. Shaking the box of Nilla Wafers, I peer through the brush and croak a hopeful "Eeeep?"
In response she licks her lips, meanders parallel, and moves away a step. My eyes follow four dainty cloven hooves mincing noiselessly through the web of undergrowth.
"Taaaaborrrrr! C'mere, Tabor. Want a cookie?"
From behind me comes a breathy little voice "Ma-ma!" Beep is watching from Cabbage's arms at the fenceline.
"Hi, Baby. Mama's talking to Tabor. See the deer? Eeee-eeep! Eeeee-eeep!" Come on, Tabor. Come take a cookie.
I can see her there, with her doppelganger sisterhood. The others warily pick their way through brush and around trees with one eye on me. She, however, studiously ignores me. She's part of the in-crowd now, and I am the interloper.
I decide I don't like Tabor's new ringleader. The doe is tall and thin, and she regards me with a suspicious air. She stays between me and her band of lady-deer, convincing them she's the boldest. But I know she'd be the first to race away, leave them unprotected, save herself and desert my Tabor with her scarred leg, her damaged tendons.
Don't fall for her, Tabor. Come home.
I see you, my Beep-Beep. I see you there, picking your way around and through the land in back of Cabbage Ranch. I'm glad you're having fun, but it's been a week. You're going to have a baby. There are coyotes out there and you can't run as fast, jump as high, or survive as well as the others. Let them do their thing and take their chances. Come home.
She wanders further away and I throw some cookies out, along the fence where Cabbage has been leaving water and corn. We will feed them all rather than see her go hungry. The wire fence is pushed down low enough for our sweet little Tabor to hop over it easily, even with her imperfect leg. I don't think she will. She's too busy asserting her independence.
In some ways I'm really okay with Tabor finding her own way, but my beloved has a soft heart and a worried look in his eye. He looked for her for days before his first sighting, which was gleefully texted to me with a photo and many exclamation marks. I know he'll use his persuasive powers (and corn) to keep her coming back daily, and when the time is right he'll coax or carry her back over the fence.
But as I watch her fade away, I know today isn't that day. I stand, and close the box of cookies, and walk to the gate. I take Beep from Cabbage and point to the white legs now barely visible in the lowering night.
"See the deer, Baby? Her name was Beep before it was yours. That's what we called Tabor when she was a baby like you. Call for Tabor."
The baby's high voice rings true through the cooling night air "Taborrrrrr! Corrrrn!"
"Good job. Bring her home."
Above us, the night turns cerulean blue and my baby points to the sky and says, "Moon?"
The moon has her face tilted and partially hidden, as if resting wearily in her hand.
"Yes, Baby. That's the moon."