A Kitten for Leila
Their small, sometimes rather drafty apartment was looking pretty good to her as she stood with her arms full of bags looking out the clear automatic doors that belonged to the store she was leaving. For the first time in her life, she found herself wishing for snow.
The light flakes that were supposed to be dancing in the air on Christmas Eve were nowhere to be found, and all she could see as she peered cautiously through the glass was a wet sloppy mess. She found herself sighing as she shifted the bags in her hands as best as she could.
"Glad it's over?"
She turned to look at her long-time boyfriend with the most sarcastic expression she could muster, but it faded when she saw that he looked almost as bad as she felt. "I'm sorry that I dragged you out here," she said, shaking her head. "I thought I only needed a few things…"
"It's just like a woman to say a few when she really means more than you want to know." Flashing a smile at her, he dug into one of the bags he was carrying and poked at a comforter. "Who is this for, again?"
"Us." Slowly, the doors opened, and they found themselves standing in a slippery mixture of rain and snow. Without saying a word, they both hurried to their car and promptly threw everything in the backseat before sitting down. "I know it's not really what either one of us wanted, but… it's practical and it's not as if we have the money for those fancy HD televisions or a new laptop." She shrugged as he turned the key in the ignition. "As soon as I can get another job, maybe we can save up for something like that…"
"Just don't get fired from your next job," he teased, turning to look over his shoulder as he backed out of his parking spot. "I can always try to pick up some overtime, I guess. There's always somebody that doesn't want to work."
Looking out her window at the people who were busy doing their own last minute shopping, she found herself murmuring under her breath, "You work enough as it is."
"I know. But if I didn't, we wouldn't have all that food sitting back there for tomorrow's lunch, now would we? Or all those gifts for our families."
"Ahh, reminders of why I love you after all these years."
"Of course." He smiled before lapsing into silence for several minutes. They had been together for longer than anybody he had ever known- since High School, in fact. And they were still going strong, despite a few financial problems. As they pulled up to their apartment and parked the car along the street, he undid his seatbelt and looked over at her. "You go ahead and open the door; I'll get the groceries." Tossing her the keys, he got out and opened the back door on his side.
When he managed to fill his arms with all the groceries he could carry, he made his way slowly to their apartment door, but found his way blocked by the figure of his girlfriend crouched down on the sidewalk in front of him. "What are you doing?" he asked her over the mound of bags in his arms.
It was then that she stood up and whirled around. He wasn't quite sure if he contemplated running or not, but he did feel his stomach sink when he saw what she was carrying. A cat.
"Do you think we have room for one more this year?"
The blob in her arms was small, and his mind told him that it was most likely a kitten- the spawn of those…cats- and he couldn't even tell what color it was because of the dirt covering its fur. It mewed plaintively at him, and he inadvertently shuddered. "No way," he told her, shaking his head. "One, it's a cat, two, it's a cat, three, it's a cat…"
"Kitten," she intervened, rubbing the animal's dirty head.
"Let's not forget, four, we have to pay to have pets here. Besides, how can we afford to feed a cat when we can't even buy ourselves a Christmas present?"
"But we did." She tilted her chin and stared at him as stubbornly as she could, but he did not waver, and after a few moments of standing in the watery slosh that fell from the sky, she changed methods. "Matthew…it's cold out here…"
Suddenly, pleading eyes were looking at him- hell no, two pairs of pleading eyes- and he could only shake his head again. "No, no…we can't. And there's a reason God gave that thing fur, don't you think?"
She sighed in resignation, and he tried to ignore her as she set the little beast on the ground, murmuring softly to it as she gave it a few last pats on the head. "I'm sorry little baby, you can't come in with us…"
He wished that she didn't have the gift for sounding downright pathetic while talking with animals, because it was making him feel pretty damn guilty for leaving that miserable little furball outside, especially when Leila had lost her own cat of fourteen years the Christmas before.
A few minutes later, as they were putting away the groceries, he turned to see her staring out the kitchen window, her facial expression nothing short of regretful. He sighed, knowing that he would be sorry he ever said it, but… "Go ahead and give her some milk or something." He tried to make his tone as nonchalant as he could, but if he failed at it miserably, she gave no indication.
She only smiled widely and ran to get a saucer.
That night, after enduring an hour of Animal Planet, he tried to sleep. It wasn't working out for him very well, considering that all he could think about was how she had pointed at the screen, telling him how cute all the kitties were.
He buried his face in his pillow and pulled their new comforter over his head in an attempt to block out everything. I feel like a kid who can't sleep because they're excited about Christmas, he thought to himself.
After an hour, he still could not sleep.
Aww, look at that one, Matthew! Isn't he cute? Oh, and that one, too! Look at those pretty green eyes!
He was doomed. That was all there was to it. Death was inevitable.
Before he knew what was happening, he was outside in his pajamas and slippers with his coat on, looking around with a flashlight. "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," he called.
Any manly pride I had left has just been shattered, he muttered mentally to himself as he craned his neck to look under the porch. Suddenly, his light focused on two giant glowing eyes.
"…Here…kitty…" He looked around, almost like he was getting ready to break into someone's house and reached his hand out, rubbing his fingers together. "Here, kitty, kitty."
The cat did not move. Well, kitten. It huddled in the corner- of course it would have to be the back corner- unmoving, save for a few shivers. His shoulders slumped. Why me?
He thought about betting himself a million dollars that if Leila even walked out the door, the tiny ball of death and destruction would go flying straight for her. Unfortunately, she was asleep, and he wasn't about to wake her up. Hell, at least someone would be getting a Christmas present. And if she was happy, well…that made him happy.
He plastered a smile on his face and knelt on the wet, soggy, rather cold and kind-of slippery ground as he poked his head under the porch, pointing the beam of the flashlight near the cat—er…kitten- rather than in its eyes.
"Now look," he said, addressing the shaking ball of dirty fuzz, "if you come to me, I'll be nice to you, and I'll let Leila keep you. Until you die- I wouldn't want her to hang onto a rotting corpse. After you kick the bucket, I'll make her bury you, but until that day comes, you'll have a place to stay that isn't cold and disgusting." He looked at his pajamas and cringed. "I'll even …give…you a bath."
Why am I promising things to a cat? Oh…yes. Leila.
He could just imagine it… Oh, Matthew! You're the best guy I could ever hope to have!
He grinned. It was then when he felt a cold, wet, furry mass rub against his hand that held the flashlight, and it took everything in him to hold onto the light-giving object. His hand darted out quickly and he snatched up the blob, hoping it was actually the cat- because he had forgotten to look- and not a raccoon, possum, or otherwise nasty animal that could kill him.
Cats might be evil, but they certainly weren't deadly. Now, possums…with those long, thick, hairless rat-like tails…those things could kill. And the raccoons were out for his blood…possibly because he had run over one of their brethren when he had been but sixteen, and a new driver.
He shut his front door behind him and turned on one of the kitchen lights, groaning as he saw the dirt streaked all over his coat, his pajamas, his shoes, and…well, him.
He set the cat in the laundry room, shutting the door behind it. His mind was whirling.
It's past midnight. If I give it a bath…give myself a bath…and then maybe find a ribbon or something, then I can give it to her and still manage to get to sleep.
He had a plan! Well, it wasn't a break-into-a-government-building kind of plan…more like a …how-to-wake-up-when-your-girlfriend-hits-the-snooze-button-for-you kind of plan. But either way, it was a plan, and he was bound and determined to see it to the end.
He turned on the sink water, filling it with hot soapy water. Not too hot, not too cold…juust right. I'll bet Goldilocks never had to bathe a cat.
Then he imagined Leila's face as she threw her arms around him and kissed him senseless.
He grinned. He would walk away with many battle scars, he knew, but it would all be worth it in the end!
"You can try to eat me alive for all I care," he told the scrawny hairball. "But I still win in the end. Got that?" He found himself grinning again, and he wasn't sure if he was sorely disappointed or not when the cat just sat there and let him wash the dirt away. "What kind of monster are you?" he wondered aloud, half to himself. "I thought this would be more like…I don't know… something I might have seen on TV as a kid. Claws whirlin' everywhere, skin and blood flying…"
So much for my battle wounds.
After a few minutes, he could see that the cat in his hands was actually a calico- not dark like he had originally thought. He blanched when he looked at the muddy water in the sink, and quickly drained it. He washed dishes in there! Ahh!
He rinsed the beast off and quickly wrapped a towel around it before sitting down in one of the kitchen chairs, holding a clean, shaking bundle against him.
Is it possible to have negative manly pride?
After a few minutes, he went and shut the cat in the bathroom so that he could get clean clothes from his room. He snuck around his girlfriend, feeling like a spy in some awesome action/mystery movie.
As he left his room and headed for the shower, he mentally let loose with a cheer of satisfaction.
I would make such a great spy… or a ninja. Both are pretty cool.
I wonder if this cat is a ninja.
Only a few minutes later, he was enjoying the feel of the warm water against his skin- until the shower curtain started to move, and a little furry head poked up from underneath it to stare at him.
"No, you can't watch me shower," he told the monster, and pushed her back onto the floor.
He felt proud of himself for about thirty seconds. It only took him a moment to figure out that he would end up spending most of his time in the shower pushing the cat out.
Ten minutes later, he climbed out, only to see the kitten sitting on the bathroom counter, eyes trained on him. He could have sworn that it was trying to say, I will kill you, but Leila would later tell him he was insane.
He found it hard to ignore the feeling of having a cat watch him as he dressed. I'll bet it's scrutinizing every little thing. It's probably a ninja… watching my every move like that…it's just waiting for the perfect time to strike.
He picked up the calico and headed to the kitchen, swiping a spool of ribbon from Leila's stash on the way. Setting the evil down, he cut off a length of ribbon and hesitantly tried to wrap it around the animal's neck.
When his hand came in contact with the evil beast, he realized that there was no way it could ever be a ninja. Ninja are silent. This thing is loud…sounds like a motorboat…maybe even an airplane.
It must be a samurai.
The tying of the bow finished, he stepped back to admire his handiwork- or tried to, anyway. No matter how far back he moved, evil incarnate followed him.
There is no escaping death.
He grinned at the thought and scooped up his new stalker. "I would call you Death," he said, "but I doubt she would approve of it."
He went into his bedroom and deposited the kitten on his bed before crawling under his covers, and he found that sleep came a lot easier to him. Well, a few hours of it, anyway.
The happy screeching of 'Kitty' woke him up bright and early the next day.
"Oh my gosh, Matthew! I can't believe you did this! Were you planning this all along?"
If his half-aware state, he found himself smooshed between his girlfriend's happy squeals and bouncing hugs of delight, and a small fuzzy blob that was currently waking up on his head.
"Ohh, she's so cute! This is the best Christmas I've had in a long time!" She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her forehead against his, ignoring the kitten that had crawled onto her own head. "I love you, Matthew."
He was grinning so widely he almost didn't reply. "I almost died getting that thing for you," he told her. "But I love you anyway."
"No, not thing," she insisted before kissing him. "Chloe."
"Take two?" he asked, horrified. "No! No way! The first Chloe was bad enough. She was pure evil, and you know it. Why can't you give this monster a good name? For me? Like Death, or Ninja…or anything but Chloe!"
"Oh," she pouted, kissing him again. "Okay, how about… Bubblecup?" He paled, and she laughed loudly. "I was just kidding! Since you were such a good boyfriend this Christmas, I guess I could let you help me pick out a name. But not 'Death'! I can just imagine the names you might pick out for our kids!"
"You don't think "Death" would be a good name for our first son?" he asked her teasingly.
Rolling her eyes, she kissed him again. "No way. But we can talk about that later. Breakfast is ready, and this little family has to eat it before it gets cold. After we eat, we can always go back to bed." She rubbed her nose against his and winked at him before leaving, the kitten still standing on her head.
It's a ninja, he decided. She didn't say we couldn't name it 'Ninja'.
Then the rest of her words hit him, and he leapt out of bed faster than he ever had in his entire life.
Just some silly stuff. I felt like writing something not-so-serious, and also, it's Christmas, so who wants more depressing writings? Not me! Well, wait…that's a lie. I contemplated writing more depressing stuff today, but I settled with this. It's fun, and I had a blast writing it. Critique it lightly, guys, 'cause I wasn't intending to be totally grammatically correct here, or anything. However, please point out any spelling mistakes or exceptionally awkward wording.
This "Kitten" story is the second I've done. The first, I wrote…oh, years and years ago, for another fandom. This is completely different, and I loved writing it. There could be more cats in later 'fics. I mean, seriously…look at my screen name!
On a more serious note, I had my own personal "Kitten for Christmas" experience.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed something a little different. Merry Christmas!