The mansion was often empty during the day when the master was out, save for a ball of fur darting across the floor in search for household pests.
A lonely little kitten named Shoe was killing time until his ears perked towards the familiar jangling of keys in the distance. He would then scurry towards those glossy mahogany doors to greet his owner as they swung open; the tall figure in red and white would laugh and stride through the premises with gifts, flowers and women in each arm.
While Shoe was quite relieved to have company after a day of watching the house, he grew to be quite careful around strangers. Shoe's owner often came home with a mainly female entourage who would shower the kitten with as much attention as they pleased. There were times he balked at the scent of strong perfume and yelped when mischievous fingers tugged at his tail or held him too tightly as he was passed around.
Since his teeth were too blunt and his claws too short to defend himself, he would scamper away for a dark place to hide until his master came to his rescue and drove the overexcited assailants away upstairs.
Shoe could tell by the noises reverberating through the ceilings the master was punishing the guests for mistreating him.
Whenever the two of them were alone in the house, his master would lovingly stroke his fur and make sure he was well fed before retreating into the den. Through the pet door, Shoe could catch a glimpse of the man chuckling with a glass of wine before a cluster of glowing screens. From there it was a habit for the kitten to then climb up on the chair and into his master's lap to sleep. Despite his best efforts, Shoe could never wake early enough to keep his master from walking out the door and leaving him alone in the house again.
Matt Engarde was a celebrity with an image to maintain. By sheer luck he had found a newborn kitten shivering inside a shoebox among a litter of feline corpses in the rain. The onlooking fans had a field day watching every precious moment Matt feigned pity and held the tiny bundle in his arms as he whisked it away in his limo to the nearest vet. Much to the dismay of the managing staff at Global Studios, it was becoming difficult to keep the fans under control as they put up with his antics. The event made gossip headlines and brought more giggling schoolgirls, fame-seekers and industry execs to his doorstep.
It thrilled him to see his rivals twist in envy each night through spy cams he planted in their homes. With that "refreshing nice guy" visage cemented in the minds of the ladies he brought home, Matt made a huge display of taking care of Shoe in front of them just to watch their faces ache for his attention. Their ridiculous expressions made his fingers itch for something else to dig into to keep himself from laughing. Making the ladies swoon was simply too easy for any celebrity to do, it would feed his insatiable burning ego to have them desperately cling onto him even after using and abusing them as he pleased. The more fame he garnered, Matt knew he had to step up his game to keep ahead of the competition.
In preparation for another season of the Nickel Samurai and its upcoming movie, Matt was often called away from home and had some of the staff stop by to feed the kitten while he was out. There was no way he'd allow himself to be emotionally attached to an accessory, but Shoe was a convenient little toy who was there when Matt needed him to be; as befitting his image it was only proper to keep the kitten around for as long as necessary.
One evening Shoe let out a long mewl, his master hadn't come home as often as he did and soon didn't return for days.
He was already bored with his toys and of hunting cockroaches; whenever he wasn't napping he was taking his time exploring the mansion. Strange people would come in and leave food in the kitchen at odd hours during the day; Shoe had to sniff and poke at the dish carefully to make sure nothing was wrong with it. On the odd day no one had stopped by to feed him at all, Shoe reluctantly resorted to eating insects, rats if he got lucky. When the master finally came home, his face carved with frustration and exhaustion, Shoe would tentatively watch him stalk straight into the den and stay there the rest of the evening.
Instead of the usual menu of gourmet cat food, Shoe had some grasshoppers and pillbugs for dinner.
Padding over to the room where the owner locked himself into, Shoe always made sure the coast was clear before slipping through the pet door. While he didn't want to disturb the master's alone time, it worried Shoe that he was so upset. When the man wasn't throwing wine glasses at the wall or screaming at glowing screens, the frightened kitten crouched in a corner unsure whether to come out and comfort him or remain hidden.
Soon enough, the latter didn't seem like such a bad idea once the master was in the mood to play with Shoe. The hands that used to hold him so gently had begun to stiffen and constrict themselves around his body. Writhing and wriggling in pain as he tried to claw and bite his way out of that iron grasp, the trapped kitten's pleas for help were ignored until those glowing screens were finally shut off and he was dropped to the floor.
Scurrying into a dark corner in the back of the mansion, Shoe made sure he wasn't being followed. He'd much rather be was picked up by the scruff and tossed out into the living room than feel his master's cold, gripping fingers rake through his fur again. Shoe thought his little heart could be crushed any second in the arms of the grinning giant he once recognized.
Those long evenings made Shoe realize this huge mansion wasn't his home anymore. Though he was quite accustomed to his little creature comforts, the brave kitten was willing to venture the outside world to find a place to call his own.
What kept him from leaving was his growing interest in one of the strangers who came by regularly to feed him in the kitchen. She had a particularly sweet scent about her wherever she walked and always watched over him until he was finished eating. Everyone else would up and leave after setting the dish down. Shoe remembered her very well because she had nursed him back to health after he fell sick from eating too many bugs. He was determined to make friends with her, but she was always writing notes in that book of hers to bother noticing him.
Adrian Andrews was a woman with too many things to do and too little time to waste on frivolous things like taking care of her client's pet kitten. Then again, she digressed, it kept her from having to look at his smug face during the afternoon rehearsals. As his manager, she knew Matt couldn't resist a chance at good publicity; as long as he dutifully stuck to the schedule she laid out for him, she had no trouble with him at all.
However the last time he tried to put something in her drink at a company dinner, she had the studio overbook his public appearances for the next few days while he was on set. It was gratifying to watch him struggle to get his lines right on the camera on three hours of sleep and ten cans of Red Bull. Now if only she could feel the same way about the little menace lurking around the living room.
Earlier that week she had the kitten rushed to the nearest vet when she found it on the floor, breathing shallowly and coughing up bugs. The production staff had their hands full with the shoot and asked her to babysit Shoe in their place, she had no choice to comply if it meant the shooting went smoothly.
Obviously since such duties were not in her job description, there was nothing keeping her from muttering under her breath on the way to and from Matt's place. Driving quickly but carefully, Adrian kept Shoe in a cardboard box on the passenger seat, glancing over as often as she could to make sure it was still breathing by the time they arrived at the vet.
Much to her relief no major harm was done, Matt would throw a hissy fit if he heard it had starved alone in his house for two days.
The doctor recommended some rest and asked her to feed Shoe soft cat-food to keep it from damaging its throat for the time being. For the next week or so she did as she was told, following the doctor's orders down to the very letter. Despite struggling with her unfamiliarity with nursing small animals, the whole ordeal wasn't the reason why she was upset.
The kitten had certainly been doing well after its recovery... Perhaps, a bit too well.
Previously the kitten had found it amusing to headbutt her feet or jump over her shoulder to knock her book out of her hands every so often. Now it had defecated in her shoes just as she was about to leave through the side door.
Adrian was sitting in the living room waiting for them to dry after she cleaned them out in the bathroom. If it weren't for that little "accident", she would've been meeting with another client to organize the press conference for an upcoming television awards ceremony. Making excuses to the bigwigs and compensating for the lost time promoting Global Studio's television lineup was going to give her a headache. It really set Adrian's nerves on edge that this setback alone at worst could cost her job.
She felt an involuntary eye twitch at the tiny meow that pierced through the long silence and noted to herself her shoes were going to smell for a while.
Shoe had been proud of his creative efforts to keep his new guest on the premises. It hadn't been easy trying to make physical contact, but he could tell he was making some progress by her surprised expression every time he pounced on her behind the couch. Today he was even able to get her to play tag by taking the pink book with him all around the mansion. Shoe thought she was very good at this game because it didn't take her long to grab him by the scruff of the neck and recover her book. She seemed content to return reading it until she started frantically flipping the pages and looking around the furniture.
When Shoe padded over to the living room, he quickly ran in the other direction dodging the pillows she threw at him as she gave chase. He was soon cornered in the hallway with her silhouette towering behind him brandishing a large object over her head. Shoe found himself being smothered with a seat cushion and cried out in panic until her grip relaxed and she suddenly sank to the floor in tears.
There was a long pause before Shoe peeked out from below and realized he must've done something horrible to her.
Tentatively, Shoe found a pen in a corner by one of his hiding places and carried it over to her. He yelped when she knocked it out of his mouth, but he slowly picked it up again and sat on his haunches nudging it towards her with his nose.
She didn't even bother looking. Leaning towards the floor, Shoe sniffed on the pen and confirmed it was hers, but it must've not been what she was expecting to see.
He panicked when he saw her walk off and quickly dashed ahead to find other objects that smelled like her. He had to hurry or she would leave and never come back!
It was ridiculous just how easily a little kitten threw her meticulously planned schedule out of order, and if that wasn't enough, the cursed thing made her cry! Rubbing the tears away from her face, she took deep breaths and reasoned to herself the stress from work must've been getting to her. The abominable timing of it all!
Why can't Matt take care of his own damned kitten?!
Adrian could easily pick up her still-moist shoes in the bathroom and walk out the door in her socks if only she wasn't cursing her carelessness for losing her studio notes while chasing after her stolen notebook. Missing among those notes was also an old photo, a Polaroid of herself and her late mentor when they celebrated her promotion at Global Studios. The last remaining memento she had of the one who taught her how to survive in show business and the joy of having a friend who was like family to her.
What if Matt found it? He already burned the rest!
She shoved the thought from her mind as she desperately racked her brains wandering around the mansion trying to recall where it could've been dropped, recovering her notes one by one. Her blood curdled at another nagging notion that he'd probably try to blackmail her into a relationship for keeping a photo of his ex inside her book!
GOODNESS NO! Absolutely unacceptable!
Adrian's fingers gripped at her temples, her thoughts continuing to spiral off until she heard that damned kitten mewling behind her with a dusty Polaroid in his mouth. She nearly had a heart attack when she saw him gingerly drop it on the ground for her to pick up.
She was relieved it belonged to her, but what was with him sulking like that?
Was this cat actually feeling... Guilty?
An uneasy silence hung in the air as Adrian quickly turned on her heels to retrieve her shoes; as she made for the exit, she halted in her tracks to find Shoe standing in her way again. It'd have been so easy to yank him off the floor or kick him to the side if only she wasn't so completely dumbfounded by that pathetic look in his eyes.
At that very moment, Adrian found herself unwittingly engaged in a staring contest with the wide-eyed fuzzball.
It took a second for Adrian to notice Shoe broke off the contact, stepping off to the side to hang his sorry head. That was when it hit her what he had been trying to do the whole time. This kitten spent days alone in a house eating bugs because he wasn't fed as often as it should. He had no one else to depend on but that flaky owner of his who'd only spend attention on him on a whim.
This kitten had no one else but her.
Shoe was so lonely he wanted her to stay behind because he thought she could love him the way his master would not, and it tugged on her heartstrings that she couldn't realize it sooner. Scrambling for words, all she managed to say was an awkward "I'm sorry.."
Feeling rather ashamed of herself, Adrian sighed and knelt down to the floor to hold her hand out towards the kitten's head.
A tingle crept up her arm when she felt him nuzzle and lick her fingers reverently. Shoe began to purr and rub his head against her hand when Adrian reached out further to scratch him behind the ears. Feeling a little bolder, she leaned over to give him a gentle kiss on the forehead.
She sighed again when she stood to turn the doorknob, the darned thing was actually starting to grow on her. She took one final glance at Shoe and closed the door behind her as she stepped outside.
She'll be back, the kitten thought.