READ THIS: Before I get comments about Kuwabara's relationship with Yukina prohibiting the progression of a Kuwabara/OC story, please note that I will be explaining why Kuwabara/Yukina are not an item later on in this story. Also note that Kuwabara and Yukina do not definitively end up together in the anime, nor do they do so in the manga. It's really a one sided relationship, and Togashi actually gives good reasons for why they SHOULDN'T be together (believe it or don't; doesn't matter to me). So, with the promise to make this all make sense not too long from now, on with the story! =D
"Kitty, Kitty, Kitty"
Screaming woke me. I leaped from my bed with a pounding heart and flew into the living room, wild-eyed with hair flying all around my face, and found my mother standing on a chair with her skirt hiked up past her knees and a look of utter terror plastered across her open mouth and dilated pupils. "Get it, Tora, get it!" she screeched, pointing with shaking hands at the small gray creature eating a cracker in the middle of the carpet. It was still dark outside, probably before six o'clock in the morning. Great. With a sigh I walked toward her. She held out her hands and motioned for me to stop.
"You'll scare and then it'll get away," she hissed—trying to whisper, apparently, and failing.
"Mom, it's a mouse," I said in the calmest voice I could muster given the early-morning circumstances.
"I know that!" she snapped, fear taking flight in the wake of her quick temper. "Get it out of here, Tora!"
I sighed again and held up my hands, advancing on the snacking creature with quiet steps.
"Not like that!" Mom screeched, doing a sort of jig on the chair in agitation. "Do it the other way!"
"It's too early to do it the other way," I snapped, but there was no placating her.
"Do it!" she commanded with a point from her index finger, and in defeat I dropped to my knees on the carpet. "This is one of the very few moments in which it might actually come in handy, so make use of what my genes gave you and do it, now!"
"Your genes?" I said. "What genes? You can't do it!"
"That's not the point, Tora, and you know it!"
I glared at her. "You owe me double allowance this month," I told her, and then I changed.
The change is an easy thing, as easy as breathing or blinking or twitching my fingertips. I just will it, and it happens: my limbs grow shorter, my head-hair recedes as fur erupts all across my skin, and my spine lengthens past my butt so my tail can lash at the air (if I'm in a bad mood, of course, which I was that early Monday morning). My ears inch up my skull until they crown my head like little watchmen, my eyes get bigger, and my vision sharpens to the extreme. The sensitive whiskers that can sense vibrations from many feet away sprout outward, and I can't ever help but comb them into order with a paw whenever the change finishes running its course.
All in all, I think I make a rather attractive tabby cat.
"Get it, Tora!" my mom urged.
I looked up at her as I stepped out of my puddle of discarded pajamas and hissed her into silence. Calling up the feline instinct that emerged whenever I took my cat form, I crouched low on the ground and stalked toward the munching mouse. Mother muttered small encouragements that my cat's ears easily detected. If my face had been capable of human expression, I'm sure I would've looked peeved.
The mouse sensed me coming and bolted when I was only a few feet away. I jumped after it and pounced, and I was then rewarded with the feeling of a wriggling ball of fur struggling beneath the pads of my paws. I kept it pinned with one paw and looked up at Mom; she cheered when she saw my tail twitching in triumph.
"Don't eat it!" she told me as she climbed down from her perch. "Your breath will stink. I'll go get a book so I can squash it."
I meowed at her. She paused. We stared at one another, and I am proud to say that I won that contest. Cats don't blink like people do.
"Fine," she said at last. I picked the frightened rodent up between my teeth. It tasted awful and twitched far too much, but I was not in the mood to kill it. "Use the kitty-door. Just be sure to take it far from here, OK?"
I meowed around my mouthful, and on silent feet padded toward the back door. The sun had begun to rend the sky in the east; I shot Mom a reassuring look on my way out through the cat flap. I tried to ignore all the interesting smells I picked up with my feline nose (a harder feat than one might think, let me assure you) as I walked toward the fence lining the postage-stamp of our tiny backyard. With a single pump of my rear legs I reached the top of the wooden structure, and then I hopped into the alleyway beyond. True to the old adage, I landed on my feet. I walked with sure, even steps past the overflowing trashcans on my way toward the street beyond. Small residential houses lined the narrow causeway; I loped a few houses away before crawling beneath a bush and letting the mouse slip out from between my teeth. It lay on the ground, dazed for a moment, before running off at full speed with a frightened squeak.
Yeah, yeah, run away, I thought as I watched it go. Lucky for you, I don't like Stuart Little for breakfast.
I headed back quickly, wanting to take a shower (and brush my teeth so I didn't taste mouse for the rest of the day) before school. When I hopped through the kitty door I found Mom waiting for me.
"I put your pajamas in your room," she said, tucking a strand of her curly black hair behind her ear. "Thanks for doing this for me, Tora."
I butted her shin with my face, rubbing against her and purring in a reassuring sort of way. She knelt so she could scratch me beneath the chin. Eventually I left her and headed for my room. I met Dad on the way, nearly colliding with his house slippers in the narrow hall separating the bedrooms from the living area.
"Oh, good morning, Tora," he mumbled through a yawn. My overly-tall father was wearing a bathrobe that barely reached his knees. The sight of his hairy calves so early in the morning made me both gag and giggle all at once. "Why are you like that this early?"
"There was a mouse, dear!" Mom called from the kitchen.
"Oh," he said, dropping to his knees so he could touch my ears. "I always said this is what we got for naming you Tora," he joked. "Well, go get ready for school. Your paws are muddy."
I looked down and, sure enough, they were. I meowed forlornly. He laughed as I tried to shake them clean.
"You don't bathe like real cats do," he said. "I always wondered about that."
I shot him an unamused look. What, like you'd be OK with a mouth full of mud?
Luckily Mom had left the door to my room wide open. I didn't have any trouble sitting down on the cold bathroom floor and initiating the change back to my human body. Once changed, I stood up and looked in the mirror above the sink for any issues. My eyes were the same honeyed-brown color as always (I got them from my father, who is half German), and my skin was the same pale shade I was accustomed to. My hair was also unchanged, the short black strands reflecting my mother's Japanese heritage. My features were all Asian, too, just like my mother's almond-shaped eyes and heart-shaped face.
I always make sure to check myself after a change. Once, on a horrifyingly sunny grade-school day, my cat-pupils didn't go away when I changed back. That's a mistake I never want to repeat again.
"Shower," I said as I turned around to face the bathtub. It was only big enough for a person to stand in (I live in a small city house; what were you expecting, a Jacuzzi?) but nevertheless it felt so good to scrub the mud from between my toes with a bristly brush and sweet vanilla soap. I didn't linger, though, because I still had to get dressed and eat, so I shampooed my hair and got out without much ado. My frumpy school uniform (which I had tailored in order to make less frumpy, for all the good it did me) went on next, and then I dried my hair and applied a little makeup for appearance's sake. Eventually I was ready to be seen, so I emerged from my lair and went to the breakfast table.
"Please say there aren't any more mice for me to deal with," I said upon entering the kitchen. Dad was drinking coffee and reading the paper. Mom was cooking something on the stove.
"Only fish!" Mom exclaimed.
"And maybe a dish of milk if you're interested," Dad joked.
"Just the fish, please," I said, and Mom pointed at the already-made place at the table. I sat down and started to eat, savoring the taste that was most assuredly not mouse-flavored, and then Mom set a kerchief-wrapped box down next to me.
"Your bento," she said as I stared the pink bandana pattered with comical fish skeletons.
"Nice touch," I said, pointing at the bandana with my chopsticks.
"It's bad manners to point with those," Mom scolded me, and she ruffled my hair with a laugh.
I bolted the rest of my food and glanced at my watch. I still had time before school, but I liked taking time on my morning walk so I didn't want to dawdle. "Thanks for the meal," I said, bowing at her playfully. I grabbed all my stuff and made to leave.
"Wait," Dad said, looking serious. "We need to talk to you about something."
I frowned and lowered myself back into my seat. Mom and Dad exchanged a long look, serious and inscrutable—and even a little grim, maybe. Mom pressed her lips together the way she did when she was trying not to cry, and Dad had covered his mouth with his hand like he did when he was super stressed.
"What?" I asked, looking between them. A flutter of adrenaline made my stomach rumble. "Is something wrong?"
My parents snapped out of their staring contest. Dad smiled. Mom took a deep breath.
"Oh, of course not!" Mom said, waving a dismissive hand. She shuffled toward the laundry room, then came back with a package wrapped in bright red paper and a bow. "We just have a present for you, that's all!"
She set the package on the table in front of me, staring expectantly. I didn't touch it, though.
"Um," I said.
"Yes?" Mom said.
"My birthday isn't until next month." It was a month from that day, in fact. Had my parents forgotten?
"We know," Dad said. He spoke quickly, almost babbling. Mom nodded along with every word. "We know your birthday isn't until next month but, well, we found this recently and knew you'd love it and we just couldn't wait to give it to you. Sometimes you just deserve something nice, just because, and today is one of those days. Your mother and I love you very much and want you to be happy and—"
"And what he means is that you're not going to be a kid forever, so we have to spoil you while the iron is hot!" Mom cut in. "Our little baby needs to be spoiled every now and then! Isn't that right, dear?"
"That's right!" said Dad.
They laughed, long and loud and forced. If I'd been in my cat form, I'd have begun slowly backing away in a low crouch. Since I was in human form, I just stared at them.
"You're…both acting really weird, you know that, right?" I said.
They laughed in unison some more. Mom stood behind Dad and rested her hands on his shoulders. He reached up and clasped her fingers in his own. They stopped laughing at that point.
"Open it," he said. And then they were staring at me with that grim expression again.
Putting their weird behavior aside (for now), I opened the package. Inside sat an old camera, the type that took actual film, with a leather strap and a chunky silver and black body. Probably from the late 70s, I guessed. I gasped and pulled it from its nest of packaging. This was vintage, 100% vintage, and way cool—a 35 mm Canon AE-1. There were two lenses of different types inside, too, and some rolls of film.
"Oh my gosh—wow," I said. Words failed me for a second. "Mom, Dad, this is so cool! Miyuki-san will love it!" Miyuki-san was the photography teacher at school. Then I frowned, because this couldn't have come cheap. "Where did you get this?"
"It belonged to a friend of ours," Mom said. "I found it while cleaning out the attic the other day." She smiled hesitantly. "We thought you might want it. Do you like it?"
"I freaking love it, Mom," I said as I cradled the camera against my chest. The grimness had disappeared from their faces, leaving only smiles behind. I got up and threw my arms around them both as best I could.
"Thank you," I said as they returned the hug. "I love you, Mom. Dad."
"We love you too, Tora," Dad said against my side.
"So much more than we can ever say," said Mom into my hair.
I let them go and smiled, beaming. I'd always wanted a camera like this, and they knew it. I hadn't been expecting it a month before my birthday, but whatever. Such a cool gift. My parents were the best.
My mom seemed to remember something, then. She gasped and looked at her watch.
"Tora, you need to get going!" she said. "You're going to be late for school!"
If I'd been in my cat form, my fur would've stood on end. "Oh, crap!" I put the camera back in its box, grabbed my book bag, and started to run out the door. Mom called me back and handed me my bento, but before I could leave with it, Dad stood up and pointed at me.
"That bento," he said, tone dark.
"Be sure to bring the box home." He looked sheepish. "I left the last few of mine at work on accident."
"Good going, Dad," I said, scowling at him, but then I swooped in to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Love you, dummy. And thanks again."
"Have a good day at school!" Mom called as I trotted out the door. "And be careful crossing the street!"
I barely heard her, though. I was already planning what to take pictures of. By the time I got to school, I'd forgotten my parents' weird looks and grim expressions. I'd remember later, though, when they finally told me the truth—the truth about me. The truth about that camera. The truth about everything.
Turns out, I had more secrets than just turning into a cat. I just didn't know I had those secrets yet.
NOTES (July 2016)
Redid the ending of this chapter. I lost my original notes for this story, so I redrafted the plot…and realized this chapter needed a few more details to properly set up future events. The camera scene is all new as of July 2016. Thanks!
Next chapter will be much, MUCH longer. This post was just to get the ball rolling and introduce my OC, Ookawa Tora. (Tora, for the record, means 'tiger' and is a very common name for cats in Japan, which makes Tora's dad's joke about her name make more sense.) Let me know what you think so far, and thanks for reading!