Yesterday, I posted about tortoiseshell cats, so it seems only natural for me to post a sample about a tortoiseshell cat. This is from Bargain With Fate, Book 2 of SAGE. Book 1, The Fall of Onagros, is out in print and electronic formats (links in sidebar), and Book 2 is coming soon!
from BARGAIN WITH FATE
by Marian Allen
A cat leaped onto a dune just out of her reach. It sat amid the clumps of tough grass, staring at her through half-closed eyes.
Nerissa had never seen a cat like it before. It was a mixture of black and red-orange, with pale orange eyes, and it was bigger than the cats of Granitz. Although it was thin, it wasn’t half-starved, which was also different from the cats Nerissa had known. Its coat was dull and staring, as if it had never learned to groom itself.
It gave another miaouw, a deep and demanding sound, and Nerissa at once began thinking of the cat as “He.”
“Are you hungry?” she asked. “Hungry, little man?” She scraped the scant leavings out of her bowl and the stew pot into Tartarus’ bowl and set it at arm’s length. Then she turned a little away from the cat and went on with her work, watching out of the corner of her eye.
Her experience with the cats of Granitz led her to expect the cat would creep up to the food and eat if she pretended disinterest. This cat yawned, stretched, and walked up to the bowl as if he had never had to dodge for safety.
Nerissa wondered if the cat belonged to somebody or if, on the contrary, he had had too little dealing with people to know he should be careful of them. She stopped working and turned back toward the animal. He went on eating. She reached out and touched the tip of his ear. He put his ears back and hissed off-handedly, but didn’t move away.
When the cat had finished, Nerissa scoured his bowl and washed the sand out in the sea.
“Goodbye, cat,” she said, as she started back up the slope to Tartarus’ shack.
When she had put her load away, though, she found the cat had followed her.
“You’d better not stay.” She regretted having fed him; Tartarus, she felt sure, would disapprove of an animal around the place. He might drive the cat away. He might kill him. “Shoo!”
She made a half-hearted flap or two in the cat’s direction, and couldn’t tell whether she was glad or sorry when he ignored her and curled up just outside the door, where the sun was beginning to warm the rocky ledge.
Nerissa came back out and sat beside the cat. He got up, moved two inches away, and lay down again.
The girl sighed. “Won’t you let me pet you?” She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, her cheek on her kneecaps. This was the only embrace she had ever known and, as always, it was less than satisfying.
“I’m glad I ran away,” she told the cat. “But I wish…. I thought my bird was leading me to someplace better.” She raised her head and looked out to sea. “Well, this is better than home. Tartarus doesn’t beat me. I think he’s going to let me stay. I believe he’s going to let me sleep indoors every night, even if he does tease about it. He acts like he cares whether I eat or not. That’s better.” She sighed again and returned her gaze to the cat, who had his head turned away from her. “I just wish…. Everybody belongs somewhere. I don’t. Do you think Tartarus will let me belong here, if I stay long enough and don’t make him too mad? He doesn’t seem to mind getting mad, though.”
Slowly, as if she knew better but couldn’t help herself and didn’t really want to, Nerissa reached out and stroked the cat’s back.
He turned in a flash and caught her hand between his jaws, his eyes slitted, a high-pitched snarl coming from the back of his throat.
Nerissa jumped, but held her hand still, meeting that narrow glare with a calm regard, one wild animal at another’s mercy.
The cat bit down just hard enough to nip the skin, then released the child’s hand and leaped up, back arched, tail bushed, screaming with what sounded like rage. He bounded away and was gone.
Nerissa inspected the pin-pricks on her hand and smiled. “You didn’t bite me. You wanted to, but you wanted not to, more.”
~ * ~
There are only a few days left to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign for the SAGE series. It’s fully funded, but a couple hundred more dollars will put SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING on the fast track for republication. Also: swag. So spread the word about the campaign and
sucker invite your friends.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character meets a cat who doesn’t seem very friendly.