Like at lunch, I had dinner all by myself, grateful for the peace and quiet that, just a few days ago, would have left me kind of depressed. After tiding up the kitchen I decided to choose which book I’d lend Michael next, a decision too important to be made lightly and without proper consideration.
I was sitting on the ground, surrounded by some of my favorite books, when the sound of small bell reached my ears. I jumped, startled, in an instinctive flight response, and hit the bookshelf. Too on edge after all I'd been through the last few days, my frightened gaze scanned everything around me, panic threatening to overcome me, until I finally found its origin. Sitting on my bed, watching me with huge silver eyes, was a small black cat. A small golden bell hang from a thin red velvet ribbon tied around his neck.
I took a deep breath, trying to calm down, and released the tension that immediately had taken over my body.
“God, you scared me...” I confessed and smiled since he was still staring at me. “Where did you come from? I think I closed the kitchen’s window....” I muttered, trying to think back. I remembered opening it in the morning. I knelt on the floor and reached out, trying not to scare him. “Come here, little one...” I said, invitingly, and he tilted his head, moving his pointy ears. I smiled, noticing he was listening and approached him slowly. “I won’t hurt you...” I reassured him, allowing him to smell my hand and, as he didn’t get scared, ran a hand over his black head. His fur was thin and soft, common among young cats, and I couldn’t help smiling when he closed his bright eyes, rubbing his muzzle against my hand. “Oh, you’re so cute!” I noted and held his golden bell, looking carefully for any mark, name or phone number that might tell me who his owner was. “I’m sure you have someone you belong to. Someone that is probably looking for you.”
The kitten jumped from the bed, nimbly landing on my legs, and rubbed its lean body against my belly, purring. I laughed as I understood his obvious request for some petting and picked him up, noticing how light and soft he was.
“Are you hungry?” I asked standing up and he cuddled his head between my arms, closing his eyes contented. “Let's see what I can find downstairs.”
I happily went back to the kitchen, the small cat purring in my arms but, as soon as I reached the base of the stairs another sound made me stop - footsteps!
He was back, I thought as my heart jumped into another crazy run and my smile faded away. Tension filled my muscles and, as if he had also felt it, the small cat stop purring, watching me closely with his large silver eyes.
“Everything is fine...” I said with a smile, trying to reassure him, and walked over to the living room
I stopped by the door and couldn’t help staring inside, completely stunned. He was standing by the window, watching the night sky, long, black hair falling down his back over a garnet shirt. He looked at me with his disturbing violet gaze and fixed the small animal curled up in my arms with an intrigued expression. Reflexively, I held him even closer to my chest, as if that would be enough to protect him, and tried to divert his attention.
“What’s all this?” I asked, looking at all the bags filling the room, scattered all over the place, and he faced me once again.
“Your new wardrobe,” he replied in his usual deep and complacent tone.
“Your new ward...”
“I heard what you said!” I cut off slightly raising my voice. I clearly felt as anger started to gather inside me and allowed it to take over, knowing that that was the only way I was able to tell him what I really thought.
He looked surprised for a few seconds, but then seemed to lose all interest in our talk and, taking two bags off the armchair, sat down.
“I’m not wearing any of this!” I stated in my most authoritarian tone and he shrugged, indifferently.
“Then you can go out naked. It’ll be quite interesting,” he added with a light smile that only made me angrier.
“I have a wardrobe full of clothes.”
“Not anymore, you don’t.” I opened my mouth in disbelief but it didn’t even occur to doubt him.
“What ... ?!”
“Did you not hear me?” he asked me sarcastically, and I didn’t know what to answer. “It’s rather simple. If you want to seduce a man be a woman,” he said as if stating the obvious, and I kept standing there, gaping, my ability to think clearly escaping me completely. “And now that that nuisance is gone, we can finally start working towards fulfilling this Contract.”
“Nuisance ... ?” I repeated aghast. “My mother ... ? Was that your ... ?” He smiled, looking proud of himself, and took a deep breath.
“It was becoming tiresome, having to restrain myself for such long periods of time. Having to put up with it at school is quite enough,” he confessed. “Besides now I’ll have more room to move. And, anyway, she obviously went happily, even if it meant leaving you behind.”
“How ... ?” I asked, more to myself than really expecting an answer. I couldn’t help wonder if his powers had no limit!
“It really wasn’t all that hard. Your mother is, in fact, quite talented. All I had to do was place the right people at the right place. A small suggestion and everything was solved,” he explained with a frightening simplicity.
I felt lost. He was manipulating everything and everyone around me. All because of that stupid Contract!
The small cat resting on my arms jumped to the ground, landing gracefully, and the sound of its small bell filed the room as it ran towards Gabriel. I wished I could stop it, afraid of what he might do to him, but all I could do was reach out my hand, unable to take a single step to help him. With a nimble jump he landed on Gabriel’s lap, purring as he laid his head on his front paws, his thin tail curled around his small body. I froze in place when I saw him raise his pale hand over the little kitten, but he simply gently caressed his soft black fur. The kitten purred even louder and he smiled, stealing my breath away. I’d never seen him smile like that ... Worse!, I’d never even thought it possible! But the absence of that choking feeling of panic and the sudden fading of the anger I normally felt towards him was even scarier. Not wanting to think about any of that any longer, I turned away and ran upstairs, to the safety of my room.
I looked at the books scattered all over the floor and knew that now I’d be unable to choose one to lend Michael. Refusing to open my wardrobe to verify if what he had told me was true, I decided to go to bed and try to forget all about it, even if just for a few hours.