Part 11 - Kinship, Fire, Frustration, and Optimism
I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. She’d given thanks to me before, and she wasn’t the only one. I didn’t think too much of it though. It was just what happened when I touched someone. I got to experience the surprise and, hopefully, the delight of a new catgirl. The mistakes still loomed in my thoughts, but I’d done things so much better since then that I didn’t think about them all the time.
After I’d been quiet for far too long, I finally managed to tell her, “I’m just glad you liked what happened.”
She gave a private chuckle and muttered, “It’s weird. Words aren’t any use. A kindred. A sibling. A surrogate. I dunno. But I can imagine being an infant, changed and brought into a new life. A little kid with my diaper all fresh and cozy…”
I gave Allison a drooping look and she nervously chuckled and added, “Sorry. Heh. But thank you so much for what you did and…for the rest of my life.” She folded her hands together with a smile.
I really wanted to hug her. I really wanted to wrap my arms around her. I even wanted to touch her striking fuchsia hair and see if it felt as candy-like as it looked. But I kept my distance, tapped my shoes, and told her, “I’m glad.” They were insubstantial words, especially beside hers.
Carlos noticed our little conversation and crept over to offer a few words of her own, “I’m still figuring things out, but I want to thank you as well. I wish I lived closer, but I promised Allison to come around as often as I can and we’ll keep in touch.”
I gave her a quick nod and undid my jacket a little. I felt warm despite the chill in the air and gripped the edge of the wall. The rest of the afternoon was quiet. Allison tried to tempt me with a comic that had a catgirl protagonist on the front. I flipped through it, but I didn’t get it. I still had my archive of stuff from before. For personal use as a collection. It was still there, but it was sent down a series of folders with warnings since the girls had used my computer once or twice and I felt embarrassed with it essentially out in the open. Allison found it cute, especially when it looked to her like a blushing-red, blond catgirl stammering about her private collection.
At least the main wallpaper, a combination of Alexis’s best works now, didn’t embarrass me. And, as for my deep folder, I kinda knew in the back of my head that nesting it deep didn’t really matter. But it made me feel like I wasn’t as blatant about it.
The get-together had to be rescheduled because of a disagreement between Steve and Allison. I didn’t understand the particulars, but the effects of it rippled out into a split of two groups with Carlos as a distant, online voice at that point. I felt a clammy sickness when I heard, followed by the same kind of upset to my stomach I used to get when just thinking about other people. Instead of seeking the furthest, quietest place away, I hunted everyone down to talk about it.
I still didn’t really get it when I listened to the argument. It just seemed the two of them noticed differences of opinion as they talked for longer. The point of contention itself wasn’t that large. But it threatened to cancel the meet-up for the new initiate. Seeing bickering catgirls would be bad if we wanted him to stay around.
I reminded Allison of this and she withdrew her complaint, even though her tail stayed rigid and puffy for quite some time. It saved me from feeling like I was going to throw up at least. When it came time for tea though, Allison and Nina were at odds. I found it surprising that such a quiet, shy girl hid such a fiery presence.
Standing between them just blasted me with collateral damage. Some of their conflicts emerged from the last one. Whether the group should have a clear creed, goal, or name. The smaller details involved that there wasn’t enough honey lemon tea. It wasn’t the sort of thing to come to blows, but I could imagine them hissing at one another beyond their words. I wrapped my arms together and felt the tension in my back. They both noticed with frowns.
Slowly, Allison agreed she would make more of the tea next meet-up. Nina noted that the new purple tablecloth was alright even if it was too sparkly. And they both were eager to watch the new guy get transformed from their carefully-chosen positions, Allison with her best camera and memory card ready to go.
The guy…really ‘prey’ felt like the better term with the anticipation all around me…reminded me a little of Carlos but that was mostly the glasses. I had an idle thought about whether the people I picked fell into a particular type. He was dressed pretty typically in a simple, gray t-shirt. His hair was darker and downy.
His name was Scott. Originally Canadian before he moved to Brookville, he seemed quite kind. Owned multiple cats and showed off a few pictures of them on his phone. Alexis had brought her laptop, so she tried (unsuccessfully) to get Carlos on video chat for the meeting (which, this time at least, was in Allison’s spare room).
I kept the conversation to introductions at first. I hadn’t done one like this with a group before. In general, groups above three terrified me. The four of the tea group was a special case because they didn’t all try to talk to me or each other at once, so I didn’t feel overwhelmed. But, with someone new, they all offered up their attention, which made me feel like my phantom tail was bristling with anxiety.
Scott smiled around the room to those who were new to him and then settled on me, “So, you really can’t see yourself?”
I confirmed it with a nod. He relayed my general description, which I knew from the others several times over. Another big anime fan, he used allusions to characters I had no idea about. Their names floated over me, but Allison scribbled them down so I could do a search later. Those who were also into anime offered their own comparisons, especially Alexis.
I led from this to ask him, “Thank you. And how do you see yourself?” I’d given some definite thought to my process. From trying to sneak up on people and leave before they knew I’d done anything to all Allison had planned out, I felt like I needed more of a system.
His blue eyes stared at me through the edges of his glasses as he folded his hands in his lap. “I dunno. It feels exciting. Exploring something I never even imagined before. I live a quiet life. You all seem nice. And I can see myself hanging out here. But, from what Allison sent me, if I decide on this then there’s no going back. I’ll be some form of catgirl from now on.”
Everyone around confirmed that there’d been no changes in the weeks since all this started. I set my hands out but tried not to push them towards him. I had no clue what to say to him really.
Fortunately, the girls backed me up and pointed out little things. Steve was quiet for the most part, but the others all chimed in about the benefits. Some even touched on spirituality. Others admitted to roleplay enjoyment (my eyes glossed over at this part but I tried to keep a calm demeanor for Scott).
The final consensus though was, passed through Allison’s words, “This will change your life. But you’re here. You’ve taken this step. And we’re all here to support you no matter what choice you make.” Even Steve offered up her own smile, though it was forced. I made a mental note to talk with her after.
I had plenty of time to reflect on how I was basically recruiting people to be catgirls in some sort of secret society with mystical overtones. Granted, we didn’t plot to overthrow governments or enslave mankind, we just met up for tea and fun. But I was trying to see it from an outsider perspective. I braced myself for questions that we were some sort of ‘cult of catgirl love’.
But Scott took a deep breath, shut his eyes, and asked, “Can I hang out for a bit before I make my decision?” No one had an objection to that, but I noticed a few droopy ears, especially as Allison lowered her camera.
I had no problem with that. I gave Scott some space and made my way over to Steve. She gazed at a ball of string left on the table beside her tea. It seemed a bit cliché, but they liked batting it between one another. With a melancholy focus, Steve tugged at the end and sent it over to Alexis on a slow roll.
Setting my hands on the table, I asked, “What’s up?”
She gave a shrug and noted, “Not much.”
I leaned closer and asked, “Still on for the movie this week?”
She eagerly affirmed this with a noticeable shift in her tone. I amazed myself that I actually caught the shift. But then I’d been actually looking at other people these past weeks. Or I was completely wrong.
We chatted a bit about possible movies (I usually left the choice up to her), but I knew she wasn’t much interested. She was distracted. Not that she wasn’t sometimes distracted by shiny or soft things. But then each of the girls had moments like that. The cat in the catgirl or something. I kept up the idle chat for a bit until I pressed, “What’s really up?” I asked her softly but not as a whisper.
After some hesitation, she sighed and asked if I could talk to her in the other room. Looking around, I wondered if it was an issue with someone else. There had been the conflicts, but I hoped those had been resolved. I followed her without complaint out of the room and onto the couch. She leaned back and muttered as I joined her, “I’m so frustrated…”
I gave a frown. I had a feeling Allison wasn’t far from sneaking around the corner to see what was up, but I didn’t dwell on that. Instead, I focused on Steve and asked her about her frustration. I could feel her tail and ears drooping, even though they didn’t change too much.
Everything that had happened lately with jobs came back up. She expressed it while clutching her head, “My life has been transformed. But, in so many ways, it’s the same life it’s always been. I mean…I didn’t expect everything would change….but I kinda hoped that the stresses and the shit would lay off a little bit. That’s all really.”
I really wanted to hug her. Maybe the hug would make her happier and more playful. But that wasn’t really what I wanted out of it. I just wanted her not to feel so bad. It was as frustrating for me to just sit there and nod. It was just me there.
But…it wasn’t just me in the house. Nervously, I asked her if I could share what she’d said with the others. She was reluctant at first, but she admitted it was the sort of thing she was likely to share on her blog, so it wasn’t a big deal to say it to the group.
I indeed found Allison was listening in as we rounded the corner. This made explaining a little easier. There were kind words but also a motivation amongst the group to work on something more substantial. Suggestions of doing freelance photos to sell online came up as a casual suggestion. While people in the area seemed to have taken the catgirl thing in stride, it still garnered plenty of fans for Allison when she posted stuff online. The others had done a little in addition to their usual stuff and it had been well-received. I watched.
Scott listened in curiously as the group worked through ideas. Allison had plenty of work options and support. She even made a competent stand-in for me when I wanted to provide Steve with that hug, despite the fact it didn’t really do anything (but it did make Steve flash a fleeting smile).
Nina had some clever suggestions for Steve’s writing hobby to possibly become more and Alexis pointed out some good art stuff online to bolster Steve’s tentative artistic efforts.
We didn’t completely solve Steve’s problems, but I felt like we were building a path in the right direction. Slowly, the others started to share things, smaller than Steve’s but stuff they wanted advice on as well. There had been chats like this before, but this felt like a floodgate of things unsaid was finally opened. Scott watched carefully.
Before they were done, I even got pulled into the mix. I flailed and fumbled worse than a cat trying to avoid a bath, but I did take in a few snippets about what I’d mentioned of my lingering nerves when the girls weren’t around or trying to branch out from my niche.
When the room settled down with a wave of laughs, Scott’s voice emerged from the others to say, “I’ll do it.”
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Bio: I'm MajorKerina and I love to collaborate creatively with a group of friends to make tales where people have their genders, identities, and very realities questioned, contorted, and turned upside-down. I like slice-of-life with a spicing of the supernatural, strange, or surreal. Reality with a scent of the impossible. You can find me on DeviantArt, Twitter, ScribbleHub, and other places.