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Part 12 - Love, Reunions, Relief, and Reveals

I raised my eyebrows, having nearly forgotten why we were even here. Scratching the side of his cheek, Scott said, “Seeing you all together as a community… You help one another. You’ve been brought together by something special. And I want to be a part of that.”

It didn’t take long before I was sitting in front of Scott with both of our hands outstretched and ready to make contact. All cameras for posterity were out and everyone was silent.

Like all the other times, I didn’t linger. But the skin-to-skin, sparking touch (no matter how fleeting) gave me a flutter like stuff people always say about first love. It may have been the eighth time, but it felt just as new to me.

We all watched as the changes slowly crept over Scott. His dark-brown hair took on a silvery tone that wasn’t quite metallic or like someone older. It was lovely and glossy. Definitely anime-inspired and I was getting more certain on that definition.

Aside from her flowing hair, her outfit changed as well. It was a different style than the others. It could best be described as a bodysuit somewhere between a track outfit and something dropped out of a science fiction movie I’d seen a couple weeks back.

It fit her well and showed off her newly-developing shape. From the legs down, she resembled how Steve started out with boots and soft leggings. However, hers were a blend of ivory and brilliant blue. An opening was provided for her silvery tail and a furry pair of ears sprouted from the top of her head. The clingy bodysuit showed off that she definitely gave Nina’s figure a challenge.

Her first reaction was gawping delight and surprise. She tried out her voice a few times and even posed for the pictures. She started out slow, but she soon came out of her shell. She was sillier and more boisterous, in the vein of Allison, with her catgirl persona fully unfurled. I even sighed over the fact that they both shared plenty of certain similar, niche interests. I could already tell they were going to get along well.

The rest of the night was a blast and pretty wild compared to those which had come before. I receded as things went along and mainly watched Nina’s dress changes with black and white frilly lace of all varieties. But I didn’t recede as far as I expected. Someone was always there to rouse me or ask me something or include me. At six of us around the table, it was starting to get to the point where I felt like there was too much. But I was okay with it. I was okay hanging out with my friends.

And then, at the beginning of the next week, Allison had to go and finally find the first two I touched.

Due to the web-search-jiu-jitsu (not my term) of someone she knew, Allison was able to hunt down where the permutations in the universe from my touch had settled them. Turned out it was just on the other side of town in a similar apartment complex. I was afraid to see them again because of how afraid I’d been when I left them. I rubbed my hands raw on the bus there, even though Allison came with me.

My stomach was knotted up in cramps that I hadn’t felt in a long time. The kind of stuff I thought I got over. Allison kept the pace as we came up to the apartment complex. It was a similar layout and close in color tone to mine.

I tried to find words to say that this was a bad idea. With how things might’ve changed then they likely didn’t even remember me anymore. Allison answered this by saying the searches had found out they were catgirls. So, even if they didn’t remember me, in her words, “It still might be worth it to invite them to tea.”

I tried to breathe. Emphasis on 'tried'. I got pretty woozy when we had to climb to the second story. Eventually, we’d come so far that even I had to concede it wouldn’t have been worth it to anyone’s time if we turned back. It didn’t mean I liked it though.

My neighbor, who went by the name ‘Ashley’ according to Allison’s findings, was easy enough to find. Allison was knocking at the door before I could find new ways to properly panic. Too soon, the door was already opening. Through it stepped the catgirl I’d made by a trick. Her light blue hair glinted. Her ears and tail were still just as I’d made them.

For a quiet moment, I figured/hoped she wouldn’t remember me and that would be it. But Allison offered a few words and Ashley’s eyes immediately lit up, as though for an old friend. More than that, she advanced on me with arms outstretched. I backed away (nearly ran) as Allison met her with a smile and a quick explanation.

Her first words to me were, “I always suspected it was you. Made the most rational sense. Besides, I never did have any powers…sadly.” I remembered that. Folding her sleek arms, Ashley shook her head and wistfully mused, “Feels like mere minutes ago. Heh. But it’s great to see you! You’ve really changed!” She held a hand up and her ears gave an attentive turn.

The pang of relief she saw me as a blond catgirl didn’t stay long. I was preoccupied with other feelings. I said the only thing filling my mind. “I tricked you. I used you. I made you into a catgirl by touching you when you touched…the other one.”

I expected an angry answer. I anticipated flared nostrils and a bristling tail. She did dip her head and say, “It was exciting at first and I kinda got out of hand myself. I’m sorry I scared you off. And yeah, you tricked me, but I liked what happened. A few anime conventions I’ve made it to have been a blast ever since then….Although every character I do is a neko version…obviously.”

Before long, she’d invited us inside. Turned out she did wear glasses (a notion I had way back before I made her a catgirl). Used to. Now she kept a pair with fake lenses and a broken one. I didn’t understand it, but it was apparently some sort of reference to an anime she liked. I made a promise to myself to look it up later.

I’d started on a lengthier version of my apology as she revealed the delights of her new life. She was finishing up college. Some stresses here and there, but she faced them. She reflected more energy than I remembered. I had to wonder if I was responsible for that.

She lamented the fact I couldn’t really touch her but through the thickest coat she had in her closet. She pondered my powers and appearance with slight theories and curiosities. She delighted in the knowledge of the tea club and its members. She expressed eagerness to read stuff some had written and check out all the artworks of others. Oddly enough, she wound up talking about current events in professional wrestling at one point with a calm, earnest, and steely tone which seemed better suited to a historical account than something like that. I really truly tried to keep up, but I could only nod and smile lightly for most of it.

With a laugh and a grin, she clarified she just looked in on the sport from time to time and really considered herself more a fan of anime, especially since she’d come to look more like an anime character. I felt vaguely dismal about how little I’d advanced in broader interests, but I kept focused on the fact she was happy.

She reiterated this to me. “No matter if it was a trick, no matter what happened, I am so delighted and content…and it’s just so much fun. Although no one has batted an eye. The only person who really noticed was Bethany.”

My obvious question was to ask who that was. She swiftly answered, “She’s the catgirl you pointed out to me when all this started.”

I felt an invisible knot in my throat well up. Still, I managed to get out the question, “Is she okay?” I had to brace myself with the edge of the couch.

“She’s adorable” was Ashley’s immediate answer. The tension sublimated away as she unraveled the details of her neighbor. They’d both moved together although she couldn’t really place why or when. She put forth a series of unanswerable questions when I mentioned our ideas of the universe correcting. She naturally asked why the same hadn’t happened to any large degree with anyone else. I had no answers for her, but we offered up as much as we knew. She took it all in and asked a lot of questions.

She mused whether a long single touch still counted the same as a single, quick tap or the effect was cumulative to the time of contact. She mulled why I appeared as a catgirl to others specifically around the time before my fifth converted. She put forth the same speculation that those who were intended to be touched by me saw me that way. The reason why it started happening was her key sticking point. She also searched back into stuff I didn’t really think about when I mentioned Gloria and her friend. Why me? What were they…if they were anything non-human? Why hadn’t they made a reappearance?

Ashley’s theories about Gloria and her friend’s “experiment” on me ranged from mind-control (which unsettled me) to a time travel-related explanation (which further unsettled me).

Eventually, she laid her head back and admitted, “Really, I have no idea but it’s sometimes fun to try a few theories. Wanna check in on Bethany?”

I was hoping she wouldn’t ask that. But I couldn’t really refuse. I conceded a little nod and she led us over to her apartment. Apparently, Bethany still used 'Russell' as her last name. Allison walked near me and mimed a hand out like putting it on my shoulder. I appreciated the gesture.

I shivered all the way down my shoulders with each knock Ashley gave on the door. The first round didn’t get an answer but the second led to the door slowly cracking open to reveal the catgirl I’d left curled up in a sunbeam leaning on the frame and peering out with her ears drooping.

She muttered, “I was sleeping. What is it?” Just telling what she said in no way revealed how she’d said it. She said it so softly and gently. While she hadn’t shifted around any words, the feeling was there. It was like the slightest touch of a catgirl accent I’d seen expressed online in the places I lurked around. She didn’t present a ‘nya’ but there was something to how she spoke which reminded me so much of Arjuma.

Craning her head through the opening, her multi-colored ears turned a few ways before seeking out me. I tensed but tried not to hold my breath. She kept her gaze on me with a steadiness far too like a predator. Then, she raised her eyebrows and noted, “You’re that guy.” I caught the cusp of a quick ‘n’ sound at the beginning of her statement.

Her statement had a sliver of ambiguity, but she didn’t notice ears on my head or a tail behind me even though she looked at Ashley’s and Allison’s. I could only come to one conclusion.

She didn’t see me as a blond catgirl.

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About the author

MajorKerina

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.

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