Part 13 - Drowsiness, Absolution, Ennui, and Possibilities
With a deep breath, I nodded and confirmed I was “that guy”. She rested her head against the door frame as her tail wafted through the opening. “You touched me. Twice. The first time….I was really scared. The second time…I relaxed.”
I clenched my jaw and told her, “I’m so sorry I scared you. I really am.” I tried to keep the tears from dribbling out.
Her eyes raised, and she hid a quiet yawn as she said, “It’s okay. I always got too excited. It was good to relax. Always good to relax.” She was starting to demonstrate some of that right then, as she slipped down against the door frame with her arms drooping and head dipping before she gave a wide yawn and a shake of her head. Her ears flicked around before she asked, “What was I saying? Sorry, afternoons…no good.”
Ashley elaborated, “Bethany is more active during the night than the daytime.” She confirmed this with a nod and looked back to someplace on the other side of the door. I knew some of the other girls were night owls, but it clearly seemed that Bethany’s catgirlness had a little extra cat to it from her nocturnal aspect compared to how Mister Russell was before. I didn’t want to ask if her toilet was a sandbox.
I persisted with, “I turned you into a catgirl without your consent. I forced it on you. I did a terrible thing.” I had no idea if any of this mattered. She had memories of before, but her personality wasn’t anything like Mister Russell. I felt the sick rise in me.
Bethany groaned softly and looked me over. She propped herself up and muttered, “I said it was okay. I’m not mad. I used to be…a lot. Mad at everyone. Hissing and yelling. Seems so silly to be a mean old man.”
I didn’t know what to think about that. On the one hand, it was what I wanted to hear. At the same time, I’d changed her so much, did it really matter that she was happy now or not? Was she even the same person? Had I destroyed who she was before? Allison smiled. She was probably hoping this was the absolution I’d been seeking. I had no idea if such absolution was even possible. I returned her a fake smile and a faker nod.
Fueled by all she knew now, Ashley offered up a few questions about Gloria and her friend. Bethany nuzzled the door frame before returning to a more normal pose and answering, “I remember Gloria. Made stuff go boom all the time. Big headaches for me, but she always paid on time. Made sure everything was okay.”
That was the extent of what she was able to offer. There were glimmers with her of Mister Russell when he wasn’t angry, but I couldn’t be sure if that was just me wanting to see it. We eventually called it a day and Bethany returned to a warm spot on her couch. Ashley eagerly agreed to visit the tea club (and even bring Bethany along, if she was willing).
After we left the apartment complex, Allison asked me directly, “Feel better now?” In some ways, I did. Ashley made me feel better to see and reconcile with. But Bethany was a mixed bag of uncertainty. Her words alone should’ve been enough. I’d made all the overtures I could, but the nagging feeling was whether what I had done had gone too far. I didn’t want anyone else to go through a second touch. I didn’t want to see anyone rewritten into something they weren’t.
But…at the same time…I was kinda doing that. I was doing what I naively asked Gloria’s friend to let me do: Make catgirls. Make people into something different. Still, most of the time I could see what the person was like before and they seemed happier at the end of it. Seeing Steve just as bothered by things was a weird comfort to me, because at least she wasn’t made simple-mindedly content. Bethany was happy. But happy for the right reasons?
I lost sleep over it, my brain turning it over again and again until the sun could be seen outside my window. The fear I was subtly destroying people to make catgirls swarmed in my stomach. Regretfully, I had to cancel on Steve’s movie night that week to try to get my sleep schedule back to normal.
I did make it to the tea club though. Ashley came by herself because Bethany was apparently busy. She fit in well with the group even though she kept to herself. She and Steve shared stuff they’d written. I noticed Ashley kept asking questions of every plot point in the stories. She made some rather odd and tangential leaps. Some of them were useful, and some were surprisingly funny. Steve gave as much as she got in feedback. She’d set the goal of a completed and potentially published novel in the near future, and it had turned around her mood from before.
My own mood was still reeling from what two touches of my flesh had done to someone else. Especially, I fixated on the fact Bethany still saw me as a man when we talked to her. No other possibility occurred to me but that I had made a terrible mistake in touching her. She wasn’t intended to be changed. Only by the force of whatever power I had did I make her into what I wanted: a cute, sweet catgirl. I cried into my pillows for the first time in a long time the previous night.
I kept a careful face around Allison because I didn’t want her to feel bad about tracking down those two. I tried to focus on Ashley and how happy she looked at the tea club.
It took several weeks before Bethany was able to make a visit, but she quickly became something of a mascot for the girls with how cat-like and cute she was. However, the less said about the night of the Catnip Incident, the better.
Whatever doubts I may have had about how she saw me were dashed when I asked her about it point-blank. She came up with some familiar descriptions and even brought up that old Brendan Frasier comparison as she looked me over. I clung to a smile, but she added as one final thought, “You look…sad too.”
I tried to laugh it off, especially with looks from Allison and Steve. I mentioned the stresses of the day at work and left it at that. It was another sleepless night. Most times, I could forget about Bethany for a little while as I went about my day with distractions. But remembering and realizing how easily what I’d done had slipped from my head redoubled the pressure.
And so things continued, until a chance encounter at the local bookstore. It was the only bookstore of significance in the Brookville area. Sure, there was a cat-guarded used book shop which Steve found for me, but this was the only one which was ever busy. That’s probably because it contained a café and coffee shop on the side.
I wasn’t searching for anything in particular (I had still only scanned through the neglected pile of loaners on my kitchen table), but I had the aggregate book recommendations from all of the girls who cared enough about books to give me a list. Those items mentioned by more than one of them were bolded, underlined, or otherwise noted. I’d tried sitting at one of the wobbly, brown benches before the wide front windows, but the sun was directly on me. I doubted even Bethany could stand it.
Coming in, I’d noticed a trio of skaters trying and failing to hop the wall that protected the shopping carts in front of the adjacent market. A few people in sunglasses sat at the wrought iron black patio tables. And the bookstore itself was rather busy with the holidays looming. Most days, I didn’t try to watch other people for a reaction to seeing a blond catgirl with cute breasts walk in the door. But I was conscious of it this day.
A cluster of people over by the cash wrap. I slipped around to see the entertainment magazines. Everyone there wanted to help me or ring me up before I had anything in my hands, but they didn’t seem to see a tail behind me.
The burgeoning trinkets and toys section didn’t yield any double-takes or comments either, and I was beginning to feel ridiculous. I wandered into an area near the philosophy and science section with science fiction and fantasy closest to me. I didn’t pay attention to the guy at the other end till I heard a soft, “Wow”, come from him.
He held a copy of a book with an unfamiliar cover in his hands and looked tentatively over at me with a curious smile. I did my best to return it and reply, “Hey there.”
He was about my height, dressed casually in a colorful Hawaiian shirt, and wore a round pair of glasses high on his long nose. But what I noticed more than all that was his striking, gray hair. It wasn’t like the hair Scott had gained. This was like a thunderstorm wrapped around a head with lighter, fluffy tufts and darker roots. It billowed past his shoulder as he grinned kindly at me. His eyebrows had an almost jagged arch and dip at the ends of his eyes, which appeared as a soft, radiant green.
After setting his book down, he looked at the shelves past me before meeting my eyes. Despite the surprising depth of his voice, he spoke with a careful sense of quiet as he said, “Sorry. I hope I’m not bothering you.”
I quickly shook my head and assured him, “Not at all. I’m just looking for books a little.” I held up my list as proof. Though he had the appearance of some professors I remembered from years back with my long-delayed and eventually-failed degree, he had a calm shyness which was more subdued than when I first met up with Nina. Of course, I wasn’t certain at all that he was seeing me as a blond catgirl, or he just found my mild resemblance to a chubby Brendan Frasier to be randomly impressive.
But, with a little nod and a look away, he started walking back to where he’d been. I kept looking. It was interesting. I could’ve left it at that. With my nerves, I didn’t feel like I was ready for anything. But I followed him without trying to appear too obvious that I was following. I asked him first, “What do you think?”
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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.