Lannor didn’t know what to make of Tyler. Perplexed Tyler was there yet somewhat happy at the same time made Lannor convinced loneliness the reason behind these conflicting emotions. The idea of a friend surfaced, and he recalled past conversations. During those times, the men in the house had not lived up to Lannor’s expectations. However, now, after years of loneliness Lannor didn’t dismiss the idea of a friend. Tyler didn’t appear threatening, yet Lannor knew he should wait before appearing.
Seated on the small oval handmade rug, over sixty years old and crafted from old sheets and clothes braided and wound together, was a favourite of Lannor’s. It was one of the few treasured pieces he kept. For every woman whom Lannor loved he kept one item they either made or brought into the house. The comfort from these items helped Lannor during the long lonely years. Everything of non-importance now resided in the living room.
“Are you trying to tell me something?” Tyler said, closing the bedroom door and walking towards the fireplace. It neared three in the morning and Lannor knew Tyler wasn’t aware of this. Remarkably, Tyler slept the entire day. There had been times throughout the day Lannor contemplated waking Tyler, concerned he might not wake. Yet, Tyler settled after a night full of restlessness and Lannor did nothing but watch over him.
Tyler moved to the fireplace and loaded logs onto the grate. After a quick search through his bags, Tyler removed an old newspaper. Lannor had not noticed it during his search and disappointed he’d not read it, Lannor hope there might pages not burned. The sound of paper being shredded and screwed into tight balls filled the room as Tyler jammed the paper between the logs. The lighter Tyler retrieved from the side of the bag he used to light the paper. Smoke wafted upwards and Lannor remembered the close off plate. With it shut, smoke would float back into the bedroom. All Lannor could do was watch.
It took only a moment for Tyler to realise a close off plate was present and searching around found the small lever under the mantle and pulled it open. The crank of the mechanism, the gush of wind and the rumble of debris fell, putting the fire out. Tyler cursed. Lannor gave a small hiss, his only form of laughter while in his feline form and Tyler said, “Be quiet you.”
Lannor would liked to have been in his human form to retort back instead he waited and watched.
With the fire growing, Tyler sat back on his heals and enjoyed the warmth against his body. The cat sat rigid staring into the flames and Tyler stared deep into his large green eyes. Tiny flames reflected in the centre and Tyler found it difficult to draw his eyes away until the fire cracked, catching Tyler’s attention.
“I wonder how you came to be here?” Tyler murmured, placing another log on the fire. The fire flared before it settled and the room grew warmer. In the low glow of the flame Tyler could make out the time on his watch. Surprised at the early hour, Tyler added another log to the fire before standing and moving towards a window to the right of the fireplace.
Impossible to see anything beyond the large number of trees planted around the perimeter of the house, he watched the wind batter the branches. When a cold chill ran down Tyler’s spine, he took hold the two limp burgundy drapes, faded and frayed along the bottom edge and pulled them close. At the other window, Tyler did the same blocking out the wild weather outside. At the end of the bed, Tyler sat, staring into the flames as memories once more became impossible to ignore. There was an uncertainty about his future Tyler wasn’t confident with. Never had Tyler decided about his future on his own before without support from his family and friends. Tyler’s gaze fell to the cat curled in a ball in the middle of the old dirty rug at the foot of the fireplace.
“Who do you belong too?” Tyler asked the cat.
Almost expecting a response and getting none, Tyler chuckled, shaking himself from his melancholy state. There was no point dwelling on the past, Tyler had to think about his future and keeping busy would help. The orange glow lit the room allowing Tyler the opportunity to observe his surroundings.
The large brass bed looked comfortable and inviting, the blankets still pulled back, enticing him to return. The small bedside table with a single drawer stood bare. A large antique red wood chest of drawers stood against the wall next to the door and a brass coat stand stood behind the door. At the foot of the bed between the two windows the fireplace was the main feature of the room. Small slate grey stones from floor to ceiling and the jarrah mantle in the middle was thick and impressive.
Decorative wallpaper once white with small rose colour flowers covered the four walls, and the floorboards worn by the doorway were otherwise in good condition. Tyler’s body slumped; he was weary but not ready to return to bed. Instead he took his bags, dumped them on the bed and checked the drawers. The old sturdy chest of drawers opened with ease and he was please they were empty. Tyler removed each drawer; flipping it over to clear out the dust or bugs. Satisfied they were clean, Tyler packed away his belongings.
When complete, Tyler’s stomach growled, and he laughed when he heard the cat growl back. A glance towards the feline asleep by the fireplace baffled Tyler. Fire flickered over the black fur and he wondered why it was there when the house was empty. The cat may be odd and his presence questionable; nevertheless, it gave Tyler a sense of homeliness. When finished packing away his belongings, Tyler removed two apples and placed them on the side table, then stowed his bags under the bed. Dust escaped as the bags hit the floor and Tyler sneezed. Another glance at the cat showed no signs of movement. Hunger now knurled at Tyler and taking an apple returned to the fireplace and sat beside the cat.
Only then did the cat look at him.
“Are you hungry?” Tyler asked holding up the apple. The cat’s eyes did not flicker, unnerving Tyler. When the cat tucked his head back under its paw Tyler felt awkward and uncomfortable being there. He dropped the hand holding the apple on his lap and gazed into the fire. Melancholy seeped into Tyler’s heart and the warmth of the room brought fatigue. Not the physical kind but the emotional kind.
Tyler had gone for several hours without dwelling on his situation but now it compounded. The crackling of the fire, the purring of the cat, the rattling of the windows and the wind battering the house – these sounds lulled Tyler into a trance. Eye’s heavy, the sound of the apple dropping from his lap with the thud caught Tyler right before he’d fallen asleep. His body alert once more, Tyler picked up the apple and ate it, throwing the core into the fireplace when done.
There was no point remaining on the floor with a cat who ignored him. Tyler rose to ready himself for bed.
“I’m going to the bathroom.” Tyler said, comfortable talking to the cat.
The temperature of the hallway shocked Tyler as he closed the bedroom door behind him. The hair on his exposed neck stood as he dashed to use the bathroom. Back in the bedroom the cat had not moved and Tyler stacked several more logs on the fire before removing his clothes and dirty socks. Back in bed, Tyler curled up under dusty blankets, sat up to give the pillow a shake and settled to sleep.
Yet sleep did not come as his thoughts went into overdrive. Surprised when tears fell, Tyler cursed himself for being emotional. The dip at the bottom of the bed drew Tyler’s attention as the cat climbed to the head of the bed. Tempted to brush the cat away, Tyler couldn’t find it in himself to do so. As the cat approached, Tyler heard the soft melody of his purring and felt the distinct motions of the cat preparing itself to settle behind his neck. When the soft fur touched Tyler’s skin, warmth from the contact distracted Tyler from his thoughts. The steady lull of the cat’s purr behind his ear drowned out the wild weather outside and in no time he fell asleep.
Steady breathing beside Lannor indicated Tyler once more slept but Lannor waited an hour before jumping from the bed and transforming. Beside the bed, Lannor stared at Tyler who now slept peacefully, before walking towards the fire. Pleased once more to experience warmth in the room, Lannor restocked the fireplace and sat on the mat. The light fabric of his clothes did not keep Lannor warm during the winter, thus Lannor spent much of his time in his feline form. In the past, clothing provided by his lovers kept Lannor well dressed, but the clothes Lannor arrived in were what he always appeared in when he transformed.
Tyler let out a sound bordering on a grunt and Lannor turned to catch sight of Tyler in his peripheral vision. Lannor listened and with no other sounds from Tyler, Lannor returned to stare at the smouldering embers, reflecting the situation. Not entirely displeased, Lannor found himself content with Tyler as company and this alarmed him. He shouldn’t be pleased another man now lived there. Lannor should attempt to drive him away but his heart wasn’t in it.
Rain once more fell against the house, pelting against the windows. The house rattled but the warm room brought contentment unlike Lannor had experienced in a long time.