The steady sound of rain continued outside but another sound, foreign to Tyler, woke him. It took him a moment to comprehend purring beside his ear. Eye’s wide open, Tyler turned his head to see the cat lying, paws crossed over in front, staring at him. Its proximity took him by surprise and he sat upright. The room had grown dark, only the fire dying gave a soft orange glow several feet beyond the fireplace. Tyler rubbed his face removing the sense of disorientation.
It was them he realised the chill in the air had once more grown and getting up; he restocked the wood in the fire and remained beside it until the fire once more flared. A glance over his shoulder, he saw the cat lying on the end of the bed watching him.
“I’ll head downstairs to make dinner and bring it back up here. Do you want to wait here for me?”
The absurdity of Tyler’s question hadn’t gone unnoticed by him, yet the manner of the cat left him believing the cat wasn’t all it was. Whether it had been around humans or trained perhaps, Tyler didn’t know, but he knew the cat was strange.
In response to Tyler’s question the cat jumped from the bed and came to lie on the rug in front of the fire.
“I’ll take that as your answer. I’ll close the bedroom door when I go down to warm the room up. I won’t be long.”
Tyler kneeled forward and gave the cat a rub around his neck. The cat took pleasure in the touch and nestled against Tyler’s hand.
“You’re a big softy. I’ll be back soon.”
Tyler stood and left the bedroom, closing the door behind him.
Lannor stared at the fire. All day he’d been contemplating the possibility of appearing before Tyler. Something about him stood out, yet Lannor couldn’t pinpoint what it was. It perplexed him, given in all the years he’d inhabited the house he’d never desired the need to appear before another man. The sound of the fire crackled and he could not hear beyond the bedroom given the door now closed. Lannor could transform and open it but the warmth in the room was pleasant and his eyes were drowsy.
The sound of the door closing roused Lannor from sleep. Tyler returned carrying one chair from the kitchen before leaving and closing the door behind him. Lannor stretched, arched his back and then walked towards the chair, jumping onto it. Tyler re-entered the bedroom having located a small card table from the living room.
“Do I need to bring up a chair for you?” Tyler asked setting the card table up next to the chair.
Lannor stared at Tyler and he laughed, gave Lannor a rub between his ears, and said, “I can do that.”
Lannor watched Tyler leave once more closing the door as he went. The temptation to transform continued to grow yet doubts stopped him from doing so. His previous experience with men had not been memorable. Some of the men of the house had been violent towards him as a cat; therefore fear always kept him from revealing himself to them.
Not until Elizabeth arrived alone did Lannor find the transition easier. Elizabeth accepted Lannor with incredible ease, never doubting his existence and hoping to be the one to free him from his curse. Yet, it was not to be.
Tyler returned with a second chair and set it up on the other side of the card table, opposite Lannor.
“Now, if that’s it, I’ll bring dinner up.”
Lannor stared at the door, waiting. When Tyler returned he carried a tray, placing on the card table before once more closing the bedroom door. The meal comprised a bowl of salad, a warm vegetable quiche accompanied with two plates, a bowl of milk, one glass and a bottle of wine.
“A meal fit for two kings.” Tyler said, setting a plate in front of Lannor with the bowl of water. Lannor appreciated the effort Tyler had made and standing with front paws against the card table, Lannor stared at the food.
“Not sure you can eat it like that.” Tyler said, taking the bowl and placing it on the floor beside the chair. Lannor looked down and cringed, he knew the automatic response was to feed a cat on the floor but he hated doing so. Tyler then cut the quiche and placed a piece on a plate before placing that next to the bowl. Lannor took a moment to stare at Tyler, hoping his disapproval didn’t go unnoticed.
It didn’t. Tyler laughed and said, “There’s no room for you to eat on the table or the chair. The floor it will have to be tonight.”
Lannor dropped his paws from the table and stared down at the food on the floor. It looked appetising and Lannor decided he’d let it pass this time. Once on the floor, he approached the quiche and sniffed it. It was as he thought; a vegetable dish without meat. It smelled good and once the egg based meal hit his palate, Lannor was surprise a dish so good could be made by Tyler. In no time, Lannor finished the meal and followed by the water. It was refreshing to enjoy a tasty meal but he couldn’t appreciate it in his feline form.
When Lannor returned to the chair, Tyler was still eating his portion of his meal with salad. Lannor noted the wine bottle already half empty and hoped Tyler didn’t intend to fall asleep on the chair again as he had done the previous night.
As Tyler finished his meal, he removed the plates from the floor and placed them on the tray.
“That was a good meal. Would you agree?” Tyler asked.
Lannor stared at him, confused Tyler expected him to reply. Convinced Elizabeth would say nothing, Lannor still didn’t know what to make of Tyler.
Tyler removed the glass and wine from the tray and placed them on the bedside table, then returning to the card table, removed the tray from the room. When he returned, he paused in the middle of room his eyes moving from Lannor, the empty chair, the bed and the wine.
“I think a bath before bed is in order.”
Tyler picked up the glass and wine from the bed stand, said, “If you’re keeping me company you’re sharing the soap tray with my wine.”
Visions of Tyler submerged beneath the water sent a wave of fear over Lannor. As Tyler held open the door, Lannor trotted out and to the bathroom. Behind him Tyler chuckled and closing the bedroom door, followed Lannor into the cold room.
“Brr, it’s freezing in here. We must look at investing in heaters for this room and the kitchen before too long.”
Tyler placed the bottle of wine and his glass on the wooden shelf before picking up Lannor and putting him beside the bottle.
“Don’t go knocking them over.” Tyler warned.
Lannor made himself comfortable as Tyler inserted the plug and filled the bath. Steam drifted from the surface as the hot water came in contact with the chill in the air. Tyler vanished from the room without a word and Lannor heard him make haste downstairs before returning with a small white container.
“Bubble bath.” Tyler informed Lannor with a huge smile. “Forgot I purchased this. Haven’t had a bubble bath since I was a child. I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”
Bubble baths had always been Lannor’s thing, and he found Tyler’s delight entertaining. Fear reseeded as Lannor crouched down and watched the water flow from the tap as the bubbles grew around the bottom where the water gathered. It wasn’t until the sound of Tyler getting in did Lannor’s gaze move. The sight of Tyler’s goose bumped body as he sank beneath the water made Lannor contemplate why it didn’t bother him. Lannor stared at Tyler and as he reached for the wine glass and it was, then he realised what made Tyler different; the lack of body hair. Most men prior to Tyler were older, less confined with their appearance. Tyler was young; his body toned and well looked after. It gave Lannor delight in observing it, this he was not afraid to admit. While Tyler sipped his wine, the scent of lavenders filled the room and Lannor closed his eyes with only the occasional sound of Tyler moving broking the silence.
When the motion of water echoed around the room, Lannor opened his eyes, raising his head to find Tyler refilling his glass with the last of the wine.
“Didn’t mean to wake you.” Tyler said.
Lannor settled his head back down on his front paws but did not close his eyes. Instead he stared at Tyler, laid back against the bath, hand visible above the water with glass in hand. The rest of Tyler’s body submerged under the bubbles remained hidden.
“I won’t shock you tonight.”
Lannor pondered Tyler’s statement concluding Tyler referred to what happened the night before. As much as Lannor tried to ignore what happened, his intrigue into Tyler’s behaviour fascinated him. The longer Tyler remained in the house the more questions Lannor found he wanted to ask. Still Lannor battled with his desire to remain inconspicuous in Tyler’s presence. How Lannor might explain to Tyler his existence seemed impossible. No man would ever accept Lannor was both a cat and a man.