“Mrs. Carter, it’s time for lunch!”
A plethora of delicious food lay spread on the wooden table, ranging from simple meals such as sandwiches and tea to more complex ones like homemade chicken pies and salad. A low hanging light bathed the room in an off-yellow glow, making the already pale walls a slightly odd color, but it was paid no mind.
“I don’t know how you manage, Mia.” Elaine Carter stepped, or rather, seemed to float down the staircase due to how graceful she was. Her fading black hair was twisted into an elegant bun, a few of the gray strands hanging in her eyes. She wore a simple but professional black dress, which she, in Mia’s opinion, wore quite well.
“It’s nothing simple really.” Mia replied, pouring drinks for the both of them as Elaine took her seat. “I’m just happy that you enjoy it.”
Elaine was certainly glad that the girl was a better cook than she used to be. From the time that Mia had come to stay with her at Marenwood Manor, the woman had tried to teach her how to take care of herself.
At least, better than she already did.
Cooking had been quite a difficulty for Mia. If the smoke alarm positioned on the ceiling was given an expression, it would be one of both pure terror and anxiety. Every food seemed to be brutalized in her care, but with a long while of careful instruction and more than a handful of patience, Mia began to succeed. Although her first success had been a simple meal, it was as worthy as a feast in Elaine’s mind.
After all, choking on a piece of burnt chicken wasn’t a particularly pleasant way to die.
“Oh, Mia, I was going to ask you,” -- Elaine was cut off by a sudden scratching noise, her expression turning to one of displeasure.
“What on Earth…?”
Both searched around, seeking the origin of the peculiar noise, and their search finally ended when Mia laid her eyes on a black cat sitting at the window, now meowing quite loudly.
“He’s so cute!” Mia exclaimed, immediately reaching towards the window to unlock it, picking up the cat to cradle it in her arms. However, in doing so she missed the stormy expression taking over Elaine’s face.
It wasn’t long until the sharp tone reached her ears.
“Put that thing outside this instant!”
Mia turned, holding the cat protectively and running a hand through it’s fur. It was a bit coarse, but she blamed that on the fact that it had probably been outside for a while and seemed to need a bit of care.
“Why?” Mia asked, a bit taken aback. “It’s just a cat.”
Her words seemed to take Elaine by surprise, and the elder folded her arms in front of her, a scowl now present on her face.
“You don’t know where it's been.” Setting the cat down, Mia folded her own arms. She hadn’t usually been one to disobey the house rules, but this seemed more than a bit unfair. After carefully listening to Elaine for years and trying her hardest not to get into trouble, didn’t she at least deserve this much.
“Come on, he obviously needs someone to care for him!”
“I don’t accept those creatures into this house.” Elaine said stiffly, “You know the rules. I will not extend my charity to this… stray.”
That was the final straw.
“What about this stray?” Mia asked, gesturing to herself. “Do you regret your charity to me?”
“Of course not, Mia! Don’t be ridiculous!”
“Then at least show some kindness to it! Poor thing’s probably starving!”
Elaine’s gaze turned furious. Her hands closed into fists and she stood up quickly, crossing to the opposite side of the table, inches away from the other. Mia returned her angry gaze with one of her own, the cat falling to the floor from her arms and trotting away to another part of the house, green eyes narrowed in disdain at Elaine.
“Amelia Beckett, I will not tolerate this another second! Either get rid of that cat or-”
“What?” Mia stood up from the chair, her face mirroring Elaine’s original scowl and a feeling of both dread and deep irritation welling up inside her. “What will you do? You going to throw me out too?”
Elaine didn’t respond, her eyes narrowing sharply, so Mia just kept talking and her anger eventually got the best of her.
“I wish I never met you.”
Face dropping, Elaine’s eyes widened and shock replaced her fierce disposition. Arms dropping to her side, she took a step back from the furious girl.
“You don’t mean that…” Without a response, Mia moved past her and up the staircase to her room, slamming the door and missing the tears that fell from Elaine’s eyes after she left.
A high meow made her jump, and her spirits lifted slightly as she saw the cat she had allowed in sitting on her bed, licking it’s paw.
“At least you’re here…” Mia whispered, sitting on the bed with him. “Just don’t be too loud or Elaine might throw you out, okay?”
The cat seemed to purr in understanding, crawling into her lap to sit.
Mia absentmindedly stroked her fingers through his fur, talking to herself, or rather, the cat. Who knows how much cats can really understand, anyway?
“I didn’t mean to yell at her.” She started, sighing. “I really didn’t. I was just so angry because you didn’t even do anything. I know she doesn’t really like cats that much but she didn’t even give you a chance. I’m sure you’re a really good cat and she’d love you if she just tried.”
The cat stared at her, it’s eyes unblinking. At least, it seemed like it.
“Anyway… I should probably give you a name… I can’t just keep calling you ‘Cat’ forever.” She thought about it for a minute, throwing out some names and commenting on them as she went.
“Salem! No… That’s a bit too common.. Shadow? Nah. Too ironic. Hmm…” Thinking for a moment more, she smiled victoriously.
“I know! I’ll name you Merlin!” The cat meowed, and she couldn’t tell if he was pleased with the idea or not, but it was a good fit to her, so she nodded. “I always did love those stories. Elaine used to read them to me when I was little. I used to refuse to go to sleep unless she read something to me and I guess Camelot was always a favorite.”
Yawning, she crept to the door and opened it to hear nothing but silence. Elaine must have gone to bed early. Mia felt a bit bad for saying those things to her earlier, but she would apologize tomorrow and find someway to make it up to her, and maybe if she showed Elaine she was responsible enough, she would get to keep Merlin.
Closing the door, Mia got into bed, burrowing under the covers and turning off her light, Merlin curling up on the pillow beside her. Within a few minutes, she fell into a comfortable sleep, not noticing the magic that was beginning to swirl through the air.