“You should hear what they’re saying today,” the Damn Cat told Zenobia, as she set out his evening chicken.
“Indeed?” The cat, she’d discovered, loved to gossip, was completely incorrigible and occasionally very interesting. “More to do with Maude’s beau-they-don’t-approve of?” Zenobia had had a couple of those herself, back in the day. One of them still wrote her monthly; she wondered, sometimes, what his wife thought about that.
“Well, he’s quite the story, isn’t he? Every time someone talks about him, another salacious detail comes out. Tasty.” The cat licked his chops. “But no, that’s not what you ought to be worried about right now.”
That stopped her in her tracks. “Worried?” She put another piece of meat on the cat’s saucer. “That’s not a word you normally use. Tell me, what should I be worried about?”
“Gottleib and Edith plotting to kill you and put in Ida in your stead.”
“Ida?” The idea was beyond horrifying; it was stupidly offensive. “The pretty little flutterbrain wouldn’t know a charm if it bit her up her skirt, where, I might add, any number of things have already bitten her.”
“That’s the idea.” The cat pointedly groomed itself. “She’s sweet, passive, and biddable, things that they believe – rightly, of course – that you are not.”
“She’s likely to end up pregnant any moment now, too; she’s indiscreet enough.” Zenobia was still steaming over her uncle and cousin’s choice of replacement; she realized, somewhere in the back of her mind, that the rest of the cat’s news would have to sink in soon enough.
“Well, then. It shouldn’t be all that hard to eliminate her as a rival, should it?” The Damn Cat looked downright smug. “I’ve always thought your family’s insistence on spinster Aunts was foolish, but since it is unlikely to change any time soon…”
Zenobia sat down inelegantly, the kitchen stool wobbling under her. “They really mean to do away with me?”
“They seem to.” He filled his mouth with meat and kept talking. “You’re too powerful for their tastes, too intractable.”
“I’m the Aunt,” she snapped. “I’m supposed to be the power of the family and the guidestone. I’m not supposed to be passive and biddable. If the family wanted passive and biddable, they would have given the power to an Uncle!“
The cat nodded. “So what are you going to do about it? You don’t strike me as the sort to deal with such things passively.”
“Of course I’m not. But if I confront Gottleib and Edith directly, I reveal that I know what they’re up to. I might need that again.”
“Especially if you’re going to continue to make waves. You might need my surveillance again.”
“Indeed. Good kitty,” she added idly, reaching down to scratch him behind the ears. Over his loud purring, she mused, “getting her pregnant seems the thing to do. I’m going to have to pay a visit to Cousin Lewis.”
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