Zenobia had held on to a hundred and ten, not because she really was enjoying life anymore, not even with every charm she could come up with, but simply to irritate her family.
This also meant that her niece was not young and, possibly, Zenobia considered, rather irritated as well, which hadn’t really been her point. Of the seventeen potentials, Elenora had always been her favorite niece for the position, and she’d made an effort, as much as she did with anyone, at least, to be friendly with the girl.
Girl. She chuckled into her tea. The girl in question was now in her mid-seventies, hale and hearty but prone to be a bit crotchety. And Zenobia was at the end of her ability or desire to hold on any longer, so she was having a long talk with her niece.
“This,” she said, about two hours and four cups of tea in, “is The Cat.” The Damn Cat allowed himself to be picked up in a way he never would have tolerated in her younger days. “You will find that he neither likes to tell you about himself nor to be talked about.”
“Yes, Aunt Zennie.” Elenora had taken on the family’s annoying habit of talking to her as if she was a little gone in the brain. Zenobia whacked the woman over the knuckles with her tarot deck as if she was a wayward child.
“If you’re going to be the next Aunt – and you are – you might as well know what you’re doing,” she scolded. “Pay attention and stop acting as if I’ve gone batty.”
“And what if you have?” she snapped back. “Talking to your cat? What’s next, talking to your tea? Having conversations with the lawn furniture?”
“Your Aunt Fabiana talked to her settee quite frequently in her mid-thirties. It told her all sorts of things her husband was up to behind her back. My point is, young lady, you might be a little more willing to believe things when you’re a member of this family and have been for seventy-three years.”
Elenora glared back at her. “I’m perfectly willing to believe normal things like demons and ghosts, the tarot and charms, but Aunt Zenobia, you’re talking about talking to your cat!”
“Yes I am,” she hissed, “and you would do well to listen.”
“You would,” The Damn Cat finally deigned to say. “I have helped your Aunts more than you can imagine.”
“My… Aunts. Plural.” Elenora studied The Cat thoughtfully. “You are, then, not an ordinary cat.”
“I should say not.” He groomed himself pointedly. “Not in any way. But I am still, miss, a cat. I like cream, and chicken. And the occasional slice of beef.”
“He is a very pampered cat,” Zenobia admitted, “but he has more than earned his keep and, Elenora, I think he will do the same for you.” She looked her niece in the eye. “There are many things I will leave you, because you will be the Aunt. The Cat, I am leaving to you because you are my heir.”
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