Elenora and The Cat regarded each other on what had been, until yesterday, Zenobia’s kitchen table.
“Well,” she said thoughtfully. “I have a cat.” And a house, and a legacy, and a title, and perhaps a decade or two in which to enjoy it. Zenobia had hung on for a ridiculously long time, out of, as she’d admitted, spite and, Elenora suspected, just a general cussedness of character.
But now Elenora was Aunt. She’d made certain the funeral was everything it should be, even if there were those who wanted to slide Zenobia into the dirt as fast and as deeply as possible; she’d made the arrangements herself, and paid the florist to make it look as if her family was mourning her in proper fashion.
And then she’d come to Zenobia’s house and, among all the things that had made it Zenobia’s and not hers, the detritus of a life, she looked at That Cat.
“Well,” the cat purred back at her. “I have a human. An Aunt. A witch, they say. Do I look like a witch’s familiar?”
“Not like that,” she laughed, risking her fingers by petting it behind the ears. “Like that, you look like a barn cat.”
“I have been, on occasion, a very good barn cat.” He leaned into her hand, his purring getting louder. “Much like you will be a very good Aunt.”
She smirked at him. “Fit the role you’re given, is that it?”
“What else has your family ever done, but slide into the roles that are open?” He nipped her fingers, delicately, not breaking skin. “There are things you should learn about the family.”
“Zenobia told you a fraction of what she knew, which was a fraction of what there is to know. It will get lost, if someone doesn’t know it. I can tell you where to look. I can tell you who to ask.”
“Why would you do that?” She busied her fingers with some of the knicknacks her Aunt had kept sitting on the table, disassembling a puzzle-charm.
The cat rolled onto his back, showing his white underbelly temptingly. “I just told you. Somebody needs to know, or the information is going to get lost. Your other aunts have almost all passed on. The diaries fade with age. If you do not know, to tell the one who comes after, then it will be lost forever – and that could be rather bad.”
“And you know, and won’t tell me yourself?”
“Won’t, can’t, don’t, shan’t,” the cat shrugged, and batted at the puzzle pieces. “There are things you have to learn for yourself. I can only point the way.”
She shook her head, and began reassembling the puzzle. It had two ways, it seems, that it could go together; Zenobia had picked the one that resembled a dragon.
If she twisted the pattern pieces correctly, however, it looked more like a unicorn. “So you’ll point the way…”
“And you’ll do what you want once you get there. Yes.” He dropped his jaw in a toothy grin. “This is what I do.”
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