Cat & Fish & Cream

Zelda K. Arcadia, witch, handed the winged black cat to Strawberry, mermaid. “You’re sure you’ll be okay?” she asked, though it was not immediately clear which party she was talking to.

“We’ll be fine!” Strawberry promised excitedly, taking the cat in her arms and cradling the fussy creature. Soot, unhappy about being left behind, weighed his choices. With a sharp glare at Zelda, he made his loyalty known and snuggled into Strawberry’s aggressively large and colorful hair. The mermaid giggled happily and the witch rolled her eyes.

Zelda was taking her wife on vacation, and with Red Kelp — Strawberry’s wife— out on an adventuring campaign— “We have the place to ourselves, kittenclams,” the mermaid announced as she carried her charge through the front door. She set Soot down onto the floor, careful not to dip his wings or tail into the bubble of water surrounding her fishtail.

Soot immediately and silently laid claim to the entire house, sauntering around the cottage Strawberry owned with Red Kelp with a casual slowness as if he owned the place — which, to his mind, he did. Sniff this, rub cheek on that, purr in contentment over there, plan to roll around over there. Satisfied, Soot found a large pillow, dragged into a patch of sunlight, and took a nap.

Strawberry watched the procession with wide-eyed amazement. Despite having lived in the Above part time for a handful of years, she was still new to many of its inhabitants and culture touchpoints. Tentatively, Strawberry reached out and gently stroked the cat as Zelda had instructed before leaving. Soot rumbled a purr as he drowsily awakened and the mermaid squealed in surprise, startling them both.

“Wh-why don’t I make us a snack?” Strawberry said nervously. At the prospect of eating, Soot perked up and pranced as he followed the sea maiden into the kitchen.

“Now, Kelpie — do you know Red Kelp? — she is out but left me notes,” Strawberry told the patient Soot, who sat with his tail curled around his paws and his wings folded back. “You’ll like her,” the mermaid said with a distracted, happy smile as she thought about her wife. “She’ll be home tomorrow or so. What do you drink, kitten-cat? Water? Do you drink water?”

Soot gave a soft chirp in a non-committal agreement which was completely misunderstood.

“I like cream…” Strawberry mumbled, biting her lip in thought. “Do you… like cream? Do cats like cream? I saw that in a painting once I think.”

Soot let out a loud, excited, rumbling M-E-O-W!

Strawberry giggled madly as she sashayed dramatically to the ice box, taking out a bottle of ghostly sweet cream. From a cupboard, she rummaged until she found a bowl patterned with black cats, ghosts, and graves. “Perfect,” the mermaid mumbled happily to herself. “It has cats. I am so good at this.” She straightened her back with a proud, important air.

Soot purred as the mermaid set the bowl down and filled it to the very brim. The cat chirped his gratitude and began lapping up the cream.

Completely captivated, Strawberry lowered herself slowly to the floor and, practically nose-to-nose, watched Soot. In a soft whisper, “You have so many feet,” she told the winged beast.

Full, for now, Soot nudged his nose against Strawberry’s and purred. Gasping gently, the mermaid felt a new level of joy bloom in her watery heart.

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