Slivers of Love
The small stove always had clashed with the style of the house, particularly the living room. The round, old-fashioned, dark grey, metallic wood heater only fit with the big, bright, modern room in that sense, that it possessed a little retro-charm.
Solace took one of the long matches out of the box, lit it and held the small flame to half a dozen spots of the carefully stacked tower of wood and old papers, that she had erected, and threw the last remainder of the match into the stove, right before she closed the glass door, which was rather dirty with ashes.
She observed her doings until she could be sure, that the fire would not die again, stood up and walked to one of the tall windows. The view would have been magnificent, she knew that because it usually was, but now she only could see the white slurs of the blizzard, rampaging outside, basically binding her to this place, that she should have left half an hour ago.
On top of that, the long night would begin soon, messing up her original plans even more.
She was about to turn around, to go back to the by now slightly crackling stove, only to find out, that the spot had already been taken.
The slightly smaller cat, lay pleasurably on the waxed parquet flooring, which was slowly heating up. She lay like a sphinx, except her head resting on the front paws, eyes close, refreshing of the heat, that Solace would now miss out on. The fur of the pretty cat was dense, soft and smooth, had an orange yellow color, with few white stripes. Only the thin chin, as well as the waist and the left frontal paw had denser white regions. The slender tip of her tail sometimes twitched barely noticeable.
“What’s wrong? Usually you would stick to her like glue.”
Leila’s words startled Solace out of her thoughts. The younger woman came through the door to Solace’ right, placing a tablet with a tea cettle, two cups and some cookies on the glass dining table. She smiled happily as always, eyeing from the cat to Solace and back again.
“Well, she is sleeping. I did not want to wake her up.”, Solace started, but Leila just raised a thin eyebrow. “No she isn’t. Right, Miraveille?” Like a robot, listening to a command, the cat lifted her head slowly, seeking the eye contact of her friend. Solace felt some minor goose bumps, as Miraveille also scanned her shortly but intensively, before resting her head on the paws again. Those green eyes would always freak her out. The color was so pure, like literal emeralds, so humane but still definitely feline.
Now with the certainty, that the cat was awake, Solace strolled over to her, kneeled besides her on the already warm wooden floor and started gently massaging Miraveille’s neck and back. The cat had low reactions like always. Only an almost silent purring as well as few, occasional milk treads.
“So, what’s the situation like?” Leila asked over her shoulders, as she poured ridiculously sweet smelling tea. “I do not know either. It is your place after all. Should you not know the weather beforehand.” “Well, I kinda don’t care.” The innocence of these honest words was either obnoxious or the most Leila-thing to say. Probably both.
Solace sighted, not really as mad as she acted, and stood up, taking place on the other side of the elegant table, which was basically a summary of the entire room: Lots of glass, some metal to keep it all from collapsing, and probably worth more than Solace’ entire budget over the last couple of years.
Leila was not ready to give up her good mood yet. “Ah, come on. It’s like back in the good old days. When we were young and innocent. Or at least young in one of our cases. Right, Miraveille?” “You did not even have the cat back then.” Solace grumbled, though not refusing to smile, while the cat stared at Leila interested for a short time, before going back to relaxation.
“I thought she would be happier to see me.” Solace did not really know, why she said those words out of nothingness, but only regretted them to a part, because they were true. That part though was Leila grinning as if she had won the lottery. “Awww. I thought you left your emotions at home, but in the end, she gets ’em all. Right, Miraveille?”
Yet again the cat raised her head. It was a tradition, more of a habit at this point, that Leila would call the cat with these exact words and she would always come to seek eye contact. It was easy to get used to, but sadly the cat would never listen to anyone else, even though everybody would try at some point.
“So how is life?” The sudden shift of topics kind of threw Solace off, but she caught herself, while Leila handed her an expensive looking cup full of amber sweetness. Solace thought for a while about the question, but always came to the same conclusion. “It is alright.” The facial expression of the younger woman informed her, that this was not enough detail. “It is neither great, nor bad. I am doing just fine at the moment. The job is safe, so is the flat and the health.”
Leila picked up one of the rather big chocolate cookies, which were most likely self made and started to nibble on it, signalizing, that the interrogation had just started. Her bright blue eyes scanned Solace like an airport detector.
Both knew exactly, what the gorgeous woman wanted to hear about and both knew, that she would not stop, before she had the detailed information, she set up for.
“I am still alone.” Afterwards the tone and words were a little bit to harsh, but Leila either did not care or ignored it. She smiled with honest care. “You’re not alone. You never were. You’re just not as close-by to someone as you wished for.” That hit the nail on its head.
A semi awkward silence ruled for what felt like an eternity, only interrupted by the low crackling of the fire in its prime and the occasional howl of the merciless winds outside.
A bump on Solace’ left leg woke her up from the trance that was about to kick in. The gold-orange shimmer of Miraveille’s marvelous fur scampered between her legs, while the cat was circling beneath the comfy chair, here and there hitting her slim head on Solace’ shins.
Thankful for the distraction, Solace carefully moved backwards with the chair, followed immediately by the cat jumping onto her lap. The cat was as beautiful as her owner. The fur seemed like an early sunset, the eyes like the green of nature itself and the elegantly feline face almost aristocratic. She was thin and light, though dynamic and agile. It was as if she had not aged a single day. Even the cat was mocking her age.
Solace put her left arm on the side of the lap and Miraveille immediately curled up into the improvised human lap-basked. With the right arm Solace petted her carefully, for that the cat would not like intense petting.
“See, some things never change.”, Leila commented with a grin, that only a happy mother could give. “Though I must admit, that I haven’t seen her this energetic in a while.” Now Solace could not hold back a minor smile.
It had always been the case, that the cat was popular with visitors. Somehow though, of all the formidable people that went in and out of this house, she chose Solace to be the one she would return to. That always made Solace feel at least a little bit special. It was the one thing, that she had but no one else, besides Leila obviously, who seemed like she was mentally linked to that animal.
“You seem so similar.”, the younger woman joked. “Both of you act cooler, than you are and both of you just like to cuddle in the end of the day.”
Although the first comment stung a little bit, the second one bared a truth, which Solace never acknowledged. Somehow, she felt weirdly sad for a moment, so she switched subjects. “Why is there no Christmas decoration here yet? Are you not celebrating this year? What happened to your glorious parties?” There was a little bit too much sarcasm on the ‘glorious’ but Leila ignored it. “We won’t celebrate this year as much. The kids won’t come, for one is in Africa and the other is at her own party back at university.” The taste of lead spread in Solace’ mouth, as she had to admit, that even Leila’s kids were more successful than her, so she drowned that taste in ludicrously sweet tea, which had an avowedly interesting taste of apple, cinnamon and cream, though not featuring any of the latter.
“So we’re buying a small tree on the weekend, maybe put some Christmas-spice on it and just chill a bit.” Too late Solace noticed the trap.
“Why won’t you come?”
Stepped right in it.
“I do not know. I do not want to disturb you. It would feel wrong, if I disrupted your plans, so maybe I should just…”
“Stop reading out the latest government policy statement and just say ‘yes’, goddammit!” Passion had ignited in the eyes of the mid-forties woman. “As I just said, we don’t have no plans. Nathaniel would wanna see you as well from time to time.” She stood up overly theatric, raising her right arm to the ceiling, with bright eyes, looking directly at the lord himself.
“And think of the cat! Right, Miraveille?”
The bespoken animal slowly looked for eye contact, though in the cozy trance of getting massaged. The soft vibrating purring and the warmth of life were heating up Solace lap, though it was a pleasant feeling.
There was one question, that would certainly finish Solace of, because it would be devastating in any argument about this topic. She did not want Leila to ask it, for then the evening would be ruined, so she answered it before it could be asked. “No, I do not have any appointment on Christmas anyways.”
The smile on Leila’s face lost a bit of its energy, as she felt the sorrow in these words. “I wasn’t going to ask that anyways, darling. That would be cruel.” Her words were carefully chosen, but still hit right in the heart.
A droplet of water fell on the cat’s snout. And another on her left ear. And another right between her eyes. And another on the middle of her head. The cat leapt on Solace’ lap, walked to one of the windows and watched the swindling snowstorm.
Though Solace did not see anything of this.
“Why are you crying, old woman?”, the caring, tendering words of her sister reached Solace’ ears from a distance.
“I just suddenly remembered, why I came to this place. It was not to exchange, or to have any small talk, as it had been the case for the last four hours. It was not because of the necessity of having to visit you occasionally. It is just you.”
The cat, Miraveille, was sitting in front of one of the big windows, spectating the fascinating spectacle of the slowly dying snowstorm on the outside, sometimes playfully tapping on the glass, if a snowflake hit it. Her light orange tail wiped from one side to the other, as the beauty of the late fall hid most of the outside forest side. Her emerald eyes gazed through the white blurs, when a strong wind would pick up a drift of snow and haunt it over the covered parking lot, with the one large hill and the smaller one.
Though Solace did not see anything of this.
She sat on the comfy, way too expensive chair of hers, her face buried in the hands, the elbows resting on the knees.
She did not see anything.
But she could feel.
A warm embrace, in midst of the cold, that had overcome her from inside. A warmth so well known, but so long not felt, as the arms of her Sister carefully covered her agony and the loving voice of hers spoke gently into her ear. “It’s ok. Don’t hold back.”
A scream woke Miraveille up from the hypnotizing things outside. More a sobbing howl, than an actual scream It soon turned into intense crying. The cat slowly turned around, looking upward to the two humans, who were both sitting on the floor, one heavily shaking.
Though Solace did not see anything of this.
The storm had ended as fast as it had begun. Though Solace was eternally thankful for this day, she did not want to stay. Nathaniel would come tomorrow and she did not want anyone but Leila to see her like this.
The younger, astonishing lively woman accompanied her to the heavy, elegant entrance door. They said their goodbye properly, but still Leila hugged her older sister one last time from the back, right before she could vanish into the far world. The slightly taller woman did not resist, rather patting her hands slowly.
“You, know I love you.”, Leila muffled into the back of Solace’ itchy coat. “Yes, I know. I love you too, you silly woman.” “Then please think about my offer again. It would be such a waste of Christmas to spend it alone. It would be such a waste of you.”
Solace did not respond that day.
She left without answering, without looking back, for she knew that she would give her true self away: The caring, unselfish, lovingly, elder sister, that she was.
And Leila did not stop her. A sincere smile on her lips, she watched Solace disappear into the night.
She felt a push on the right leg, looking down only to see a glimmer of orange, strutting towards the kitchen, stopping half way, to glance at her with demanding, big, emerald eyes. She was hungry. Leila returned the look, happy, that she had that cat around for now, because she did not want to be alone. The smile on her face widened, as she chose to accept a certainty for herself. Not truly convinced, if the cat would understand, she still talked to her, while going along with her towards the kitchen. “She’ll come. I’m sure, that she’ll come.”