“So many things go right,” she says, not even looking at me. Not that it matters. I know what her face looks like, the softness in her eyes behind her anger, the stubborn tilt of her chin. “So many things.”
“Then you should be happy.” It’s a stupid thing to say and I know it, even before the words leave my mouth, tripping off my tongue like lemmings.
“I should.” She curls in around herself now. Holding herself together. Holding herself back. Holding herself away from me. “This is what I wanted.”
There, midst of her studio, dwarfed by giant canvases and odds and ends of an actual life, I almost believe her. Except I know her too well.
An old coffee cup, cast aside in some fit of brilliance, catches her attention and she bends, ever so slightly, to delicately sniff the contents. The disdain on her face is almost comical.
“There’s fresh cream in the kitchen,” I remind her.
“Cream.” She laughs, but it’s bitter. “Yes. Cream and food and a warm bed to curl up in. People to cater to my every whim, parading me around like a sultana.”
“And yet you’re miserable.” My heart aches as I speak the words, aches because I don’t want them to be true. She should be happy here. I want her to be happy here.
“Miserable.” I’d call her dramatic, but that would diminish the depth that she feels it. “So many things go right. Except...” She trails off.
“Except it’s a prison.”
She snaps her heard around, her green eyes bright against the darkness of her face. “That is the key, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if I’ve more boots than I could dream of or eat escargot whenever I please or have you to serenade me by the moonlight. None of it matters if I’m not free.”
I shudder. I’ve been on the other side in ways that she has not. I’ve felt the cold and the hunger and the distant stares of people who see you as less. “So many things go right,” I say. “But it only takes one thing to go wrong.”
She sighs, craning her neck to catch the moonlight. The jewels at her neck glisten. “I suppose.”
We hear the key in the lock then, the scrape of metal on metal just before the groan of aging wood.
Neither one of us moves, afraid to appear too eager, too anxious.
“Hello, kitten,” the woman says, dropping her keys on the table.
My companion rolls her eyes at me, but slides down from the windowsill, all soft fur and slinky muscles. She cranes her neck for a scratch behind the ears.
She’s beautiful, ebony and moonlight. Deadly and calm, so calm.
“So many things go right,” she says, sauntering past me again. “Except for the one thing I want for myself.” Her pink tongue flashes against black fur.
But I am safe behind the thick glass of my habitat. Or at least as safe as a mouse who fell in love with cat could ever be.
Jenny is a wife, mother, photographer and young adult writer. She likes her heroines smart and quirky, her heroes nice, and her kisses sweet. Her debut YA romance, THE ART OF FALLING, is available now from Bloomsbury Spark. You can follow her on twitter, tumblr, and her blog.