Thursday, 30 October 2008
Alicia Wren had always been tall for her age. Still, at 16 she had a good strong sense of what she looked good in. Her mother told her so and so did lots of her friends. One morning while out shopping, Alicia bought a pair of sandals (summer was coming), a black skirt (for work), a white blouse (also for work) and could not decide what else. She wandered around the shops listlessly until she came across a small shop she had not seen before. Perhaps, she thought, it was new in which case she would check it out for her friends and possibly her mum.
She pushed open the door and went in. It was a strange little shop. A large handsome black cat reclined with his forepaws neatly tucked up beneath him and gazed at her with big yellow moon eyes. Jenny liked cats, so she spoke to the cat, let him sniff her fingers and stroked the cool, silky thick fur feeling his muscle and warmth. He began to purr, a low deep thrum that spoke of pure pleasure. Alicia glanced about the shop. There were dresses that looked interesting and a large box of reels of cotton and silk threads in various colours. Over her head from the ceiling, hung pots and pans for cooking with. But strangest of all, right at the back a long stuffed crocodile hung from the ceiling, it's jaws open as if it had been caught by surprise.
"Nasty looking brute isn't he, love?" a warm voice said.
There was an old lady behind the counter, whom Alicia could have sworn was not there when she came in. The old lady sat upon a long-legged chair and was knitting - something indeterminate. Alicia nodded and asked if the cat was hers.
"No cat belongs to anyone but itself dearie. Dogs you can own, but a cat just lives with you. He's lived with me for about fifty years," the old lady said glancing at the cat who ignored her.
"Really? As long as that?" Alicia answered tactfully thinking the old lady was barmy.
Cats don't live for fifty years she thought, any fool knows that. But she said nothing. Alicia wandered around the little shop. She looked at the dresses and the threads and the pots and pans. She saw a large teapot with a sign poking out of the lid that read 'Do not disturb' and a soft snore came from the teapot. She glanced back at the old lady who seemed to have vanished again.
When she straightened up again, she found herself facing a small glass case with a large toadstool in it. Upon the toadstool, little puffs of smoke seemed to be issuing like little clouds. She shook her head and looked again, but the smoke seemed to have gone. She turned about and found herself facing a long mirror or looking glass. It seemed to show her as a woman in her twenties with her hair done up beautifully and long and wearing her new skirt and stripy black and white leggings. She saw that she was smiling in the looking glass and smiled back at her reflection.
With a deep breath she turned and slowly walked out of the shop saying as she went, to the cat,
"Goodbye. Say thank you to the lady you live with for me won't you."
The cat yawned and as she opened the door and went out into the bustling street it answered,
"Why certainly miss."
Alicia did not hear him, by then she was heading back to a store she had overlooked. She went in and found a pair of stripy black and white leggings which she bought. That done she went home.
She never found the shop again, but when she entered her halls of residence in her twenties to register, she saw a large handsome black cat looking at her with warm, friendly yellow moon eyes. Behind the counter sat the old lady knitting - something. She did not know why, but Alicia was certainly at her happiest in university. She had a room next door to a wonderful young woman who made dresses that looked like the night sky all full of stars and could sew as if she had been born doing it.
She did three degrees and ended by teaching literature at the university. She was famous among the students for her black and white stripy stockings and her large black cat with yellow moon eyes and a deep low purr.