This is one of the stories I entered for a competition recently. Its modern fiction, rather than fantasy fiction, and I don’t feel like it is the best thing I have ever written, but it was my first try at following the rules for ‘Flash Fiction’, which are here if you want them.

The Cat

He didn’t like anyone.

He didn’t even really like himself. He had passionately hated the
woman he lived with for 8 years, until she finally gave up trying to
make herself more appealing to him. Funny how the minute she stopped
trying, decided she didn’t care any more, was the same minute he
realised she was the love of his life. But it was too late by then.

He hadn’t wanted to live alone, in this enormous empty echo-y house, with it’s high
ceilings and grey painted walls, that stood in the shadows of the
tall trees outside, which let in little sunlight even in mid-summer.

Maybe this was why, when an unknown cat let herself in one day through the open window of
the drawing room, he didn’t immediately throw her out again.

He had been sitting at what was once the dining table, in the days when they had held the dinner
parties he hated so much. Forced to become the genial host, to smile,
to pretend to be interested in the petty, boring lives of Clara’s
friends, while they drank too much wine and ate too much food.

Now the table had become his writing desk, covered in old newspapers with half
completed crossword puzzles, unpaid bills, and the discarded, coffee
stained sheets of his music – the agonised pouring out of his heart
and soul that never seemed good enough these days to send to his
agent.

The cat had let herself in and sat on the table in the middle of it all.

She was the colour of pale caramel. He supposed she was a particular breed, though he
didn’t know which. Maybe a type of Siamese. She had bright blue eyes
that stared into his, blinking slowly while she purred loudly,
tapping the tip of her tail rhythmically on the paper beneath her.

Tap tap tap.

He sat staring back and considered her. She must belong to one of the neighbours, he thought.
They had high stone walls and fences all around the huge, neglected
garden, but of course cats are inconsiderate of man made boundaries
such as these. She might have climbed one of the trees whose
branches trespassed from next door and hung untamed, dropping rotting
fruit and dried up leaves onto the lawn he hadn’t mown since Clara
left.

He liked the purring and the tapping – the cat’s own music.

“Make yourself at home.” he told her. He suddenly realised it was the first sentence
he had spoken out loud for several days. His voice sounded oddly
harsh in the crushing silence of the room.

He looked back down at his music sheet. He hadn’t slept well the night before, and usually
that leant itself well to his creative process. When his eyes stung,
his head ached, and his hand hurt from holding his pen so tightly,
the most beautiful music flowed from his pen. Today however, nothing
would come. He had once read an article about ‘writers block’ which
suggested ‘write something, anything, even if it doesn’t make sense’.
So he scratched a few random notes onto the page in the hope that
they would transform into a tortuous, heart rending melody, reducing
the listener to tears, bringing a long unseen smile to the lips of
his agent and increasing his bank balance to at least a liveable
level.

It didn’t help however. They were just squiggles on his page. They weren’t singing to him. He
closed his eyes, and as ever the old familiar images drifted into his
mind, uninvited yet persistent. Clara in the garden, lost in a book,
laying in a hammock between the apples trees; Clara on the beach, her
pale golden hair waving softly in the breeze; Clara laying next to
him in between freshly laundered sheets, her skin soft and velvety,
and her smell of summer.

A soft, rumbling ‘meow!’ woke him from his reverie.

The cat got up and walked right onto his music sheet. She rubbed her head against the
end of the pen and his hand, her purring increasing in volume. She
sat down again, her face close to his, and this time rubbed her head
against his nose, leaving a few tickling hairs behind on his skin
that he had to rub away with his fingers.

Realising the futility of trying to work with this new situation, he picked the cat up and
carried her to the sofa, kicking aside old pizza boxes and take-away
cartons, still covered with remnants of the last few weeks hastily
eaten meals. He sat in the last small habitable space that remained
on the sofa, next to untidy piles of dirty clothes, and rested the
cat on his lap. Whilst continuing to purr, she turned herself slowly
round three times, kneading him as she went with her paws, her sharp
claws occasionally finding their way through the worn fabric of his
corduroy trousers and into the flesh of his legs. It hurt a little,
but he didn’t mind the pain. It was pleasant to feel something
different to the empty ache he always felt in his chest.

She settled comfortably on his lap and he stroked her soft fur. He liked the way he could
feel the vibrations of her purrs on his legs.

He leant his head against the back of the sofa, closing his tired eyes, his hand
resting on the cat’s back, and found that his visions of Clara were
not so vivid in his mind as usual. The images were fading with each
purr; the empty ache eased; his mind soothed.

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