“Feliks!” you shouted over to the horse that sat under the old oak tree. He seemed to watch the clouds float by on their way to nowhere. “Come here.” You waved the shiny, round apple in your hand, in hopes to appeal to the blond stallion with speckled white spots, and coax him from under the tree.
His ears pricked forward; as he watched you stretch your arm out towards him, leaning your weight on the rickety old fence, with attentive scrutiny. He stood; finally deciding to trot over to you, worrying you might actually hurt yourself if the fence gave way.
Holding the apple out in your opened palm, he greedily took it.
Fresh apples from the green grocer?
It had been rather some time, but he could get used to this again. If you were willing to go down there and buy them, he was more than happy to eat them. Since those boys that bought the groceries to your grandmother had no idea how to pick fruit.
“If you’re good…” your voice was charming. You pulled a few sugar cubes from your jacket pocket that you’d snuck out while your grandma had her back turned, “…I’ll let you have these.”
You hopped the squeaking fence, your feet landed steady on the other side. Slowly lifting a hand, you ran your nails gently down the sleek lines of his neck. His skin quivered beneath your touch, his eyes studying you as if trying to remember.
“Have you forgotten me, Feliks?” You asked, sounding a bit hesitant.
He snorted and gave a shake of his head, tousling his mane. It appeared he was almost trying to say no, I could never have forgotten you, especially with a few tasty treats in your hand.
Holding the sugar in your fist, you scratched his nose with your index finger. Before long, the animal bumped his nose into your hand, repeating a few times, trying to gain your already undivided attention. You smiled and unfolded your fist to show the lumps of sugar.
“I used to make you tell me a story before you got sugar,” you sweetly said. “But you can’t talk, can you?”
Knowing he couldn’t answer you, you hopped the fence again. The sooner you finished the chores around the yard, the sooner you could relax. Not that you were run ragged by your grandmother, no, she would have been out here keeping step with you if you had asked.
But your drifting mind went to the past, like it had been lately since you walked up that worn path from the cab, when you arrived a few days ago.
You wished Feliks could talk. He used to keep you entertained with stories for hours on end. The few animals around your grandmother’s yard had been your best friends growing up, recapping tales to you. Like so many things, your imagination of talking animals, pixies, and magic faded, it’s what happened to most adults.
Although your granny seemed to still have an active imagination. Heck, she had just told you that garden fairies had done a lovely job on her rosebuds this morning!
You had looked out the window, only to see the flowers sitting unoccupied by anyone, human or mythical. Other than Alfred the goat trying to find some wild onions that might have been mixed with the weeds and flowers.
Maybe she did need your help, in more ways than one, but you wouldn’t dare say that to her. She would be in the right mind to box your ears with talk like that, and you’d have rightly deserved it.
Grabbing the empty pail, you walked over to the collapsing well a few yards away from his pen. Hooking the pail on the rope, you lowered it and bought it back up once more.
He nickered as you poured the water into the trough.
“I’ll be right back, Feliks.” You muttered, wandering over to the barn that was in need of a new coat of paint.
Inside wasn’t much better from the cobwebs that hung in clumps from beam to beam. The owls that sat up in the corner opened their sleeping eyes to see what the disturbance was. Circles of sunlight dappled threw the side of the old barn.
Knowing there was no way you’d be able to fix some of these repairs yourself, you knew you might have to go down into town and find someone that could. There were always a few young lads looking for an honest day’s work.
Walking around the barn you found the bag of feed. Seizing another bucket, you filled it full. You had to wonder how your grandmother had done all this for so many years.
Again, you walked out of the barn, holding the bucket with both hands. Watching your feet, you made sure you wouldn’t trip. You’d done that too many times in your younger years with a bucket full of feed. Then ended up having to clean it up, so certainly that isn’t what you wanted to do.
As you got closer, you saw a bright reddish-orange fur ball nose to nose with the steed. The sight made you smile. Clearly the pair was already well acquainted with each other.
Feliks snorted again, turning to the trough, slurping thirstily. The creature that had greeted him, jumped and balanced on the edge of the trough, finding some water to quench his own thirst.
Pouring the bucket into the empty part, you startled the large tomcat. He fell off and onto the ground, looking a little panicked. Feliks neighed, and you could have sworn it was him laughing at the small beast that looked discombobulated.
Lying on his back, the cat blinked his bright green eyes a few time, looking perplexed on how he ended up there, and rolled over on his side. Standing over him, you rested your hands on your hips, with bucket still clutched in hand. Before you even had a chance to say ‘good morning’, he was sidling around your feet.
He couldn’t believe it! You were back and what the birds had been squawking in the trees was true.
“Oh, Allistor!” you said, kneeling to pat his head. He purred as he pushed into your hand. Suddenly he bounded toward the door of the cottage, which stood ajar. He stopped, gazing back at you with huge, slanted eyes.
“I’m coming.” You sighed, following the path the cat had taken. It was surprising to see he was still as rambunctious as ever, even if the cat had to be cresting seventeen years you knew of.
He pushed the door open with his weight, and ran into the kitchen.
Allistor jumped on the table and was drinking your tea. He lapped it up quickly, before he could be booted away. It had been a good week since he’d had a nice cup of tea. It had been even long since it was made the way he liked it.
Now if only there were some of those tasty butter biscuits. He glanced around the kitchen to try to see if the blue tin sat anywhere, but he spotted something else.
Glaring up from his hunched position, he looked at your grandmother, then at the picture on the wall. Licking his wet muzzle, he let out a hiss and arched his back. The sight on the wall made his fur bristle and he was ready to fight.
“Allistor!” you scolded and clapped your hands. “Off the table.”
Your grandmother turned from the sink, waving her hand in the air. “Let him be, dear. He’s been gone for weeks.” She smiled, and walked over the table. Brushing his back, she cooed at him, “I’m sure we’ll be seeing a bunch of orange kittens at the farmer’s down the way…again.”
“Maybe you should get him fixed?” You huffed at the empty cup you sat down too. Allistor’s whiskers twitched at your choice of words, it would be a cold day in hell when that happened.
The teacup was pulled away, and replaced with a fresh one. You had to wonder how your grandmother seemed to know things before they happened, or at least it appeared that way.
Allistor howled and jumped from the table to the sink in one movement. He sat below the picture, his tail twitching as he studied the now vacated farm scene. His tail thumped on the wooden cupboard below, sounding like a ritual drum.
“I don’t think he would like that,” your granny said, picking him up and placing him on the floor. “Now don’t start, Allistor.” She spoke firmly to him and he cocked his head to the side, folding his ears down.
“I guess he wouldn’t,” you evenly said, wrapping your hands around the cup in front of you. “Everyone is fed and watered. I’ll brush Feliks’s mane later.”
“Then why don’t we take our tea in the parlor, dear?”
You nodded, and slowly carried your tea into the simple, but homey parlor. Pulling a coaster off the stack, you sat your teacup down. Your granny took her favorite chair, leaning back with a groan as her bones creaked. It seemed the pain came quicker now than it used too.
Sitting down on the floral pattern sofa, you shifted your weight and laid back. Resting your head back on the overstuffed arm, you looked around the room. Propping your feet on the other arm, you stretched your body out finding a comfortable position.
“Granny?” you asked. You turned your head slightly to face the woman who fixed her glasses, which hung around her neck on a faux-pearl strand, upon her nose. “What happened to the pictures?” You pointed towards the wall that had nails, and it was apparent pictures had hung there from the bright squares to the faded wallpaper.
She had been famous for taking and hiding them. Your father had always said that she was draft for doing such a thing, but to you, there had to be a reason. Its comments like that from your father that made you happy to be here and not there.
“I just haven’t got back to putting them up again.” She said, pulling her needlework from the basket next to her chair.
“Why’d you take them down in the first place?” you asked. Allistor jumped over the back of the sofa, landing squarely on your chest. You huffed out a few obscenities, and blushed when you knew your grandmother was sitting across from you. “Sorry, he just scared me and he weights a ton.”
“I’ve said worse, my girl.” She coolly said. Busying her hands as she waited for you to ask the question again on why she had taken them down. But you itched behind Allistor’s ear and the cat purred in eagerness, enjoying the attention.
“I remember when Allistor used to talk to me,” you laughed at the absurd thought. “He’s from Scotland and he likes cigars. D’you know that, Granny?”
She raised a brow at you, and then looked down at the cat that rolled on his back, apparently ignoring the conversation, or so it appeared. “Did he now? And what else did Mr. Allistor here have to tell you?”
You laughed and shook your head. “Granny, I was like five. Animals don’t talk.”
“Hmm,” she said and nodded, lacing the needle through the fabric. “Of course they don’t. But in case they get the wise idea, they might be smart to not start.”
You lulled your head to the side and looked at the picture that hung above the fireplace. Your (e/c) eyes trailed up the woven golden frame, and then you locked eyes with the same face you had seen years before.
His eyes seemed so life like, as they watched you from his high vantage point. A pair of gloved hands rested on a silver walking cane in a most dignified pose. His midnight black evening jacket complemented his blond hair perfectly.
It was the only piece that seemed out of place in this house. Everything else came off as quaint for a rural cottage. This seemed more of an exquisite piece that should have hung in Buckingham, instead of house in the middle of a forest in Gloucestershire.
“What’s his name?” you asked, still in a staring match with the gleaming green orbs. You’d asked before, and you knew the answer, but there was something about how your granny talked about him.
“Arthur.” Her voice wheezed, and she acted as if you never had asked her before. Her fingers were nimble with the thread and needle, as she glanced up at the picture. “He was a powerful sorcerer about two hundred years ago.”
“He’s kinda hot,” you said, flipping on your side and knocking Allistor onto the floor. “Tell me about him.”
The cat that fell, yet again on his back, growled and jumped back up next to you.
She opened her mouth, wondering if she should tell you the whole story. If she should explain what had really happened. Then to tell you your place and what you’d have to do. But drew in another breath, and closed her eyes taking the easier of the two options.
“It’s a sad story,” she said, resting the craft in her lap. “He was once respected with all the witches threw out England. He could perform any spell you needed.” She picked up her teacup and took a sip. “But with great power, comes greater reasonability.”
You nodded, glancing back at the picture. He did look like he could have been great, but also mysterious, you had always thought that. “What happened to him?”
“Witches, sorcerers, and warlocks are always tempted with the dark side. They can choose to avoid it, but sometimes the promises they’re given are too tempting. And for one that had mastered magic like Arthur had, it tainted his soul.”
“But why?” you asked, more like the five year old girl sitting in front of her again as she told her gallant tales. But now the brown locks had faded to white, and her mouth drooped down into folds.
She shook her head as if there was never an answer given, and there hadn’t been. “He had turned evil. He was so evil in fact he changed his own brothers into animals, even his friends. He killed his second oldest brother, Seamus.” Her heart constricted at the thought.
Allistor, who snuggled next to you, perked his ears up. He let out another howl as if he knew all too well.
“How was he stopped?” You asked and stroked the tabby whose muscles bunched under your hand.
“A good witch bravely stopped him on a moonless night many, many years ago. She even offered her soul to save what was left of her friends and family. The powers that be had other ideas for her.”
Her old, glossy eyes glanced at the picture and she narrowed them. Arthur had quickly changed positions. He was missing yet again.
Your grandmother raised her hand to her mouth and started to violently cough. She huffed and panted, trying to draw in another breath. You were off the sofa like a shot and came back with a glass of water in hand.
Resting her hand on her chest, she grimaced at the pain. Taking the glass, she sipped the water that cooled her throat. “Can you help me to the bedroom, (f/n)? I feel a little tired.”
“Of course,” you said, helping her to her feet. She leaned her weight on you as you slowly walked her to the downstairs bedroom. After she couldn’t climb the stairs as well, she had made her room easier to get too.
She sat on the edge of the bed, drawing in another gulp of air. “Why don’t you go out?”
You wetted your dry lips, ready to tell her that you would stay in case she needed something.
“Now go on,” she shooed you away. “Go down to the flea market in town and have fun. The flour tin in the kitchen has a few pounds and notes.”
“…go on now. I know it’s no Portobello Road, but you can find some nice treasures.”
You sighed, knowing it would do you no good to try to fight with her. Walking out of the bedroom, you went into the kitchen.
“Allistor,” your grandmother said, looking down at the cat that had come into the room too. “Follow her and make sure she’ll be okay. I’ve got a feeling that Arthur is up to something.”
“Aye,” the tabby cat said. “I’ll watch her like a hawk.” He winked a green eye and trotted out the door. “Plus, I might be able to find some half smoked stogies.”
“And Allistor,” your granny whispered, snapping her fingers.
The cat looked around the door again and meowed.
“Keep your trap shut, boyo.”