Breeder of Black Cats
Opal pads across the back of the couch, leaps down onto the arm, and over to Emmalynn. She rubs her soft black head against Emmalynn's hip, seeking affection, seeking approval. She was the runt of this litter, but now she's long and sleek, with the pale, gleaming eyes to which she owes her name.
Emmalynn reaches to stroke her along her arched back.
“My good, girl, aren't you?” They all are. Emmalynn counts in her head: all sixteen of them now. She smiles at the cliché, she embraces it. She's seen the way some of the neighbourhood children glance towards her house, that furtive, uneasy look about them. They might whisper 'witch' when they don't see her weeding the garden behind a wall, but they never say it loudly. She never has cause to shake a fist at anyone, tell them to get off her lawn.
She only breeds black cats. Pure black. Cats that blend into the night, so dark her neighbours might barely see them at night until they almost trip over them. Something eerie about it. And about the way these cats mill about, all lounging out front there, watching everything go by. As if they're spying. As if they're planning something.
And then at twilight she sends them out. A few quick sigils, a snap of her fingers, her silent army scatters into the night.
“You can't own so many cats without a breeder's permit,” the man says, coming to her door one morning, in a suit, with a clipboard, with official-looking ID.
“Oh, well I do breed them.”
“You need to be a licensed breeder. I'm sorry, but you will need to rehome some of these cats.”
Her family. Her girls. She knows by now that there's no sense in bothering to argue. This man will argue, and she'd argue back. He won't be swayed, and she's not being parted from them. As he walks down the garden path old Minty will sashay into his path, wrap herself between his legs, look up at him plaintively, and have to be gently brushed aside. When he gets to his car he'll find it won't start; halfway home a flat tyre. Then a month or two later his wife will lose interest, she won't even be able to say why, it just 'isn't working out' and she'll pack her bags and leave him. An old woman with too many cats will drift out of his memory.
The neighbours will feel it too. Through the dusk, her cats seek out legs, walk past them and through them, rubbing their heads against the jeans of walking strangers; running quickly across the footpath in front of a group of rowdy kids. And then an ice-cream or two might drop to the pavement; somebody might trip up; someone else will go home to find they've left the stove on, started a fire; someone else has left the pantry open and the dog has jumped up and had a little feast.
Rumour spreads. People look from the corner of their eyes. There's a slight increase in pace as they walk past her front gate.
Does she hate her neighbours? No, it isn't that. She just likes her life to be quiet.
And anyway, the world is all at balance, the light and dark, fortune, misfortune. The fruit on her trees always comes in thick and juicy in summer.