So here is the continuation of my itsy bitsy cute little story about Cat (from The Windflower by Laura London) when he leaves the pirate life for university. If you missed the first part, click here. Tell me how you like it! 🙂
After the twenty minute carriage ride home–as Cathcart insisted, for his son’s well being–Cat stepped out of the carriage only to find himself staring at the carriage with the emblem of St. Cyr on its door. It was being moved towards where the stables were so the horses could rest. Cat quickened his pace, not wanting to admit that he was more than a little happy upon seeing the carriage. The butler opened the doors to his young master and greeted him with a warm welcome but Cat only nodded and headed with brisk but quiet steps straight for the great room where guests were received.
He heard the twinkling laughter even before he was close to the glass doors and as he opened them, laid eyes on Merry in her full glory of blazing red gold hair. Of course, Devon was there, too. As soon as Merry saw him, her eyes grew wide with amazement. “Oh, Cat! You look very handsome in that uniform! No one would guess you were a pirate before this. You look like a prince!” She hugged him and he hugged her back in earnest, completely ignoring the silent question in Devon’s eyes. “Oh, Cat, I’ve missed you!” With a gasp, she exclaimed, “You’ve cut your hair!” Merry turned him around and held up the short braid to her husband. “My! Devon, his beautiful hair’s gone!”
Cat ignored the urge to snap at her. He missed her, but sometimes she noticed the oddest of things. “Merry, it’s hair; it’ll grow back.”
He heard Devon laugh. “My love, you’re suffocating him with your attention. Give only a tiny bit, dear, and he’ll be happy as a clam.”
“Nonsense, I haven’t seen Cat for over a month because of preparations for the university! I missed him so.” She quickly turned to Cat and looked him straight in the eyes. “I heard you have a new name? Did you pick one yourself?”
With an arched ivory brow, Cat regarded Merry then Devon, who was leaning casually on the edge of a mahogany desk, the blonde of his hair catching the sun from the huge window. “I suppose news travel quickly enough.”
“Do you like it? Wait, you haven’t even told us what it is.” Excitement reaching its fullest; Merry clapped her hands together in anticipation.
“Where is the old man? He hasn’t met you yet? How long have you been waiting?” Cat made a show of looking out the glass doors. “I’d better go tell him you’ve arrived.”
Devon called him back. “It’s alright; he knows. He had to fetch some documents for me. Why don’t you quit the suspense already and tell us your new name?”
Cat glared at Devon’s grin. “If you must know, the old man picked it. I only agreed.”
Just when Cat was about to disclose his new identity, his father’s footsteps padded closer. All three turned at his approach.
“Well, now,” Cathcart exclaimed to his son with a soft pat on the back, “How was university today, Alden?” His eyebrows arched expectantly, eager to hear from his son.
“Alden?” Merry tilted her head as though trying to see if the name would fit Cat. “Alden Cathcart.” Her eyes blinked at him a few times before she brightened completely. “What a marvelous name, Cat! I mean, Alden!”
Old Cathcart laughed joyously. “It is, isn’t it, dear? Alden Curtis Cathcart.” The old man smiled proudly at Cat and he couldn’t help but feel the pleasure that slowly sneaked into his chest.
“You can’t still be sporting such a nasty face in campus, are you?” Devon remarked. Cat knew he was teasing but he didn’t like it anyhow.
“This is my face each and every day. If they don’t like it, they shouldn’t look.” He regarded his father and replied to his question before Merry had interrupted with her girlish squealing. “It was quiet as always. Learned some new things and some not so new things,” he finished lamely, his mind suddenly drawn back to the scene of Professor Langham and young Evans. Shrugging it off, he added, “It’s getting very irritating how those brats stare and spread gossip. I would have thought they were girls and not men.” Suddenly realizing what he had just said, he warily looked to his father and debated whether he should apologize or not.
Devon, bless his damned soul, saved him the trouble. “I thought Oxford was full of intelligent young men, but from the sounds of it, you’re the only one worth that adjective.” With a wink that only Cat saw, Devon smiled.
It seemed to be the correct answer since the old Cathcart nodded firmly in assent. “If those young people can’t get past their childish antics, then you might as well not associate yourself with such chaps.” His father stared at him for a moment then asked a little awkwardly, “Have you, uh… I mean to say, have you made any friends?”
The silence was already telling for Devon and Merry–who smartly stayed silent–but the old man was oblivious to the sign. Cat cleared his throat and avoided looking at any of them. “There is one. A funny haired guy who likes to make notes in class.” He doesn’t completely know his father, but Cat somehow didn’t like disappointing him and for now, this was his solution.
The old man frowned. “Has he got a name? Mayhaps, I know the family?” Cat hoped to heaven that his father wouldn’t know as he quickly blurt out, “Evans.”
“Evans? Maybe he’s related to Walter Evans? I know he has an only daughter though, and no son. Do I know any other Evans?” Old Cathcart appeared to be troubled by this and started fingering his white moustache. Devon stepped up to him, putting an arm around his shoulders.
“Cathcart, old chap. I need to discuss some matters with you in private. You can worry about those Evans later.” Devon coolly led the old man out of the room, blabbing on about Morgan and other urgent matters. When they were out of earshot, Merry stood close to Cat and whispered, “Did you make that person up?”
Cat gave her a wry look. “The person is real, but he’s no friend of mine. I only watched him have a quibble with a professor.”
Merry appeared to be thinking for a while, a dainty finger tapping her chin. “Come to think of it, I’ve met that daughter of a Sir Evans. I think she’s a year younger than both of us, but she’s very smart; I think you’ll like her.” She smiled positively at Cat but when his face didn’t change, the smile vanished. “Cat, you should make friends. You already told your father you have one; you might as well make it true.”
Not used to being the one told to do things, Cat moved away from her and sat down on a leather couch. He stared at Merry and sighed, patting the seat beside him in invitation. Merry sat down and waited. “It doesn’t feel like I’m even myself anymore. Sooner than later, you and other people will start calling me Alden and Cat will disappear as though he never existed. Then I’ll be hanging around those snot-nosed rich bastards and you won’t be able to see the difference between them and myself.”
Shaking her head before he even finished, Merry replied, “That’s not true. I may start calling you Alden but I know that you are still the same old Cat.” She gave him an encouraging hug. “You’ll never be alone, Cat. We’ll be here for you; we’ll support you if need us. Your father’s here for you.”
“I know that.” Sighing once more, Cat sat up straighter. “Alright, I’ll try to make some friends tomorrow.” He internalized his statement then observed Merry for a few moments. “Why are you and Devon here? And don’t tell me it’s because you’ve missed me.”
She looked a little hurt at his statement, but she smiled playfully. “Devon has some matters to attend to. Something about Morgan’s plans and some debts or something like that.”
“Plans? What’s that devil planning now?” Cat tried hard to think of anyone he knew who owed Morgan money. He knew about a Mr. Davies that owed him a small lump of money from a long time ago, but Morgan had mentioned that wasn’t a priority since they were out of the British coasts and most of the time sailing across the Atlantic preying on other ships. Aside from that one, Cat knew nothing else of who might now be owing Morgan. He shrugged, “That man can never sit still, he’s always after something or someone or trapping people in one of his plans.”
Merry readily agreed with an enthusiastic nod. “For a pirate, he is manipulative and he does like playing tricks on the people around him.”
All this talk about Morgan was making Cat remember the Black Joke again and his life before this one. Suddenly quiet, he silently blocked any memories of his captain and the crew, struggling with himself as he did so.
Merry watched Cat disappear into himself and she felt an ache tugging in her chest. She knew he was having trouble adjusting to life on land and everything else around him, but he was keen on not giving it away. The Cat who seemed sure of himself aboard the Joke was struggling on land. Merry knew he felt homesick and she couldn’t help but understand his situation.
“Alright, then. I’ll take you to the balls that I’ve been invited to. You’ll meet plenty of girls who’ll swoon over you and you’ll be feeling better in no time.”
He groaned as he put his head down onto his palm. “Merry, sweet, I’m not Morgan. I don’t find swooning girls all that appealing.” He felt Merry’s hand on his shoulder.
“I know, Cat, but you’ll be with me and Devon, and the three of us can have fun together! At least, we can all spend time together before Devon and I leave for Southampton.”
Cat’s head snapped up. “You’re leaving Oxford?” His voiced revealed his concern but he didn’t care at the moment.
“I told you Devon’s looking into things for Morgan. It won’t be for another three months, though.” After seeing the questioning gaze from her friend, she added, “And he won’t tell me what it is he’s looking into, so I wouldn’t be the person to ask.”
Cat ignored her excuse. “How long will you be gone for?”
“I’m not sure. Devon said he’ll try to make it as quick a trip as possible.”
Slightly suspicious and a tad worried, he let the matter go. “Well, as long as you come back in time for the holidays. That’s the only break I get from that blasted school.” He didn’t want to say horrid things about the school anymore, knowing how Merry will surely worry. He stood up and exhaled. “In the meantime, I need to find something to keep me busy, otherwise these servants will drive me crazy.” It was difficult to adjust from being self-reliant to being served by people in his every waking moment. He had to admit it was a little refreshing at first, but most of the time, Cat found it annoying that he couldn’t move around the mansion as freely as he would want. He was always being ushered there or directed elsewhere.
Merry laughed. “You have to get used to them, they’re here for a purpose, you know. If you have nothing to do, how about you come with me to a little get-together with the Safford family? They invited us but Devon doesn’t have time so I’ll be going by myself.”
The scathing look that Cat was giving her was just as Merry expected so she pouted and appealed to him with her sapphire blue eyes. “Please, Cat? Won’t you come with me? Just this once, then I’ll definitely make Devon go to all the other ones. I don’t want to be all alone.”
Cat knew he wouldn’t be able to say no to those pleading eyes. He shook his head. “Fine, but only this once. Jesus, you sure know how to pressure people.” No sooner than he finished his sentence, Merry catapulted herself onto him in a big hug.
“Oh, thank you, Cat! You’re such a darling!” Merry exclaimed happily.
This was how Devon and Cathcart found them, with Merry seemingly cutting off Cat’s breathing with her grip around his neck. “Are we celebrating something?” Devon inquired dryly.
Merry turned to face her husband, incidentally letting go of Cat, who put a hand to his neck to make sure it was still intact. “Cat agreed, I mean, Alden agreed to come with me tomorrow for tea with the Saffords.” She then looked to Cathcart and added, “Is that quite alright, Mr. Cathcart?”
The man chuckled before speaking, “Of course, it is, dear.” As though remembering something, he held a hand to his heart and added with a warm smile, “Ah, and don’t forget; there shall be a small celebration among my close friends on the weekend, and it would be an honour if you both,” he nodded to Devon and Merry, “could come.”
Devon was already shaking the man’s hand. “Of course, Mr. Cathcart. We’d love to come by.”