Home Is Where the Heart Is
I was curled up by the window listening to Bach, while Claire sat on the couch blowing up balloons. I closed my eyes and stretched out contentedly. A loud bang made me start and I sprang to my feet, alert.
‘Poppy!’ Claire glared at me. ‘You burst my balloon.’
I jumped up onto the seat beside her and put my head on her arm. She rubbed my ears, trying not to smile.
‘Don’t be cute. You’re supposed to be helping.’
I mewed indignantly as she scooped me up and carried me to my room, dropping me on the bed.
‘I want you back out in two minutes to do the food.’
She left, slamming the door behind her. I heard another bang and a stream of expletives. Reluctantly, I morphed back into my human form and looked for something to wear. I didn’t have many clothes and most of those were jeans and T-shirts. I located my only dress at the back of the wardrobe and put it on, along with a pair of flat pumps and a green cardigan. I ran my hands through my short hair – it had to be short otherwise when I changed form I looked like the feline equivalent of Cousin It – then sprayed a bit of perfume on my neck and put my glasses on. I was terribly short-sighted as a human.
I went to join Claire, who was dressed like Wonder Woman and putting crisps into bowls.
‘I don’t see why we have to have a party anyway,’ I grumbled, reaching for a sandwich. Claire slapped my hand away.
‘You can’t move into a new place without having a housewarming party.’
‘But it’s not a house, is it? It’s an observatory. Hence the name – The Observatory. We’re here to observe the city. Not invite it to parties.’
‘Relax.’ She breathed on an ice cube tray, freezing the water. ‘You need to learn how to have fun. We can do anything we want here.’
‘I’m not like you,’ I reminded her. ‘I can’t control the elements and shoot laser beams out of my eyes. All I can do is turn into a flaming cat.’
‘You should be proud of that. Cats are beautiful creatures.’
‘I know that,’ I grumbled. ‘It just feels like you have an unfair advantage sometimes.’
‘Right, right. Now, back to the party. What are you wearing?’
I glared at her.
She frowned and tugged at my cardigan.
‘You look like an Art teacher at a bad comprehensive school.’
‘And you look like an idiot at a bad comic convention.’
We finished putting the food out and I fought my way through the balloons to the stereo. Claire was busy lasering a big block of ice into the shape of a swan so I quickly pulled out a selection of albums and put them on the table next to the record player.
‘I hope you’ve got some stuff we can dance to,’ she said, blinking as she finished her sculpture. ‘I don’t want any of that depressing stuff you normally listen to. All those gravelly voiced men singing about killing themselves.’
‘I have great taste in music, don’t you worry. These are all albums that you absolutely have to dance to.’
‘Cool. Have you got any Pussycat Dolls?’
‘I don’t think so. I’ve got the New York Dolls though.’
‘Oh. Are they similar?
‘Erm, yeah, sure.’
‘Ok, great. Stick ’em on then. I’ll put the disco lights on.’
I started to protest but she was off. She had a mirrorball and everything. I sighed and went to put the music on. After a couple of drinks and dancing around to Personality Crisis I began to think this party thing wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Then I danced right into Claire, who was standing, without a trace of irony, with her hands on her hips.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Dancing. What’s the problem?’
‘There is no one else here,’ she said tightly, enunciating every word. You are dancing on your own and you look ridiculous.’
‘Keep your bra on. I’ll wait till the guests arrive then.’
‘They should be here by now. What time did you tell them?’
‘Me? I didn’t invite anyone. What time did you say?’
‘What? I haven’t invited anyone! You were supposed to be doing the invitations.’
‘I thought you were doing that. It’s your party.’
‘But you said … and I … I don’t believe this!’ She stamped on a balloon.
‘I’ve been working all day to get this place ready! We’ve got a party, all this food, and no guests! And what on earth is this music?!’
We stood there, staring at one another. Before she could say anything I quickly changed shape and ran out of the room. There was an almighty crash and I turned just in time to see the record player go through the window. I shot to my room and hid under the bed. There were a few smaller crashes and a bit of loud sobbing, then silence. I crawled out from under the bed and went to survey the damage.
Claire was curled up on the sofa, sniffing. I jumped up onto her shoulder and put my paw on her cheek.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said in a small voice. ‘I’ll clean it all up, I promise. And I’ll get you a new record player. And your album. Russian Dolls, wasn’t it? I’ll get you a new one. I shouldn’t get so emotional, it’s just that I really wanted tonight to be a success. I’m really, really sorry. Can you forgive me?’ I purred loudly in response. ‘Thanks, Poppy. We are going to be happy here, I know we are. It’s our home now.’
I left her a little while later, asleep on the couch. I went up onto the roof and curled up, looking down at the bright lights of the city below. It was an incredible view, and here we were, right at the top of it. Claire was right. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I wanted to be. This was home.