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Short story snippet: “Moving Day”

Channeling my own feelings about an upcoming move into fiction. It so happens I had an appropriate event from my novel (saga?) to write out.

***

It was strange.

It was like it was Cassandra moving out instead of him.

All morning she’d been stalking the house like someone possessed (the regular kind of possessed you read about in scary stories, the ocelot in his head supplied him), moving objects around and speaking to herself.

“He’ll need this and this, but what about that. Is that something I should pack?”

It went on and on, while Oy himself put aside and packed the items he knew he’d miss during the long months spent with Zouriel in his city apartment.

The idea of moving had scared him a little at first, but only a little. He already knew the apartment’s layout after having spent some time there after the house had burned down and it wasn’t bad, as long as it didn’t get too messy. The city was something he could get used to too, it was rather exciting to be around it more, especially now that he knew the forest would still be there waiting for him. That he would see it again come the next summer.

Oy wondered more than once if he should try saying something to Cassandra, that he was quite fine and that she didn’t have to help him pack. But it was hard to penetrate through the bubble she seemed to have ensconced herself inside.

It was a little after lunchtime when Zouriel showed up, looking a little frazzled himself, but definitely not as worked up as Cassandra, who was still doing her restless dance. She would sit down or try to work on something for a few minutes, but then she’d dart up and mumble something to herself and go back to digging in boxes and cupboards again.

Cassandra was busy going over one such box when Zouriel, after having been ignored for a good ten minutes decided to make his presence known and she actually jumped a full foot off the ground.

“I’m not ready! I need to finish packing Oy’s things!” she cried out, the whites of her eyes showing like on a frightened animal. Like the animal inside her.

Oy decided that she had troubled herself enough and that she now seemed receptive enough to listen.

“Miss Cass, it’s okay. All the stuff I need is already packed”, he said, tugging gently at the sleeve of her shirt. It was slightly frayed at the edges, after she’d picked on it too violently.

Finally she saw him. For the first time that day she saw him.

“Of course, of course…” she mumbled and bent down slightly so she could wrap her arms around him.

They remained like that for a while, in silence at first.

“You have to be a good boy while you’re staying with Zourie, okay?” she whispered in his ear, her rough hair tickling his nose. “I will miss you…”

“It’s going to be okay, Miss Cass”, he said, holding her a little closer. In that instant it really felt like he was the one staying behind and she the one leaving, who needed the reassurance.

Zouriel cleared his throat from behind him, alerting them to his impatience.

“I…hate to rush things, but I have a meeting that I need to get to this afternoon…Figured I should let Oy settle in before I leave.”

Cassandra quickly got up, mechanically straightening her clothing and running her fingers through her rough locks.

“Of course, of course”, she said, the frantic look returning to her.

“It’s okay, Miss Cass”, Oy said again, louder this time, while glancing over at Zouriel, who got the hint.

“Yeah, things will be okay”, Zouriel said. “I’ll call you later and well…You’re welcome to visit whenever. You know that.”

Cassandra managed a slight smile, though from the way she was blinking her eyes she was trying to keep her emotions in check.

“I’ll call”, she repeated and gave Oy one more hug, before she wrapped her arms around Zouriel too. She lowered her voice again, so Oy could barely hear, but it did sound something like: “Look after him, you big dummy, or I’ll beat you senseless.”

Zouriel smiled, so it was obvious it wasn’t anything bad.

And like that they started organizing the boxes and bags of Oy’s belongings that they were taking with them. Toys and books and clothing, with Cass making sure all the winter clothing was there, including woolen hats and knitted scarves.

Oy smiled at her even as Cassandra’s voice began to crack slightly, while she loaded up Zouriel and Oy with everything.

“And you have to make sure he eats all his vegetables and you can’t have Take Away all the time, you know that stuff is bad for you and…”

Zouriel offered a strained grin and sighed.

“I think I’ll manage, Cass. And I promise I won’t pass all my bad habits off on him.”

“I’ll help Zourie clean!” Oy chirped in.

That finally broke Cassandra and she began to sob. Her shoulders shook and she had to steady herself on the back of the couch. The very couch that Zouriel had once rested on, that first day she’d stumbled over his bleeding form.

“Cass…” Zouriel mumbled and managed to get close enough to her to rest his head on her shoulder. Oy followed his lead and got up close too.

Cassandra reached out and wrapped her arms around them both, crushing them as close to her as possible, despite the boxes and bags.

“You two promise to stay safe”, she finally managed to get out after she’d stopped sobbing.

“You’ll come visit me and then I can tell you how school is”, Oy said and peered up at her. Suddenly it hit him that he didn’t have to bend his neck as much to look her in the eye. He was a little taller than he used to be. Bigger.

And big boys were almost grown up.

Cassandra ruffled his hair and collected herself. After straightening herself one last time, drying off her wet cheeks, the old Cass was suddenly back.

Back to business.

“Goodness, look at the time. It’s about time you two head off, I heard it was going to rain later.”

“Take care, Cass”, Zouriel said and smiled, nudging the door open with one boot in a practiced move.

“You two take care too”, she said, smiling again, finally. “I love you both.”

“Love you too”, Zouriel said.

Oy walked up and nudged Cass in a very kittenish way and whispered “I love you too.”

Cheeks flushed he then took the lead, out the door, out into a late summer forest, with the first hints of autumn in the air.

“I’m gonna be a grade A student!” he called to the forest, making a little spin and dropping his bags on the ground so he could make one last dash into the forest and up the nearest tree on ocelot feet. Smelling the forest like only an ocelot could. Dig his claws into his favorite tree one last time.

When he returned Zouriel was looking at him rather impatiently so he quickly apologized, bowing his head almost down to his feet.

After saying another round of goodbyes to Cass the two finally began the long trek out of the forest, back to the city that Oy was moving to, where Oy would live until next summer. The city where Oy would soon be going to school.

As if he could read his mind Zouriel peered down at him.

“So, excited about starting school?”

“A little”, he said. “But it’s going to be a little scary to meet so many new people.”

“I think you’ll do fine”, Zouriel said and smiled again. A real friendly smile that somehow made his eye glitter.

And that was when Oy knew that it really would be okay. That he’d be fine with living with Zouriel and go to school with all those other kids his age, or close to it.

Even though he felt pretty okay he still asked Zouriel if he could have ice cream after dinner, giving him his best puppy dog impression.

And when Zouriel returned to the apartment after that meeting he had two large bags of Take Away Chinese and two tubs of Ben & Jerry’s with him.

“We won’t be telling this to Cass when we call, right?” he said and grinned.

“Nope”, Oy said and claimed the ice cream while Zouriel unpacked their dinner.

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