A Cat's Tale

A Cat's Tale

by Susanna Fantich

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Overview

Fifteen-year-old Isadora was born with a deformity: silver hair. Though she dyes it an average brown and has perfected blending into the background, she battles with always feeling like a secret freak. Things worsen when her mother remarries. Isadora and her new stepbrother, Cheyenne, have little interest in each other or their new home--- until they discover an unsettling story about a sixteen-year-old girl who went missing from their home, never to be heard from again.

Obsessed with the details of the girl's disappearance, Isadora's best friend, Heather, consults with an old Ouija board, ripping the veil between our worlds wide open. Heather vanishes, as does Isadora's mother. Bit by bit, Isadora and Cheyenne, along with their wise cat Serena get sucked into an ancient realm long forgotten by humans--- an enchanted land where nothing is what it seems, where nothing can be taken for granted.

Before Isadora can save anyone, she will have to dive deep into an unfamiliar world--- one that holds the darkest truths to her fears and family secrets, leaving her to face an intimate threat that will change her life forever . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781458205254
Publisher: Abbott Press
Publication date: 10/05/2012
Pages: 210
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Cat's Tale


By Susanna Fantich

Abbott Press

Copyright © 2012 Susanna Fantich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4582-0525-4


Chapter One

The sinking sun had just streaked the sky orange, purple, and gold, as a papery moon peeked out from behind the darkening fringe, signaling that nightfall was fast on its heels. Careful to remain unnoticed, Serena leaped down the magnolia tree's aged branches with ease, periodically stopping to rub her face against its fragrant, creamy white blossoms as if they were laced with catnip.

The distinct sound of crackling leaves and twigs being crushed reached her ears. She stopped to sniff the cool breeze. I'm being followed, she thought. Her spotted fur bristled, and her heart beat faster as her mind wrapped itself tightly around the past.

"Will tonight be it?" Serena whispered to no one.

Placing one padded paw over the other, she scurried down to the lowest limb; it draped over her friend's grave as if shielding it from the rest of the world in its own green cathedral.

She found a comfortable spot and claimed it by dangling her legs down the sides like a rag doll. She strained to hear. Her ears perked up at the sound of squealing children skipping down the sidewalk just beyond the iron gates. She shook her head and yawned. Children would never dare set foot in a cemetery on Halloween night, she thought.

"Knock, knock. Hear my voice; push past the veil, and make your choice," she chortled to the tombstone below. Her lips curled up at the corners into a mischievous grin as her tail thumped against the branch. "Knock, knock."

The leaves rustled.

She swam back in time, back to when the only humans in her life were Jaira, an eccentric thirty-eight-year-old artist who strictly followed her own rules to a fault, and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Isadora, who always seemed to follow everyone's drumbeat but her own.

Isadora was a special child, but she didn't know it. When she looked in the mirror, all she saw was a freak, a monster in disguise. She was born with a slight deformity. While most newborns were blessed with brown, blonde, or red peach-fuzzed heads, Isadora was cursed with a full head of stark silver. Upon delivery, the midwife almost dropped her from the shock. Though Jaira cared less about what others thought, she did care deeply about her daughter. So, she dyed Isadora's hair an average brown to stave off the stares; however, it was never enough to hide the truth. She was different.

"This whole mess could've been avoided had I done a better job of keeping Jaira from falling in love again." Serena shuddered, resting her head over her paws. She could see Jaira in her mind's eye — her hair was the color of roasted coffee, kept short like a pixie for practical reasons. The jagged edges highlighted the sharp angles of her face. A drop of water would likely begin its journey on her high pitched cheekbones and careen down the valleys of her cheeks before dangerously falling over the pointed cliff of her chin, which she was often seen stroking. Some considered her strangely beautiful; most considered her strange.

"Knock. Knock. Hear my voice; push past the veil, and make your choice," the cat cooed, taking notice of the moon, no longer a ghost but a blood-red eye gazing down at her with a swiftly darkening backdrop. The wind suddenly stirred every leaf off the ground, making them coil and hiss. "Knock. Knock." She thumped her tail.

She closed her eyes and welcomed the brisk air on her face. It felt good. The mossy, wet scent reminded her of the day Jaira told her about Devon. "I just met my future husband," Jaira predicted, glancing at her tarot cards, which she always kept close at hand. "And he's perfect, Serena. He's so handsome, funny, and kind. He has crazy red hair, you know, and a son about Isa's age — his name is Cheyenne. You're going to love him."

"You were right about that," Serena sighed.

"Are you talking to me?" A small voice interrupted from below.

Spooked, Serena jumped with a start. She peered down at the rude intruder. It was a male kitten with a fiery orange coat and a crooked smile. His green eyes, full of wonder and life, looked up at her as if he were seeing the world for the very first time.

"Who else would I be talking to, silly boy?" Serena smiled, feeling a chill slither up her spine. "Especially since no one else is here except for us."

Confused, the kitten scratched his head with his hind leg. "Do I know you?"

"Well, I don't know. Do you? My family calls me Serena."

"You seem familiar to me somehow," the kitten said, trying to think of his own name.

Serena winced at her mistake. "Truth is, you caught me talking to myself, or so I thought. I had no idea I had an audience," she admitted, eyeing him with all the curiosity of a cat.

"You can talk to me if you'd like," the kitten meowed sheepishly. "Beats talking to no one, and I've got nothing to do. Nowhere to go. So, what have you got against falling in love?"

Serena chuckled under her breath.

"Well?" The kitten waited.

The wind blew through the cemetery, picking up a few fallen leaves along the way.

"Well, I have nothing against falling in love per se. It's the lack of caution and scrutiny of those we choose to give our heart to that I frown on. Back when I was human, many moons ago, it was the man I had fallen in love with who took part in my murder," she shared.

"What? What happened?"

Serena took a moment to quell her anger. It always rose up to bite whenever her bitter memories flowed forth. "My mother-in-law never approved of me. I came from a humble homestead and spent my days alone, preferring to study the medicinal properties of each plant in our garden instead of carrying on with the trivial vanities the other village girls my age obsessed over. I was considered different and could, therefore, never be trusted. So when my mother-in-law swore I had bewitched her only son with a love spell, no one questioned it, not even the countless people I had healed." She forced a laugh.

"Did you?" asked the kitten in a whisper.

"Most certainly not! Love spells are for the pathetic. Although, you should've seen me the day when she requested a vial of my cough tonic. I jumped at the chance to take it to her myself." She smirked.

"Talk about pathetic."

The kitten tilted his little head to the side. "What's wrong with that?"

Serena sighed. "My expectations clouded my judgment, and I ignored the signs."

"Signs?"

"The universe tried to warn me not to go. My front door jammed shut when I tried to leave, so I climbed out the window. Then my horse refused to move and literally ate the shoes off my feet. Ignoring the cuts from the rough rocks and only stopping to pull out the thorns from my bloody toes, I painfully walked barefoot to her home. And when I finally arrived at her doorstep, a raven shat on my head."

"Those were warning signs with exclamation points," cried the kitten.

Serena nodded in agreement as she licked the back of her paw. She took a deep breath and braced herself as it all swirled back into focus — robed men filed out of her mother-in-law's home carrying a Bible in one hand and an angry hot iron in the other. "The Inquisition charged me with eating the devil's food," she sighed, still lost in her thoughts.

"The devil's food?"

"Potatoes." She smiled. "Long before you were born, it was believed that since the potato grew underground, it must come straight from hell, so most people refused to eat it. Ridiculous."

"But you ate it, didn't you?"

"Paid for it with my life. They strapped me to the largest rock in town and cast me into the lake. My husband did nothing but stand there and watch. That was the final chapter of my human existence."

"Wow," the kitten said, jumping on top of the tombstone.

"Indeed," agreed Serena. "So, what's your story?"

The kitten thought hard for a moment. "I don't know. I guess I don't have one." His white-tipped ears slowly flattened out, and his shoulders slumped forward.

"Not to worry. I have a more haunting tale to share if you're brave enough to listen to an old cat with a blackened heart," Serena offered.

The kitten's tail came to life, wagging side to side like a metronome. "Really? I can be brave," purred the kitten. He curled up into a little ball right where he was, afraid she might change her mind if he fidgeted too much. "So, what's it about?"

"Well, you'll have to listen very carefully to find out, won't you?" Serena said, looking down at the orange ball of fluff. So innocent, she thought. "I've come here night after night recounting my tale since I lost my friend. Now I have the pleasure of your company. Knock. Knock." She thumped her tail against the bark.

Chapter Two

Watching from her post high above, the Wallace's cat eyed the men, filing in and out of her new home, with much interest. They looked like cutter ants before a storm: weighed down and hurried.

"Hey, Phil," called out the youngest one in the group. He was struggling to carry a couple of chairs and a floor lamp; a load much too heavy for a man his size. "I just want to thank you again for giving me this job. It's hard out there, you know?"

"Yeah, yeah, I got it, Shrimp. You're grateful. Can't you see I'm busy?" Phil replied with a mouthful of powdered sugar and jelly as he watched his new hire drag his load into the house.

"Check out that cat, Phil." He jutted his chin in the direction of the boxes. "Looks like a silver cheetah, right?"

"Yeah. That fancy cat looks like it's supervising us, don't it?" Phil snorted. "The nerve."

Though she looked down on them through half closed lids, her eyes cast a strange, conspicuous glow.

"Phil, I think we better get back to work before we tick her off. That cat is kinda looking at us funny, and I'm not laughing."

"Yeah? I've got a better idea. She can watch me work on licking the sticky off my fingers," Phil said as he sucked the sugar off his thumb.

"Something ain't right about that cat, Phil. In fact, there's something off about this place," said the young man. Despite the sun's bright rays bouncing off the windows and the pleasing sound of chirping birds, a cold draft chilled him where he stood, decorating his strained arms with goosebumps. "Phil, let's finish up so we can get out of here."

Jaira overheard the men talking outside her office. "Serena! Get down from there, you old cat," she ordered. Unleashing a defiant meow, she jumped off her cardboard throne in a huff. The boxes swayed to and fro, this way and that in a most precocious manner to where every human in the room tensed for the impact. Just when it seemed the leaning tower of cardboard could withstand no more, the teetering column inexplicably settled back into place.

The men just stood there, dumbfounded. Their eyes went from the boxes to the cat, then from the cat back to the boxes. Unable to make sense of what they just witnessed, they looked at each other and shrugged. Phil had unwittingly squeezed every bit of jelly out of his doughnut, leaving a gloppy mess of goo on the floor. With their eyes bulged and their mouths hung open, they watched Serena disappear into Jaira's office, but not before she turned to hiss at them. Startled, they jumped; causing the smaller man to drop his load with a crash. Phil fell to his knees and started picking things up with one hand while wiping the jelly off the floor with the cuff of the other. "That cat ruined my appetite. I'll take care of this, Shrimp. Go get the rest of the stuff, so we can get out of here."

Jaira closed the door. "Serena, don't you have something better to do other than to scare people?"

Serena answered with a meow that sounded like a resounding no. Jaira sighed. "I don't need you drawing attention to us. You, of all creatures, should know better." Then, with a twist of her wrist, the bottle of lemon-scented oil and a dust rag floated out of her hands and, all on their own, began dusting her mahogany desk as if life itself had been breathed into them.

"Isadora," Jaira called out over her copper toned shoulder, "can you come down, please?"

She glanced over at Serena, who had found a perfect spot to sunbathe. Her face content as her body went into a full stretch. Jaira rolled her eyes. "Why is it my child's blood moves through her veins like molasses? It takes her forever to do anything; while you do nothing at all." She slid the last book into place. They were in tight rows, from largest to smallest in descending order.

"Isa!" she called again, her voice resonated through the house.

Everything went silent save for the sound of the seconds ticking on her watch. Time was precious to her. She treated every minute as if it were her last golden coin: spending each one wisely. She glanced at the time and took a deep breath. "I'm not frustrated about moving. I'm happy about moving into my new home," she said aloud. She had been telling herself that all day.

The house had been built in 1862, during the Civil War. This made it one of the oldest homes in the downtown Charleston area. It was a Federal-style house with a grand side porch, the kind of porch that is never without a couple of rocking chairs and a pitcher of lemonade on an iron garden table.

Although it sat on an awkwardly long and narrow lot that was shaded under a canopy of palm fronds and oak trees, the deep layout offered a great deal of privacy while the doors and windows were situated so as to give the air free reign. Jaira always imagined that, from a distance, if you squinted your eyes just right, their home looked like a true Southern belle, shy and full of secrets, hiding under her leafy umbrella. It mattered not if no one else agreed. She was used to seeing things others could not.

It's getting there, she thought as she stepped back to gauge her progress. Jaira put her hand over her lips as she often did whenever lost in thought. Sliding her fingers down the slope of her neck, she fiddled and played with the triangular, interlaced arcs dangling off her silver necklace. The triquetra had been passed down to her by her grandmother who had acquired it from her grandmother. These exchanges had gone on in Jaira's family for centuries, an heirloom so precious that it remained on Jaira's neck until the day came for her to pass it down.

"Isadora, get in here, now!" Jaira called out for the final time. The dust rag and polish instantly dropped on their sides, playing dead like opossums.

"Yeah, hold on. I'm coming," her daughter answered in a labored tone.

Though Isadora towered over Jaira by a full foot, she never flaunted her height nor anything else for that matter. On the contrary, she would often slump her shoulders and curve her back forward like a question mark in a failed attempt to become smaller, to disappear into the crowd. She was a slender girl with dark brown hair that had been dyed to match her mother's. It was her favorite average shade of brown. Everything about her was unassuming except when it came to her eyes. They were curiously large, shaped like perfect walnuts, and bright, forever shimmering with the intensity of her feelings. Carrying a heavy box, She clumsily made her way down the pattern-carved staircase into the study where Serena greeted her with a meow.

"Oh, Sweet Pea, be careful. Did you remember to lift with your legs?" Jaira did not wait for an answer. "The last thing you want to do is hurt your back or, worse, drop the box."

"Thanks, Mom. Nice to know my back comes a close second to your box," Isadora said, careful to set it down.

"I'm sorry, Sweet Pea. What?"

"Nothing," Isadora said, shaking her head.

Jaira smiled. "Anyway, have you come across our photo albums yet? I can't seem to find them anywhere."

"They're in the box." Isadora pointed. She looked around the room and caught sight of her favorite figurine. It was a wooden carving of Little Red Riding Hood clutching her basket of baked goods as she stared up at a mask of her grandmother's face, completely unaware of the drag-dressed wolf hiding behind it.

"Oh," Jaira said, "so it is."

"What?"

"The box," Jaira said. She pulled out each album with great care, as if they might crumble under the weight of her touch. "So, I overheard you ask your dad for the recycling bin. Does this mean you're almost done unpacking your room?"

"Mom, for the umpteenth time, Devon's not my dad. He's really nice and all, but he's just my stepdad," Isadora said, puzzled to find Little Red Riding Hood smiling up at her instead of at the wolf. In a blink, the figurine was back to normal with the wooden child peering up at the wolf in disguise. Isadora rubbed her eyes and moved the figurine to a more prominent place on her mother's desk, right next to her computer.

Jaira stood in the middle of the room with her arms crossed. "You know, Isadora, I really don't care for prefacing anything with 'step.' It makes whatever word that follows it sound fake," she declared. "Devon and Cheyenne are family now, and there's nothing faux about a family. Get it?"

"Got it." Isadora mumbled.

"Hey, my little cheetah," Isadora said, hoping to change the subject. She reached over to scratch the special spot under Serena's jaw where her silver fur was especially soft to the touch. For a moment, Isadora wished she felt as comfortable in her silver as her cat felt in hers. "You like that, don't you?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Cat's Tale by Susanna Fantich Copyright © 2012 by Susanna Fantich. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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