Celine was queen of the cats. She held her head high wherever she went — be it the dark alleyways of the city, the lighted sidewalks that the humans traveled, or through the secret roads only known by cats. No fear swayed her — how sharp her fangs and claws, ready to bite and tear at any foolish enough to confront her. The fiercest Toms and the meanest Mollies were nothing compared to her, and shirked away when she flicked her tail down their alleys. She ate whatever she wanted — the freshest refuse thrown away by the wasteful humans, and hunted only when the fancy took her. Though she was queen, she held a love for most cats.

There was one type of cat, however, that she could not abide: those cats that required the help of a human to live. Humans were fickle things — mean and petty, and any cat worth their salt would do better without them, or so she had been told and raised by her mother to learn, and any cat that consorted with their kind was hardly a cat at all. A few naive humans had occasionally tried to run their coarse hands over her calico fur, but it wasn’t long before they found out that those weren’t there for show. She had never been touched by a human, and she intended to live the remainder of her life that way.

Proudly that summer evening — when the sun was blazing orange, she strolled down her favorite alleyway. It always had the best foods: warm pork and beef, chicken and fish. It was a smorgasbord for an alley cat, and it was all hers as the cats that had gathered there scattered away, like usual. A broken cardboard can of salt had fallen free as they did so, and she lapped up the few grains, and hopped onto the tin garbage pail.

Ah…her favorite. Raw pork, with a bit of sugar from a split paper bag on top. She tore into it, and ate. So immersed in the flavors and smells of everything around her that she didn’t take notice of the four pair of paw pads coming down her alleyway. And it wasn’t until she heard a rumbling growl that she turned her head, and perked her ears.

Two dogs: black with brown accents on their mouths and chest, and two pointed ears on the top of their head, and snarling teeth, as long as her legs, made their way to her. She raised her tail and hissed, shaking her body. It was a display of aggression that was enough to scare off any cat, but it was laughable to the approaching doberman. As they approached the garbage pail, she leapt off and backed away, hissing all the while. Behind her, a redbrick wall rose to the top of the sky. There was no secret road. No fence to scramble over. Nothing. She was stuck.

They approached, and her tail brushed against the brick wall. Cornered. Her heart thumped and the first snapped at her. She leapt back and struck out with her sharpened claw, cutting thin red ribbons across the dog’s face. It yelped and pulled backwards. The other snapped as well, but Celine was faster: her fangs sinking into it’s throat, the coppery liquid flowed down her throat like fresh water.

She clung desperately, as it shook it’s head to try to throw her off. Not for long, however, as the other one took hold of the back of her neck and clamped down. The warm August air left her lungs in a pained hiss. It was only by a lucky claw connecting to the dog’s eye that it let go, and threw her against the red wall.

Her body smacked the brick, and her body went limp. The dogs inched closer and closer, red stained teeth flashing as her consciousness faded. This was it. She’d die in this alley, and the dogs will eat her flesh, and the crows will get what’s left. Such was the way of life for street cat. How cruel.

Rubber met concrete before her eyes closed, and the sound of dull thuds and pained whimpers and snarls broke the rising silence in her ears. The two dogs ran from the alleyway, and left her limp body on the concrete: warmth spilling from the tears in her neck. Ah, how cold.

His hands pressed against a cloth, stymied the flow of blood. But it was too late. She opened her eyes — oh, how hard it was: a human man, brown hair, down to his forehead, and a brown beard encircling his face. A human had touched her. How disgusting. She tried to hiss, to warn him off but all that came out was a faint whisper.

“It’ll be alright, baby.” He said, as wind rushed the two of them.

Ah, but it was too late…her eyes closed and all she knew was darkness.

She awoke in a bright room, humans in white clothes surrounding her, pulling at her skin. She tried to scramble away, but her leg burst in pain: broken? A needle entered the back of her neck and a coolness rushed over her again, putting her to sleep. Next time she awoke in a metal cage, surrounded by darkness and other animals, pawing at the latches. Captured. By humans, no less. There was a bowl of water near her head, and it was only then that she realized how swollen her throat was with thirst. She lapped up the water, and then some, then curled up as far away from the opening as she could.

Morning came, and she was pulled free from her slumber. She tried to scratch at them, but she found her claws gone. She tried to bite at them, but they stuck a cone around her neck, and she couldn’t reach. They washed her with a cloth, and she never felt so clean: the only itching she felt was where the dogs had bitten, as if it had scabbed over already. But that was impossible. She wanted to scratch at it, to explore it, but the cone stopped her.

The human man who rescued her came later in the day and picked her up, and gave the human female a plastic card, and she gave him an orange bottle that rattled with every step. She tried to bite at him, but she couldn’t. He carried her in his arms for blocks, into a small, cramped apartment, and placed her on a pillow on the ground, covered by a warm blanket. She hated to admit it, but it was comfortable. The most comfortable thing she ever felt, but it wasn’t enough to sway her — she was going to escape. Or at least she thought. As soon as she stepped forward, her front paw burst in pain. Broken, definitely. There was a white plaster around it.

The human would try to scratch her, but a sharp hiss from her was usually enough to shoo him away from her pillow. She wanted to scramble for

Everyday the human would put out food: the freshest fish, and coldest pork she ever tasted. Sometimes it had some of the small stones in the orange bottles in with it. They were bitter tasting, but if she didn’t eat it, he’d force to dissolve in her mouth. That resulted in more than a few scars on his arms. After a week or so of the bitter stones, her stomach stopped hurting, and she no longer felt the constant hunger she had for years, and a little while after that her heart never felt like it was running too fast. The bitter stones only lasted a month or so, but the effects were permanent.

It took more than that to earn her trust, though. The cone came off in that month, but the cast on her leg stayed, and she still couldn’t run. Every night when she fell asleep she could feel him scratching the spot she could never quite reach behind her ears and pretend she’d be asleep until it lulled her to it.

Another month and the cast came off, but her leg was still tender. Instead of the pillow, now she had a bed: enclosed on all sides except the top. It blocked out the wind from his fan, so she took it. It was winter before the tenderness started, and she decided that she’d run away when the cold left, and the white left the earth. She’d enjoy this warmth while it lasted. She felt the best she had since she was a kit.

Every day she feasted on the best foods, and slept in comforting warmth. Halfway through the winter she took to crawling in bed next to the human. No more would she bite at him. And her claws were gone. She wouldn’t be royalty anymore when she left, but at least she’d be free. He was warm, her rescuer, and she came to enjoy curling up in his lap whenever he’d sit and read, or watch the moving pictures.

The next winter came, and then the next. She saw him while he was angry, she saw him when he was sad. She saw him when he got the news that his mother had passed, and comforted him. She grew to love him, more than she loved any cat. More than she loved herself. She was with him when he brought other humans home, and with him when he made smaller ones and moved to a bigger house. She watched his family grow, and soon the scars on her neck were a reminder of when she was foolish.

Now the smaller humans were larger, and the kind young man who had taken her in and saved her life had strands of gray in his hair, and yet she loved him. How much better of a life was this? She curled up to him as he sit beside a blazing fire. Oh, the warmth and love she experience. The fullness of a life not spent scraping over garbage pails. She smiled…and awoke no more.

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