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Drama Romance

I hadn’t wanted a pet. I had no money for myself, barely enough to buy food each day… so the horror when I woke up that morning to a tiny cat that had slipped its way through a tiny opening in my tent… well, you can imagine.

It was a sweet little thing. Obviously underfed, a little scraggly, but otherwise cute. Black, entirely. Most people would consider that to be bad luck. I considered that to be bad luck, actually. Another mouth to feed – and the thing probably had fleas, or something. And if I couldn’t afford food, how in the hell was I supposed to afford flea treatment?!

“Come on, you.” I pushed it, but it simply opened one eye lazily. I swear it smirked at me. “Hey. Come on. Move. Get out of here!” Nothing. The cat (kitten?) just stretched a bit. “Are you serious?” As I moved it, it started to purr. I couldn’t tell after a quick check if it were a boy or a girl, so I left it as ‘it’. The more I stroked it, the less ruffled it actually started to look. It was obviously a well-fed kitten, rather than an underfed cat. People friendly. Very friendly, it seemed, as it crept over my sleeping bag and nestled down. No collar… “Where have you come from, hmm?”

Obviously, it did not reply.

I chuckled as it rubbed against my neck, purring loudly. A tiny, high-pitched purr. I remembered the kitten my cousin had got one Christmas. The same purr. Definitely a kitten.

“I’d love to know who you belong to…”

I spent a little time playing with and petting the cat, before my stomach growled a little too loudly. So loud, in fact, that it startled the cat, which jumped off me and took up residence on my backpack. I chuckled, pulling out my wallet from where it lay beside me. I emptied it, and counted out the coins and the notes I had left.

My situation wasn’t ideal. I’d moved out to go to university, and then when I graduated, I had a colossal falling out with my father, who was still bitter about the fact that I hadn’t dropped everything to come home and look after my sister when our mother died. He told me I didn’t have a home there with them. I wasn’t welcome. So, I had to return to where I knew best. I was lucky to have a friend who I could crash with, but then she moved to an apartment with her boyfriend, and I was no longer able to physically fit there. I also felt a bit ashamed that at my age I couldn’t find an apartment that I could afford, so I decided to rough it for a bit.

That meant a tent, a damned good sleeping bag, a few good blankets, and making use of the shower/bathroom at my office.

My friend had allowed me to have all my post sent to her place, though, which was nice. Meant I could keep hold of my bank account.

At first, this way of life was nice. Two months in, and I felt comfortable. Spring was beautiful, waking up to the sounds of birds tweeting, the fresh running water of the stream I’d set up shop by. The rats, though – ew! I had to leave. I couldn’t abide their gross scratching at night. I always stayed close by, though. Having a reliable water source was important. I had a Brita filter bottle, so it was all good. I had a little routine going, and it felt stable. But then I realised that my hygiene wasn’t where it should be. I was homeless, but I had income. I was reliant on my friend staying where she was… I was a mess. I started to hate this way of life, but I had no way back onto the property ladder, since I didn’t have enough in savings to be able to put down the deposit on a rental yet. It fucking sucked.

As I started to move that morning, trying not to think about the shitty life situation I was in, I moved the cat. And the thing hissed at me. I put it outside, and it started yowling. I rolled my eyes, got dressed into fresh clothes, and started brushing my teeth. It was still crying and yowling. I headed over to the river to rinse and wash my face. The cat was screaming a right storm up there.

“Hey! Will you shut up?!” I batted it out of the way so I could get back into my tent. As soon as the zip was open, the cat shot back in and started to curl up. “Come on! Dude! Get out!” The cat ignored me. Because of course it did. Cats are arseholes. “Ugh. Out.” I picked it up and chucked it out, zipping up again. More screeching, yowling, crying, screaming, meowing, pleading, begging… I closed my eyes. And then…

There you are, Milton! Come here!” A shadow. I froze. “Hello?! Is someone in there?!”

I opened the zip a little bit. I peeked out.

“Hi.”

“Did you steal my cat?”

“Contrarywise, your cat decided my home is his home.”

“Ah. Yes, he does that every now and again.” I opened the tent fully, to see the little shit now known as Milton curled up in his rather handsome owner’s arms. “Are you staying here long?”

“Do I need to move on?”

“It is private property,” he said, with a wry smile. “But I don’t mind campers staying a few days.”

“Oh… sure. How many days, exactly?”

“Well, how long is your holiday?”

“Err…” I couldn’t think up of a quick enough time-frame. Since this spot was so perfect and I didn’t want to move on and find another. “I’m not… on… holiday.” I stood up. “I live in this. Permanently.”

“Oh…” the man’s smile faltered. Milton, the little shit, hissed. “Are you homeless?”

“I mean, yes and no – no, I have a tent. Yes, I don’t have a brick and mortar place. I’m saving for one, though. I mean, I have an income… it’s complicated.” I brushed my hair back. “I really just use the river and the tree shade here. No rats.”

“I don’t quite know how I feel about you living in one of my fields,” the man said. I looked down.

“Okay, I’ll pack up and leave.”

“But if you’re after a place… I’ve a small cottage a little way away to rent. Want to come up for a cup of tea and discuss matters?”

“Not… not really, no.” I swallowed. The man looked offended. “I mean – I don’t know your name, for starters. And you don’t know me. And – and –“

“And you look like you could use a good breakfast, and a decent cup of tea… and a leg up.” A thought crossed my mind. And a leg over. I blushed. “I know it’s not so… I don’t know… I mean, it’s awkward, isn’t it? But I’ve had this bloody cottage for more than a year, now, and I can’t for the life of me rent it because it’s too small for half the families around here. And I can’t knock it down because it’s too good. I need a single occupant, but all the students can’t afford it…” he sighed. “Sorry – my name’s Miles. Miles Fairfax. I’m the owner of the estate.”

“Jasmine,” I smiled. “Owner of this tent.”

“Nice to meet you.” He shook my hand. “Now, I’m serious about that cup of tea.”

“Well, despite being socially homeless, I do need to get to work, actually. But if you’re serious about the cottage, how about we set up a viewing this evening? That way I can get some papers together to prove I’m not legally homeless, too.”

“Very well.” Miles smiled. “Do you have a mobile phone?”

“I do. But I know where you are. I’ll come over around six?”

“Sounds excellent.” I looked at Milton, who growled and hissed at me.

“That little arsehole can have some time to consider if he likes me or not.” Miles burst out laughing.

“Arsehole. I like that. He’s truly an arsehole!”

Now, I wish I could say that I took that cottage on and life got better that way, but Miles and I gelled very well over a bottle of his vintage wine, and a good dinner. The cottage was perfect, but the fact that he ended up having me on the kitchen table (much to Milton’s horror) kind of sealed the deal that I couldn’t just rent a cottage from him. See, we’d spent the hours that night talking. Talking about this and that, my degree in art that got me absolutely nothing... but the regular 9-5 office job I’d secured by pure luck. I literally got a leg up that night, and a leg over. Miles and I were perfect for each other. At the age of 25 he’d inherited an entire estate from an uncle that he’d barely seen, recently dead.

It's been a year, already, and the estate is flourishing. I’m flourishing. And I’m very, very happy.

As for Milton? Well, he’s still an arsehole. But we left my tent up in the field for him to use as a crackhouse with the other town arseholes. He seems happy… even if he still hates me for making Miles keep the door closed when we want some cuddle time! 

March 04, 2023 00:30

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