A Friend Here by Talullah

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Story Notes:

For the challenge Animal Friends with the element "Once bitten, twice shy, my mother used to tell me." Of course Beruthiel loved cats – that’s why she had ten of them. The people who told her story know nothing about felines and their owners. :P

“Do you know what it is like to be alone,” Beruthiel asked to the mirror. “Utterly alone? No family, no friends? Married to a man I did not want, forced to leave everything behind?”

The branches outside her window rapped on the glass under the spell of a gust of wind. Inside, the curtains moved with the draft.

“Tarannon Falastur thinks he owns me, does not let me outside. I cannot talk to the women he has found me to keep me company. They know nothing, think nothing, only repeat what they were told. And here I am, talking to a mirror, like a crazed woman. Keeping my voice down lest the rumours start. Or better, grow?”

Beruthiel rose from her vanity and walked to the window. She pressed her forehead to the cold windowpane and breathed deeply, watching the condensate form on the micah. “It is always cold here. Even in the hottest summer day, if you sit into the shade for a while, you will get goose bumps. And the hallways, oh, the drafts. And the sea, threatening, angry and perpetually grey. The terrible air laden with salt and humidity, ruining every piece of paper, cloth or leather.”

“Beruthiel, stop talking to yourself,” she chided. “You are driving yourself mad.” She walked to the bed and let herself fall down on the soft mattress, burying her face into a pillow.

“I hate him. I really do. I hate the way he smells. I hate it when he lies atop me. I hate his stupid jokes about the fertility of Southern women. If he would spend less time drinking with his friends perhaps that issue could be resolved and I would have nine months of peace.”

“Stop talking, Beruthiel,” she repeated, her lips moving against the soft cloth of the pillow.

“I hate my father. What was he thinking, that old, fat idiot, sending me here all alone. ‘You are smart, you will fend for yourself.’” Beruthiel mimicked her father.

Beruthiel sat up. She was smart, always had been. Her only moment of stupidity had been to willingly marry Tarannon, to sacrifice herself for her father’s interests.

She rose and paced the room, finally stopping by her vanity. “Once bitten, twice shy, my mother used to tell me,” Beruthiel said to the mirror. And she smiled. Outside, a white kitten meowed, looking up to her window. She could only see her mouth moving, but in her head she could hear the plea – feed me, care for me. She could see the intelligence behind the vulnerability.

Smiling a true smile for the first time in many weeks, Beruthiel walked away from the window. She wrapped herself in her cloak and picked up her fox tail hand warmer from the chair where she had abandoned it. The kitten would love it. The kitten would love her. She could already feel the affinity. And she would have, at last, a friend here.

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