Chapter 37 - An Odd Bond
Grant felt a shock as Zair hopped upon his lap. He didn’t know how to respond, more so, he didn’t know how Kale would respond. Kale was always extremely protective of him, however he just stayed back watching.
Seeing Zair this up close jogged Grant’s memory to the day after he arrived in Lyros. Zair had scurried to his bedroom and seemed to be clawing on his closet door.
Grant focused in on the claws that now rested upon his legs as best he could with the dim firelight. They appeared no different than the cats that resided around his old house back in Tonim. The hole in his closet door had to have been there before Zair rummaged his way through. If this cat’s claws were as menacing as the lion claw he held earlier, he would have had no doubt that Zair broke through the structure.
“Zair, did you make a new friend?” Kale’s voice seemed strained; he sounded as if he wasn’t sure if he should be happy or annoyed.
“Is this some kind of big deal?” Natch asked.
“To be honest, kind of, yes.” Saraiya leaned forward, moving her eyes from Zair to Kale.
“Here let me try, I think earlier was just bad timing with those other cats.” Rhett rose out from his seat and stepped towards Grant.
Zair’s body grew stiff, and his fuzzy face snapped towards Rhett. Hisses emitted from his mouth as he positioned himself as if ready to pounce at the approaching enemy.
“Aw, come on.” Rhett shook his head and went to sit back down on his chair.
“I’m told I am pretty good with animals,” Natch said. “Let me try.”
“P-please don’t!” Kale blocked Natch from getting out of his chair. “Zair doesn’t like meeting new people… I know at least Zair has been around Rhett enough so he won’t attack as long as he doesn’t get too close, but I can’t promise that for you.”
“But, he has to meet new people at some time, right? How else did he meet Saraiya, Rhett, and Grant for the first time?”
Kale itched at his arm. “Yes, but, I already know he won’t like you. I need to ease him into meeting new people so he doesn’t attack…”
Natch rolled his eyes. “Okay… But you take Zair everywhere with you, even to Nha-Stop, surely he has seen me before.”
“Please Natch, just drop it,” Saraiya urged.
“I’m sorry, I know he has seen you before, but he has never been as close to you as he has with the others,” Kale said. “Please just trust me, it’s not that I don’t trust you. Zair is a hard one to handle.”
Natch looked over at Zair, watching his head nuzzle against Grant’s chest.
“No, really Natch, Before today I’ve never had the chance to get this close to Zair without him seeming like he was going to attack me,” Grant said, hand resting on the cat.
This was a very odd situation. It did not feel natural, actually, perhaps it felt too natural that Grant just couldn’t believe it. Any other time for as long as he had been here, whenever he tried to get close he was met with hissing and attempts of being clawed.
Was there really nothing Grant had changed about himself that allowed this to happen? It wasn’t like this was some miracle either, it was only a cat becoming familiar with another human. Truly, he was making it to be a bigger deal than it was. But if that was the case, why did the other neighborhood cats seem to like him all at once too?
Kale stepped forward and reached his arms out towards Zair.
“Well, what do we have—!” A voice spoke.
Ambri walked towards Grant, and Saraiya gave a slight nod to Natch.
Ambri looked confused, and frightened. “H-hey Kale? Has this happened before?”
“I thought you were going to stay home tonight,” Kale said.
“Yeah, well I got bored, anyway, Kale, how did Zair get so close with Grant?” Her tone resembled that of a mother scolding a child.
Kale shook his head. “Maybe he just got used to being around him?”
“Wow, isn’t this a rare sight. Zair taking interest in another person! To think he would ever become so friendly.” Ambria took another step towards Grant.
“I thought you said before that the cats would grow to love all of us over time?” Rhett said.
She paused for a moment, seeming to collect her thoughts. “Yeah, I did say that… I just meant it, as in uh, it happened much sooner than I thought it would..”
Ambri backed up and looked around, stopping her eyes on the fields by her yard.
“So, did you make any adjustments for the cages?” Rhett asked, still sipping on his drink he grabbed earlier.
“I made a few, but we might not get any visitors. Last night it seemed they didn’t even roam through the fields. I wonder why that was.” Ambri walked over to Rhett’s deck and pulled out a chair. “Oh well, I guess that’s good news for us.” Her tone was a direct opposite of what her words portrayed.
“I guess I have no choice but to believe that lions are actually out here, huh?” Natch asked, sinking back in his chair seeming to finally process the incident with the claw and now the conversation about cages.
“If you stay out here long enough with us you may even hear them,” Ambri said as she tossed her hands through her hair. “I’m sure Saraiya has told you about them by now though.”
Saraiya’s eyes attacked Ambri and her face still seemed paler than normal.
“She has…” Natch rubbed his chin and stared out past the fire, into the wilderness beyond.
Kale stepped forward and picked up Zair from Grant’s lap. The cat meowed as he drifted apart from his new friend. Kale seemed to whisper something into his ear as he placed him on his shoulder.
“So where’s the fish?” Ambri asked. “You guys spent all day fishing right?”
“Oh damn it!” Rhett jolted out of the seat. “How could we forget!”
“I didn’t forget,” Kale said. “Why else do you think I was gone so long?”
“Kale! You better not have ate them all!” Rhett took off running towards Lars’s trailer while everyone laughed.
Today was an interesting day, and Grant felt a little closer to Kale due to it. He had never actually spent hours learning about him before, he seemed to be a normal guy. The eerie feeling he had been used to associating with Kale was dissipating. In fact, Grant felt comfort in having even Zair want to grow close to him. Having Zair in his lap reminded him of the times he and Elijah would find kittens and play with them in Tonim. Their parents never let them keep any of the strays though.
“So, Saraiya, I didn’t see you all day. Were you feeling sick?” Ambri asked, pushing her black hair behind her ear.
“No, I just wanted to relax inside is all. I worked on some articles I had been putting off.” Saraiya’s voice was bumpy like potholes in a road. Something seemed to be bothering her.
“Oh, what kind of articles? Articles about white lions?” Ambri pressed her hand against her face and stared at Saraiya.