By Robin Praytor
Bingo sat on the bottom stair next to the human called Martin. He kneaded the carpet and purred encouragement as Martin stroked his fur and occasionally scratched him behind the ears. If this man would only be quiet.
“It’s not that I don’t love her. I do. I love her more than anything, but I’m not ready,” Martin droned. “I want to marry her someday, just … just not today. What should I do, Bingo?”
Idiot! My mistress is the sweetest, kindest human of all. You do not deserve her. You should go away.
As if he’d read the cat’s thoughts, the man continued, “I can’t leave her at the altar—it would hurt her too much. Her father would kill me.”
Bingo agreed. Yes, the master of the house will kill you if you hurt the young mistress. He will take the machine from his box by the bed and blow your head open. I will lick your brains from the floor. His tongue swiped at his whiskers in anticipation.
“I need to talk to her and make her understand. I need a drink.”
Bingo followed Martin from his seat at the bottom of the stairs to the room of books. He watched as he poured a drink of dark, bitter liquid. Bingo had tasted it once when the master of the house had set his glass on the floor by his chair. It was disgusting.
“Oh, God, I have to do something before the guests arrive.” Martin downed the first drink in one swallow and poured a second. “I have to go to Jennifer now and tell her I can’t marry her. I need to do it now.”
Bingo yowled at the man and rubbed against his legs for attention. He ran from the room to the stairs and back again, conveying a sense of urgency and encouragement.
The man seemed to find his nerve. He drained his glass and walked back to the stairs. Bingo followed, staying close behind him as he climbed. He would not allow him to turn back.
Martin stood in front of Jennifer’s bedroom door at the top of the staircase and took two deep breaths—in through the nose, out through the mouth; in through the nose, out through the mouth. It didn’t help; he was dizzy and nauseated. He knocked tentatively. The door opened a few inches and Jennifer’s mother peered out. Bingo came from behind him, squeezing through the opening into the bedroom.
“What are you doing here, Martin?”
“I need to talk to Jennifer. It’s important.” He ran his hand across the back of his neck, drying the damp palm on his tux trousers.
“Don’t be ridiculous; you can’t see her in her dress before the wedding, it’s bad luck.”
Martin grimaced at the irony. Later I will laugh, he thought. If I can only see this through.
“Betty, I need to speak to Jennifer. I need to speak to her now and alone.” Betty studied him through narrowed eyes. He must have looked as wretched as he felt.
“Just a sec,” she said, closing the door softly. Martin could make out only half-whispered mumbles as she relayed his request. He thought he heard the word “drunk” but he couldn’t be sure. The door reopened enough to allow Betty to slip out. Long, elegant fingers with beautifully manicured nails wrapped around the edge of the door, pushing it partially closed behind Betty so only a six inch gap remained.
“I’ll wait at the bottom of the stairs. Make it fast. The ceremony is in less than two hours, and we still have make-up and hair to do.” Betty stomped down each step.
“What do you want, Martin?” Jennifer spoke from behind the door; only her hand visible. Her tone was one of concern, but Martin could detect underlying irritation as well.
Staring at the floor, he struggled to sort his chaotic thoughts into coherent words. Bingo was sitting in the door opening watching him intently, his tail twitching in an agitated dance behind him.
Bingo meowed, goading him on. Tell her so that you may feel the wrath of my mistress and the master.
Focusing on Bingo for composure Martin began hesitantly, “Jennifer, you know I love you, but I’ve been thinking, and—”
“Well stop thinking, Martin. This isn’t the time.” Jennifer abandoned all attempt at concern.
“I c-can’t go through with the wedding,” Martin finally blurted.
Ha! Now my sweet mistress sees you for what you really are: A weakling, undeserving even to look upon her. Lower your eyes weakling.
“What?” She flung the door wide to face him. “What do you mean you can’t go through with the wedding? Martin, you’re just having last-minute jitters.”
“Jen, I wish that’s all it was, but I can’t get married. N-not now anyway—I’m not ready. I’m so sorry.”
“You cannot do this to me! I won’t allow it. I’ll be humiliated. Father will kill you! I swear to you, Martin, father will kill you.” Jennifer emitted a strangled sound somewhere between a sob and a growl.
Could it be that my mistress is afraid of this spineless sycophant? She should scratch his eyes out and give them to me for my amusement.
Martin could hear Betty coming up the stairs behind him. He was caught in the middle with no chance of escape. He squared his shoulders, determined to take what he had coming.
Bingo tried to follow the exchange, but the humans were speaking too fast, and so loud his ears hurt. The young mistress was clearly threatened. The floor vibrated from the weight of her mother pounding up the stairs to her aid.
Roused by the commotion, Bingo’s visceral instincts took hold. He flung himself at Martin’s leg. Wrapping his clawless upper paws around the calf, he bit at the shin; his hind claws scratched furiously on Martin’s ankle.
Martin uttered a high-pitched scream as he lurched backward, kicking his leg out in an attempt to dislodge the cat. Off balance, with arms wind-milling, he fell, colliding with Betty on her upward charge. Jennifer lunged into the landing, grabbing for Martin, but tripped on the hem of her gown. The three tumbled heads over heals down the length of the steep staircase, an indistinguishable tangle of limbs.
Bingo had dropped from Martin’s leg the second before he fell. He sat at the top of the stairs surveying the writhing mound of humans below. This has been a wearisome day. Returning to the bedroom, he decided to have his nap first and forego his usual afternoon snack until the humans had sorted themselves out.
~ End ~