If there had to be but one thing that (Your Name) found enjoyable, even pleasurable about her life at the time, it would have had to be the fact she had the chance to spend several hours of her weekdays within an old, quaint bookshop in the middle of the city.
It was a small and ordinary building, but there was something about the sheer wonder of being within a place with shelves upon shelves of ancient books, piled high, that made the shop purely beautiful. Anybody who found themselves within its walls could never deny the attraction and delight of the bookshop, nor could they ever say that the crisp scent drifting from folded pages of age old books lacked the charm it so clearly possessed.
It was a recluse of a place, a secluded haven right within the busied chaos of the outside world. It was almost as if the building had been cast under an enchantment that refused any person from leaving its residence within five hours of them arriving - even if their original intention had only been to stay for a few minutes. The place was purely alluring, without a doubt.
And (Your Name) was the one girl fortunate enough to own the bookshop. Having bought it cheaply many years back, the building on the very edge of ruin, she had converted it for her own use, transforming it into a comfortable and pleasant appearing shop in which anyone could take pride. It had always been a private desire of hers to own a bookshop, preferably an old fashioned one, and with her small wish fulfilled she was happier than ever. The task of improving it had been a long process of many drawn out months, but with the result, she was fully convinced that it had been completely worth the effort. Often she even found herself willing the weekends to end so that she could return to working there, so much did she love the place.
But there was one very particular thing about the shop, an element that set it apart from nearly all other bookshops.
This place specialised in a rather special field - fairytales.
Not only fairytales, but magic, and achaeic books with information varying from alchemy to spellcasting. It was a bit of a mysterious thing, that a bookshop should focus on something so individual, trivial and purely unusual, but the shop's owner loved it. It was what gave the shop its real, intriguing charm.
It was one late Wednesday afternoon and the Sun was already on its way to sinking below the shimmering heatwaves on the horizon, the brilliant scarlet rays of light almost blinding as they reflecting off glass and metal in the massive city. It had been a humid day, unusual for autumn, and it seemed that there was little chance of the heat lifting from where it had settled thickly over the buildings. It was likely to be a warm night.
Most customers had cleared from the shop due to the late hour and the fact that most had things to attend to, but there were still a few people mingling about, reading only by the light of dusk and a fading lamp. Noticing this, the bookshop owner sighed with regret. She had been wishing to perhaps spend a few moments to herself in the back, reading some of the more recent books she'd received (a rich collection of varying, European based fairytales). It seemed that things would have to wait for a few more hours, however tiresome the idea seemed.
Rather unfortunately, Wednesday was the one night she worked especially late and there were a few particular customers who seemed very keen to stay put in the shop for the next hundred years if they could. And while she could understand their desire, she was tired, and eager to have a little time for herself.
Although, quite to her annoyance, it ended up being a little past eight o'clock before everyone was finally gone, and she was left alone.
By then she was starving and quite exhausted, but part of her still longed to have a look through the new books that had come in. She ran through the options in her weary mind, wondering whether she should just wait until Friday to come back, or simply hang around for a little longer in peace. Shaking her head slightly, she was bothered by the prospect of having to wait any longer to have some time to read. Right then was a prime opportunity, despite the fact it was getting late.
However, finally she made up her mind.
Without another moment's hesitation she wove her way through the cluttered bookshelves, going through about three doors before she reached the very back of the shop. Gently easing the door open, she heaved a cough as the dusty interior ambushed her, the fine dust attacking her sinuses and throat. Blinking her eyes a few times, she took a step into the room finally, but as she did she could have been certain she'd seen something moving amongst the shelves.
One eyebrow quirked in interest, she moved to take a look along the shelf, but changed her mind at the last moment. She assured herself that she had probably just imagined things out of exhaustion.
Instead she felt her way along the shelves until she reached the wooden table at the back, upon which she'd stacked several of the new books. With a satisfied smile she took one into her arms, seating herself on one of the old chairs. Glancing up briefly as she did so, she could not help but notice that she'd left the window open. Cursing quietly, she rose from her place, closing the window sharply and locking it. She hoped beyond all hopes that nobody had found their way in-
The movement before... what if somebody had broken in?
Her skin crawled, a sudden cold pricking at her skin while her heart pounded in her chest, her brain churning over all the strange possibilities of death her mind spawned in those few moments. What if they found her? What would they do?!
Her mind raced frantically in the fear of the moment. With a deep, shaking breath, she very slowly lifted herself from her chair, replacing the book lightly upon the table. Taking another heavy breath she silently slid her away along to the end of the shelf, then quickly stepped to the other side of it. Glancing back and forth, she repeated the same act with the next shelf, again making sure no one was there before moving on.
In the end, however, after scouring the entire back portion of the shop for intruders, she came to the conclusion that it must have been her imagination, after all. It annoyed her, though. She'd spent at least a good twenty or thirty minutes searching for criminals, and those wasted minutes were lost moments she could have spent reading. Muttering to herself, she sat down again heavily, reaching her arm over the table for the book of Romanian fairytales from before.
That was, until her heart stopped temporarily with the sight before her eyes.
There, right there, laying upon the table, was a strange, unfamiliar cat.
And judging by the fact that there was this cat already upon the wooden surface, its eyes fixed upon the pages of her book in what seemed like keen interest, she had been beaten to her goal of reading it.
She suddenly realised she'd been withholding a breath in her throat from shock, and she released it weakly. She felt as if she'd just had a heart attack, based on the fact she was still breathing quite heavily and that she'd just come face to face with an animal that had not been there before. For many moments she had to pause to allow her tired mind to steady itself and come to the conclusion that this animal must have found its way in through the open window during the day whilst she was occupied- but, at least the cat wasn't quite capable of criminal activity.
Her gaze travelled over the animal, then, with her head at last a little clearer. It was a handsome tom, by the looks of things, with rather lengthy reddish brown fur along the top of its head, its ears, its back and the top side of its tail, while the rest of its fur was a pure white. The cat seemed rather slender as well, once one looked past the thickness of its fur.
Hardly being able to help herself at the time, being that she was an animal lover at heart, (Your Name) inclined slightly forwards, experimentally extending her fingers to the animal in order to see whether or not it was the friendly sort. To her great relief and delight, the cat did not seem to mind her presence, but rather turned its head to look at her, tail twitching back and forth.
Taking this as an invitation to actually fully pet the cat, she ran her fingers through the animal's thick fur, then lifted her hand back to stroke its head in gentle, repeated motions. Almost immediately a purr rumbled softly from within the creature's throat, and the girl found herself smiling almost against her will. Leaning her head against the table top, then, she looked into the animal's eyes, only to be promptly startled by what colour they were. They were a soft, pinkish red, contrasting vastly with the colour of the animal's underbelly. They vaguely reminded her of some form of watered down wine.
Perhaps it's an albino of some kind, she privately concluded.
Electing to ignore this - partly - for the time being, she found her eyes drifting downwards to the cat's mouth, protruding from which was a slightly curved, fang like tooth that she had definitely not noticed beforehand. She was full aware of what the basic anatomy of a cat's mouth entailed, but this tooth was longer than the other canine teeth and was quite oddly placed. Managing to ease open the cat's maw somewhat, she saw how the the fang actually was positioned next to the left top canine, which didn't classify in her mind as being altogether ordinary.
But then again, not much about the cat's appearance in general seemed ordinary.
"Alright, you strange creature. Now that we're acquainted, I'm dying to know how the heck you got in here. That, and where you came from."
The cat merely tilted its head to the side, teeth suddenly bared in something almost alike to a grin. In truth, it was almost frightingly human like.
(Your Name) gave a quiet laugh, stroking the cat's soft head once more.
"I can understand that you can't talk to me. That's a fault on my part... and I guess I'm just curious. And then there's the fact that you seemed to be reading before, too."
The tom meowed a pleasant mewl that sounded quite satisfied, in a form, as it lowered its head to the table to again survey the outspread pages of the book before its paws.
Trying to elicit a reaction from the cat, the girl reached forwards - although not quite discreetly - and tried to pull back the book, but the cat instantly hissed and playfully stabbed forwards with its paw, successfully nicking the skin of the girl. With a slightly surprised smile and raised eyebrows, she replaced the book again, drawing another purr from the cat's throat - but this purr sounded oddly amused, almost like a chuckle of some form.
"Well, you're a strange one, I'll give you that," she murmured, leaning back in her chair with arms folded.
A wide yawn escaped her, then, and with a start she realised just how lethargic she was feeling after the day.
But then... then there was the looming question of what to do with the cat. There was no possible way she could leave it within the shop. And she didn't think it was the greatest idea to take it home with her, either, for she had nothing with which to entertain the animal or keep it from stirring up mischief; the cat already struck her as the sort that could possibly create chaos if it so desired. There was something in its eyes, something in the 'grins' it flashed now and then that displayed the cat as an unusual sort of trouble maker.
Her fingers again snaked through the fur at its neck, and she came upon the realisation that it wasn't wearing a collar. Maybe it had been out wandering and lost its collar, or maybe it was simply a stray?
But then again, the cat seemed to be in too much of a good condition to be a wanderer.
"If you did come here of your own accord, then I really hope you'll be able to find your way home," she commented, almost sympathetic in tone. "I can't take you home with me. Come on, you'd better get out. I'm going home."
Somewhat remorsefully, she took the cat into her arms, making her way out the front door of the shop into the street, and taking care to lock the door behind her. Placing the cat carefully on the footpath, she smiled down at the animal, whom was by then looking down at its paws with something like sadness. Odd.
"I'm sorry, alright?" Her lips quirked upwards into a smile; more rueful this time. "Good night, you silly thing."
She watched as the cat slinked back into the darkness, looking had it had no clue where it was going. The girl again questioned herself, wondering if she'd made the right decision to leave the feline to its own devices. But there was really no other option. Pressing her fingers to her temple as if to clear her head of such thoughts, she slowly began making her way back home, head clouded with heavy thought.
(Your Name) had believed her encounter with the strange cat to be her last as well as her first, given the fact that there'd be no reason for the cat to return. Thus, naturally, it was no small surprise when she came into the back room once more in search of one very particular book on Latvian fairytales two days later, only to find the same cat sprawled carelessly upon the table, deep in sleep.
"What the heck are you doing here?!"
The cat jolted instantly from its slumber, almost jumping into the air with shock before seemingly intentionally throwing a look the girl's way that told her very clearly that the creature was wondering just why the Hell she'd woken it up.
She almost laughed, but bit it back for the sake of her lingering surprise. "Sorry, I shouldn't have yelled. But seriously, how the Hell did you get in here? Don't tell me I left the window open again-"
She cut herself off as her eyes drifted to the window, which was, unsurprisingly, wide open.
"Damn. Well, I give you credit for your navigation skills, then."
Sinking into her seat, she stared at the animal in question, just as part of her suddenly realised that she didn't know the cat's name.
"I suppose there's no way of me knowing what your name, is there?" she said lightly. "Never mind. I'll come up with something." She was silent for a number of moments, drumming her fingers delicately and rhythmically on the tabletop, before lifting her head moments later with a spark in her eyes and a look of apparent glee.
"Actually, I have an idea! You seem to like those Romanian stories, don't you? Well, how about this?"
Rising from her seat, she briefly combed the shelf behind her before pulling out yet another book, idly leafing through it with thumb and forefinger before laying it upon the table, still opened wide. "There's this Romanian author named Vladimir Colin, you know. He wrote quite a few fairytales," she paused suddenly to snap her fingers with delight. "That's what I'll call you! Vladimir. How do you like that?"
The cat's eyes glinted at that moment in a manner she thought strange, and yet amusing, almost as if it was pleased. (Your Name) couldn't help but grin widely at this, and she reached forwards to scratch the animal behind the ears. "I feel so witty, now. You know, Vladimir, I actually quite like you. Maybe... maybe you could somehow just stick around. Sort of my secret companion - like in a book, only this isn't Disney and you therefore can't talk."
Vladimir's expression again shifted, this time to something rather like a smirk, the one odd fang within his mouth becoming easily visible once more. She hadn't thought it a common thing for cats to be able to make such expressions, but she decided to give the animal the benefit of the doubt.
"Excellent! Now that that's settled, I have to have a look for something..." she spoke wistfully, half to herself. Turning over the name of the book in mind within her head, she turned to face the shelf opposite, before changing to the other side a few minutes later in her search.
Over the next quarter of an hour, she developed an odd, increasing sense that someone - or something - was watching her; it was disconcerting to say the least. Eventually it reached such a point that she found herself constantly glancing behind herself, to the sides, out the window, in front... until finally she found herself looking upwards.
"Y-You stupid cat! You scared the crap out of me..." The large tom had perched himself up upon one of the shelves, surveying the small room like a hawk. "For crying out loud, don't make the shelf collapse, you twit-!"
She could have been certain she saw the shelf tilt slightly as Vladimir suddenly leapt from the height of the bookshelf, elegantly at first, right until he landed on the wooden floor and slid for several metres before colliding with a small table, which immediately and consequently toppled somewhat.
"You're not very bright." She sighed in relief at the fact the shelf hadn't collapsed on top of her, then chuckled to herself as she turned to look at Vladimir in a peculiar sort of curiosity. "Strange animal."
She watched as the cat glanced back at her, looking almost irritated with her, before laughing to herself and turning to resume her search.
Over the next couple hours, involving finding a handful of particular books, Vladimir consistently followed her around at her heels like some sort of dog, occasionally almost causing her to trip over him. When she was attempting to leave through the doorway she was startled to find Vladimir sprawled along the small space, meaning she had to tread over him and nearly stepped on him in the process.
"You really need to stop doing that! Really, are you asking to be stepped on?!"
The cat only mewled in response.
"I'm not quite sure how to respond to that, but something tells me that you won't be changing your ways. I suppose I'll just have to get used to it, won't I? Especially if you're going to be frequenting this place like you already are, for some odd reason..."
The book shop owner mentally face-palmed as Vladimir brushed his fur up against her ankles, meowing pleasantly.
"You... are very peculiar."
This became a trend for many weeks, with Vladimir seeming to have had taken a strong liking to not only the shop, but its owner as well. Whether it was the plethora of hiding places, the warmth, the people or goodness knows what else that attracted him to the place, (Your Name) could never quite make up her mind. And yet, despite how mischievously irritating he could be at times, the girl found herself warming to the animal with a bond that felt quite odd in itself.
Although, the cat did not remain for long. Imminently came a day when Vladimir did not make an appearance at all; it left the bookshop owner with a feeling of something being incomplete, as if she were completing a puzzle and a single piece had strayed - despite the fact she thought she should have been aware that he couldn't always be around by her side.
Yet, she was never relieved of the sensation.
Vladimir never came back, not for a series of long months, until finally autumn had come around once more... but still, he wasn't there, with her.
The days grew rather lonely after that.
One morning she found herself reminiscing over her humourous memories of the creature, her thoughts very much distracted from the book of Romanian fairytales in her hand - the very same one she had found the animal engrossed in when they had first met, and the very one she felt inclined to once again read amongst her thoughts surrounding the cat.
A sigh slipping from her lips, she was promptly startled as the bell that hung above the front door of the shop chimed, and a slender, odd looking figure entered. She didn't have a moment to ponder over why it was that she was surprised by the sound of something so usually familiar and homely, however, as her attention was brought immediately to the appearance and oddly warming presence of her customer. He was dressed in a thick coat, accompanied by what appeared to be a suit beneath that, as well as a rather curious top hat perched atop his head. His skin was pale, hands gloved and smile wide. In truth, he certainly looked as if he belonged in such a place as the bookshop, much more than she did, what with his quaint appearance. He made her think instantly of a gypsy.
Glancing over him for the second time, she watched as he slowl approached her, tedious and almost lazy in manner, hands in his pockets.
Only then did she notice his eyes.
They were a soft scarlet, like the colour of a diluted wine.
Yet the most surprising part of it all was how oddly familiar they looked, and how for a moment in time her heart stilled as he stared her down, considering her with something she could have very nearly mistaken for recognition.
"Hello there, miss," he said suddenly, tone cheerful and shrouded largely with an accent she couldn't decipher, but sounded rather unlike anything she had heard before. "You look very lonely here. Mind if I keep you company?"
For the strangest, most peculiar reason, she found herself unable to utter a word for surprise, and the sudden numb sensation filling her head. All she could manage was an unintentionally curt nod.
At this, however, he did not seem taken aback - he only grinned again, eyes shining and composure unmistakably pleased.
"Oh, excellent! Well then, I've been looking for a book of Romanian fairytales - to be particular - for a fair while now. Say, have you heard of an author named Vladimir Colin?"