Rivals

Part Three

By Birana

 

            Genevieve smiled to herself.  It had been three weeks since she had found Timid in the underground garage, and she was rather pleased with how those weeks had gone.  After Fire’s punishment was over he had been considerably calmer, and there had been fewer spats between he and Brave.  It also helped that Pretty was throwing herself heart and soul into being Bombalurina, and Timid into Victoria.  Timid had lost much of her shyness and gained more poise and better stage presence once she conquered her fear of Amanda.  Genevieve clapped for attention.  “Class, I have an announcement to make.”  That morning, Amanda had told her that Timid and Pretty were ready to be promoted to the troupe.  She also said that Gigglebim was to be transferred, but she tried to put that out of her mind.

 

            The kittens stopped their chatter and gathered around Genevieve.  “What is it, Tutor?” piped up Gigglebim.

 

Genevieve shoved away a pang of sadness.  “Today Timid and Pretty are moving to the troupe,” she said.  “Timid as Victoria, Pretty as Bombalurina.”

 

            There was a cheer from the kittens.  Timid and Pretty, twin smiles on their faces, hugged each other while excitedly jumping up and down.  Gigglebim literally bowled them over with a somersault.  Everyone else congratulated them in more normal ways, from Fire giving them high fives to Brave formally shaking their hands.

 

            After a few minutes, the class had settled down enough for Genevieve to approach Gigglebim.  “Hi, Tutor!  Isn’t it exciting about Timid and Pretty?  I can’t wait to be in the troupe with them!” said the lively gray kitten, twirling around in circles.

 

            Genevieve sighed.  This was going to be harder than she thought.  She took a deep breath.  “Gigglebim, you’re not going to be in the troupe.”

 

            Gigglebim stopped twirling.  “Not in the troupe?  What do you mean?”

 

            “You’re…” – Genevieve searched for the right words – “being taken to a new home.”

 

            “A new home?  You mean like Timid was going to, but you saved her?”

 

            Genevieve nodded.

 

            “But that was a bad thing…Timid said so…why…how come I have to go?”  Gigglebim’s large, yellow-green eyes welled up with tears.

 

            Genevieve smiled sadly and stroked Gigglebim’s headfur.  “Teacher says that…”  She couldn’t bring herself to say ‘you’re not good enough.’

 

            “That what?”

 

            “That…there’s no roles you would be good for.”

 

            “But I’m good at lots of roles!  Watch!”  By changing the expressions of her face and body, Gigglebim became Etcetera, Jennyanydots, Bombalurina, and Jemima in rapid succession.

 

            Genevieve was greatly impressed at the kitten’s acting ability, but she knew that she couldn’t save her.  Though she could get into character perfectly, she still wasn’t good enough at dancing and singing, necessities for a CATS performer.  “That’s amazing, Gigglebim.  I can’t believe Teacher is going to waste that talent.”  She paused to think.  She didn’t know where the kittens went when they were transferred.  For all she knew, it could be an acting troupe, though she highly doubted it.  “Maybe…maybe it won’t be so bad,” she said hesitantly.  “It won’t be what you’re used to, or trained for, but it might be okay.”  Genevieve silently apologized to anyone who might be listening for telling what was sure to be a lie.  “Now go tell your friends good-bye.  Teacher will be picking you up later.  I wasn’t supposed to tell you, but I wanted to give you warning.  When Teacher comes, use those great acting skills of yours and pretend you know nothing, okay?”

 

            Gigglebim nodded, and dashed off to say her good-byes.

 

            Genevieve stood for a few moments, just staring off into space.  Two kittens were happy, one was sad, but all three would be leaving her.  She doubted that she would ever see Timid or Pretty again.  She felt a hand on her shoulder, and jumped.  “Oh, hello, Timid.”

 

            Timid looked confused.  “Why do you look so sad, Genevieve?”

 

            “Hasn’t Gigglebim told you her news?”

 

            “News?”

 

            “She’s being taken to a new home.  Like you were going to when I saved you.”

 

            Timid’s eyes widened.  Gigglebim?  Taken to a new home?”  Gigglebim had always been a friend of hers, even if she did find her a bit too crazy sometimes.  She sighed.  “But that’s-”

 

            “Not right, I know.” Genevieve echoed the sigh.

 

            “Well, that, but I was going to say that that’s not all that’s bothering you.”  Timid, with her uncanny emotion sense, knew that Genevieve was worried about more than just a kitten being ‘taken to a new home.’

 

            “You’re right, Timid.  That isn’t all.”  Genevieve pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and sighed once more.  “I’m probably never going to see you again, Timi.”

 

            “What? Why?”

 

            “I only work with the class, Timid.  I never see the troupe.”  Genevieve thought of other students of hers who had passed into the troupe.  There had been similar wrenches, but not nearly as strong as there was for Timid.  After all, she had been trusted with Timid’s name and Timid had actually introduced her to the rest of the class.  There was a special bond between them.

 

            “That’s not fair,” murmured Timid.  She looked up, eyes shining with a faint glimmer of tears.  “Could you at least come to a performance?”

 

            The thought hadn’t occurred to Genevieve.  “I could try.”

 

            Timid smiled.

 

^^^^^^

 

Dear Diary,

 

            Tonight is Timid and Pretty’s first performance.  I think Fire might be there, too, but I’m not sure. 

 

            I told Amanda that I wanted to see how my star pupils had turned out, so she said I could go to the performance.  I’m so excited.  I haven’t seen any of them since the day they left.

            I’ve been trying not to think about them, but now I have to and want to.  It also brings up the memory of Gigglebim, however.  Poor little Gigglebim.  I hope she isn’t being treated too cruelly. 

 

            For some reason, I’ve been looking over my diary entries from my first few weeks here.  The kittens haven’t changed much from those first descriptions, with the exception of Pretty, of course.  She really was a nasty little thing.  Who could have known it was all for want of being Victoria?  I wonder what she looks like dyed.

 

            And Timid, too!  I keep forgetting about her brown patch.  Imagine, once I only knew her as “the white one with the patch!”  She’ll make a beautiful Victoria.  It still gives me shivers whenever I think of the first time she danced the solo dance really well for Amanda.  And what I rescued her from.  I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t stopped in the garage that day.

 

            Poor Gigglebim.  I wish her problems had sprung from a fear to conquer.

 

            But back to the present.  Timid’s first performance!  Oh, I hope she doesn’t get stage fright!

 

            I take that back.  I know she won’t.  Amanda has pounded the dances into their heads so strongly, there’s no possibility of any of them messing up.  Not to mention the threat of the collar.  It’s sad the way the kittens touch their collars whenever they think they might have done something wrong.  And I know their fear is real.  Amanda punishes for every little thing.  I can’t imagine living in fear like that.

 

            Once again, I’ve gotten off topic.  Or did I even have a topic in the first place?  I hate it when I confuse myself. 

 

            I just checked my watch.  The show starts in two hours.  I better start getting ready.  Timid, here I come!

 

Genevieve

 

^^^^^^

 

            Victoria could hear the audience from the small room where she and the rest of the troupe were kept.  There’s so many, so many…  She controlled her fear.  If she made one mistake tonight, she’d be as good as dead.  A hand went to her collar.  Disguised as it was with faux gems, it was still a torture device.

 

            “Are you scared?” asked Bombalurina, her newly dyed red fur shining.

 

            “I’m not letting myself be,” Victoria answered. 

 

            “Me neither.  Isn’t it exciting, though?  Our very first performance in front of a real live audience!  Though I don’t have the role I once thought I would.”  Bombalurina laughed, a little bitterly.  Even though she loved her new role, there was still a part of her that yearned to be Victoria.  She pushed the thought out of her mind, concentrating instead on her friend’s new look.  “Very Victoria,” she commented, gazing at the once-brown ear, now a tan so light you almost couldn’t even tell that it wasn’t white.

 

            Victoria smiled.  “And you.  Ravishing in red.”

 

            Bombalurina struck a pose.  “Thanks.”  Her voice dropped to a confidential tone.  “Do you think Rum Tum Tugger likes it?”

 

            “Of course he does.  He likes everything about you.”

 

            Bombalurina smiled slyly.  “Just like Fire likes everything about you.”

 

            Victoria’s face burned.  “Be quiet!”

 

            “You’re right, we should be quiet.  Teacher’s coming.” Bombalurina whispered.  She had picked up the sound of Amanda’s heels clicking on the backstage floor.

            Amanda Ferran swung open the door and approached the troupe. “Cats, you’re going on in about five minutes.  I want you to do better than your best.  Especially you new two, as this is your first performance.  If you make a mistake, you can be sure that you’ll be punished for it.”

 

            Furry hands around the room reached up to touch their collars.  Amanda smiled.  I’ve taught them well.  She heard strains of the overture coming from the orchestra pit.  “Demeter!”

 

            A black and yellow queen’s head snapped up.

 

            “Into position for the headlight!  The rest of you, get to your entrances!  Remember, be perfect!”  With that, she gave Demeter a shove out the door and towards her entrance and pointed the others to their well-known positions.  “Go!”

 

            Victoria stood near her first entrance, just outside the stage.  Her heart was pounding so hard, she was sure the entire audience could hear.  Tonight, just maybe, she would get her first glimpse of Genevieve in months.  Are you out there, Genevieve? she wondered.  Do you remember your little Timid?  She could almost feel her old instructor’s eyes on her as she went out for her first line.  “Familiar with candle,” she sang.

 

^^^^^^

 

            Genevieve sat in the balcony, binoculars in hand.  Amanda had forbidden her to sit any closer, saying that if the cats saw her they might falter in their dancing. 

 

            “Familiar with candle,” she heard two voices sing, one of them almost as familiar to her as her own.

 

            Timid! thought Genevieve, lifting her binoculars to her eyes.  There was Timid, the same smile on her face, the same expression of body, the same everything – except for the patch on her ear.  I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry…

 

            After the next line there was another voice she recognized.  “Were you Whittingon’s friend?”

 

            Genevieve swung the binoculars to the red queen who had just finished singing.   If it hadn’t been for the face and voice, she never would have known that the stunning Bombalurina was Pretty. Wow, Pretty looks wonderful red!  But so different!

 

            With the binoculars following the only white cat’s every move, Genevieve sat back to enjoy the show.

 

^^^^^^

 

            “The Naming of Cats” was almost over, and Victoria had almost begun her solo dance.  “Effable,” the troupe chanted, and Victoria went up on her toes with her palms on the stage.

 

            As she was cradling the air, Victoria’s sharp eyes caught a glimpse of a familiar brown ponytail high in the balcony.  The face was covered by binoculars, but she was sure it was Genevieve.  Genevieve!  You came!  Almost repeating the words she had thought so long ago, she thought, You have done so much for me.  Now I will do something for you.  I will dance for you, Genevieve.  The solo dance music came on, and slowly, gracefully, Timid lifted her leg in back of her to begin.

 

^^^^^^

 

            Tears sprang into Genevieve’s eyes as she watched Timid perform.  It was like the scene in the classroom so long ago; the audience stared in the same awed, dumbstruck way as Amanda had.  That’s my little Timid up there!  My little Timid that everyone is watching, wishing they could dance like that!  She sent a silent message to Timid, Timid, your dancing is so beautiful, even I can’t believe it.

 

^^^^^^

 

            Throughout the show, Victoria kept glancing up at the viewer with the brown ponytail and binoculars.  Am I good, Genevieve?  If I am, it’s all thanks to you.  Thank you so much, Genevieve.  I’d never be here if it weren’t for you.  Thank you.

 

^^^^^^

 

The entire show was a joy to Genevieve.  She recognized quite a few of the cast members, not only Timid and Pretty.  She was disappointed when, during the “Macavity” scenes, she discovered the red feline dancing and fighting was not Fire, but then he had been moved up after the girls, so she really shouldn't have expected him to be on stage.  And though she didn’t know Demeter, the “Macavity” song was excellent.  Pretty shone through her character, melding them into one.  I guess I should be calling them Victoria, and Bombalurinanow.

 

The show was over all too soon.  Before she knew it, it was the curtain call.  She gave her two ex-students standing ovations.  She almost started screaming their names, but she bit her tongue just in time.  At one point she noticed that Timid seemed to be staring right at her.  Knowing that Timid’s vision was almost as good as her own with binoculars, she lowered the binoculars so Timid could see that it was her.

 

^^^^^^

 

Victoria gave a gasp of pleasure.  The mysterious ponytailed, binoculared viewer was Genevieve!  Genevieve, Genevieve…

 

^^^^^^

 

The day after the performance was Sunday, Amanda’s day off.  If I want to talk to Timid, this is it, thought Genevieve.  She stood in front of the room where the troupe lived, her hand resting on the doorknob.  When she had gathered up enough courage, she took a deep breath, slipped her key into the electronic lock and pushed open the door. The cats were in a clump that very much resembled the kittens, and Amanda was nowhere in sight. 

Genevieve!” squealed a familiar voice that sounded as if it was ready to burst with excitement.

 

Genevieve opened her arms as the white queen ran to her.  “Ti- Victoria!  You were wonderful, your dancing was so beautiful…”

 

Victoria buried her face in Genevieve’s shoulder.  “I was dancing for you, Genevieve.  I was dancing for you.”

 

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