Susan's reflection rippled in the puddle of water, from the newly fallen rain. Her fur was now fluffier and downier, with more of a shimmer to it. Unlike the rest of her, her green eyes hadn't changed, but she still thought that they complimented her appearance. Slowly, the water trickled into the gutter on the side of the curb.
Susan remembered those fateful times. When they had lost Shade, and were taken hostage by BloodClan. They had tried to escape in one of the gutters much alike the one next to her, but failed. So now they were stuck in the Twolegplace wasteland that she had the displeasure to call home.
They might've been able to escape Scourge's clutches if they were able to find another way to exit the gutter that day. It was all because of Scorch that they were training with a BloodClan cat. He had been sent to take them out, and had succeeded.
It had been six moons since then.
"You're starting to get vain. I suppose it only comes with she-cats' age," Jacques scoffed, as he walked up to her.
"Shut up," she snapped, "There's nothing wrong with glancing at yourself every now and then!" Her brother just snorted. For a moment, she secretly wondered if she was getting slightly conceited, but instantly forgot about it. She was training for BloodClan, and she hadn't died yet. Susan was a true fighter.
"We haven't got all day!" Susan cringed at the familiar snarl. It was Slash, their new trainer. It was customary for queens to train their own kits, but Shade had never returned to them.
No. Don't think about that now, Susan.
Slash, the deadly beauty of a she-cat, was waiting for them in the Twoleg lot next to the chain-link fence. Jacques was already strolling there, his ears pricked to listen intently.
Stifling her moan of loathing, she followed.
"It's about time!" Slash circled them, her tail flicking, whiskers twitching. That pretty tortoiseshell pelt surely didn't fool Susan anymore.
But Susan did like to fight. Except that morning, her heart wasn’t in it, and her mind wandering.
“Pay attention!” Slash hissed. Suddenly, she felt a sharp blow strike her side. To her surprise, it was Jacques, not Slash.
“What the heck?” Susan shouted, standing up. Her and Jacques vowed to never harm each other, if possible. It certainly wasn’t the time now.
Jacques took a little gasp, as if he wasn’t sure what he just did. To her annoyance, he smiled sheepishly, and said, “Susan! I’m really sorry! I thought that you would have your guard up!”
“Yeah, well whatever,” she grumbled, and began to lick her side. The blow was only slightly raw, with a thin amount of blood.
Shockingly, Slash didn’t explode at them as was anticipated. She just hung her head in a low growl. It was even scarier than her yelling side, for the littermates weren’t familiar with the strange behavior.
Then the words rang out, that Susan had always wanted to hear.
Except that for some reason they brought dread instead of joy.
“You’re on your own now. I can’t train you anymore. Look at you.”
She had to agree with her. Embarrassed, she thought of how she had gazed into the puddle earlier, and had been flabbergasted at her mature appearance.
“But wait!” Jacques shouted. She gave him a look. Why would he want her to stay? She’s the bane of our existence!
“What?” Slash snapped.
“You can’t leave us now. We’re still very young cats, and I feel that we won’t be able to survive without your training.”
Sighing, Susan hid her face with her tail. Jacques was no longer making sense.
“You had better learn to fight and survive,” Slash spat, “But I supposed there are a few things that I should tell you.”
“First of all, I’m not your pathetic mother. I’m a high ranked BloodClan cat. Don’t come crying to me when you’re starving or wounded or sick, because I don’t care. It’s not my responsibility.” Susan had no idea whether or not to make a witty remark, or feel frightened at her dark future. Disappointed, she guessed that it was probably the latter.
“Take a new name. ‘Jacques’ and ‘Susan’ aren’t names acceptable for BloodClan, and you will be taken into questioning by Scourge if you don’t change them into something good.” Of course, she already knew what this meant. She didn’t believe that Slash started out with her name, or Bone, or Brick and Snake and Ice. Maybe even Scourge?
Giving one last hard stare, Slash turned tail. Jacques scuffled his paws, and once again shouted, “Wait!”
“What in Scourge’s name could you possibly want?” Slash snarled.
“Please stay. If not, I can find you!” His yellow eyes were round and pleading.
What’s going on here?
For a moment, she thought that she saw a bit of softness in Slash’s expression. But it just flickered and was gone, like the last ray of the sun.
And she spun around and walked away. Jacques looked heartbroken.
“Um. I guess she was like a second mother to us… particularly you?” Susan stuttered awkwardly.
The night was cold and icy, for the rain had frozen over and put a thick layer of frost over everything. Chilled to the bone, she buried herself even deeper into the discarded Twoleg rag that she had scavenged.
She heard Jacques rustle the bedding of his makeshift nest. Susan rolled over, shuffling her own. It was almost like a silent communication saying, “Yeah, I’m awake too.”
Finally, Jacques decided to be the one to break the quiet of the night. “What do you want to change your name to?”
“I don’t want to change my name. I’m perfectly happy with the one that our mother gave us.”
“You know that we have to, Susan.”
“I don’t care.”
“Yes you do. You’re terrified. You know that Shade wouldn’t want us to risk our lives by not obeying Scourge again.”
“Shade wouldn’t want us to give into the cats that killed her!”
“Fine then. See what you think when we finally meet the rest of BloodClan.”
“Meet the rest of BloodClan? When?”
“Oh, you know. You’re not as stupid as you pretend to be. Scourge gives advice, and we both have a lot to say to him.”
She buried her face deep into her nest. What was wrong with her sensible level headed brother?
“ So you’re saying that we should pour out our innermost problems to the cat that tried to kill us.”
“No, not exactly. You’ll understand, I promise. Just go to sleep.”
“Okay. Good night, Jacques.”
His breathing slowed, as his stomach rose and fell. How he went to sleep that easily, she didn’t know. Often she lay awake, sadness overtaking her so she couldn’t ever rest.
It seemed like Jacques didn’t even care anymore.
But as she curled closer to him, she realized that he was her loyal brother, same as ever. They had been through thick and thin together.
His heart would never stray.
The sun was surprisingly warm for the previous several days of freezing rain and chilly air. This helped Susan rise, and groom herself. Better wake Jacques up and get out of here, before Slash gets hissy.
But of course, she had to remind herself. They were no longer being trained. This is our chance to put our skills to the test. We must do a better job of hunting and fight for our own food.
“Wake up, Jacques,” she called to him.
His black and white head rose. “I’m already up. I was just waiting for you.”
She rolled her eyes. From what she could tell, he had completely groomed over most of his fur in a handsome fashion. Except that one tuft stuck out behind his ear, as always. Closing her eyes briefly, she reminisced of the times when their mother had licked over that same little spike. She purred as she remembered Jacques’ protests.
Feeling like she would never be happy again, she pulled herself out of the den. Time to find food.
There was no nourishment in sight, except a little package of scraps that was being fought over blow for blow by a pair of hefty toms.
“Hey! Wait up!” Jacques yowled after her.
“Shut up!” she hissed under her breath, gesturing to the squalling toms.
“Do you think we can take them?” He sounded dubious.
“Do you think that we can sneak the food from them?” she replied.
“Well, they are preoccupied…” The bigger one of the toms was ripping the other one’s ear off at the moment. The latter’s jaws were wide open in agony, along with his eyes. She could see tears streaming down his cheeks.
Once again, she was disgusted by all of the cats that inhabited the streets. They had no honor, and would kill their own littermates for an extra meal.
Slowly, they crept up behind the fight. “We can easily sneak up in a moment, as soon as that victim tom is looking away,” her brother whispered. The ‘victim tom’ was writhing on the ground. Her stomach squirmed.
Jacques tensed, as the tom still squirmed in discomfort. She couldn’t help hearing his desperate cries of pain. Without giving a second thought, she darted out between the fight. “Stop!”
The bigger tom was striped, and extremely ferocious-looking. His head snapped around to look at her. “Who’s this specimen?” The familiar fear welled up inside of her, rooted right in her kithood. No matter how much she fought and survived on minimal prey, she would never be able to get rid of it. But she swallowed it and moved on.
“You’re hurting him. What did he ever do to deserve this?” she preached.
He didn’t even have to think to reply. “He wanted my food. It was what I found.”
“What you found? We found it at the same time! It’s mine, but then this savage thought it was fun to rip my ears off!”
“Shut up!” The striped one hissed.
“No! Both of you shut up! You toms aren’t worth more than the scum growing on the edges of the garbage cans,” she said.
“Stay out of it, Susan,” Jacques hissed, “We’re here to get food, not to resolve petty scuffles!”
Both of the toms instantly turned on them. “So you are trying to steal my food too?” the littler one growled.
“Um… we were… not anymore!” Jacques stuttered.
Without any thought, they attacked.
Susan ended up taking on the bigger striped tom. He was an excellent fighter, but Susan was quicker and more agile. Expertly, she landed a blow on his side.
She was so proud of herself that she lost her focus for just a moment. The tom rolled over, and easily squashed her.
Sputtering, she tried to wriggle from his weight. But she couldn’t.
“Uck—help!” she choked. Her brother instantly abandoned his fight, and came to hers. As they fought, she snuck away and snatched the box of Twoleg scraps away.
But she saw the little sneaky tom running up behind Jacques, in the perfect position to rake his claws across his side.
Forgetting about the food, she slammed into his side, and scratched his face. This just made the little tom angrier. He paddled her stomach with his paws.
“Where’s your precious mother know, kit?” he hissed.
Blinded by anger, she slammed his head into the side of the trashcan near him. A sickening clang was heard, and a spot of blood was on its rusty silver side.
To her surprise, they both turned tail and scampered away. Smugly, Susan noticed their tails between their legs. That’ll teach them!
“Did you see that? Did you see how I slammed his head on the bin?” she mewed, pushing the chicken towards the middle of them.
“Hey. What’s this?” Jacques murmured. He pointed to a little bright white object standing out against the faint layer of mud. It was a singular white tooth, laying below the spot where Susan had slammed the tom’s head, speckled with blood.
“Keep that too.”
“Keep a tooth? I’m not one of those BloodClan creeps that collects trophies!” she muttered with disgust.
“Susan!” Jacques hissed, “Those are collected to pay tribute to Scourge. You should probably start being respectful, or you’ll get us into a world of trouble.”
What ever happened to my kit brother.
Unable to agree with him, she just looked down.
“Fine. I’ll take the tooth for Scourge.”
“Wait, but what if I need something for him?” she mewed.
He smirked, and flicked one of the chicken bones into her paws.
“Speaking of which,” he mewed, “Let’s eat.”
It was all so overwhelming. Susan felt constricted, and like she couldn’t breathe, squeezed between all of the cats. Their spiked collars occasionally scraped against her.
She had to stop, and gasped for air.
“Move on!” Someone hissed, and shoved her.
Finally, the line was located. Okay. All we have to do is wait in this line, tell Scourge our names, and give him the trophies. Just the thought of that scared her. She didn’t know how he would react to her sacrifice of a puny chicken bone.
“You did figure out your name, right?” Jacques mewed worriedly.
“Yeah.” She replied abruptly.
“Well? What did you choose?”
Right in the middle of their tense conversation, came a pair of young-looking cats, another she-cat and a tom. They were both a silver with thick tabby stripes and curious blue-gray eyes.
“Are you changing your names now, too?” the she-cat mewed excitedly.
“To what?” The dreaded question was brought up again. Susan wasn’t sure that they would approve her choice.
The strange she-cat spoke again. “I think I’m changing mine to Flash. Um… I guess as in the flash of claws in the moonlight!” Susan couldn’t help but roll her eyes.
She continued. “My mother named me Petunia, can you believe that? So ridiculous right?" But that's a pretty name!
Susan just flashed her a smile, then turned away.
"I'm not changing my name," the tom mewed, "Our mother named me Claw."
She wondered how many more cats thought that this was all some great excitement. To her, it was just horrible nightmare that brought up hellish kithood memories.
"What's your new one?" Petunia mewed.
Jacques and Susan glanced at each other, wondering if they should just ignore and go on. "Well?" Jacques whispered.
"What's the big deal?" she whispered back, "They seem friendly."
"Oh all right," Jacques mewed. "I'm going to become 'Scratch'." Scratch? That sounded horrible! Once again, she was worried about her own name.
"What about you, Susan?"
Nervous, she took a deep breath. "Lily."
"Lily?" Jacques screeched, "Lily?"
Petunia and Claw burst out laughing. "Ha, you're hilarious!" Claw exclaimed, and patted her on the back with his skinny tail.
"So what is it really?" Petunia inquired curiously.
Butterflies flitted around in her stomach, but she had no choice. "Um... Lily. I wasn't kidding."
At first, they looked at her, blue eyes wide with shock. Then they burst into roaring laughter. "Lily! Lily!" Claw laughed.
"Susan, really? Lily?" Jacques hissed under his breath.
"It's a beautiful name," she wobbily mewed, "And um... lilies are deadly when eaten!"
"Scourge isn't going to like it," he murmured.
"Stop worrying about me, Jacques! Slash left us on our own, and now we're each in charge of our own lives."
Petunia and Claw were now gone, but Susan could see that they had cut several terrified kits in line. Her heart pounded in sympathy, as an older tom pushed one of them with a simple flick of his paw.
The crowds grew even thicker, the more they waited. Strangely, even Jacques seemed as if he was bored, because he was now poking a kit in the tail.
"Stop it," she hissed.
Soon, she lost her sense of direction, as the reek of old and new bones reached her nostrils, combining with the usual stench of Twoleg garbage. Gagging, the littermates moved through the crowd. To her relief, she thought she could see scourge sitting upon a dumpster like some kind of throne.
They were almost there, but she feared her encounter, like she had feared all of BloodClan for years.
Finally, she could see every horrific detail of Scourge up close again. Bone sat at the foot of the dumpster, surveying them with yellow eyes. He bore a strong resemblance to Jacques that made her fur crawl.
"Next to see Scourge," Bone growled. Susan's heart thumped, and she once thought of her chosen name. Can I just think of a new one really fast? Jacques sucked in a deep breath, and padded forward to him. She saw him drop the tooth before his feet.
Um... okay. A name. A new good scary name. Kneading her claws anxiously, she tried to think, yet nothing occured. Uh-- Sun? Moon? No, I just can't! Before she knew it, Jacques was padding up to her, looking proud.
"I did it! My name is Scratch now! Scourge approved me! And what's more, I told him our problems and he gave advice." Her mouth dropped open.
"How could you?" she hissed, "You can't trust him!"
Bone padded up to them. "Now, are we having a nice conversation?"
"Um-- yes!" Jacques stuttered.
"This pretty little she-cat had better go before Scourge gets irritated," Bone mewed coldly.
Without a second thought, she zipped in front of the dumpster. She could feel those dog claws raking down her back.
For the second time in her life, her gaze met ice blue eyes.
"Speak now," Scourge mewed, his voice cold and high.
"Um... okay. I'm Susan..." she muttered nervously, "I want my new name to be..." She tried to think of a new name at that moment, yet had no more luck. "I want my name to be Lily."
"Lily? This is the first time that they've sent a prankster over here. Send her out with a punishment," Bone growled.
"Bone, sometimes I believe that you forget that I'm the leader of BloodClan," Scourge responded coolly, "You're dismissed right now." Without arguing, Bone dipped his head to Scourge, and backed away.
And she was all alone with him.
"Well Susan. Don't think that I've forgotten you," Scourge mewed icily, "Quite a troublemaking kit you were."
She swallowed her fear as she spoke. "Yes."
"Those skills may be useful to us, however," he said, "If you just change your name and dedicate yourself to us, you will be rewarded heavily."
"Lily will be my new name," she said strongly, even as her voice quivered.
"Not a traditional name..."
"Lilies are deadly when eaten!" she defended.
Scourge laughed. "Ah. Of course. You will regret your choice, however I will allow it."
"Thank you," she muttered to him. Ginger fur down her back spiked in anxiety.
"You will be free to go, unless you have something to share? And maybe a gift?" he mewed, his voice higher-pitched than usual.
"Yes. Of course, Scourge. I--I have nothing to say to you. However... I do have a gift." She braced herself for his large, blunt claws to slice into her, as she flipped the chicken bone from in between her paws to a pile in front of Scourge's dumpster.
He looked at her, unamused. "An unusual present. Now get out of my sight." She felt Bone drag her by the scruff away. Scourge may be feeling generous today, but Bone sure isn't.
Newly named "Lily" met up with "Scratch" just next to the waning line outside.
"You're okay!" he exclaimed.
"Yeah," she mewed distantly. Her life was constricted to the point to where she thought she had no personality at all, for Scourge had stripped it away.
Lily and Scratch slept pressed against a chain link fence, overshadowed with an ugly dark green bush. Weeds cushioned their nests. Lily longed for the days when they slept with their mother in the bush in the park, or even that one night in the shack. At least they were comfortable.
"Good night, Lily," Scratch mewed. She winced at the use of the name. Susan and Jacques were the names that their mother had given them, and she really didn't want them to change.
She knew that something was going on, as soon as she heard mutterings on the streets of a strange cat, and one of their own come back.
Lily approached Scratch with her fears one night. "There's something going on, I can't put my paw on it, but it can't mean good news."
"Nothing here ever means good news," Scratch pointed out, then continued licking his stained, dirty pads.
"Will you listen to me just this once?"
"I always listen to you!" he protested.
She sighed. "But you don't understand."
"I guess I don't."
But as she went scavenging with Scratch the next day, she saw a pair of cats sitting next to each other, whispering.
"--Been rumors of a pair of cats traveling though the city. Did you hear about them?"
The other tom scoffed. "Flicker, you can't be serious. The news is all over by now. I think it's one of those Clan cats, and Boulder."
"Boulder! He's the one that abandoned us!" Flicker hissed.
Lily leaned to Jacques. "See? Did you hear that?" she whispered to him.
Scratch nodded. Suddenly, both toms were staring at them. Flicker stepped up to them. "This is our territory," he hissed.
Lily rolled her eyes. "Even we know that this is everyone's territory."
"She's right," Scratch mewed, backing her up. A low growl rumbled from them, but they didn't protest any further.
"My name's Ice," the second tom growled, "And this is Flicker." Lily felt jealous of the beautiful name "Flicker". And from what she could tell, Scourge gave him no grief, because Flicker was part of his guard.
"Do you want to go check it out?" Ice inquired, to both of their surprise.
"Um... all right," Scratch mewed, "I'm Scratch, and this is Lily." Their own names still sounded strange, even on their own tongues. Especially on their own tongues. Despite the environment and everything else, she still preferred Susan.
At first they snickered. Then Ice burst into a full- fledged laugh. "Lily? Ha, what kind of a name is that?"
"My name," Lily responded, her ears flat down her head.
They continued laughing.
"Lilies are poisonous," she insisted. Scratch blushed furiously.
"Yes, whatever," Flicker mewed, "Come on."
Lily thought that Flicker seemed slightly familiar. Flicker... Flicker... where was that from? For another time, she was plunged back into her kithood memories. Strange cats were talking in hushes voices, just outside of the shack that she and her brother were taking refuge in. Lily gulped. Flicker was one of the cats that hunted her as a kit.
Following Ice and Flicker, they were soon among the throngs of cats again.
"Stay close," Scratch whispered to her.
"I'm not a kit anymore," she scoffed.
Scratch ignored her and took a step closer. Now they stood between a delicate silver she-cat with a raggedy pelt, and a mousy brown tom. For a moment, she was cast into her own thoughts of how much she hated all of BloodClan, and how she just missed her mother. Shade was caring and protected them all of their lives. It's all my fault that we're here today.
Suddenly, the crowd of cats began to part, forming a striaght path through them, cats on either side. Scratch and Lily were forced to fall back.
A pang of shock hit her, as she spied an extremely powerful looking brown tabby tom, flanked by another silver tom that was all too familiar. It was Boulder. As far as she could tell, Boulder was a kind cat, much nicer than most of the BloodClan ruffians. But all of a sudden, he was gone, moved off into the forest with the Clans some had said. So why would he come back to this dark place?
The large tabby tom's voice reached Lily's ears. "That's Scourge? He's no bigger than an apprentice!" Lily flinched. Who knew what would befall him soon.
"Quiet! These cats would kill if their leader ordered them to!" Would I?
She saw the lean black shape of Scourge slink a few paces forward as the pair drew nearer.
"Greetings, Boulder. So after spending life in the forest, you've decided to come crawling back?" he growled.
"No, Scourge. Life in the forest is good. There is plenty of prey and shelter," Boulder responded.
"Then why are you here?" he hissed. Boulder remained silent, and dipped his head to the large tom.
He spoke. Lily could feel the tension crackling in the air. "Greetings. I am Tigerstar, leader of ShadowClan, and I have a proposition for you." She felt Scratch dig his claw into her paw. She winced, but didn't respond.
The sight of Scourge leading Tigerstar away to speak privately gave her a bad, wrenching feeling in her gut.
Something was going to go terribly wrong.
Quickly, her eyes snapped open right before dawn. She couldn't even hear the birds chirp.
Jilly groaned. Why did I have to get up so early? But she knew the real reason why. The excitement of meeting Scorch was too much to bear. He was coming at sunrise and she couldn't wait.
She could no longer ignore the excitement she was feeling all night, and how she had felt disappointed every time Scorch walked away. Now they could finally have an informal, fun relationship if their meeting went right.
Giving up on sleep, she got to her paws, and stretched.
Her distasteful reflection caught her eye, as she stood in front of a mirror. Tufts of her fur stuck out on end, and her blue collar was crooked on one side.
Quickly, she got to work grooming her wild appearance, until her smoky gray fur was smooth and fluffy, and her rhinestones were shining on her straightened collar.
Halfheartedly, she said goodbye to Susan as she left the house.
It seemed like an eternity before she saw the familiar ginger pelt of Scorch moving down the sidewalk. Without any hesitation, she scurried out of her cat flap and leaped over the fence.
"Scorch!" she exclaimed.
He smiled. "Hi!"
"So how are you?"
"Well... better than usual." Her heart twinged in sympathy.
"Are you sure that you don't want me to give you some food?"
He hissed. "Like I said, I'm not a kittypet. Now why don't we go do something fun or what?"
"Yeah, sounds good," Jilly mewed distantly.
He narrowed his eyes playfully. "Let me show you."
He took her down an alley, past his home, to the one next to it. On every wall, was a huge dumpster.
"Now, what you do, is try to run along the bins without falling," Scorch explained.
The first time she tried, she was a bit wobbly, and the reek of trash was really getting into her nose. She envied how quickly and gracefully Scorch ran along the edges.
Finally, she had to stop for breath. Scorch bounded up in front of her.
"If you place your paws slightly to the side, it will make it easier."
Jilly nodded, and attempted it again.
It was so much fun. She felt as if she was flying. But her third time around, she didn't see the spot of slime on the edge of the bin. Right in the middle of it, her paw landed, causing her to slip inside the dumpster.
Disgusting stenches surrounded her, as she tried to scramble to the top of the ledge. To her surprise, she was laughing harder than she ever had before. Scorch was laughing too, as he pulled her out.
"See me tomorrow?"