A Change of Heart

by Jennifer Wiseman

“You brought this on yourself, you know,” Skylar told the black cat.

The cat rubbed against her leg insistently, but she ignored it as she ground herbs with her mortar. Its sombre cries grew louder, and its tail twitched. Her light blue gown ruffled with the movement of its body.

The open door illuminated her workspace, but the sunlight was diminished with the end of day. Even though she needed to strain to see her work, she didn’t want to stop and light a candle just yet. She was almost done. Just a few more minutes . . .

CLANG!

The cat lepted onto the table and knocked the mortar and pestle from her hands. They clattered noisily against the wooden tabletop. The herbs that she had ground so meticulously scattered on the floor.

She sighed and rolled her eyes in frustration. The cat sat down on the table and watched her. His expression showed clear signs of satisfaction at her distress. His tail swished, sending more precious herbs flying.

“Stop that!” Skylar yelled as she bent down and scooped herbs into her palm. She brushed the herbs back into the bowl with the knife edge of her hand. With the last of the herbs back safe in the mortar, she placed hands on her hips and glared at the cat.

“Do you have any idea what you could have done?”

The cat glared back, impassive.

“This herb is essential for the transformation process. If the potion doesn’t have the correct amount, you could still have a tail when I change you back.” The cat’s tail stopped twitching.

“Or perhaps, pointy ears . . .” Skylar tilted her head and placed a fingertip against her lips. “Personally, I think it might be a nice addition, don’t you?”  The cat shook its head emphatically.

“Well, cut it out, then! You’re in enough trouble as it is. So, behave yourself. I’m almost done.”

The cat slunk to one side of the table and plopped down, his head on his front paws. His eyes were sullen as he watched her.

Sklyar shook her head and turned slightly away to grab another ingredient. He deserved to suffer a little longer.

She had married him three years ago and, until a few days ago, they’d been happy. Tucker always knew how to make her laugh. She had given him her heart. Now, he’d betrayed her and she didn’t know if she could ever trust him again.

Living a mile from town, all they had was each other – they liked it that way. When Tucker suggested a trip to town, Skylar realized she needed to re-stock her herbal supply, so she agreed. Because Tucker complained that the herbal shop always made him sneeze, she told him that he could wait for her in the tavern until she was through.

It was not even dark when she left the shop – she was done earlier than expected. Her basket was well-stocked, and she was happy with the deal that she’d managed to get for the fennel and anise. With a smile, she entered the tavern.

It was full to the brim, and she recognized many of the people turning to look at her. They seemed startled by her presence and quickly looked away. Skylar frowned. She couldn’t find her husband anywhere. With a touch of concern, she wondered if he was waiting outside. She hurriedly walked around the tavern yard, passing a couple in intimate embrace.

She came to an abrupt stop and turned toward them with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. There was her husband, kissing the town harlot, Faye. Skylar would recognize that curly, red hair anywhere.

Her blood boiled. She ground her teeth angrily as the couple, oblivious to her presence, continued to kiss. Her husband’s mouth hungrily devoured the harlot’s.

Skylar saw red.

Without realizing it, she began to chant loudly. The couple looked up in surprise, and Faye screamed in terror as Tucker began to shrink. Whiskers formed on his face, and his ears became long and pointed. His mouth was open, and Skylar could see his blunt teeth narrow into sharp points. A long tail protruded from his rear and fur covered his body as his clothes fell in a heap beneath him.

Faye trembled, turned and ran. Tucker hunched his back and hissed at Sklyar. She couldn’t believe that she had changed him into a cat. Hah, that will fix him, she thought.

Skylar had never transformed anyone before. Her efforts as a beginner witch had been in potions and healing.

As she looked down at Tucker, she wondered whether she really wanted to change him back. His cheating struck her like a knife, but she remembered the fear on Faye’s face. The punishment for such witchcraft was death, and if the harlot told anyone what had happened tonight, they would execute her for sure.

The door to the tavern opened, and even from the back of the building, she could hear the commotion within. Skylar’s fear of discovery warred with her desire for revenge.

Coming to a decision, she reached down and lifted Tucker by the scruff of his neck. She quickly wrestled the ill-tempered cat into a basket and set about finding someone to help her change him back. It took her a couple of days to find Mildred. She had known exactly what to do and gave her the recipe for this potion to change him back to human once more.

Tucker lifted his head suddenly. His ears were alert, and his eyes focused on movement outside. Raising himself up, he crouched low against the wood and pounced, capturing something between his front paws. Holding his head up high, he turned and pranced back towards the table holding a limp form between his teeth.

Skylar suppressed a shiver of revulsion as he placed a dead mouse beside her bare feet. Leaping up to resume his place on the table, he began to groom himself contentedly.

“Were you hungry?” she mocked with raised brows.

A look of shock crossed Tucker’s feline features making her laugh. Putting aside her loathing, she picked the mouse up by the tail and placed it on the table before Tucker.

“Go ahead. Eat it.” She told him folding her arms across her chest.

He looked down at the mouse and back at her delighted face. Slowly, he lowered his head to the carcass and picked it up holding it gingerly between his teeth. Tipping his head back, he began to chew. Tiny bones snapped with each closure of his jaw. The mouse’s tail jerked with each movement as it hung from his mouth. Then with a final gulp, Tucker swallowed it. A look of disgust crossed his face, and turning his back on her laughter, he curled into a ball and ignored her.

With a wry smile, Skylar put the finishing touches on the potion. Giving it a final stir, she poured it into a bowl.

“All ready.” She told Tucker. “Now, all you have to do is drink it.”

Tucker quickly came to his feet. He slunk over to the bowl and sniffed at it. Giving a snort at the foul aroma, he looked up at Skylar with disdain.

She placed her hands on her hips and glared. “Either you drink it or you remain a cat forever. It’s your choice.”

Tucker turned his head back to the bowl to lap at the liquid. As he swallowed down the remaining potion, he scrunched his face up, and his mouth foamed slightly. He stepped back from the bowl and sat on the edge of the table.

Within seconds, his body began to stretch. The fur shrank and faded into his skin. The ears shrank, and his face became a handsome man’s once more. The tail was the last to go.

Tucker, his old self again, sat naked on the edge of the table. Running his hands over his head and body to ensure that everything was just as it was supposed to be, he gave a sigh of relief.

“So, what do you have to say for yourself?” Skylar asked him.

He slid off of the table and went to put his arms around her but thought better of it. He looked at her with sad eyes. “I’m so sorry, Sky. I promise that I will never even look at another woman again. I swear!” Tucker’s deep voice resonated through her. She had missed him despite his foolishness.

“You’d better not.” Skylar glared at him. “If the thought so much as crosses your mind, I will know about it, and it won’t be something cute and fluffy the next time. Now, go put on some clothes.”

Tucker gulped hard.

Skylar let herself relax as she watched him. She had no doubt that he would keep his word. But if he didn’t . . . Skylar began to whistle a little tune as she turned and lit the candle. She would call on Mildred in the morning and see if she could teach her few handy spells just in case. It never hurt to be prepared.

The End