Writing: ‘Savannah & Savannah’

‘Savannah & Savannah’ was first published in Post-to-Print’s ‘From A Cat’s View’ anthology in September 2018.

You can pick up a copy of the full anthology on Amazon.


You don’t meet a cat with your name every day. Perhaps that’s why Savannah Smith found herself so captivated by my bushy tail and twitching ears as she knelt beside me in the garden.

“Where did you come from, puss?” she asked.

I purred and licked my paw.

“I’m Savannah Smith, just like you. That’s a funny coincidence, isn’t it?” she said, looking again at the name on my collar and tickling the back of my head. “Or perhaps you’re supposed to be for me, is that it?”

I mewed and the girl’s eyes lit up; she wanted to believe I really was a gift for her, that much was plain to see.

They always do.

“Oh, you are so very lovely. And so very soft, too,” she said, running her fingers through my sandy blonde fur. “I’ve always wanted a cat just like you, but Mum and Dad won’t let me have one. I’m sure they’d change their minds if they saw how beautiful you are though, wouldn’t they?”

I licked her fingers, my purrs growing louder.

The girl held her breath. I could almost see her mind at work behind her eyes, see her thinking up the excuses she’d give to her parents as she crumbled to temptation. 

“Would you like to come inside with me, puss?” Savannah asked, exhaling at last.

I mewed again and leapt to my feet, circling around her. The girl smiled wide.

“Come on then,” she said, jumping up and skipping towards the backdoor. I slinked after her, waiting patiently as she pulled it wide and held it open for me.

A big mistake, of course, not that she could have known. Never invite a cat that has your name into your home.

I sauntered past her and into the house.

*

“We’ve told you before, Savannah. No pets.”

“But Dad, look at her! She’s so beautiful and soft and lovely and nice and can we please keep her? Please, please, pleaseeeeee?”

I stretched out in front of the roaring fireplace, my fluffy fur bristling in the heat. It’s always best to let conversations like these play out around you until the time is right to intervene.

“We can’t keep some random cat, my darling. Who knows where it’s been?”

“But she’s not random! Look, she’s called Savannah Smith too; it’s meant to be!”

“That is odd, isn’t it, Pete? But still, it must belong to someone else…”

“Exactly, Laura. Exactly.”

“But she’s sooooo pretty!”

“It’s a nice cat, yes, but that’s hardly the point…”

My chance had arrived. I hopped onto the sofa and pressed myself into her father’s leg. My purring grew louder, laced with layers of tantalising promise and hidden meaning that humans can often sense but rarely understand. Her mother reached over to tickle behind my ear – never my favourite interaction but something I was willing to play up to given the circumstances. I rolled onto my back and licked her hand.

“Oh…” her father said.

“Oh…” her mother agreed.

“Ohhhhhh?” Savannah asked, fidgeting on the floor.

“Well…alright, let’s keep her here for a day or two,” her father said, tickling my belly.

“Yes!” Savannah shouted. She leapt to her feet and danced around for a moment, before picking me up from her father’s lap and cuddling me tightly.

“Just until its owner turns up, understand?”

That’s what they all say at first. Pay it no heed.

Once you’re in, you’re in.

*

We were feared once, as all creatures with sharp teeth and sharper minds should be. Parents warned their young to watch where they stepped when we were close, lest we lure them away with wicked secrets and false promises. But, with the passage of time, such warnings all too often turn into mere stories, stories become folklore, folklore becomes forgotten myth.

Lucky for us.

Savannah had little reason to be fearful as I stalked through the living room, examining my new home.

I pressed my paws into a plush, comfy cushion and purred contentedly.

*

The girl promised her parents that she would look after me, that they wouldn’t have to lift a finger. And she kept that promise well, at first; she would prepare my tea, carefully mashing up tin after tin of jellied cat food each evening, her eyes fixed on me as I ate it up. She would vacuum my fur from the living room carpet, happily taking on the extra job despite her usual aversion to housework. And she would even clean out my litter tray, never once complaining about the smell.

“Funny to see her pulling her weight for once,” her mother said one evening, sipping from a glass of white wine. I was drowsing on the windowsill, soaking up the dry warmth of the radiator below me, watching as Savannah walked around the room with a basket, picking up my scattered toys and putting them away one by one.

Her father chuckled. “At this rate we won’t need to clean this place ourselves ever again!”

But over time, the shine started to wear off. Things that Savannah had at first found fun turned into chores – brushing my fur became boring, sorting my food and litter tray became stinky inconveniences. Bit by bit, the girl started to avoid her duties, until she had ceased looking after me at all. Her parents stepped in to take care of me instead, begrudgingly at first but soon enough happy to wait on my every desire.

It couldn’t have been more perfect had I planned it – which I had, of course.

None of them referenced the broken promise directly. It was only a tiny promise, after all, one made by a little girl desperate for a pet cat to call her own. But it was a promise all the same, one that had been broken, abandoned, cast out. Without malice or intent, Savannah’s promise had transformed into a lie.

And nothing tastes more delicious to a cat than a lie.

*

In time, you become less and less of a stranger, until you’re considered part of the family. Loved, cherished, trusted.

That’s when the real fun begins.

“Savannah! Can you come in here please?”

I followed the girl as she walked into the kitchen. Her parents were stood around a pile of ceramic rubble. “Look at this, just look at it!” her mother said, tears welling in her eyes. “You know this was your Grandma’s vase, look at it now!”

“I didn’t do it,” the girl said. “It must have been the cat.”

“Come on now, Savannah,” her father said as I brushed myself up against his ankles. “You can’t blame everything on the cat. Look, your bloody yo-yo is right here amongst the fragments!”

“But-but-but…”

“But nothing! You know how much that vase meant to your mum. Say you’re sorry.”

“No! It wasn’t me, it really wasn’t!” The girl glanced at me and I back at her, unblinking. Were the first hints of doubt sneaking into her mind, I wonder?

“Go to your room, Savannah,” her mother said, eyes fixed on the remains of her vase.

“But-”

“Go to your room, now!”

The girl stormed out and up the stairs. I followed in her shadow, mimicking her steps as she slammed the door behind us and dived onto her bed. “I haven’t done anything, nothing at all!” she shouted, face buried in her pillows. “It must have been…”

She turned to look at the foot of the bed, where I sat watching her.

“You.”

I didn’t respond. Why would I? Always best to keep your cards close to your chest, after all.

*

Clever cats become bolder as time passes. Flicking out a claw to tear a cushion cover, biting into a roast chicken on the kitchen counter, pushing a fresh cup of coffee onto the carpet – all safe territory, if you’re careful.

I would do such things whenever the girl found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and only ever when her parent’s backs were turned. Savannah often caught me up to mischief and would shout out in protest, point her fingers in my direction, but her parents were already coming under my spell; she would always get the blame if I played my cards right.

And I always did.

“I’m on to you, cat,” she whispered to me one evening. Her mother had just finished chastising her for ripping up a newspaper, leaving her to clean the mess she’d left strewn across the living room floor. “You’re a menace, nothing but trouble. They’ll catch you in the act soon, just you wait.”

I considered her for a moment before turning my attention back to the bay window. In the garden, a fat grey squirrel was gobbling up seed from the family’s bird table.

There was no cause for concern; the girl’s fate was already sealed, whether she knew it or not.

*

It’s natural to look back sometimes and wonder when everything started to fall apart. Relationships cool, people drift apart, lives shift. Sometimes family ties are the quickest to snap, already straining from the tensions and squabbles that lie just beneath the surface – it can happen without you noticing in the slightest.

Until it’s too late, that is.

“Mum, have you seen my school bag? Mum?”

“Hmm?” Savannah’s mother replied. I yawned from head to toe before curling up in her lap.

“My school bag. I thought I’d left it in the kitchen but I can’t find it anywhere.”

“Oh, it’s probably…” She tailed off, rubbing my belly.

“Probably where?”

The mother remained silent.

“…Mum?”

Silence.

Savannah appeared to become smaller in the doorway, shadows overwhelming her as she backed out of the room.

The school bag wasn’t even the start of it. The changes had come bit by bit – carefully considered packed lunches became leftovers, leftovers became empty Tupperware tubs. Savannah’s regular Saturday walks with her father had become less frequent, then non-existent. Where her parents had once tucked her into a comfy, clean bed, she now pulled weeks old sheets up to her chin, whispering goodnight to the shadows as she did so.

It’s not nice to feel like you’re being replaced. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you, though, if you fail to tread carefully, fail to pay attention to the little details.

Let your guard down long enough and who knows how your life might change?

*

She notices the whiskers first, though the signs were already as clear as day if she had looked close enough.

Savannah’s voice had begun to take on a purred tone, vowels vibrating into one another in a constant murmur. Her arms were becoming fuzzier, fluffier, softer. Her finger nails were starting to curve and become sharper at the ends, catching on her sleeves as she dressed herself each morning. All clear signs, all so very easy to overlook.

Whiskers, though, are always harder to miss.

I knew realisation had finally dawned when I heard a crash from the bathroom, followed by a strangled screech as Savannah looked at herself in the mirror. Three fine, sturdy hairs protruded from each side of her face just below her nose. Which was, now she studied it, becoming flatter, upturned at the end.

Catlike.

She swung around towards the bathroom doorway, where I sat cleaning my long, slender legs. “This is your fault, isn’t it?” she hissed, her sharp teeth glinting under the harsh bathroom light. “Why are you doing this to me?”

I observed her for a moment, staring into her slit-like pupils. Then I returned to my work, licking my belly.

The girl screamed, turning back to the mirror. She began pulling out the whiskers one by one, grimacing as each came loose from her skin.

But it was too late for that. Far too late.

*

Savannah’s parents paid less and less attention to her as time wore on, preoccupied by their jobs, the TV, friends and each other.

And me, of course.

I caught the girl staring at me in the wardrobe mirror. My eyes lingered on hers for a moment before I returned my gaze to my own reflection, admiring what I was becoming – my sandy blonde hair, my soft skin, my bright blue eyes.

“You can’t do this to me, you can’t do this!” the girl cried, pacing back and forth through her room.

Somewhere downstairs a muffled voice called out, “will you shut that bloody cat up!”

Savannah looked at me, eyes wide, trembling from anger and fear alike. “Please,” she whispered, “please make this stop. I’ll do anything you want me to, anything!”

I smirked; the idea that she had anything left to offer me.

The girl cried out again. “This is my house, cat. My house, not yours!” she sobbed, her regrown whiskers twitching.

Perhaps she believed that or perhaps she already knew the truth, deep down.

She was wrong, either way – it had been my house since the day she invited me in.

*

Desperation is a funny thing. So many people only jump into action once it kicks in; had they been better prepared in the first place perhaps they might never have reached such dire straits.

Prepare, prepare and prepare again – why do you think cats always land on their feet?

Savannah tried her best to turn things around, I’ll give her that. She did everything she could to win back the attention of her parents – following them from room to room, pulling at their trouser legs, whimpering. “Help me, please!” she might have been trying to say, feline eyes glinting with tears she could no longer shed.

But they couldn’t hear her, not anymore. All they heard was mewing, hissing, screeching.

All they heard was the cat.

*

What was running through the girl’s mind as the end grew near, I wonder? Did she question all her tantrums, the times she snapped at her parents, the days she said she’d rather not go with them to visit her grandparents? Did she wish she’d cherished her old life whilst it was still hers? Did she regret letting her guard down, regret letting me in?

It’s funny, really; all these years, all these lives, and I’ve never once cared enough to ask.  

*

I had a pet cat and its name was Savannah.

She was a moody cat, a mean cat, a mopey cat. She spent her days prowling through the house, never able to settle in any one place for long. Try to stroke her and she would scratch and bite and hiss, so we mostly came to leave her alone, staying at a safe distance. She would only approach us at dinner time, albeit reluctantly, and even then she would always keep one eye trained on me as she ate, hungrily wolfing down bite after bite of tinned cat food whilst I gorged myself on chocolate treats. It was almost as if she were envious of me, of my life of luxury, of how my parents loved me so.

As if she wished it were all hers.  

We kept her well though, regardless of her quirks. But then, one sunny morning, Father burnt his toast, bitter smoke pouring from the grill and filling the kitchen. He opened the back door to let it escape without thinking – the cat made a dash for it, bursting through the gap and out from the house. I started to get up, thinking I should give chase, before lounging back onto the sofa. Probably best to let her go, I thought to myself.

Mother and Father never did want a pet in the first place.

**

Summer has returned. I walk through my garden, enjoying the heat of the sun on my smooth skin. I stretch out my arms and arch my back – for a fleeting moment the outline of some distant memory takes shape at the edge of my thoughts, one where I’m stretching out by the fireside and not a girl but something else entirely. I shake my head and the memory is gone, just like that. 

I spot a cat at the bottom of the garden. I’ve always wanted a pet, but Mum and Dad have never liked the idea. I draw closer to the cat, expecting it to flee. But it stays in place, almost like it’s waiting for me. I bend down onto my knees and tickle it behind the ears. I look at its collar – ‘Savannah Smith’. A funny coincidence, I think. Or perhaps it’s a sign?

“Would you like to come inside with me, puss?” I ask, as the cat swishes its tail in the warm summer air. The cat mews and jumps to its feet. That settles it, I think. It’s meant to be.

You don’t meet a cat with your name every day, do you?

“Come on then,” I say, jumping to my feet and skipping towards the house. I look back at the cat, which follows me at a distance before waiting patiently by the back door, almost as if it had used it in the past.  

I turn the handle and open the door wide for the cat. She looks up at me, ears twitching, before slowly getting to her feet. I can hear her purr as she moves to take her first steps into the house. 

Then I slam the door hard and grab the cat by the scruff of its neck. I bring my face close to the cat’s, look deep into its pale blue eyes. “You can’t fool me, girl,” I hiss.

It swipes a claw at me but I have it held at a safe distance; it’s no danger to me, not anymore. It stays still after that, the fight having all but abandoned it.

I toss the shocked, trembling creature back into the bushes at the bottom of the garden, nestled amongst catmint and crocuses. I think I can hear it mewing as I walk back to the door, as if it’s desperate to regain my attention. As if it still wants to come back into the house with me, even now. Little chance of that.

Never invite a cat that has your name into your home, after all.


By TomAntonyDavies

Writing sort. Manchester, England.

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