‘Did you feed im?’ she says, like she can’t get words out fast enough. ‘If y fed im he’s never gone leave y lone.’ Scowls at him. Old eyes in a young face. She’s carrying a cane, leaning on it more than she needs to.
Pel looks at the black kitten wending round his ankles, purr bigger than its body. It was pleasant company over lunch, settled by Dozmary Pool while he planned the next stage of his hike.
‘Just mackerel from the sarnie,’ says Pel. ‘That’s all right?’
‘Y ought’nt a fed im,’ says the girl-woman. ‘His all your troubles now.’ She smirks, rocking back on her heels.
‘Bit of a handful is he, then?’
Girl-woman stops smirking, narrows her eyes like he’s an offense. ‘Divil.’
Pel lifts the kitten away from his boot where it’s purred its way into a tangle with his shoelaces. It pats him with a soft paw and he puts it down, safely away from his foot. Girl-woman flinches. He nods at her.
‘I’ll be on me way.’
Girl-woman bares her teeth at him, full grin, sharp.
‘Yulsee,’ she says, and watches him haste away, following the Fowey up into the moor. She hawks and spits after him.
The kitten sits too close, stretches, stares at her until she looks away uncomfortable. It yawns, flash of needle teeth, and the girl-woman flinches. The cat turns with satisfied flick of its tail and trails off after Pel. Its fur looks coarser, but maybe that’s the failing light. It looks larger, heavier, but maybe that’s the knowing.
Girl-woman watches it grow as it leaves. Crosses herself and turns her head, so as not to see its lengthening shadow. Prays for the lost soul, so as not to hear it being taken.