Sometimes the woman of your life isn't who you thought it was. First story in a series, but can be read as oneshot.
The man on the couch wasn't very old, maybe in his early thirties, but looking about five years younger than his actual age was. He had short and messy light brown hair - natural, not dyed - and small locks fell ovar his forehead whenever he hadn't brushed them back with his hand. He had light brown eyes that in right light looked like they had a little green mixed in them and when he smiled small lines appeared in their corners. He also had a few days old stubble, but that wasn't because he forgot or was too lazy to shave, he just knew that it drove most girls wild as is gave him a rogue look without making him lose the gentleness that shone off of him.
His slightly tanned body was well muscled, but the muscles he had were mostly from work rather than going to gym. He was also quite tall, but not lanky like he had been as a boy. The clothes he wore complemented his built, he had a white collared shirt with its sleeves rolled up to his elbows, now with a damp spot of drool on his left side thanks to his daughter, and light blue jeans that weren't too tight, but hugged his ass quite pleasantly, to the delight of the art students he taught.
"Petros! Have you seen Iris?" Came a woman's voice from the next room, their kichen. The man sighed.
"Don't yell honey, she is asleep right here." Petros replied and pointed at the girl at his side as his wife entered the room. She smiled at the sight and took a place beside the two on the couch.
She was no where near beautiful when compared to her husband, but he had loved her since they were just teenagers. Her eyes were greyish blue and her blond hair had a greyish tint to it too, always had had. She had lines around her eyes and her thin mouth. Her smile wasn't like sunshine and her lips weren't rose colored or lucious. For a woman she was quite ill tempered towards children that were not her own and children didn't generally like her either. Still her husband had stayed loyal to her despite that he could have had anyone he wanted.
"Petros... Do you think that we should get her a more permanent pet?" She said slowly with a hint of sadness in her voice as she thought of all the losses her lovely daughter had already suffered, she had suffered from them too.
Her husband gazed solemly into her eyes, he knew she wasn't referring to buing a dog for her as she was allergic to them and sho was their daughter. Small pets they had never even considered and cats... Well they had always had cats. Ever since they had first visited a wild life sanctuary in Africa they had made a promise to each other. Someday they would help animals too, help them in a big way. Soon they had ended up working at - and soon owning - a help center for bid cats and other felines.
They were both highly educated in zoology, but they now worked as teachers because they were needed everyday at the help center and the place was eating awful amounts of money. The start had been hard and sometimes it still was, but things were running decently and they now had two leopard cubs and one adult at the center. There were also many empty cages enclosures, they just weren't used at the moment. The leopards would be released into the wild soon too so the center would be empty for a while.
They had had all kinds of felines at the center, some from gotten from veterinarians to nurse back to healt, some cubs that would have been put down from zoo's, animals that had been injured in accidents and some big cats that had been taken away from private owners because of mistreatment. Usually all their animals were released into wild, but ones that got too attached to them were sold to zoo's. They only sold them to private owners if they knew them and were sure the animals - and owners - were going to be alright, or if it was the only choise. They never put heathy animals down if they could prevent it. Alas, because of their financial status they could only keep as many animals at the same time.
Iris, their daughter, deeply loved all the felines and they were sure she was going to take over the place when they woulnd't be able to run it anymore. She got attached, maybe too attached to all of them and the cats were almost always smitten with her too. Not that they ever let her go anywhere near the animals alone if they weren't under anesthetic or in their cages or encousures. Even caged animals she had the permission to approach only under surveillance. Anyway, they could see how it tore her apart to see them always leave.
"I think... that that would be a good idea." He answered and looked back down at their daughter, she was cluching his sleeve like a baby would a blanket. Then he picked her up carefully and stood, crossing the room and going up stairs to her room to put her to her bed to sleep. He covered his daughter and dropped one kiss onto her forehead and went back downstairs to continue the conversation with his wife.
"So where you thinking about something special?" Petros asked as he settled back onto the couch.
"Oh.. Nothing much. I just heard that another help center located north from here has young clouded leopard cubs that were born there. They are still young and they had quite even temperated parents, I already called them and they'd be glad to give us one if we want. They have heard of us and know we are capable, besides they don't have any room for the cubs when they grow up, even if they won't even grow as large as a leopard would."
He looked at her for some time and knew she wasn't telling everything, she had all the signs. She wasn't looking in his eyes, only glancing in his direction occasionally and she was worrying her lower lip too. Petros looked at his wife expectantly.
"What is it, Haley?"
"I called them already that we'd come to look at the cubs..." She was looking at her hands as she said it, only raising her eyes when Petros didn't answer. Haley wasn't suprised to see a warm smile on his husbands face, she had been hoping for it.
"I guess it doesn't hurt to look. When are we going?"
"Tomorrow." She squaled and bounced a little on the sofa. Luckily she didn't see Petros wince at her actions, he didn't dare to tell her that her voice wasn't suited for squaling, it hurt his ears. Instead he pulled her in to his arms and kissed her like he had kissed their daughter earlier.
Sun was shining high above them as they drove in their car, Petros driving, Haley sitting in the seat next to them and Iris on the back seat, trying to look over the seat to see the cage they had set there. She was bored and couldn't sit still anymore, she whined almost constantly and kept asking "are we there yet?" like little kids usually do. The lenght of the travel was wearing down her parents too as they had left at 7am and it was 12pm now, that made total of five hours in a car that felt more like a sauna and driving down a bumpy road. All of them were ready to snap at any second.
They curved around an old and rotten wooden house and their sanity was saved by the sight of several newer buildings coming to their view. They had finally arrived at their destination and not a second too soon. Petros drove the car into the middle of three houses, all of them low built with white stone walls and red roofs. On one of their doors was a sign "office".
Haley got instantly out of the car and helped Iris out, both of them eager to get on their feet and walking. Petros on the other hand was left with the task of parking the car. He spotted a parking place that was away from the sun and parked the car there, hoping that they would leave before the sun would shift so that the car wasn't in the shadow anymore. He would really like it if the car would be even few grades cooler when they left.
He took the car keys and locked the door, though he knew that nobody would bother to steal it from here, and then headed to the office. He stepped in and blinked as he so that his wife and daughter weren't there.
"If you are wondering, they went to the bathroom. The little one seemed to be quite in hurry." Blurted a young girl behind a desk near the door. He looked at her and she blushed and shifted her glasses up her nose. "Just thought that you might want to know." She explained.
"Oh... Thank you." He replied and nodded to her, trying to ease her obvious discomfort. He apparently failed as she just blushed deeper and shifted her glasses again. Some kind of nervous reflex, he assumed.
"A- are you the Oyston family?" Her voice came again.
"Yes. That's us. Do you know if Ulf Svensson is avaivable?" He could have hit himself when he asked that, of course she would know, she was most likely his secretary.
"He's at lunch right now, but if you wait a moment he will be here. He told me to tell you that if you showed up before he returned. Feel free to take a seat while you wait." She waved her hand in the direction of a couch on the opposite wall.
Petros nodded to her again and gave her a friendly smile before taking a comfortable position on the couch. He spent some time by checking his nails, that he decided needed to be cut, but stopped when he noticed the secretary looking at him. He raised his head to ask if something was wrong, but was pleasantly suprised when the girl quickly turned away from him and pretended that she had never even seen him there. He chuckled and then shook her head when the girl froze and the sound of his laughter.
He had barely time to recognice the new voice before he had a lap full of squirming six-year-old.
"Did you miss me dad?" Iris asked like she had been away a long time, causing her mother who came in the room right after her to smile as well.
"Of course I did princess." Petros said and proceeded to show her that by squeezing her tight. The little girl in his arms giggled and hugged him back almost as hard.
"I do hope I'm not interrupting anything. Ah. Haley Oyston I assume?" A short man in his fifties walked into the house and offered his hand to Haley.
"Yes. You must be Mr.Svensson?" The woman took the hand the man offered to her and shook it before letting go. He was even shorter than her.
"No need to be so formal, do call me Ulf. That is a lovely daughter you have, is she what, seven now?" Iris giggled again, all her bad mood dissappeared as soon as she got out of the car. "Oh, you must be, being that big of a girl, but never mind that. Do you want to take a look at the leopards now? Yes, come after me."
Petros and Haley shared a look and followed him out and Iris run to hold her mothers hand.
"Mom, are we going to look at the kitties now?"
"Yes darling, we are. Isn't it great!" Haley had a wide smile on her face and matching one could be found on their daughter too. Petros knew they were very excited about this, it didn't matter that a clouded leopard cub was nothing new to them. He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand and started examing the cages they were approaching. In one large one there was a bengal tiger, who he suspected was around four years old. It was a magnificent creature with deep orange fur and stripes almost as back as night.
His observing of the animal went on for few seconds before he noticed that the others were already dissappearing behind a row cages and hurried after them. He nearly ran, but anyway he didn't catch them because when he passed one shadowy enclousure he heard frantic meowing coming from its door. Petros stopped in front of it and peered through the door made of thick metal net. On the other side, with its soft paws pressed against the was a pale white cub with large honey colored rosette markings meowing at him and pawing at the door like it was trying to scream "pick me!" at him.
It was cute, he had to admit that, but it wasn't what he was here for. The cub looked too old for them to take and as he had no idea of its species he didn't know what its eventual size would be.
Next to the door was a white sign, it was easy to miss, but from this close he could see that it read the cubs gender - female -, but not what kind of a feline it was. He frowned and looked at the small feline again who gazed right back into his eyes as well, its bight blue eyes never moving away.
"God, you are adorable." Petros wisphered and dropped onto his knees to have a better look at the fluffy thing in the enclousure. Leaning forward a little he pressed his palm agains one of the cubs paws and watched as the cub was isntanty curious about it. It nosed his hand and started sniffing it like mad before taking a few cautious licks.
The cub raised its head and meowed at him again, louder this time so it would get his attention. A purr rose in to the air and then one white furred cheek pressed against the metal net, rubbing against it and moving so that the soft fur was agains the man's hand. Soon Petros got the hint and pushed his fingers through the net to stroke the it. The feline however had different plans and turned its head and nipped the fingers with its teeth, then it took one into its mouth to suck on.
"I like you too." He announced as he pulled his finger out of the cubs mouth with a wet noise. "Cub drool. Thank you." Petros wiped his finger to his jeans and then got up and dusted them. Maybe he could take a closer look?
The enclousure's metal framed was easy to open as it was only closed with one latch, apparently they didn't get many visitors here. However, from the inside the enclousure would have been impossible to open, unless it was housing a full grown tiger or a lion, so he didn't think of it as a breach in the security and chose not to mention it to anyone. Hopefully Ulf would return the favour and not call the police for him removing the cub from the enclousure without authorization. Petros placed his hand on the latch.
"What on earth are you doing!" His head snapped to the direction of he yell, it was the secretary, now dressed in a green overall. "That thing is one of the most aggressive youngsters we have had!" The girl came to the door and she too glanced in to the enclousure. "Oh." She gaped when she saw the cub stare at her innocently. "Or maybe you can take it out, just be careful."
"Always." Petros replied, now keeping his eyes on the cub. He opened the door and put his body between the it and the doorframe so the feline wouldn't escape from him. Within seconds he had the white ball of fluff sniffing his legs, head butting him and brushing its whole body against him, all while mewling wildly. Petros bowed and grabbed the cub gently to lift it off the ground. That caused the cub to let out a small, confused yowl, but as the man had it steadily in his arms the cub grew silent. It pressed its feline nose against his neck and breathed in his scent, making it purr again. Petros turned to the girl.
She had suspicious expression on her face. "Fine, she fancies you." The girl shrugged and acted like it was nothing even though it was clear something was bothering her, but he didn't bring it up. He had all he wanted right in his arms.
"Ah!" Petros shouted when he felt a wet and raspy tongue lapping at his cheek, the cub certainly seemed to agree.
"Petros! The cubs were ado- ah!" Haley came back around the corner carrying Iris in her arms and with Ulf trailing behind them. "Oh that's so cute. Don't you think so too sweety?" She questioned the girl in her arms and let her down so that she too could see the new feline.
"Fluffy kitty! Mommy, I want this one! Can I? Can I, mommy?" She wailed and ran to her father. Next to her father, Iris got onto the tiptoes and reached to pet the cubs fluffy tail that was hanging dawn.
"We'll see. Let me pet her too." She requested after answering her daughters question and extended her hand. To her husband's suprise at that exact moment the cub he was holding started hissing, the sound loud enough for only him to hear. He gave it a quick tap on its muzzle and managed to get it to stop, but the cub raised its head to glower at him. There was a moment of silence between them as they studied each other and it didn't end even when Haley's hand buried itself in the cub's white fur.
"How much does she cost?" Petros asked the question he knew was on his wifes mind too.
"Well. I never thought I'd sell her to anyone, but seeing as you do have her under control, I might be persuaded to reconsider. She-"
"What do you mean you wouldn't sell her?" Haley interrupted him.
"She dislikes most humans, but I see that is no problem with you. Other than that, she is of mixed species - we got her from a laboratory - so she can't be used to breeding, zoo's don't wan't her either for that same reason and we don't sell to private owners." Ulf scratched the back of his head. "She has been declared as healthy by veterinarians and has all papers you will need. I wouldn't mind you taking her away immidiately as that would free one enclousure to the clouded leopard cubs, if you truly wan't her that is."
"Mommy please, take the kitty!" Iris pleaded and tugged her mothers sleeve, she didn't know that her mother had already made up her mind.
"Oh, fine. I trust that Petros is a good judge of animal characters. Love, take her to the car. We'll go to do the paper work." She declared and after taking Iris's hand she started towards the office.
"So it's just you and me now." Petros stated when he noticed that the secretary had also went back inside. He walked to the car and was pleased to find out that it was still in the shade. "Let's get you home then, Precious."
Please review if you liked it and want more, I'll write faster if you do.