“Sorry, I still have some work to do”
Mei felt that familiar pang of guilt when she saw the dejected look on Yuzu’s face. “Alright”, the forced smile after the dejected look made it even worse. “Don’t overwork yourself. I’ll have something nice and warm ready for dinner when you come home”
After Yuzu left she released a deep sigh. She wanted to make it up to her somehow but she couldn’t think of any way to do that. The weather has been quite gloomy for the past few days due to the rainy season so going out on a date wasn’t the best option. Maybe she should just ask Yuzu how she wants to spend a day together. Planning dates was something the blonde was more proficient at after all.
When Mei came home she wasn’t greeted by the usual smell of Yuzu’s cooking, instead she found Yuzu holding a little ball of fluff wrapped up in a towel.
‘Oh no. Maybe she doesn’t like cats’, Yuzu thought worriedly. “I found him outside in the rain. I gave him a bath to warm him up”, the girl said in between sniffles. “I couldn’t just leave him there! He would’ve died otherwise…”
‘That’s so like her…’ Mei cleared her throat. It looked like she would have to maintain her authoritative composure for a bit longer today. But quite frankly, she was unsure of what to do next, “Um, so what do we feed him?”
The older girl sighed in relief, ‘She doesn’t hate them’. “I already bought some formula on the way home but we can’t feed him till he’s all warmed up”, Yuzu explained. “Do you want to hold him?”
“Sure”, she was reluctant but it really looked like Yuzu needed to grab a tissue. As soon as the older girl handed the kitten over to Mei she dashed off in the direction of the nearest box of tissues. A flurry of sneezes emitted from their bedroom and a few minutes later she came back wearing a surgical mask.
“Yuzu, did you catch a cold?”, Mei asked worriedly. It looked like that date would have to wait.
“Something like that. Don’t worry about me though”. Somehow Mei could tell that Yuzu was giving her a reassuring smile underneath that mask.
“Oh crap, I completely forgot about making dinner!”, the older girl hurriedly rushed to the kitchen, leaving Mei alone with the kitten once more. She’d never had a pet in her life but that didn’t mean that she hated them, it always came down to her being too busy. She examined the animal a bit more closely. He was tiny, probably a newborn and the colour of his fur was silver and white.
“Hey, Mei!”, Yuzu poked her head out from the kitchen, “Wanna order some chinese instead?”
Since the food would take a while, Yuzu offered to take the kitten off her hands while she went for a shower. Though Mei was reluctant, she’d been dying for a warm shower after walking home in the cold, wet rain. When she emerged from the bathroom 15 minutes later the food had already arrived and the table was all ready and set up.
“I was able to feed him after you warmed him up”
The younger girl was about to reply when she noticed Yuzu’s red, teary eyes. It looked like she was crying. Worry filled Mei even more when she caught a glimpse of the blonde’s hands. They were covered in a thick, red rash. “Yuzu, your hands!”
“Huh?”, Yuzu realized that she was unknowingly itching the palms of her hands. “Oh, it’s okay! This happens when I touch cats”, she explained, trying to wave it off.
“Is that why you were sneezing earlier?” , Mei examined Yuzu once more, her red eyes were starting to swell and she resumed itching the rashes on her hands.
Sensing Mei’s worries, Yuzu spoke, “It’s alright! I asked mom to buy me some medicine on the way home”, she assured.
Just then the sound of the door unlocking could be heard, followed by a cheerful “I’m home!”.
“Yuzu! I got you your antihistamines but why do you-”, her mother walked into the dining room and immediately noticed the sleeping kitten wrapped up in some cloth. Her demeanor changed almost instantly, “We can’t keep the cat”.
“But why- achoo! ”
“Isn’t it obvious? You’re allergic to them, Yuzu!”, the middle aged woman said sternly, something she rarely did. “See? Your eyes are all red and puffy and your nose is probably running like a river under that mask!”
Yuzu sniffed loudly, she couldn’t deny that. Her mother hit the nail on the head. However, she wouldn’t let her win, “That’s why I asked you to get these ”, she grabbed the medicine from her mom’s hand. “Please? He won’t be able to survive out there, especially now!”
Yuzu’s mother’s eyes softened slightly but she still looked conflicted.
“What if I take care of him until we find someone who will adopt him?”, Mei spoke up. “It should be fine as long as Yuzu keeps her distance and doesn’t touch the kitten, right?”. Even though she was concerned about Yuzu, she knew that this was important to her.
It was the first time Mei had asked her so earnestly. Mrs Aihara released a loud sigh, “Alright, but we’re not keeping him permanently”
Both of her daughters lit up and they all sat down together to eat dinner. Yuzu made sure to take some of the antihistamine her mom bought for her and then she spent the rest of the evening discussing what they needed to buy to take care of the kitten. For now, they put a hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket into a shoebox to ensure the kitten would get warmed up while he was sleeping.
“I think he’s about 2 weeks old. That means we’ll have to feed him again in 4 hours”, Yuzu said as she started setting up an alarm on her phone.
“How do you know?”, Mei inquired as she got into bed. They set up the makeshift kitten bed on the desk so that it was at a distance from Yuzu but still visible from where they were.
“Earlier when I was feeding him I saw that he still doesn’t have any teeth and it seems like he’s just starting to open his eyes despite being mostly asleep. That usually happens when kittens are 2 weeks old but we’ll visit a vet tomorrow just in case”
“I’m surprised. You really know your stuff”
“Yeah… it’s not my first time keeping one. Back when we were kids, Matsuri and I took care of a cat. Man, that brings back memories”, the blonde released a small sigh as she reminisced. “Which reminds me, we still need to give our kitten a name!”
“I don’t really mind what we call him. You think of… a name”, Mei felt her eyelids getting heavier with each second. She was about to succumb to some much needed sleep.
In contrast however, Yuzu excitedly started calling out random names, “Ooh! How about, Bartholomew!”
“Mm… o...kay”, came out Mei’s post-student council work slurred speech.
The next morning, they visited a vet to make sure that Bartholomew didn’t have any parasites or diseases. Yuzu also invited Harumi, much to Mei’s annoyance.
“So, why did you invite Taniguchi-san?”, they were currently in the waiting room.
“I told you already, Mei! Harumin has a cat too so I figured she could help us with some stuff”
Mei tried to speak in a cool voice, though irritation was apparent in her tone, “I still don’t see how she can help us simply because she also owns a cat”
“Well, I won’t be able to touch Bartholomew. You would but you don’t have the knowledge or experience on how to take care of him properly. So why not get all the help we can get?”
Mei huffed in defeat. She knew there was no point of arguing with Yuzu because she was right. Wait. Did she just get lectured by Yuzu like an older sister would? Before she could say anything they were called up for Bartholomew’s examination.
After their visit to the vet they found out that Bartholomew is only 2 weeks old and that he’s a main coon cat. Other than that, the girls were relieved to find out that there were no major issues and that all he needed was some love and care. They also made sure to ask the local shelter if they could take him in but due to other cats with similar circumstances, most shelters were full. Finally giving up after 2 hours of searching for a place, they decided to buy the necessary supplies for their new (temporary) pet.
Since it was the weekend their mother didn’t have work so they asked her to watch over Bartholomew while they went out shopping. Yuzu was only able to get one nursing bottle and a packet of kitten formula the previous day because she didn’t have much money on her at the time. But this time she made sure to bring a list.
“By the way, what’s your kitten’s name?”, Harumi asked while she pushed the shopping cart.
“It’s Bartholomew!”, Yuzu answered happily, “Get it? ‘Cause-”
“Stop.”, both Harumi and Mei interjected.
“What is it Harumin? I thought you liked puns?”
“I need you to stop with the cat puns. Right meow ”
Both girls giggled while they heard an irritated sigh from the student council president. Mei proceeded to place kitten formula into the cart, trying to ignore the duo. “What else is on the list?”, she asked after they finally settled down.
“More nursing bottles, a bottle cleaning brush, a heating pad, soft blankets and towels, kitten shampoo, a carrier, cat bed and a litter box”, Yuzu read out the list.
“Wow Yuzucchi, that’s a whole meowntain of things to get!”
The blonde stifled a laugh, “I supposed it is. I had to check the catalogue on the way here!”
While both girls laughed hysterically Mei blatantly ignored them and placed all the items into the cart. She also started walking at a quicker pace.
“That’ll be 20,000 yen”
‘Huh? That much?!’ .
“You’ve cat to be kitten me!”, Harumi burst out in laughter though the joke didn’t ease the blonde’s worries.
It’s true that they had brought just enough money but paying 20,000 yen meant that she would have to use all of her leftover allowance that she’d saved up for the last few months. ‘That’s right, if I get rid of the things we don’t really need then…’, the blonde eyed a cat toy Mei had chosen.
As if sensing what she was about to do Mei shot a glare at her. Her eyes seemed to say something along the lines of, ‘Don’t you dare’. Just like that, her will crumbled into a million pieces.
‘I’m sorry Harumin. I won’t be able to go shopping with you for the end of season sales after all’, the blonde thought as she reluctantly paid the clerk.
A week later, Mei, responsible as she may be, had to rely on Yuzu for advice on how to properly take care of the kitten. Since Yuzu couldn’t touch Bartholomew she guided Mei through how to bathe, feed, burp and help him defecate. It felt weird for Mei to rely on Yuzu for once. The older girl couldn’t help but feel proud.
As for the days when both girls had to attend school, thanks to being the chairman’s granddaughter and Mr Aihara also liking cats, he allowed Mei to bring Bartholomew to school, leaving him in either the student council room or the chairman’s office and checking up on him between each class. They also had to take the kitten home right after school which meant that Mei spent a lot less time doing student council work. Since the kitten was 3 weeks old now, he was opening his eyes more and was even starting to walk.
“You got a cat?”
“Yeah! Isn’t he cute?”, Yuzu enthusiastically showed Matsuri the many pictures she took of Bartholomew on her phone. “Mei’s been coming home earlier to take care of him so I have lots of cute pics of them together~”
However, Matsuri seemed unaffected by the animal’s cuteness, rather, she looked quite angry. “You have to get rid of it! As soon as possible!”
“What’s wrong Matsuri? Do you not like cats?”, Harumi took a sip of her beverage.
They were currently eating at a fast food restaurant after playing in the arcade.
“It’s not about whether I like them or not. It’s about her!”, she pointed at Yuzu, “She has severe cat allergies! Don’t you remember what happened last time?!”
Harumi wanted to ask but the atmosphere between them told her to keep her mouth shut.
“That was different! I wasn’t careful enough that day… Besides, I take medicine for my allergies and I make sure to keep my distance from Bartholomew”
After a pause Matsuri settled down with a heavy sigh. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you…” , she muttered to herself with a pout.
“This is a catastrophe !”, Yuzu yelled as she cleaned up Bartholomew’s… little surprises around the living room.
Another week has passed and they still haven’t found a place for Bartholomew. They started to feed him regular cat food which meant that he would have to start using the litter box. He was 4 weeks old now and was also starting to pounce and play around more, meaning that he was becoming quite a handful for Mei and Yuzu.
“Yuzu. Shut up ”, Despite her harsh words, Yuzu knew that her jokes worked to lighten the mood. Whenever Mei failed at discipling Bartholomew, she would try to make her laugh. Almost like cheering a little child up with some humour.
Yuzu sat back down on the couch and continued to watch TV. Bartholomew was next to Mei, who was sitting at the dining table and studying for the upcoming exams. The volume was on low and the blonde wasn’t watching anything in particular. She just like to keep Mei company while she was working, although it seemed like Bartholomew has taken her place.
She glanced over at Mei. Her back was facing her but Yuzu could still tell that she was working diligently on her studies. “Hey, Mei. You should take a break”, Yuzu suggested.
The younger girl was either too focused or ignoring her. Either way, she wasn’t answering. So Yuzu got up from the couch and started to walk towards Mei. Since they had taken the kitten in she felt guilty that Mei had to take care of him on top of her student council responsibilities. She knew that even though Mei was coming home earlier that her work was building up and that Mei would eventually have to catch up on it.
“Come on, Mei. Just a 5 minute break”, she said softly, “It’d be bad if you overworked yourself again…”
“Rather than worrying about me, shouldn’t you start studying yourself? Remember that you have to rank in the top 100 to keep grandfather happy”, Mei said in a monotone voice.
“Alright, fine. I’ll study if you take a break right now”, Yuzu crossed her arms.
Mei turned to look at Yuzu then at the little ball of fluff that was curling up to her leg. “Fine”, she said after minute of silence.
Yuzu lit up and sat down in front of Mei. The younger girl picked up Bartholomew and started petting him. Despite being so energetic and troublesome, she has taken a liking to the little animal. His wild, enthusiastic behaviour reminded her of a certain blonde. ‘They’re both cute as well…’, she thought to herself before snapping out of her daze and setting Bartholomew back down on the floor. “Alright, 5 minutes are up. Time to start studying”
“ Ugghhhh ”, the blonde dramatically slammed her head against the table, burying her face in textbooks.
Mei ignored the girl’s antics and continued to write, “Yuzu, focus.”
“But I’ve already been studying for 2 hours!”
“If you keep slacking in your studies, you’ll fail your tests”
‘She’s in her student council pres mode’, she thought to herself. Yuzu grinned, “You know Mei, instead of being so negative all the time you should be more... pawsitive ”
The younger girl finally looked up from her work to shoot Yuzu a glare, remaining silent.
“Alright, alright”, she put her hand up in defense. Yuzu chuckled softly. Now she understood the logic behind little boys’ actions when picking on the girl they like. A reaction from the usually composed girl was actually quite rewarding. On the other hand, Mei didn’t understand why Yuzu had started acting more… annoying than usual lately. The blonde hasn’t gone a single day without cracking a joke (or ‘pun’ as she called it) ever since they took Bartholomew in.
“Hey, look Mei!”
Mei didn’t want to look. In fact, she knew by the tone of that voice that Yuzu was about to tell her one of her dumb play on words again.
“I’ve got my thinking cat on”, Yuzu perched Bartholomew on top of her head.
This time she couldn’t help but feel a small smile tug at her lips. Leave it to Yuzu to make a fool out of herself while still maintaining that charm. “Come on, Yuzu. Cut it out before-”
Cough. Yuzu started to cough drily, her sudden movements causing Bartholomew to fall off her head and landing on his feet.
“Yuzu?”, panic filled Mei as she rushed to her side immediately. “Yuzu, what’s wrong?”
Her coughing soon turned to wheezing and now she was gasping for air she couldn’t even breathe in. Asthma. Mei realized that the older girl was having an asthma attack. Yuzu never mentioned anything about having asthma and her stepmother was currently at work. Moving quickly, she ran to their bathroom and checked in the medicine cabinet where she did find Yuzu’s old asthma inhaler.
“It’s going to be okay, Yuzu”, she kneeled next to her and calmly reassured her while Yuzu calmed her breathing using the inhaler. She took 2 more puffs before finally catching her breath. “Are you alright now?”
The blonde still looked slightly pale. “I’m… feline ... fine”. Her voice was weak and dry but she still managed to flash Mei a smile.
“Stop joking! This is serious Yuzu!”, the younger girl finally snapped. “What if I wasn’t here?!”
Yuzu lowered her head this time as she was scolded. “You’re right. I’m sorry”, she croaked.
“I’ll get you a glass of water…”. A minute later the raven haired girl returned with the beverage and continued to glare at the girl as she gulped down the water. “Idiot”, Mei sighed, either out of irritation or relief. Probably both. “We can’t keep Bartholomew.”
“No. After what just happened, it’s clear that it’s too dangerous for you if we keep him”
A few days later
“Is this the last of it?”
“Yup”, Yuzu grunted as she placed the last box down on the floor. Thanks again Harumin for offering to take Bartholomew…”
“No problem, Yuzucchi”. After hearing about the incident, Harumi was more than willing to take care of Bartholomew. “But man, your cat allergies triggering an asthma attack? No wonder Matsuri was so worried”
Yuzu was pretty bummed that she had to give the cat up. She knew that they couldn’t keep him but a small part of her hoped that maybe she could just somehow grow immune to her cat allergies.
“Hey, look on the bright side! At least you didn’t have to go to the… purrimedics ”
This seemed to cheer the blonde up a bit, “Yeah… you’re right”. She kneeled down in front of Bartholomew. It was time to say goodbye. “Be good okay? Don’t cause any trouble for Harumin and her grandmother”
As if understanding her, the cat meowed softly before turning to Mei and purring and brushing up against her.
“Ah. Looks like you got rejected, Yuzucchi”
“Why you little… I don’t like that cattitude !”
After Harumi left with Bartholomew Mei carried on like usual while Yuzu spent the rest of the day moping. At the moment Mei was catching up on her student council work and the blonde was busy pouting.
“ Bartholomew really liked you, y’know. But you’re going about your day like nothing happened ”, she rambled quietly in the corner of the room.
Mei exhaled sharply, “You’re acting childish, Yuzu. It’s not like I wanted to send him off but you should have been prepared for that anyway”. When the older girl wouldn’t budge and continued to pout she tried to take a softer approach, “Taking care of an abandoned cat even though you have severe cat allergies, that’s so like you”, she chuckled. It was true. The blonde’s endless compassion for others and her selflessness, seeing all that again made her fall in love with Yuzu all over again.
Yuzu looked more tentative now so Mei continued, “Of course I liked Bartholomew. I grew attached to him over time but… if I had to choose between him and you, I’d obviously choose you”.
“You mean that…?”
Mei gave her a soft smile, “Yeah”. Now that that was out of the way, there was one thing left that she still had to do. Since they took in Bartholomew the girls never really had enough time for themselves so Mei never got around to asking Yuzu out on a date. (Or maybe she was putting it off on purpose because she was too nervous to ask Yuzu out) ‘Snap out of it, Mei!’ She cleared her throat before speaking, “Say, Yuzu? Since we have more free time now that Bartholomew’s gone…”
“Would you like to go out on a date with me this caturday- I MEAN SATURDAY”