Jamie had driven past the empty building every morning and every evening since she had began working as the groundskeeper at Bly Manor.
The building had been an eye sore for the residents of Bly for many years, yet due to rumours and silly horror stories of ghosts, it had remained derelict and abandoned.
On one morning, however, Jamie noticed that the once abandoned building was now occupied by a tattoo studio. It had a bright, vinyl sign above the door and through the large front window, she could see potted succulents arranged on shelves and flash sheets decorating the walls. It almost seemed like the building had never been empty. It seemed lived in and loved.
Jamie had always been interested in getting a tattoo and took it at a sign that this shop had appeared out of nowhere to finally give in to her wants. She took note of the number written across the front door and promised herself to book an appointment on her lunch break when they were likely to be open.
The next day Jamie sat herself at the kitchen table for breakfast after everyone one else was already seated.
Owen was the first to notice.
“Did you get a tattoo?” Owen asked with a nod at the mark on her arm.
“Oh, yeah.” Jamie stretched her arm out to show the man the design. Everyone else at the table leaned in to get a look as well. Even Miles, though he was the first to lose interest and get back to eating.
On her inner forearm sat a tattoo of a tabby cat’s head covered in wildflowers, his face and ears poking out from the flowers surrounding him. The tattoo had no colour to it, but Jamie preferred it that way. She had said as much to the artist, Viola, that morning.
"Well, doesn't it look just purr-fect?" Owen instinctively reached out to poke the tattoo, knowing it would likely feel sore.
Jamie pulled her arm out of his reach just before the man was able to make contact. He laughed to himself at his failed attempt, though Jamie knew it wouldn't be the only attempt Owen made to press her sore arm. She made a mental note to stay out of his way all day.
“A cat?” Dani asked eventually, amused at the childish man beside her.
“Yeah? What’s wrong with cats?” Jamie asked defensively.
Dani shook her head, “No, nothing. Just didn’t see you as a cat person. Was it a pet you had?”
“Nah.” Jamie shook her head with a smile. “The place actually only does flash tattoos, I just picked him off the wall. Never even had a cat myself actually. Hopefully one day.”
Dani smiled happily at Jamie. She always appreciated these small insights into the woman’s personality. Sometimes it was difficult to get to know the woman since she often had her guard up.
“He’s so cute! Does he have a name?” Flora asked excitedly, examining the tattoo from her distance across the table.
“No, do ya wanna name him?” Jamie asked the girl.
“Tails!” Flora exclaimed as if she had been waiting to name the tattoo her whole life. “He looks like a Tails!”
"The tattoo doesn't show his tail" Jamie laughed at the girl. "Don't wanna name him 'whiskers' or somethin'?"
"Nope." Flora shook her head dramatically. "Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there! His name is Tails!"
Flora went back to her breakfast, her work here clearly done. She tried to catch her brother’s eye in hopes of rubbing in that she was the one to name Jamie’s tattoo, but Miles remained uninterested in the conversation around him, not looking up from his meal.
“Where did you get it then?” asked Owen eventually.
“It’s called Talisman Tattoo, s'in the village. You know that run-down old buildin' by the library? It opened a few days ago and the woman who owns it got me in first thing this mornin'. She's moved into the flat above it and everythin'. Seemed alright.”
“I didn’t think anyone was going to buy that building because of all the rumours it was haunted.”
“I reckon that’s a load o' shite.” Jamie shrugged as she pulled her shirt sleeve down over the tattoo finally.
“Language please.” Hannah said as she looked between the two children who didn’t even glance up from their plates, clearly used to Jamie’s swearing after years. “Oh, Jamie dear,” she added as she appeared to remember something, “can you see if you can fix the leak under the sink today? I think it’s getting worse.”
“Yeah, I’ll take a look at it later. I’ll have time after I’ve finished weeding the borders this evening if it can wait ‘til then?”
“Of course. Thanks.” Hannah gave the woman a polite smile.
A couple of minutes of silence followed as everyone at the table finished eating their breakfast. The silence was eventually broken by Miles.
“Can I get a tattoo?”
Later that evening, after putting the kids to bed, Dani was sitting in the light of the fire alone in the living room with the sound of rhymical metal clanking coming from Jamie in the kitchen.
It wasn’t late but it was already dark out, so Dani had the lamp on beside her as she read through a book picked from the bookcase a few days before.
Barely a chapter in though, Dani was interrupted by the sound of a not-so-distant meowing. She looked up from the book to focus her attention on the sound and listen closer.
Another meow, nearer this time, followed by a faint, dull padding across the hard wood floor into the hallway. She stood up from the sofa and turned to the doorway to see a brown tabby cat with almost familiar emerald eyes staring at her.
“Hey buddy, who are you?” Dani asked softly as she stood from the sofa and approached the cat. “Jamie, did you let this cat in?” She asked loudly across the hall to the silent kitchen.
As she closed in on the feline, it turned to walk away, looking back as if expecting Dani to follow.
“You want to show me something?” Dani asked.
The cat meowed in response before walking away again.
Dani followed the cat carefully to the kitchen door where it stopped to look up at her, waiting.
“In here? Sure.” Dani whispered to herself as she pushed the cracked door open.
The cat shot through the door before again stopping to ensure Dani was following.
“Okay, okay, I’m coming!” Dani said.
She followed the tabby around the table before stopping at a pile of clothes on the floor. The cupboard under the sink was open and a steady drip was coming from the U-bend. A number of tools were strewn around.
The cat looked up at Dani as she examined the out of place pile of clothes.
She could tell the clothes were Jamie’s immediately. A faded plaid shirt, light denim overalls and a band t shirt Dani didn’t recognise atop a pair of large black boots. If she were to look closer, Dani was sure that Jamie's underwear was also lost in that pile of clothes, though that felt like crossing all kinds of boundaries to her for reasons she could not name. She looked back at the cat who was still staring at her.
Dani wondered for a moment what the scene before her could mean, and why there was a strange cat walking around the Manor.
“Jamie?!” Dani called out for the woman again, not quite loud enough to wake the children but loud enough that the woman would hear her from a few rooms away.
She was met with silence.
Dani peaked out of the kitchen window. Jamie’s truck was still parked in its spot in the driveway. She turned to look towards the row of hooks by the back door. Jamie’s keys for the greenhouse were still hanging on their hook.
So, she didn’t go home and she’s not in the greenhouse, Dani deducted in her head.
She knelt to look closer at the cat, who in turn, sat before her to look closer itself.
“Do you know where Jamie is?” Dani asked the tabby.
The cat gave a confident meow and nudged Dani’s ankle with its head.
She was right here, fixing the sink, Dani thought to herself. And now her clothes are in a pile on the floor and there’s a strange cat wandering around the house.
It hit Dani then what Owen had said at breakfast about the building of the tattoo studio being haunted. She felt stupid thinking it, but the cat did look an awful lot like the one on Jamie’s tattoo.
Perhaps she had seen one too many of Flora’s Story Times, or perhaps she was tired from not sleeping well recently, but…
“I don’t have a good feeling about this”, she muttered under her breath, giver her temples a rub with one hand. “Jamie, you didn’t turn into a cat, did you?” she said.
The cat meowed in response.
“Okay this is ridiculous, but if you understand what I’m saying, meow once for yes and twice for no. Understand?”
A single meow.
“Are you Jamie?”
The cat meowed once again.
“Okay, okay. That was just a coincidence, right? I’m being stupid, talking to a cat! God, Jamie is gonna make fun of me forever when she hears about this.” Dani muttered to herself out loud, shaking her head.
The cat responded to her muttering with two meows.
Dani stared at the tabby, wide eyed. "No, as in… Not a coincidence?”
Two more meows in quick concession.
“And you are Jamie? But, a cat? Cat Jamie?”
The cat gave another single meow but punctuated it with a look of sheer exasperation, almost seeming to roll its eyes. Even on a cat, Dani knew that look anywhere. A signature ‘beginning to get pissed-off’ Jamie look.
The cat quickly hopped away, through the kitchen door and into the hallway. Dani didn’t move, choosing instead to wait for a sign of whatever the cat may be up to, because it was clearly up to something.
Within a few moments, the cat wandered back into the kitchen, padding up to Dani with something hanging from its mouth. A piece of paper, about the size of a photo. Dani recognised it immediately.
A small drawing of the two of them together that lived on the table in the hallway. The picture was drawn by Flora to depict her ‘two favourite people in the whole world’. Owen had been jealous to have not been included so Jamie wanted to make sure the drawing was on display for him to see every day.
It lived there propped up against the wall after Jamie promised to find a frame for it. That was almost half a year ago.
Dani took the drawing from the cat’s mouth, surprised that it had completely survived the cat taking it by the teeth and dragging it into the next room.
“Right, probably not a coincidence then.” Dani whispered to herself.” Jamie is a cat?”
Dani rose from her kneeling position and sat down heavily at the kitchen table, placing Flora’s drawing carefully on the table top before putting her head in her hands. After a few seconds she felt a warm, heavy weight land in her lap. She looked through her fingers to see Cat Jamie looking up at her. She couldn’t help but laugh then. “Oh, how did you even do this? And how do we fix it?”
Dani thought over a few scenarios in her head in the mostly silence of the kitchen. Eventually, she reached for her phone in her pocket, careful not to bother Cat Jamie on her lap too much, and typed Talisman Tattoo into the Facebook search bar. A few results down sat the listing for the studio newly opened in Bly village. She opened the page and scrolled down to find their contact details. It didn’t seem too late to call, barely half past eight, and it was an emergency after all.
“There’s a mobile number, I’m going to see if anyone answers, okay?” She said to Cat Jamie absentmindedly scratching her behind her ears. Cat Jamie purred back at her contentedly as she continued to balance on her lap.
The phone rang a few times before a woman’s voice broke through.
“Hello. Viola speaking.”
“Hi… I don’t really know how to say this but…” Dani took a deep breath before continuing, understanding how stupid she might be about to sound. “I have a friend who got a tattoo from you this morning…”
“Well, she’s a cat.”
“She got a tattoo of a cat from you, and now, well, I’m pretty sure she has become that same cat.”
There was silence on the line for a short while.
“Okay, look.” The voice on the phone began. “I’ll be honest with you…” A sigh “That may possibly have been the plan.”
At Dani’s silence, Viola continued.
“Look, I’m going through a messy divorce, and I just fancied a bit of fun, you know? I bought the studio because I’m actually a rather good artist, and I just wanted to mess around with people a little. It’s mostly harmless, I promise. I wasn’t plan on staying long if I’m being honest.”
More silence on Dani’s end.
Viola sighed. “Look, come to the studio first thing in the morning, as early as you can. I’ll explain, okay?”
Dani’s mouth was so dry she almost couldn't say anything. After some time she was able to stutter out something that resembled an “okay”.
She hung up the phone.
Dani looked at her lap to see herself still petting Cat Jamie. She hadn’t realised she was doing it in the first place, but Jamie seemed to be enjoying it, her eyes closed and her purring filling the room.
“Hey, are you hungry?” Dani asked. She picked Cat Jamie up and placed her on the kitchen table before standing from her chair. “I’m sure Owen doesn’t keep cat food here but...” She walked up to the fridge before finding some salmon Owen was saving for the next day. She cut a bit off and put it on a plate on the floor. “I’d make you a tea but I don’t know if cats can have tea so water will have to do” she said, filling up a small bowl and placing that beside the plate of salmon.
Cat Jamie jumped down from the table to nibble on the raw salmon.
“I might prefer you like this.” Dani joked as she watched the cat. “I think I’ll stay up and keep an eye on you.” She explained as Jamie she continued to eat. “It’s not like I was going to sleep well anyway.”
It was still dark when Hannah arrived at the manor the next morning, but Dani was already dressed and waiting for her in the hallway.
She had spent the last few hours pacing back and forth in anxious panic and biting away the skin around her thumb nail as she watched Jamie curled up on of the chairs under the kitchen table, napping the early hours away.
“Morning.” Dani greeted the moment the woman opened the door, startling her slightly. “I’m sorry to ask but I need to run an errand, I won’t be long, but can you watch the children until I’m back?” Dani said, a bit flustered.
Hannah was taken back for a moment before agreeing. She watched Dani curiously as the woman ran out of the front door.
Hannah carried on up the stairs, blindly passing the kitchen. She made a mental note to question Dani at a later time about her odd behaviour.
It wasn’t until Dani began driving that she realised she had never driven on the left side of the road before, nor had she driven a vehicle with the steering wheel on the left before. Luckily, however, she had actually learned to drive with a stick shift.
Dani hoped that it was early enough in the morning that there wouldn’t be many other people on the road.
The drive to Bly village wasn't a long one, but driving on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car on the brutal country roads made Dani's drive feel like the longest she had ever done.
Pulling up to the tattoo studio, Dani was amazed that she had made it there in one piece, only barely scraping the curb a few times after misjudging some corners.
She parked the truck in what was only just an acceptable distance from the pavement outside and swung the door to the tattoo studio open to enter.
“Just a minute.” A woman’s voice called from behind a wall after a small bell above the door rang.
Dani looked around at the flash sheets of animal designs decorating the pale walls of the waiting area and the palette of greens shooting from plant pots littered all over the room.
It was clear that this woman was a big plant fan. No wonder Jamie was so drawn to the place, she smiled to herself. She stroked the leaf of a spider plant hanging down from the ceiling beside her.
A woman walked from behind a wall then to the receptionist desk where Dani was stood.
She was a tall brunette, pale and quite beautiful but with an air of vanity about her. She intimidated Dani as much as she fascinated her.
“Are you Viola?” Dani asked.
“Ah, the American,” Viola stated, “we spoke on the phone? This way.”
Viola began to walk away, back around the wall she had appeared from. Dani followed closely.
“Let me get this straight.” Dani was pinching between her eyebrows, her eyes tightly shut as she tried to take in what had just been explained to her. “You’re like a real-life witch.”
“And, you turn people into animals for fun.”
“So you opened a tattoo studio with the sole purpose of turning people into whatever animal they chose to get tattooed?”
“That’s about it, yes.” Viola nodded, flashing Dani a smile as she leaned casually in her chair.
Dani shook her head at the nonchalance of the woman before her.
“How does it even work?” She asked.
“Ah, no offence,” Viola began, “but you wouldn’t understand. It’s just a little blood magic.” She explained with a shrug. “Your friend should be back to herself by now though. They turn back to humans at sunrise. You’ll hardly notice it in the summer when the days are longer.”
Dani sat in stunned silence for a moment as she contemplated her options. Jamie might be spending her nights as a cat for the rest of her life, she thought.
“Are you free now?” Dani asked finally.
Viola’s eyebrows pulled together in confusion. “Free all morning.”
“I’ll get the cat tattoo. The one with the flowers.”
Dani returned to the Manor barely in time for lunch, her arm still stinging under her sleeve from the new addition to her flesh. She had parked Jamie's truck around the back of the Manor in hopes that Hannah and Owen wouldn't notice and ask questions. She knew she would have to explain what was happening to them eventually, but not yet.
As Dani walked into the kitchen, she noticed everyone settling down at the table but Jamie. She also noticed that the pile of clothes that belonged to the woman had also gone missing from the floor.
“Has anyone seen Jamie?” Dani asked the room.
“It’s her day off today.” Owen explained as he finished plating up.
Hannah responded with a hum, “Yes, and I have a bone to pick with her. She barely touched the leaking pipe under the sink, and she left her tools all over the place.”
Dani berated herself mentally. She should have at least had the sense to tidy Jamie’s tools away before she ran out that morning.
“And stealing the biscuits is one thing,” Owen added, “but taking bits of the salmon thinking I won’t notice?” He shook his head. “The cheek!”
Hannah nodded at the man’s ranting before turning to Dani. “Are you alright, love? I was rather concerned about you this morning.”
“Oh, yes. Sorry about that, I’m fine.” Dani said as she settled herself into her seat opposite Miles and Flora. Trying not to make too much eye contact with the woman. “Was there a cat in here this morning?”
“I haven’t seen a cat.” Hannah answered.
“Nor me.” Said Owen.
The two children shook their heads.
“Why do you ask?” Hannah asked.
Dani hesitated. “I just thought I heard a cat trying to get in last night.” She flashed a smile to the others that she knew didn’t look convincing. She kept her head down for the rest of the meal.
Dani’s day went on as it normally did, running around after the children between meals. She often found herself thinking about Jamie and where she might have disappeared to. It wasn’t until that evening when Dani put the children to bed and Hannah and Owen disappeared into the night that she would finally get an answer.
As Dani was descending the stairs, she heard the heavy front door of the Manor open and watched as a dishevelled Jamie ran into the hallway.
“Jamie! Where have you been?” Dani noticed that the woman was wearing the clothes she had last seen on the kitchen floor that morning before she ran out.
“You took my truck!” Jamie said, closing the door behind her, hovering in the hallway.
“I’m- I’m sorry. I had to run to the tattoo place, I figured you wouldn’t mind.”
“What did you do?”
“Are we not gonna talk about how you were a cat last night, Jamie?!”
“What did you do, Dani?” Jamie’s voice wasn’t accusatory as much as it was desperate.
Dani pulled the sleeve of her jumper up to expose her still sore tattoo to the other woman.
“Christ!” Jamie said with a disbelieving laugh she couldn’t hold in.
“I just figured,” Dani began desperately, “If you have to be stuck as a cat, maybe you wouldn’t be alone if I became one too?”
“Fuckin’ hell, Dani. I mean, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment but… you realise how bloody stupid that was?”
“Did you know Viola was a witch when you got the tattoo? Did you know you were going to turn into a cat?”
“What? No, ‘course I didn’t! Was as much a surprise to me as it was you.”
“What happened to you when I left?”
“Sun came up.” Jamie explained matter-of-factly. “Turned back into me, I suppose. My truck wasn’t here though so I’ve been hiding out in the back of the greenhouse all day. Luckily Hannah was upstairs with the kiddos because I woke starkers and had to throw yesterday’s clothes on before sneakin' out.”
Dani opened her mouth to respond but before her words could escape her, Jamie doubled over.
Dani ran to her aid but was stopped short by a sudden dizzy feeling washing over her. Her head was spinning, and she was overcome with an intense feeling of falling.
When the feeling finally stopped and Dani felt like she could open her eyes without passing out, she forced herself to look.
She fought her way out of the pile of clothes she had become buried under and towards the light, and when she escaped she came face to face with Cat Jamie once again.
This time, however, Dani herself was also a cat. She didn’t actually feel that different, it was strange to be so close to the ground and to be stood on four legs. But other than that, Dani thought it wasn’t actually all that different being a cat.
From looking down at herself, she could tell that she was significantly lighter in colour than Jamie. Jamie who was staring at her with those green eyes once again, whiskers twitching.
Dani opened her mouth to say something to Jamie but all that came out was a high pitched meow. Jamie meowed back at her and at that she realised that they couldn’t speak to each other. Whether or not actual cats could talk to one another, Dani had no clue. All she knew is that tonight was going to be a long one.
After what felt like a couple of hours of not understanding each other and getting increasingly irritated, both Dani and Jamie settled themselves on the sofa. The fire had been put out when Hannah and Owen left, but there was still a warmth radiating from the charcoaled logs sat at the bottom of the fireplace.
Cat Dani curled up on one sofa cushion whilst Cat Jamie settled on the cushion beside her, licking her paw and rubbing her face with it. Dani watched Jamie do this for a while as she thought about how this situation actually wasn't so bad after all. Certainly not ideal, but not bad. She figured that if they could figure out how to talk to each other or come up with a way to communicate, perhaps loitering around with Jamie as cats wouldn't be so bad. Besides, though Dani had never told the woman this, Jamie was her favourite person to be around.
Jamie eventually stopped grooming herself and began making herself cosy. She stood to walk in a circle a few times before finding what seemed to be the perfect spot to collapse in. As she slowly began to close her eyes, Cat Dani rose from her curled position to walk closer to Jamie. Dani quickly settled back down, this time, on the same sofa cushion Jamie was on. They weren't quite touching, but there was still something intimate about the proximity.
The two of them quickly fell into sleep to the sound of each other's exhausted purring.
“Oh for goodness sake!” The sound of Hannah’s voice lifted them both form their slumber. Neither had heard the woman enter the Manor and Dani had forgotten that she would be back before the sun rose. “I can’t leave the two of you alone for five minutes!”
Dani and Jamie, both still very much in feline form, looked between each other desperately before both looking back up at Hannah who was stood in the doorway of the living room.
"Wait here." Hannah sighed before turning and leaving.
Dani and Jamie both did as they were told, staying deadly still, sitting up on the sofa cushion they had spent the night on. Hannah quickly returned with their abandoned clothes in her arms. The woman dropped the clothes on the other side of the sofa before addressing them both.
"When the sun comes up, get dressed quickly then meet me in the kitchen to talk. The sun rises in half an hour." And with that Hannah left the room, closing the door behind her for privacy.
Dani and Jamie looked between each other again, desperately wishing they were able to talk to each other right now.
Hannah was sat at the table in the kitchen sipping a cup of tea. In front of her sat two other cups of tea, filled to the brim and steaming. Dani and Jamie sat in front of their mugs under the watch of Hannah.
Before Dani or Jamie could open their mouths to speak, Hannah began.
"Viola and I used to be acquaintances. I didn't realised she was back in Bly, and I certainly didn't realise that she was the Viola who had given you the tattoo." She nodded at Jamie. "She's a bit of a mad woman, used to wind people up a lot, used her magic to make herself feel better."
Hannah took a moment to sip her tea. Dani and Jamie followed suit silently, waiting on the end of Hannah explanation.
"Well, I saw her in the village last night, she had a smile on her face. That's how I knew she was up to something. Then seeing two awfully familiar looking cats sitting on the sofa when I walked in, well, I knew there was only one explanation." Hannah laughed to herself. "Luckily for the two of you, I gave her a call and I asked her nicely so reverse the spell.”
“You… asked her… nicely?” Dani finally spoke.
“Sometimes that’s all it takes, dear. Viola is harmless, really”, Hannah explained, exasperated. “It may have been worth trying that before running off to get your own cursed tattoo.” She flashed a playful smile at the woman.
Dani looked at Hannah dumfounded. Jamie was trying to hold in a laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing.
“However…” Hannah began again, her smile now nowhere to be seen.
Dani and Jamie watched the woman curiously as she spoke to the two of them as if they were nothing but a pair of misbehaving children.
“- I asked her not to reverse the spell for a couple of days. I feel like the two of you could use a bit more time to learn from this experience.” After a beat she finished, “I bought you some dinner.” She looked over to the kitchen counter where a box of 'luxury cat biscuits' sat.
Hannah hid her smirk behind her mug as she took a sip of tea, delighted at the shocked, wide-eyed faces of the women before her.
Dani and Jamie the only two left in the kitchen as they were clearing the table after breakfast later that morning.
“You realise we have matching tattoos now? And we’ve seen each other naked.”
“Yeah…” Dani said with a sigh. She was hoping to never have to be reminded of that incredibly awkward morning, standing opposite each other in their human forms, both desperately trying to look anywhere but at each other as they dressed themselves from their piles of clothes.
“Yeah.” Jamie cleared her throat as she piled the dishes at one end of the table. “So, this isn’t exactly the order I wanted to do things in but, do ya wanna get dinner some time?”
Dani stopped what she was doing as she considered the wording. Jamie was almost beginning to get nervous at the hesitation of the other woman.
“Like a date?” She asked eventually with a large smile, hoping the flushing of her cheeks wasn’t too obvious.
“Yeah… I mean, I’ve wanted to ask for a while but I figured you wouldn’t be interested in someone like me.” A smug smile grew on Jamie’s face as she thought about what she was saying. “Then ya got a tattoo for me just so I wouldn’t spend nights alone.”
“When you put it like that it does kind of sound like I like you, doesn’t it?” Dani said with a laugh.
“Kinda.” Jamie shrugged.
Dani thought for a moment before responding. She threw the wet cloth she was using to clean at Jamie. “How about tonight over that bowl of cat food?”