Mona wouldn't stop screaming. Tom really couldn't blame her- after all,
she'd awakened to find a naked man in her room. 'It's all right, I won't
hurt you!" he cried, but she really wasn't listening. Still insisting that
he wasn't a bad man, Tom grabbed the first article of clothing he found- a
sweatshirt with the name of the college and its logo on the front. He put
it on and was pleased to find that it was large and loose fitting enough to
cover certain parts of his anatomy.
She was still screaming. 'I'm not a stranger!" he said, trying to talk
over the screaming without shouting at her. "I'm Tom. You remember Tom,
the cat?" He wasn't getting through to her, and a new possibility occurred
to him. Dorm rooms weren't exactly soundproof, and Mona had been screaming
for quite a while. Tom didn't want to stick around and see what happened
when some big football player came to find out what all the commotion was
He turned and slipped out of the room. At least now, he knew where she was
staying and could come back to explain things later- once he was fully
dressed and she'd calmed down a bit. There were a few people already
stepping out of their own rooms to glance up and down the hall. They
didn't seem to have figured out what the screaming was about, and Tom tried
to look just as confused as they did while he casually walked down the
Luckily, nobody seemed all that suspicious of him yet, and he could hear
Mona's screams begin to die down as she became less hysterical. Or maybe,
that wasn't luck. Maybe somebody was influencing what Tom was doing- and
maybe that person had caused Mona to react so badly. The witch was to
blame for this.
Suddenly, it all made perfect sense. The witch had stopped by Tom's
family's house the other day to mock him for not figuring out how to become
human. The problem was, Tom had figured it out, and now, the witch had to
be angry that he was no longer a cat. She must have put a spell on Mona to
make her afraid of Tom, and now she would attempt to ruin his chances with
his true love. Well, Tom wouldn't stand for that!
Self- consciously, he adjusted his sweatshirt as he stepped outside. It
was very cold out there, and he shivered, wishing there had been some pants
in Mona's room that he could have stolen. He walked forward, thinking that
the trip had been much more pleasant when he'd been a cat resting in Mona's
arms. Well, at least now he knew who to find and blame for what had
happened to him.
Of course, the obvious problem was the question of where to find the witch.
He knew almost nothing about her, and he suspected that even if he could
find her home- if she lived in a home, she could still make herself very
difficult to find. Tom didn't want to admit to himself that if the witch
wanted to be found, she'd come to him, and if she didn't want to be found,
he had a long night ahead of him.
"Why did you do it?" he asked aloud while aimlessly wandering the streets.
He suspected that although he was no longer a cat, the witch was still
keeping an eye on him and could hear what he said. "You wanted to teach me
the value of love- I learned it. Mona was my true love- when I kissed her,
I turned back into a human, and now that I actually have a chance to let
her get to know me, she's hysterical. If she remembers my face, she'll
probably never let me get near to her, and if she doesn't, she's going to
want to know how I know who she is. Why did you make her react the way she
"I didn't make anybody do anything." The all-too familiar voice came from
a dark alley just to Tom's right. He turned and walked toward it while the
witch explained. "Mona reacted the way anyone would- she screamed when she
found a naked man in the room. I didn't have anything to do with that. As
for all your talk about true love, I fear that I'm going to need to explain
a few things to you. You're not in love. You've only known Mona a few
weeks, and she still thinks you're a pussy cat."
"It is love!" Tom cried, charging forward. The alley was dark, and he was
too angry to stop and consider where he was. He'd hoped that by some
stroke of luck, he could tackle the witch, but instead, he crashed into a
trashcan, and both he and it toppled to the ground with a bang.
High above, someone opened their window and shouted. "Keep it down out
there!" For some reason, those words sounded strangely familiar, but Tom
couldn't think of why they should.
The witch waved her hand at Tom while he struggled to get up, and he
quickly discovered that he couldn't move. He shouted something at her that
came out garbled through his frozen lips, but the witch didn't seem all
that concerned with him. Instead, she looked up to the open window and
shouted, "Tom Troas, come down here."
"I am down here," Tom complained, but a few things were starting to come
into place for him. Everything that was happening seemed very familiar,
and he knew that he was seeing his own past. Now, he gazed around the
alley and decided that it looked very familiar.
Quickly enough, a man emerged from a door to the alley. From where Tom lie
on the ground, he could see all that happened perfectly, but he was hidden
by the shadows of the garbage cans. The man who had entered was himself-
dressed in a suit. This was the night he'd been turned into a cat.
The Tom from the past looked furious, and he advanced on the witch. "Who
are you?" he demanded, but the witch didn't answer, just as the Tom on the
ground had known she wouldn't answer. Past-Tom took a threatening step
forward and again asked, "Who are you? How do you know my name?"
The witch smiled, and gave a sly wink to the Tom on the ground. "Be
quiet," she said quite clearly, and she waved her hands. Immediately, Past-
Tom fell backward in a faint. The Tom on the ground discovered that he
could move once again, and he rose from his hiding spot. While he watched,
the witch turned the other Tom into a cat.
While he transformed, he grew smaller- cat-sized, and his suit ended up
draped around the little cat. "Get dressed," the witch said distastefully,
and Tom gratefully began to put his own clothes on. While he did so, the
witch explained some things.
"The object of that spell was not for you to kiss your true love," she
explained. "You just looked at all the wrong clues. The important thing
that I was trying to teach you was to be happy and have fun. Before you
became a cat, all you cared about was work, and I knew you were doomed to
unhappiness if I didn't interfere. Even as a cat, you would never chase
your ball or anything- it took you long enough to figure out that you
didn't have any responsibility, and you could enjoy yourself a little."
Tom carefully buttoned up his jacket. It was very wrinkled after he'd
tried to sleep in it all those nights ago. Or was it still the same night?
The witch continued to speak. "You didn't change back into a human
because you kissed Mona. You changed back because you genuinely enjoyed
yourself while you escaped, and you'd forgotten about responsibility and
work and everything. It was just a coincidence that you kissed her right
before you changed."
"And what about Mona?" Tom asked, satisfied that his clothes were all on.
"So maybe she's not necessarily my 'true love.' We're in the same
situation- I discovered how to have fun with her around. How are you going
to fix the mess I got into when I changed?"
"That's not my responsibility," the witch replied. "The key wasn't Mona-
it was your attitude. Besides, right now, she is at home, and her family
is helping her unpack for the summer. Don't you remember what you just
saw? I've brought you back in time, tonight is the night you turned into a
cat, and as far as Mona knows, you don't even exist. I suggest you forget
about her and think about your old friends who knew you as a human- friends
"So, what?" Tom demanded. "I'm just supposed to smile and shake off all
that's happened this summer, or all that's going to happen? You just want
me to pick up where I left off?"
"That's the idea," the witch said, ignoring his sarcasm. "This time,
though, try to enjoy yourself a little more. I don't want to have to come
hunt you down if you go back to your old ways. After all, the streets of
New York aren't friendly to stray cats. As for right now, though, your
room key is in your left pocket. Your plane will leave tomorrow morning at
7:25. I suggest you don't miss it."
"And that's it?" Tom cried. He couldn't think of anything else to ask or
protest, but he was dissatisfied with how everything had turned out. "This
is your idea of a solution?" he asked, but the witch was already fading
away. The air around her rippled, and she was, in a moment, gone.
He glanced down at the sleeping cat. It was really kind of cute. He shook
his head, feeling ridiculous, and pulled the room key out of his pocket.
Luckily, it had his room number on it, and after some wandering around, he
He'd forgotten quite how dirty his room was, but now, as he stepped in, he
remembered why he'd chosen to sleep on the floor that night.
Distastefully, he looked about his room, then realized that after all that
had happened, he was too anxious to sleep. Instead, he took a seat next to
the telephone, and dialed a number. He still had it memorized after all
It rang three times, then Jessica answered. "Hello?"