17 years later


Kat Hardesty strode through the halls of Adler-Houghton High School, shoes clicking confidently on the floor. Her head held high, she walked past her now ex-boyfriend, Scott Mitchell. He looked up from his laughing friends and cringed at her passing.

"Hey Kat," one of his friends said, trying to catch her attention.

Kat made a point to ignore him and moved on her way to first block. She had no time to waste over anyone who hung with someone as easily manipulated as Scott. She needed to find somebody strong, with a certain air about them. The voice in her head had told her so.

Her first period class was study hall, but Kat had always been a big believer on not relying on a free period to finish incomplete assignments. With her work already done, she often spent her free time resting and thinking about the voice.

They had started soon after her first change. She had thought herself cursed or something of the sort when she found out she could change into a cat, but the voice in her mind had sealed the idea.

It had only occurred occasionally in her younger years after puberty, but as she had grown into a young woman, the voice had surfaced more and more often.

It was looking for men with special, undisclosed qualities; guys who were different from what Kat was used to. She knew this because the voice had told her so. It had taught Kat how to be alluring to the opposite sex, and how to get what she wanted, or more to the point, what it wanted.

"Katherine?" somebody asked.

Kat opened her eyes to the use of her real name and was prepared to glare, but stopped when she noticed it was one of the school secretaries.

"Yes?" she asked politely, smugly noting the woman's dowdy appearance compared to her own sleek one.

The secretary looked a bit rushed. Her hair was in shambles and although she looked like she had attempted to dress up with a skirt and blouse, the look didn't suit her. She cleared her throat and said, "I was hoping to find you here. We have a new student today. He's a senior, like yourself, and the principal would like you to show him around and take him to his classes if you have the time."

Kat was about to decline, but the voice said, Do it, and was gone. Kat sighed. "Sure Mrs. Tate," she agreed, addressing the secretary with a bored tone. "I've got nothing better to do I guess."

"Great," Mrs. Tate smiled happily. "If you'll just follow me, he's in the office."

Kat got up and trudged behind the secretary to the office building. She didn't want to show the new student around, but the voice had decided that she would and that was that. The voice always got what it wanted. Kat didn't like to think about what had happened when she hadn't done its bidding.

The result had been disastrous at best, but had also proven to Kat that she wasn't crazy. It had been a bittersweet exchange.

They neared the office and Kat smoothed the front of her v-neck shirt and tight pants. Even if she didn't want to show the new student around, she always liked to appear classy and confident in front of people.

"Well, here we are," the secretary said. Her voice sounded a bit strained, and Kat wondered why. As they walked into the office however, she understood, and almost laughed aloud.

The secretary was intimidated by the new student, a young man about Kat's age. She combed her fingers through her long walnut-brown hair and smiled in amusement. His dark brown hair was mussed up in a 'devil cares' fashion and he was wearing a pair of faded low-cut jeans that may have appeared almost feminine on anyone else, but attractive on him. A green, form-fitting shirt with leather jacket casually thrown overtop finished the ensemble.

Kat could almost see "Bad Boy" stamped on his forehead as he observed her as well.

I want him, the voice said upon observation of the young man. Kat cringed inwardly. Not another one. Not so soon after she had dumped Scott.

The voice left no room to negotiate.

"Hey," he nodded to her. His voice was husky, with a bit of a wild edge.

"Hey," Kat responded. Even with her task in mind, she liked what she saw, and thought she might enjoy putting this guy through his paces.

Mrs. Tate cleared her throat. Both students looked at her. "Katherine," she said, "meet Roe Davis. Roe, this is Katherine."

"Call me Kat," Kat grumbled, slight put-out.

"Sure," Roe agreed.

Mrs. Tate gave Kat Roe's schedule and Kat was pleased to find they had a few classes together, study hall being the first.

"So, where are we heading?" Roe asked when they had finally left the office and secretary far behind.

Kat grinned. "We are going to the rest of first block. Study hall."

Roe groaned. "Two weeks into the year and you're already studying?"

Kat rolled her eyes. "Of course not," she said. A smile tugged at her mouth and there was a mischievous glint in her eye. "I don't start studying until next week."

Roe laughed. "Alright then. Let's go."

Kat smiled sadly. She had just passed by the first two obstacles on the road to a relationship. The voice had laid them out, side by side when it had first manifested in her mind. The first two points were to appear irresistible, and humorous. Roe had laughed at her humor and Kat hadn't missed the once-over she'd been given in the office.

The three students looked up upon the duo's entry into the study hall. Roe and Kat sat quietly to one side while she pointed out each if the kids to him.

"That's Stuart Townsend," she pointed out a preppy kid. "He's a sophomore. You probably won't be seeing too much of him," she said dismissively and moved onto the next person, a jock wearing his letter jacket. "Ross Campbell, IQ of a turtle. He's a talented athlete, but he's dumb as a brick. This'll be the only class you'll have with him," she consulted Roe's schedule, "he's in prep classes mostly."

Roe nodded. "One of them, hey."

"Yeah," Kat said.

There was one more person in the room, a girl with purple hair, chains and a dog collar. "That's Melissa Urvine. She's a senior, and the local outcast. Don't get mixed up with her if you want to avoid serious social repercussions." Kat looked at Roe to see his expression.

He smirked. "What if I don't care about social repercussions?"

Kat sighed. If he wanted to hang around people like Melissa, she'd have to work harder to gain his affections while also being at risk of losing her reputation at Houghton. If she lost her reputation, the voice would have no more use of her. Bad things would start happening. She couldn't let that happen. "Look," she said seriously. "This is a pretty small town. You just don't want to be labeled different here."

Roe nodded. "I came from a city like this. I thought things might be different here, but I guess I was wrong to hope for such silly things as equality and acceptance for all."

Kat sighed whimsically. "It doesn't work like that here." She paused. "I doubt if it works like that anywhere." She thought of her cat-form and how her friends would react if they found out. Kat could almost smell the scent of burning flesh. She imagined a trial/witch-burning herself, but she supposed there were other reactions.

"There are some places where you're accepted for who you are," Roe said cryptically. "You just need to know where to look for them."

 Kat laughed flippantly. "Wish I could go to a place like that."

"Why would you need to?" Roe asked. "You're funny, you're probably smart, and you're good-looking to boot. You probably fit in better here than anyone else."

Kat just shook her head. If only he knew the truth. What would he think then?