Well this is the first one. Told two years in and about before the beginning of Ink and Ballpoints, when Anthony is still in England.


In the Mist

The dirt road was long and winding, narrow and rocky, veiled in a fine mist while the sky was gray and cloudy and overcast. Anthony climbed quietly down from his second story window, a muffin clutched tightly in his jaws. His bare feet touched the dewy grass and he was off sprinting.

The country road was winding and the gravel dug into the bottom of his feet painfully. He didn't mind, nibbling on the muffin as he put more distance between himself and the orphanage, slowing down to a walk. The nearby city grew from a large smudge from Anthony's window into something large and daunting, all big buildings and people.

Anthony kept going as dirt turned to pavement and rolling grassy hills changed gradually into buildings, turning onto familiar streets full of unfamiliar cars and unfamiliar faces even though it was early in the morning. He splashed through puddles, watching the ripples expand outward while other people watched him with vexation, going along and muttering under their breath about delinquent little boys.

Deep in the city Anthony knew that he was close to where he was going, making to toss away the half finished muffin in his hand when something small and wet nudged at the back of his knee.

Confused, Anthony turned around and looked down to see a small cat, chocolate brown with half of its left ear missing. It was small in stature, all skin and bones and spindly legs, bushy tail drooping, fur wet and matted, and Anthony could see every rib clear as day.

He blinked down at the cat and the cat blinked back with bright green eyes, mewling loudly and nudging Anthony's leg again.

"What do you want?" Anthony asked the cat, bending down to examine it closer. He reached out towards the half-gone ear but the cat twisted away, hissing and bolting back into the alleyway Anthony presumed it came from.

He looked down at the muffin still in his hand, and back up to the alley, sighing and placing the muffin on the pavement, looking up to see acid green eyes regard him warily from behind a trash bin.

"There's no reason to be frightened," Anthony murmured softly as the cat stalked out. "You can eat this, as long as you don't touch me, okay? Because I'm going to see my mum and she's allergic to you."

Anthony stood up and continued on his way after making sure that the cat got his offering.

When he came back after not being allowed to see his mother, since she was apparently somewhere else now, the cat was still there, some crumbs still clinging to the fur around his mouth. Anthony ignored it, even when the cat mewled loudly at him when he passed it by.

When there was a sharp pain at the back of his thighs, Anthony turned around with a yelp and a glare, "What do you want? I gave you food, you stupid cat! Go back to where you came from!"

The cat muzzled the back of his knee, purring, smudging the blood that seeped from the cuts that it had left. Anthony sighed and sat down in the middle of the sidewalk, ignoring the people that had to walk around him as well as the rain that had begun to fall.

"You must be lonely too, right? I guess I know how you feel. My mum is sick in the hospital, so I have to stay at the orphanage because there's nowhere else for me. All the kids there don't like me, because I still have both of my parents, and they don't," Anthony scratched the cat behind the ears with numb fingers, picking the small body up and pressing it against his own. People around him began running, eager to escape the rain that started falling harder, and soon Anthony was alone with the cat pressed against his chest.

"My father doesn't live here, see. He lives across the pond, in America. Apparently he's a really successful business man there, in somewhere called 'New York' but I never met him. He and mum aren't married. But I guess he loves her, because in school one of the girls said that babies are only made when two people really love each other. So if they didn't then I guess I wouldn't be here. I hope he comes back soon, because mum is really sick, and if he loves her he should want to come and see her again."

The cat shivers against him, curling further into his chest and thrusting its head under Anthony's chin.

Anthony opened his mouth to say more, but suddenly the rain above him stopped and someone above him called out, "Hey, Jones! There you are! I've been looking for you everywhere!"

"William?" Anthony turned around, dark brown hair and dark brown eyes to match were grinning at him from underneath a large umbrella. The cat in his arms twisted out of his grip and bounded away. "Aren't you sick, William? I heard the doctor tell Ms. Lisa that it's better for you to stay in bed."

William shrugs and Anthony noticed=s with mild disdain that even if he's sickly, William is still bigger than he is, even for a boy. "Whatever. Not like it can get much worse. And besides, I always get better, don't I?" William asks with a grin and Anthony can't help but grin back.

"I suppose you do, but I think we should be getting back before Ms. Lisa and Ms. Nora get mad," Anthony stands up and walks in step with William down the way that he had come, shooting one last glance over his shoulder for the cat before they turn the corner. "They didn't let me see my mum," he says after a moment and he gets a sideways look from the boy next to him, which he pointedly ignored. "They said that I shouldn't come by for the next few days and that they'll send word to the orphanage when I can come again."

William shrugs. "Maybe she's dying and they don't want you to see," he suggests.

Anthony slaps him on the arm, crossing his arms over his chest and sulking. "She is not! She promised me that she'll get better and then it would be just like it always was. Just the two of us," Anthony says firmly and William can only shrug once more in response.

When they walk through the front door, William is immediately grabbed by the ear by a seething Ms. Lisa, red hair pulled back in the usual messy bun and blue eyes narrowed. "You are sick, William. I told you that the doctor said to stay in bed. Now to bed with you, young man!" she pointed up the stairs to accentuate her point and William nodded, bounding up them three at a time. When his door closed behind him, if Anthony listened closely he could hear violent, hacking coughs that he must have been holding in.

"And you, Anthony," Ms. Lisa turns to him and Anthony shrinks back, gray eyes wide with sudden panic. "You should have known better than to go sneaking out without your shoes on. And making William go with you, in this weather. Especially when you know how sick he is."

Anthony hangs his head, nodding silently in apology. When he was dismissed to his room, he went quietly, sitting on the thin threadbare sheets and looking out of the window that was still open from that morning.

It was night when he snuck out again, part of his supper wrapped in a napkin and tucked safely in his jacket pocket. It wasn't really any different, cloaked in the night, but until Anthony was under the unflattering light of the streetlamps, he jumped at every little sound. He wrapped his jacket tighter around himself, swallowing thickly.

He made it to the alley that he saw the cat in before and called out in a whisper, "Here, Kitty," but there was no answering shuffle or padding of soft paws on pavement. Frowning, Anthony stood up and decided to walk around, walking in and out of pools of soft orange light, calling out to the cat every once in a while. He paused at every meow that he heard, hoping to recognise the bright green eyes and half gone ear of the cat, and ending up disappointed every time.

He sighed and sat down on the cold pavement, hugging his knees to his chest, not wanting to go back to the orphanage. He wasn't sure exactly how long he was there, but by the time the horizon began to brighten the cat was there, pressing its muzzle against the pocket of Anthony's sweater.

Anthony brightened, scratching it gently behind the ear as he feeds it the remnants of his supper.

x

The next time that Anthony came it was a few days later. When he sits down in the mouth of an alley and people keep walking, he pulls his knees to his chest. The cat appears and nudges his pockets and Anthony just shakes his head, grabbing the cat around the middle and holding it to him. He could feel the thin body trembling against his own with every breath.

"It's all my fault," he whispers into the matted fur of the cat's scruff. "It's just as Ms. Lisa said; I should have known better than to sneak away, because he would follow me, like he always does."

The cat wriggles in his arms, and settles beside him, resting its head on the crook of his elbow, peering at him with glowing green eyes that dimmed as the sky brightened.

"The doctor came to see him again today, and he's worse. They all tell me that it isn't my fault, but I know that it is. They say that he's going to be okay, like he always is, but they won't let me in his room anymore, and I've seen him coughing up blood."

The cat looks at him and Anthony sighs, leaning back against the brick wall behind him, leaning his head back until it connected hollowly with the cool stone. "Just after I lost mum, too. I don't know, Muffin, it just seems like everything that I have here is disappearing. They tell me that they'll try to get in contact with my father in America, but it could take some time."

The cat meows at him and bounds off into the alley. Anthony scowls and watches him go, but when he moves to stand up and leave, the cat comes padding back. Anthony stares at the half-eaten sandwich clutched in its jaws, which it places in front of Anthony, who blinks confusedly and picks it up, wrinkling his nose slightly in distaste.

"Thanks, Muffin. But here, you need it more than me, I think," he says, feeding the cat small pieces at a time, watching the cat watch him as it eats.

After that Anthony comes everyday, most of the time bringing some offering of food. Soon the cat stops being skin and bones, looking healthier than ever and Anthony walks around the city with it wither at his heels or cradled in his arms.

One day, a year after William succumbed to his illness, and a year and a half since his mother left him, Anthony sits and shares a sandwich with the cat, stroking the fur that looks more sleek than matted now.

"They're sending me to New York tomorrow, Muffin, can you believe it? I don't really feel scared, because there's nothing left for me here, with mum and William both gone," Anthony says absently and the cat meows loudly. "Even at the orphanage, they never care about me, so long as I keep doing good in school and all that they me go where ever I want. I guess that if something happened to me it would be one less mouth to feed, so..." he trails off.

"What do you think America is like? Do you think it's the same as here? But what if my father doesn't accept me, or his wife doesn't accept me? Because they told me that he's married and has a son... I don't know, Muffin, but I'm not scared, because you'll be there with me and if they don't like you we'll run away together and go live up in Canada together."

The cat meows and Anthony grins crookedly, taking the cat up and cradling it under his arms as he makes his way back towards the orphanage.