Chapter 4: Fair Weather
Rain and the talking cat began walking towards the taller of the two mountains, which bathed the surrounding land in a cooling shadow. It was less than a mile away now, just beyond a meadow of tall grass that went up to Rain’s waist. They entered the meadow, and the cat vanished into the brush. It hadn’t talked at all since they left their glass boat, which Rain found kind of odd. Last time they walked through grass, it wouldn’t stop telling her to turn around.
“Are you okay?” Rain asked it.
“Silly girl,” the cat muttered with no enthusiasm.
“Are you sure you’re okay? Oh! You aren’t hurt are you?” Rain thought back to the frozen ghosts and immediately felt awful. The cat had saved her life, and she hadn’t even thanked it. Why, she didn’t even know the cat’s name! No wonder it was upset with her.
Before Rain could say she was sorry, a strong gust of wind passed over her head, causing the cat to sigh and say another bad word. Rain looked up, afraid the ghosts were back or something worse, and saw a flying carpet heading towards the mountain. She stared in awe. It was beautiful, a tapestry of green and gold with little brown tassels. She squinted, trying to get a look at the person riding it.
“Hurry up,” the cat said. “We have to reach the mountain before the moon sets.”
“But that person was flying!”
“It’s how witches tend to travel.”
Rain followed the cat, now asking it all kinds of questions. She had seen plenty of movies with witches in them, and while most witches were evil, not all were. Some were very nice, and she knew only a nice witch would fly on something as pretty as that carpet. The cat ignored all of her questions though, even the ones Rain knew were worth responding to, like “have you ever seen a house made out of candy?” and “do you think if I ask nicely that lady will fly me back home?” Finally she asked it, “What’s your name?”
“Lana,” the cat said.
“Oh. You have a pretty name too.” Rain didn’t have the heart to tell Lana that she had a people name and not a cat name. She was probably really self conscious about that. “Thanks for saving me Lana. From the ghosts I mean.”
“You know the last little girl listened to me,” Lana said, annoyance coloring her sing-song voice. “The last two. They didn’t cross the threshold, nope. They followed my directions.”
“I’m sorry.” Rain was sorry too. “If you want, you can have my last juice box. It’s probably got warm now, but they still taste good. It’s fruit punch flavored.”
Lana didn’t say anything to that, and Rain was secretly glad. She would have given the cat her last juice box, but she was also thirsty from walk and wanted it for herself. She fished it out and pushed the straw in—her favorite part—and began to sip on the fruity drink while looking at her map. The sea was now really, really close. Just beyond the mountain.
As soon as they stepped through the final patch of tall grass, the world became alive with sounds and movement, as if someone had just turned on a light switch. Rain stared in shocked silence. It was a hidden village of small tents and fireplaces, of flying carpets and bubbling cauldrons, of people dancing and singing in big circles to strange music. There were cats everywhere.
“It’s a party,” Rain said.
“Something like that, yes,” Lana said, though her ears were back. “Do you see that path over there? Between those two large, white rocks?” Rain nodded. It looked like it wound its way around the mountain. “Good. What I need you to do is—”
“What are you doing here?” a new talking cat asked. It was big and black, and its tail was fluffed out like it had just been scared. “You’re not welcome here anymore.”
“Go away Cynthia,” Lana said, a slight hiss in her voice. “I’m not in the mood.”
“Do all cats have people names here?” Rain asked. She was pretty sure no one in their right mind would name a cat Cynthia, not when Snowball and Peanut Butter were options.
“Shut up, little girl. No one is talking to you,” the big black cat said.
Rain glowered. “I don’t think I like talking cats very much. You’re all rude. Didn’t your mother ever teach you any manners?”
Cynthia laughed and flicked her tail. “You sure know how to pick ‘em, Lana. Don’t let this one die on you too.” The black cat looked at Rain, shook her head, and then walked away, her tail standing straight up like a little Christmas tree.
“She wasn’t very nice,” Rain said.
“Come on,” Lana said. “Let’s get this over with.”
They started walking through the witch’s village, Lana staring straight ahead and ignoring all of the eyes upon them. Rain hugged herself and tried to do the same, but it was hard. Everyone stopped what they were doing to stare, and Rain realized she was the only kid in the whole village. She was also the only person dressed normally, but since she wasn’t wearing any funny-looking clothes, it made her stand out. She wished she had left her backpack in the tall grass; it was blue and no one else was wearing blue.
When one woman pointed at her and whispered to another, Rain turned her gaze towards the ground.
“Ignore them,” Lana said. “They aren’t mad at you; they’re mad at me.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh.” Rain wished Lana would talk about it. Everyone had seemed so nice a few minutes ago, but now no one was dancing or laughing anymore. Even the music had stopped. “It’s just like school,” Rain said, more to herself than anyone else.
“Everyone seems really nice on the first day. It’s all new people and sounds, and you think it’s going to be fun. Even the teacher is happy. But then you find out that some kids are mean, and even though you haven’t done anything wrong, they don’t care. They’re just mean.” Rain sighed. “I didn’t think adults were like that though.”
“Adults are often more childish than children,” Lana said.
As soon as they were by the two large rocks, the sounds and laughter returned to the village. Rain looked back, at all of the new people and sounds and fun, and wanted to cry. It wasn’t fair. She hadn’t done anything wrong, but that didn’t matter to them.
Instead, she turned back towards the mountain and passed between the two large rocks. Once she did, the village and sounds disappeared, as if they had never existed at all. They were alone again. Her eyes followed the smooth path upwards until it rounded a corner and went out of sight, and when she craned her neck and looked at the top of the mountain, she saw the moon waiting for them. From her vantage point, it looked like it was balancing on the very tip and could fall over at the lightest gust of wind. They were almost there.
“At least the weather has been really nice,” Rain said. She couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to go on an adventure.
Lana nodded, and together they started walking up the mountain, heading towards the moon.