Lisa sighed a little as she exited the kitchen of the asylum, having finished cleaning the dishes from dinner. She regretted now, at times, her plan of learning about working here–since the attack, she’d hardly had a moment’s rest. Even now, with new staff finally arriving, she was still busy from morning until night. But at other times, when she saw Dr. Solsen’s grateful looks as she helped to care for him, she felt proud of herself, even through her tiredness.
She started a bit as she heard the front door open, then relaxed as Arnold entered. She hadn’t seen much of him lately–he seemed to be spending much of his time away from the asylum. Not that she could blame him, really, even if he couldn’t remember all that had happened…
After they both said ‘Hello,’ Arnold went to check if anyone was in the office. When he was sure that it was empty at this time of night, he turned back to her. “Can we… talk?”
Lisa nodded and followed him into the room, where they sat side by side in front of the fireplace. Arnold rested his head as he rocked back and forth, looking fatigued and uncomfortable. He kept reaching for his head at times and gripping it. His tail twitched slower than it usually did, but that was probably best with one of these M’an chairs. More than a few of them had smashed a cat’s tail in the past.
Arnold looked at Lisa, he could tell that she was exhausted. She must have been working hard all this time at the asylum. “I’ve been…busy,” he said as an apology.
“Oh?” Lisa asked, almost smiling. “With what?”
“Trying to remember things about my life. Relearning the city… and having a few…” Arnold paused as he tried to find a way to describe his encounters with Petharic, Zaros, and others within this city. “Adventures, I guess.”
Lisa Fargazer nods, looking at Arnold curiously. “Are you remembering anything more yet?”
“I remember Doctor Dinosaur,” Arnold replied softly, looking at Lisa intently and showing he remembered how involved she became as well.
Lisa shuddered a little. “I could almost wish to forget him.”
“That giant mechanical Rex that he tried to step on me with, the room filled with cats, jumping from the asylum roof.” Arnold half grinned. “I’ve remembered other things…things from before I met you. But I still don’t remember my parents, and I still haven’t figured out my name.”
“Well, so far, you have a choice of Arnold and Beryl.” Lisa smiled a little mischievously, still amused at two such disparate names for her friend.
“Arnold feels wrong,” he replied, turning back to the fireplace which illuminated the dark office, causing their shadows to dance behind the two. Lisa studied him, quietly seeing his orange eye from this side, the familiar blue one hidden from sight. “Beryl is… it also does not feel right. Though it feels closer than Arnold, something is just… off.”
Lisa nodded. “It will come, I’m sure, in its own time.”
He didn’t respond immediately, leaving only the crackling of the fire and the occassional noise from above to bother them. Finally he asked, “How did you come by your name?”
“Well, my heart name, Felisa, was given to me by my mother. The Elders gave me my face name of Fargazer.”
“Elders?” Arnold asked, feeling once again unfamiliar with something he might have once known. “Face name?” At a nod from Lisa he shook his head. “I… don’t recall another name.”
“The Elders give all cats their face name. That’s the name used for strangers and acquaintances. Normally, only family and close friends know the heart name.” She paused, remembering the confusion she felt during her first months in her human body. “I know now it’s different with humans.”
“I looked into changing my name already. It would be a hassle.” Arnold grimaced–he had no desire to go around for months attempting to correct people. “Arnold can be my ‘legal’ human name. It’s just not the real me.” Lisa nodded, to show that she understood what he was saying. “Beryl… it is a good name… but it’s… missing something.”
“If it’s a heart name you want, it should be given by someone close to you. Perhaps Dr. Maddox?”
Arnold half smiled and sat back into his chair, rocking again as he considered the idea. “It’s a shame she doesn’t speak cat.”
Lisa laughed a little. “I could talk to the Elders, and see if they would be willing to give you a face name.”
“So long as it’s not Large Cat.” Arnold grinned, having remembered hearing that vaguely while he was hiding with the cats from Dr. Dinosaur.
Lisa Fargazer grinned back. “I’m sure they can find something more appropriate.”
They talked for a short time, and he told her about some of the things he had been doing, and found out that little had changed in the asylum except that Dr. Solsen was now on solid foods. He was enjoying their conversation, but as they spoke, it happened–he remembered showing Lisa this very office on her first day of work. And with the memory came the migraines.
Lisa looked at him with concern as she saw him stop rocking, grip his head in pain, and turn away from the fire, grunting. “Headache?”
“Always, but especially when I remember things.”
“Perhaps you should lie down and rest.” Lisa said, and she helped him to the third floor and a bed there for him to sleep on. She looked down at him for a moment, then left the room, looking in briefly on Dr. Solsen before heading for her own bed. Instead of using the time before bed to practice reading, though, she simply curled up on the bed, pondering their conversation.
Names were an important matter to cats–as witness her own struggles in the first year of her life to get the other cats of the city to call her “Fargazer” rather than “M’anchild.” The face name was given to a kitten when it reached three months of age. It could be merely physically descriptive, or it could commemorate something special that had happened to that kitten, or something that had happened during the months since it had been born. Or it could have a deeper meaning, based on what the Elders sensed about that kitten at the naming meeting.
As far as Lisa knew, no cat had received a face name as an adult. So if the Elders of the city agreed to this… well, what might they sense about Arnold, who had already experienced more in his life than any dozen cats Lisa knew or had heard of, and showed no signs of ending his habit of attracting trouble? ‘This could be very interesting indeed,’ she thought as she drifted off to sleep.