Flash Fiction: Fluff-Butt (375 words)

At midnight, Elida gave up pretending she was moments away from sleep. She gave up pretending she wasn’t cold, grabbed the blanket in both fists and yanked it tight around her shoulders. Pulling her knees to her chest, she kicked the end of the blanket back over her feet, and tucked her head as deep into the pillow as it would go. Then she took two, long breaths, willing her blood to remember its job.

Her skin still felt as if it were trying to sneak itself into numbness before she could catch it.

Groaning, Elida shut her eyes, slowly talking herself into getting up. There was an extra blanket on the other side of the room. Her coat was hanging uselessly off the back of her chair. There were clean knit socks somewhere.

She shoved herself up, dropped her feet to the floor, and almost ran to the chest by the door, blanket still tight around her shoulders and waist. The floorboards creaked, and she hated them a little at that time of night, but she was also too tired to care. In the corner, Ash lifted her head of her paws. Her yellow eyes blinked disdainfully, and Elida didn’t care about that either. She ignored her chance to glare back at the cat, hauled open the chest, and snatched another blanket out.

She wrapped it around her on her way back to the bed, and tucked herself back into a ball. Then she shuddered, breathed, and tried to remember the stillness it would take to fall asleep.

It was a long minute before she realized those were claw-tappings she was hearing, coming slowly toward her. Her eyes were shut again. Ash paused somewhere beneath her, then her full weight landed on the bed beside Elida’s elbow. She was blinking, slowly, derisively, when Elida glanced down at her.

Elida narrowed her eyes.

Purposefully, Ash turned her tail toward Elida. Then she lowered herself onto the mattress. She tucked her nose against Elida’s knee, and pressed herself tight to the woman’s side.

“I didn’t ask for this, fluff-butt,” Elida murmured. “Just remember that…”

But Ash’s warmth was sinking into her ribs, and her arms and shoulders and back were unwinding, letting go of their shudders.

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