Ray had lived in one room—part of one room—for his whole life and now he was in a house that had a million rooms and it was full of people he didn’t even know. He’d been counting and as of this morning he’d now met more people he didn’t know than people he did!
Maybe someday he’d even talk to them and ask them all about the stuff they did for a living, like cooking and laundry and guarding and knighting and adventuring. Adventuring sounded like so much fun, getting to go everywhere and do everything and nobody could ever stop them! But Ray didn’t really know how to talk to anyone because he’d only ever had to start conversations with people he knew and what if all these cool new people didn’t like him?
He kept telling himself he didn’t care if they didn’t like him but he did, and he was afraid if he talked to them they’d realize he didn’t know anything and put him back in his cage and…
Okay, well he knew the people here wouldn’t do that. The prince seemed nice and so did Cal and his friends but they were still hard to talk to because they were all so cool and they all knew so many things and it was much easier for Ray to just glare at them until they went away.
He’d been walking around the house for a bit trying to work up the courage to ask someone what their name was, and now he was tired and he was going to go have a nap and feel like a failure. Maybe when he woke up he’d be better at being a person.
And then, as Ray was heading up from the kitchen, he heard a sound. His ear twitched. That was a funny sound. It sounded like a cry, but not distressed. And it was coming from around the corner.
He shouldn’t bother whoever it was. It was probably just someone having sex. It always was. But Ray wasn’t so sure, and he was so curious, so he carefully went over, poked his head around the corner. And saw him.
He was orange and stripey, round, with yellow eyes and a short tail, sitting on top of a bag of flour and watching Ray. He made the noise—meowed, it was a meow—again. “Hi,” Ray said to him, coming in slowly, eyes wide. He recognized some of his own features in the cat. He was sitting the way his mom sometimes sat, looking at him the way Rose did when she wanted something.
He’d never seen a cat before.
The cat meowed at him again and Ray tentatively reached out and petted its head. It looked up, purring now. Ray giggled. “Do you like that? I can keep doing it if you want.”
The cat seemed to like it, so Ray kept petting him. “What’s your name?” Ray asked him. “I’m Ray. I’m new here. I used to be in jail under the ground, but now I’m free thanks to all the cool people who live here. Do you think they’re cool too? Which one is your favourite? How long have you lived here?”
Suddenly it wasn’t so hard for Ray to talk.