Chapter 47 - Prospective
8 years pass...
A bus came to stop by a shelter.
A few people on board rose from their seats to take their leave.
One was a pale young woman.
Her green eyes were already settled ahead on the bus driver as she walked to door. She took a steady breath, and turned to him as she passed.
"Thank you." She said.
"Thank you ma'm." He smiled and nodded to her.
She stepped off the bus with a quiet sigh. She didn't like talking to strangers much. Her anxiety was nothing like it used to be, but some nerves were still there.
She pulled on the strap of her handbag as she walked onward down the pavement. It was cold. London's city center was usually heated by the cars and pollution; warmer than the outer-lying residential area she used to live. But today the wind had extra bite.
She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out some earmuffs. Fluffy, black, cat-ear earmuffs. They fit snug onto her head, cutting the cold from her ears.
'Maybe I'll wear trousers instead of a skirt tomorrow...' She tugged her scarf tighter around her neck.
It was busier in the center too. The streets could be brimming with people, everybody rubbing shoulders like sardines. Thankfully it wasn't too bad at this hour. Crowds were something she'd been forced to get used to. It'd been difficult at first, but now she hardly noticed them. It was just another part of life.
Her home was ahead. A small brick terrace house.
She pushed open her door and walked inside. The interior was warm. The hum of a heater could be heard further inside.
She closed the door and slipped off her boots. She hung her scarf and coat on a hook, and reached into her handbag for a notepad and a CD case. She eyed the unmarked disc curiously. Her next assignment.
She walked into her kitchen. Her laptop was already awaiting her on the dining table. She sat at it with a long breath, stretching her legs out in front of her. Her eyes lingered on the screen as she allowed herself a moment to sit still. Eventually though she reached out and opened the disc drive, slotting the CD onto it. A pop-up came onscreen when she pushed it shut. She opened the disc file.
"Another long one..." She commented under her breath.
She plugged her headphones into the jack, and held them ready to place in her ears.
But somebody walked into the room behind her. A hand planted itself on the back of her neck, and a pair of lips touched her cheek.
"'Ow was work, Kitty Kat?" A grumbling voice greeted her.
She smiled, and turned to face the voice. "Pretty good. Been enjoying your day off?"
A man in his mid-twenties smiled back. Her husband. He was well-built, tattooed, with a scarred and rough looking face. His blue eyes were anything but frightening though.
"Yeah, been awright." He pulled out a chair beside her and slouched into it. "My back's feeling better."
"That's good." Tamara eyed him over. "...Your ears look red. Have you been wearing your hat?"
He nodded and rolled his eyes, answering as he had many times before. "Yeah yeah. Don't worry. I'm keepin' my noggin' warm.
Tamara nodded. She hoped he was enjoying his new job. He'd been through quite a few jobs...
After secondary school he'd tried his hand at boxing. He'd wanted to go semi-professional. Apparently he was good at it too. But she'd stopped him from doing that... she couldn't take it. No matter how hard she tried to accept it, it still bothered her. She'd seen too many of his past injuries and gang fights to ever be okay with him partaking in violence...
So he actually gave it up for her. He quit and started training to be a carpenter instead. And after that he'd gotten a temporary job as a doorman. Then a barman. Then he'd worked in a warehouse. But now he had a new job in brick laying. It paid pretty well, he got to be outside all day, and his colleagues were nice. It seemed good for him.
"'Ow are your eyes?" He asked her.
"Mm..." She shrugged. "...They're okay. A little sore."
"But you're goin' on the laptop again? It's all these 'ours on the computer that's 'urtin' em."
She sighed and nodded. "Yeah, but I've got a new album to review. Our next issue is coming out earlier than usual to coincide with some big release, so I've got tons of work to do."
"I see." Tommy smiled a little. "Another JPop one?"
"Mhm. Hopefully it'll be a good one."
Tommy got up from his chair, holding a hand to his lower back. "I'll get some dinner started. Gnocchi sound good?"
"Yes please." Tamara smiled at him as he moved to the stove. She picked up her headphones and placed them in her ears, eyes moving back to the computer screen as she began playing the album. Cute synth music cued the start of the album. She brought her notepad closer to her, unclipping a pen from its spiral binding and opening to a new page. She immediately started making notes.
This was always the best part. Listening to new music and noting her initial feelings. Quite often her first notes were either very positive, or very negative. It would take a second or third listen for her to make more unbiased notes, and start to appreciate or dislike the finer details of the songs.
Shaping her notes into a final review was the hardest bit. She'd give herself a week to immerse herself in an album, before collecting her notes and refining them into a critique. Being somebody who spent a lot of time in her own head, she found it tricky to articulate things in a way that other people would easily understand. But, her reviews usually got good feedback, so obviously she was doing something right.
Being a critic wasn't something she thought she'd enjoy. She'd written a review for an amateur manga years ago, and posted it onto the author's website. She'd enjoyed it at the time, but she'd had no idea that would lead into a career.
Haley Cooke, the author of the manga she'd bought at Neko Con, had turned out to be a critic for a small time manga and anime magazine. They'd began exchanging messages through her website after her initial review, and as Tamara bought more of her mangas and submitted more reviews, they got closer. Eventually Haley had recommended her to an editor of a music magazine.
Tamara had gone for an interview a few years ago, and she'd got the job. A critic for her favourite music magazine. Considering she'd had no idea what she wanted to do after school, she felt extremely fortunate to land a job she enjoyed.
The first song ended. Tamara paused it, and scanned her eyes over her notes. She scribbled 'Track 1' at the top of the page, then turned to a fresh one.
Tommy spoke from the stove. "Got a call from Ken's dad this morning."
Tamara took out her headphones and glanced up at him. "Hm...? Ken's dad?"
"Yeah." He kept his back turned as he cooked. "The family's doin' awright. Ken's little sister has started college now, which blows my fuckin' mind."
"That's good." Tamara nodded. She'd met Ken's parents a few times when they'd come over to visit. Tommy said he'd always liked them, and they were even closer now, ever since Ken died.
Tommy and Ken had stayed close after graduating high school. That was, until she and Tommy moved into a place of their own. Ken had chosen not to leave the gang life, and without Tommy's influence, things seemed to take a downward spiral. Only two years after graduating he was found stabbed to death on the street outside his house. A rival gang had jumped him in the early morning and murdered him.
It took Tommy a long time to get over that. Tamara suspected he still hadn't completely recovered. She noticed the glassy distant look that took over his eyes whenever Ken was mentioned. But, he was doing much better now, and meeting with Ken's parents and sister seemed to make things easier.
"They asked about Jon too. Guess he went on another silent phase, cos they 'ad no idea about Safia."
Tamara grunted. "Jon is shit at staying in contact."
"True that." Tommy chuckled.
Jon was doing well for himself. He'd also chosen to leave the gang life after school, and cut contact with many of their old friends. He'd actually become an apprentice carpenter alongside Tommy and continued it. There'd been some trouble with cocaine at some point, Tommy hadn't given all the details, but he'd gone through rehab and now had his own home with Katie, and their newborn Safia.
She hadn't heard anything of Tommy's other school friends. And she had to admit, she didn't much care to know.
"Gnocchi wont be long. Mind settin' the table?" Tommy asked.
"Sure." Tamara pushed back in her chair and stood, getting a couple of plates from a cupboard. She placed them on the table, then paired them with wine glasses and forks. "Want some apple juice?"
"Yeah go on."
She walked to the fridge and took out a carton of apple juice. She poured an equal amount into each glass, taking her own in hand as she sat back down at her computer. She took a sip, and pushed her headphones back into her ears.
Track 2 had a more somber sound. It was still a pop song, but the chord progression was sadder. She actually liked it more than the last. She began taking notes.
This album wasn't too generic. It was more modern. She'd began to learn what was current and what was dated within the genre, and this definitely fit the former category. This could be a great review if she gathered her thoughts well.
Track 2 ended, and she paused to look over her notes again. She nodded to herself as she read through her critiques. 'I like this song a lot. I hope I can put that across well.'
Tommy turned from the stove with a saucepan in his hand.
Tamara noticed him, and took out her earbuds.
"It's ready." He started dishing it up.
Tamara watched it steam on her plate. It smelt good. Tommy wasn't a particularly talented cook, but he could make good pasta sauce. She picked up her fork as he sat beside her. "Thank you."
"S'awright." He grumbled, and lifted his glass to her. "Cheers."
She picked up her own and clinked it. "Cheers."
Her husband started stabbing some gnocchi and shoved it into his mouth. He breathed through his nostrils as he chewed. "So... we're seein' Emily tomorrow?" He spoke with a full mouth.
Tamara nodded as she stabbed some of her own. "She wants to meet at The Green King."
"Green King? Aint that a pub?"
"It was. But she says it's more of a gastro restaurant kinda thing now."
"Ah, right." Tommy swallowed. "What time?"
Tamara placed the gnocchi in her mouth and started chewing. It tasted nice. She held up five fingers to her husband, not wanting to speak with a full mouth.
"Sorted." Tommy shoved another load of pasta into his mouth.
Her and Emily had met up quite recently, so she wasn't sure how much they'd have to talk about. It would be nice to see her anyway though. She barely spent much time in London anymore, so they took any chance they could to get together.
Life for Emily was picturesque, of course. She'd gone to college for a fashion course, and continued it into uni. Since graduating she'd worked with Levi's, Ellesse, Doc Martens, and now she was doing wardrobe for some new film in America. Her job had taken her all over the world too. Most friends would be envious of what she'd achieved, but Tamara was just proud. She was happy with her own life as it was. Long plane journeys and working with celebrities would probably be too much for nerves anyway.
She and Tommy continued eating, talking as they did. But Tamara couldn't pull her mind too far from her work assignment. Even as she spoke with her husband she was thinking of comments and comparisons she could use in her review.
Once they'd finished, and Tommy gathered their plates to wash in the sink, she immediately returned to her laptop. She put her headphones in and started the next track.
The final track came to a close. Tamara took out her headphones and checked over her scribbled notes. She flicked back through the previous pages. 12 pages crammed with notes.
She leaned back in her chair with a sigh, rubbing her eyes. They were starting to feel pretty sore.
Her first thoughts were down, that was step 1 complete. Next she'd have to do her research on the artist, then give the whole album another listen. A lot of work to do. But, she was certainly finished for the day.
She folded her laptop shut and got up from her chair.
"Would you like some tea?" She spoke aloud.
"Coffee would be spot on." Tommy's voice responded from another room.
She walked to the kettle and switched it on. She got a couple of mugs and spooned some instant coffee into them.
The songs from the CD were circulating in her mind. She couldn't remember the last time she didn't have a song stuck in her head. Listening to music was her job after all. It could be a bit annoying, and embarrassing when she found herself inadvertently humming JPop in public. But she really enjoyed her job.
The kettle boiled, and she poured water into the mugs. She added some milk and sugar to her own coffee, then took the mugs in hand and retired to the living room.
Tommy was sat spread on a cream sofa, watching TV. Some sort of MMA match was on.
She handed him a mug. "Here."
"Cheers Kitty Kat." He took it from her, and patted the space next to him.
She sat beside him. "What are you watching?"
"A boring fight." He picked up the remote and opened the TV guide. "Let's watch somethin' else."
Tamara nodded, watching him switch through the channels. Nothing seemed to catch his eye, nor did it catch hers.
After reaching the bottom of the list, he let out a snort. "There's fuck all on." He tossed the remote onto a coffee table. "Let's watch a DVD."
"Mhm." Tamara's eyes lowered to the DVD shelf beneath their TV. "Which one?"
"I dunno. You pick."
She looked at him with a frown. "I pick every time. You pick one."
He pushed a long breath through his nostrils. "Awright..." He seemed to inspect the DVDs for a while. "...Raging Bull?"
"We watched that the other day."
Tamara grunted. "Anything other than a boxing film."
Her husband grumbled a bit. "Awright awright... 'ow 'bout... Crocodile Dundee?"
"Your taste in movies sucks."
"Oi shut up." He nudged her in the side. He spent another quiet moment eyeing the DVD's, before turning to her with a smug grin. "...Oh, I know what you wanna watch."
She looked back at him curiously. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." He got up from the sofa and walked to the TV, kneeling by the DVD shelf. He took one out and opened it, keeping it hidden from her view as he placed it in the DVD player.
"What is it...?" Tamara asked with a slight frown.
Her husband got up and returned to the sofa. "Your favourite thing in the whole world." He lay an arm behind her shoulders.
"Hm..." She watched the screen curiously, waiting for the DVD to start playing.
Eventually, it did. Music started playing and a colourful menu appeared on-screen. It took her a moment to recognise it. But once the title came on, a grin found its way onto her face.
"You really wanna watch K-On...?" She looked at her husband a little sheepishly. They didn't watch anime together anymore. In fact, Tamara didn't watch half as much anime as she used to. Maybe a few episodes a week, and only on the weekends. She had far too much to do on workdays.
"Yeah, why not." Her husband picked up the remote again, and switched play.
As the first episode's intro began playing, her grin grew wider. She shuffled closer to Tommy, and he closed his arm around her, squeezing her gently. She rested her head against his shoulder.
Anime with Tommy. It'd been 8 years, and it still never failed to make her happy. So many things had changed, but this was still her constant. Her refuge. Anime and her husband...
...Her husband. Her boyfriend. Her bully. Her snake...
To think, there was once a time when she feared him. Nobody could've seen this in their future.
But here they were. A mouse and a python, living together, married.
A mouse and a python in love.
...and their story ends.
I really hope you've enjoyed reading this story!
When i first started writing The Mouse and The Python back in 2015, i honestly thought it'd be finished before the end of the year... i had no idea it would take me 6 more years to finally complete it xD
But here we are 6 years later. In 2021
This story and these characters have been part of me for 6 years. even if i wasn't consistently writing, they were still on my mind. i was always taking inspiration from things around me, and shaping ideas and chapters in my head when i had a quiet moment. and even now that this story is finished, i'm certain these characters will continue being on my mind.
I only hope that you have been entertained. it means a lot that you've taken time out of your day to read a creation of mine. i love this story, and if anybody else has come to enjoy it too, then my goal is complete.
If you've made it through this entire story from start to finish, please leave a review telling me your honest thoughts. i want to know what you think. if you liked it, or disliked it, or whatever, lemme know. i know this story aint perfect, and i definitely dragged it out longer than i needed to haha. but it's been a good learning experience.
I will be writing more original stories here on this site in the future. so keep a close eye on my profile, cos there'll more to come! who knows, we may even see Tamara and Tommy again...
Once again, thank you so much. thank you for reading my story. you're an absolute legend. whether you've been with me since or 2015, or only just found this story, thank you.
You'll be hearing from me again soon!