The Predicament of Persians by A.G. Henley

Chapter One

“What lady is that, which doth enrich the hand of yonder knight?

- Romeo and Juliet (Act 1, Scene 5)


My skin prickles with anticipation as I walk through the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Denver and under the banner hanging overhead that shouts, Welcome to CatFest! The logo for the convention has black font on a grass green background with a cat’s tail sprouting from the top of the final t and underlining the words.

Everywhere I look a clowder of cat lovers mills, sporting things like T-shirts featuring their favorite cartoon cats, rubber kitty noses with whiskers, and plastic claws on their fingers or fake fur tails hanging from belts.

I grab James’s arm and squeal. “I can’t believe we’re finally here!”

“Yeah, it’s incredibly exciting,” my younger brother deadpans. He puffs a breath of air to blow his hair out of his eyes. His straight, fine, light blonde locks, like a toddler’s, fall into his face constantly. I move his bangs to the side so he can see, but he only looks grumpier when the hair slides back again.

James rolls his battered black suitcase in one hand, and he has my Persian cat, Juliet’s, carrier in the other. I push my oversized pink suitcase with a tote bag on top stuffed full of Juliet’s food, bowls, grooming equipment, and toothbrush.

“Let’s get our keys.” I still need to check in for the convention, but first I want to drop my stuff in the room. “I’m sure my poor girl wants out of there, and it’s her dinnertime.”

“For me, too,” my brother says. “You’re buying, right? I want room service.”

“James, I told you I’d pay all your expenses for coming with me to CatFest. Are you going to ask me if I’m buying every time you want something?”

“Yes.” He makes a juvenile face that makes me want to poke him—hard.

I sigh instead. “Just put meals on the room and I’ll settle up with you on Sunday when the conference is over.” We walk to the reception desk where a petite Latina in her late twenties greets us.

“Checking in for Kathleen Caplin,” I say. “I should have a reservation for two nights.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The agent taps away at her computer keyboard with manicured nails, painted a soft pink.

While she types, I peek in at Juliet. She’s looking out at the lobby, her emerald green eyes alert. Her fur, washed and brushed into luxurious perfection this morning before we left, has held up through the two-hour drive from our home in Colorado Springs, the bathroom stop along I-25, and an extended snack break for James.

“Are you okay, beautiful?” I murmur to her. She meows, the sound gentle and pealing, like a delicate bell. As always, her flat face floods my heart with love.

Juliet’s fur is white with black tips on her back that give her a silvery appearance. Like most silver chinchilla Persians, her brick red nose has a black outline. She also has the large, bright green eyes that seem to droop just a bit, giving her a sad kitty look. Her gorgeous looks are why we’re here. Juliet is my Instagram CelebriCat and hundreds of people are coming to the con this weekend to meet her, including a representative from Purina’s sponsorship program.

The agent glances at my brother. “And do you have a reservation, sir?”

“You got me my own room, right?” James asks me in a loud voice.

I wince and hand the agent my credit card. “No, James, we’re sharing.”

“What?” He drops a hand on the desk with a sharp smack. “Sharing wasn’t part of the deal.”

The agent stares, open-mouthed, at my brother. He only has one volume when he’s annoyed—earsplitting. I put a hand on his arm and lower my voice.

“James, the rooms were over three-hundred dollars a night. I could only afford one.”

He groans. “I hope the room at least has a big tub.”

“I’m sure it does.” I speak through gritted teeth. Oh, how I wish I didn’t know how much my brother likes his baths.

With a hesitant smile, and another sidelong glance at James, the agent hands me a small folder with two keycards inside. “Your room is on the twelfth floor. The elevators are just there, to the left.” She points the way.

“You have room service, right?” James asks her.

“Yes, sir, of course.”

“Then, I want a BLT with fries and a beer.”