by Emily W, Bo_Emp and Dave Potter
This is Dave Potter’s alternative version of the original story Cats (I) by Emily W and Bo_Emp.
1. The fountain
Leah raised up her camera and snapped a couple of pictures. She then lowered it and watched for a few minutes as the natural life of the bazaar played out. She was at the top of a staircase on the street level. Down the steps was the bazaar positioned by the side of a hill. Stalls was positioned along either side of the stone path with canvas hanging over head to give shelter from the sun.
As she descended the steps Leah listened to the sounds of thousands of people haggling. When she reached the bottom of the stairs she slowly walked through one of the busy aisles. She passed merchants selling all manner of things. The men were dressed in clothes that ranged from traditional white robes to modern Western clothing. The women was mostly dressed in black abayas with only their faces and hands visible, although more than one woman had her face covered as well. The sight of them reminded Leah of her own long sleeved shirt and the skirt that reached down to her ankles.
Before she started out on this trip she had bought a travel guide for her two weeks in the Middle East. It had come with a list of recommendations for clothing in specific countries. Based on its recommendations, Leah had brought clothing that would not reveal too much skin.
Leah had wanted to come to the region for many years but had always hesitated before. The thing was, she loved cats, they were her main passion in life, and going away always presented a problem. She could have left them in a cattery but then she felt bad about doing so, viewing such places as almost like a prison for felines, but then that only left her with the alternative of a catsitter who could either only do it for a few days or else only take one cat at a time, (and she had two). And going to the Middle East, well, you don’t exactly do that for a long weekend, you need at least two weeks to explore. So she hadn’t gone until last month she had tragically lost two of her three pets. Martha had died of old age and it wasn’t unexpected, but Tabby had been run over by a car. That left only silky, her white-haired cat and her good friend Jane had offered to look after her whilst Leah took a trip to get over her loss. And so she had booked up the holiday of her dreams and now here she was, strolling round a bazaar straight out of Arabian Nights!
As she passed by one stall after another she found herself tempted to buy all sorts of things. Mindful that she did not want to use all her cash in one place she resisted the temptation, even when passing a man selling sweets she kept her wallet inside of her bag.
Once she had reached the far end of the market she found herself in an open plaza. People were going about their business and a steady stream of cars passed by on an adjacent street. Leah raised her camera and took a couple of pictures of the sight. She was about to turn around and go back the way she came when she heard a cat meowing. When she looked down she saw the feline looking back up at her. It was black with green eyes.
Leah wondered if it was a stray. She looked around the plaza but no one seemed to pay the cat any notice. She reached down and to her mild surprise the cat walked up and started to rub itself against her hand. After a little bit of this she stopped and began walking.
No sooner had she started than the cat began to loudly meow behind her. Leah turned and looked down at the cat that stared back at her.
“I’m sorry little cat, I don’t have any food on me.”
She then proceeded to begin walking away again only to find the cat had dashed in front of her. It stayed there until Leah stopped moving. Then it began walking towards a narrow alley. It stopped and looked behind itself at Leah and began to meow.
Leah watched this sight for a moment and out of curiosity she began to follow the cat. The alleyway it led her into was very narrow, too narrow to drive a car through. Because of the height of the buildings it was bathed in shade. Occasionally the alley would make a slight turn. The cat would occasionally stop and look back as if to confirm that she was still following and then continue on its way.
Leah was beginning to wonder whether wandering down this alley was such a good idea when the cat stopped and proceeded into an open doorway. Leah followed the cat up to the entrance and looked inside. A beautiful mosaic of geometrical shapes covered the walls and floor. The entrance started out as a hallway and opened up into a larger room. There was a small rack to Leah’s right that had a pair of black sandals on it. Written on the rack was a message, written in Arabic and English requesting visitors to take off their shoes before entering.
Leah could not see the cat from where she was standing. She took off her shoes and stepped inside the building. When she reached the room she found it to be a small space. A close set of double wooden doors were to her right and to her left was a cloth screen for what looked like a changing room. There was also a counter behind which a woman in the all-covering niqab stood.
“Err-hello. I was wondering, did you see a cat come in here?” Leah asked.
“I am sorry but I did not,” the woman draped in black answered.
“Oh.” Leah looked around the room as she found it difficult to believe that the cat had entered without being seen. She did not see him in the room and even looked back down the hallway but it was empty too. She stood in the middle of the room perplexed for a moment. Then, noticing the veiled woman was looking at her she tried to think of something to say.
“What is this place?” Leah asked.
“This is the entrance to the Spring of Dawah,” the veiled woman said.
“I’m sorry, what is the Spring of Dawah?” Lead responded.
“It is a spring of water where many Muslims have had a significant spiritual experience.”
“Oh, may I see it?”
“Yes, but you must change your clothes.”
“You are not dressed modestly enough to enter. You must wear niqab.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have a -” Leah broke off when she saw the woman produce a pile of black clothes. Leah looked at the double wood doors and then back to the veiled woman.
“How much is it?”
“It does not cost money.”
“It doesn’t?” Leah found herself genuinely surprised.
“No. It is wrong to charge people money to get closer to Allah.”
“Oh…” Leah looked around the place and felt unsure. “Ok, I suppose I can take a look.”
The veiled woman led Leah past the curtain into the changing room. Leah stood for a moment waiting for the veiled woman to leave. When the woman noticed this she said, “I must help you put on the clothes correctly.”
Feeling a little shy Leah began removing her shirt and skirt and eventually was down to just her bra and panties. The veiled woman handed her a pair of black stockings that reach up past her knee. Next were a pair of baggy trousers and a black blouse. The veiled woman then brought an Abaya over and fitted it onto Leah. Finally she wrapped a large black scarf around Leah’s head and neck. When she was done all that remained of Leah was her face and hands. There was a mirror on the wall that she was able to use to get a look at herself.
The black cloth framed her face and she actually found the look to be stunning in its own way. She brought her hands up and felt the black fabric of the abaya with them. It was not as uncomfortable as she might have feared. Leah had seen many women wearing these since she began her trip.
The veiled woman came over with a niqab and proceeded to fit it over Leah’s face. At first her vision was completely black, then the woman worked the opening over her eyes and Leah’s vision returned. The sight that she saw in the mirror was incredible. A narrow band over her eyes was all the remained of her face.
“There. Now you are ready to enter,” the veiled woman said. She led Leah back into the central room and to the double doors. All the while Leah kept looking down at her new black form. The veiled woman pulled back a latch and opened the door.
“Let me know when you ready to leave.”
Leah stepped into the room and marvelled at the sight of it. It was small but very beautiful. The floor, walls, and ceiling consisted of white tile with blue Islamic calligraphy. There was a circular fountain in the middle of the room with a gentle stream of water rising up before falling back into the pool. Natural light poured in from a skylight in the roof.
The doors closed behind Leah which made her jump slightly. She turned around to look at them for a moment but then her attention returned to the beautiful sight in front of her. She walked around the fountain a couple of times before sitting down on the edge.
The sight and sound of the water as it splashed down in the pool was strangely relaxing. Leah sat there staring into it for a long time…
After a long while of peaceful contemplation she was startled back into the present by the sound of the call to prayer being broadcasted from the minarets throughout the city. Leah looked around and saw that the light coming from above had shifted considerably from when she first arrived. How long had she been staring into the fountain?
With her serenity broken Leah got up and tried to open the doors. To her annoyance they would not open.
“Hello? I’m ready to leave.” She tried to make her voice loud enough that she would be heard. Soon enough the veiled woman opened the doors. Leah stepped through and entered the central room.
The veiled woman looked at her. “Did you find the experience enlightening?”
“I think it was very peaceful.”
“Good, you may use the changing room at your convenience.”
Leah changed back into her normal clothes and thanked the woman before leaving. Outside she turned to the rack and put her shoes on. At the moment she straightened and turned towards the exit a meow sounded. Leah quickly scanned the floor of the room but didn’t see the cat, or any cat.
2. The Riad
“Meow,” it sounded again.
This time Leah could identify the sound as coming from the hallway leading back to the street. It was darker than where she was now but lighter than the opening to the dark alley. But it was not so dark that she shouldn’t be able to see a cat even if it was black. There was no cat but to her surprise there seemed to be a piece of black cloth hanging on the right wall halfway to the alley. Leah was almost certain that it wasn’t hanging there when she entered; there was only mosaic tiles. She walked towards the cloth. She was baffled when it showed it was an abaya and it was not hanging on the wall but it was worn by a woman standing in an alcove in the wall. The alcove explained why only a fraction of the abaya was visible from a distance. Leah had not noticed the alcove while entering. She wasn’t absolutely sure if it was a woman in front of her because in addition to the black stockings in black sandals barely showing beneath the abaya and a niqab this person also wore black gloves and a very small transparent piece of cloth attached to the niqab to conceal the eyes.
Just as Leah had taken in this sight a low muffled “meow” came out from the black cloth covering the person’s face. It was the voice of a woman but she was very good at imitating a cat.
After some seconds the woman turned and pointed down to reveal she had been covering a square opening at the lower right corner of the alcove. It was large enough for a cat to pass. Next she made a gesture as if inviting Leah inside as if the back wall of the alcove was a door. Leah didn’t know if the woman was able to see the quizzical expression on her face through her eye cover, but she made a nod as if Leah had answered ‘yes, thank you’ and then turned to directly face the wall.
It was all so weird that Leah was hardly surprised when the woman put her right food inside the square opening and at the same time leaned her full weight against the wall. Slowly it moved backwards to reveal a black void. The woman stopped pushing when the space between the ‘door’ and the alcove walls was just wide enough for her to pass through. Because there was absolutely no light on the other side it was as if she became part of the void. But immediately her black gloved hand reached out as for Leah to grab it. This was far more risky than entering the alley but her curiosity totally dominated her will. She grabbed the hand and let it guide her into the darkness.
There was absolutely no light. Leah clung to the woman to sense that she turned and pushed against the ‘door’ to make it close. At the moment she sensed that the wall had stopped moving a hatch opened above them for a rectangle of the afternoon sky to appear and light the room. They were in an about thirty feet long corridor tiled like the one they came from. At its end was a wooden door and to the left just behind where the wall was when open there was a closet.
The woman opened it to show some shelves with black clothing and gestured Leah to put them on on top of her own clothes. As she had learned how to do this from the first woman in black she had soon dressed like for visiting the Spring of Dawah. Then the woman with her now took a pair of black gloves from a shelf and handed one to Leah. The gloves were elbow long and it would have been more practical to put them on before the abaya. But she got both on and then the woman took her own hand to Leah’s right wrist to pull a short elastic loop out from the abaya sleeve which she let go of between Leah’s thumb and index fingers. Leah took care of the other elastic herself; now both abaya sleeves were prevented from sliding up.
At the moment the second elastic was fitted the woman lifted her hand to Leah’s forehead and pulled an eye covering layer down over her face. Her sight became quite dark, blurred and colourless but she was able to orientate and still see the other woman despite her wearing black.
When the other woman saw Leah had adjusted somewhat she leaned forward and embraced her. She held her covered mouth to Leah’s covered ear and made a several seconds long “meow” just loud enough to be clearly perceived by Leah but probably not to be heard more than a few feet away. Leah understood she was being welcomed, but where? And to what?
The woman took a few steps back and then mildly shocked Leah. She took hold at the lower edge of her niqab and lifted it up to reveal her face. Except that it wasn’t a human face but instead that of a cat! Not a real cat of course, after all real cats are not human-sized, but instead an exquisite mask making the wearer look like she was a cat. A handsome Siamese. “Meow,” said the cat-woman. Then she let her niqab drop down to again replace all with the uniform black fabric.
Leah was not sure for how long the woman had unveiled, but anyway she now started walking towards the door at the other end of the corridor. She produced an old-fashioned large iron key and put it in the lock. Then, before turning it, she held her index finger across where her lips where hidden to make Leah do the same while nodding. The woman opened the door.
The room on the other side of the door had some similarities with the room with the Spring of Dawah but it was much larger and it did not have tiles everywhere. What made it look like the Spring of Dawah was a similar fountain at the centre of a large square of tiles. Above the area with the tiles there was no roof for the soft light of the afternoon sun to light the fountain and the tiles. Leah counted three cats laying enjoying the rays of the sun; one was black, the second an Arabian Mau and the third a Siamese.
Then movement in the shadow at the opposite side of the room caught Leah’s attention. Five or six women totally covered in black as well were seated on cushions with crossed legs and facing each other. The movement came from two of them getting up and approaching Leah and the woman with her. She didn’t move to meet them so Leah stayed as well. Soon the women, one after the other, embraced Leah and meowed into her ear. Then Leah expected they would unveil to her, but one just gestured towards the corner to the right to make them all start walking there. There was four cushions and a large A4 size block of paper along with a pen. The woman leading the way gestured Leah to sit up against the wall assuming she was not used to sit with crossed legs. It was quite uncomfortable at first, but as the woman took the block of paper and the pen and started writing her legs were soon out of her mind.
With the block in her lap it was easy to follow her writing but it was of no use to Leah as it was in Arabic. After filling half the sheet the woman handed the block to the woman who had taken Leah here and was now seated next to her. She started writing in English for Leah to immediately start reading.
‘Welcome to the Tabary family home. The family in this house consists of the three brothers Akram, Jahmir and Yazen ordered by age, their mother Rukia and their wives. I am Noora and to my left is Yasmeen, we are the wives of Jahmir. Aysha is the wife of Yazen and she is only with us because she is the only one of us women capable of English.’
Leah had nodded to each when learning their name. While Noora started writing again Leah wondered how they identified each other in here if not unveiling. To Leah they all, including herself, looked identical. Soon Aysha started writing again.
‘To begin with you will only be in the company of Yasmeen and me because it is Jahmir and us who is interested in you. He used to have three wives just as Akram and Yazen do, but about two months ago his third wife was killed by a car. Even though the three brothers are a little different in age they have all married together on the same day to all have one, two and three wives each during the same periods. This equality has been broken and you might be able to mend it.’
While Leah had been reading the black cat had left the sun to come and lie down on the parts of Aysha’s and her own abaya overlapping each other on the floor. Leah was fond of cats and started stroking it while Noora started writing again. Meanwhile Leah was unable to figure out how she could help this family that she had never met before or even heard of, but her following the cat and Aysha in that strange way inviting her in here could mean these incidents were not purely accidental. This was confirmed to her as soon as Aysha started writing in English.
‘The men have hired a bureau in England to find candidates. The candidates had to be White Europeans like you as our family likes to have as diverse a range of females as it does felines. The bureau hacked your computer to be confirmed you were very interested in the Middle East that your next holiday would be to that region, and they made a special price for you to ensure it would be right here. It also important that you are fond of cats as everyone in this family is crazy about them; they inspire our whole lives as I am sure you have already guessed by the number of them around her and by the sight of Aysha’s unveiled face.’
Leah’s strokes had made the black cat meow at a low level several times. So Jahmir had probably seen a photo of her and liked what he saw, but that didn’t explain why he wanted her here and why he had not simply contacted her himself. Then it is time to read again.
‘Our family is very traditional and that for one means that a man can’t contact a woman. Some of his female family has to do this. Our traditional lifestyle also implies that female family members are completely veiled from the age of fifteen, even among ourselves. We do not cover and refrain from speaking because of your presence but do it always. Of course this means we can’t work much but our husbands can afford this as servants are not expensive.’
This was immediately demonstrated by an unveiled woman in a cotton dress with flower print brought a tray with tea. So now Leah knew why she had been brought to meet with Jahmir’s wives and not himself, but she still hadn’t found out what he wanted her to do. Go back to England with the knowledge she will learn today to find and meet women like herself and telling them what to expect here? Leah watched how the others lifted at their niqab without revealing any skin while taking the tea glass to their lips. It was not difficult she found out. They drank in silence for about ten minutes before Noora started writing again. Leah emptied her glass when Aysha started writing the translation.
‘You, Miss Owen, seems indeed to be the right candidate. You are interested in our culture, you have not made any protests against having to be veiled and you like Sooty, the black cat. We would now like to take you on a tour of the house, but first: The three brothers simply adore cats and so we, their wives, must behave a little like cats in their presence. This is partially because our culture tells us to try and diminish our ego and individualism as much as possible for greater harmony, partially because we must obey our husbands but also because we like it. Especially when alone with our husband they like to hear our voices, but only as meowing. We have also been permitted to meow in the company of women only. We use it for greeting as you have experienced and if someone do or write something special. We also do unveil our cat faces as you have seen, but only two women together in a locked room, and in there we unveil one at a time for our husband to be the only adult person to see our cat faces clearly. As for our human faces, we never unveil them to anyone except our husband on the chosen night every week when he is alone with us, although even on that night we usually prefer to remain as felines so strongly has the cat mind been imprinted onto us.’
Noora and Yasmeen got up with a gesture to Leah to follow while Aysha stayed pouring herself another glass of tea. It no longer surprised Leah that they knew her name. They crossed the room and the three women sitting there got up to greet Leah with an embrace and a meow. The second woman almost made Leah think she was hearing Sooty; she was that good at imitating a cat. The three women seated themselves again. No one expected her to meow as well. Noora pointed to herself and Yasmeen and then showed two fingers. Then she pointed at the sitting women and showed one finger. Leah understood they were the wives of Akram, the oldest brother.
She was shown about every room from the male reception room to the kitchen and the quarters of the servants. There was four more rooms with a fountain and no roof over it. They were similar but both the fountains and the size of the rooms was much smaller than where she was received. In one of these rooms there were divans instead of cushions. Three women were seated in there. The two of them sitting next to each other with their back to where they entered looked slightly different from the other women in black Leah had met in this house. The woman facing them was indistinguishable from Leah and her guides. Noora and Yasmeen bowed deeply towards this woman for Leah to copy. The woman had lifted her head when seeing them enter but it did not make the two other women turn to look. The woman facing them acknowledged their bow with a small nod before again facing her guests. Leah had figured out that the deep respectful bows meant that this woman was the mother-in-law of all the wives, and the other two looked just a little different because they were guests from some other house.
They went back to the first small fountain room and entered. Hidden behind the fountain were two women. As they got up Noora showed three fingers. They were the two other wives of the youngest brother Yazen. Leah got two more embraces with meows and they immediately left again, but this time through a doorway opposite of where they entered. Leah had been in the corridor they entered before. At the end was the male reception room along its right wall was three other doors. As they entered the first of these rooms and she saw a large bed Leah immediately understood that the three rooms were the bedrooms of the three brothers; and their wives as well probably as Leah had not seen beds in any other rooms. In the servants rooms there was a mattress op against the wall. She knew this was common in all Arab countries, but this family seemed too rich for this and had plenty of space for themselves. The bedroom had an adjoining bathroom and opposite this a room that seemed to be the study of the husband in here.
The second bedroom was very similar to the first but Noora and Yasmeen did more than showing it to her. They both lay down on the bed and gestured Leah to lay down between them. She did and the other two immediately moved close up against her and started to sound low meows alternately. Slowly they both moved in on top of Leah while their meows increased slightly in volume. When the bodies of Noora and Yasmin met on top of Leah they started moving up and down synchronously almost as if it was one body moving. Their faces moved from being right over Leah’s face and down to just below her breasts while meowing still louder. The rational part of her mind told her that it could not be sex when it was three women and they were fully covered to have several layers separating their skins. On the other hand it created some pleasant feelings quite close to what she felt when with a man. When the faces of Noora and Yasmeen next time directly touched her own face and they both meowed loud directly into her ears with voices sounding highly aroused Leah gave in to her feelings and produced a loud meow as best as she could.
Leah was physically exhausted and satisfied when they stopped. She was gestured to use the bathroom. For the first time since putting on this niqab in the corridor behind the tiled ‘door’ she flipped it back to uncover her face. It was sweaty but it also shined from happiness and serenity. She had never felt better in her adult life. The intrusion into her private life in England was forgiven. Some women she had never seen or touched skin to skin had changed her holiday from a good experience to something she would dream of for long – or?
As Leah opened the bathroom door one of her new playmates gestured her inside again, entered herself and locked the door. Having been separated the identification from the large room was lost. She had no clue if she was with Noora or Yasmeen. But the other woman opened the vanity to produce a noteblock and a pen. With insecure hand she started more drawing than writing ‘No.’ Leah took her hand and guided the pen to finish her name ‘Noora.’ Noora nodded several times and put the pen and noteblock back. Then she took hold of the lower edge of her niqab and held it high to show her cat face. Leah saw that she was an Arabian Maw and guessed that perhaps each wife wore a mask just like the cat that she owned. When Leah had taken in this she nodded to Noora who let her niqab go. Leah then assumed that she should show her face to Noora but was not quite sure as she only had a real human face and not a cat one. She motioned to lift her niqab but Noora shook her head and then handed Leah a bag. Then Noora left so Leah flipped back her niqab and opened it up. Inside was a cat mask of her very own! Quickly she took off her veil and headscarf and fitted it. The mask was actually a full hood made of leather covered in fur depicting a white long-haired cat. It had a zip at the back and fastened around the neck with what looked like a collar and there was a heart-shaped nametag with, to her astonishment, the name ‘Leah’ engraved upon it! After she had bunched up her long blonde hair in a ponytail, Leah fitted it on. The fit was perfect, it seeming to have been tailor-made by a fine craftsman just for her. But then again, judging on what she had been told about them hacking into her accounts, it probably had been. After putting it on she looked at herself in the mirror and gave a small gasp of shock: she was now the spitting image of Silky, the beloved cat that she had left in England! Once she had recovered from the shock she explored her new cat face a little. Her vision was now limited to the cats eyes which, amazingly, changed in the light. When the light was bright she looked through two tiny vertical slits, but in the dark they widened to two black holes, just like those of a real cat. Her real eyes could not be seen at all though as the eye lenses were tinted like sunglasses. As for the breathing, there were holes at the front where a cat face has nostrils and small tubes to lead down to her human nostrils under the nose. There was an opening at the mouth so that she could eat and talk. It revealed her human lips when being opened but when closed she had an anatomically correct cat face with none of her human face showing. If meowing, eating and drinking was always with her veil down her human skin would very likely never show. “Meow!” she exclaimed to no one in particular, amazed and in love with her new cat face. Then she wrapped the black headscarf back around her and refixed the niqab. After that she went to the door and Noora re-entered. Once the door was closed again she pointed at the veil and Noora immediately nodded for Leah to unveil to her. With Noora’s face just a surface of black fabric Leah didn’t get any clue to what Noora thought of her cat face. After nearly half a minute Noora made a nod and went to the door.
Leah stayed in the bathroom to receive Yasmeen. Her earlier hunch was confirmed as Yasmeen had the face of a black cat just like the one that she had followed earlier. Leah nodded, Yasmeen dropped her niqab and Leah lifted hers.
Noora had left the bedroom but Yasmeen guided her back to the large room where now three women were sitting on the cushions where they sat before. Assuming she was with Noora and Aysha again she guessed the third woman was the mother-in-law. While sitting down she noticed that all the women of the house were in here. At the opposite wall three women were seated as before for Leah to assume it was still the wives of Akram. At the back sat two more women. Leah assumed they were the wives of Yazen. It was immediately confirmed it was the mother-in-law now sitting next to her on the opposite side of Aysha as she gave Leah a light hug while saying ‘m-o-th-e-r’ into her ear. Next Leah was handed a sheet of paper by Aysha which Noora and her must have prepared while she was in the bathroom with Yasmeen.
‘I loved playing with you. I felt you really enjoyed that we played cats, and actually I didn’t expect that you would join us and play cat yourself. Jahmir would no doubt love to play with you as well. I hope we can repeat this again before you leave or that you will come back soon.’
The next sheet seemed to be ready but the mother-in-law leaned over and stopped Aysha to take the pen and paper herself. She had been reading the Arabic text while Leah read the English. Whilst the mother-in-law wrote Yasmeen brushed herself against Leah and meowed to signify that she had enjoyed the playing too. Soon Aysha had translated what mother-in-law had written.
‘Noora has given me a report of your stay here so far. I also watched the three of you for some minutes in Jahmir’s bedroom. I agree with Noora that Jahmir would like to be acquainted with you – and join you for playing. I assume you know so much about Arabic culture that you know that women can’t have sex before marriage. But men can, and you are not Muslim and come from a culture where this is allowed for women as well. After I have told Jahmir of you I’m almost certain that he would ask you to play with him. You can think about it until after dinner, which you hereby are invited to.’
Leah didn’t hesitate nodding while she let her finger point to ‘invited’. This made Aysha point in the Arabic text and mother-in-law nodded and padded Leah on her shoulder. She never got to get the next prepared sheet because at this moment all the other women turned their heads towards the doorway. Leah just got a glimpse of the tree cats leaving the room. They all got up except Aysha holding Leah back. She quickly scribbled:
‘The cats have sensed that their master has returned home. They can sense which brother is coming and them all leaving means all three return together.’
The wives soon all stood in a semicircle around the doorway. In its centre to first meet the men stood the mother-in-law. Leah placed herself a few feet behind the semicircle and when the women in front of her sensed her presence they moved apart for Leah to show in full to those entering. The brothers also entered here together each holding a cat at the chest. All three looking like princes in an Arab fairy tale. If they spoke as they looked each of them would be able to enchant Leah in no time. While they one by one hugged their mother Leah noticed that they all wore indoors slippers to suggest they had been received by a servant. When having hugged their mother they spread out and each embraced his wives in turn. The man in the middle holding Sooty had to be Jahmir. This was soon after confirmed when only two women lined up to be embraced by him.
After embracing the wives stepped back for Leah soon to stand quite alone in front of the men. Then the one to the right directly faced her and bowed while putting his right hand to his heart and say in fluent English
“Akram Tabary. I hope you feel welcome in our home.”
Leah copied his movements and said “Lea…” before she remembered that she shouldn’t speak. Fortunately the three brothers all laughed and then Jahmir presented himself.
“Jahmir Tabary. Leah Owen is your full name. You are forgiven by all of us. We don’t expect that you can follow all of the strange customs here to the letter from the beginning.”
Leah bowed very deeply with her hand to her heart, then the last brother took a step towards her and greeted her before saying
“Yazen Tabary. One of our customs that all Westerners like is our hospitality. At this time of day you can under no circumstances leave before you have had dinner with us.”
Leah returned the greeting and then held her right index finger up to spell ‘Thank you’ in the air. Yazen said “Thank you for accepting our invitation,” and then he spoke Arabic to probably repeat this.
A woman gently pulled Leah back and Akram and Yazen went over to sit for themselves in the right corner. Jahmir left with their mother. Leah was guided back to the usual cushions. They were only three and the block of paper was not touched so Leah assumed Aysha had joined her sister wives. They sat up against the wall with Leah in the middle and the two others sitting right up against her and each holding one of her hands in her lap. It made Leah think of their playing but after just a minute she had to think of something else because the one to her right let go of her hand, pointed at a servant laying out prayer rugs around the fountain and then made a small part of a circle on her own wrist. Already when being made aware of the prayer rugs Leah had figured out they were waiting for the evening prayers.
While waiting Leah thought about if living here she had to convert to Islam. She didn’t think that Muslim women were more oppressed than women in other religions. She had nothing against veiling either, and she thought she understood why even some Western women chose the veil. She had had a Christian upbringing herself but she had never been particularly religious. It was her impression that people here in general of course was much more religious than herself but the way they acted towards each other and the way they dressed were much more because they had a deep respect for tradition than of piety. Leah thought this family demonstrated this when the mother told her she could have sex with Jahmir. Would Leah do that? He was certainly a very attractive man. But wouldn’t that be a step too far? The muezzin calling to prayer interrupted her thoughts.
Leah was gestured she could remain seated, but she got up and walked to the back not to distract the others. Both Jahmir and his mother and four servants, three of them female but unveiled, quickly entered the room and took their stand on a prayer rug. The three brothers were at the front closest to the doorway with Akram in the middle leading the prayers, and the servants was at the back.
They prayed for between ten and fifteen minutes. Jahmir directly went towards the cushions where Leah had been sitting on his way gesturing her to join him. Leah assumed it was Noora and Yasmeen joining them as well. Then Jahmir gestured for his mother and both his wives and Leah to follow him. They went up some stair and out onto the roof of the building. Underneath her niqab Leah gasped in amazement: it was so beautiful! There was a seating area with cushions and it was lit by several lamps of stained glass in which candles burned. In the evening sun the whole city was laid out before them like a vision from Aladdin. All of them stood and looked at it for a moment and then Jahmir gestured for them to sit. Once done Jahmir turned to Leah and said
“I apologise for having intruded your private life and lured you here. But I have just before the prayers talked with my mother and what she has told me about your time here in addition to the information I have received from the bureau in England makes me quite sure I have found the person I was looking for: An intelligent fair pretty English woman with an interest in the Middle East and its culture and rightly understanding the position of women here. They are the most important to our society; hidden because they are precious pearls. However, that is not all. As you can see, I, like all the people in this house, set great store by our cats and when I learnt that your beloved Tabby was tragically killed in a motor accident on exactly the same day as my late wife Zaynab who was also a tabby cat, then I knew that fate was involved and that we had made the right choice. However, I am guessing that this sounds all a little strange to you and perhaps scary also, so please tell me, what do you think of almost being forced here?”
Jahmir handed Leah the pen and the block of paper. After some consideration she wrote
‘As soon as I came into the large room through the corridor from the Fountain of Dahwah and found out I would be treated well I relaxed and said to myself I would simply enjoy this to me exotic adventure. My attitude hasn’t changed so far. I admit that the cat life adopted by the women here is strange but no more so than many other alternative lifestyles that are followed around the world and I have been made very welcome and happy here, especially the time with your wives in your bedroom made me feel really welcome and made me decide I would stay to the end. I forgive you for what you made the bureau do. The intelligence shown by Sooty by guiding me to the Fountain of Dahwah also from the beginning stimulated my curiosity. Can he also fetch your slippers and such things?’
Jahmir said “Sooty can do many things. You liking her and cats in general is very important to me. I’m very happy hearing from yourself that you enjoy your time here. But are you sure you really mean you will stay to the end? Perhaps I don’t want there to be an end. Perhaps I want you to stay forever. Have you considered this?
Leah answered ‘No, not in that way. I have thought about that I probably wouldn’t mind coming back to this country and perhaps even stay for a longer period, but it was just as a tourist who wanted to visit this house a second time. By staying ‘to the end’ I meant until later this evening or perhaps even stay here for the night. Your country still has many places I would like to visit before my holiday is over. I was thinking that you had selected me because you wanted an English woman with a positive attitude towards this country and a first-hand knowledge of this home to go back and meet with some women who a bureau had found to be interested in marrying a handsome Arab and who would not be against living here and be veiled.’
Jahmir said “That’s not that far from what I asked of the bureau who found you. It’s only that you ARE the final candidate. I think you find me handsome and you have already told you fit all of the criteria you said except one. You are single, would you be interested in marrying not just any Arab, but me, to live here completely veiled, masked and almost silent as my third wife? It’s close to dinner. You don’t have to answer now.”
Leah lifted the block to ask if she could write once more. Jahmir nodded and she wrote This is a shock for me and I need to think about it. But please, why me? I am not such a special person and I am sure that there are hundreds of local girls who share your faith whom you could choose from.
“You are quite wrong in what you say, Leah,” replied Jahmir. “You ARE special, special indeed. The research done by the bureau shows that you love cats as much as we do. As well as caring for your own you also give to cat charities regularly. This is important to me and few local girls share that which is almost, if it is not a sin to say this, like a second religion to me. But that is not the only reason. I already have one local wife, Noora, but Yasmeen is not local at all, her family is African and as black as Sooty whom she adores greatly. We like our cats to have different colours and characters and so wouldn’t it be dull if our wives were not different? You have met the Siamese cat-wife of my brother, Aysha? She has such good English because like her cat-sake, she is Oriental, coming from the Philippines. But we have no white cats in our home, ones who can give us a more northerly perspective on life. And is not your mask as white as that of your remaining cat at home, the beautiful Silky?”
What you’re saying is so strange and could be seen as offensive and degrading to women, putting us on the low level of animals. But strangely, to me I see a cat as a higher form of life than any other and the idea of living as one intrigues me. But I still have some reservations. Whatever I wear I shall always be as much human as feline and as a human female I have needs and desires. I have never met a man in England I seriously considered marrying. And yes, I want to get married at some point. But just opposite of the traditions here I would never marry a man I haven’t had sex with in advance. Are you willing to do that?’
Jahmir quickly looked from one of his wives to the other and said something in Arabic that made the wives face first me and then him. He then said in English “I have just translated your last writing for Noora and Yasmeen. I have to admit that the account of my mother about you made me stare at your photo for several minutes to get really aroused and our conversation now has heated me even more. Although it was my intention I’m not sure I now would be able to let you leave without having been to bed with you. After dinner Noora and Yasmeen will take you to my bedroom to prepare you. Let’s eat.” Jahmir repeated his words in Arabic to make both Noora and Yasmeen, as soon as Jahmir had left, slide up against her while sounding low meows into her ears. Leah got pretty aroused and meowed into each of their ears as well.
Embroidered pieces of clothes had been spread out on the tiles between the doorway and the fountain and now a multitude of dishes were placed upon them. Leah and the entire family got seated on cushions in a wide circle around the food. The three brothers sat next to each other and Leah opposite. There was freshly squeezed orange juice for drinking. The men had a conversation between them in Arabic with the women just listening without even nodding or making gestures to comment what the men said. Actually it was more Akram and Yazen who had a dialog. Jahmir just made a remark now and then. All the time he was staring at Leah though she looked no different from the other women. She even believed she had got the grasp of eating while having to lift at her niqab almost from the beginning of the meal. It was her best meal during her holiday so far and she was completely filled when the meal was terminated by the brothers stopping eating. After emptying their glasses they got up and left. The women started getting up at the same time and Noora and Yasmeen directly took Leah to their bedroom. For a second this wondered Leah, but then it came to her there were servants for clearing and dishing.
3. Lots of meowing
Noora and Yasmeen sounded happy meows while they crossed the bedroom to go directly to the bathroom. While one demonstrated how the shower worked the other took bottles out of the vanity. They gestured Leah could smell all the bottles and freely use what she liked. When dry again she of course had to put on all of her black clothing and the mask, but she should not put her underwear on. Leah found an alternative way to gesture this to be absolutely sure she had understood this right. She had, and Noora and Yasmeen left the bathroom.
While undressing she wondered what the wives wore in the bedroom. Full clothing, underwear, or less than that? Any underwear was completely hidden anyway so no underwear would just mean one layer less, which might be more comfortable considering the weather here. Getting under the shower made Leah start thinking about Jahmir. She very much looked forward to be intimate with him. From about the age of sixteen she had regularly craved for a man and had always found someone, but she had never been with a man that interested her beyond getting satisfied. Jahmir and the environment here made a chaos of thoughts about how the future would be pass through her mind. Being intimate with Jahmir could both increase her affection for him and this place or spoil all her high hopes if he couldn’t live up to his appearance and his charming voice and words.
Noora and Yasmeen was caressing each other and meowing when Leah opened the bathroom door. Leah was just about to join them but they got up and took her into the bathroom again. Here they put on thin medical style long white rubber gloves on top of their black gloves and the abaya sleeves. Then one took a bottle of oil from the vanity and the other lifted up in Leah’s abaya and blouse for hands to have access to the skin of her body without it being revealed. Plenty of oil was rubbed on at the top of her body on both front and back. Leah felt it slowly ran down her body in streams. Then the one applying the oil stopped and took her rubber gloves up under Leah’s blouse on her front. The other went behind her to only rub her back. While rubbing the oil evenly out over all of her body from the lower edge of her headscarf and the top of her black gloves to the top of her baggy trousers they meowed passionately. Soon Leah joined them. Finally they both put oil in their right palms and both held out in Leah’s baggy trousers with their left hands. They applied oil down to the top of her stockings which implied they at one point rubbed oil where Leah quickly had got moist again after towelling. During this phase they all meowed constantly with Leah clearly being the loudest. However, the biggest shock came right at the end when Noora produced an unexpected item and showed it to Leah. It was a pair of white latex underpants affixed to the back of which was a long, fluffy white tail! Well, of course a cat must have a tail and she meowed in ecstasy as the two veiled cats slid the pants up her legs and squeezed them over her most intimate areas.
Finally the rubber gloves were discarded, Noora or Yasmeen stayed in the bathroom and Leah left with the other one. She lay down on the bed and Leah didn’t hesitate to follow. They caressed and cuddled until the bathroom door was opened, the rubber pants making her even more aroused. Then they went into the bathroom and put on long white rubber gloves to rub oil onto the one having just showered. To Leah this was nearly as arousing as being rubbed herself, but perhaps the time on the bed made it feel so. Cuddling and rubbing oil was finally repeated with the other wife.
After they all had been oiled all three cuddled, caressed and meowed on the bed. After a while this was shortly interrupted as Jahmir entered the bedroom. He went directly to the bathroom and the women went on. When he came out from the bathroom he wore nothing but a pair of boxer shorts. The women moved out to the sides of the large bed for him to place himself on his back in the centre. Leah immediately noticed that his shorts were bulging. Jahmir pointed to his stomach and there were no doubt about who he wanted to lie on top of him. Leah placed herself so Jahmir’s bulge was over her crotch. It increased her arousal even more although they couldn’t directly have intercourse as her crotch was both covered by the baggy trousers and the abaya. Jahmir started caressing her covered body, and where his hands didn’t touch the hands of Noora and Yasmeen caressed her. They meowed now and then and soon Leah meowed more frequently and louder than Jahmir’s wives. Just when Leah couldn’t wait much longer Jahmir stopped and Noor and Yasmeen got out of the bed and went into the bathroom.
Immediately following Jahmir flipped Leah’s niqab back and started stroking her all over her cat face. He went on by kissing her through the mouth opening with his tongue deep into her mouth. After a while it was as he had to take a break. Red faced and short of breath he said “Most nights my wives stay veiled for me only to kiss and caress their niqab. You have experienced how they see the other women’s faces, but on a special night even the cat face and clothing can be removed. What goes on in bed is so much out of control that they never unveil and unmask if more than one is with me. With me wanting to explore your face skin to skin the other two had to leave the room and so now you can undress and remove your mask, and they can wait.”
After some moments contemplating this Leah sat up, meowed, shook her head and then took her hand to the top of her head and flipped her niqab down. Jahmir’s face showed a mix of surprise and a big smile and he then said “You’ll become a wonderful sister wife,” and then he said loud the names Noora and Yasmeen followed by some Arabic words. While the bathroom door was opened he translated his words for Leah: “Noora, Yasmeen! Leah wants you to be with us.” Right after laying down on each side of Jahmir and Leah the two wives started meowing into Leah’s ears and caress her body. This made Leah start brushing Jahmir’s face with her veil for their foreplay to intensify again.
Again Jahmir’s lips pressed against Leah’s but again it was through the fabric of the niqab as well as the hood. This made her feel a wave of energy making its way through her body. The hunger inside her for another person’s touch had obviously been greater than she had realised. Also having Noora and Yasmeen rub against her playing cats had significantly added to her high state of arousal. Deep inside she felt that this man was the only who could satisfy her needs. She returned his kisses. Their lips were pressed against each other with her niqab and mask in between. A deep moan slowly escaped from her throat as a long meow.
Jahmir spent several seconds staring into where Leah’s eyes were behind the black fabric and cat face. About all she could think about was the raw desire that was smouldering inside her. The world around her became unimportant. At some point she sensed that her abaya was lifted and her baggy trousers were pulled down for her crotch only to be covered by the white latex pants. A little later it came to her that these too had gone and someone was licking her expertly to bring her close to an orgasm. Jahmir, Noora and Yasmeen all had their faces right next to her own. Then she noticed there was also a tickling on the inside of her thighs. A light dawned on her to make her pull her legs closer together. A second later Sooty appeared at her feet. Seeing the cat made Leah climax like never before.
When she had calmed somewhat down Jahmir gently rolled her on her back, pulled her abaya up, climbed on top of her and started slowly and cautiously to enter her. He had hardly touched her crotch before Leah again drifted into a world of pleasure, and when she got her senses back she could not exactly recall what had happened, but she felt wonderful as never before.
As one of the wives observed Leah was aware again she placed a small bowl on her stomach just below her chest. This made Sooty jump on top of her and start licking the milk in the bowl. While Sooty was drinking Leah caressed him with both her gloved hands. Every time Sooty took a break from licking he looked directly at Leah’s face and made the most wonderful meows. When the bowl was empty Sooty lay down on Leah’s stomach, purred contented and soon fell asleep.
Not long after Leah was sleeping as well.
Leah didn’t return to England for many years. The next day she was allowed to verbally be on the telephone alone with Jahmir in his study. She called her parents and explained what had happened and that she wanted to marry Jahmir and settle with him. Right after she called her boss and quit her job. About a week later Jahmir went to England without her to meet her parents and together with them sort out her belongings and hand over the flat, which she had terminated over the internet. He also completed the most important task of all, that being to arrange for her beloved Silky to be taken with him so that she could join her mistress in their new home.
Her parents were pensioners so they could easily say ‘yes’ to be invited down to them just two weeks later with all expenses paid by the brothers. Jahmir and Leah was married in a simple Muslim civil ceremony as Jahmir said that Leah did not have to convert to Islam. It was followed by a reception with around eighty men in the male reception room and a hundred women in the large central room.
The following days Leah’s parents were tourist dressed as locals. Not having been especially interested in the Middle East like Leah it was an even more exotic adventure for them than for her to experience a traditional Arab city; and they had to do it separately. At first they were really against everything and found it degrading that women should not speak, only meow and be hidden all the time. But then Leah had a long talk with them, told them that this wasn’t forced but what she wanted and reminded them of all the strange phases that they’d had to endure as she was growing up such as her Goth phase and Punk years and at this they began to understand and even embrace the adventure. Leah’s mother simply found it exciting to be masked as her cat, completely covered in black and refrain from speaking all her waking hours. The highlight of her mother’s visit came when she was walking in the bazaar with Leah and her sister wives. They met Leah’s father accompanied by Akram. He clearly stared at them fascinated to see yet another group of women veiled in black, but there was absolutely no recognition and Akram and her father simply went on. As soon as they were out of sight Leah’s mother had to press her face against Leah’s chest to suppress the laugh of her life.
Soon they were gone though and Leah settled down to live as both Jahmir’s third wife and as a cat. On her wedding night she had unveiled to her human face for him and they had talked and kissed passionately, but after that, as she spent more and more time as a silky white feline, she became less excited about (the) that (idea), especially since she felt that as she aged her human face would be less appealing to her husband. And so, six months after the wedding, she formally asked him to let her change her name to Silky remain a cat forever (with) by the cat face (was) being locked onto her and the key kept in a little cupboard in the bathroom so that it could only ever be removed there.
And so, one balmy Arabian evening Jahmir called all his cat wives together onto the roof garden to witness the event as he symbolically replaced the collar tag ‘Leah’ with ‘Silky’ and then locked the hood in place with a heart-shaped silver padlock. Yazmeen and Noora clapped with their gloved hands and then, in a beautiful gesture of sisterhood, revealed that they had agreed to do the same and so their collars also were locked into place and Yazmeen and Noora became Sooty and Muffin.
And that night the three cats meowed like on no other as they entered a feline paradise striving to pleasure both their master and themselves.