Young Woman Powdering Herself by George Seurat, circa 1889, I think. We spent a lot of time on it at the Sorbonne. Not because it’s the last painting the artist completed, but because the professor lived near Passage de l’Elysée-des-Beaux-Arts where Seurat had lived with his mistress, the woman depicted in the painting.
The woman sits at her make-up mirror, powdering her face.
We studied the importance of roundness in the work: in her curves, hairdo, arms, breasts, and even the folds of her dress.
We studied the Pointillist technique that Seurat invented: dot of red, a dot of blue… Your eye will blend it into a purple more luminous than anything the artist could mix on his palette.
But what I remember most of the Young Woman Powdering Herself is her eyes. The way she looks into that mirror. There’s a wistful melancholy there belied by this secret knowing half-smile.
It’s a far cry from what I’m used to seeing in the looking glass:
Good morning, MirrorBitch! There will be none of your smug “I know best, I was right about the chocolate truffles” nonsense this morning. You will not wreck my glow. Because yesterday I finished cleaning out that damn closet. HA! The junk is pitched. The not-quite-pitchable junk is in a little box waiting to be Ebayed. And the rest of it is nicely packed in clearly-labeled boxes with a wide walkable PATH right down the center aisle to get to any clearly-labeled box you might want to get to. Got that, Miss “I know best, I was right about the skirted costume?” The Hellmouth is closed. It may not stay that way for long, but for now it is just a closet like any other. Stick that in your lofty “I know best, I was right about Batman” attitude and mmbrrrm phwuum phoom mwum fwolg.
Okay, it’s hard to make a clear ultimatum while brushing your teeth. But this is the gal in the mirror I’m talking to and she knows well enough what I mean. I splash my face off with water and—it must be the angle or the light as I look up because, just for a split second, I remember another mirror long ago. That cramped little backroom at Kittlemeier’s; it was cold for so early in October and he only had this tiny little space heater.
It wasn’t my face looking out from that cloudy pockmarked mirror; it was a masked creature: proud, powerful and feline. And the leather, the costume, wrapped tight and purple against my skin, I felt it radiating through me—from the one point—Sensei taught that Ki is the life force, the living power in all living things. When we’ve got it just right, when we’re balanced and relaxed and focused, it flows through us, connecting us to the universe. You will only thrive when you are allowed to be what you are.
THIS is what I was.
This is what I’d always been, what I am, and what I will always be.
This was freedom and strength and sensuality. This was beauty and grace, confidence and certainty. This was the best of me. It was smarts and sass, elegance and wit. It tingled through me. It wasn’t even blood rushing through my veins anymore, it was this essence, this living essence of freedom and purple and—cat.
I had to get out of there NOW—I had to hit the rooftops—I HAD TO—NOW. I could barely compose myself to speak to Kittlemeier, to play the part of an ordinary human being long enough to… to change back into my street clothes and pay the man and then… whew, pick up that parcel, brown paper tied with a string, that he’d wrapped the suit in. It was like handling a holy relic, the way a caveman must have handled that precious flint that made the mystical life-giving fire.
When I stepped out of the store the thought struck me: I couldn’t hit the rooftops yet; it was still daylight. What was I thinking?
The answer came to me as I walked home: What had I been thinking in Kittlemeier’s fitting room? I wasn’t thinking; I was drunk. I’d just channeled something for the first time—something entirely new, entirely powerful, and, curiously, something that was entirely… ME?
October 10th—Train Station—New Moon
Gotham Central Station was built in 1913 on the site of the old EGL Depot when the East Gotham Line, under the management of one Michael Wayne, joined with the Hudson Railroad. Accommodating a vast network of rail lines, terminal activities, and upwards of 400,000 people a day, the station is considered one of the great buildings in America. It is a triumph of innovative engineering combined with distinguished architecture. The main facade is a symphony of classical arches filled in with steel and glass. It is all topped by a huge clock and sculpture group—slightly reminiscent, to my eye, of the figures atop the Medici Tomb in Florence. Inside, the Main Concourse spans beneath a ceiling vault 125 feet across, painted with the constellations of the zodiac.
At the time I’d left for Europe, the Station was threatened with demolition, to make way for an office building, I think. Some preservation league or other had galvanized to save it. They succeeded, getting it protected as an historic landmark, and a spectacular $400 million renovation was begun. It was just being completed when I returned from Europe. The party formally unveiling the renovations—complete with restaurants, retail shops, and a new art gallery—was that night, the night I’d picked up my costume from Kittlemeier.
Now, there seems to be some cosmic law at work in Gotham City: Any city shindig that takes place, the big shots are bound to step in it somehow. In this case, Police Commissioner Forsythe and District Attorney Harvey Dent were so proud of the wonderful security firm they’d hired for the art gallery, Foster Protection Services, they had publicly declared it was impossible for anyone to steal something.
Heh, amazing isn’t it. Like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Like painting a target on your forehead. Like… challenging a cat to a hissing contest. Impossible for anyone to steal something? What a perfect occasion for my costumed debut.
The party itself was uninteresting. Bruce was there, it turned out, but he’d left before I arrived. He left before almost anyone arrived. Someone called Brandi Sue. Harvey’s date… At the time, of course, I didn’t know and didn’t care. It was just some society gossip from a badly dressed newlywed called Ashton-Larraby. But in the years that followed, I heard the story from both of the principal players. This was the earliest days of the playboy pose for Bruce, and it seems that he and his good pal Harvey had an unofficial contest going: not who could score the most, but who could score most with the other’s dates… These are supposed to be the good guys, remember. I’m the bad girl. Go figure.
In the course of the evening, I was able to familiarize myself with the layout of the place and stash myself in Ashton Hall off the Main Concourse. I waited with feline patience for the party to break up and then for the sounds of the clean-up crew to go quiet. At last I was free to change into the costume and emerge from my hiding place.
The first thing I did was stretch. It wasn’t an intentionally feline act; it was instinct. It was cramped in there. Now that I was free, my limbs wanted to move and extend every which way. It felt wonderful. It felt incredibly wonderful—the catsuit, the mask—God what a rush. I hadn’t touched a thing yet; this was just the SUIT! I felt connected to everything, to the space, the art on the walls, to my own movements, most especially I felt connected to the Night.
As expected, Foster Protection Service’s “bold new approach” to security amounted to nothing more than locking the doors. The locks they somehow imagined were better than anyone else’s were… meow… not an obstacle. Nor were the security cameras… find the wire, snip, snip… who knew the claws would be so useful?
I quickly selected which piece to take, a gouache by the artist who’d done the murals for the renovation, and looked for the easiest exit. This part of the building had rows of long arching windows near the ceiling that let in spectacular shafts of godlight in the daytime. They were certainly large enough to fit the painting through, and by now I was comfortable with the idea of moving over rooftops. So I removed the protective grate, opened the pane and slid myself out, intending to reach back in for the painting.
The first thing I noticed was the shadows were wrong.
I spun, startled, and saw… an awful lot of black. It was night, and yet this tall patch of blackness was darker than any of the regular dark around it.
I’ve never known how to describe what I experienced in that moment. I sometimes think that some part of us, down deep in the primal core, is psychic. They say racial memory can make us quake at thunder because it terrorized our earliest cave-dwelling ancestors. In the same way, I think something inside of us knows, can instinctively sense, when we first glimpse something that will be a huge part of our lives. It was a disquieting feeling. Not fear, and not dislike of this patch of dark night before me, but… something… something strangely… inexplicably… unsettling. I’ve never known how to describe it.
What caused the feeling I can describe just fine. It took only a split second for my eyes to adjust to the blackness, and the form at the heart of that darkness took shape:
It was a man…
…perhaps six feet tall…
…about 200 lbs…
…with an aura of penetrating intensity…
…and a body like mortal sin.
Then a growling voice that matched the aura. Pure piercing intensity:
“I don’t think that’s an exit.”
“Batman, I presume?”
I was smiling and hoped that it came through in my voice, as I’m sure it couldn’t be seen through the darkness. I so wanted to be different from the riffraff spreading those stories about him, the street scum that cowered and panicked at the sight of this… man… this man who was most definitely, as Eddie had assured me, not an apparition.
He said nothing, nor did he move. But something shifted. What I felt then I’ve come to recognize as the sixth sense. His eyes were moving over my form just as mine had moved over his.
Since he declined to acknowledge my greeting, I saw no need to continue the introductions. I took a new tack, keeping my tone calm and poised, with just a hint of amused purr:
“Obviously it is an exit of sorts, since I just came out of it.”
There was a pause. I guessed that wasn’t what he expected. Banter was new to him.
“Breaking and entering is a crime in this city.”
I hadn’t broken in; I’d entered as an invited guest. But that seemed tedious to go into, and I certainly didn’t want to be boring so…
“Got any law against exiting?”
Grunt. I liked the sound of it. I really did.
“Considering that you were ‘exiting’ from the new art gallery, I’m willing to bet you weren’t just ‘viewing.’”
“You’re a bit of a tightass, aren’t you. Funny none of the tall tales about you mentioned that.”
He paused again. I guess nobody’d ever called him a tightass before.
“Theft is a crime in this city. You break the law here and you deal with me.”
I laughed. He seemed very attached to that stodgy “_Blank_ is a crime in this city” formula. I couldn’t think why.
He stepped forward, growling.
Now we were getting somewhere. He had moved—it was only a step but it was in the right direction—towards me. I looked him up and down expectantly: “Is this it? Do you fly or anything, or just… grunt and snarl.” I let the sexiest purr I could manage simmer under the final words.
“What I do is stop people like you…”
Now that he was closer, he was noticing more of the outfit.
I felt his flashing glances, taking it all in, in the half-second before
he added “…Whatever you are.”
“What I am… is Catwoman.”
“No, what you are—” The son of a bitch grabbed my wrist! “—is a criminal.”
I hissed, let fly with the hand he didn’t hold, and dug claw into cheekflesh. That loosened his grasp and I pulled my wrist free. I took a step back, eyes blazing.
“You like to get… physical don’t you,” I said.
Grunt. And he felt the cheek.
“Alright, Catwoman… we can do this the easy way… or the hard way.”
He crouched into a defensive stance. Our eyes met… deep blue.
“Why Batman, how hard do you want it to get?”
Deep blue. As intense as the voice.
When he crouched into his defensive stance, I had sighed into one mirroring him. The eye contact was automatic after that, from the martial arts training, it’s what you do just at the opening bow.
That’s what I remember most from that first meeting: our eyes locking. Penetrating intensity. The deepest blue. Meow. I was in his eyes at that moment, that’s how I could see it:
“Why Batman, how hard do you want it to get?”
Rattle. Falter. Mental sweat drop.
And then—and only then—after the longest pause yet, that voice again, the deepest, rumbling gravel…
“This isn’t a game.”
I shook my head, disappointed…
…and somersaulted off the roof…
… at a later date…
…he could keep up his end of the conversation.
… … … :: Batman’s Log: 10, October
:: … … …
October 30th—Train Station—Waxing Crescent Moon
When it was built, Gotham Central Station cost $43 million—that would be $43 million in 1913 dollars. They defrayed some of the cost by selling the air rights at the first opportunity. There are several skyscrapers built around it that for years powered their elevators from the third rail current. Among those buildings are the world famous Excelsior Towers.
Soaring above the streets of one of Gotham’s most fashionable neighborhoods, the Excelsior is “an elegant boutique hotel that also offers an extraordinary array of luxurious permanent residences for some for the world’s most illustrious figures, from former first ladies to world-renowned composers and entertainers.” There were plenty of reasons for Catwoman to take an interest in it, and those reasons had nothing to do with its proximity to the train station and that first encounter with Batman.
The place was lousy with rich guests: Jewelry galore, plus the permanent residents all customized their suites with their own artwork and baubles. I had plenty of reasons to be there that had nothing to do with Batman.
If you stopped and thought about it, there was no reason to think I was any more likely to encounter him in that area than in any other part of town. If there had been, it would have been foolish of me to go back.
And if I was a bit intrigued by the man, it was only the novelty factor. And that would pass all the more quickly the sooner we met a few more times and got used to it. There was a novelty to it, I would admit. Other men babbled: your eyes, your body, your this, your that, you make me feel, you make me want, yadda, yadda, yadda, so many words that say so very little. But this man, a soft guttural puff and I was undone.
Not undone, it was just… different…
It was memorable. Days later, I was still thinking about him. It. I was thinking about the encounter, not him, he just happened to be there.
But that is not why I hit the Excelsior towers.
“That’s far enough, Catwoman.”
He was waiting. When I’d climbed down from the towers onto the train station roof he was standing there… He had watched me come down.
I was pissed. More at myself than at him, I can see that now. I was pissed because it was stupid to return to that area so soon. I was pissed because he’d surprised me… and I was pissed because it wasn’t an unpleasant surprise.
I guess maybe he was a little pissed too. If he was, that explains how it turned so physical so quickly.
“It’s never far enough,” was all I remember getting out before leaping to kick him backwards. He caught his footing quickly enough, but the move gave me time to drop my goody bag. It’s a bit of an encumbrance in a fight, which is why I soon added a strap I could fasten to my wrist or waist.
Batman lunged at me. I stepped into the
attack, forcing contact before he was ready, redirecting his momentum to throw
his mass past me. He rolled with a twist, springing up to face me and I could
see the white shock of recognition: She knows what she’s doing.
His surprise irked me even more. And I had a realization of my own: this was easy. The more he pissed me off, the easier it got. All the uncertainties of why I was there dissolved away in the fighting. It was SO easy.
He came at me again and managed to grab a shoulder. There was a heat in the contact, and I knew—I just knew—he was as excited by the physicality as I was.
“You’re better than you look,” I murmured when he was close enough, “which is saying something.”
He spun me around, right hand still latched onto my left shoulder so his arm was around my neck as he stood behind me, chest to my back.
“I’m better than you; that’s all that matters.”
I pressed back against him, the little gaps of cold winter air between us crushed into a sensation of warm velvety leather.
“Don’t be so sure,” I whispered before flipping him neatly onto his back.
I could have kicked him while he was down and run like hell. It was dangerous to stay. It was dangerous to get closer, but I was reluctant to let it end so quickly. I told myself I stayed because he was holding back, and that I couldn’t allow.
I pointed the toe of my boot and caressed his chest with the tip.
“You’re holding back. That’s my job. This is cat and mouse, after all.”
“Why are you doing this?” he whispered. His voice was so low, but not menacing—and not weak either. Despite his position on the ground, he was far from defeated. I couldn’t tell what he was going for. Did he mean why was I playing with him like the flying mouse he declared himself to be or…
“Why do you steal?”
That was disappointing. He meant the theft not the game. He’d asked Eddie something similar, I remembered. Disappointing.
I moved the foot to his side, adjusting the other so I straddled him at the waist and bent over, leaning in close to impart the secret of secrets:
“Meowwwwwww,” I whispered, just as low as he had spoken.
He kicked up into a fighting stance that sent me flying backwards—without much force—and I easily shoulder-rolled to my feet.
“Still holding back,” I snarled. And I admit I was on the verge of losing my temper, “Such an accommodating mouse…” I couldn’t describe the flurry of punching, clawing, kicking and ouch that followed. All I could tell you is this: I did, in fact, lose my temper.
“…but I told you…” Claw. Scratch. Block. Hiss. “…that’s my job.” And then a really, really vicious flying double-leg kick until…
“…And my job…” Grunt, punch, choke. “…is to put you down!”
The force with which my back hit the ground certainly meant he was done holding back, but I took no consolation in it at the time.
He was hovering over me, basically pressing me down with his forearm.
“It’s over,” he graveled, “we’re done.”
But it wasn’t his voice that struck me then, it was his breathing. Calm. Slow. A little too calm and slow. Controlled. He was pouring everything he had into hiding the exertion; he was pouring everything he had into not breathing hard as he bent on top of me, perspiring under that mask no doubt just as I was, and hovering just over me while holding me down this way.
In contrast, I let myself… pant… I let my head tip back and my chest rise and fall with each hard breath as I lay on my back with this Batman bending over me…
“No darlin’,” I heaved through labored breaths, “just because you’re done…” arm into position behind his boot “…doesn’t mean I am,” and BOOM!
I didn’t see how hard he hit the floor, all I cared about was that he didn’t land on me. By the time he got up, I had a marginal headstart. He was faster and more persistent than I expected: rooftop to rooftop—rooftop to alley—alley to rooftop to alley to roof… and still he kept coming. Eventually I did lose him—or so I thought. Then I caught movement coming at me from the side! Son of a bitch, how did he do that?
I dodged, he rolled, and that should have been the end of it—but then—whooshing sound, something bit my wrist, and the loot bag went flying.
I couldn’t risk stopping to retrieve it. I’d taken too many risks already. But I’d learned my lesson; there was some consolation in that.
… … … :: Batman’s Log: 30, October
:: … … …
I told MirrorBitch quite distinctly that I would take no nonsense this morning. And yet the moment I step out of the shower, I detect that sly “I was right” lurking just under the surface. It’s there while I towel off my hair and I have a pretty fair hunch it will only grow bolder if I remain.
I’m not sure what she has to crow about at the moment. I haven’t had any weird dreams lately. Not that I remember my dreams, as a rule, but she’s definitely got that look. That look like when I am having dreams that, whether I remember them or not, just go to prove her point.
It doesn’t matter. This time of year if I don’t style my hair, it’ll frizz. And after conquering the Hellmouth Closet, I’m not going to be intimidated by the gal in the mirror—and I’m certainly not going to go around with air-dry frizzy hair because MirrorBitch thinks she’s in a position to strut.
November 3rd—Gotham Museum of Art—First Quarter Moon
Museum Row is a lovely stretch along Fifth Avenue chock full of museums and other fine arts institutions. The largest by far is the Gotham Museum of Art, taking up a full city block between the avenue and Robinson Park. The collection is vast and encyclopedic, said to contain over two million pieces with masterworks in every known medium, from every part of the world, spanning five thousand years.
I’ve become familiar with most of the public and private areas over the years, but my first visits were invariably to the Egyptian Wing. Egyptians and cats, how could I resist.
The idea of a “theme crime” was new to me. It was one thing to wear the outfit and call myself Catwoman. It was quite another to deliberately seek out cat-objects worth the taking… In a way, I thought I might feel silly. And in a way, it seemed counterproductive. Surely once I’d declared myself to be Catwoman, the mysterious Batman would know cat-related thefts were a likely target for me. He could be staking out places with a cat tie-in waiting for me.
It was definitely more dangerous than hitting a bank vault or a private condo.
Everyone knows the Egyptians worshipped cats, but few people know why. Egypt was the breadbasket of the ancient world. Their wealth, power, and survival depended on the storage of grain. Mice eat grain. Cats kill mice. Yay, cats!
The Museum’s Egyptian collection is huge, including a full-scale temple that was shipped to America as a gift. I had visited this display that afternoon and selected the piece I wanted. A necklace of Princess Sit-hathor-yunet, 12th Dynasty, cloisonné pectoral inlaid with carefully cut pieces of semiprecious stones. The jewelry worn by royal women during the Middle Kingdom wasn’t for simple adornment; it was symbolic of ideals and myths surrounding Egyptian royalty. Jewelry imbued a woman with superhuman powers and thus enabled her to fulfill her duties as part of a ruling family. This particular piece depicted the coming together of the male cat, representing the powers of the sun, and the female cat, harnessing the powers of the moon. What a magnificent prize for the Catwoman!
Sure, there was a little more risk of running into Batman. But didn’t such a treasure balance a little extra risk?
I was bent over working on the pressure panels in the base of the display. I hadn’t seen many of these in Europe, but it was solvable; it would just take a little extra time. I was jazzed. The expertise from Sean and Paris, refined in Italy, add the suit, it had all been leading to this. It was all coming together. And I almost had the panels disconnected when—
“The museum closed five hours ago.”
I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of another startled spin, so I stood up—slowly—and turned… more… slowly… still.
“Really?” I said sweetly once I’d completed the move. “I always think of those ‘Hours of Operation’ as suggestions.”
“The laws against burglary are not suggestions, Catwoman.”
I noticed something odd. He was holding his head at a funny angle, pointing it to the space just right of me. It didn’t look natural. It looked like he had a crick in his neck or… ohmygod… I got it. I’d been so accustomed to Frenchmen and Italians that don’t bother hiding it that I was only discovering the maneuver since returning to Gotham: American men overcompensate when they’ve been looking.
I nearly laughed at the realization: I’d been bent over to reach the controls under the base of the display and this Batman was checking out my bod.
So I purred—and that really messed with him. I took a few steps forward. I didn’t want to get too close, but I wanted to give him an eyeful of hipsway. Unless I’m very much mistaken, it was appreciated.
“I tell you what,” I said warmly, “the night is young. I’m sure there are plenty of other burglaries in progress out there you can get your jollies messing with between now and sunrise. Why don’t we pretend you never wandered in he—”
“—in here tonight and were not, in fact, lurking there in the shadows watching my ass.”
I cocked my head at a pretty ‘asking a favor’ angle.
“You’re a thief and I’m taking you down.”
I stood my ground—and surprise—he didn’t step forward this time as he had before on the roof.
“Take me down? Not on your best day, Handsome.” Since he wouldn’t step forward, I did. He didn’t step back though, and his eyes burned like he wanted to hit me. “But it might be fun if you tried.”
His whole jaw seemed to solidify somehow—no movement, but it somehow looked DENSER than before—and with a frightening economy of movement that flashed by too quickly to register he had grabbed my wrists—both this time—and his grip was harder than before.
I had him. I HAD HIM. He was too good not to know a tight grip was exploitable. He wasn’t thinking clearly, he was reacting emotionally. I HAD HIM.
I tested it. I smiled seductively and wet my lips… and felt his grip tighten even more.
I looked into the deep blue eyes… and it tightened harder still.
Then I snarled, swinging into a Heaven-Earth move, one wrist down and outward, the other up and back while I stepped forward, forcing him off balance as his hands couldn’t help but be pulled along for the ride. It wasn’t necessary, but an extra hiss of hot breath into his face broke his focus even more before I flipped and dropped him at my feet. It also wasn’t necessary to crash down on the back of his shoulderblade with my knee, but I felt like a chase and didn’t want another one of those bat-Frisbees tripping me up.
“Don’t do that again,” I told him.
It was the third time this masked menace had kept me from my prize. I vowed right then there would not be a fourth.
… … … :: Batman’s Log: 03, November
:: … … …
This cannot continue. Tonight, I was unprepared for this type of warfare. But now that I know what lengths she will go to, I know what lengths I have to reach to stop her.
She will not get away again.
December 18th—Cartier’s—Full Moon
No one could say Gotham City invented Christmas, but it did invent the Christmas Shopping Season. Thanksgiving morning, the giant balloons and marching bands make their way down Broadway to 34th Street, the dancers from the musicals do their number in front of the grandstand and the television cameras, and when that last float reaches Mayfield’s front door, every kid in the city knows Santa is in residence at the world’s most famous department store. The next day, the flag drops on the official holiday shopping season. But lest you think it’s all about money, the curtain also rises on the spectacle of the shop windows.
The stores expecting to make the most obscene sums will hide their merchandise entirely, turning their windows into elaborate tableaus of artsy, whimsy, or quaint.
Cartier outdoes them all; they wrap up their entire building with a big red bow.
They had gift wrapped themselves! How could I resist?
The Cartier building isn’t that tall. It was once a private home, the Fifth Avenue mansion of one Morton F. Plant, well-known banker and yachtsman. The jewelers acquired it in one of the more unusual real estate transactions in Gotham’s history. It was a trade: the building in exchange for a million dollar necklace Mrs. Plant coveted.
Anyway, it’s not that tall. I lowered myself to the roof from the bank next door. I had only started to examine the electrical and ventilation panels I could access from there, when I felt that curious tingle again. It was stronger this time, and it felt different. It felt like him. It felt like… all that intensity that poured out from him… all focused on me. It was quite, quite, exciting.
It felt like Christmas morning. He was around somewhere… and he was watching me… and we were going to have another encounter.
I went to work in earnest. Fortunately, Cartier-Gotham uses a Phoenix, the same alarm system as Cartier-Paris. I defeated it quickly. Showing off a little? Sure, why not. Cats are not shy about displaying their talents.
Once inside, I found my way through the maze of small galleries and salons to the main vault. I had to concentrate on cracking it and couldn’t worry about the tingle. When at last I got it open, I saw an ideal piece for fencing purposes, it was a “dog collar” type of necklace, an absolute eyesore, studded in rubies. It was exactly the type of piece my Italian contacts would break down into a half dozen exquisite bracelets.
On an impulse, I picked up a pair of earrings as well, sapphire petals around a diamond center. These would not be broken down into anything; they were exquisite just as they were.
As I returned through the ventilation duct to the roof, I was thinking about keeping the earrings, the dark of the sapphires would work well with the dark of my hair and…
“Those jewels don’t belong to you.”
…I had forgotten about the tingle and what it meant…
“You’re going to jail for taking them.”
…what I assumed it meant…
…Him. And I was right; it did mean him. It did mean he was watching. It did mean all that intensity that radiated off him was fully focused on me.
“—you’re going to put them back.”
All that intensity… I couldn’t help but wonder… What would it be like?
“Never had a cat, did you?”
Defensive stance, but no words. No response of any kind. Like he’s a robot.
“Cats don’t take orders,” I told him simply. I meant about putting the stuff back, but he stood up from his defensive pose. I guess he thought I was refusing to ‘fight on cue’—which in a way, I suppose I was.
He still wasn’t saying anything, but the mood changed. He seemed… calmer, less edgy. I was too. It would happen often in the coming years: however I’d planned to be the next time I saw him, however I geared up to make sure this time would be different, once we were together, it started to evaporate. The longer we were together—talking, not talking, fighting, flirting—the more all that resolve broke down into this easy state of… whatever it was.
The mask brought something out in me—the suit did so even more—and being with him in the mask and catsuit, not just being Catwoman but being Catwoman with him, it evoked something deeper still. It was so natural, so effortless; this part of me just… happened, when I was with him.
I don’t remember taking a single step forward, but I must have because I was standing right in front of him. My arms lifted with a will of their own and settled around his neck.
“It’s a foolish girl who waits for Santa,” I said.
In my mind I truly thought I meant the jewels. We were standing on top of a jewelry store wrapped up like a giant Christmas present. He’d told me to put back the things I’d taken, and I said it’s a foolish girl who waits for Santa. But even then some part of me knew the truth: It was a part of me that I was taking, this magical part of me that he somehow sparked into being. I wasn’t waiting for Santa; I wasn’t waiting like some heroine in a romance novel for the tall, dark stranger to make a gift of these feelings he evoked in me, I was taking it, I was claiming this for my own.
“Just this once,” I murmured, “you could…” …look the other way? Is that what I’d started to say? I’ll never know, because when I got there, his lips that had been pursed so tightly parted just a hair, and the next words never came.
“Just this once, you could…” he said softly.
…could what? Leave without the jewels or… My head tilted and I stretched upward, closing the distance between us. He never pulled back, not a millimeter, but he made me come almost the whole way myself. Then at the last moment he leaned in, causing our lips to collide with more force than I’d intended. What should have begun so softly, the gentle, tentative moments of a first kiss were jolted unexpectedly into the future. We were kissing like lovers. There was an angular crisp taste, with just the tiniest trace of round sweetness all but lost in a piquant steam of spice and ginger and flint. And there was this sense of taking what I wanted, just as I’d intended, but in doing so I was giving it as well. I was letting him share in this wild, free, unexpected part of me… He was taking something too, and giving, something so private and intimate, that one moment.
There was a noise from deep in my throat. I had purred. I’d used the word before to describe my voice when I thought it was enticing, but I never knew what it meant. I never knew what it was to really emote satisfaction that way, to vibrate pleasure out from the core.
He pulled back. I think the sound startled him—a shocked reminder of what I was—and he pushed me away.
“Just this once,” I repeated.
That was it. I left the jewel bag there. And he didn’t pursue me.
That’s how it started. Batman and Catwoman. Our first rooftop.
He doesn’t understand why that was our first time. Hard to believe, isn’t it.
Men are so literal.
Blowdry and curling iron go quite well. MirrorBitch holds her peace. It’s when I lean in to start my makeup that I see it. It’s in the eyes. Something… strangely knowing.
If this weren’t my own reflection, I would swear she thinks she knows something I don’t. But it IS my reflection, and that’s just not possible outside of Arkham.
I set down the makeup brush and look MirrorBitch in the eye.
She certainly knows something. Which means I know something. The closet is done. It wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t so good either, but I got through it. Still. I cleaned out a closet full of junk, that’s it; it’s not what you’d call a learning experience. Even if I did let myself look back a little, even if I have been thinking more about the past—I mean really, at the end of all that rigmarole, what was the point of it all?
It’s called self-knowledge, Kitten.
How I hate it when that inner voice sounds like him.
There better be more to it than “self-knowledge kitten.” Did looking back to see how I got here help me understand myself any more than I did before? Does that understanding help me understand anyone or anything else any better? And why was I so reluctant to get into it in the first place? There were some bad memories, sure. And some good ones. I was missing out on both. Why? Was it just because, deep down, I knew there was something not quite right in stealing and, if I started peeling back the layers, then sooner or later I’d have to face up to the fact that…
Fucking bloody Hell.
It’s one thing to stop stealing. My circumstances changed and it made life easier to not be stealing anymore.
It is another thing entirely to admit…
It’s another thing entirely to admit…
It is another thing entirely to admit it was wrong.
It’s another thing entirely to admit it hurts to have things taken from you, that the people I stole from were hurt because of what I did… and I didn’t care. Because of all I lost, I didn’t see it. Because of all the hurt I felt, I wouldn’t let myself see it.
Denial. One of the stages I skipped over when they died. Denial and Anger.
And Bargaining: if I got back enough of the material comforts, maybe it would fill that void.
An amethyst teardrop. Catwoman Purple.
It’s all connected. That is the point of all this. It’s all connected.
I am Catwoman, not The Cat. The woman is part of the equation. The human is part of the equation. Batman is part of the equation. Cartier was our first rooftop because of what we took from each other and what we gave to each other.
Sensei was right, I couldn’t thrive until I was allowed to be what I am.
It is all connected.
…concluded in epilogue…