“Well, well. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see you here, Tabitha,” said the striking white pegasus who strolled into the exam room. A pair of Bushwoolies followed her, lugging a pink pet carrier between them. “You never seem to be far when there is a doctor on the scene.” She looked at Tabby knowingly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tabby sighed, pulling a file folder from the rack on the wall. She had never gotten along with Tiffany Ainsworth, a classmate from high school days. Their interests ran in opposite directions.
“Everyone knows how you’ve kept Dr. Collins dangling on your string all these years,” Tiffany said, lowering her voice conspiratorially as she set her purse down on the bench. “Are you using the same machinations on your boss?”
Tabby frowned. “Is there really a problem with Theodora, or did you just come here to make snide remarks about my personal life?” she asked pointedly, opening the file folder and pretending to be unduly interested in the chart within.
“Of course I have a reason for bringing my darling Theo,” Tiffany crooned, moving on to business. “Friendly, let her out.” The blue Bushwoolie leapt into action, swinging open the carrier door; a glossy black cat slunk out, regarding her surroundings cautiously.
Tabby silently collected vital readings from Theodora and scribbled down some notes on the chart. “I will go get the doctor,” she declared stiffly at the end of the process, and exited the room, finding Thomas in short order and returning with him.
“Hello, Ms. Ainsworth,” Thomas said, extending his hoof. “I’m Dr. Fairfax.”
Tiffany’s face noticeably lit-up at the sight of the doctor. “Why, hello,” she purred, shaking his hoof. “Please, call me Tiffany. It’s so nice to make your acquaintance.” She cast a sideways glance at Tabby.
Tabby rolled her eyes. Here was a new member for his fan club.
“Likewise,” Thomas said with a smile. Ugh, couldn’t he see through her? Tabby fumed. Tiffany was so artificial.
“My office is right down the block–Ainsworth & Associates,” Tiffany continued. “We specialize in fundraising for non-profits.”
“Ah, a fellow entrepreneur,” Thomas observed, getting a hold on Theodora.
“Indeed,” Tiffany said, batting her eyelashes. “I’m sorry it’s taken so long to introduce myself. It’s just been one board meeting after another. All very tedious, as you can imagine.” She gave a long-suffering sigh.
“I’m sure it is,” Thomas agreed, looking in the feline’s ears. He didn’t exactly encourage the flirtatious mares that crossed his path, Tabby noted, but he didn’t discourage them, either. “Now, tell me more about these behavioral issues you’re experiencing with Theodora.”
“Of course,” Tiffany said, caressing the feline and pushing Tabby out of the way. “She’s usually such a mild-mannered dear, but she’s been wandering about and howling in a most distracting fashion. I don’t know what has her out of sorts.” She shook her head. “And it’s all I can do to keep her contained in the house. She looks for every opportunity to sneak out!”
Diet and lifestyle were discussed, and the physical exam was carried out.
“Well, the good news is that Theodora is fine,” Thomas said evenly at the conclusion of the exam. “She’s just looking for a mate.”
“I don’t know anyone like that,” Tabby said with a sly smile aimed at Tiffany. It slipped out before she could stop herself.
Thomas silenced her with a stern look. “And this behavior will continue unless she is spayed,” he warned.
Tiffany recoiled, aghast. “No, that’s not an option,” she said emphatically, facing Thomas. “What if she wants kittens someday? I won’t take that away from her.”
“You know, shelters are already overrun–” Thomas began the standard speech on pet overpopulation.
“Yes, yes, I know,” Tiffany said, holding up a hoof to silence him. “But Theodora is something special–excellent genetics, a shame to waste. I’m sure you agree.”
“It’s your decision, of course,” Thomas conceded.
“Where would you even find a partner good enough for your darling?” Tabby pointed out, working with Cheery and Friendly to return Theodora to her carrier.
“We actually have some potential candidates in mind,” Tiffany revealed. “A Vulcanian breeder has a fine line, nearly matching the quality of Theo’s own pedigree.”
“Great, cat match-making,” said Tabby tersely. “Next thing you know, you’ll be running your own kitten mill.”
“Don’t be crass, Tabitha,” Tiffany said imperiously.
Sensing a certain amount of animosity between the two mares, and looking to diffuse the situation, Thomas addressed his assistant: “Tabby, why don’t you go in back for a sample of that new cat food.”
Tiffany smirked. “Yes, do make yourself useful.” She waved her hoof, as if dismissing a servant. Tabby scowled and exited the room.
Tiffany had her own idiosyncrasies that came in conflict with Tabby’s, Thomas mused. Perhaps the two brought out each other’s worst natures. He would give Tiffany the benefit of the doubt.
“Dr. Fairfax, I did want to talk to you about this year’s animal shelter benefit ball,” Tiffany smoothly transitioned, leaning across the counter toward him. “We have some very attractive sponsorship packages available.”
“Sure, that sounds like a good opportunity,” Thomas agreed. “If you want to send me more info–”
“I think dinner meetings are so productive,” Tiffany interrupted. “Have you been to Estate Manor? It’s a bit old-fashioned, but about the best you can get in these parts,” she said deprecatingly. “Let’s say Saturday?”
“I’d have to check my schedule,” Thomas hedged, but felt certain he was about to get roped into another date.
Tabby returned, having performed her errand in record time, and Tiffany turned a dazzling smile on Thomas as she took the sample bag from Tabby. “I’ll meet you at the restaurant bar at seven on Saturday,” the pegasus said silkily. “Remember, Estate Manor, at the end of Elm Street. Until then!” She waved farewell and slipped out of the room before Thomas could get a word in edgewise.
“You’re going out with her?” Tabby turned a horrified eye on her boss.
“I didn’t realize I had to run my social calendar by you,” Thomas said, a bit more sharply than he intended.
“But she’s annoying,” Tabby protested, trailing after him as they returned to the back room.
“I don’t know anybody like that,” Thomas retorted with a pointed look. “Do you need to have a vendetta against everyone?”
“You weren’t in high school with her. If you’d had my experiences with her, you’d understand,” Tabby huffed. “I’m just warning you.”
“What happened in high school?” Thomas asked, looking at her curiously.
“It wasn’t one thing, so much as…” Tabby sighed. “Well, it doesn’t matter,” she muttered, turning away.
Thomas considered the next question carefully before saying: “Why do you push everyone away?”
“I do not!” Tabby looked aghast. “Why would you say that?”
“Well, there’s Bluebell, who you don’t have the time of day for. You don’t have any patience with Tex on account of something that happened in grade school. You got in a fight with Curly Locks over what year My Little People came out,” Thomas listed.
“She didn’t know what she was talking about,” Tabby insisted. “She didn’t even have the right company!”
“And Damask copied your idea of teacup towers, so you certainly can’t be civil to her” Thomas continued,
“She doesn’t understand the aesthetics!” Tabby protested. “She mixes pottery with glass!”
“And heaven forbid you ever speak to Pearl again since she referred to Othello as a wild hog.”
“Completely different taxonomies,” Tabby insisted. She paused and sighed deeply. “Okay, fine. Everyone annoys me. I can’t help it.” She was sullenly silent.
“I have grandparents that I’ve never met,” Thomas said quietly. “They’re alive, they know about me, but they have no desire to see me or my sister.”
She looked at him inquiringly. “Why?” There was some confusion on her face as she processed the seeming change of topic.
“My parents were from two feuding families and they married against their parents’ wishes,” Thomas explained. “They were never welcome in their families again.”
“I’m sorry,” Tabby said, looking abashed.
“My point is, feuds benefit no one,” he sagely told her, “and you don’t know how far the repercussions will reach.” He brushed a hoof against her shoulder as he walked away, leaving her in pensive silence.