When he found her she was sitting on his porch, big brown eyes blinking fiercely, head cocked to one side as though listening, waiting for his arrival. She said not a word as he approached her, in fact she cowered somewhat, trying to wedge herself between the big ceramic pot he kept on his doorstep and the sturdy wooden doorframe.
“Hey…” He whispered softly, gingerly walking slowly toward her, putting his hands up in peace offering. “What are you doing here?”
She said nothing, just looked at the ground, her muddy face and matted hair a dead giveaway for the trials she had been through. She blinked once, twice, then heaved a great big sigh and rested her chin on her forearm.
He sat down next to her, shoulders slumped in defeat, and just watched her as she looked vacantly out into the grass, her chest rising and falling rapidly, her heart beating out of control.
After a few moments of tense silence he pulled her into his lap, easily defeating her half-hearted struggles, burying his face in the softness of her neck, smiling into her hair as she finally made a soft sound of contentment deep in her throat.
And he began to speak.
He was sorry, he said. Sorry he had left. Sorry about the tour. Sorry that she had to wait restlessly, never knowing when he would come home and fix them both dinner and play the piano in the way that she loved. Sorry he hadn’t been more affectionate. Sorry she felt she had to leave…and so very grateful she had come back.
“Look at you…” He murmured gently. “All dirty. Baby, where did you go? What did you do?”
She only looked away, pink tongue darting out for a mere second before sliding back into her mouth. She was being stubborn.
“You missed me, right?” He breathed into her ear, smiling as she defiantly pulled away. “You had to…”
She coughed once and batted at his hand, and he laughed at the childlike display of anger.
“I know, princess…I’m so sorry. I was so lonely without you.”
She peered at him then with wide eyes, her nose wrinkling in surprise. Gently he dropped a kiss onto the top of her head, cradling her close, craving the simple comfort she gave.
“Let’s go inside, baby…” He murmured. “Some alone time. Doesn’t that sound nice?” Not expecting an answer, he picked her up and carried her across the threshold, giggling lightly when she teasingly licked his neck.
“Much better,” He laughed, kissing the tip of her nose. “I’m so glad I’m home.”
She purred then, rubbing up against his neck, cherishing his unique scent, so familiar. He was home. He was HOME.
JC’s kitten smiled, as only cats can.
Much later, the pair cuddled on the heavy brown couch, the one that creaked and moaned and groaned and smelled curiously of stale pizza, but was infinitely more comfortable than the slick leather number that had been delivered two weeks earlier.
He lay with his head against the back of the couch, mouth gaping open, air rushing in and out with the even rhythm of sleep. She peered into his open mouth, amused by the curious sounds escaping it, and retreated when he coughed once, violently. She was tucked under his chin, her tail swiping gently across his neck in a soothing, even pattern. Every so often his fingers would come up to bat the offending object away, but she was far too quick and smiled to herself at the slow nature of his human reflexes. He got even, however, when a thunderous sneeze startled her off of her resting place. She leaped behind the couch, where she crouched for several minutes, not quite convinced that the apparent volcano he was harboring would not erupt again.
Her stomach gurgled contentedly; together they had shared a banquet on the carpet, sauces and crumbs of food tumbling often from the plate to the floor, where she eagerly seized them before he had a chance to react. He managed to resist her pleading stare for an entire two minutes, before succumbing to pressure and carefully spooning rice onto a blue saucer, which she eagerly lapped up. The enjoyed the rest of the meal in silence, morsels of food making their way from JC’s fingers to the kitten’s mouth without him being fully aware of his actions.
“Had enough, baby?” He asked softly, and she mewed contentedly, rubbing against his legs, the way she knew he loved. She could have cried for joy when he picked her up and nuzzled his face against her soft fur, then carefully arranged the two of them on their favorite couch. Within minutes, she was asleep.
She woke alone, later, to darkness and a chill in the room. Daylight had long since retreated and the once-warm couch was chilly and empty. She blinked her eyes in the darkness, adjusting to the half-light, and went to search for him.
When she found him he was sitting alone in the darkness, head in his hands, shoulders shaking silently as the sobs poured from his chest.
Cautiously she approached him, feeling the tension in the air, unsure of what was upsetting her beloved pet. She padded over to him, her feet sinking into the thick carpet, and rubbed her head against his hand.
He turned away, putting his back to her, the tears unceasing, his face scrunched in agony.
What did I do?
She licked at one exposed foot, trying to offer some comfort, heart breaking as he pulled it under his body. Undeterred, she fixed her mouth in a face of grim determination, and began crawling up his leg, her tiny claws sinking into the tender flesh.
“Cinders I said NO!” He shouted, and she recoiled, jumping away, running under the bed, heart racing, eyes wide as saucers.
Who are you? What did you do with HIM?
He blinked as he heard her soft cries, and got down on his hands and knees, crawling toward the bed.
“Cinders? Oh baby I’m sorry…c’mon out now…honey please? I’m sorry…”
Master and pet regarded each other, and the young kitten slunk further under the bed, drawing her shoulders up and pressing her hind legs into the ground.
“I miss him, Cinders…” He whispered softly. “I was stupid and got scared and freaked out and God…I miss him…” He paused, swallowing hard. “I love him, I think…”
She listened to his low noises of despair, that mournful song he sang when he was upset, the one she heard most frequently right after he had been away for so long.
Soundlessly she walked out to where he stood, mewing plaintively as he cried brokenly in front of her.
She tiptoed up to his face, and glided her tongue across the smooth chiseled lines, wiping away the salty tears, comforting him as her mother had once done to her.
He didn’t wrinkle his nose or make that high pitched noise he did when he was displeased or even bat her away, the way he sometimes would when she tried to give him a bath. Instead, he gently stroked her warm back, mumbling incoherently and hiccuping softly as his tears slowed.
JC couldn’t be sure how long he laid there on the cold ground, the scratchy carpet irritating his face. He merely remembered petting his cat for the longest time, his mind soothed by the soft purring emanating from her chest.
When morning broke he was in his bed, though he couldn’t remember how he had gotten there. On the pillow next to his, Cinders slept, her tiny eyes crinkled tightly shut and her body curled into a neat oval. He blinked and sighed, stretching languidly, and sat up abruptly at the smell of bacon.
“What the hell?” He muttered.
She opened her eyes at the first bounce of the bed. She saw him standing there, hair awry, white skin gleaming in the harsh light of morning, hands rubbing furiously at his eyes. She jumped down from the bed, landing lightly on her feet, and followed him as he began to investigate.
Their search led them into the kitchen, and JC’s breathing halted sharply as he saw the table. Here. He was here.
What’s he doing here?
“Lance! Oh my God baby I thought I lost you!” He cried before sense could stop his words, and he hurled himself into his lover’s arms a second later.
“I’m so sorry…so sorry…so…” He wept openly, clinging to the younger man’s shirt, burying his face into his neck.
No…not him…please…don’t forget about me…
“It’s okay…” He whispered again. “C’mon…let’s go upstairs…” He said softly, suggestively.
Notice me…I’m here…please…please don’t leave me…
JC barely noticed the soft fur as it rubbed against his legs, couldn’t hear the desperate cries from her tiny mouth, couldn’t feel her body pressed against his. It didn’t matter. The lovers embraced in a heady kiss, tongues mating wildly, hearts thumping in time. They stumbled up the stairs, shedding clothing as they went.
Wait…wait for me…don’t leave me…
They reached the top of the stairs, heading toward the bedroom, and she darted in behind them, jumping on top of the bed.
“Get rid of the cat, JC…” Lance’s voice, full of lust, commanded.
He hesitated only a second before roughly scooping up the tiny kitten and tossing her into the hall, slamming the door behind him.
She stared at the closed panel of wood for what seemed like hours, eyes never moving, tail swishing softly back and forth, back and forth.
I thought you loved me…
Defeated, broken, she slipped down the stairs, racing through her private door, running back outside, the same way she always did when HE was around…
Things were going to change, this time. Cinders ran.
The following week JC’s street was plastered with carefully written signs and photocopied flyers offering large rewards for the return of one missing cat. He spent hours at night combing the streets, returning to places he knew she loved, always bringing a box of her favorite treats. His searches were fruitless.
As his hollow voice rang out in the night, singing the song of despair and remorse, the one she knew so well, Cinders sighed, watching as he sadly walked back into the house.
It’s better this way. You don’t love me…
Inside his cold, empty house, JC fought back tears as he walked to the kitchen, where two empty bowls sat resolutely. She was gone.
“I love you…” He whispered softly, to no one but himself.
© 2002 ~A.