Illuminated for a second, a small figure, a flash of strawberry blonde. Dazzled briefly by the headlights she turned the corner on auto, into terraced houses. A suburban street in a shite hole town. Almost home. Her greying fake fur the only thing keeping her from the November cold. Clothed underneath in a strapless mini dress, with high block heels and little else. The denim was stiff like armour but she felt as vulnerable as if it had been a bath towel. Her friend said she’d looked like a hooker, or was it a child prostitute? Only her brash newly dyed hair made her feel older …the product of an identity crisis.
She didn’t see it at first, only heard it. A plaintive cry coming from…Where? And again. Listen closer. Bending down, straining her eyes and ears and looking between parked car’s bumpers. She almost tripped over him. Minute, black all over, indistinguishable in the dark but for his eyes, green and luminous, and his disproportionately loud mewl. This tiny thing rubbed itself enthusiastically around her ankles, weaving between them like it was tying some invisible knot. A cat’s cradle to catch her. He didn’t struggle or move a way, when she stooped and scooped him up.
Now what? The landlord said, ‘No Pets’, but fuck it, who would know? Her flatmates would be asleep already. It was late and the least she could do was provide a home for the night. She wasn’t going knocking on doors at this hour. Besides, this kitten was too little to be left out on its own. She could sneak him out in the morning.
Not many minutes later, having put down a saucer of milk and covered her bedroom floor with plastic bags (to protect against the inevitable), she hastily undressed and threw herself on the bed. She put the kitten in an open box on the floor with a cushion, but he chose not to sleep there. This little black shadow, a sleek moving silhouette, all mewling and touching, followed her to the bed where it slept curled up on the pillow, just in front of her face. Perfect, like some cartoon cat, all affection, leaving no mess, causing no commotion. So for once she’d have her familiar, but hard hearted would have to part with him in the morning.
She rose and washed early, impressed by the lack of piss puddles in her room. The kitten was still asleep when she lifted him, cradled under her coat till she got to the street. It was a 20 minute walk to the bus stop and she’d place the kitten on the wall near where she’d found him. “Stay off the roads”, she told him “someone will be looking for you soon little one”.
For days she’d listen subconsciously for any night time calling on her way home, and be careful where her foot fell. But she didn’t see him again. College continued to be as alien as ever. Evenings passed in rehearsals, barely passing for a fake semblance of life. All her friends actors, barely passing for real people. The art she studied cold and soul-less.
It might have been a fortnight later, coming home late from class she thought she’d heard mewling. A cat shape caught her eye. On the wall, was it near where she left him? Her heart jumped a little. She marched over briskly, and put her hand out before realising. This wasn’t alive. A busted up garden ornament, terracotta painted black, with an ear broken off and worn claws.
She scooped him up and took him home.