Faith slammed the door closed. Her back slid against the wood as she slumped to the floor, tears streaming down her face.
Jessie’s message still glowed on the phone in her hand. She wanted to throw it across the room, but settled for turning it off and sliding it away.
Months. Months she spent suspicious, worried, feeling bad for thinking he was cheating. Then she did it. She finally got enough courage to approach him about it. Ask him upfront.
Of course, he denied it at first. Then Georgia, the good friend that she was, sent her a picture of him and his new chick getting cozy together. Now that he was exposed, he finally admitted it.
He’d been cheating for a while.
Not only that, but he still thought they could “work things out.” That this was just a “bump in the road.”
But how many “bumps” had they gone over already? Last time was supposed to be the last time. Faith just didn’t know if she could get over this many “bumps.” If she even wanted to.
Her eyes puffy, Faith squinted at the phone across the floor from her. She hadn’t replied yet. What could she say?
Faith wanted to believe him. They’d been through too much together to lose everything now. Three years they’d stayed together thus far. Relationships had ups and downs. Was this worth losing theirs over?
Sniffling, she crawled over to the phone.
The girl frowned. Was that a cat?
She listened closer, and at first all she could hear was the pitter patter of rain. It must have started to pour as soon as she got home.
Just when she’d decided the noise must have been made up is when she heard it again.
Faith got up, walking down the short hall of her apartment and going into the living room, stopping to put the keys in her pocket on the counter in the kitchen. There it was, on the small balcony, leaning up against the window. The cat was a solid gray color, but it didn’t look quite friendly. It had a cut in its right ear and a nasty scratch over its left eye. Its fur was a pretty color, but it was dull, not shiny at all. And now that it was caught in the rain, the fur was slowly flattening against its skin, and it wasn’t a very flattering look.
All in all, it looked like the cat had seen better days.
Faith rose an eyebrow at it, looking down at the three flights it must have had to have climbed to get there, most likely from the fire escape.
“You’re a determined little kitty, aren’t you?” she said, as if it could hear.
The cat cocked its head, pawing at the window again.
Faith sighed, looking at the pathetic-looking cat getting wetter by the minute.
“No reason for both of us to be miserable, I guess.”
She opened the door of the balcony, and the cat slid inside, promptly sitting down and beginning a thorough licking of itself.
“Make yourself at home,” Faith muttered, walking into the kitchen. Being miserable made her hungry.
As she started taking out the ingredients for a sandwich, she noticed her phone on the ground, remembering that she was about to formulate a response to Jessie.
She picked up the phone and finished making her sandwich, taking her plate to the counter and sitting down.
She racked her head for a way to begin her message. He wanted to work things out. That was something.
How can I ever trust you–
We’ve gotten over some tough times before but–
I need to know you still care about–
A heavy sigh pushed out her chest, and she leaned her head against the counter.
A lick to the ear startled her from her self-loathing.
The mystery cat only cocked its head again as it stared at her from on top of the counter. Faith wasn’t sure how it got up there so fast, but she was quick to protect her sandwich.
“Off the counter,” she said, lowering him to the ground.
The cat offered no resistance. It just gave another, meow and got back to licking.
Crossing her arms, Faith reasoned that the cat might be hungry too. Maybe after it had its fill and the rain stopped, she could send it on its way and be done with it.
So she got up and took out some turkey slices from the fridge, placing them on a small plate and lowering it to the floor. “Bon appetit.”
The cat looked up from its licking and trotted for the plate, eating up the meat with vigor.
“Must have been hungry, then.”
Faith pursed her lips. May as well get it a drink, too. She got out a bowl and filled it with water from the sink, setting that in front of the cat, too.
The cat took a good while drinking, and Faith laughed. “What, there wasn’t enough water outside for you? Silly cat.”
The cat left the bowl of water, rubbing Its sides against her leg, its tail going up and across her calf.
“Aw,” Faith said, a small smile on her lips as she bent down and scratched the cat behind the ears, earning a pur as she did.
As she stroked the cat, she looked to his neck for a collar, but found none. “I guess you’re a wild cat, then. Well, as wild as you can get in Brooklyn. But there’s no owner to take you back to.”
Some part of her perked up at that, thinking about how nice it would be to have someone else in the home to take care of.
Someone that wasn’t a boyfriend.
She chuckled. “You know, I’m not even much of a cat person.” The cat rubbed its head against her hand. “But I like you.”
Faith looked at her phone on the counter, her response half typed up. She erased it, wrote a new one, and hit send this time, sure of her decision.
The cat had turned back towards its plate, licking up the remains of the turkey.
Faith put her phone away in her pocket. Three years worth of a relationship. Gone. But she had to realize that it was better to lose a relationship than to lose herself. No guy was worth that.
She looked at the rough-looking cat, tossing her head back. “So… how would you feel about sticking around here a while?”
The doorbell rang, interrupting her thoughts.
“Who could that be?” Faith muttered to herself as she came for the door. She looked through the peephole.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Kelley, what brings you here?”
Mrs. Kelley gave an abashed smile. “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I saw your car parked out front, so I knew you were home. I just got back from buying groceries and Josh isn’t home to help me with them. I would take them in myself, but my back is killing me today. Would it be too much trouble to ask you to help me out?”
The older woman spoke without drawing a breath, and it took Faith a minute to realize what she wanted.
“Oh, yes of course! Just give me a sec, I’ll be right there.”
Mrs. Kelley grinned. “Oh, thank you so much Faith, you’re a doll.”
Faith went back to grab her keys from the counter, but stopped.
Where was the cat?
The plate was empty, and the bowl still had water in it, but the cat was no where to be found. She looked around the living room, the windows and the door to the balcony were all closed. Looking down the hall, she saw the door to her bedroom wall closed too, and so was the door to the bathroom.
“Faith, are you alright?” Mrs. Kelley called.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Faith opened the kitchen cabinets, checked the pantry. But came up with nothing.
It was like the cat had just disappeared.
Knowing she had to help Mrs. Kelley, she turned away from her search and came back.
“Did you see a cat pass by here?” Faith asked, knowing she was going out on a limb. If the cat passed her, she would have seen it.
Mrs. Kelley frowned. “A cat? No, not at all. Did you get a cat?”
Faith shook her head, grabbing an umbrella. “Never mind, let’s go.”
She followed the woman to her car, half-listening to Kelley’s stories as she held the umbrella over the two of them and recounted her trips to the doctor, and what he said about taking walks being good for her back, but that she hadn’t been faithful to it.
Faith wanted to know what happened to her cat.
By the time she finished with Mrs. Kelley’s groceries, she was ready to dart back to her apartment to renew her search, but Mrs. Kelley said, “Please, I feel bad making you help me. Let me treat you to a slice of the apple pie I made yesterday.”
Faith bit her lip, not wanting to waste a second she could be spending looking for her cat, but knowing Mrs. Kelley would be hurt if she turned her down. Besides, where would she look? There was nowhere for the cat to escape to, and yet it disappeared in the few moments it took for her to answer the door.
More than a little upset by that realization, Faith decided maybe pie was a good idea after all.
“Thanks, Mrs. Kelley.”
“Not at all! You’re the one that helped me.” Mrs. Kelley ushered her into the apartment and into a seat at the kitchen counter, much like the one Faith had.
“Thank you again for your help.” Kelley put a plate of pie in front of Faith.
Faith picked up her fork and took a bite absentmindedly, her eyes drifting around at the nicknacks and momentos around the room. “No problem.”
Mrs. Kelley’s brow furrowed. “Something the matter dear?”
Pushing her hair from her face, Faith said, “Well, it’s just that–“
She stopped, her eyes settling on a picture on the fridge. Standing, she got a closer look at it, taking the picture from the magnet that held it in place.
Mrs. Kelley smiled as she came over. “Ah yes, that’s Moon. Always running away, that one. That’s why he’s got all those scratches on him, from getting into fights.”
Faith fell at that. There was no mistaking it. Mrs. Kelley was right there in the photo, stroking a gray cat with a scar on his eye and a cut on his ear. The cat was Mrs. Kelley’s.
“I didn’t know you had a cat,” Faith said, trying to blink away tears. She didn’t know how she’d gotten so attached to that cat in so little time, but she had. She was already making plans for getting all of the things he’d need to be happy at her apartment.
Mrs. Kelley nodded. “Yes ma’am, I did.”
Faith frowned. “Did?”
The other woman sighed. “Moon died years ago. Before you moved in to this building.”
Faith blinked, a chill going down her spine. “Huh?”
Mrs. Kelley smiled sadly. “Yep. Died in his old age, fortunately. But I could never really say I owned him. He was a free spirit. That’s why I never put a collar on him. Moon wasn’t really a cat you could own. He would stay, and then he’d disappear for days at a time. But you know, whenever I was really down or upset, he was somehow always there, standing on the balcony, waiting for me to let him in. Somehow, him just being around perked up my mood.”
“Are you sure he died? Faith asked, still wanting to hold on to some grasp of reason. “Maybe he just ran away.”
Mrs. Kelley shook her head again, getting her own slice of pie. “No, he died right here in this room, in his sleep. Yes, my old Moon is dead. But like I said, he was a free spirit. Wherever he is, he’s probably happier not being limited to an old body like he was. So he can be the wild cat that’s always been in him.”
Faith chuckled, looking at the photo again. “Yeah, probably.” She put the picture back on the fridge. “I’ve been thinking about getting a cat, myself.”
“You should! They’re wonderful,” Mrs. Kelley said, patting her on the back.
Faith smiled. She wasn’t sure what cat was in her apartment moments ago. Or if there was even a cat at all. But she was feeling a lot better than she was before.
She looked out at the rain, liking the idea of Moon still going around the neighborhood, cheering people up by appearing in their balconies.
It worked on her.