-This has been something I've been working on for a while now. I'm constantly going back, tinkering with it, writing more, fixing mistakes, blah blah blah. I'm never really completely satisfied with it so I figured I'd let you guys help me out with it. Enjoy!-
*The Midnight Cat*
It was a clear, cool night in the beginning of a humid summer. Dew had already settled in the late evening. I had just returned home with my sweetheart from dinner and a show and we enjoyed a cup of coffee on the front porch of my small brick house to end our evening together.As the cups grew cold and our conversations grew quieter, we retired to bed as the clocks wound past midnight and the hours of morning and a new day started ticking away. She and I lay in the silence of my cozy bed and she passed into sleep quickly. As I held her resting body in my arms, a spell of insomnia struck me along with all of the thoughts and memories that haunted me in the sleepless delirium that came and went from time to time. I left her to rest and I silently slipped away to sit in my study until the sleeplessness faded.
I sat at my desk and peered out the window into the cityscape that embraced my home. I set the record player up to hum something soothing, just quiet enough to still hear the needle glide its way to an inevitable end. It wasn't long until I saw movement somewhere outside. A cat, dark as its own lightless surroundings, trotted down the sidewalk. It stopped and looked in my direction, its glowing eyes feasted upon the warm light within my house. It stayed for some time and soon perched on the cold concrete that led up to the porch, still eyeing the window that spilled light into the street.
I gathered my jacket and headed for the front door. With a quiet creak, I opened it and headed out into the chill of the early morning. The cat still sat there, leering at me as I lit a cigarette and warmed my hands. I took a seat on the stoop and watched it as it watched me. The quiet enveloped me and my mind was still working its endless loop of dreams, hopes, and worries. It didn't seem long until the small cat stood up on all fours, not yet sure whether to approach or continue its journey through the streets and alleyways. I beckoned its company with a slow hand gesture and a quiet clicking of my tongue. With the cigarette down to the butt, I flicked it into the small patch of grass that I called my garden, and the feline took its opportunity to come to my side.
Like any other cat would, it came to my side and rubbed itself against my warm body. Its fur was a dark brown, almost black and its eyes were the same soft green as my love that still slept within. I showed my gratitude for its company by petting it, and it responded with a purr. For once, I thought to myself, I had someone to share such a night with. I began to talk to it, telling of my thoughts and memories as they came to me and kept me up. It sat on my lap and seemed to listen intently, never laying its head down but instead staring at me with an unflinching sense of understanding, something I had never witnessed in an animal before. At one point, I had thought it even given a nod of satisfaction at a statement or two. I shrugged these illusions off as a trick of the mind or sleep deprivation and continued on until sunrise when the cat finally got up and scurried across the street and into an alley. Soon after, the need for sleep was noticeable and I sneaked back into bed for a couple hours of rest before I was woken by my lady.
After that night, my insomnia became more frequent. Once or twice a week, I would slip outside late at night and find the cat waiting for me. One evening, my sweetheart and I had had a heated argument that ended as she stormed out of the house, leaving me alone for the night. I stepped out onto the porch and there it was. The cat sat on the steps and stared up at me with a puzzled look on its face. With a cigarette in my mouth and a flame in my face, I began to retell the story to my furry companion. Its eyes fixed on me as I explained the previous events. As I finished, I stared up at the stars and scratched the cat's ears until it purred at me. The worry in my heart kept me up past the midnight chimes and into the early morning. In the silence, I heard a voice similar to that of my lover and I grew anxious and excited for a moment. My heart jumped and I looked around, searching for the origin but nobody was near. I looked down and the feline mouthed more words in a soft woman's voice that startled me into a petrified state.
If only she knew the person I knew, dear she said with her green eyes still trained on mine.
I laughed nervously, not believing what was happening at the moment. I tried to rationalize it with the fact that I was stressed, sleepless, or just plain imagining things. I denied what was happening to me at the time but it still ate away at me. I didn't know what else to say, so I sat there in silence for the rest of the night, still petting the soft fur as she looked at me awaiting more conversation. As the sun rose, the cat still stayed by my side. I got up to go back inside and sleep but this time, she followed me inside, taking a place at the edge of my bed as I finally lay down to sleep. And as I drifted into a dream, I heard the voice once more.
Think about it, my dear. She doesn't know the man I do.
When I woke, I smelled coffee brewing in the kitchen. Its robust scent lured me out of bed where my feline friend was nowhere to be seen. I dressed in my morning robe and stumbled out into the kitchen where a fresh pot steamed on the counter and a hot cup sat next to it, already brimming with the black liquid. At the table sat my love, the cat in her lap, and for a moment I thought I saw the animal wink at me with that same content smile on its face as always.
Good morning, my dear, she whispered, and for some reason it surprised me that the voice did not come from the cat.
I was pleased, to say the least, and I sat down to drink the coffee and apologize to my love. She was full of understanding and we shared the morning enjoying each others' company. Soon we began to make conversation as usual, with our daily talk of events, but I never spoke of the cat. She asked me where it came from, what its name was, and how it came to be sitting at the kitchen table with her. I paused at that moment and looked into the cat's eyes. I explained that the cat was a stray and that I took it in the night before and I repeated the words that the cat had mouthed to me at that moment. Her name, I copied, was Athena. Athena smiled at me and I looked back at my love as she approved of our new friend. From that point on, Athena was a large part in our relationship. She gave me vague hints of advice whenever things got rotten. She was there for my sleepless nights to talk to and she was one of the best friends I had ever had.
It was a cold October night when my love and I sat down at the dinner table and said nothing. The next day we attempted a conversation and ended up getting into a small argument. I slept like a baby that night and Athena took her usual position at the foot of the bed. A week later, my love stormed out of the house in a fit of tearful rage. Athena stood by me and looked up with watery eyes.
In a furious cry, I asked the feline what I was supposed to do. She looked at me with a soft stare, but said nothing. The next day, my love didn't come back. I was up all night talking to Athena, but I failed to mention the occurrences of the previous day. I hadn't heard the cat speak in a month and by then, my love had moved out and we were only talking daily in the coffee shop at noon. We thought it would be better to spend time away from each other for a while and Athena just sat quietly beside me. She started to look old, and her fur was becoming matted with age. I had never seen a cat so sick before.
One morning, I found Athena still asleep at the foot of my bed when I woke, something strange. I knelt down to see what was wrong with her. She let out a struggled purr as I petted her, and I asked why she was so sick for a talking cat, as magical as she must be, could never be so prone to illness. Her eyes watered and she smiled a kind grin.
My dear, I am dying. Let me go and move on. Someday maybe I will return to serve you again. Athena choked with her kind voice.
I gave her a puzzled look and asked her what she meant. If she could return, why was she dying now? She let out a chuckle and smiled at me.
Oh, my dear. How have you not figured this out yet? She paused and with a glint in her eye, continued. I am Love! Though I may die now, I can always come back to keep you company late at night.