Chapter 9:


"Nekofurenzu" (Feline Friends)

With the two girls in the back, I drove through town searching. I didn’t think this needed to be a MPB incident; I had a hunch as to where Natalie had gone.
“She was telling me she felt bad that she was happy, when you two went to the movie.” Midnight was telling me. “What do you think she meant?”
I answered. “She means that she felt the attack was her fault. Kind of like when someone loses a loved one; they always feel like they should have been there and somehow, they could have stopped that person from dying. Natalie’s probably thinking that because she was so unable to stop what happened, she has to live with that failure; which it isn’t failure anyway.”
“You seem to know a lot about how people work.” Midnight observed.
I smirked. “You could say that. I took a course in psychology at a junior college before getting my tech degree. I learned the rest from my own experience. I’m not that different from Natalie in a way.”
Both girls processed that as we kept driving. Finally Mewsy asked, “Where are we going?”
I pointed. “To the theater.”
It didn’t take a psychologist, or an under-educated citizen, to figure where Natalie would have turned up. It would be a place she was happy to be in. I would have done the same if I left my apartment and needed a comforting place to be; I’d chose somewhere with a good history and was familiar to me.
I calmly pulled over and stopped the car, telling the girls to stay in the back. I got out, opened and umbrella, and walked over to Natalie. She didn’t see me until I was almost next to her, and when she saw me she flinched. She didn’t turn, nor walk away. She just stood there, looking at me.
I smiled. “Hi.”
Natalie didn’t reply, but I kept going. “It’s getting cold out here. You want to come in out of the rain?”
Natalie thought it over, then nodded. “Yeah.”
I didn’t say anything on the way home. I didn’t need to. Natalie accepted the gesture of kindness, and that was good enough for me. Midnight talked awhile, though, so she made up for the silence from me.
“I talked to Matthew at work. I wasn’t sure what else to do, but he decided to help.”
“He did, hmm?” Natalie asked a little quietly.
“We’re not giving up on you Natalie!” Mewsy said, “You’re our friend!”
“I am?” Natalie asked, so quietly I could barely make it out. I smiled.
“You were so nice when I came to visit when Matthew was at work.” Mewsy continued. “You even took me to the park that one day.”
“The park?!” Natalie asked. “I never took you there.”
“No, you haven’t. But I like it there, we should go!” Mewsy said excitedly.
“Maybe I will. I’ll take you when the weather clears up.” Natalie said, looking back at Mewsy.
“I didn’t just mean me.” Mewsy said.
Natalie paused, then added. “Well, Midnight can come too I guess.”
“Can’t Matthew come?”
My mouth opened but no sound came out. Then I cleared my throat and looked over at Natalie.
“Well, that’s up to her.” I said, almost stammering.
Natalie didn’t reply just yet. I didn’t expect her too. The girls thankfully knew to keep it quiet, and let her speak when she was ready. Taking this step from working out an offense done to her was big. It would take time. When we reached the parking garage, the girls started unbuckling and getting out. Natalie quickly put a hand on my forearm, quickly requesting me to wait as the girls ran to the door. She watched to see that Mewsy and Midnight were on their way, then turned to me.
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“Sorry?” I asked, requesting clarification.
“I never gave you a real chance.” Natalie said, her face downcast and stoic.
“That’s ok. I understand why you’d be reserved. If anything, I’m the one who should be sorry. I didn’t want to help you, but took offense instead and withdrew.”
“I just, want us to start again.” Natalie continued.
I nodded. “I can do that.”
Then we reached across the car and gave each other a hug. I’ve hugged lots of people before; there were few that I would say are really good. But this one felt just perfect. We both needed a good hug, and knowing that made it all the sweeter. Then we walked to the apartment door, me opening the door for Natalie before I followed after her. We were met by a confused Midnight and a perturbed Mewsy.
“Why didn’t you come?” Midnight asked.
“You didn’t kiss her, did you Matthew?!” Mewsy asked, glaring at me.
I laughed. “I know you’d shred my bed sheets if I did that; of course not.”
Natalie turned and laughed. I laughed too. Then with the two girls behind us, we went to my apartment for the evening. I ordered pizza, making sure to give Mewsy her favorite cat food instead, which was king salmon. Natalie then surprised me with a movie she’d rented, which happened to have her in it.
“What I really want to see is the blooper reels.” I said jokingly as the movie started, and got a playful shove from Natalie.
The film was actually really amazing. It was a WWII film, with a couple big name actors and actresses in it, focusing more on the only real rivals of that war, the ones in their corporate offices miles away, ordering the soldiers around on the other side of the continent; soldiers that didn’t want to fight, and didn’t have a quarrel with any of the men they were warring against. Natalie appeared several times as an army nurse, taking on some well-played parts of both courageous acts and touching times of trouble.
“Wow.” I said, genuinely impressed as the movie continued. “You really weren’t kidding.”
Natalie patted my knee, holding a slice of pizza in the other hand. “I told you I was good.”Bookmark here

As the movie continued, Natalie’s character had to make some tough choices; a few soldiers lost their lives in an infection that came from a gamble of amputation. Natalie chuckled and pointed at herself as her character started to cry.
“Those were real tears.” Natalie said. “I was really moved by the actor who died. His leg wasn’t really amputated, but he acted like it was.”
I nodded. “Takes a lot of skill to get into a role like that. Can you believe some people can turn on tears like a faucet?”
Natalie nodded. “I knew a girl who didn’t need any cues for emotion. Oh, she’s coming in the office here in just a second.”Bookmark here

And that’s how the evening went. We talked about the movie, about Natalie’s acting career, and what she wanted to do with her life. “As far as it’ll take me.” She answered. Then she asked me about myself. “Did that promotion work out?”
I shook my head. “Nope. Boss was more than willing to move me up, it just wasn’t in to a position I wanted.”
“What were you going to be moved into?” Natalie asked, hugging her legs as she sat on the couch.
“Something like ‘Branch Manager Assistant’ or something like that, but that misses the whole reason why I was a tech major. I want to work with computers. I’m good at that sort of things. I can troubleshoot, I can create programs, I can build stuff.”
Natalie cocked her head to the side, obviously thinking and hardly responding as I continued. Finally I stopped, guessing her focus was on something else.
Natalie smiled, looking at me inquisitively. “Ever thought of working for a movie?” Bookmark here

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