"Nekofurenzu" (Feline Friends)
Natalie sat up in bed. She couldn’t sleep a wink. She wiped the sweat and tears from her eyes and walked to the bathroom. She was shocked by the face that greeted her in the mirror when the lights came on. Heavy bags under her eyes, tear-stained face, hair matted and disheveled. She sniffed, climbing into the shower after taking off her PJs. Standing there under the water, Natalie suddenly felt overcome with sadness, sadness that overtook her and made her weep.
“I can’t.” Natalie told herself in a whimper. “I can’t try. I’m too scared.” She repeated this to herself over and over until she felt weak, and had to dry herself off and get back into bed, falling into a nightmare-filled sleep. Natalie awoke hurting all over. She guessed it was from last night, a night that had some of the weirdest nightmares. Midnight was tugging on my foot, so she gently said ‘hey’ and rolled onto my back, sitting up.
“You alright Natalie?” Midnight asked, looking scared.
Natalie curled her hair over her ears before she answered, “Yes, I’m ok. Why? Did I talk in my sleep?”
Midnight thought for a moment, then answered, “you moaned more than anything.”
Natalie thought back on her dreams. The dreams were horrible, something right out of a horror movie: very graphic and frightening with horrible creatures and frightening things that made her jump. The only preface for any of that that she could recall entailed a destination, a destination she had to reach, while passing through the plethora of monsters. Natalie was sure there was some deeper significance in that, but couldn’t piece it together yet. Either way, it was time for breakfast. Natalie got up, stretched, then went to the kitchen and poured some cereal. Midnight looked in the cupboard and found some cubed ham which she decided she wanted cooked for breakfast. Natalie nodded in concurrence, then opened the can, placed it into the microwave and turned it on for about forty-five seconds.
“Um, uh,” Midnight started to say, sounding hesitant, then suddenly hollered, “Natalie!” and pointed to the microwave. Natalie whirled around, seeing electricity fly in the microwave around the metal can, and quickly threw the door open. Natalie immediately bent her head down and sighed, closing the door again but not restarting the microwave.
“What’s wrong Natalie?” Midnight asked.
Natalie sighed, leaning against the stove with my back to the microwave. “I’ve been preoccupied lately.”
Midnight was going to say something, but she paused, then after a moment said, “You’re thinking about Matthew.”
Natalie took a deep breath, crossing her arms across her chest, then frowned. “Yes.”
Around this time, I’d gathered up Mewsy and was about ready to head out the door. We were going to surprise Natalie and Midnight, since we left our doors pretty much unlocked while we were at home so we could go to and from easier.
Midnight walked up to Natalie, put a hand on her arm, then smiled. “That’s ok! You guys are great friends! It’ll just be a matter of time before things work out for something deeper.”
“But, it won’t.” Natalie muttered tersely.
“Can we go to the park today?” Mewsy asked me. I shrugged in reply.
“We’ll see, but I had planned on taking Natalie out for breakfast. There’s, something important I want to say…” Mewsy put her hands over her mouth, face getting red.
“Why’s that?” Midnight asked Natalie.
“Because I can’t pursue a relationship; it’s not possible. After all I’ve been through…”
Midnight didn’t immediately try and convince Natalie she was wrong, but took a different route.
“I know that’s hard. That’s one of the reasons why you got me, remember?”
Natalie smiled. One of the few happy memories she had between the incident and moving here. Natalie was lonely, and needed someone or something to keep her company. She happened to be walking by a pet shop, and the store had a litter of kittens mewing and frolicking around in the store window. Natalie took one look at Midnight and it clicked. She wanted a little kitten, and bought her and took her home that day. It was because of Midnight that she learned to keep her chin up, before better occurrences gave her strength. Before she had enough courage to fight for herself, she fought to be a good owner. It kept her out of being in a slum, ignoring keeping herself cleanly or organized. Midnight helped Natalie from losing her sanity.
But this was different, so she thought.
“This is different. Matthew can’t help.” Natalie told Midnight. Midnight walked right in front of her and looked up, her face bold and resolute as she addressed Natalie.
“No. It’s not different.” Midnight said, shaking her head. “You’ve been really sad lately, Natalie, and I’m worried! Matthew would be too if he knew what was going on-”
Click. I opened the door and walked in, my own keys jingling in my hand. Natalie looked up to see Mewsy and myself looking at us.
Midnight immediately turned and waved to Mewsy. “Hi Mewsy!”
As the two girls ran off to play, I stood there with my hands in my pockets.
“What would I be worried about?” I asked, smiling.
Natalie curled her hair again – seemed like a nervous habit of hers – before smiling and brushing it off. “Nothing.”
I didn’t try to fix her. I just walked up to Natalie and said “Let’s have breakfast out. The girls will be fine.” Natalie looked eager to leave, since she hastily got dressed before joining me. I knew something was up, and wanted to talk about it without making a scene.
“This place cooks ham better than I ever could.” Natalie said through a mouthful of the said breakfast meat.
“Rough morning for cooking?” I asked across the way.
“Rough couple of days.” Natalie said gloomily before she could stop herself.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
I could almost see Natalie’s mouth started to go dry. She abandoned ship entirely.
“You wouldn’t get it if I told you.”
I laughed. I knew it shocked Natalie to see me do so, but after I calmed down I said, “After all we’ve been through, at least you should have known you could tell me anything!”
Natalie sighed, dropping her fork on the table. “That’s true, isn’t it?”
“Then tell me what’s wrong.”
Natalie looked up at me. I could tell she was scared, but it was better than running. I knew she was getting tired of running by now. She took a moment to compose herself, then took a deep breath before speaking.
“I like you Matthew.” She said, the words ringing like bells in my ears. Natalie looked like she’d done the impossible, which she had. “We’ve been best friends for almost a year now. You’re twenty five, I’m twenty three. And even though I’ve been through a lot, I can’t think of anything better….” she trailed off, she couldn’t finish her thought, not all the way. I leaned over the table, hands folded, and waited until Natalie looked me in the eye.
I chuckled. “You beat me to the punch.”
“What?” Natalie asked, confused.
“I just built up the courage to take you out this morning to ask you if you’d like to be my girlfriend.”
Natalie sighed, immediately choking on a tear or two. I couldn’t believe it, and laughed as I continued jokingly.
“And then you jumped in, not even giving me a chance. What kind of partner does that?”
Natalie squealed, like a little girl, clasping her hands together and beaming like the sun. I couldn’t believe how happy Natalie was, but in a way it made sense with everything that transpired in such a short time. After moving to a new place, to a new part of town and having to start from the ground up – maybe not as much in terms of work but more for her emotional health – and in the most unlikely a fashion she found a good friend in another apartment tenant. I could see what the message was now in our cats becoming people. We were meant to find one another, Natalie and I, so we could heal and be better people.