Chapter 12:

Bittersweet

"Nekofurenzu" (Feline Friends)


Needless to say, breakfast tasted lot better after that. We got to talking about how we could be more on a job together, and I told Natalie I really liked how well I fit in with the movie personnel and perhaps could try my hand out there. Natalie couldn’t have been more excited. When we got home, Natalie threw her apartment door open, calling out to the girls. “Midnight! Mewsy!”
When I saw them, my heart sank.
From behind the counter, I could hear a tiny scuffling. Then a meow. Slowly from behind the counter appeared two forms. Two cats, real cats, walked out towards us. They looked up, eyes searching, then gave us a mewing. Then, looking about, they sniffed around and started looking for something else to entertain them. I turned my head slowly to Natalie. Her hand was on her mouth in shock. I was shocked too, but guessed this might happen someday.
“They’re back.” I said simply. Natalie crossed her arms and nodded. I put my arm over her shoulder, giving her a sideways hug.
“I met a cat girl down the street before I got flour that one day,” I told Natalie in the kitchen, “to make those cookies for you,” Natalie understood and nodded, “and she knew as little as me about why they transformed, but asked me if Mewsy had helped me understand at all. Mewsy had told me she’d help me, and I realized it was to help me make some friends.”
“Hmmm.” Natalie said, holding Midnight up to her face. “Midnight told me,” she paused only for a second, then continued, “she told me she’d help me heal from what happened downtown.”
I nodded. “I guess they did their jobs then, huh?”
Natalie smiled. Though we’d never be able to communicate with Midnight or Mewsy the same way again, it felt ok. We knew things would be ok. We held our respective cats and stroked them, looking at them for a moment before continuing our talk with one another. That afternoon we took a walk through the park, leaving the cats at home. We talked about all that had transpired, and where to go from here. Our conversation mostly entailed things like how we could both work on movies together, get married, live together, big future plans.
We sat on a bench a little while later after we were talked out. For a few minutes we simply stayed there, thinking. We’d just signed off a large chapter of our lives, and would begin a new one. We didn’t know what to expect, but that felt alright at the same time. As my eyes wandered over park-goers, I noticed someone approach us at a fast walk. There had been many a passersby in the park that day, but this one looked like he was making a beeline for us. He was looking around too as though he was worried someone would see him.
I nudged Natalie with a shoulder and pointed, and she watched the man approach her. Natalie looked at the man, but didn’t seem to recognize him. I put my hand around her back, not knowing who the man was either. The man was balding, probably in his late forties, and more than anything, looked hurt. Pain, or something like guilt, had etched itself into wrinkles on his face. He closed the gap between us and stood before us, hands in pockets.
“Can I help you sir?” I asked.
The man took almost three minutes before he spoke finally.
“Ms. Shriver?”
Natalie spoke in almost a whisper. “Yes?”
“I’m, Joe, Joe Stonebeck. Um, about a year ago, I came to your apartment. Do you remember?”
Natalie finally came to grips on who the man was and nodded. I could feel her fingers squeeze my hand, almost in a bone-crushing grip.
“Yes.”
Joe wiped his nose, looking very sad as he continued. I understood now too, who this man was.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t regret that day. I’ve, been looking for you, for almost six months.” Natalie flinched, but I rubbed her hand with my thumb to coax her a bit.
“I’ve been trying to find you, to ask you to forgive me.” Joe finished.
We must have sat there in silence for half an hour. I could see a big scabbing wound had been ripped off Natalie’s spirit, and she was feeling the ache. I squeezed Natalie’s shoulder, holding her tight, not saying anything to Joe. This was between him and Natalie. Finally, Natalie started to stand. I resisted, but she turned and nodded. She would be ok. Then she looked at Joe, who looked like he was almost cowering before this woman. She stood there, not angry, not sad, but almost neutral. Her eyes I could see held nothing, they looked like vacant holes. This moment was rocking her to her core.
In the distance, I could see something, something that made me smile. I saw two figures, one dressed in a white dress and the other in a brown one. Midnight’s words came to my mind as Natalie stood there.
I came here to help you heal from what happened.
Natalie’s eyes, welling with tears, looked upon her assailant. Then with a hand, she reached out, and held it there, in the form of a handshake.
“I forgive you.”
Joe’s face twisted with pain. Pain he too had probably harbored all this time, only to be released with Natalie’s forgiveness. Natalie then did the unthinkable, and embraced Joe in a hug. The two stood there, crying collectively, while I stood watching them. I started tearing up myself, patting Joe’s shoulder in comfort as I watched them practically dissolve in the redemptive moment being had before me. I looked out at the figures again, to see if they were still there, but they were gone.
I knew who they were, I knew why they were here. I still think it was our two cats, who, however it came to be, became human to help both me and Natalie in our time of need. While I didn’t cry as much as Natalie, I had my heart healed too; not only did I find a best friend, but I was rejuvenated in Natalie’s act of forgiveness, and understood in a way I never did before what friendship and love really meant.
It was a day that started us down another road, a road filled with possibility and promise. I can hardly remember what my life was like before meeting Natalie now, but I remember the events that brought us together, which would also push us forward.


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