Just The Cat
“It’s been, what,” she asked upon his arrival, “eight years? Ten?”
“Eleven,” he said, already pouring a glass of cheap wine.
“Eleven,” she confirmed, nodding, secretly pleased that he’d remembered. She poured a glass of her own and replaced the bottle inside her cabinet. She saved it for special occasions.
He sipped the wine, holding it in his mouth, allowing the air to pass over it to intensify the taste, just as she had once taught him.
“Let’s go outside,” she decided. The front porch wrapped around the house. They sat in the two rockers, facing each other, each with a half-empty glass in hand.
“So the company went under,” he began. “I took too big of a leap, and it cost us financially.”
She nodded. “I read about it in the papers. A bad product?”
“And bad decisions.” He rocked the chair, his fingers casually holding the glass, and surveyed the street. A few cars passed, slowing, watching the pair, before picking up speed again down the road.
She clutched her glass in a full fist. Her cat appeared from a bush, tail high in the air, and strutted up the porch steps. It wove its body around the man’s leg, and the woman’s heart stirred in betrayal.
“How did the missus take it?” she asked, watching him pet the feline.
“She took it, all right. She took the house and the kids, too.” He glanced at her. “I’m surprised you brought her up.”
The woman sipped her wine. “I figured we would get around to it sooner or later.”
“He left,” she interjected. “We left. We figured we were both better off.”
“Well,” he said, reclining in the chair, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
They watched the sun set over the horizon. The trees trembled in the wind. Trees they both had known their entire lives.
“Remember how we swore we would never come back here?” she asked.
“I don’t remember us saying that,” he laughed. “I thought we both sang a different tune.”
“We were both drunk. And young.”
He waved the glass in the air, as if to make a point. “And here we are.”
“Here we are,” she agreed, daring a smile.
He looked at her, slyly, with eyes narrowed. “I’m seeing someone.”
The woman refused to meet his gaze. “Really.”
“You probably know who—”
“Word travels fast in small circles,” she responded cryptically, clutching her metaphorical cards close to her chest. “Are you happy?”
He nodded, slipping from the role of the fox into that of the blindsided rabbit. “Happier in a month than I was in a decade of marriage.”
Her mouth twitched. It could have easily been a smile, or not.
“How about you? Are you seeing anyone?” He didn’t really care, she knew. He asked the questions that everyone, happy and secure inside the protection of their newfound love, asked when talking to those alone.
She nodded towards the ground. Swallowed the last of her wine. “Just the cat.”
Lillie Busch is a rising senior Public Relations major at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her work has previously been published in literary magazines such as Persephone’s Daughters and Germ Magazine. She was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She calls Mobile, Alabama her home.