It was a sunny, yet blustery fall day. Orange and yellow and red leaves were falling all around my sister Kelly and I as we walked back to our apartment from breakfast. We took our time, enjoying the gorgeous day and the brisk breeze, as something soft and furry brushed up against my jeans. I look down, and a black cat with a white collar looked up at me with green eyes and purred. I could feel her vibration on my legs.
"Oh, how cute!" Kelly murmured. She knelt down and held out her hand for the cat to examine. The cat ambled over to her, and she nuzzled her under her chin. I knelt as well, feeling her soft, fine fur between my fingers, and some strands stuck to the ends of my fleece jacket. We hung out there for a couple of minutes, admiring the cat, petting her, and then we headed back to the apartment.
Later on that week, I took a walk on my own, and the same cat came to greet me on my way back to the apartment. She rubbed against my ankles, and looked up at me, starving for attention. When I got home, I told Kelly what had happened.
"Yeah," she replied. "The same thing happened to me when I was walking back from the library the other day. Do you think she belongs to anyone in the neighborhood?"
"She does have a collar, so I'm sure she belongs somewhere. She's probably just an outdoor cat. My boyfriend's mom has a cat that goes outside all the time."
But the same thing started happening so often that I began to question. Why does the cat seem to have no love? Where exactly did she come from? Kelly was wondering the same thing, so next time we came back from a walk and the cat approached, we picked her up and went door-to-door, asking the neighbors if she was a lost pet.
"Nope, not ours."
"Keep that flee-ridden thing away from here!" Slam.
"Aw, how adorable! But sorry, not mine."
"Is she for sale? No? Sorry."
The old gossip-monger of the neighborhood even said, "I don't think anyone around here owns a cat. Some dogs, yes, a parrot across the street there, and I believe one of the kids in that house" (he pointed to one down the street) "has a hamster, but no cats."
We returned to where we picked up the cat, and were about to set her back down on the ground, when an old lady wearing a long red and orange mumu with a maroon shawl covering her shoulders beckoned us over to her door. Her black and gray hair was haphazardly piled on top of her head and the fingers that motioned to us were long, bony, and crooked. Kelly and I walked over to her warily.
"I can tell you about that cat," she smiled, revealing yellowed, aged teeth. She opened her door, and went down the steps into her basement apartment.
Kelly and I exchanged a nervous look, but followed her down the stairs.
She sat at a round table covered in a dark blue cloth and gestured to the two chairs on the other side.
"Have a seat."
We sat. The cat curled up in Kelly's lap and purred as she pet her. I relaxed a bit, seeing that the cat's instinct was that this place was ok.
The lady placed her hands on the table and stared off into space as she told us the following story.
"60 years ago, a man and a woman had a daughter. She was 7 years old and loved to play outside with her jumprope; she was always playing with her jumprope. She and her father were extremely close. She loved her mother as well, but there was a special bond between father and daughter. One day, her parents had a terrible argument, the type that no one ever recovers from. That night, her father packed a suitcase, kissed his little girl goodbye with tears shining in his eyes, and walked out the door. The little girl heard the car start, the engine rumble, and the tires on the gravel as he drove away. Without a word, she packed her little suitcase, including her jumprope, kissed her mother on the cheek, and walked out the door. The mother stared at her daughter and followed her out, just in time to see her daughter hit by a car as she walked down the street trying to follow her father. Consumed in grief, the mother ran inside, shut the door, and was never seen alive again."
After a dramatic pause, the lady regarded us coldly.
"That cat you hold on your lap is the soul of that little girl. She never had the chance to go find her father. She can't pass on without seeing him again, but of course he has died, therefore leaving her stuck, wandering this street forever."
This time, the lady stared at us imploringly.
"Please," she whispered. "Take her home with you. All she needs is some love, and I know you can do that for her."
We nodded, and the cat stretched on Kelly's lap. Her tail swished, as though she knew our decision and was happy.
Kelly and I kept the cat for a few weeks, enjoying her warmth and cuddling and making sure she was happy and safe. We weren't sure about the old woman's story; some days we thought it was nonsense, but other days we felt we could almost see the little girl through the lime-green eyes of the cat. We tried to take her back to the old lady for a visit, but we never could find the basement apartment again.
One stormy night, just before Halloween, the wind howled and the tree branches banged against our windows. Rain splashed the roads and lightning lit up the dark night sky. A burst of thunder that was so loud it shook the house woke us from our sleep. We peeked out of our doors and tried our lights, but the power had gone out. We found our way into the living room, where we kept a small bed for the cat, but it was empty.
In her place, curled up in a spiral, was a jump rope.