The titular post containing the entirety of “Friends of a Cat”, for those who haven’t been following, and for those who wish to know. (Sections are separated using the key word “Mark” followed by a number, up to 5, for reference sake.)
It was a humid day, just like any other. Well, not like any other. It was actually one of the rare days when the humidity was that high. I remember it, like any other day. I was coming back from school, when my cat, “Chi-Chi” came to greet me a few blocks away from home. I had no idea how she got out of the house, but there she was on the streets, waiting for me. Except she wasn’t alone. On the streets with Chi-Chi, was a boy. I had never really seen him before. He looked, so sad at the time. Or at least, that’s how my eyes saw him. He was the same age as me, but, went to another school. He had long black hair, but, it wasn’t that long, since he tied it up behind him. He didn’t really have anything to hide it either. He wore his ponytail like it was a part of him. And he looked really skinny too. Perhaps, that’s why he seemed so fragile.
He was playing with my cat when I first saw them. He seemed so happy, but there was a glint of sadness in his eyes, that I just couldn’t ignore. I called out to him first, well to be more precise, I called out to my cat.
“Hey! Chi-Chi! What are you doing out here?” Upon calling her name, she sprung out from his arms and ran towards me. She curled up near my legs, and that was when our eyes met. He was leaning down, and chased the cat, until he noticed me. His eyes followed up, while mines went down. His eyes, were brown, but at the time, they looked so red. We looked at each other like this, for about ten seconds until both of us realized that we were staring, and looked away on instinct.
“Um…. hello?” I spoke first. It was… weak, but something. At least, it was something.
“Oh, hi. Sorry, was that your cat?” And he spoke back. With more confidence than I ever could muster. His voice was clear, like reaching out to snow. I could feel it. There was a certain gentleness to him, at the time, I couldn’t place my hand on it.
“Yeah, her name is Chi-Chi. Though, I don’t know how she got out of the house. Is that right, Chi-Chi?” I gave my cat a mean death stare, while I pouted at her. He began laughing. And so did I. It felt a little weird for him to be crouching, so I walked over and gave him my hand. He looked at me all weird like, and I guess it was weird. I mean, shouldn’t it be the other way around? But he accepted it anyway, and I pulled him up. He was a bit taller than I was, probably still is. Once he realized that, even I began laughing. In the meantime, it looked like my cat had ran back to my home.
“So, why are you here? I’ve never seen you around,” I asked him. He looked at me strange again. But I guess it was strange for a stranger to just say that.
“I could say the same to you. You’re from around here, but, I’ve never seen you either.” At the time, I realized he was from another school from his uniform, and I’m sure he did as well.
“Well, I can see that you’re not from my school.” I pointed at my uniform prudently.
“Oh! Right.” I couldn’t tell at the time if he was being serious. I mean, isn’t it quite obvious with a single look? But that’s why I admired him. What most people would see, he wouldn’t. Instead, he always saw, what I never could. He always looked past me, past what I could see, and even at times, what I wanted to see.
“So why are you here then? Your school shouldn’t have anything to do with this part of town,” I asked him, knowing full well that our schools were streets apart. Even if they wanted to take the long way home, they wouldn’t need to take this street. I didn’t know any students from around the area that went to his school. And trust me, I’ve been watching these streets ever since I started high school.
“It’s just…. today is, special, yeah.” He didn’t seem so confident in the supposed specialness of that day however. It all came off as, just lonely bantering to me. I couldn’t figure him out, so I gave him a questioning look.
“Really…. that’s all there is to it. Nothing more, nothing less. Just… another day.” He looked more down when he said this. More down than usual at least. There was a hint of sadness in his voice, and even his face was scrounging up. I didn’t know what to do at the time, other then try and console him.
“Just another day? Doesn’t look like it at all.” Actually, I think I gave him a pretty snide remark.
“Ha ha. Well I’ll be on my way then.”
“Hold on!” I reached out for him, without even realizing it. My hand was outstretched, but I slowly retracted, and placed it behind me, as if I was hiding it. He stared at me, wondering what I wanted, and even I was wondering that as well.
“Your name! I still don’t know your name! If we ever see each other, it’ll be rude if I just say ‘you’.” And then I said it. I asked for his name. It was out of the blue yeah, but I did it anyway. If not then, then when?
“My name?” He chuckled to himself, “It’s….. Tail.”
“Tail?” I hope you can guess how surprised I was when I heard his name was, “Tail”.
“Ha ha, that’s what my friends call me anyway.”
“Oh, so it’s just a nickname huh?” I thought about why he gave me just his nickname, but at the time, I guess I didn’t really mind. So I thought hard and decided to give him a nickname as well.
“Well, in that case, you can call me…. Winter?”
“Well…” I didn’t want to tell him my name was Hailey, and the first thing that popped up in my mind when I heard “Hail-ey”, was snow, so… winter.
“Let’s leave it at that. You gave me a nickname, so I gave you one. We can just call each other by them, like a secret code or something.” And so I covered up my immaturity with that. It’s funny really, we still don’t know each other’s real names. But it’s fun, playing like this. I guess. It was fun sharing secrets. No matter how small or insignificant; It was something we shared, and that’s all that matters.
Surprisingly, I didn’t need to wait long to see him again. It was on my way back from school, like any other day. Except, today was Friday. So it wasn’t like any other day. Today was special, because it was a Friday. Know why? Because what’s after a Friday? A SATURDAY! That means the weekend for us students. But anyway, my excitement aside, while I was walking home that day, I saw him again. My cat wasn’t out though.
I didn’t know what exactly he was doing when I saw him. He was…. holding a glass bottle. It was empty, however, but there was a flower sticking out of it. I thought it was strange, but, he placed it near the wall, where the roads crossed. It was…. something that I never could understand at the time, so I could never realize when or if I was being insensitive. But the way he looked that day, told me many things. His eyes, told me he was sad. But his mouth, told me he was angry. His hands, told me he was holding it in. I didn’t know what to do when I saw him like that. He looked so gentle, from the back, his hair was tied neatly in a ponytail, but I knew that he had a lot going on. Who didn’t?
“Hey? Tail?” I called out to him, unbeknownst to my own selfishness. After all, I was quite lonely.
“Oh! I didn’t notice you there, Winter.”
“What brings you here today? Just another special day?” I teased him a bit. But, that was the wrong move. Minus one point, past self.
“Yeah…. just another, special day.” Because he looked sad when he replied back to me. I didn’t like that, I never did.
“Don’t worry about me. You seem plenty worked up, tired?” He pointed at my eyes, and even at the time, I never realized, just how much I cried sometimes. I cried, yeah. That’s right, I hate to admit it but I cried, because I don’t have many friends. I was crying because I knew everyone talked behind my back. Everyone puts on airs around me. They hated me. Because I was….. a person that could never fit among them all. I was an outsider. I came in, gathered attention, and then, they hated it all. I grabbed the attention of so many people, I was outstanding, having only moved here at the beginning of my high school life. People called me “pretty”, “cute” and “slutty” and “ugly” and “bitchy” and “trash”. Do you know why? Because when I first moved here, I tried my very best to wash up and look presentable. I didn’t want people to think of me as repulsive. But the more attention I attracted as the new transfer student, the more people flocked towards me. And, the more, the ones who didn’t, began to hate me. Those were the ones who were self conscious, and the ones who hated who I was, because of what? My looks? Those people, came at me in groups and groups, tormenting me every day, until one day, I had it all. The rumors began piling up one after another, and there was no stop to it. People began avoiding me, and…. I just wanted to hide. I wanted to hide from everyone. I wanted to hide, I wanted to hide and die. But most of all, I just wanted a friend. That’s all I wanted. A friend.
“Tired? Me? Can’t be!” I answered him in a cheery tone. I didn’t know what I was doing. I really didn’t know what I was doing. It was because of what he said that made me remember all of those things at the time. It made me go through them all like a photo album. Do you know why I used that analogy? Because photos will stick with you. They are eternal, just like those memories.
“Well, I won’t say anything. It’s not my place. And anyway, I’m done with my business here, I’m heading home.” I met him for such a short time, and he left in such a short time. But I was curious. No matter what, I was curious. You know why? Why I was curious? Because I realized that he didn’t know me. And he didn’t know anything about me. How could he? He went to another school. We just met, and hey, it’s pretty crazy but, I wanted to be his friend. I wanted to be his friend, because…. because I really wanted to run. I wanted to escape my feelings and assure myself that I was still…. me. That somewhere inside of me, I was still the same person as before. But who the hell am I kidding? Even as I am now, I still don’t know who I am. I’ll never remember who I am, because I never really figured it out in the first place. I’m just a lonely girl.
“Wait!” I called out to him.
“How about… you stay, for a bit longer? And we can talk! Yeah, let’s talk!” I was pretty pushy, right? A bit pushy, and worried. I hope it didn’t show in my voice.
“Talk? If it’s only for a bit, then sure. What do you want to talk about?”He asked me what I wanted to talk about, but to be honest, I didn’t really know. I was just saying things in the spur of the moment, so I never thought that far into it. I didn’t even expected him to say yes. But I had to think of something quickly since he was giving me this weird questioning look.
“Uh… then… about… school?” I was really tripping on my words, and to top it off, I decided that school was a suitable topic. Really, how much of an idiot was I? Minus one, no… minus ten points.
“School? Okay. What about it?”
“Then… is it…. fun?” What was I even saying at this point? I was so flustered so bad with words, he must have thought I was just being weird. But even if he did, he still talked to me.
“Is it fun? That’s a funny question. Let me think…” He really did think. He placed his hand over his mouth and really thought about it. All I could do was look at him, and admire him, admire his gentle prose. His gentle nature that I was sure was his normal self. And all I could do was long for that. Long for a gentleness to wrap around me and embrace me.
“Yeah, I guess school is fine. Things happen but, things are fine. You get homework, you get tired, you get, troubled. Sometimes you even get sad. But, at the end of the day, isn’t that what youth is all about?” I looked at him, his words were chasing me, but I couldn’t help but notice a bitterness in his eyes. I didn’t give him a response, rather, he still had more on his mind.
“Despite what hardships may happen. You come through in the end. Because, you’re a kid. No matter what, we’re all still kids, huh? Because, even now, we have problems that we can’t say. Problems that are internal. But we strive to fix them. School is the same. We fix our own problems. And we work hard.” I thought about his words for a while before responding. He didn’t talk again, so I thought it was my turn to talk. After all, that’s how a conversation goes, right?
“Sounds tough. I mean, talking about being sad and the hardships of life, and everything. Things really are tough aren’t they? Even now, some kids might complain about life. But, really, that’s just how we are. Like you said, that’s youth. It’s all muddy, not something I like.” At least I could talk normally.
“It’s all muddy? That might be a nice way to put it actually.”
“Sometimes, it feels like that to me. I’m trying to move forward, but I never really gain any distance you know. I’m just stuck in the same place, while my legs are trying to move forward. Everything is hazy, and I can’t see much. I can’t hear anything, I can’t smell anything. It’s all muddy.” Those were my honest feelings. I was surprised that I was able to tell him that frankly. I’m still surprised that I had it in me. Plus one point.
“Then, how about we be muddy… together?” He stuck his hand out towards me. I was… flabbergasted. Actually no, I don’t like that word. It’s not cute. Minus one point to current self. I was surprised. Honestly, I was so surprised that butterflies were in my stomach. My heart was fluttering, and if it had wings, it would fly out of my chest. No, I didn’t fall in love at first sight, I don’t think that was it. Why was I so flustered? Why did I look so surprised? Because I could finally make a friend. That’s what I thought. That I finally had a chance to do something about myself. That fact alone, no… that thought alone, could make me fly.
“Yeah.” I accepted his hand, with a gentle smile on my face. The most gentle smile that I could ever remember making throughout that ordeal. Everything was pouring out, I was finally, at ease. I finally, made a friend. And so, from that day on, Tail and I would always meet up at that spot, that intersection. And we would talk. We talked about many things, but we talked. That was the point. Catch my drift? I’m skipping ahead now, because that was that. We talked, about many things. That’s all you really need to know. That’s all I need to know, that’s how I want to keep it, so…. please, let’s leave it at that… okay?
From that day on, Tail and I would always talk. It was our little secret. No one else was there, and we would always talk after school. It was our own time. Our time to be ourselves. Sometimes we talked for a long time, and other times, it was really short. But, we talked, and I enjoyed it. That was about a month from when I first met him. So, let’s fast forward to post-month.
It was now spring break. You know how it is, kids are out, students are free, and distance is made. You know, Tail and I kind of had a secret rule. Not so much a secret rule, but an unspoken one. Like how you always walk one way up the stairs, and one way down the stairs. I always had a bad tendency to break these unspoken rules. I mean, who can blame me? They were unspoken after all. For us, it was the weekends, and breaks. Whenever we had a break, it was common courtesy to stay home from school. We wanted to be away from it, and, the feeling was sure to be mutual. That meant that there was no after schools. I wouldn’t be able to innocently walk home and “bump” into him, nor would he be able to simply brush off the fact that he had taken this route home. No more of his special days, whatever that meant. I mean, his special days were just so vague to me back then. Sometimes, he said that he was taking a breather because he just had a test. Other times, because of stress from work. And sometimes, he would bring me food. I love food. And if he equals food, then did that mean…. well, that’s a funny way to put it. But I was always bad at math.
So, spring break meant that we wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while. And of course we obviously did not have each other’s mail addresses or anything. I mean, I could have asked him, but…. the thought never crossed me. He would always be within my grasp, but not anymore. It saddened me. I wanted to see him, I wanted to talk to him. I wanted, to be around him. This lasted for about a week. I finally got tired from being stuck up in my room and decided to just head out for a walk. I hoped to see him.
I felt a little lonely being on a walk all by myself however, so I brought Chi-Chi with me. She was so rowdy that day, always purring around me, and then running off to play with something. I just couldn’t keep up with her. Neither did he. Before my eyes, Chi-Chi had sprung up on Tail’s legs. He was racing up and I couldn’t help but laugh. So did Tail.
“Hey! Haven’t seen you in a while,” He started the conversation first.
“Yeah! It’s been about a week.” I continued.
“Chi-Chi.” And then I sunk into the dirt. He wasn’t even looking my way, did he even realize I was here? I must have been so mad that day, but, his gentle smile while holding Chi-Chi must have calmed me down. He was always good at taking care of animals. Chi-Chi absolutely loved him.
“Oh! Winter, what a funny coincidence!” I think he struck a nerve. Maybe three.
“Yeah! What a funny coincidence indeed!!” I ran over and placed him in a head lock for being an idiot, all to his detest of course. When I was done pouring out my rage for his poor vision, I asked him, “What are you doing out here anyway?”
” I could say the same to you. I’ve always taken walks.” I think at the time, I took it the wrong way. I used to over think things a lot. With Tail especially, he would always say something simple, and I was the one who blew it up. At the time, I thought he was implying that he always passed by our spot and since I was holed up in home, he thought I was ditching. But of course, it wasn’t like our after school outings were a club meeting or anything, nor did I have any real oblige. But I did feel really bad.
“Oh. I was just… taking Chi-Chi out, is all.” A lie through my teeth. I think I chipped them.
“Taking Chi-Chi out? ” He looked at me suspiciously, but he soon gave up.
“Say, why don’t we head into town today?” He was the fisherman, I was the fish.
“Town? Need to do something?”
“Yeah. It’s for….a friend.” He looked, so sad. Almost like he was reminiscing, Whatever the matter, even a person like me could figure out when to stop prying. And so I did. But, I couldn’t take him off my mind throughout the entire time we walked to town. Something about him being so sad when he mentioned a “friend” just made me want to ask. It made me want to be useful. I knew he had his problems. And I knew he was the only one who could fix his own problems, and that a person like me, an outsider, had no place in it. But, I just couldn’t stop myself. It was an unspoken rule to pry too far. Now I’m just making excuses.
“Where are we going?”
“A love hotel.” My heart might have skipped a beat. Two, at most. My face grew beet red, and let’s be honest, I was a naive kid. I was half expecting him to scratch it off jokingly, and half expecting him to be serious. I think I was rooting for the latter half. After all, I enjoyed the time we spent together, and I don’t know, maybe I did have romantic feelings for him after all. If not for a certain part of my brain telling me that this isn’t the right order of things, I might have accepted. Well, I already accepted to go into town, but not this kind of development anyway. Just what was he thinking, I thought.
“Come on, stop kidding around Tail.”
“I’m serious.” Without warning, he suddenly grabbed onto my wrists and began dragging me. At that moment, my brain must have flipped multiple switches. I Immediately pulled my hand back with as much force as I could. I held onto my wrists, and then looked straight at him. I think I might have begun tearing up, or at least, I felt something strange about my eyes. I was angry, of course. Who wouldn’t be. Even if I said how I may have wanted it, deep down, I knew that I didn’t want it to end up like this. That wasn’t how things went, that’s just not how I wanted things to go. I’m not that kind of a girl, I may be lonely, but I’m not desperate. At least, that’s what I told myself. He looked at me, with such kind eyes, that I thought he was another person. That I thought the Tail that wanted to drag me off was just… a stranger. He smiled pitifully, but I felt that the pity wasn’t aimed towards any one person.
“I’m sorry. I was just kidding. I shouldn’t have said that, or did that.” His words, were monotonous, his eyes were strained, and his body was shaking. I didn’t know why he did that, nor why he was so regretful. I didn’t know. But, I wanted to know. Is that enough reason?
“Tail, look….. next time you pull off a stupid stunt like that… just be ready for payback.” I lightly punched his shoulder, but…. I was too scared to look him in the eyes.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, Winter.”
“Jeez, you really had me worried too.”
“Worried? That I would do weird and indecent things to you?”
“Not just that. But, if that ever did happen, we wouldn’t be the same, you know?”
“You think so?”
“I know so. ”
“Maybe…. change isn’t so bad.”
“Yeah right, keep dreaming. Besides, we’re not even an item or anything.” But maybe if you want to be, of course I never said that. But I was scared of change, and that was the truth. I found a friend, it was so long since I had this feeling. And, I wanted to cherish it, for just a little bit longer. I didn’t want to lose this feeling. I didn’t want to lose a friend.
“So, what’s the real reason you had me come with you?”
“Over there.” He pointed to a flower shop. At that moment, I began remembering how every few days he would bring flowers to that intersection. He would place it in the bottle. I always wondered why he wanted to replace those flowers so often. But I never got around asking, because he always seemed so sad around them. He always seemed so distant when he brought those flowers. For the rest of the time, we never spoke. He got what he needed, and then we began heading back. Another flower for that intersection even at a time like this. He was really dedicated, I thought. I was fixated, and I wanted to know more about that dedication, but…. I knew we never talked about personal matters before.
“Something on your mind?” Is what he said to me. I wasn’t surprised, nor did I give him an instant reply. I took my time, I thought about it. Whether I wanted to ask, or just feign ignorance.
“Perhaps, perhaps not.” Instead I gave him a vague statement.
“Change, isn’t scary. I’ll tell you that.” I didn’t even tell him what was on my mind, but he went with some invisible flow anyway, and so did I.
“I’ll tell you what’s scary. The present.” After all, he was touching on a topic that I could relate to.
“Every day is like a dream. The day before comes off as a haze, and you don’t even know if there is a future. But you stop and realize, that to be alive now, is something to be grateful for. And so you do. You move on, and that’s the scariest part. You move on. Change is inevitable, I think.”
“But, it isn’t scary?”
“No, it’s not because–”
“You expect it to happen, so it’s not scary in that sense, right?”
“But even change, is unexpected at times, don’t you think?” I gave him a question.
“You may be right. There’s always an exception, there’s no hiding that fact.” He answered.
“Sometimes, however, change happens so quickly, that you can’t keep up. Your heart races, and your eyes shut closed, but your mind is open. You try and climb, but you always fall. You need to climb, but you find yourself so far behind.” And I chimed.
“And even then, somehow, one way or another, you’ll find your own footing. That’s change. Even if you’re swept up, there’s always a way, to make up for lost time.”
“Yeah.” I smiled at this notion. There’s always a way, to make up for lost time. That’s change. It moves on, it doesn’t care about repercussions. That’s your job. That was my job.
“By the way, Winter?”
“What’s up Tail?”
“Have you gained weight?”
“How cliché!” I knocked him over the head for that notion. But I can’t lie when I said I honestly began feeling around to see if I actually did. Perhaps I did gain weight. Or maybe, I gained a little bit of something else.
“Hey! Running a bit late now are we?”
“As if!” I ran over to where Tail was standing. It was the last day of spring break, and there was a firework event going on, so we planned to go. It was the dead of night, and so…. well, no it wasn’t the dead of night. But it was night all right. It was pretty strange. Out of the blue, Tail just up and asked me to come, and of course I had nothing better to do. I brought Chi-Chi along as well, she had nothing better to do either.
“You sure love cats, don’t you.”
“Well, they’re nice, at least,” I almost forgot the reason I even got Chi-Chi in the first place. It was because I was lonely. Sure I love cats, but… to actually get one is something else entirely. That was, a rough time indeed. But now I love Chi-Chi with all my heart.
“Hey! Where do you think you’re going!” Chi-Chi suddenly ran out of my arms and started rummaging around some thrown out cardboard box. I sighed and then bent over to pick her up, “Jeez, don’t do that.”
“Looks like she found treasure.” I looked at her mouth, and there was something dangling from it. It was pretty dark, so I couldn’t exactly tell what it was until I picked it up.
“A necklace?” I said out loud.
“Really? Let me see.” It was a pretty plain necklace, with a silver four leaf clover as it’s center. I handed it to Tail, but when he got a good look, something odd happened. I couldn’t tell that much from the darkness, but I could almost swear he was trembling. His hand seemed shaky, but… maybe it was my imagination.
“Tail?” He didn’t answer, and just simply looked at the necklace, like he saw a ghost or something. I began shaking him, and that’s when he snapped out of it.
“Oh! Winter, sorry. It’s nothing.” I didn’t even get the chance to ask him if there was something wrong.
“Shall we go?” He handed me back the necklace, which I accepted with a questioning look from me. He didn’t want to say anything more, so I didn’t press him. But, maybe that would have been better. To let it all out then.
When we arrived at the festival, it was almost time for the fireworks. But, if we were going to a festival, there was one thing I wanted to try. I looked around all I could, until I finally found it. A candy apple stand. I walked up with probably the happiest face I could ever make, only being interrupted when Tail grabbed my shoulder.
“Yes!!” I said without hesitation.
“You really are honest.” At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant by that. I mean, all I could think was sinking my teeth into candy, even Chi-Chi was grumbling away in my arms. But now, I think I know what he wanted to imply.
“Here you go!” Tail handed me one, although, with Chi-Chi still in my arms, it was a bit hard to grasp. I put Chi-Chi down on the ground, and kept a good eye on her. I grabbed the candy apple dexterously and kept a stink eye on Chi-Chi. Who knows where she would go one of these days, I thought. I took a quick bite of the candy apple, and as soon as my teeth sunk into that delicious skin, I couldn’t help but physically show my appreciation to it. My eyes widened and my mouth curled up, my cheeks grew red with satisfaction and it was simply bliss.
“Hey Winter! Winter!”
“Huh? Tail? What’s up? Can’t you tell I’m busy enjoying this.” Without a word, he simply pointed down to my feet, where Chi-Chi was nowhere to be seen. I looked around frantically until a shrill scream resounded in one of the stalls. I hoped for the worst and assumed it was Chi-Chi. If I knew her, then she was probably causing a ruckus, probably having to do with squid or something. Cat Instincts I assured myself.
I ran over to the stall, and to my expectations, Chi-Chi was standing on a table, with a fried squid in her mouth. She leapt from one ledge to another, causing a huge scene, until finally leaping over my head and running down the festival grounds. I chased after her while the stall managers began yelling down the lane where she ran. This couldn’t get any worse, I thought. But at least I still had the candy apple, I thought as I stuffed my face down while running.
As I was busy chasing Chi-Chi, I remembered that I left Tail behind, and wondered what he was doing, which completely synched with the fact that Tail appeared right in front of Chi-Chi. I yelled out to him, “Right there! Catch her!” Tail got into position and blocked Chi-Chi’s path, which, at the spur of the moment, looked like a triumphant victory, until Chi-Chi jumped up, dodged Tail’s two hands and bounced off his head. Tail fell to the floor looking dejected, but I couldn’t give up, and continued my goose chase. My candy apple was all but finished at this point, and I feared that continuing this run would only cause more troubles for my stomach. Chi-Chi liked acting on her own sure, but, this was getting out of hand. I may just have to put her on a lease after all, I thought.
Just as my breath was finally waning, and the prospect of beating my cat in a wild chase was fading away, I saw a figure stand before me. She was tall, her eyes were like jewels shining in the night light, and her hair was kept flowing behind her, as if worries washed down. Her posture and her whole presence was just divine, a true dignified woman I thought, down to the tee. And in her arms, was Chi-Chi, Unmistakably. I was almost out of breath and this point, and before I could even mutter a response, she had handed me Chi-Chi. She had a gentle smile on her face, a smile that seemed like it could wash away all my worries, a smile that seemed like it could protect anyone. It was a used smile.
“Thank you…” I could barely say that.
“No problem.” But her voice was as clear as the morning sky.
“Really. This damn cat just causes too much problems,” I said while ruffling around Chi-Chi’s fur. While I was angrily playing with Chi-Chi, the necklace I picked up earlier dropped to the floor; the one with the four leaf clover. The lady picked it up and examined it in the lowlight. Her reaction was synonymous with Tail’s. The symbol of luck, the symbol of power, no, the symbol of memories was written on her face. There was something going on, and I had absolutely no idea what, but despite that, I realized that these two people, were connected, in one way or another. At that moment, I realized just how little and just how distant I actually was. I was so separated, so captivated by my own bubble, that I could hardly breathe. These people were in their own worlds, and I was in mine. I didn’t know anything about Tail’s past, or his personal life nor did I know what relations he has with this lady, but I knew. That was the fact, I knew. Somehow one way or another, my brain told me that they were one and the same. Their problems were not different, and…. one way or another, I had been placed right in the middle of it all.
“I’m sorry, here you go,” The lady said, while handing me back the necklace.
“You like clovers?” I said without even realizing it.
“I just…. thought you liked them, because you seemed so fixated on it,” I was referring to my necklace.
“Ah… did it seem that way?”
“I don’t know, that’s just what I saw, I’m sorry if I’m wrong.”
“Hmm. I see. I guess, I’m still like I was back then.” She was speaking from memories, speaking from the past, she wasn’t with me, no, I was an observer. She was in a world far from my own. She was a person that I didn’t even know the name of, but despite that, she seemed so warmly familiar. I just couldn’t help but be warmed by her presence.
“Don’t mind an old lady’s ramblings.” She smiled in jest.
“I think, clovers are awesome. ” And then I went ahead and ran my mouth, like usual, “You know, it’s kind of like, a charm. When you find a four leaf clover, you just can’t help but be happy, you know.”
“A charm huh? Just how much have I heard that?” She smiled at me, and once I realized just what I had said, I began growing embarrassed. I just stated the obvious, something everyone would know. But I was determined to keep going.
“But, it isn’t just that. A four leaf clover is kind of like… a star.” The moment I said that, the look in her eyes grew wide. Without warning, her whole focus shifted onto me, it was an unwavering focus. She was, captivated.
“You know how stars are so distant, and so brilliant? When I reach my arms out, I feel like I can almost reach into the sky. But I know that the sky wouldn’t be enough. I have to aim for the stars, I need to go into space, into a world beyond mine, and for that, I need strength.” I was on a tangent, but my mind was slowly arranging itself so that I could properly express my words to her.
“When I reach out into the grass, into the fields, I feel like, I can get anything. Everything is within my grasp, I can control what I have, but that isn’t enough. I know that isn’t enough. To get a four leaf clover, I need to focus, I need to be more than myself, I need to be determined. Just like if I wanted to get a star, if I ever wanted to be up there with them, I need to be determined. ” As I finished my long and probably nonsensical soliloquy, I noticed the lady had stopped staring, and instead had looked up into the sky. The stars were out tonight, I thought. Just as I said, I felt like I could touch the sky as I stretched my arm out, however, that wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. The stars were so distant, just like a four leaf clover. It would forever be flowing in the wind, just out of arms length, until I finally get the push I need.
“You know, someone I knew… a long time ago said something similar.”
“Except, she wasn’t that passionate.” She smiled at me, mockingly, but she smiled at me, with a warmth that I couldn’t explain.
“My friend… she told me that she liked four leaf clovers. She said, that they reminded her of stars, because, just like stars, the clovers would soon be forgotten.”
“She told me that, legends will always remain. Myths will become rumors, and eventually, the commonplace, will be forgotten. ”
“Jeez, you said I wasn’t passionate. Whoever your friend was, she was clearly thinking about this way more than I did.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Really? That stuff sounds so complicated.”
“I really don’t think so. She was just being, normal. What she meant was that, we take things for granted. Just like the stars in the sky, or the clovers hidden in the grass. We pass them by without really thinking. They are forgotten.” She smiled at me. You know, this lady was always smiling. Everything about her was so mysterious, so well hidden behind that smile.
“Hey Winter! Where are you!” I heard Tail call for me, which I reacted out of instinct. I guess the lady figured from my reaction and said her farewell. She’s still a haze to me.
“Hey! Chi-Chi’s alright,” Tail said.
“You alright Winter?” I guess I did seem a little out of it. After all that happened, and all of the stuff the lady said and whatnot, but I didn’t think at the time that I was that out of it.
“It’s… nothing.” I never did ask him about that lady. I never did, I wonder why that was. Either way, that spring break, ended without any more problems. Chi-Chi was enjoying herself in my arms, and the fireworks went off. They were beautiful, but something in the back of my mind nagged me. I couldn’t push it away. A few words and thoughts popped across my mind, just like when I was gathering words to explain to the lady: Tail, four leaf clover, past, flowers, connection, lady. And, just somewhere in that jumbled mess, was…. Winter.
In the end, we ended up exchanging contact information. And this is the part where things start wrapping up, where loose ends meet beginnings, and where everything falls apart. I got a text from Tail saying he’d be sick. In other words, I didn’t need to worry about him meeting me at the intersection to talk. However, he mentioned if I could replace the flowers for him. I figured his being sick messed up his replacement schedule or whatever. He was always so diligent when it came to that flower-in-a-bottle.
On my way back from home that day; after buying the flower, I noticed that there was a strange person at the bottle. Chi-Chi was also surprisingly active this afternoon, running all the way to greet me as I came to the street. She snuggled on my legs and decided to climb me until she sat on my shoulders. She wasn’t that heavy or anything, but for some reason, I felt weighted. When I saw the person who was there, I immediately recognized her. It was the lady from the fireworks event. She was… just staring at the bottle, and at the flower. There was a certain pity in her eyes, perhaps to the person who placed it there, or perhaps to the reason as to why it’s even there.
She heard my footsteps close in, and turned around. As she noticed the flower in my hand, and who I was, her eyes grew wide. But they soon settled down. She wanted to say something, but I just had to interrupt her first.
“If you’re wondering, I’m not the one who put that there.” I went over to the bottle and kneeled in front of it. I grabbed the flower there, and placed the new ones I got, “A friend of mine put this here, and ever since he’s always kept good care of it.”
“Yeah, he’s not here today because he’s sick. What about you, miss? Why are you here?” I honestly with all my heart wondered that.
“Why indeed.” No, miss, you’re supposed to tell me, not make my life harder.
“Perhaps…” I was going to drop Tail’s name, but… that’s not even his name. I mean, she might know him… or she might think I’m talking about Chi-Chi or something, after all, she was still here, “Anyway, you look good today miss. That fireworks festival last time was really great huh?” Perhaps I changed the subject.
“Yes, and you seem to be doing good as well. You too, little cat.”
“Her name’s Chi-Chi,” I said with a smile on my face. I grabbed Chi-Chi and placed her down onto the ground, “At least she hasn’t been up to anything lately.”
“I see, that’s good to hear.” Without warning, Chi-Chi leapt up to the lady, which she reacted in kind by holding her.
“I guess she likes you,” I remarked. Chi-Chi slipped out of her arms, and then began circling around her neck, like a cat finding a new perch. The lady seemed intrigued by this behavior, or perhaps amused. Either way, she had a gentle smile on today. If she wasn’t going to tell me why she was here…. perhaps she could tell me a little about herself, I thought.
“Hey! You like…. flowers?” Okay, I didn’t really know how to start a conversation, but I thought anything would do.
“Winter…. was it? Well, I guess they are nice.” She looked wistfully at the new set of flowers I placed in the glass bottle, with the old one still in my hand.
“How about you? I realize you were not the one to place this, but you seem diligent in helping your friend.”
“It would be a shame if his record was broken just because he was sick. And besides, I think he has his reasons.” Despite me not knowing anything at the time.
“You know, Winter. Today is a special day.” From the sounds of a special day, I had a feeling that I heard this before. That phrase, it was so nostalgic to me now…. no, it was cliché.
“Just where have I heard that before? What’s so special?”
“My mistake. I guess I wouldn’t call today a special day. It’s rather morbid, to be here.” Morbid… huh.
“Rather, me simply visiting, is special. In of itself, I guess. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t often come here.
“Right. ” She said visit.
”You live, far away?” I asked.
“No, I’m…. relatively close, I guess.” She said visit.
“Hmm, well if you are, then I guess we’ll be seeing each other more often.” Why would she say visit? Is there anything to see at this odd intersection? I would hope not. It’s rather modern. Rather bland, to the unknowing; such as myself. I wanted to ask, I really did.
“Say….” And I did, “Do you know, a guy named Tail?” She didn’t make an expression to show an emotion. She was stiff, like always, I thought. She was normal, maybe… I was wrong?
“Yes, I do.” Or maybe not.
“Really?” I began describing him, I mean, it could be anyone. But, a guy with a pony tail like his? Not likely. She really did seem to know him, however. She picked up Chi-Chi and placed her back on the ground, as she herself spoke up to me.
“I guess, you don’t know, about why this place is special. And about how Tail and I are related. And about those flowers, about the clovers, about…. everything.” I didn’t respond, which was enough of an answer to her. She was right, I didn’t know anything.
“Do you still have that necklace?” I took the silver necklace out of my bag. A four leaf clover. I handed it to the lady, which she then proceeded to place around the neck of the bottle.
“She would like it,” It wasn’t directed to me, or anyone for that matter. She spoke, to no one.
“She loved clovers. Because –”
“They would be forgotten, just like stars.” The lady nodded.
“But with clovers, at least, you can touch, and at least you can preserve. I’m sure she thought like that too. ” That’s right. Clovers are tangible, more tangible than stars.
“You see, Winter. A lot of things happened here, in this town…. but more specifically, right here, on this spot. Do you know why, this street…. no this part of town even exists?” It was an odd question, I thought. Why else? To house? Was that not the right answer? But if it was, then why didn’t I speak?
“It’s because, an accident happened here, on this spot. Well, not just that accident, but this spot, this place was known for it. Accidents. A lot happened here in the past.” When she said that, I began to remember something about this area. My parents had told me about it when we were moving in. Apparently, before this area began being a… housing area, I guess, it used to just be a commercial street. Or something like that. In other words, there weren’t even any houses here, I thought as I looked around. This place used to just be a street and cars would pass by freely, now you don’t see that very often here. It was remodeled, and a lot went into making this a housing area. I think one of the reasons was because kids used to play on these streets a lot because of the park nearby. But even that was re done. I saw pictures of this place before, but they were far too old. Too old for it to match what it is now. But even if I did remember all those details, I knew that I had no business here. I wasn’t concerned with the past, so I didn’t give her a reply.
“You must be wondering then, why this all matters. Why the remodeling plan was such a big deal. Or rather, why it’s such a big deal to us.” To us?
“Because to the people who have lost the ones they loved on here, it really was a big deal.” Oh.
“And to the people who still hate the ones who caused them grief. But, it doesn’t matter now. Because, we should move on. Some of us has, and maybe some of us haven’t. But that’s fine.” I… sort of understood what was going on. However I still had some questions, one of them, had to be, “You lost someone precious to you?”
“Yes. So did Tail.”
“I see. I’m sorry.” I was sorry for mentioning the past, and for getting her all worked up over it. It looks like someone precious to both this lady and Tail was lost. They were lost on this street of misfortune. But it looks like, it was rebuilt. And now, it is just another old street, a boring one, where people seldom tread. But to people like Tail and the lady, it is a street of mourning. I never knew, and once I realized this , once I realized the meaning behind those flowers, I began crying. Tears poured out of my eyes before I could even do anything about it, I was crying. For the first time, I was crying, not for myself, but for someone else. I was crying for them, I was crying because they lost a person dear to them. I was crying, because I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never felt like that before. I’m happy, that I could finally cry for another, I realize this now. Chi-Chi saw this, and went up to try and cheer me up, in whatever way a cat could. It made me happy, a cat’s warmth, a cat’s cradle, a cat’s affection is anything but sloven.
“Winter….” Even the lady wanted to comfort me, but I was the only one, who didn’t want that. No, I didn’t want to be comforted. I wanted to share in the pain. I wanted to be there with the people I care about, I wanted to know. I wanted to experience, and feel. I wanted to be in their world. I wanted so much to be a part of their world. No matter what, I would from that day on, always strive to be more than what I can be. I wanted to break out of the bounds of my world. There was so much going on, so much around me that I just couldn’t take it. I was a stranger. I still am. But at least, I’ve learned. Eventually, even the lady began tearing up. And, we spent a good amount of time just letting it all out. For those deceased, for those to come, and for those always having to bear the pain, we cried.
“She loved clovers, and flowers.” The lady said.
“But, even so. People like you and Tail, will never forget her. Even if she has become commonplace, is that right?”
“That’s right.” She smiled her usual tune.
“I guess, I have to tell Tail about myself then. It just wouldn’t be right if I knew about his grievances, and he didn’t know mine’s.”
“Thank you, for… being there. For being here.”Before I could respond, the lady had already begun walking off. For some reason, at that moment, I felt a tinge of nostalgia. But not only that, I felt… longing. I think that’s what I had felt back then. A sort of strange but mystic longing. It was the kind of longing, that will never come true. But you wish for it anyway. It was bitter. That’s what I felt from her. To this day, I still don’t know the name of the lady I saw that day. But whoever she was, she was precious to me, Tail, and her deceased friend. I’m sure, wherever she is now, she will find sanctum. Just like Tail, and just like me.
In the end, nothing changed. Tail went about doing what he did, and so did I. However, I think we got closer, I told him about what happened to me, and I explained to him about the lady who told me about him. Except… oddly enough, Tail seemed confused whenever I mentioned her. Even when I described her. Strange…. maybe… they weren’t connected? Maybe just friends of a friend or something, I thought at the time. It’s been years since I’ve been there however. Right now, Tail’s off doing his own thing, chasing his dreams, and so am I. Chi-Chi’s doing great nowadays. Not up to as much mischievous as before. Oh shoot! Look at the time, I better catch some shut-eye. Don’t want to miss tomorrow’s lecture.
Hailey, Winter…. signing out.