By the time I got there, the black cat was already sitting on the bench, the one with the peeling green paint and the inscription “In memory of Mrs. Hallie Goodwall”.
“So?” His yellow eyes glowed eerily in the dark, seeing right through my question like two beams of a flashlight cutting through the darkness. He sighed, too, so at least I knew he could still speak. Or maybe I was just making sure I could hear him, making sure that I was still a freak.
“Addie, dear, you’ve got to be patient,” he drawled, looking positively bored. “I’m a cat, for goodness’ sake, not a search robot!”. My head had already begun to throb at the temple.
“First of all, don’t call me dear, you know I hate it. Second of all...” I trailed off.
The gentle wind blew bright stars across the midnight sky, the clouds giving the moon a sickly, pale light. There was no need for it to fill the silence between us, though. It buzzed and sizzled with our thoughts and shrouded bitterness, fizzed out the sour words silently spouting from our mouths.
“James said he was all right with talking to you, if you are, too,” the cat murmured in my ear. We look at each other a moment, one with their head slightly tilted, as if asking a question, the other restless and fidgety.
I decided not to answer this. The last time I had seen James, it had ended in streaming, hateful tears and many questions thickening the air, pressing down on our shoulders.
“Addie?” he said, poking my cheek gently with his paw, the front-right one.
“I can’t, Blackie.” That’s all he needed to climb onto my lap and lie on his back, belly up, paws in the air. The same thing he always did when he wanted something from me.
“All right, then talk to me. Why?” the cat - Blackie - said. I hesitate for a moment, then let my doubts melt away.
“It just hasn’t been the same ever since she died. I guess she was the thing tying us together, but we used to be so close… I just don’t know what happened,” I manage to choke out. My tears want to come out, they’re the ball in my throat, the stinging in my eyes, the pinching in my heart.
“It’s going to be okay,” Blackie didn’t say. Nor did he say “I’m so sorry” or “I completely understand”. No, all he said was “Oh”, and that’s all that was needed.
There was another momentary pause, though not the same bitter one as before, one filled with sweetness and sorrow, like a cup of honey tea on a rainy day. I pulled Blackie closer, savoring the warmth radiating out of him and the gentle touch of his soft fur.
“You aren’t really a cat, are you, Blackie?” Blackie smiled at this, tilted his head again.
“It’s a pity you’re so honest, Addie, you’d be amazing at playing dumb,” he drawled again.
“You’re not answering my question!”
“Whether I’m a cat or something else is none of your business, and has no importance anyways. Besides, we’re worried about you, not me,” Blackie said.
"How do you understand me so well, then? We only met a few weeks ago. I can't imagine any cat has such a high comprehension of human beings...."
“Right, so, Maria says she still hates you, you’re refusing to talk to James, your dad says he’s too tired to deal with you, which means that we are going to have to come up with a plan B,” he said, dodging the subject as smoothly as he could. “Any ideas? Maybe a ‘Family Recuperation Day’?”
I frown. What do my family members like? After all, it’s been years since we’ve talked. I look to Blackie for even the slightest hint of an idea, but come up short.
“Er… a walk on the beach could work. Everyone likes a nice walk on the beach, right?” I suggest rather sheepishly.
“If that’s all you can come up with, then, yes, that’s fine.” He pauses for a moment, rocking from side to side on my lap.
“Blackie, I don’t know what I would do without you.” He groaned at the heartfelt statement.
“You say that every day, don’t you ever get sick of being so grateful about everything?” he teased with something that resembles a snort. I stuck my tongue out in response.
“I never asked, but why this bench?” Blackie asked with a small twitch of his tail as he sat up. “A memoriae on a bench, huh. I personally wouldn’t want to be remembered this way.” When I simply cast on an icy demeanor, I could see his eyes narrowing, the pupil having become barely anything more than a slit, visible signs of his contained frustration.
“Look, Addie, I’m trying to help you here. I can help you put your life back together but you can’t just keep running from your past! You-”
“See, this is why I know you aren’t a cat. You’re so cat-like that it has to be fake,” I said quietly, though I was seething with anger.
There it is again, the same bitter silence as earlier, though now with a strong breeze to fill it with. One that always comes, always tries to help, is never needed. Like me.
“I’m sorry.” His words didn’t cut the silence like a knife, rather melting it and having it drip, drip, drip away like warm honey. “I shouldn’t have…”
“One thing we both need to work on is not getting hung up on what already happened and focusing more on what is to come. My mom taught me that. She was right,” I murmured as I gently stroked Blackie’s fur. Under the moonlight, he looked tiny and vulnerable, especially as he sat in the large ocean of my blue skirt.
After a moment, Blackie said, “Why did you name me Blackie when you could’ve named me Leonardo de Catrio or Captain Stinkypaws?” My suppressed laughter quickly turns into giggles and finally a burst of bubbly laughter.
“Goodness gracious, Blackie, can you imagine telling someone that your name is Captain Stinkypaws?” I snicker.
“Oh, no, no, no,” Blackie mewled. “Spare me from your torturing, from agony…” I laughed as I pulled him close.
“To answer your question, Blackie..." I began, "I miss my mother. I guess that by sitting on this bench and gazing at her name every day, I feel as if I’m making up for everything I’ve done to her, even if it isn’t true. We all remember her in our own ways, don’t we?". Blackie said nothing about this, moving on instead.
“Speaking of embracing the present, let’s go somewhere else next week. How about a walk on the beach?” Blackie purred with the slightest hint of a smirk.
"Let's do it!" I giggle, and the night is filled with laughter and bright smiles.