It was a dare. A dare given to me by Hermes to make a pair of ex-lovers, specifically mortals, fall in love. It was utterly impossible to turn him down, though I knew the dare was seemingly impossible to perform.
Love is love and, though I’d never admit it, even I can’t fully tame the heart. It had its own language that I was only partly skilled in. I should know. After all, I was the goddess of love.
I regret making that choice now that I’m here, attempting to do the impossible. My temper was to blame for my rash acceptance of the dare. In that fraction of a second I was allowed before making my decision, two thoughts crossed my mind.
One, I wasn’t a scardy cat. And two, I didn’t plan on running back home without giving it my best shot. Kinda funny, figuring I had transformed into an animal to carry out the dare. The lowest of the low in the mortal realm.
I prowl my way through dark alleyways, using the shadows to my advantage. The less they saw of me, the better. Maybe I’d get lucky and it would be an in and out job. The sun begins to rise, using only the colors of beauty to paint the sky.
Humph. I guess there’s one good thing down here, I think. A metal trash can lid falls onto the cold cement, breaking the somewhat peaceful moment. I hiss and curl my back in a threatening stance, my retractable claws automatically extended.
A small rat scurries away from me and into the darker part of the alley as if its life depended on it. It kind of did, figuring I was the rat’s mortal enemy. It was a bit reassuring to know I was at least above other creatures, even if it was only one inferior species.
When the coast is clear, I lower my defensive system down a few notches. My claws retract, and I continue on my way.
Maybe the ex-boyfriend would be easier to work with rather than the girl. Man, that girl had too much spirit and stubbornness for me to shape her heart in the slightest. The guy might be easier to mold. I hoped so or else the dare would be over, and I’d come home with another failed mission under my belt.
I transfer from alleyways and backstreets to the main street. For the most part, all is still and quiet. A few cars drive sluggishly on the road while the rest of the city is fast asleep in the comfort of their beds.
Walking around in a cat’s body was much worse than a dog’s. I’d occupied a yorkie puppy named Peanut last spring in an attempt to bring these same two lovers back together.
My poor pink paws were covered in filth and grime from walking the streets. And I wasn’t just complaining about a little dirt. My entire body ached.
Cats are not suited for long distance walking and when they did journey somewhere, it was to their litter box and then to bed. In my dog form I was faster, had more stamina, and didn’t have the urge to sleep often.
The only advantages to being a cat is that you were treated better (unless you wanted a lovely present of scratches on your arms), you looked better, and smelled cleaner. My nose isn’t as powerful as a dog, but it gets the job done.
I wind my way through streets for a couple more blocks before arriving at a rickety brick apartment building. My sniffer told me that this was the place.
Without questioning it, I climb up the fire escape and into an open window on the second floor. I gotta hand it over to them; cats had great agility and were masters of stealth. A pur-fect combination for this mission. The apartment smells of cleanliness and chemicals.
I enter an empty living room and hop onto a plush beige couch backed up against a wall. Opposite of the sofa lies a lifeless flat screen TV. In another corner is a door let wide open, bright light issuing forth from it. That room was also where the chemical smell‘s strongest and where a hint of peppermint air freshener lurks.
A balding man exits the chemical and peppermint smelling room, holding sooty colored water in clear glass cups. I recognize him as the other ex-lover, Mark. Yet, there‘s something different about him.
He smells better, for one, and looks more well kempt than before, but there‘s still something different about him I can’t quite place my paw on…
He walks into the small kitchen and pours the dirty water down the drain. While washing his hands, he begins to hum and dance to a song. Why was he up so early? I wonder.
He turns off the tap and opens the refrigerator door. Too absorbed in his humming, I meow to get his attention. He jumps and looks a little embarrassed to be caught singing and dancing to himself even if his only audience was me. A cat. His pet cat.
“I swear. You’re gonna kill me one day, Rose.” He looks closer at me, straightening his black rimmed glasses. That was it! His glasses. Those were new.
“That’s strange. No dead rodents or lizards today,” he observes.
I leap off the beige couch and curl around his ankles, purring. It‘s a weird sensation in my throat.
“Aw I missed you, too kitty.” Whew, I almost blew my cover there. “Now let’s see about some breakfast for you.” He opens the fridge for a second time and takes out a carton of organic milk. This kitten, well more like cat now, was spoiled rotten.
He crouches down to my level and pours the creamy liquid into a metal saucer with a pink rose on it.
The bowl was pretty banged up and looked like it had seen better days. The same went for the rose. Mark waits expectantly for me to make a move, so I creep toward the saucer and take a few sips of the refreshing cream with my pink tongue.
Once Mark leaves, I look at my reflection. I‘m a mix of brown and black fur; a tabby cat. My whiskers are a normal length and so is my salmon pink button nose. My appearance is nothing to gawk at, except for my eyes. It‘s as if my creator placed two jade jewels where my eyes should have been. I wasn’t complaining about having jewels for eyes. I disfigure the reflection by taking more sips of my milk.
The milk tastes fine but nothing compared to the ambrosia and nectar back home. It was necessary for me to drink every drop of it, though. The dare and my pride depend on it.
Now that I think back to it, I’m so glad that Angelica, the other ex-lover, didn’t feed me when I possessed Peanut’s body. Yuck, the kibble and treats they gave to dogs were gross.
Once we’re both settled at the dining table, an alarm sounds on Mark’s phone. It scares the living daylights out of me and gives me an excuse to hiss and spit angrily.
“Ssh. It’s ok, Rose. You know what today is,” he says in a grim tone. No, I don’t know “what today” is, and I don’t want to find out. Looks like I don’t have a choice.
He grabs me from under my belly and carries me through his small apartment. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t finish the milk. All that walking had built up an appetite.
I try to scratch his exposed arms, but it seems like Mark knew all the tricks at dodging my claws. I had either really underestimated this guy or he had really changed since the last time I saw him.
He still kept on walking. What’s the big idea? Is it “National Take Your Cat Around Your House Day?!” Don’t think so. At last we enter the bathroom. There’s nothing special about the room. It‘s just like any other bathroom I‘d seen. A mirror, bathtub, toilet, and a couple of drawers. That‘s all.
It isn’t until he turns on the bathtub faucet that I realize what he means by the importance of today: it‘s wash day for Rose.
Let me get things straight between us. Even though I’m technically a cat, that doesn’t mean I hate water. I‘m fine with it; truly! What I‘m not fine with is spending the next hour or so getting scrubbed when my mission i at stake.
I don’t want to delay staying in Rose’s cat body any longer, either. I’d already encountered a hair ball earlier in the day. I shudder at the memory. And who knows, I might pounce and kill some unsuspecting rat soon…
Both of Mark’s hands are full from turning the faucet tap and retrieving things for my bath. It’s a wonder how he could still keep a hold onto me with my wild thrashing about. My guess is that Rose didn’t take a liking to this wash day.
I scout the room for a way out. Bingo! An open window just next to the mirror and above the bathtub was wide open. I quit struggling against Mark and keep still as if saying, “I’m sorry for fighting against you. I surrender. You may now hand me over as a sacrifice to the demon water now.”
This behavior must’ve been unexpected since he looks at me in astonishment for a couple of seconds before setting me on the counter. He then continues taking cat shampoo and whatnot out of the cabinets.
I take my leap of faith when he’s completely absorbed in his rummaging. Thank goodness I land on the tree outside the window. He hadn’t even watched my performance. Talk about rude. I meow for his attention.
“What the…?” he mutters. He then leaps into action with, “Come back here!”
Yeah, don’t think so. I leap down the branches of the tree one at a time. I miss my landing on a thin tree branch and almost plummet ten feet to the ground, but my tail helps regain my balance.
A few seconds after that near death experience, I’m delighted to hear the door of Mark’s apartment shut. The chase is on.
It doesn’t take long to arrive at my destination. I‘m a little late due to that unexpected wash day, but there‘s still a chance things could go to plan. I sit at the far end of the dog park under a wooden bench and keep a low profile.
I begin to have my doubts. Maybe my summons didn’t work correctly. Maybe I called the wrong girl. This guy might not even be Mark.
Dogs of all breeds roam the park, aimlessly chasing their tail and sprinting after toys thrown by their owners.
My little heart beats rapidly and adrenaline surges through my veins when, at the edge of the park, I see a small figure race into the dog park. When it comes closer, I realize it’s an animal. I squint. A miniature animal with mixed black and brown fur. It’s a dog. A yorkie puppy, to be exact.
Behind the yorkie a woman with wild auburn hair sprints after him. It was a hopeless enterprise for her but quite entertaining for me, nonetheless.
“Peanut! Come back here, you little rascal!” the woman shrieks.
Uh, yeah. If he wanted to come back he would’ve, silly. I realize now why Peanut is running faster than the speed of light in a bundle of fur… He’s running toward me. A cat. I‘d expected this to happen, just not in this way.
I clumsily turn around and bolt toward Mark. I reach him just in time to be taken up in his arms.
“There you are! I thought you’d gotten hit by a car or something.” Before he can finish reprimanding my behavior, Peanut begins jumping up and down and barking at me like a maniac, scratching the legs of my hero. I hiss at the canine with triumph on my face.
Mark picks up the dog’s leash and begins walking towards the girl with flaming red hair. I make sure my tail doesn’t hang since Peanut has a murderous look in his beady black eyes.
“Hi there, Angelica. Long time no see,” he says, once he meets up with the woman. He tries waving at her but then realizes that both his hands are full from holding Peanut’s leash and me. He smiles sheepishly.
What was wrong with this guy? I think. The last time they were together, he couldn’t say her name without being on the verge of tears.
And what happened to his stupid nickname, Angel, he used for her? Where was that Angel I had depended on? Ugh, mortals’ emotions could change on the spur of a moment. True dedication was never their strong point.
“Hi Mark. Thanks for getting Peanut for me. I don’t know what got into him. We were on a walk when, all of a sudden, he broke free from me. Can you believe it? He’s usually so well-behaved.” I sincerely doubt that last statement.
“I believe you. The same thing happened with Rose.”
Angelica looks at Mark with a quizzical look. “So, you take Rose out for a walk on a leash?”
I try to keep my focus on the conversation passing between the two, but Peanut’s leaps bring him dangerously close to me. I meow and hiss and spit.
My mini hissy fit not only saved my furry life but also Mark’s, judging on his scarlet blushed face. Thankful to have something else to do, he hands over the leash to Angelica.
“Thanks,” she says quietly, attempting to hide her small designer-made “My Angel” purse out of view. Whew, this is great! She still had some attachment to him. That purse was a gift given to her by Mark on her latest birthday. I could make this work--somehow.
A companionable silence follows as the two look out at the dog park which was welcoming more guests.
Many times, Mark opens his mouth to say something then closed it shut. He looks like a fish out of water. It’s not that he’s shy around her… just awkward and unsure of himself. Out of the corner of her eye Angelica, being the smart woman she is, notices his struggle and opens the conversation back up herself.
“How’s your painting going?” Well, that explained a lot. The overpowering smell of chemicals, the color stained hands, getting up early, those filthy water cups. He was a painter.
“Oh, um. It’s fine. You know it’s only a hobby.”
“Mhm,” she says in a voice barely above a whisper. It was hard to work with terrible flirts. There needed to be something to build off of!
Peanut could have cared less. The entire time his eyes dart from one dog to the next, yearning to play with them.
A red slobbery ball rolls along the grass. Though it’s still yards away, Peanut thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to seize the toy. Tugging at the leash and barking his head off, Angelica manages to dig her heels in the ground.
“I’m so sorry, but I gotta go. Talk to you later?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’d love that,” Mark says. His eyes grow misty with sadness. I kinda feel bad for the guy. He only wanted the love of his life to say, “I love you” and maybe even an, “I do.”
That “My Angel” purse and Mark’s sigh that followed after she left, is proof enough that there‘s something growing here. Something big. Before I can interfere with them again, we walk away from the park. I figure I could wait a bit longer for my next chance. No rush.
Once we arrive back at his apartment he sets me down onto the wood floor and walks into the chemical smelling room in an exhausted stupor. The door shuts with a creak. I climb onto the window sill and transform into a sparrow without notice.
Technically, the dare was still on. Hermes didn’t specify how long it would take to bring them back together. Only that it would need to happen at some point or another. As I flew through the air, I vowed on the River Styx that I would do just that.