"Luna!" A muffled voice calls in the distance.
She opens her eyes slightly as the sun warms her like a blanket. She runs her nose over her paw and licks the surface in sleepy motions.
"Luna!" Clair calls out again.
Her ears prick up as she sneaks out of Miss Fine's bushes. Sometimes she puts a bowl of milk on the windowsill and Luna knows she has to let Miss Fine pet her to get more. It's not dinner time yet, but Clair has not seen Luna since the morning. Clair gets restless when she's gone too long.
Luna strolls along the sidewalk to her house as the weak afternoon sun gilds Clair's orange hair. Her wide eyes glance up and down the street, trying to spot the fugitive.
"There you are!" Clair smiles with all her teeth when she sees her. Luna meows to let Clair know she is aware of her summoning. As she approaches her, she is overcome with a sudden urge to be petted. Clair takes her in her arms and strokes her back with pressed movements, but not too hard either, the way Luna likes it. She lays her head on Clair's chest, which makes Clair cry out in pleasure in return. As the black fur flies in the sun's rays, Clair puts her back on the ground.
Luna takes one look at Clair before whirling around and leaving for the swamp. She told Meek that she would meet him in the afternoon, and he's probably already waiting for her.
On the way to the forest, some children try to grab her, but Luna is not stupid. She knows not to let strangers approach her unless she sees them talking to Clair first. Luna knows Clair can be trusted because she feeds and pets her.
The grass is still damp under her paws from yesterday's rain. It feels the same as the white carpet in the living room. The sun is still warm, but the leaves have turned orange, yellow and sickly green. Luna hates autumn because of the rainy days; she cannot stand it when her paws get dirty with mud. Summer has just ended, and these last few weeks of sunny weather need to be taken advantage of.
She jumps over a fallen tree and runs until the swamp behind the birch trees comes into view. The green, muddy water has always made Luna squeamish, but Meek is her only friend in the neighborhood. Well, except for Lucy the pigeon, but she barely sees her anymore since she laid eggs. Luna wobbles gracefully along the water's edge until she bumps into Meek, who has camouflaged himself in the mud.
"Oh my goodness!" Luna exclaims. "You nearly scared one life out of me!"
Meek chuckles and his little eyes light up at the sight of Luna. His rough alligator skin gleams in the late summer sun.
"It took you a while!" He replies.
"I fell asleep." She says, licking her paw, which she immediately regrets because it's full of dirt.
"What do you want to do today?" Meek asks eagerly.
Luna looks along the lake with narrowed eyes, still sleepy from her nap. "Would you like to go for a stroll in the lake?"
"Anything you want!"
His skin feels cold under Luna's paws. She tries to brace herself on his back to keep from falling into the water like she did the first time. Meek crawls into the lake with the care of a surgeon, trying not to disturb Luna's light body.
The trees let their branches hang into the water and bend under the imperceptible breeze. The rotting greenery whispers its last farewell before the cold arrives. Meek is a master at dodging thick, fallen branches because he practices in his spare time. He would never dare tell Luna this, but he did it to make her rides smoother. Luna used to complain, "Meek, you are going too fast! The water is getting into my fur! Clair is going to bathe me again, and you know how much I hate that!" But this time, a soft purr sounds from his back. Meek is very proud of himself.
"Meek, don't you get lonely here sometimes?"
The silence that surrounds them is broken only by crickets and the sound of water as they pass by.
"Why would I ever feel lonely? The swamp is alive, I am never alone." After a brief pause, he continues, "Besides, I have you." Luna blinks once and looks to her right, then to her left.
"You know I cannot come back here when the rain comes."
"Time is a breeze if you do not fixate on it. The thought that I will see you again makes it worthwhile."
Luna closes her eyes in a slow, squeezing motion, her purr growing louder.
Tearing gusts appear out of nowhere, nearly dropping her into the water. The wind howls, making the forest crack and rattle as if the trees are being torn from their roots and falling from the sky. A scream tears through the air and accompanies the gushing light rain. Luna's pupils widen.
"What was that?" She asks.
"I have no idea," Meek answers with urgency.
A pink silhouette emerges, running between the birch trees, and three dark silhouettes follow it.
"Someone's in danger!" Luna gasps. "We have to go see what's going on."
Meek turns hesitantly, and his muscles tense under Luna's paws. "We know better than to meddle in human affairs.”
"Help!" A voice shouts.
"Meek, get to shore!"
There's no way he wants to go to shore, but he can’t tell her no. Just as they get on land, Luna jumps off his back, only for the pink, crying silhouette to trip and fall into the mud just a few inches away. It is a child with golden hair and a pink jumper. Three other children follow her with sticks and stones in their hands, shouting in unison, "Witch! Witch! Witch!"
The girl starts crying with loud whimpers. Luna is livid. The fur on her back is electrified, her pointed teeth are showing, while loud hissing sounds catch the children's attention.
"Look, the witch has brought her cat! Kill her! Kill her!"
Luna freezes as a stone is hurled directly at her head. She falls to the ground and the sky spins. A black void of rage clouds Meek's judgment. He lunges at the children at full speed, who start screaming their throats out. Crows fly over their heads, disturbed by the noise, cawing in displeasure. The three boys run away; one stumbles, gets up, and continues screaming as he follows the others. The little girl stares at Meek with her blue eyes. She's breathing heavily, but Meek does not care about her—he's already next to Luna.
"Please, tell me you are okay!"
Luna scrambles to her feet as Meek helps her up with his nose.
"My fur," Luna says in a weary tone. "Clair will bathe me again."
"Here! I can clean you up!" The child rises from the ground and takes off her cardigan.
Meek and Luna stare at her, dumbfounded.
"You can hear us?" They ask in unison.
"Y-yes." She whispers, spreading her cardigan in front of her. "My name is Angela. The kids were right about me. I am broken."
"Oh, sweetie, being a unicorn among horses does not mean you are broken," Luna says.
The girl's face brightens with a smile.
"I think I have seen you around the neighborhood. You are Miss Clair's cat, right?"
"Yes, I am!" Luna replies proudly.
"Can I take you home?"
The wind becomes a breeze as the rain falls in thin drops, enveloping them in a pearly coat.
"Do you really have to go, Luna?" Asks Meek.
Luna looks down at her damp fur. "Maybe there's no need to rush home," she concludes.
"May I join you?" Angela asks meekly.
The three of them fill the swamp with laughter and squeals of joy as they run up and down, all around, splashing each other with water, playing hide and seek, and carrying Luna over puddles. By the end, when their energy is spent, Angela and Luna are just as muddy as Meek. Angela wraps Luna in her cardigan and heads home after Meek accompanies them until the birch trees begin to clear. The sky revels in a creamy shade of pink as the sunset makes a grandiose appearance.
"I am so glad I met you." Angela breathes heavily.
"You are our friend now," Luna concludes.
They walk down the street to Luna's house as she begins to squirm in Angela's arms.
"You should put me down here. Clair will ask you all kinds of questions."
Angela sets her down on the sidewalk after a car goes full speed and water from a puddle splashes in their direction. Luna starts to shiver and the thought of a warm bath and food makes her rush to the door.
"Bye, Angela! See you tomorrow!"
Angela waves goodbye as Luna climbs to the living room window, where an orange light lures her in. Clair sees her immediately and runs to the door.
"Dear God! My poor baby, where have you been?"
She picks Luna up in her arms, even though her fur is almost dripping with dirt, and goes straight to the bathroom with her. As the water fills the tub, Clair brings Luna a can of tuna, her favorite kind.
"I wish you could tell me where you have been," Clair whispers to herself.
"And I wish you could hear me," Luna replies.
Clair sees only a pair of emerald green eyes looking up at her.