It’s Saturday morning.
Mika heads out to grab something for breakfast.
“Good morning, welcome to Dunkin, what can I get started for you?”
“Good morning. I’d like two plain bagels with cream cheese, please.”
“No, thank you.”
The gentle-faced cashier steps away to pack his order. She rings it up and smiles when Mika drops his change into the tip bowl.
Mika goes over to the napkin counter before he leaves.
In the corner of his eye, he sees someone sitting at a table with a friend; well, he assumed they’re friends at first. They aren’t talking to each other at all. Perhaps they’re just sharing a table for space? Then again, there are plenty of open seats, and the friend has no food or drink in front of her. She just stares silently ahead at the first person, who’s looking at his phone while he eats a muffin.
One of Mika’s bags slips from his hand, and he pauses to pick it up.
When he glances over again, the friend is peering at him. She’s visibly surprised when he recognizes that she’s there. She points to herself with a puzzled expression.
He gives her an awkward little half-nod before parting ways. He can’t openly react to her without people being weirded out.
Mika pulls into his driveway and gets out of his car. As he approaches the house, a chill crawls up his spine, a hollow feeling growing in his chest.
He looks at the porch steps, finding his pet cat at the door holding a dead bird in his mouth.
“Oh… Thank you, Goose,” he says gently. Mika picks the creature up, contemplating.
The sound of a door distracts him. He throws a glance over his shoulder, spotting one of his neighbors across the street. The older man squints at him disdainfully.
Mika turns his skull key in the lock and enters his house. He sets his breakfast aside and puts the bird on the island. He watches it twitch back to life, its injuries repairing themselves as he smoothes his palm over its back. It orients itself and stands up, meticulously adjusting its feathers.
“There we go,” he tells it quietly. “All better now.”
Goose stretches lazily across the counter, settling down for a nap. Mika pats him on the head and says, “Good job,” prompting a soft noise in response.
Mika brings the bird to the back door.
The animal looks up, twittering quietly as it considers him.
He smiles, scritching its head and murmuring, “It’s time to go, little guy. You’re all fixed up.”
The bird relaxes and makes a brief sound. It inspects him once more before it hops onto the window frame and flits away.
Mika closes the window and sighs, pulling the blinds down. He returns to the kitchen and scoops his cat off the counter. When Goose grumbles irritably, he shushes him and says, “I eat here, you know.”
Goose plops onto the wooden floors and pads away, curling up atop his cat tower in the sun.
Mika wipes the counters and washes his hands. He takes one bagel out and saves the other for later. Sitting down in the living room, he turns on Netflix and idly browses the home page.
Goose comes over to sit on his lap, pressing his forehead to Mika’s hand. Mika strokes his pet’s long black fur, and Goose purrs like a tiny motor, tail wiggling.
Mika rubs Goose’s tummy, lost in thought.
Today was his first high school reunion; the school tradition is every 5 years. He’s in his early 20s, he lives alone with his cat, and he has no real friends. His little house and his parents’ home are the only places he can get any kind of socialization without digging up the bad memories.
Goose squirms, turning back onto his feet and walking onto the other room. He returns soon after with his favorite toy and deposits it in Mika’s hands.
Mika smiles. Goose has always known how to read his mood. He picks up the plush mouse and tosses it a bit away. Goose zips over to fetch it, and Mika tosses it again. His doll-faced little feline has been rather puppy-like from the start.
Goose pauses, staring at a point in the corner of the room.
Mika looks over to his reading space and sees a wispy figure sitting in his armchair. It’s one of the little ghosts that live on the block. “Hi again, Catherine.”
The girl waves. “Hello. I’m sorry for intruding.“
“Not at all; you’re free to visit any time.”
“How are you today?”
“I’m good, and you?”
“About the same.”
Catherine watches Goose bat the stuffed mouse around, a smile on her small face. “Is that a new toy?”
“Yes,” Mika replies, endeared. “He keeps asking me to play with him.”
Catherine crouches on the carpet, reaching toward Goose with a hopeful expression.
Goose pit-pats toward her, trying to press against her hand.
“Here,” Mika says, gesturing for Catherine to come over. He holds her hand, and her image becomes a little sharper, a lukewarm weight against his fingers. “Go ahead.”
Catherine happily pets Mika’s cat, giggling as he tries to play a game with her. Mika hands her the mouse, and she has a few turns at playing fetch with him as well.
A short while later, Catherine lets go of him and sits on the couch. “You seem lonely, Mika,” she says quietly. “Is there something wrong?”
Mika sighs. “Not really. At least, I didn’t think so. I suppose I just feel a bit… disappointed.”
Catherine folds her feet beneath her, paying close attention as he continues.
“Today is our first high school reunion, but I’ll never go to one.”
“I never felt… comfortable in school.” Mika twiddles his thumbs. “People would make fun of me. They thought I was creepy or that I was crazy. I never had any friends, and even most of my teachers didn’t quite like me. …Thankfully, by the time I left elementary school, I learned to stay quiet and out of the way.”
Catherine frowns. “I wouldn’t be thankful for that. Everybody should get to have friends and have people be nice to them.”
Mika nods wordlessly. He feels bad talking to her about his childhood; she didn’t get the chance to live very long.
She leans against his shoulder. Her presence feels cool and somewhat misty. “If I got to grow up, I would want to have a lot of friends and wear pretty clothes and live somewhere nice, like this house.”
“I don’t think I’d describe it as that nice…”
Catherine shakes her head. “It is. You have a little kitchen, a living room, and a nice bedroom and bathroom - all the things you need. You even get to have a pet. I never had any when I was alive; my mother said I wasn’t old enough to take care of one.”
“Animals are very hard to look after,” Mika agrees. “…I remember when Goose got hurt when I was younger. I think he got in a fight with a dog or something, and he was really banged up. He didn’t make it.” He looks over at his pet. “If it wasn’t for this… curse of mine, he’d be gone forever.”
Catherine purses her thin lips. “Why would you call it a curse?”
“Well, that’s what it’s always felt like. I see people that aren’t there, I hear voices nobody else can hear, I have a built-in ‘death GPS’ that never turns off - it goes on and on. Once the kids in the neighborhood heard about me bringing animals back to life, they would stare at me or move away if I sat near them. Everything about me made people think I was weird and gross.”
“It’s a gift. You just said it yourself- you got your pet back. And we get to be friends. The ghosts around here get to talk to someone new for the first time in ages. Isn’t that a good thing?”
Mika considers her pale, freckled features. “…You’re right. That was selfish of me.”
“No, not selfish,” Catherine corrects him. “It’s okay to be upset that people don’t treat you well. All you did was be yourself.” She looks out the window, spotting the bird from earlier in the distance. “It’s okay to talk to people that aren’t there, too. No matter where you go, you get to make a new friend.”
Mika sits back against the cushions. "...You're right." He smiles. "Thank you, Catherine."
She smiles as well. Then she asks, "I know you're not going to go to the reunion, but is there anybody you could spend time with instead?"
Mika pats her head. "My parents are busy today, but I'm in no rush to leave. You didn't have Netflix when you passed, right? There's this TV show I found a few years ago. I think you'd like it."
Catherine looks curious. "Well, I'll watch anything with a cat in it," she quips.
Mika can't help but grin. "Good news, then."