Jenn’s thirty-two-year-old husband, Jaret, passed away three months ago from throat cancer. It shocked everyone, for no one knew he was sick. Especially Jaret, who had gone to the dentist for his annual checkup when the doctor noticed unusual growths on his enlarged tonsils. A trip to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor and an oncologist confirmed the professionals’ opinions. From there, it went all downhill.
Jenn was understandably devasted that at twenty-nine, she was a widow. However, she was also spiritual and came from a family of self-described witches. Not in the pointy hat, broom riding kind of way, but the nature-loving, follow the lunar cycles, pray with your crystals around a ritualistic alter style. So, it only seemed natural to visit a psychic medium to see if she could talk to Jaret one last time.
“Jenn, would you look at that?” Julie exclaimed as they exited Jenn’s Honda Civic in front of an unremarkable ranch-style home in an older neighborhood in the town they grew up in.
“What am I seeing?” she sighed, already convinced it wasn’t meant to be with the mediumship thing. “Is it a sign to get back in the car and save me three-hundred bucks? How do these people come up with their fee structures, I wonder?”
“Maybe your problem is that you need to open your eyes! Look at all the cats!”
“I don’t see any…Oh! Well, hello there,” Jenn jumped. A large yellow tabby cat stood at her feet, staring up at her with the most enormous eyes she’d ever seen. As she leaned down to pat it, the cat turned and flicked its tail at her. She got the impression that it didn’t want her to touch it, which was fine by her. She never really liked cats anyway, with their fickleness and unappreciative behavior of a human’s affection. Considering their witchy ways, her family thought this was one of her most significant flaws.
Tabby, as Jenn instantly referred to the cat in her head, flicked its tail again as if to tell her to follow it. So she did, with her older sister Julie close behind.
“I’m pretty sure it wants us to follow it,” Jenn said absently as Julie caught up to her right side.
“Seems like it, doesn’t it. Although I think going to the front door would be more appropriate,” Julie replied as the cat wove them through a small footpath between Italian Cypress trees and eight-foot-high lilac bushes that could use a good trim.
Arriving at the back of the large property, the cat turned and curled its tail around its body and lifted its front paw to lick. The women stood in front of a miniature house. It was a shot-gun style bungalow that looked like a life-sized gingerbread house, complete with a gabled front porch, bright blue door, and matching blue painted window frames.
“Welcome!” a disembodied female voice called. “Go on in and make yourself at home. I’ll be right there.” She had a lilt that placed her from a different land and perhaps a different time.
“What do you think?” Jenn asked Julie.
“I was going to ask you the same thing!”
Tabby yawned and walked away, bored with the women’s indecision.
“We’ve made it this far. Might as well, I guess,” Julie encouraged, placing a hand on her younger sister’s back and giving her a little shove up the one wooden step that led onto the porch.
“This is really something,” Jenn replied, admiring the porch swing mounted perpendicular to the porch opening on their left. Its bench was ornately carved to match the other architectural elements of the home and painted the brightest white Jenn had seen.
Julie nudged her sister again, and they cautiously tiptoed inside.
“Welcome!” the disembodied voice came again, this time from behind them, causing both women to jump.
“Oh, my dears. I’m sorry to startle you. Please, please, make yourselves at home. Can I get you some tea?”
“No, thank you.”
“Yes, please. Peppermint if you have it,” Julie answered.
“Really?” Jenn mouthed, rolling her eyes.
Julie shrugged as she spun around, taking in the bright, beautiful space.
“This is NOT what I expected at all,” Jenn sighed, appreciating the high ceilings accented in painted a-frame moldings. “And no cats?” she said aloud before stuffing her fist in her mouth to stop her from saying any further possible insults.
Julie smacked Jenn on the back, but their host had already disappeared someplace else within the larger-than-life house.
“This is way bigger inside than it looks. How can that be?” Jenn whispered.
Julie grinned mischievously. “Magic? Like those Harry Potter tents when they went to the Quidditch Tournament with the Weasleys!”
Jenn hissed. “Nerd.”
Both women sat down on a striped, blue loveseat that seemed to match the color of the blue on the structure’s exterior. As soon as they settled, a tall, thin woman holding a serving tray appeared from a previously unseen doorway. She seemed to float across the room, her billowing dress flaring out behind her as if an invisible wind was directed only at her.
“Are you seeing this, or am I tripping?” Jenn whispered to Julie.
“If you are, so am I,” Jenn murmured back as she accepted a teacup from their host.
“I’m so happy you are here. You must be Jenn, and you are…the sister…also a J name. Jess…no…Jul…Julianna. Am I right?”
Both women gasped and grabbed each other’s hands in support or fear. Maybe a little bit of both.
“Jenn, you told me on the phone that you’d recently lost your husband. I am truly sorry for your loss. But you know, they are never really gone, our loved ones. Some have jobs to do on the other side, some are still reeling from their transformation, but many are just clambering to get back in touch with the ones they’ve left behind. I don’t know if you are familiar with the process, but something tells me you are. This is how it works. I light a candle and some palo santo. That’s a sacred piece of bark that helps keep the energy nice and upbeat vibrationally. Then, I say a little prayer and ask your spirit guides and anyone else wanting to come by to say hello. The fact that you brought your sister with you may affect who actually comes through, but I believe you are hoping it will be your husband.”
“Yes, ma’am. Jaret. I need to know that he’s okay and possibly the location of an item I can’t seem to find. But mostly, I just want to make sure that he knows I loved him very much.”
“Of course, dear. I can tell you Jaret knows that already but let me see if he will come and tell you himself. Give me a minute here…”
Jenn shot Julie a look when her teacup began to rattle from the shake in her hand.
“Sorry,” Julie mouthed, as they watched with rapt fascination as the medium went through her ritual.
“This is not like the other times,” Julie whispered, unable to contain her excitement.
“Shhh!” Jenn snapped anxiously. “Don’t fuck this up for me.”
“It’s okay, ladies. Relax. Let your minds and hearts be filled with love from all your dearly departed ones. There are so many I’m sensing around you both. It’s like a bright bubble of pure love surrounding you in a comforting embrace.”
Gooseflesh popped up all over each woman’s body as if on cue. Jenn shivered with a chill that tickled up her spine.
“I’m sensing a J spirit,” the medium spoke, her eyes still closed from her prayer, her arms opening wide in welcome. “Ah, but not Jaret. Another J.”
Suddenly, her eyes popped open wide, her pupils dilated to the size of saucers.
“Helllloooo, sisters! Boy, are you guys a sight for sore eyes. How long has it been? A hundred years?” the medium spoke and laughed, but not in her original voice. It was deeper, heartier, like a man’s.
“Jacob?” Julie gasped.
“In the flesh. Well, not my flesh. How the hell are you two? God, I’ve missed messing with you guys. I tried right after I passed over the veil to send you signs, but neither of you ever paid attention. For supposed witches, you guys suck at being in touch with the spirits.”
“Why do you think we’re here, ass?” Jenn laughed. “Where’s Jaret?”
“Jaret? Your husband, Jaret? How should I know! He was always slinking off behind your back. Maybe check his phone.”
“He’s dead, Jacob. He died two months ago,” Julie snapped. “Don’t be a dick.”
“What do you guys mean? Jaret cheated on me?”
Julie rolled her eyes, and so did the medium.
“Oh, come on. You didn’t really know?”
Involuntary tears pooled in Jenn’s eyes. “This is NOT what I came here for! I want to talk to Jaret!”
“Oh. Hey, sis. I’m sorry. We all thought you knew and just played dumb. Forgive me. Hey, listen. I’ve got a joke for you. You ready? What’s it called when all the cat treats are gone?”
“Whh…what?” Jenn choked, holding back a sob.
“A cat-astrophe!” the medium cackled in her brother’s distinct timber.
“Oh. My. God. Death has made you dumber,” Julie laughed despite herself.
“Here’s another one. Why do cats make terrible storytellers?”
“Jacob. Stop this,” Jenn begged.
“I want to know!” Julie smiled and squeezed her sister’s hand, which she still held from their initial shock.
“They only have one tail!”
“Ha. Ha. Okay. Enough of the cat jokes. You know I don’t care for them.”
“Well, you need to start, sis. It’s all about the cats for you going forward. I’m here to tell you so.”
“What? Is this another joke?”
“I’m afraid not. Listen, you need to understand. Cats are where it’s at for you. They will change your life.”
“This has to be a joke.”
“Hey. I’ve got to go. Mary, here, is fighting me tooth and claw to regain control of her body. You needed to hear this. And hey. I love you guys so much. I’m sorry I left you so soon, but I’m not sorry I’m here now. Life was just too messy on that side for me. You know?”
Both women choked up, remembering how Jacob, their eldest brother, had suffered from addiction since his motorcycle accident mangled his leg, ending his chance at a professional kickboxing career.
“Love you, bro!”
“Thank you, Jacob. Even though I don’t understand any of this. I love you, too.”
“Remember. Keep your damn eyes open for signs. I’ll send them. Be ready. Be open. And don’t forget about the cats!”
“But I hate cats,” Jenn sighed as they watched their medium slump as if she’d just sat down and passed out.
“What?!” All three women shouted one after the other.
“I’ve never had that happen before!”
“Never had what happen?” Jenn asked the medium.
“Never had a spirit take over like that. It was the strangest feeling. I could feel their voice inside my own throat and their energy tingling through my arms and neck.”
“That was our brother!” Julie cried, trying to process the shock and awe of what had just happened.
“I don’t understand any of this!” Jenn groaned. “Was that for real? What about Jaret?”
“Oh, for the love of God, Jenn. Jaret was an asshat. He was with a different woman every weekend the entire time you were together. We all saw it. Figured you did too and just didn’t want to face the fact that the love of your life was a lying, cheating, no-good whore dog!” Julie ranted before putting both of her hands over her mouth in shock. “I don’t think that was me!” She muttered through her hands. “Jacob, if that’s you, stop it!”
A disembodied echo of laughter seemed to travel up to the rafters before fading away.
“Oh, dear. What an experience. Well, obviously, I won’t charge you for this session since I have no idea what happened. In fact, I may never do this kind of work again!” Mary the medium whimpered as she stood from her chair and hobbled over to the front door. She suddenly appeared much older than when their session had started. When she opened it, the cat escort, Tabby, appeared and waltzed in like they owned the place.
“Shoo! No cats inside. You know the rules,” Mary said to the cat.
It just looked at her and let out a long, low meow before prancing over to Jenn and jumping up beside her on the couch.
“Oh!” she squealed, leaning away from Tabby and into her sister.
“Jenn. It’s just a cat!” Julie sighed, reaching out to give the fluffer a friendly pat on the head.
“Is it, though? After what we just witnessed, how can you be so sure?”
“Meeoooowww!” Tabby howled, bumping its head into Jenn’s arm.
“Well, ladies. It’s been real,” Mary interrupted, dropping her lilting accent from earlier. “I’m afraid our time is up. Feel free to take the cat with you. They are all strays. Strays and ferals who hang around for scraps and treats. I never want to see animals go hungry or cold, but they are not allowed inside. I made a shelter under the crawl space of the main house. They come and go as they please. If I can grab them, I bring them to my cousin, who is a vet, where they can be vaccinated, neutered, or spayed. Then they are marked, denoting that they’ve been cleared with good health. See the corner of his ear? That’s how you can tell if a feral has been treated and released.”
“But he doesn’t seem feral. He’s downright friendly,” Julie commented, rubbing the cat under the chin. All the while, he stood directly on Jenn’s lap, enjoying the attention.
“It seems as though you’ve all come to some sort of understanding. Now out you go. Time for a thorough energy cleanse and a bottle of gin. Nice to have met you. Good luck with your future endeavors and all those niceties. Oh, and please don’t contact me again. In fact, lose my number altogether.”
Jenn tentatively scooped up the cat, and the three of them left the house, moving on to their new lives together.
“Welcome to Tabby’s Taqueria. Where tacos and cats are our thing!” the sign read outside a streetside café. “Be sure to ask about our Rent-a-Cat program. We unite lonely cat lovers with shelter cats who could use some playtime and cozy time too. If you enjoy your time together, foster and adoption options are available. Apartment manager doesn’t allow animals? Stop by any time for tabbies and tacos!”