Drama Contemporary

It was David who brought Lester home, David who had spotted the poor thing on the side of the road one evening and who had gallantly scooped him up in his arms without a second thought.

"He would have died if I left him there," babe," he told me. "We have to keep him."

Although I wasn't much fond of cats, I didn't have the heart to say no to David.

So the cat stayed.

We gave him a bath in the kitchen sink to get rid of the fleas that had taken up residence in his fur and took him to the vet the first chance we got. Fortunately, he had no existing health conditions.

"A clean bill of health," said the vet. "That's a lot more than you can say for others."

It was David who named him Lester.

"He looks like a Lester, doesn't he?" David said as he gave Lester a quick scratch behind his ears. "Lester from Accounting."

He then laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world.

He had such an odd sense of humor. It was one of the things I loved about him. I wasn't the only one who enjoyed his company either. When David wasn't stuck at the office working on software updates, he and Lester were inseparable. When David played video games in the living room, Lester would always be stretched out on his lap. When David was on his computer, Lester would be curled up on the table in front of his monitor.

Admittedly, my relationship with Lester wasn't on the same level. While he wasn't antagonistic towards me, he wasn't particularly friendly either. We skirted around each other like two awkward roommates sharing a small apartment. On the rare occasion that we were left alone together, we simply barricaded ourselves in our respective rooms. Over time, however, I sensed some sort of mutual respect between us, one that stemmed from a shared fondness for certain tender-hearted software developers.

When David first brought Lester home, David and I had already been together for three years. The addition of a new member to the household should have been a step forward in our relationship, but it turned out to be just the opposite. In fact, it wasn't long after acquiring Lester when David and I had begun fighting with increasing frequency.

It had started when a friend of his accidentally sent me a photo of David and his co-worker sitting side by side in a restaurant. They were both smiling at the camera, and while there was nothing inherently objectionable about it, they seemed a bit too cozy for my comfort.

David assured me that there was nothing going on between him and Stella and that his friend had just needed a subject to test his new phone camera with, but my instincts were telling me otherwise.

I tried to let it go. I really did. Unfortunately, my frustration only manifested itself in other ways, in how he had forgotten to put the cap back on the toothpaste again, in how he was always late for our plans, in how he had been so glued to his phone that he missed everything that I had been saying for the past 10 minutes.

It all came to a head one night when he came home at nearly eleven in the evening and without giving dinner on the table any more than a cursory glance told me that he had already eaten at the office. Perhaps it wouldn't have been as big of a deal had it not been his birthday and had I not spent the entire afternoon painstakingly making his favorites: slow-roasted beef brisket with truffle mashed potatoes and turtle pie. Perhaps I wouldn't have been so angry had he bothered to reply to even just one of my text messages and answered even just one my calls.

My heart cracked, then splintered. The utter lack of remorse in his voice felt like someone had taken a knife to my chest. As such, I couldn't help the words that flew out of my mouth next.

"I'm sure you and Stella had a wonderful time," I said, glaring at him.

He glared right back at me. "One night of peace is all I ask," he said. "Can't I have just one night when you're not trying to pick a fight?"

My heart continued to splinter. It seemed to have no end.

David slept in the guest room that night. Poor Lester was confused when David didn't pat him on the head or even spared him a glance. Not when he rubbed himself lovingly around his legs and not even when he meowed pitifully from outside his door. He wasn't the only one. I knew I was angry, but I was also sad and scared. I put dinner away in a haze, barely registering my actions.

It was only later, while I laid in bed with my red-rimmed eyes staring up at the ceiling, when I realized that he never did deny that he had had dinner with her.

We never got around to talking about it. The next day, he packed two weeks' worth of clothes in a bag and told me that he would be crashing at a friend's place for a while. A little bit of distance would do us some good, he said. Although I wish it weren't so, I knew he was right. We were both black and blue from all the punches that we had been throwing at each other. We could use the break. My heart could use the break.

Without David around, Lester and I had even less of a reason to spend time together. I still continued to leave food and water around, but I rarely saw him around the house, and when I did, it was only out of the corner of my eye. Perhaps we were both purposely avoiding each other, I thought, as if seeing each other would remind us of what was notably absent.

Two weeks later, David finally returned home, but only so he could collect the rest of his belongings.

"It just isn't working out anymore," he said as he emptied his side of the wardrobe.

I didn't have to ask him where he would be staying. One phone call to his friend had confirmed my suspicions. What surprised me, however, was that he would leave Lester behind.

"He's not my cat," David said when I protested.

"What do you mean?" I asked. "You're the one who brought him home."

"I brought him home for you," he answered. "He's your cat."

I was dumbfounded. Of all the things that we had been through in the past few weeks, this was the moment when it really clicked for me. How David could have ever thought that I would want a cat made me realize that he didn't really get me at all. He never had. One look at Lester showed me that he thought the same.

When David walked out of the door, neither Lester nor I made an effort to stop him. Somehow, we both knew that it was well and truly over.

February 27, 2023 15:24

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