Description: Small, black, has a white spot between his ears
Last seen: October 21st, Charleston Street
Will come to you if you’re nice to him
My phone number is on his collar if you find him
My name is Greta, by the way
Reward: Isn’t finding him its own reward? No? $20, then
Every post, tree, fence, and person standing still for too long had a picture of his face on it. His black little face with his chartreuse eyes and little black whiskers. It’s getting too close to Halloween for me to feel okay with him being gone. It’s tomorrow, and I know what they think of black cats, what they might do to black cats if one crosses their path. He’s only a baby. He’s Mum’s baby, really. We got him after Sandy died, and Mum didn’t want another dog.
Carlisle was the only cat left at the shelter when we got him, and I guess the shelter lady must’ve liked Twilight, or something, because there’s no way anyone in our family would’ve named him that, but it was the only thing he came to, so Carlisle he was. I only know about Carlisle being a Twilight character because my best friend Hannah took me to see it when it came out; she was far more of a fan than I was, but going to the movies with her was fun because it always is.
“Greta,” my mum said, taping the poster on the fence next to a soccer tryouts poster, as faded as Mum’s hopes were becoming. “Are you sure this is gonna work? Not many lost posters have happy endings, I don’t think.”
“We have to try. Besides, is there anything better to do on the weekend than hanging lost cat posters with your only daughter?” She raised an eyebrow at me for that. “You’re seriously telling me you’d rather hang out at home, waiting for Dad to get back from work?”
“That’s not what I meant, Gret, and you know it.”
I shoved the tape in my pocket and texted Hannah that I’d be home soon. We’d been planning a Harry Potter marathon for weeks now, and we couldn’t let Carlisle being missing get in the way of that. Not too much, at least.
“Did you know your brother is really annoying?” Hannah greeted me as I let her in. I’m guessing he told her to go away, like she was a salesperson or something.
“Did you know the sky is blue?”
The living room we ended up in (Luka was in the other one, playing games with his friends from New Zealand) had blackout curtains, perfect for movie marathoning, and enough couch space for us both to spread out, with room to spare.
While Hannah put the disk in the Xbox and got it all set up, I darted to the kitchen to get the tray of snacks I’d prepared that morning. Sweet and salty popcorn, party mix lollies, chocolate frogs (not like the ones in Harry Potter, but still), and some cold water from the fridge with two glasses—that was Mum’s idea.
We were only halfway into the second one when Mum came in to tell us dinner was ready. Not that I was complaining—Mum’s Shepherd’s Pie was always amazing—but we’d just got up to my favourite bit and I could already imagine quoting it word-for-word with Hannah, laughing all the way. But dinner was going cold and I didn’t want to miss out.
“Heard anything about Carlisle?” Mum asked at the dinner table. We’d opted to sit outside on the deck today since it wasn’t as cold as it had been recently.
I shook my head. “I’m not expecting miracles, Mum.”
She shrugged, pushing food around her plate with her fork dismally, and only gave yes or no answers, even when I asked her if she wanted to join us for the Harry Potter marathon to take her mind off it. It was working for me, even if seeing all the animals made my heart ache a little bit more. Lucky none of the characters were called Carlisle.
I struck up a conversation with Luka about his gaming, and he filled the air with his kill-death ratios and play-by-play accounts of successful missions, none of which I understood, all of which I nodded along to. I think Mum sighed in relief at not having to talk anymore.
Hannah and I went back to our marathon after the dirty dishes were all sorted out, and we finally got to act out the scene I loved so much. Why couldn’t it be ‘follow the butterflies?’ The best.
“Where d’you think little Carl-man is?” Hannah asked me as the credits rolled and the music played, as iconic as always.
“Dunno,” I whispered. I took a red snake out of the lolly bowl and put its head in my mouth, stretching it as far as it went before breaking off. Then I shoved the whole thing in my mouth to pretend that was all I wanted to say. And to get rid of the lump forming in my throat. “We’ve looked everywhere. He’s not in any of his usual spots.”
“Not even that tree he naps under sometimes a few doors down?”
“Have you had the thought that someone might’ve stolen him?”
“Only a million times,” I said, my voice far croakier than I appreciated. Hannah hugged me into her side and rubbed my arm as if that would find Carlisle faster. “They could’ve killed him already, Han. He’s a black cat.”
“I’m sure he’s just hiding in plain sight,” Hannah said, squeezing me tighter until I made fake choking sounds and she let go.
“Prisoner of Azkaban before bed?” I asked, already getting up.
Hannah snuggled back down into her side of the couch. “You know it.”
The next morning, I awoke to the smell of Mum distracting herself from Carlisle still being missing. That is, I could smell eggs frying and bacon sizzling. The hash browns were already out of the oven when I made it to the kitchen, and I made the mistake of picking one up before it had cooled down. Heat seared my fingertips. I dropped it back onto the tray. Shook my hand like I was trying to get water off it without using a hand towel.
“Under water, quick!” Mum called, standing over the stove, knowing exactly what I’d just done. I shoved my hand under the tap for thirty seconds of sweet relief before I got bored and went back to the living room to wake Hannah up.
We sat on the fold-out couch, talking about everything and nothing, while Mum finished up making breakfast. She told me it was because Hannah was over and she didn’t want her to ‘just have Vegemite on toast’, which was weird, because that’s what we always had for breakfast when she slept over.
When Mum finally served up breakfast—my stomach had been grumbling and empty for ages; don’t judge me—she piled extra bacon and hash browns onto everyone’s plates, just because she’d made extra and didn’t want it to go off. Luka appreciated it heartily, shoving more egg into his mouth before he’d swallowed his bacon. Hannah and I ate like normal people, one bite at a time, enjoying every mouthful. Mum ate like it was her last meal on Earth.
I tried to comfort her with ‘We’ll find him soon, I’m sure of it,’ and ‘He’ll turn up tomorrow, meowing his head off, don’t worry.’ But she did worry. It’s like she didn’t even hear me. Once us three kids were done, we sorted out the plates again and went our separate ways. Luka to his computer, and Hannah and I to the ‘cinema room’, as Dad liked to call it.
We were up to the bit in the fourth one where they were drawing dragons out of the bag when my phone rang, making us both jump at the noise. I checked the screen and it was a number I didn’t recognise, so I hit the red button and we continued watching the movie.
“D’you think that could’ve been someone calling about Carlisle?”
“It’s been a day, Han; it wouldn’t have been.”
But the caller was incessant. I kept pressing the red button, so much that I thought I’d punch a hole in the glass. After five more calls, the phone fell silent, and we watched to the end of Goblet of Fire in peace. Well, almost peace. Hannah was crying, because she always cried at the end of this one. I think the fact that Edward Cullen and Cedric Diggory are played by the same guy might have something to do with it.
While we were pointing out funny names in the credits, my phone buzzed again. This time, it was a text message, not a phone call, and I checked it right away.
“I’m an idiot,” I said, reading and rereading the text. “Just say it, Hannah. I’m an idiot.”
“What is it this time?” I glared at her for saying ‘this time’. I showed her my phone screen, open to the message my unknown caller sent me. “Oh, God, you are an idiot. I told you so.” She started laughing so hard I whacked her with a pillow, which just made her laugh more.
Hi. I found your cat. I tried calling, but I guess your busy atm
How do I know you’re not just calling me to find out where I live?
I set my phone down while Hannah put in the fifth movie. Not my favourite, but still had some great moments. About five minutes in, I got another text from Unknown Sender.
Attached: 1 Image
I figured this would help prove I’m not some creepy stalker guy
I opened the image and there he was. Carlisle! Someone found him! I threw my phone across the room in excitement, and it landed with a thud, but not a smash.
“What?” Hannah asked, too entranced in the movie to have noticed anything of what just happened.
“He’s been found! I have a picture!” I scurried around the coffee table to get my phone. “Look!”
“Oh, my God, Gret,” Hannah said, her mouth hanging open. “That’s… Dylan Stratford.”
I wrenched my phone back from her grasp and took a closer look at the picture. I was only looking to see if Carlisle was healthy and safe, not who actually found him. Dylan Stratford. Dylan. Stratford. My main crush since grade three Dylan Stratford. The one I’ve talked to Hannah about the most Dylan Stratford. The boy who found my cat Dylan Stratford.
Since no one else could stop me, I zoomed in on him. His blondish curly hair. His brown eyes that turned coppery in the light. His grey hoodie. I zoomed out a bit. Marble benchtop, sleeping kitten, his hand on its back. Oh God, I could die right here.
Drop off or pick up?
Could you drop him off?
I sent him my address through Google Maps. He sent me a smiley face back. I almost died.
I’ll be there in half an hour
Half an hour? I abandoned Hannah, my phone, and the movie and zipped through the shower, contemplating whether to put on makeup or not. Don’t wear makeup in your own house, you weirdo. I put on some nice clothes, but not too nice that it looked like I was trying. I ended up with a short denim skirt and a black and white stripy top with hearts on the sleeves because, you know, symbolism.
I slumped back on the couch with ten minutes to spare and Hannah gave me a weird look. I just gave her my phone so she could read the latest messages.
“Holy shit, Greta, holy shit,” Hannah whispered, her smile and her eyebrows going up at the same time, her hand raking through her hair like she was smoothing it out, but it just made it worse. Bed hair did that to a person.
Knock, knock, knock.
I looked over at Hannah, who looked back over at me, mirroring my expression. Excitement mixed with a little bit of fear. I stood up from the couch and took a deep breath, shaking the nerves out of my hands. I walked calmly down the hallway to the door and unlocked it, opening it slowly so it wouldn’t creak too much. And there he was in all his glory.
“Hi,” we both said at the same time, which hid how breathless I was. There was Dylan Stratford. On my doorstep. I stood there staring at him for a moment before I realised that I should probably talk to him.
“You have my cat,” I said, at the same time that he said, “Can I come in?”
My breath knocked out of me, so saying, “Of course,” was a real effort. I stood to the side and gestured for him to come in. I took him out the back to where Mum was still Googling on her phone about the likelihood of lost cats being found.
“Mum,” I said, considerably less shaky than before. She looked up from her phone and placed it on the table. “This is Dylan, and he-”
Before I knew what was happening, Mum had gotten up and was shaking Dylan’s hand, kissing him on the cheek, and welcoming him to sit down.
“So, tell me all about it,” Mum said, resting her head in her hands like a teenager, trying to smile genuinely but absolutely failing.
“Well, I was out on a run with my Dad and I heard a meow from inside a stormwater drain. It was lucky for Carlizzle that it hasn’t rained in a while.” Dylan’s hand went to the back of his neck and I took a moment to appreciate his bicep, but only a moment. Then my attention went back to Mum, whose mouth had fallen open in realisation and she laughed. Properly laughed.
“Oh, my God!” she said pulling Dylan into a hug. “I thought Greta was introducing me to her boyfriend! So sorry! Where is he? It’s Carlisle, by the way, rhymes with smile.”
My face went bright red at the boyfriend exclamation, and I noticed that Dylan’s did, too. Mum kissed him on the cheek again and smiled bigger than I’d seen in a long time.
“He’s in my car,” Dylan said. “I left him with a water bowl, so he won’t overheat.”
“Clever boy,” Mum said, following Dylan back out to the front of the house. I was behind both of them and I couldn’t believe any of this was really happening.
His car, which he had said so casually, looked like it was brand new out of the car yard this morning. I knew it wasn’t, because I’d seen him arrive at school in it at least a hundred times. And no, I’ll never tell where Hannah and I hide to watch him. Mum and I went up to the passenger side window and there he was, our little Carlisle, lapping up water out of a white ceramic cat bowl with a black pawprint in the bottom of it. I threw my arms around Dylan’s neck, my feet coming off the ground, and he had to take a step back so he wouldn’t fall over. His arms went around me, too, and I hoped he couldn’t feel my heart rate pick up. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
I kissed him on the cheek, since Mum got to, twice. It was only fair. Mum opened the car door and scooped Carlisle into her arms. Dylan set me down and I hurried over to Carlisle to scratch his little chin.
“I missed you, little one,” I said, only a little bit self-conscious of using my talking-to-cats voice in front of Dylan.
“See you 'round, Greta,” Dylan said, walking around to the driver’s side door and opening it.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I said, a flush rising in my cheeks that I’m positive Mum noticed. We waved him away as he turned around and went back up the street, and he beeped his car horn at us as he passed. Startled by the noise, Carlisle bounded out of Mum’s arms and ran across the grass to our neighbour’s front yard.
“Don’t go too far, Carl-man!” I called. He turned and meowed at me, like, “Okay, Mum, whatever.”
“Are you sure? Dylan might find him again,” Mum said, poking me in the squishy part beneath my ribs, and I flinched away, making her laugh. “And then you’ll get to see him again.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I deadpanned, my cheeks heating up. I went over to Carlisle and scooped him up. He nuzzled my chin as I took him back inside and plopped him on the couch next to Hannah.
“Carlisle!” she cried. “Good to see you again, buddy!”
Hannah graciously paused the movie while the whole Dylan ordeal was going on, so she pressed play and we three snuggled back down to watch the rest of the Order of the Phoenix. By the time the movie was over, Carlisle was purring soundly in the crook of my knees, and my phone had buzzed half a dozen times on the coffee table, with about ten-minute intervals, and I had checked it every time but didn’t reply since, you know, Hannah was crying again and I had to hold her.
I know you’re there
I was just wondering
No, actually, I’m not wondering, I’m just gonna ask
Do you want to go trick or treating with me tonight? I know it’s not really an Australian thing, but I think it would be fun. Your call tho, obvs
Of course. Pick me up at seven?
Sure. Just as long as your cat doesn’t go missing again any time soon.