This New Life

Submitted into Contest #33 in response to: Write a story about a character making a big change.... view prompt

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The apartment stood bare before me. The vacuum lines were still visible in the carpet under visions of where new furniture would go. If only there was a moving truck downstairs, waiting filled with kitchen utensils and memories, but there wasn’t. Right now, this was all I had. An empty apartment. An angry meow pulled me from my thoughts. “Sorry Amelia!” I meowed gently back at her as I knelt down and opened the pet carrier. She normally would have shot out of that carrier like a calico bullet, to hide in a closet or perch on top of the recliner and glare at me, but this time she slowly walked out of the door and rubbed reassuringly against my knee. I sat next to the carrier and she crawled into my lap. She put both paws on my chest and pressed her head against mine. She jumped off me and I watched her wander into the empty apartment to explore. A jungle cat, walking into the desert. Nothing to hide under, nothing to climb. A barren wasteland in her green eyes.         

I ran through the checklist of things I needed to do now that I was in a new state, with a new job, and a new life. I sank slowly to the floor, curling tighter and tighter into the fetal position. Overwhelmed and exhausted, I had so much to do, and all I wanted to do was take a nap. And that’s just what I was going to do. Take a nap right here on the floor. I didn’t need to blow up the air mattress. Stupid things always deflated until you were sleeping on the floor anyway. I closed my eyes to block out all the stress of a cross country move, a new job, and an empty apartment. 

Once released from my prison, I begin to explore my new territory. It appears empty and abandoned. There are many new smells. Strong, sharp scents cover the dull musk of others that have come before me. They will fade in time, replaced by my own ownership of this place. I trot down the hallway, checking through doorways as I go. There is a large room at the end of the hallway, with a smaller room connected to it. This will be my room. I have claimed it, and there is no one around to challenge my decree. For now, I should find a warm spot to sleep. The sun will reenergize me and there are no soft places to sleep at the moment. I return to the Companion who is attempting to sleep in a dark corner. Did she not see that there is a perfectly good patch of sunlight by the giant door to the outside world? This is unacceptable. I must correct this. 

Suddenly there was a paw on my face. I opened my eyes again and looked up to see a large cat nose inches from my own. She meowed and stepped on my face again. I suddenly remembered that she had no food, no water, and no bathroom, and if I wanted to keep any sort of security deposit, I needed to get those set up fast. “Hold on, Amelia, I’ll run down to the car and grab your stuff. Hold tight. Where did I put my keys?” Did this door lock automatically or did I have to manually lock it? That’s the learning curve of living in a new place. I really didn’t want to lock myself out on my first day in the apartment. How could I lose something in an empty apartment? I found them in the obvious place I should have checked first—my purse. “I’ll be right back, Amelia. Don’t tear up the place while I’m gone.” 

The car beeped as I approached, the familiar click of unlocking doors greeting me. I grabbed my small bag of essentials, Amelia’s food, and litterbox, and attempted to shut the door without dropping anything. 

“You need some help with that?” a light voice to my left said. A small woman dressed in jeans and a flannel stood on the sidewalk awaiting my answer. 

“I think I’ve got it. Thank you, though!” I laughed. 

“The least I can do is get the door for you.” She responded. “Did you just move from Texas?”

“What?” 

“Texas. Your license plate is from Texas. Is that were you moved from?” 

“Oh no,” I responded, “that’s a rental. I just moved from Florida” 

“Oh, you will like the west coast. There’s a lot to do and the people are great.” 

“Well, I need some great people in my life at the moment. I’ll even settle for halfway decent, at this point.”

“I’m Claudia, I live in 4C. I’m only a quarter decent, but I think we could make it work,” she quipped while she held the door so I could make it through without spilling cat food all over the lobby. 

“Any amount of decent sounds good to me.” I stopped outside my door, looking at the shiny 4A mounted there. I took a deep breath and prepped myself. Things needed to be to be different from before. 

            

The Companion has left. The smells and noises of this new territory are distracting, and I cannot sleep yet. The birds outside have taunted me, but it is obvious I cannot reach them. I watched the Companion strap her strange contraptions to her paws. I have never understood why she goes out like this, covering her claws and leaving no way to defend herself. There had been a second Companion before the long journey. Companion is a strong word, for he hated me. He occasionally provided me with sustenance, but mostly avoided me. This is strange because we had many similarities. He liked to sit on the large sleeping area, eyes closed, purring loudly. Much like I did. Unmoving, he looked like a lumpy part of the sleeping area. Companion would often avoid him as he avoided me. She would come home quietly, scoop me into her arms and take me to her room and shut the door. We would curl up and avoid the Lump together. 

As Claudia walked away, my number safely in her phone, I thought, “I really do need some great people in my life.” I laughed. I hadn’t come here under the best of circumstances, but I was determined to make the best of it. I had literally picked up and left. I was done fighting, and work had provided the perfect means of escape. Jordan wouldn’t leave Florida if you had paid him, and I couldn’t stand it. This topic had been the center of our arguments for a long time until we had just stopped arguing and stopped talking altogether. I had spent a long time not voicing my concerns, not speaking up and telling him why I was unhappy. When I finally did, I wish I could say he laughed, or he had gotten angry, but he didn’t. He just didn’t do anything. I don’t even think he turned the TV off. 

I had arrived in the home of the Companion as a tiny tiger. I could not yet scale the furniture or reach the best hiding places. I would discover those in time. The first day was loud and I had hidden under the sleeping place. I was alone for the first time in my short life. The Lump had yelled at me and yelled at the Companion and I was determined to never leave my dark hiding place. At first, I only left when everything was dark and quiet. Once I heard the steady purr of the Lump, I knew it was safe to leave. I would sneak slowly out and begin to explore. At the slightest sound, I returned to my hiding place to wait again until it was safe. Then, a gentle and patient hand provided me with tasty squares. In the light I saw the Companion sitting against a wall, waiting. There was no urgency in her face. She merely reached out and placed another square before me.  I began to love the Companion then. I soon discovered that she was never loud, we shared a love of blankets, and her face often tasted of salt. 

 

We adopted Amelia because we shared a car, worked opposite schedules, and I couldn’t stand being in the apartment by myself. She had saved my life, that stubborn little girl. So now, she and I had to figure out what to do since there was no truck filled with a different life sitting downstairs, and one wasn’t coming. I started over, and I’m starting from scratch. “I’m not going to fight for this miserable life, Jordan! You can have it all, I don’t want it.” Our last meeting with the lawyer had not gone the way either of us had planned but I was done. He was trying to delay the divorce by making everything a fight. He wanted all of the kitchen things, even though he had never used any of them, and my mother’s heirloom china, which he had called ugly at our wedding. It was the most effort I had ever seen Jordan put into anything in his life. I had had an epiphany in that meeting. It was never going to end unless I ended it. So that’s exactly what I did. I had walked out of the office, rented a car, and driven to Oregon. Work had offered me a promotion a week before and I had been on the fence about whether I wanted to take it. The voice in my head had told me that if I couldn’t sort out my personal life, how could I ever take on the responsibility of a new position? I wasn’t worth it. But something in the meeting had flipped a switch. So, I picked a path, and I wasn’t looking back. I opened up the gateway to my new life and Amelia ran up to greet me at the door. 

March 18, 2020 02:28

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