Independence - posted March 24, 2006
Word Count: ~1500
Summary: "He is leaving me. I am
not sure how I know, but I do."
The lack of contractions is deliberate. No spoilers. Originally
written for the sga_flashfic Left Behind Challenge.
He is leaving me.
am not sure how I know, but I do. His hands linger on me a little more
these days, stroking my hair into glossy sleekness. He rubs the spot
behind my ears and murmurs words at me, soft soothing things that sound
like sadness, and then he sets me in his lap and pets me some more.
Usually he pats me absently while the box flickers with noiseless
images. When he taps at the machine that warms his lap, I have to push
my way onto the humming surface to make him notice me. Remind him we
need to eat. To sleep. Lately, though, he sets the machine aside and
rubs my fur, eyes focused and bright as my own. I purr loud enough for
him to hear me, and when I lie down, I know he can feel the vibrations
in his body. I rub my face against his hand until he strokes my head
again. He smells warm and familiar. He smells like home.
I do not want him to go.
gives me more of the wet food, the kind that tastes like real fish. I
lick the juice and remember fat, fleshy salmon he shared with me once
when I was small and the world was large and strange. We feasted like
kings. The small bag rattles more frequently these days, soft chewy
morsels spilling into his open palm. My tongue licks his skin to steal
the last crumbs, and he talks at me as if I can understand the sounds
he makes. His noises are mostly incomprehensible, but sometimes I
believe I can almost interpret his meaning.
When he is happy,
the room is full of the sound of him, hands flying through the air like
birds, and I leap up and follow his movements, chase his fingers with
my sheathed (never open) claws. Sometimes he drags a coloured string
along the floor and I wait until it almost disappears over the edge of
the couch before I strike. I have a theory that the string will vanish
forever if I cannot catch its tail. It is only a theory, though. We
have tried again and again, but I never miss. I do not like to lose.
he is quiet, sometimes he is working and the work is good. He never
minds when I tunnel under his papers or if I sit on his shoulder and
watch his fingers dance. He sometimes sets me on the floor, straightens
the new arrangement I’ve made of his things, and tosses a toy in my
direction. I humour him. I play with the green felt ball that pretends
to be a mouse. It looks nothing like one, but perhaps he does not know
this. I toss it in the air a few times, bat it under the couch and hope
he forgets about it. I stretch my paws as if reaching for it, but
really all I want is sleep. I nap, but I open one eye occasionally to
see what he is doing. When he is silent, head tipped against the edge
of the table, or bent against the arm of the couch, I nudge him with my
nose. He should not sleep curled up. He is not a cat.
always given me my proper due. I can sleep stretched against his side,
or sitting on his stomach, paws kneading the soft flesh of his belly.
He rumbles in the night with a purr of his own, and I crawl under the
blankets, rub against the downy fur of his legs. If my claws catch the
thin fabric of his clothing, he prods gently until I let go. Sometimes
I do so without exercising my inalienable right to scratch where I
want, but sometimes I leave my mark on his hand. It thrills me a little
to let him know that he is mine. The scratch will only sting, but it
reminds him of me whenever he sees it. It is a necessary hurt for
someone who is not here nearly enough.
Once there was someone
else here. She stayed through two full cycles of sleep, talking as much
as he did as she made small adjustments to the space. She smelled like
roses and curled herself around him until their smells were mingled,
and though I pawed at the door during the night, I slept alone. I chose
to express my dissatisfaction on the corner of the ragged couch.
followed her around to see what she changed. She gave water to the
drying dracaena I’d chewed to a nub. I tried to catch the drops as they
fell, but she nudged me away. She poured water into a bowl, but I
prefer the cup he leaves me in the tub. I saw no need to change for
her. I knew she would not be there long, and I am always right.
it was just the two of us again. It has been that way ever since. Even
when he tricked me into a wire-meshed cage and I woke up in a place
that smelled like fish soup and kerosene, it was only us. When we moved
to the place with snow and more snow, I never felt warm except wrapped
against his skin, beneath his orange fleece, but it was still only us.
Things are changing.
is different from when he leaves during the day and comes home smelling
like other people and machines. It is even different from when he pulls
the square box out of storage—the one I like to hide in—and he lets me
jump on the piles of clothing with only mild noises of reproach. There
are many cardboard boxes now, and I know they are not all for me to
He is going away and I am not going with him. I do not
know what I have done. I press against his legs, curling my tail tight
around his ankle. I try to speak to him, but we have never understood
each other well. He gives me extra treats and lets me sleep in his lap.
It is not enough.
One day the boxes are gone. The noisy creature
that lives in the hall closet has eaten all the scraps and crumbs that
were scattered around the carpet. The kitchen smells clean, like soap
and vinegar. It does not smell like him anymore. Or me. He gathers me
against his chest and holds me for a long time. He murmurs soft things
and strokes my hair. I try to convince him not to go, but the look in
his eyes says his mind is made up. In some ways he is already gone.
This is no easier for him than it is for me, and there is some comfort
in that I suppose. Finally, he bundles me under his arm and presses his
lips to the top of my head. I bury my claws in the front of his shirt
and hang on. He does not even wince at the pain.
Then we are in
the brightness of the hallway and his pace is determined. I hear the
knocking, but all I can look at is him. We’ve been together through so
much. I cannot remember a time when I did not know him, his scent. I
did not expect to leave this life in the company of another, but
somehow I know it is not his wish.
His hands are trembling
against my fur as he hands me to her. She smells like oranges and for a
moment I am stricken. Surely, he would not leave me with …
hand cups my face again, rumples my fur in a way that only he is
allowed, and I stretch my paws towards him one last time. He makes a
kind of broken sound, rubs his face against mine, whispering what I
know to be my name. I can feel the residue of salt water on my fur when
he pulls away.
He disappears down the hallway, hands tight
against his sides, and I make one last plea for him to consider what he
is doing. His step falters, but he does not turn back. He cannot. I
know this is not easy for him. He has told me in every way that matters.
door closes and presents me with a new space to explore. There is the
familiar scent of my things, toys and yarn, an old t-shirt I sometimes
sleep on. The woman still smells like oranges, but there is also the
smell of rain and in her hand are the same kind of treats he gives to
me. She rubs my head gently and makes small noises low in her throat.
She says my name, but it is not the same.
I curl up on one of his shirts and try to sleep. I do not purr. Not
even a little.
I miss him.
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