Carly gets home late that night and parks her truck, letting out a sigh as she shifts the stick to P. She reaches the second floor and stops at the top of the stairs, staring down the walkway to her door which is, once again, ajar when it should be closed. She turns and walks back, getting into the truck, locking the doors and dialing 911 on her cellphone.
“Well ma’m, the apartment is clear, and there doesn’t appear to be any damage other than the bolt and lock. You’ll have to come in and tell us if anything’s missing.”
“And you’re sure the guy from earlier is still in custody?”
“He would go right to a cell as soon as he recovered consciousness.” The policewoman looks past the still in-car Carly at the passenger seat. “Nice that you got your cat safely out of there, though.” Carly raises her eyebrows.
“What– “ she looks to her right, where Chuck is seated, and meows as she spots him. “How did you get in here?” She looks back at the cop. “Was he there the whole time?” The cop has a slight grin on her face.
“You didn’t know he was in there? He crawled out from under the seat while we were talking.”
“No, I… he must’ve gotten out when they opened the door and then…” Chuck blinks as she stares at him, “… jumped in here when I got home?” She turns back to the policewoman. “Wait, you said the lock is broken?”
“Yeah, almost as though someone used a battering ram, though there’s no sign of impact on the outside and your neighbors didn’t report any loud crashes. Two incidents in two nights though, huh? I’d probably want to move as well. Do you have somewhere to stay?”
“I’ll Figure something out. Oh man, I can’t believe this…” she puts her right hand over her eyes.
“Well, we’re here for you if you need us. It is strange that this is the second time in a row. Is there anyone you can think of who might be targeting you?” Carly lets out a shaky laugh.
“Oh yeah, all those drug lords I make sure to piss off daily…” the policewoman folds her arms and gives a small frown, “… I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to think of all this. There’s no one I can think of that would do something like this.”
“All right Carly, stay safe.” She gets back in the patrol car and pulls away. Carly watches until she’s out of sight and then turns to Chuck.
“I know we’ve just started this relationship and it’s a big step, but I’d like you to meet my mother.”
The digital light reads three o’clock in the morning as Carly pulls her truck up the gentle slope of the driveway in front of the one story house. A single light shines from one of the front windows. An overnight bag in one hand and Chuck in the other, she walks up the path to the door, which opens ahead of her revealing an older woman, pepper grey hair frizzy from sleep and light pink robe wrapped tight around her.
“You made it!” she says, and then looks at the neighboring houses and says, quieter, “I’ve been so worried!”
“Yeah, and I’m about ready to just lay down and sleep out here. Let me in!” Chuck squirms a bit and then hangs limp.
“And there’s the baby! Come in, come in…” she ushers Carly inside and closes the door behind.
Morning sunlight seeps through the blinds, and Carly sits up in the tall bed, light brown wooden frame sticking out around the quilt-covered mattress. She is wearing the same clothes from the night before, and random strands of hair float around her yawning face. Chuck sleeps at the foot of the bed, tail wrapped tight around him, head turned to the side and one squinched eye visible. Carly moves, a gradual slide out from under the covers and out of bed, keeping an eye on the sleeping cat. She makes her way out of the room without causing a stir, though some whiskers twitch as she leaves.
The kitchen is bright with the late morning sun, unplugged coffee machine full of black-brown java. Carly’s mother sits at the table, paperback open in front of her, already dressed in bluejeans and a plain pink t-shirt. She looks up and smiles as Carly enters.
“Awake finally! Though I can’t blame you. Wish I could sleep like that.” She lifts her cup of coffee and puts it back down after verifying its vacant state. Carly yawns again.
“Uh huh. Uh huh…” she pulls out a chair and falls into it, and a mouse runs out from under one of the cabinets and behind the fridge. Carly gasps and pulls her legs up into the chair. “Mom! A mouse!” Her mother is unfazed.
“Oh yeah. You know how it is in the winter. They come flooding in, and just as many swears come flooding out of your father’s mouth when he sees one.” A tiny orange head peeks around the corner of the kitchen doorway. “Ooh, and here comes the hunter! Funny how a mouse woke both of you up. Any chance you might leave him here?” Chuck strides over to the fridge and sits, tail whipping back and forth.
“Might leave myself here as well if I can’t find a safer apartment. Do you–” a loud scrape fills the kitchen and Carly and her mother turn and look at the source, the now askew fridge, Chuck’s paw pressed against the back. They look back at each other as the cat slips into the gap, tail still waving.
“That fridge is on wheels, right?”
“If it was, I would’ve wheeled it out of here a long time ago.”
“I mean, it’s pretty light, right?”
“Your father’s thrown his back out twice trying to move it. How did you get this cat, again?”
( ©2015 Sean Dorsey )