IT WAS NEARLY eleven at night when the crying began. A muffled sound made the hairs on her arm stand upright. She didn't have roommates and she wasn't expecting any visitors, so she crept towards the woeful sound coming from the fire escape with her hands clenched around the bat she kept next to her bed, ready to swing at the intruder.
Maeve tiptoed to the window, and suddenly the crying stopped. Her hand trembled as she reached for the curtain, and flung it open.
A little runt of a cat blinked up at her. The cat's eyes were beady and its fur was mangled and matted. The cat was thin, gray, and sleek, its front paws pressed together with its head cocked to the side, ears alert. Her landlord didn't allow pets, but Maeve hated them anyways. Messy, needy, loud. She rolled her eyes and yanked the curtain back over the window.
Heading to her bedroom, Maeve crawled under the covers, her eyes fluttering closed.
Her eyes snapped open and she angrily pushed her bedsheets away, stomping to the cramped kitchen and pulling out two bowls. Maeve dished out some tuna fish and turned on the faucet. She lifted the window and slid the food and water to the cat.
"Here, happy?" The cat made a small coo sound. "No, shoo, don't come in here."
Maeve slammed the window shut and headed back to bed, her eyes finally shutting . . .
Until the howling started again.
Their routine consisted of leftover tuna fish and tap water on a fairly consistent basis. The pair tolerated each other; Maeve would grumble as she dished out the tuna, and the cat would whimper into the winds.
As it grew to be fall, Maeve found herself in the center of a pet store, trying to find food for the burden she'd acquired. Seven dollars later, she headed back to her dingy apartment with a rickety fire escape that sometimes held a whiny cat.
Whistling, Maeve marched to her room and cracked open a can, placing it by the window. Nothing. Maybe the cat wasn't coming back. Why would it?
The creaking sound of steps and a wail interrupted her. Maeve found herself smiling.
The first snowfall of the year approached, and Maeve heard the cat's frantic wails. She darted to the window and was faced with a damp, trembling cat. No pets allowed — a rule her landlord was adamant on.
Maeve hoisted up the window, told the cat to shush, and headed for the kitchen. She pried open a can of cat food, silently laying it on the floor.
"Feel free to roam anywhere, I'm going to go to bed. I just don't want you to freeze." With that, she headed to her bedroom.
She had just closed her eyes and expected the cat to cry, but instead heard the pitter patter of footsteps. As Maeve's eyes drifted closed, she could just barely see the cat curl up next to her on the bed.