Patricia de Lyon had always wanted a cat, but her parents wouldn’t let her because her father was “allergic”. Supposedly. She didn’t believe that for a minute, though; her parents were just lazy and didn’t want the burden of the feeding and the cleaning—yet for all Patricia’s imprecations and assurances that she would take care of all that, she could not seduce them.
“A girl your age doesn’t need pets,” her mother lectured, “you need friends! Real friends!”
This was hardly fair, Patricia thought. She had friends: kids at school she smiled at and talked to and had lunch with, now and then.
“Who knows?” her mother added, “Maybe even a boyfriend?”
This did bother Patricia, actually. A boyfriend, she would have liked very much. But what were her options? At her school? Scant. Everybody did drugs. Everybody smoked like a chimney. She didn’t want to kiss that. Not that anyone really liked her much, anyway, partly because she didn’t smoke. But she did want… something. So instead, she spent most of her nights quietly up in her room reading fantasies about handsome princelings taking hapless young girls along on adventures.
One day, though, while she was walking home from the bus stop, a black kitten tumbled out of the bushes in front of her, landing in her way. She knew the old superstition, of course, about black cats crossing your path, but assumed that was just because it can be especially hard to see them in the dark, and it was light out, so… And besides, she soon noticed a small brown patch on her belly, so she wasn’t completely black.
The little black cat looked up at her like she really, honestly didn’t know who it was who had eat the canary, and then she let out the tiniest, solemnest little squeak of a miauw.
Patricia didn’t hesitate. I shall name her Eleven, she decided, because she is not quite as black as midnight. She was taking for granted that her parents would not begrudge her a pet found on the street and taken in.
“Absolutely not,” her mother disappointed her. “What did I say? Your father is allergic! We will not have it in this house!”
“Patricia! Not another word! Now put it back outside before it gets in its animal head we have food around here.”
Reluctantly, Patricia put the little kitten outside in the yard to fend for herself. There are outdoor cats, too, she consoled herself.
But it was no good.
That night, while she lay reading, there was a scratching at her window and an ever-so-soft miauw from outside.
Eleven! thought Patricia. She let the kitten in and kissed and cuddled her to within an inch of her life. When she made another soft miauw, she shushed her hastily before quietly stealing downstairs for some morsels of leftover chicken.
“Miauw,” Eleven kept telling her over the course of weeks and months, growing every day that Patricia kept her hidden, letting her live outside and only bringing her in for cuddles and absconded food.
Except “she” wasn’t the right word, as Patricia discovered one day while rubbing the tomcat’s belly low enough to be sure. She’d never felt one before and always assumed that her first time touching one would be human, but what was wrong with this? She danced back when she felt it, but saw the look in Eleven’s eyes turn from her initial shock to a smoky-eyed smoldering.
Eleven was everything to her. Which was why it was so devastating, six months later, when her mother found out.
“What did I tell you?” her mother shouted, angrier than Patricia had seen her since she’d gone to the deep end of the swimming pool at age six and almost drowned. “No wonder you’ve been so sick!”
This took Patricia by surprise. She hadn’t been sick! Well, she had, of course, she’d had the sniffles, but that wasn’t Eleven’s fault!
“Your father is allergic,” her mother spelled it out or her, “And it’s looking like you are, too!”
The battle for her right to nurture at the expense of her own health was a foregone conclusion, but she fought it still, all the way to the shelter, and then refusing to speak to her mother all the way back home, where she cried herself to sleep.
That night, though, she once more heard the familiar “Miauw?”
Eleven! she shouted inside, and nothing else mattered again, not the allergic reaction she was going to have, not her lack of social life, not the financial burden, not the reaction her father—Hatsjoe!—would continue to have with the cat being around the house, and not her parents’ opinions. Let her peers have their drugs and her parents their health, all Patricia ever needed was this black cat who loved her.
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