Cats Feet

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She wakes to a fresh opportunity: wide, open, yawning with room. Like the soft silence of cats feet, the hushed whisper of secrets, the calm that floats upon the aftermath of a storm: space to get up, stretch, run around.

Lifting a hand – raising first one arm and then the other – she embraces it, pressing it to her breast, pulling it against her chest. Then, heart sated, she rises – slowly, reluctant to alter her perspective lest she shatter the transformation that appears, overnight, to have changed the world in which she exists.

Sunlight warms a patch on the floor – grey, concrete, habitually cold. Departing the rug – sheepskin, white, once sleek, now matted beyond repair – naked feet set out across unobstructed terrain, padding lightly down a hallway, through a sitting room, past a bathroom that doubles as a corridor into a kitchen beyond. There, stopping, a head looks up, casts two eyes at a window, implores the body corresponding, belonging, attached, to respond, walking towards it with haste. Reaching, opening, feeling, inhaling: fresh, fragrant and full. She is in love with summer; it is a recent discovery and she cannot get enough of it, of what it means. To lie baking on a lounger beneath a clear blue sky, turning first golden and then cinnamon brown; to swim – initially clothed and then partly and then not at all – in an outdoor pool used only by her; to play music – loud, to stay up – late, to cook and eat outside, to sleep without hinderance from a duvet; to hear the chirrup of crickets, the buzz of bees, to see bats cast shadows across a yolken moon; to watch it wax, wane: new, precious, vital. To have to part with it, to be forced to bid it goodbye, farewell: inconceivable. And yet she must, and soon, for September beckons, threatening a slow return to all she has sought and still most ardently desires to evade.

So the letter – encased in Manila; pocket-sized, informal, handwritten – piques her interest. Inside unknown, it could represent anything: an invitation, an announcement, a job offer, an unsolicited proposition of love – and because of this there is a reluctance to break the seal, to release the contents. She cannot bear, for now, for the moment, for the first few breaths of the morning that feels so full, so alive, so pregnant, to shatter the dream. To go back, to return, to stay and to slowly be swallowed: too painful for her.

A heart flutters, a soul flaps its reply, a mind adjusts itself to the possibilities – considering every angle, exploring all corners, climbing the visage of walls, exposing the flat expanse of floors, lifting up planks and probing beneath. Good, bad, ugly; meeting, greeting; considering, contemplating; accepting, rejecting; embracing, fleeing: so much to accommodate, so little to satisfy, such a small window of hope.

The phone rings, pulling her up, out, into the room and back into her body. Leaving the letter, she descends: feeling heavy; aware again of the inconvenience of weight and the intrusion of sound. Feet crash, soles slap, knees creak and ankles click. She is getting old: the lines on her face, the grey in her hair, the recent sag of certain formerly-pert bits – breast, belly, butt – proving it. Time flies, regardless of whether you are having fun. Hours pass, slowly but surely; ignorant to feelings, untouched by pain. It’s all the same to them: tick, tock, flik, flak; round and round, evolution after revolution. To the world: she is nothing; less significant, even, than a speck of dust, a smear of dirt, a drop of water stolen from the middle of an ocean. But to her: that envelope, that morning, mean everything – hope, escape, salvation, survival. To crush it, that, would be to crush the happily ever after, killing the naïve notions that she has always clung to, polished, nurtured and insisted upon growing up: the staunch belief that one day her prince will come, that together they will cross over, stepping across a veiled threshold, walking beneath a fading rainbow, descending into coral shadow to embrace vanilla light.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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