The Old Friend

Jeff got home from work just like any other day, except today was Friday. His apartment was an older one, white-painted brick and scuffed wooden floors. He liked the aesthetic, it made him feel more avant-garde, and embraced it in the decorations, orange curtains, older style corduroy couches with a differently colored but matching chair, and a paisley scarf hung above his large curved screen LCD. Claire was home, and didn’t much care for the style, but she didn’t have much opinions on anything, and enjoyed the spacious open layout. They sit quietly, enjoying each other’s company, watching TV or reading for most the evening.

A knock on the door, and he goes to get it. A girl around his age no taller than four and a half feet excitedly jumps up, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him. Though she seems very familiar, he has no clue who she is, and gently pushes her away to arms length, breaking the kiss.
“Jeff! Oh my g-I’m so embarrassed, you don’t remember me, do you?”
“Yes, well, no, well, I think I saw you at work once or twice this week?”
“Yeah, work! Well–” She sees Claire, standing in the hallway, glaring. “…You didn’t wait for me?”
“Wait for you, I don’t know you?”
“Who is this?” shouts Claire.
“I don’t know!”
“I’m Gwen, an old friend, I just started working with him, and I’m sorry, if I’d known, I never would have greeted him like that.”

Things settle down, and soon they’re caught up. The tension is still there, but it’s mostly awkward, silent tension. In a bohemian manner, the three sit on the bed in the back alcove of the apartment beside the kitchen, having tea with the older CRT flat screen TV on in the background. Claire’s persian cat hangs around in the peripheries, cautious of the new person. After conversations die down, the three are comfortably watching TV, with Gwen laying down at the foot of the bed, and the couple sitting up at the back. Eventually, the three switch positions, and the two are sitting at the edge of the bed, engrossed in a show that seems oddly relevant, and with gained empathy from the brilliant writing, decide to let her stay over, even though when they turn to look at her, she is asleep, curled in a ball, sucking her thumb. This quiet girl is a bit weird.

The next afternoon, the three are lounging around on the couches, and Claire’s cat comes out of hiding, which sparks Gwen into revealing more about her past.
“Jeff, remember you used to have a fluffy white cat, but couldn’t keep it?”
“Yeah, that cat was the best thing ever, absolutely loved that cat, but how’d you know?”
“Well…” Gwen slowly transforms into a white and black, fluffy Himalayan cat.

She explains to them that she’s from the distant future, and that her species can turn back and forth into felines, but only after a certain age, and she can’t return home. She started searching him out as soon as she was able, remembering their time together. He feels for her, but is in a committed relationship. There is a sad, mutual understanding that they cannot be together.
The four spend one last night all together, and the next day drive out to the country, to a friendly pet and wildlife preserve, fenced in. At the edge of a chain link fence, they hug tightly, and she turns into her cat self. Petting her, they both have memories of the first time they said goodbye, and he remembers putting his contact information on the back of one of his company’s business cards in her collar way back then, and does the same. She enters the preserve through a small animal-sized entrance in the fence, and runs through a field down to a river, jumping on a small raft with other animals. She climbs on top of a horse, and floats down the river.

Claire and Jeff drive down another highway that night back into the city, he is running his fingers through her hair, when it gets caught on his nail, tearing it a bit, he turns his attention to it for a few moments. Soon they pass a huge blue billboard with large yellow writing: “Did you marry a pooper?” There’s a picture of a Himalayan cat at a litter box, and little else. The couple stares in continued silence, when sirens flare up behind them. Claire pulls over, and an officer comes up to the window, shining the flashlight inside at her. Rolling down the window, Claire asks what the problem is. The agent explains simply: he’s there to help stop a recently discovered local alien invasion that’s been occurring for years, and their silence was typically a telling sign.

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