The first time Needy saw her she was in the middle of the road, looking right at her with these big dull blue eyes. She’d never seen a black cat with blue eyes before, but she didn’t know that it wasn’t possible. She didn’t really know anything about cats. Needy was worried she might get hurt sitting in the intersection like that, but she didn’t move or do anything about it. The cat licked her paw and then the lights went green and the cars started towards her, but she was already gone.
It wouldn’t have been the first time Needy had seen something and wondered, later, if it had been real. But then she saw her again. She was closer, this time, sitting in her apartment window. She looked at her and licked her paw. She didn’t tap on the window or meow or anything. But her fur looked dull through the window pane and she seemed too skinny. So Needy let her in.
Needy had never had a pet in her life and she didn’t know the first thing about taking care of one. People on TV always fed cats milk, so the first thing she did was get a rice bowl she’d nabbed from a takeaway and filled it with milk. The bowl went untouched over the hour Needy spent in front of Google, learning about cats.
When Needy tried to leave for the store to grab some litter and some food, she followed. She meowed, for the first time, when Needy tried to close the door. She whined and pawed at Needy’s leg, and - perhaps unknowingly - drew tiny drops of blood from her skin.
So they walked together. If anyone saw the companions and thought them odd, they didn’t look at them funny or say anything at all. Needy got what she needed and went home and the cat sauntered over to her bed, walked around in a circle, and curled up on her pillow straight away. And suddenly Needy had a roommate.
She’d never had a roommate before. She’d had evenings with Chip and sleepovers with Jennifer and her mother in the room across the hallway some nights. But never a roommate. The cat was very quiet and always slept on her pillow or in her lap, and though sometimes she scratched when she wanted attention, Needy never clipped her claws, so it was her own fault really. After a few weeks, her fur became shiny and soft, and she put on a bit of weight. Needy never really consciously gave her a name, but one morning she filled up her food bowl and said “Breakfast’s ready, Jen”. So that was what went on the paperwork.
That was also when the dreams started. She’d dreamed about Jennifer Check before, all sorts of dreams, but these ones were weird. In these dreams she stood in the middle of an intersection and stared at her with big dull blue eyes. She sat in Needy’s apartment window and licked her hand. She slept in her pillow or on her lap, and her hair was so soft to touch and so shiny in the sunlight that came through the window. In these dreams she scratched at Needy when she wanted attention, but Needy never clipped her nails, so whose fault was it really?
Therapy was expensive. Even if she could afford it, Needy wasn’t sure she wanted it. Even if she did want it, it would probably land her back in a mental institution. So therapy wasn’t an option. Instead Needy would lay awake listening to the gentle purring by her head and think about what it all meant. She would think about how she missed Chip but he didn’t haunt her quite like Jennifer Check. But Jennifer had haunted her even while she was alive. Jennifer had haunted her for as long as she could remember.
Needy got her a collar that was two-tone in shades of pink. It had a little silver tag on it in the shape of a heart that said her name - the cat’s name - and her address. Maybe it was a stupid move but no one in Seattle knew who Needy really was, and no one would connect a cat to a dead teenager in a deadend Minnesota town. No, if it was a stupid move it was because of the promise it made.
Needy worked in a coffee shop in town to make ends meet. Besides from that she never really left her apartment except to shop for food and books. She didn’t talk to people much and when she did it was like she wasn’t there. So it took her quite by surprise when someone asked her out. It surprised her even more that it was a girl. Needy never really knew that girls could ask girls out.
She said yes because she wanted to know what it would be like. The girl was nice enough - and if Needy thought about it, she did find her attractive - but she didn’t know how to feel about any of it.
“I’ve never been with a girl before,” Needy explained.
“Oh,” said the girl, shuffling in her seat. “But you’ve wanted to?”
Needy was silent for a moment. “I honestly don’t know. Everything was so complicated with her.”
“I get that. What happened?”
“She died.” Needy had killed her.
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. You probably meant before that. She, uh, was my best friend. For as long as I can remember. I don’t even think we had anything in common, like at all. But there was some kind of hold there. And sometimes I think we had more in common than either of us was willing to admit.”
“It’s weird, isn’t it?”
Needy blinked. “What?”
“I don’t know. Boys are, like, other people. Girls are… they’re like you. When you love them it’s harder. Especially when the world we live in fucking hates women. Does that make sense?”
Needy smiled. “Yeah. Yeah, I think so.”
The girl’s name is Ash. They decide to hang out again sometime but just as friends. Needy clearly has shit to work through.
When she gets home, Jen is at the door, and scratches her leg. Needy picks her up and holds her in her arms like a child for a minute, and she doesn’t really know how to explain it but it’s like there’s pain in her eyes, and their blue is turning green. Needy buries her face in her soft black fur.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I’m sorry.”
That evening, she buys a pair of clippers for her claws.