It always amazes me how fast cats take to sleep. The next thing I knew, I was blinking away my dreams and yawning. My muscles were stiff from lying in the overly soft cushion of a chair. The odor of hand sanitizer layered above blood confirmed to me that I was indeed in the hospital, without my even needing to look around.
When I did, however, I was pleased to see the girl propped up against her pillows, wolfing down food like there was no tomorrow. I couldn't imagine that food there tasted too great but hey- to each his own.
The girl, Torhu, I remembered, glanced up suddenly, realizing she was being watched. "Oh!" she cooed when her eyes found mine, "You're awake!" She patted her lap. "Come sit with me. I'll share."
I re-examined her food and reached a stronger conclusion than the former: No way did I want leeks. I shuddered, but headed over anyway. Immediately after I was seated, she waved the limp vegetable near my face. I felt my lip curling up as I turned my face away, emoting the word 'yuck' in all its rude glory.
Luckily, Torhu just laughed, clearly not offended. "Picky, aren't you?" she teased, tossing the leek into her own mouth. "Ah well. Your loss."
We sat there for a while, companionably. She stroked my ears for a time, rubbed my back, fussing over me in general. I enjoyed it a lot more than I probably should have.
Then her grandfather walked into the room.
I could tell immediately it was him; his face held the same kind softness that Torhu's did, if with slightly different features. He was a short, wrinkled old guy- but I took to him as instantly as I had taken to Torhu.
I stood to greet him, almost forgetting for a moment my feline form. Instead of introducing myself, I meowed.
The grandfather's eyes crinkled up even more when they saw me. "So this is the Miracle Cat, huh?" he chuckled, "Scrawny little guy, isn't he?"
"Isn't he cute?" Torhu cooed, patting my head. My tail curled up happily. Torhu and her grandfather both like me. Maybe I have a chance of-
"You know he can't stay with us, right?" the grandfather murmured, "We can't afford to keep a cat. I can barely pay for the people staying with me right now, and you know you're stepfamily wouldn't want a small animal underfoot." He sighed before continuing, "We could find him a good home, Torhu. But we can't keep him."
I watched the girl's face as that fragile piece of hope between us shattered. She looked like a delicate glass, veined with small cracks threatening to eventually overtake the entirety of the form. Tears welling from raw pain formed in the corners of her eyes. I knew if I were still human that my face would mirror hers. But cats don't cry.
I shook myself, trying to free my emotions with the violent swaying of fur. But it didn't do much good.
I knew then that I was going to go home. I was sure Torhu and her grandfather would find me a wonderful owner- but it seemed suddenly pointless to be a cat for anyone else. I bounded to the windowsill and peered out the open window. It was open to the first story grounds. I turned back and gave Torhu a blink of thanks, and then I jumped.
Their voices followed me, but faded fast as my pace quickened.
Meeting a person like that girl, it changes you. Even in the short time I was with her, I was touched by her ability to smile through the pain. I vowed to myself as I sprinted away that I would one day be worthy to receive her misplaced affection, even if her affection was not really towards me, but to a cat.
The next time I woke up in a dumpster, I wasn't quite as crabby.