tagRomanceAbout a Cat

About a Cat


This story contains cats in non-sexual situations. If you are not a fan of cats, cat humor, or romance between cat lovers...then, really, what are you doing reading a story with this title, in the Romance section? Move along, there are lots of other great stories for you to read here.


Rob sat on the faded blue cloth of the loveseat and just relaxed. That and an old coffee table were the only pieces of furniture in the living room of his new apartment. He still had a long way to go to make this place home, but this moment was incredibly soothing. It felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from his shoulders, like it was the first time he had actually been relaxed in years. A seagull cut loose with its raucous scream as it winged across the darkening sky. Even that sound, to Rob, was familiar and comforting. Sleep took him quickly, and he had a gentle smile on his face as he slumped over on the loveseat and slept.

His divorce had been ugly, but that made sense when you considered how ugly the entire marriage had been. Why two people who were so ill-fitted thought they could make a serious go of it probably boiled down to hubris and denial--at least on Rob's side of that ledger. The only positive thing to come out of it was a lovely daughter, Abigail. Rob had packed his belongings--mostly consisting of boxes and boxes of books--and had driven two thousand miles to start over again in this Gulf Coast town.

Coming from over a mile up in the Rocky Mountains, the entire drive had been down hill. The last two days of the journey, Rob had kept the windows rolled down on his truck. Despite the heat of the day, that welcome humidity and dense air felt like heaven on his skin and entering his lungs. He had lived at elevation for over two years, but it just never felt like there was enough air in the air to him; he was constantly short of breath and gasping after minor exertion. He had been to Florida a few times over the years, but not this part of the state.

He was surprised to find that it wasn't the isolated little town he had expected, but was now a suburb of Tampa. It didn't deter him--it wasn't like he hated people or wanted to move to a small town. It was just not what he had expected when he took the offered job. He had figured out the difference when he had begun making online queries for an apartment in the area. The sheer number of available apartments, as well as the higher prices for many of those places, clued him in before he ever saw a densely packed street map.

Rob was one of those really annoying people (in his own words) who lose weight when they get out of shape. He smoked cigarettes and drank coffee, but didn't snack or work out these days. Despite being a little over six feet tall, he was very thin and weighed only about 175 pounds. In his younger days, when he had lifted weights and run three to five miles a day, he had weighed closer to 220.

He was almost fifty years old, but still had a full head of slightly wavy dark brown hair. The last few years he had taken to shaving his face clean. His moustache and beard had become a gnarly patchwork of gray, white, black and brown hairs when he decided that mess had to go. The net result was that he actually looked younger now than he had a decade ago. He had just started to get 'crow's feet' in the corners of his eyes, and he had to wear glasses to drive, but otherwise he was remarkably fit and young looking.

When he arrived at the office of his new apartment complex, then, the office manager was surprised to see him. She was close to his age, but he looked substantially younger than the gentleman she had been expecting after talking with him on the phone. This had been the case Rob's entire life. He had been carded for cigarettes well into his thirties, and when he would occasionally have a beer or two, he would still have to produce a photo ID.

The apartment manager was also surprised because he had paid the rather prohibitive pet deposit on his apartment, but he didn't actually own a pet. His wife had been allergic, so he had not kept any pets other than the aquarium full of fish that he had left behind. He looked forward to having a cat again. He just didn't have one yet. That would take another week--and it would change his life.

In the meantime, he was learning his way around his new home town. Figuring out the traffic going to and coming home from work, where to get groceries, where to buy his furniture; all of these things took time. At the same time, he also needed to learn his new job. This was in an office building, and he was a charismatic fellow who fit in immediately. He was skilled at telling amusing stories, and had a repertoire of 'clean' jokes that helped endear him to his coworkers and managers alike.

He was also hard-working and very smart. Rob was far too self-effacing, and this had hurt him throughout his life. He was terrible at self-promotion, despite the fact that he took pride in his competence and the quality of his work. He could have been running the entire business at triple his salary if he just set his sights higher. However, that just wasn't his style. He was perfectly happy to fit in, and to work hard as part of a team.

At the end of that first week of work, Rob walked into his apartment and finally felt like it was home. He had furnished the place decently, if not expensively. It was comfortable for him. It was tidy and uncluttered. It was time for him to get a cat.

He would have done it earlier, but he knew there was still too much moving in to do. A cat would be uncomfortable with all the comings and goings of furniture delivery. He had assembled four large bookcases, as well as a computer desk and office chair. He had hung up artwork around the place, most of it his daughter's work.

He also had his smoking area set up on the balcony of the apartment. Rob smoked less than half a pack a day, largely because he had quit smoking indoors twenty years earlier. Empty coffee cans served to collect the ashes and cigarette butts. Once he had changed out of the dress shirt and tie, and had a relaxing smoke on his balcony, Rob mentally prepared himself for the next big step.

He got in his truck and drove to the pound.

Rob had to smoke again in the parking lot before he could go inside. He was far too sensitive, and he had to tell himself repeatedly, "I'm only here to get one cat." He wasn't looking to save some wild animal and have it tear up his new apartment; he was looking for a cat that had once had a home. Unfortunately, there were two of those cats in the pound, both meowing pitifully at him and pressing against their cages, desperate to be petted. Rob couldn't help himself. He paid the fifty dollar fee for each of the sad cats.

The young women who worked at the pound were a little surprised when he asked if he could leave pictures of the cats as well as his contact information. It simply wasn't something they did; they were just happy when someone would claim one of these animals so they didn't have to 'put it to sleep.'

"These cats obviously belonged to someone," Rob explained. "I have a fourteen-year-old daughter, and if she lost her cat, it would be devastating. If someone shows up looking for their lost pet, I'll be happy to give it back to them and come back for another one."

They took a picture of the long-haired light grey tabby and the almost-white Burmese, writing Rob's cell phone number on the back of the pictures as they came out of the printer.

As he left with both animals, Rob was pleased to see that they got along well. The two of them curled up together in his passenger seat. Their purring made him feel less like a sucker for having taken them both. He did stop at a pet supply store on his way home to get them food, litter boxes, toys, and a scratching post.

Rob's reward was a blissful evening with a lapful of purring fur and companionship. He could not get the smile off of his face. This was something he had missed for the entirety of his marriage. Once again, he fell asleep on the worn but comfortable loveseat.

Over the following three weeks, Rob began to get his body back into shape. The apartment complex had a trio of gym areas. One had weight machines, the second treadmills, elliptical and biking machines, and the third had free weights and exercise mats. It had been a while, so he was careful not to overdo it early and thus kill his enthusiasm. He also enjoyed swimming in the two pools that were closest to his apartment, and the attention that came with the swimming.

He considered himself out of shape, but only because he was aware of what his 'prime' had looked like. His wife had shown almost no interest in him, sexually, in a decade. It was nice to be noticed, even if the girls checking him out were far too young for him. The young, obviously gay guys hitting on him were also a bit disconcerting. Neither group seemed put off when he flatly said, "I'm fifty." They were surprised, but undeterred. Rob wasn't up to entertaining such a shallow relationship, as tempting as it might be.

Rob was standing on his bathroom scale after showering off the sweat of his evening workout. He was back up to 187 pounds, which was a good sign. The added muscle, particularly in his shoulders, arms and chest, really made a difference in his appearance. He felt stronger and healthier than he had in a long time. The only real downside was that he was putting a lot of testosterone into his blood stream with those workouts.

He was as horny as he could recall being in years. If not for all of his self-imposed rules, he could have had an eager outlet (or three) for his reignited sexual energy. Instead, he was looking at porn and masturbating like a teenager. It did enough to take the edge off and keep him from making a fool of himself, but he was sincerely interested in finding a real relationship. He was wary of dating so soon after his divorce, worried that he would be tempted to dive into another bad relationship.

All of this was on his mind when his cell phone rang, Saturday afternoon. Rob grimaced as he picked it up, expecting another verbal barrage from his angry ex-wife or a suddenly urgent project from work. Instead, it was a local call from a number he did not recognize. Since his cell phone was still a Colorado number, it wasn't likely a wrong number. He answered with a simple "Hello?"

"Hello?" a woman's voice came through the line, "I think you may have rescued my daughter's cat from the pound a couple weeks ago. I just wanted to..." the voice broke off with a sob. The woman on the line was obviously in some distress.

Rob could certainly relate. It was exactly the reason he had left his information and the pictures in the first place.

"Hey," he said comfortingly into the phone, "It's alright. I'm Rob, by the way. Would you like to come over to my apartment and make sure I have your cat?"

"Yes, please!" the gratitude in that voice was palpable.

Rob gave the woman his address, and she said she would be right over. He looked sadly at 'his' cats as he picked them up and sat in the loveseat. He realized then that he didn't even know which of his babies might be leaving him. The cats both looked at him. They could tell something was wrong, and meowed and purred to comfort him.

He heard the telltale sound of a woman's footsteps approaching his apartment door. Her shoes rang out on the tile floor, stopping at the door. She knocked hesitantly, and the Burmese that Rob had named El Guapo suddenly leapt from the couch and meowed as he ran to the door. Rob looked down at Sunshine, still purring in his lap, and said, "I guess it will just be you and me after this."

He set her aside carefully and sighed as he walked to the door, using the side of his foot to keep El Guapo from charging out the door. He smiled at the blonde woman standing in the doorway.

"Please, come in," Rob said.

The woman had tears in her eyes when the Burmese cat began meowing and rubbing against her calf. "Oh, Bernard!" she said as she scooped him up, "Thank God!"

The cat in her arms began to purr. Rob gave her a sad smile and put out his hand.

"I'm Rob, nice to meet you," he said.

"Oh, where are my manners? I'm Melissa," she took his hand. Her hand shook in his, and she began sobbing helplessly as she held the lost cat in a hug that was too tight. Bernard squirmed and then squirted free, joining Sunshine on the loveseat.

Melissa's sobs just increased after that, and she muttered, "God, I'm such a bad mom."

Reflexively, Rob wrapped the distressed woman in a comforting hug. Melissa just burrowed her face into his chest and welcomed the hug as she cried out loud. Her body shook with the force of all that emotion. Over her shoulder, Rob looked at the cats helplessly. The expressive eyes looked him over briefly in response. Typical of cats, that response was, "Don't ask us, dude."

Melissa wasn't normally such a hot mess. It had been a really lousy month for her, and she just felt like she was failing every challenge life had thrown at her these days. Her own divorce had been almost two years ago, when her cheating husband had taken off with his young girlfriend. She had barely managed to hang on financially. It was all she could do not to lose the house. She definitely couldn't afford to hire attorneys and private investigators to figure out where her ex had gone and sue him for child support.

Brittany, her daughter, was incredibly bright and insightful for a seven-year-old. She had taken her father's departure in stride and didn't blame her mother for it. Brittany had seen the way her father had always looked at other women. She was worried about her mother, though. Melissa had taken the betrayal hard, and she did blame herself, even though she shouldn't have.

Melissa worked as a receptionist and office manager at a doctor's office, where she handled the mountains of paperwork that come with four doctors all running private practices. Unlike many people who held such a position, Melissa was really good at her job. The doctors all realized it, and made sure that she was properly compensated for her time. When they found out about her divorce and financial hardship, they all made sure to contribute and help her out, without making it seem like charity.

This last month, though, Brittany had been very ill twice. First it was a nasty strain of flu that was making the rounds of school-age kids, and then it was strep throat. Then someone had hit their car in the parking lot of the grocery store and had taken off. That was the first she was aware that her insurance did not cover such a thing. She could ill afford to miss work to take care of her daughter, and now her car was barely drivable.

She had no idea when their cat went missing. Bernard had taken off for more than a week a few times before. It wasn't a big deal when he didn't show up to be fed in the evening when Melissa got home from work. She put cat food outside for him, and neighborhood strays were happy to take care of it. It was when Brittany was getting ready for school two mornings ago that she commented, "Mom, when's the last time you saw Bernard?"

She was stunned to realize, she couldn't even remember. That evening, she went out looking for him, but couldn't find him anywhere. Saturday afternoon, she headed to the pound to see if he might have turned up there. She read the signs in the office of the pound, and saw that animals were only kept for two weeks before they were euthenized. Melissa felt like she had been punched in the gut when one of the young women who worked there said she thought Bernard had been turned in five weeks earlier.

Then, to her amazement, she finally caught a break.

"You know, I think someone actually took your cat," the woman behind the desk said. Her name was Dorothy, and she became an angel to Melissa when she produced a picture of Bernard. "Is this your cat?"

"Yes," Melissa breathed. She was relieved that Bernard had found a home, and wasn't dead.

"Well, this is just your lucky day, then," Dorothy continued. She turned the picture over, and there was an out-of-state phone number on the back. "We never ask for this, but the guy who took your cat insisted on giving us his number. Something about him having a daughter and he thought that this cat belonged to someone."

Dorothy handed the picture to Melissa. Melissa was in a daze as she stumbled out to her car and collapsed into the driver's seat. It took her several minutes to compose herself enough to make the phone call. She was genuinely shocked when the nice man on the other end of the line gave her an apartment address, and invited her over. It was only three blocks away. The out-of-state phone number had made her think that Bernard was now living far away.

Now, she was standing in this stranger's living room, completely breaking down emotionally, and he just gave her the nicest hug she had ever had. Seriously, no one had ever held her in such a comforting embrace. She cried, and she was embarrassed to be crying, but still those arms just hugged her through it, and her tears stained the chest of his shirt.

This awkward moment seemed to last far too long for both of them. The cats were aware that it was only a few minutes, and it failed to entertain them. They both adjourned to find something more amusing. Rob invited Melissa to have a seat.

"Can I get you anything?" he asked sweetly. It wasn't just that he was being polite; he genuinely seemed to care as he looked into her eyes.

"Could I get some water?" Melissa was at a loss what else she should ask for. This man had already saved her daughter's cat, as well as her reputation as a mother. She looked around the apartment as Rob went to get her a glass of ice water. The artwork decorating the walls made clear that he was proud of his daughter. She smiled sadly as she saw his little, obviously hand-made and decorated trophy proclaiming him 'Number 1 Dad.'

She certainly didn't feel like a Number 1 Mom at the moment.

As he returned and handed her the glass of water, Melissa noticed that he wasn't wearing a wedding ring. She thanked him and sipped the water as her mind put the pieces together.

"If you don't mind my asking, how long have you lived here, Rob?" she asked.

"Not quite a month now," he replied, "I just moved here from Colorado."

She smiled at that. "Isn't this humidity killing you?" she asked.

"Oh, no, I love it. I couldn't stand Colorado. Don't get me wrong; the people were just awesome--it was just that I am not a mountain person. This is much more comfortable for me."

"Are you from here?" she asked.

"I was actually born in Galveston," Rob replied, "but my dad was in the Navy, so we traveled all over the world while I was growing up. He was stationed in Jacksonville for about a year, so I had been to Florida before, just not this part of the state."

Melissa nodded at that. She had a couple of good friends growing up who had been military brats, so she understood the lifestyle. "Is your daughter in school?"

It was as if a cloud passed over his face. "Abigail is in Colorado with her mother. Sorry, but we've been divorced about seven weeks, so that's still a little raw for me."

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Melissa felt like she had put her foot in her mouth again. She wasn't sorry to hear that this attractive younger man was divorced, but she was sorry to ask such a sensitive question when she had no right to do so.

"It's alright." Rob's face had that same sad smile again. His voice was soft, "You had no way to know any of that."

Melissa was a little surprised when she spied a picture of Rob with his daughter. The girl was clearly much older than Brittany. "How old is your daughter?" she asked.

"She's fourteen. She'll turn fifteen in January."

"Wow, you must have been really young when you got married, then."

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