I could tell he was a kitten. His paws were still too big for his face and he was sitting awkwardly, like he didn’t know quite where his butt was. But there was a wisdom in those eyes, and a humor, that you normally only got in older cats. I held out my fingers, clicked them together.
“Here kitty kitty.” I said, letting my voice slide into that sludgy baby talk as my mind slid out of my head.
“No way is it going to come.” Robert said, leaning over his coffee. “Looks feral to me.”
“Whosea cuttie cuttie pie?” My mouth said, ignoring Robert.
-Greetings, little brother.- My mind intoned, as formal as I could. -Do you wish ought of me?-
-Greetings, elder sister.- He spoke back, tail twitching, the humor growing in his eyes. -I wish only what is my due, nothing more.-
“Aww, uggy wuggy pie wants some milk?” My body responded automatically, tipping the warm cream for my coffee out onto a saucer and putting it near my feet.
He got up right away and came over, again with more dignity then most kittens could muster, and started to lap it up.
“I don’t believe it.” Robert said, voice dry. “No way is that cat that close.”
I chuckled. “I mean, warm cream, right?” I didn’t lean over to pet him, even though he would be soft and (since he had been sunning) warm. The light rested on his fur, bringing out the blues in the greys. I took a sip of my black coffee.
Robert’s eyes were on the kitten, looking distant. I let mine wander to the high walls of the coffee shop garden, with their trailing vines. The little brother had been on top of one of the walls, in the planter boxes that had taken the place of spikes.
Robert laughed, and there was a tugging on my skirt. I looked down, and the little brother was pawing gently at my legs. I leaned back, and he lept up into my lap, turned around three times, and settled down.
His warmth, with it the warmth of the sun and the smell of rich earth, settled with him, seeping into my lap and my womb. I began to pet him, gently, and was rewarded with a rich purr.
“I do not believe it.” Robert said again. “What is it with you and cats?”
I laughed in return. What could I say to that?
“He’s probably got fleas.” He predicted mournfully.
“Probably.” I said lightly, as I began to scratch the little brother behind the ear. We sat in silence for a while, enjoying the coffee and the sun.
Robert said, “Can we do morning glories, do you think?” And we were off again. The wedding was coming, and at this point we’d basically decided we were eloping and letting his mom do the ceremony without us. My own family was easy to appease. But Robert’s mom was one of those moms, and his dad wasn’t much better.
The current wrangle between us was about the real honeymoon cottage, as opposed to the fake honeymoon cruise we’d lied and said we were going on. We’d been looking for a cottage covered in flowers. Unfortunately, I was allergic to the scent of roses, the most popular sort, and wasn’t looking forward to a honeymoon spent sneezing.
Halfway through a discussion of the pros and cons of the various places the little brother stirred, and looked up at me.
-Elder sister.- He said, calmly. -You care for this human?-
I looked down, startled. That was not a normal observation, from any cat. -Yes.- I responded. -Very much, actually.-
The little brother blinked at me, a slow, content smile. But then he grew more sober. -Eldest sister, he seems to have no extra lives. Is this his last one, then?-
I frowned at the unpleasant reminder. But he was just a kitten, after all. -Yes. Most humans only get the one.- I explained patiently, scratching him gently under the chin.
His purr grew louder as I scratched, but when I explained it cut off abruptly. He looked at me with alarmed eyes. -Eldest sister, then you must guard it very carefully.-
-Yes.- I said, blinking slowly at him.
-There is a darkness in his belly.- The little brother told me, the frightened air of one imparting information which, a few minutes ago, they hadn’t thought was important. -A great darkness. You must enjoy him while you can, before it destroys him.-
I stilled. I felt all of me shrinking, dying slightly. But I scratched the kitten some more. I was scared, after all. Kittens are good for when you’re scared.
-Thank you, little brother.- I said, weakly. And he began to purr again.
“What’s up?” Robert asked, noticing the way I was falling into myself.
I looked up at him, and managed a smile. “We should go to the hospital after this.” I said quietly.
He got pale, and started up. “Are you alright? What’s wrong!”
“Nothing. Nothing.” I said, waving him back down with my non-occupied hand. “But I want to get you checked out for stomach cancer.”
He looked at me, baffled, as he sunk back into his chair. “Oookay. Any particular reason?”
I shrugged, and looked down at my little brother. His eyes were closed in contentment, and he was purring, as soft as the sunlight.
“The kitten said.” I said.
Robert shrugged. “Alright.” He conceded. “I guess it’s a good thing to do anyway, right?” He sounded baffled still. But this wasn’t the first time I’d called in on a cat to back up my intuitions. He just assumed I was a good guesser and preferred ‘the cat said’ to ‘just a feeling’.
We sat in silence for a little while longer, and then Robert pulled out his phone and started googling, and logging into the health care website, and things like that.
“Well, I think I’ll have to call.” He said, after a bit. “I don’t think they have walk-in cat scans.” He gave me that sad half-smile he used when he was trying to be funny in the face of something horrible.
I laughed. What else could I do?