“Did you hear that?” I asked.
Heart had heard it. It was the meow of a kitten, couldn’t have been a cat. The sound was soft and low, a murmur, a sigh of a call. Not for help, maybe for food. “Poor baby is lost. Where is it?”
I was losing interest. I would not let myself fall in love with a kitten or cat. I was allergic. It was painful and debilitating to be around a cat. I told her no, we would not take it with us. She said she would come back for it. We walked the bridge and I talked.
I told of my werewolf friend. I told of the opera. I told of the hanged man and the mysterious stranger, but she could not hear any of it that night. For up the bridge walked the tiniest little kitten either of us had ever seen. In the black of the night, it was silver and darkness, striped with lightning and black, and it seemed sweet and helpless. She picked it up and hugged it to her chest, and she did not hear a single word I said. Her finger played at its ears. Her face caressed the soft fur of its head, and she murmured to the tiny creature.
“Let’s take it with us,” she said. “I’ll take it home and find a person that wants it.”
“If you take it home, I will be sneezing all night. If you take it home, I can’t stay there tonight. When are you going to give it away? When are you going to find a home for it? Because if it takes too long, then I won’t be able to stay with you.”
She nodded and kissed the little beast. She set it down, and it followed us to the edge of the bridge. She drove away and we sat in silence.
I had just killed a kitten. I just didn’t know it yet.
A few times, we came to the bridge and we heard it calling, but no one could take it in the car with me. So we left it be. Many people talked of coming back and getting it when they could, but no one took home the little guy. It was there long enough for me to dread it, dread the attention it would take from my stories, dread the time it would take up. I hated that cat by the time the summer was nearly over.
There were a lot of us that night. Aimes had come for the first time in a long time. Ty was there. We had brought Chanel and Katty. We had Gypsy and Cry, and we had not been able to shed him.
He was an average boy, not terrible, but not what we were. Brett wanted so badly to be unique. He wanted to be an artist, a writer. He wanted to be intense and wise. He wanted to be important to the group, and he fought hard to be all those things. He was with us, but not like us.
We were all genuinely different, a perfect set of paradoxes that resided within the shell of our bodies. Brett struggled to be the same, but he wasn’t.
We took him places, and he tried to blow our minds. He had a smile that made me uncomfortable. He had a set of clear blue eyes that were startling to look at, but that mirrored back almost nothing.
We unloaded from the cars, met in the middle of the bridge, and I climbed to my perch. Some foul tint was in the air that night, as if I could feel the event coalescing around us, as if I could sense what was coming.
I told a few stories. I asked a few questions. I promised a few dollars and heard a few dreams, but through it all, I wanted to leave. When the night had played out, I heard the cooing of a meow, and we all turned to the creature that was creeping up Teardrop Road, coming right at us.
Aimes smiled. She rushed to it and pet it. It purred, leaned in on her, and she almost started crying. She had lost a cat in a tragedy not a month ago. She picked it up, hugged it to her chest, and she wept a little. She held it for a while and handed it on. She gave it to Chanel, who muttered about how cute it was. It was passed to Gypsy, who scratched behind its ears. I heard a splash in the water and I wanted to leave, wanted to get the hell out of there. Darkness was coming and I couldn’t tell from where.
We were walking away when Brett grabbed the kitten. He said a few coarse words and, before any of us knew what he was doing, the creature they had all come to love was tossed over the bridge and into the water.
He stepped back with a smile on his face, and everyone gasped in horror. We heard that kitten scream before its cry was cut off forever.
Ty erupted. He flew in Brett’s face and snatched him up. He screamed an unintelligible garble of words, and Aimes screamed.
She rushed Brett and hit him over and over, and he laughed. He started apologizing, and I grabbed Ty’s arm.
“Don’t. We have to get out of here,” I said.
“He needs his teeth kicked in!” Ty said. “I’m kicking his ass.”
Everyone was crying. Everyone was broken. The beast that had stolen all their hearts had been torn away.
Aimes grabbed ahold of me and sobbed. “You have to get me out of here,” she pleaded. I nodded and turned to Ty.
“I need you, man. I need to get her out of here.” Brett was running to the far end of the bridge by then. Ty was ready to go after him.
“No, he is gonna pay for that,” Ty said. “He has to pay for that.”
“He will,” I said. “I’m done with him.”
“So am I.”
We all piled into our car. We did not take Brett with us. He was lucky to get a ride home at all. Had it been up to us, we would have left him there. Chanel is a saint. She always has been, and when everyone was leaving, she gave Brett a ride. He sat in silence. He knew it was over.
Ty took me and Aimes to my house. She cried for hours, and we sat and listened to it.
He pulled me outside before he left, and he grabbed me by the arm. “You were wrong out there,” he said. “You should have let me kick his ass. Someone needed to beat that bastard for that.” He shook his head. “You fucked up, man.”
And I had. Brett needed to be beat for that. He had killed something soft and beautiful, something innocent. It has haunted me to this day, for so many innocent things are harmed and murdered, and they get no justice. So many soft and sweet that fall to the whim of a cruel heart in the name of amusement.
I had regretted every day that I didn’t let that life be avenged. I wish I had.
Some things deserve justice.
We stopped going out there after that. That was the last time I went to the bridge until I met my Leviathan in the flesh. When I took her out there the first time, in the distance, I heard the soft cry of a scared kitten.
And I wanted justice for all the soft deaths, and the tender things that terrible men break.