Bringing Home a Stranger This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 4, 2011
I sat at my office desk, staring down at a pile of papers at least ten inches thick. How was I ever going to get through this mess? Two hours left and then I would be free for the weekend. I had nothing planned, and for the first time in a while, neither did he. I planned on staying home, cooking for the two of us and snuggling. Oh, it would be such a wonderful weekend. Just the two of us alone, sitting in front of the fireplace, watching the first winter snowfall with a blazing fire to warm our feet. We would sip hot chocolate and milk, talk about nothing at all, and just enjoy each other's company.

I closed my eyes and let my mind wander back to when I first saw him. He was walking on the other side of the street as I was hurrying to work. I stopped at the corner and noticed him almost immediately. His steady movements caught my eye. The way he walked intrigued me. He walked with his head high and shoulders back, though he did not seem snobbish. His body was lean and trim, like an athlete's. Before I could stop myself, I doubled back and chased after him.

Three blocks later, I had gained enough courage to reach out and tap him. He turned, his eyes immediately meeting mine. I held out my hand and introduced myself. He said nothing as we shook. I asked him if he would like to join me for a cup of coffee. He remained silent.

“Looks like the cat's got your tongue,” I remarked as I turned to leave. I had not meant to sound sarcastic, but he must have taken what I said the wrong way. His cute smile turned to a scowl as I started to walk up the street, leaving him behind. As I moved away, I reasoned that stopping him was a foolish thing to do, that I never would have had the guts to follow through with my invitation. I guess my mother's advice about not talking to strangers stuck with me.

I bit my lip to keep from turning around and saying any more to him. I kept my eyes in front of me and quickly made my way back to the office. As I gripped the door handle, I noticed a reflection in the glass. I turned around slowly, not sure of what to expect. Silently, he held out his hand. I'm not sure what pushed me to take it but I did. He led me away from the building and down the street. I lost count of how many blocks we walked, but by the time he stopped, my feet were very, very tired.

I looked up at the building we were in front of. It was my apartment building. I looked at him, my eyes opened wide in disbelief. I had never seen him before, yet he knew where I lived.

He prodded me up the stairs and through the door, straight to my apartment. I put my key in the lock, but before turning it, I studied his expression carefully. His eyes were half open, and his mouth was turned up into a slight smile. His body was tense, as if he knew that by me turning the key, I would no longer have my safe little world, protected by all the harsh realities of one-night stands. I would throw myself into the world of givers and takers, of con men and women. I would condone the behavior I despised.

Yet some unseen force had convinced me that there was nothing to fear. My hand turned slowly and the door swung open. I followed at a distance, though I don't remember feeling afraid of him being in my home.

I stood in the living room and watched as he opened the door to my room, as though he were gaining strength to continue his game. I followed quickly, expecting to be angry at his audacity to invade my privacy. But as I stepped over the threshold and saw him lying on my bed as though he owned it, I reminded myself that I had given him permission to know my secrets. I had given up my privacy when I unlocked the front door.

He looked in my direction, signaling for me to join him on the bed. I did so quickly, and that sealed my fate. We have been together for seven years, eleven months and thirty-one days. Today was our eight-year anniversary.

A loud ring brought me out of my daydream. It was my phone. My secretary ran down my agenda for the next week. As she spoke, I glanced at the clock. One hour and forty-five minutes left. I interrupted her and told her I was leaving early, that I had a headache and needed to go home. I tossed all my papers into the top drawer and grabbed my briefcase. Everything could wait until Monday. Right now all I could think of was him, and right now I needed to be with him.

I hurried down the street, rushing past all the people, who, on a normal day, I would stop and chat with. He was waiting, as he always was, in the chair in the hall. I learned from experience that he loves that chair, and always takes his post an hour before I even leave work.

My tired legs carried me up the stone steps and through the heavy door. He raised his head to look at me. He looked absolutely wonderful. His eyes sparkled as I slipped off my coat. His mouth turned into a smile as I quickly glanced through the pile of mail. He shifted his weight anxiously as I walked toward him. I opened my arms and he jumped right into them, his head nuzzling my chin.

“Did you miss me today, Charlie? Today is our eighth anniversary, did you remember? I have a present for you.” I stoked his fur gently as I carried him to the kitchen. Settling him down on the counter, I removed the package from the refrigerator. His nose picked up the scent almost immediately.

“This is your present, Charlie Cat. Where's mine?”

He jumped off the counter and disappeared from the kitchen. He returned a few minutes later carrying something in his mouth. He dropped it at my feet and hopped back onto the counter. I glanced down and found, much to my disgust, a dead mouse.

I rubbed Charlie's head before I filled his plate with fish morsels.

“You really know how to charm a lady, don't you. Charlie Cat?” I said before taking a paper towel and removing the dead animal from my kitchen.

He swished his tail wildly in response as he attacked the best piece of fish he had ever had.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

MyConstRuctd_IdentiTy said...
Aug. 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm
:P I really like this piece. But I can just imagine her taking his paw/hand and him leading her blocks down the street. Imagine that. A cat leading a lady. Haha. Question, though: How does she know he takes his post in the chair an hour before she gets off from work if she's not off from work yet to see him take his post in the chair? The world may never know... haha
flyingpinkgiraffes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm
hahaha!!! loved the twist at the end!!!  but i was almost glad that charlie turned out to be a cat, because he was starting to creep me out :-)
LiesAreLeadingMeAstray said...
Aug. 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm
i thought charlie was a person at first!!!!!!!!!!! guess i was wrong!!!!! its my cat and mines aniversey in a few days!!!!! hahahahahaha!
athletegkb44 said...
Aug. 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm
Cute!! Good surprise at the end. I liked it! Pleez read, rate, and comment on mine!
IntrepidRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 5, 2011 at 1:13 pm
Lovely. The last few paragraphs were a surprise.
star2brite This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 5, 2011 at 8:24 am
This made me smile! Great writing and very clever :)
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