by Ilaria Dal Brun
She had always been alone. Not that she was grumpy, unfriendly, hostile, wicked, or stinky. No. She was simply uninteresting, almost invisible to other people’s eyes. She didn’t mind, or rather, she didn’t mind anymore. She used to, but things had changed. Because one day she had met him.
She came across him one morning in the spring, in a corner of the local park. A scruffy, messy, friendly guy, jumping with joy around her, spattering her skirt with the mud he had collected on his longhaired coat. He sat and scratched his ear in a peculiar way, a way that made her feel a long forgotten, unnamed emotion inside. She looked up. Nobody in sight. She took him home.
The guy made himself at home immediately, dashing to what would become his favorite armchair, the only one he would condescend to leave his fleas on. And after a good bath he didn’t look so scruffy and messy. In fact, his hair was soft, shiny and wavy, his eyes sparkled with happiness and he had a good appetite. He was, one could say, a gourmet.
But boy! He had the foulest breath one could imagine. Stinky like a bagful of rotten organic matter kept in the sun on a hot summer day.
She didn’t seem to be aware of it. Oh, she could certainly smell it, and well indeed. But the stench would somehow stop at nose level. It hardly went beyond, hardly reached her brain and never even touched her heart. It was like when you pick up a jar with a label written in a foreign, unknown language—you are still able to make out the printed letters, but they don’t mean anything to you.
She enjoyed sitting on that armchair with him, sharing together days and seasons. He was always as friendly and affectionate as when they had met in that park. He made her feel wanted, he made her feel visible, he made her feel that she existed. And every time he looked at her, it seemed like he was silently promising, “I will always be by your side.”
Until, of course, the day came when the guy decided to pack up and go, venturing into a land she was not allowed to go to. Not yet, at least.
It felt strange to be alone once more. Not scary, as she had passed beyond that fear. Just strange. As if something wasn’t quite right anymore. She thought things would settle, after some time. But this eerie feeling didn’t abandon her. And then, of course, there was that promise. She couldn’t accept that he had lied to her. That’s probably why she took up regular walking in the local park, looking for an answer.
She came across him one morning in spring, in a corner of that same park. Black fur, a lean, graceful body and a pair mesmerizing jade eyes that seemed to hold a promise. No overt display of joy, only an understated, discreet rubbing against her legs. He sat and scratched his ear in a peculiar way, a way that made her feel a not-so-long-forgotten, still unnamed emotion inside. She looked up. Nobody in sight. She took him home.
The guy made himself at home immediately, elegantly heading for what would become his favorite armchair, the only one he would condescend to leave his fur on.
She followed him on the armchair, the same she had shared with her friend. He rubbed his head against her chin, softly murmuring with pleasure. Then he sat peacefully on her lap. That’s when he yawned. And boy! He had the foulest breath one could imagine.
“Welcome back,” she whispered.
© 2007 Ilaria Dal Brun
Original fiction debuting at Residential Aliens.
Ilaria Dal Brun was born in Italy. She holds a PhD from the University of Warwick (UK) in Translation Studies. She has been working as a freelance translator (English/French/Spanish into Italian). She has a keen interest in orality, storytelling, and the 19th century. She also enjoys writing short stories, mainly introspective ones.