There is a dead body on the sidewalk.
Head smashed. Brains smeared. Paws twisted.
Chunks of fur on the ground.
Somebody killed Mrs. Nibblesworth today.
As the neighbors emerge from their houses, I’m staring. And your dead cat, Cassandra, is staring right back.
“It’s the eyes.” You walked into my empty studio after hours, the first time we met. I had no masterpiece just yet, but then there was you—you with your grace and your dress and your cat. “Mrs. Nibblesworth has the most adorable gray eyes.”
Dead eyes. She is nothing but a dead cat on the street, murdered like she should be. Ogled by onlookers with nothing better to do, so they can come home at the end of the day and tell this story to their wives, to their children. A story.
A story of your cat’s remains, Cassandra. All around her, a pool of blood, seeping into the cracks on the gravel. Crawling. Spreading. Vines.
Vines forming a face.
“A perfect copy.” You peered at the drawing pad in my hand. “And you weren’t even looking at my face for reference.”
I gazed up at the vines of the tree we were under. “Your beauty is everywhere, Cassandra.”
And your laughter echoed into the night. “You’re my artistic bastard.”
“Whoever did this is a bastard,” an old man says to the crowd.
“It’s just some stupid cat.” A boy snorts in disgust at the smell of Mrs. Nibblesworth’s blood. The pungent scent invigorates me. Stings. The smell of fresh paint.
You sat on the stool and crossed your legs. “Do you remember the photos of my ancestors at my house?”
“When I die, I don’t want to be just another picture on the wall.” You smiled and tilted your head, like you knew you were going to die.
And I did. I did paint you, Cassandra, everything about you. Your beauty, your spirit, your love for me. The painting was alive; it was everything I loved about you, everything you meant to me.
I have thrown that painting away.
“We have to throw the body away,” a lady says. “We can’t just leave it out here for the little ones to see up-close…”
Mrs. Nibblesworth. Up-close. Can people not see it?
I can, Cassandra. I can see everything that’s wrong about your cat, everything that shouldn’t have happened, everything that I hate.
I hate your cat.
“I know you do, but you just need to keep her overnight. You can take her with you when you pick me up from the party tomorrow.” You cradled Mrs. Nibblesworth in your arms and handed her over to me that night. Warm. Soft. Fur. I realized just how breakable she was.
Snap, snap, snap.
“Will you miss me?”
“It’s only a day, Cassandra.”
“I know. Will you?”
Your eyes were twinkling. I should have known I would never see them again. “To death.”
“It’s the death of a cat. A cat.” A man rolls his eyes. “Just throw it away, for fuck’s sake. It’s disgusting.”
Disgusting. Unsightly. A dead body on the street.
Was this how it happened, Cassandra? When you were wasting away on the street, your stench overwhelming, your insides oozing onto the pavement?
Did people gather around you, murmur about you, stare at you like you were a fascinating little story to tell when they got home? Was this what you looked like, Cassandra? Your body ripped open, your clothes torn, your legs twisted, your head smashed onto the ground?
Were your eyes, your beautiful, empty eyes, staring back at everyone who ogled at you? Were your lips, your soft, dead lips, forced open in a muted scream?
And was your heart, your lonely, fragile heart, broken when I failed to reach you in time?
I look down at the scratches on my arms, still fresh, still bleeding, and wonder for a second if you’re clawing at something, too, inside your coffin, clawing at the lid, screaming for help, screaming for me.
I don’t hear you. Nobody hears you.
I don’t want to be reminded, Cassandra.
I don’t want to be reminded of everything you ever were, everything we ever shared. I don’t want to see you everywhere, your beauty in every vine, every painting.
The neighbors have decided to throw Mrs. Nibblesworth away and just get it over with. Some men have volunteered to clean up the mess, and the crowd is now leaving. Just like that.
You’re just another mess, Cassandra. Nobody remembers you now.
I won’t remember you now.
And this, this whole silly tale of dead cats and prying neighbors and bloody pavements, is just another story to tell.
Somebody killed Mrs. Nibblesworth today.