Of course. Her car would stall at the top of the hill. When the light turned green. In the middle of morning traffic. In a snow storm.
Like it wasn’t bad enough she couldn’t find her boots. All she found were ballet flats. Ballet flats in the snow.
At least the honking lessened as she turned on the hazards.
She called a tow truck and then her office. This was literally all she could do.
She sat and waited, wishing she’d remembered her coffee. Her feet were cold. She was going to be late for her presentation. From bad to worse.
A police car pulled up behind her, lights flashing. A tall police officer tapped on her window. She rolled it down and he said, “Can you step out, please?”
She frowned and pulled her jacket tighter then stepped into the slushy street, snow soaking into her ballet flats.
“My car broke and…” she sighed. “I called a tow truck and they should be here in thirty minutes and I’m late to work and I forgot my coffee and…” She looked up into his face, struck by his height and hazel eyes.
“It’s okay,” he said, a smile and pat on her shoulder. That shoulder pat should have been patronizing, but the moment of human contact sunk its way into her heart.
“Thank you, officer.”
“Officer Barlow. I’ll be in my car. Keep you safe and traffic moving around you.”
“Thank you, I…”
He smiled then, and she wondered if that smile meant anything.
A snow plow whipped around the corner and a slosh of wet, dirty snow was coming right for them.
He grabbed her and spun, taking the brunt of the slop and bracing against her car.
She smashed up against him, badge poking her cheek, but safe against him. Against the solid of his chest, held tight and strong.
She melted into him waiting for the inevitable moment he would step back and return to professionalism. But for that moment, she was in his arms, smelling the starch of his uniform.
His arm loosened from her waist and she looked up at him, gratitude in her eyes. If she was brave enough to kiss him, she would have. Imagining being wrapped up in his arms, those lips up and down her neck.
“Get in your car before another plow comes by,” he whispered.
Well, that was definitely not what she wanted.
“Thank you, Officer Barlow.”
A touch of a smile hit the corner of his mouth.
“Get in your car, miss.”
The smile spread. “Get in your car, Agnes.”
His hand left the small of her back and he stepped away. She opened the door and sat down, watching him from her mirrors.
He took off his jacket and shook it, then sat, looking to her car and catching her eye.
The blush raced up her face and she looked away. She pulled out her laptop out and started working at least. If she didn’t have that meeting, she’d just give up on the day and go home.
Another knock on her window and Officer Barlow was holding a cup of coffee out to her.
“I think you need this more than I do,” he said.
His fingers brushed against hers. “Your fingers are freezing. You should keep it.” He had taken a slop of slush for her. She tried to give the coffee back.
He stepped away shaking his head. “Protect and serve, ma’am.”
“Well, how about this, then. I’ll take you for coffee later.”
He grinned. “Sounds fair to me.”
She had never been so daring. She had never put herself out like that before. She scrabbled through her purse and found a business card, then wrote her cellphone on the back and handed it to him.
As soon as she turned her head to the flashing yellow lights of the plow, he dodged back into his patrol car.
A rosy blush rose up her chest. What was she doing? She had never made the first move, never even tried.
She couldn’t focus on her report she was supposed to present. She kept looking in her rear-view mirror at the cute cop who was taking care of her.
Another tap at her window and Officer Barlow said, “Your tow truck will be here in a minute.”
“Thank you, Officer Barlow.”
She blushed again, fighting not to bob her head.
“Your truck’s here, Agnes.”
He opened the door for her and helped her out, his hand on her waist. She was flattered. She was being ridiculous, she knew it, but it was so nice. She never received this kind of attention from men. And she had made it happen.
Once her car was ready to be towed, she turned back to the officer. “Thank you, Logan.”
“I’ll call you later.”
She grinned. The most annoying day in the world had suddenly turned out so well.
Until she discovered she had forgotten her laptop in her car at the dealership. She was so excited about her coffee from Logan, she had left the computer. Which she discovered as she tried to pull it out at her meeting. How miserable. And unprofessional. And embarrassing.
As she sat at her desk, something nudged her leg like a rather insistent cat.
She kicked her leg and crossed them at the ankles.
The dealership said they’d have her car finished by the end of the day. Her work was on the laptop, so she wasn’t being productive, anyway. But she wasn’t about to face getting home in this weather yet.
She huffed. She’d get another chance at her presentation. Although too bad today was in front of the Dean.
Another nudge at her legs. She flailed, pulling her leg away and knocked Logan’s coffee across her desk.
On the bottom of the cup was a heart with I ❤ U! written in a very feminine hand in pink marker.
She raised an eyebrow. Anything gains she had made were gone. He wouldn’t write that. Not to her. Did he live with this other girl? And he’d give her a cup of coffee with a love note from her? She wrinkled her nose.
When he called her, well, she’d give him a piece of her mind. No wonder she never tried to gain a male’s attention. Because this would happen. This is all that could happen.
Another nudge at her legs and she twitched again, pulling her legs from under the desk and kicking.
She connected with something. Nothing was there, but she still flinched away.
She rolled back from the desk, watching. If there was something there, if there was something…
A shiver crawled down her back. She was certain she’d felt something. And the creepy crawlies kept shivering up and down her spine.
People brought their dogs to the office sometimes, but she’d never heard of anyone bringing their cat. And this felt just like a cat.
She kept inching away from the desk as the coffee dripped on the floor and pooled under her keyboard.
This was ridiculous. She was being ridiculous. She went to the bathroom for a handful of paper towels to mop up the mess. Just enough sugar to make everything sticky. What a wonderful reminder.
She choked down her dread and went to the desk, wiping it into the garbage can. Once the desk was sufficiently clean, only the merest hint of stickiness left, she sat down again. Why wouldn’t that coffee end up being a sticky cup of betrayal?
She huffed again, a dejected little pile in front of her desk, grey ballet flats with dried salt lines and head in her hands.
Another insistent nudge against her leg.
She hissed and moved away from the desk, tensed and ready to run. From what, from who, it didn’t matter. Something was not right and there was nothing to make her think that it was.
“Stop,” she whispered.
Either she was losing her mind or… or what else could it be? She was losing her mind. Full stop.
Another nudge against her legs and clenched into her soul, clenched against the impulse to run.
The nudge twirled around her legs. Like a friendly, insistent cat. And with the same amount of malice as a cat. A cat’s wildness was lurking just under the surface. All it would take is one wrong stroke on the cat’s back and it would be a ball of claws.
Something wild, and friendly and…
With a white knuckle grip on her emotions, she kept her ground.
“Stop,” she said again.
The whatever-it-was was right next to her, but waiting patiently.
She pushed with her leg. It had a little give. She couldn’t see anything, but there was definitely something there.
“What…?” she started to say, then said, “Are you going to hurt me?”
A negative kind of feeling in her soul. She couldn’t even pinpoint where the feeling was inside of her. Just the simple no to her question.
“Are you… are you real?”
The feel like a giggle and a yes came to her.
She pushed with her leg again. It was like pushing two magnets with the same polarity together and the bouncy resistance between them.
“You’re safe?” she whispered.
“What are you?”
The feeling of a shrug came through her.
She sat on the floor, legs crossed. The whatever-it-was settled in her lap. Just like a cat. A comforting weight. And just the shape of her lap. She ran a tentative hand over it.
“Are you an invisible cat?”
Another giggle and a shrug.
She had a very tentative friendly feeling toward the little something.
Something like a cat’s purr seemed to transmit from the entity.
“Are you just going to… hang around?”
Another shrug, then yes.
“Are you hungry?”
I’ll just have some sunshine.
She moved to standing, holding the thing and walking into a small rectangle of sunshine. It was light, but seemed like it could be heavy if it didn’t lift itself up.
She settled into her office chair and the thing nestled into her lap, like a cat or a small dog. A small, comforting weight. She pet it slowly, the bouncy feeling in her hand.
Something about her little pet was comforting and she was suddenly very content.