Aidan had a lot on his mind. It had been a busy week and he just wanted to sleep, but there was one call he had to make before he hit the hay.
Rick took the call almost immediately. “Hey,” he said. “I didn’t expect you to call tonight. I assumed you’d be exhausted.”
That he was. All the traveling he’d done going to New York and back on the same day had been extremely tiring. “Yeah, you can’t imagine the day I’ve had.” While fully clothed and with his shoes on, he let himself fall back on the bed. He had no desire to do anything else. “But I had to hear your voice before I slept.”
Aidan smiled. “I’m sorry I hung up on you earlier today. I felt awful but the meeting was going on so long, and I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t help it.”
“I understand, don’t worry. I’ll let you off the hook just this once,” Rick said in a playful tone which made Aidan laugh.
“Thanks, I guess.” He rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Why did you call though?”
“Because I felt like hearing your voice.”
Aidan’s heart filled with affection. “What did you do today?”
“Not much. My sister had a day off, so I helped her straighten the house and cooked. Boring, I know, but I also got to spend some time with her. It was nice.”
“Not boring at all. I wish I could get more time to spend with my little brother. But our schedules never match.”
“What does he do? His name’s Aaron, you said, right?”
“Yep,” Aidan replied and yawned. “He is doing law at Harvard.”
“I tell you, he’s the smart one of the two of us.” Aidan suddenly remembered something and sat up. He had noticed something on his way to the bedroom but wasn’t sure. He stood up and walked toward the kitchen.
“Huh?” He focused back on Rick’s voice. “Sorry, what did you say?”
“Did you doze off?” Rick giggled on the other end.
However, Aidan remained unaffected by the happy sound. “Um…no.” He rubbed his forehead as fear and worry took over his senses. “It’s Bratty. I don’t think she’s come home for the past two days.”
He looked down at her feeding bowl. “You know she wasn’t around yesterday, and I did not see her this morning either. I thought she would come by during the day so I left some food for her before I left. It’s still there, and I don’t see her around either.”
“That’s not good. Listen,” Rick said in a serious tone, “why don’t you go outside and call her. She might be around.”
Aidan pursed his lips for a moment as he considered. “Yeah, I’ll do that.”
“Don’t disconnect, I’ll hold. Let me know when you see her.”
Aidan did exactly as he was asked. He called her by name and even made the funny sounds people usually made to call their cats, but his attempts were in vain. He checked the lawn, the backyard and also checked all the other rooms. But she was nowhere to be found. “She isn’t here, Rick,” he said speaking into the phone. “Where could she have gone? What if something has happened to her? She’s pregnant, and she hasn’t eaten anything for God knows how long.”
“Calm down, Aidan. Please.” Rick’s soothing voice fell on his ears, and Aidan closed his eyes. He breathed in and out. “I’m sure she’s alright. Cats are known to be the roaming kind. And Bratty’s due to give birth any day now. So she must be around. She’ll be nesting, trying to find a warm and safe place for that.”
“But why does she have to go outside the house for that? She could give birth in here.”
He chuckled. “You never know with cats. They’ll do things just as they please even if it wouldn’t make sense to us. One of my aunt’s cats had her kittens in the garage of all places.”
“Fuck! I didn’t check the garage.” He sprinted out. After a careful look in every nook and cranny, he said with dejection, “Not here.”
“Aidan, will you listen to me? I’ve got a plan.”
“Right now, you’re exhausted. So, go and get some sleep.” Aidan tried to interrupt, but Rick continued, “Tomorrow, you come pick me up, and we’ll go around the neighborhood to look for her. Someone might have seen her somewhere, and they’ll let us know. Do you have a picture of her?”
“No, but I’m sure Kim has. She took a selfie with Bratty recently. I’ll ask her to share it.” Aidan agreed with Rick’s plan but he also worried tomorrow would be too late. What if Bratty was in some kind of trouble?
“We’ll find her, okay? Don’t worry.”
Aidan nodded and sighed. “Thanks, Rick. I’ll be there tomorrow.”
Next morning, Aidan woke up with hopes of seeing Bratty back home. He scanned every room once again. However, it turned out to be a disappointing effort.
With Rick’s plan in mind, they knocked on every door in Aidan’s neighborhood asking about his lost cat. But no one had seen Bratty lurking around. One of the old couples did say they heard meowing in their backyard the previous evening, but nothing after that. So they assumed she must have left. They kindly offered to look more closely and keep an eye out in case the cat turned up again.
The sun stared at them through the crystal-clear sky and suddenly, Rick’s stomach rumbled noisily. Aidan turned to see the embarrassed look on his face and realized the guy hadn’t eaten anything since they’d’ started out. If it had been just him, he would have skipped lunch and continued his search for Bratty. But Rick was with him. “There’s a café right down the block.” Aidan pointed in that direction as he said, “We can grab something to eat.”
For a moment, it looked as though Rick wanted to argue but he opened his mouth only to close it again. He nodded, then agreed, “Yeah, let’s.”
Aidan hardly ate anything. His chicken sandwich lay on his plate half eaten as he moved on to sip on his espresso. He needed something strong to keep him going. He hadn’t gotten a peaceful sleep the previous night, and his body ached for some rest. However, his mind wouldn’t let him stop, reminding him every moment of how it was his fault Bratty had left. If he’d been nicer to her, she would’ve had more of a reason to stay.
A warm hand reached out to touch his fingers, and Aidan looked across into Rick’s oceanic eyes. They calmed him, distracted him from the buzzing train of thoughts traveling through his mind. He let their fingers entwine as they both sat there speechless.
“Aidan, I’m sorry but…” Aidan turned, hearing the hesitant words and looked down at Rick who rested on a park bench. Rick gave him a sad smile. “I need to get back home. It’s getting late, and my brother-in-law will be home in an hour.”
Aidan looked around the park they’d come to and ran his hand through his hair. It was pointless. The park was too far from his place. Bratty would never come here. But because someone had suggested it, Aidan thought to give it a try. After a half an hour’s effort asking around the place, he knew it had been a waste of time.
“Hey,” Rick said bringing his attention back to him. “We will find her, okay?” Aidan gave a curt nod, not really believing those words. He was scared to death now for Bratty’s safety. “Come here. Let’s just sit for a while.”
Aidan stared at him feeling a little irritated. How could he suggest that? But when Rick offered his left hand, he sighed and walked over to him. Catching him by the hand, Rick pulled him down to sit beside him on the bench. Aidan eased his head onto Rick’s lap and got comfortable.
It felt nice.
Rick gently stroked his head.
“Maybe the damn cat was run over by someone, and she’s lying dead in a corner.” It sounded harsh even to Aidan’s ears when he said it. But the thought had been lurking around in his mind for a while.
“Don’t say that.”
Aidan shrugged. “She wasn’t even my cat anyway.”
Rick bent over and kissed his head. He then rested his own head back on the bench. “Bratty is yours. She claimed you as her owner when she came by.”
In that moment, a lump formed in Aidan’s throat and he couldn’t breathe for a second. His vision blurred as tears welled up in his eyes and before he could control them, he let out a sob.
“This limbo…” Rick carefully said, “of not knowing where she is. It’s the worst feeling ever. She’s dear to me too, Aidan and I don’t even have her around me all the time. So I can imagine how much she’s grown on you over the past few weeks. But don’t worry, okay?” He kissed his head again. “We’re doing everything we can to find her.”
With his tear-filled eyes, Aidan turned his face up to look at Rick. A light smile played on his lips. “You’re sure we’ll find her?” he asked.
Positive. Aidan wanted to stay positive and keep looking, but he also couldn't shake the nagging feeling in his chest that something was really wrong. Rick was right…they were doing everything they could think of.
Aidan slowly snaked his hand to the back of Rick’s head and tugged gently downward. Their lips met for a light kiss. A calmness settled inside of him after a while and he felt good about having someone like Rick by his side. He didn’t know what he would’ve done if it hadn’t been for him. Rick had managed to keep Aidan in one piece so far.
When they broke apart, Aidan simply enjoyed looking at the beautiful face gazing back at him for a while. He caressed Rick’s cheek slowly and mouthed thank you. Rick opened his mouth to say something when he was interrupted by a man’s loud coughing.
“So this is what you fucking do when I’m not around?”
Rick jumped at the voice of the stranger, and Aidan slowly stood up looking curiously at the two men. While one fumed in his anger, the other looked on like a timid rabbit.
Aidan hated the man at first sight. He had a sinister look on his face and an evil smile while he ran his hand through his beard. “I knew you were a dick sucking faggot, but I didn’t think you had the balls to do anything about it.”
“Hey,” Aidan warned.
“Aidan…” Rick held his hand to stop him. “I can handle this.” He then turned to the man and said in a quivering voice, “Victor, Aidan is my friend. And we were here looking for his cat. It’s gone missing and…”
“Fuck that shit. I don’t want to hear it,” he almost yelled. “You’re coming home with me right now.”
Rick nodded and reached for his wheels and pulled himself back into his chair. But as he was about to push forward, Aidan grabbed the chair’s handle and pulled it back.
Rick looked up at him and palmed his hand. “Aidan, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” Hesitantly, Aidan let go of the wheelchair and watched Rick go with his brother-in-law. This is a bad idea, he thought to himself, clenching his knuckles so hard they turned white. His heart skipped a beat when the men disappeared from his sight, and he prayed Rick would stay safe.