Moving was a bitch.
Fiona had finally unpacked the last box, she hadn’t brought much from her parent’s house in Flagstaff, but the act of unpacking was official. She was here and would not be going back. She was on her own now, her own woman. The place was a mess, old newspapers draped over every surface and stray cups of coffee sitting in at least three different places. She was officially done. Fiona sat on her scuffed futon couch and looked outside the dirty window. The apartment was small, practically a studio. There was a petite bathroom, a miniscule kitchen with nonexistent dining room, a tiny living room and a spacious bedroom. All the walls were white and the carpet was a plush cinnamon brown warm to the touch of ever frozen feet. This place was hers, though. This place belonged to one Fiona Walters.
She grabbed her pack of cigarettes and walked through the door, closing it loudly behind her. It was her place and she would do as she very well pleased. She was woman, hear her roar. She lit the cancer stick between her lips and inhaled deeply. The menthol caressed her mouth down to her lungs. The most relaxing drag was always the first.
It looked like her little friend was here to visit. A black and brown tom had taken to visiting her the last week that she had lived in the rickety apartment. He was skinny and lithe but not starving. Fiona had tried to rectify his skinniness by leaving cat food outside her door, but it was never eaten. For seven days she left the food out but it was never touched. This cat was a true tom, never accepting help from anybody. She liked that. Fiona sat in front of the tom, holding her cigarette away from the cat in hopes to save his tiny lungs. Of course second hand smoke was an issue, but she didn’t have to blow in the cat’s face just to prove some sort of point. Fiona reached out a small pale hand and stroked his dirty fur. The cat accepted her touch.
Fiona smiled at the creature. It watched curiously with golden eyes. It put its paw, claws slightly out, onto her peculiar hair as if to ask if it was some unfortunate accident. She pulled at her white locks and took a drag. “This was by choice.” She answered the cat, “It’s naturally brown like yours.” He made no movement, no sign of understanding, but she still felt like the cat knew what she had said and was digesting it. It’s what she liked most about the tom. He seemed slightly more intelligent than the average cat. She threw the cigarette butt on the ground and dug her heel into it. She gave him one more stroke and opened the door to her apartment wide. There was no obligation. She was offering this cat sanctum for a night, a month, a year—the rest of his life. But it was his decision. He could slink away like usual or be welcomed into her home like an inherited armchair. The choice was in his wee fuzzy paws. He blinked lazily and sat for a few seconds. She gave him time to decide. The tom yawned and turned away.
“Maybe next time.” She said to the cat.
He simply flicked his long tail and slunk into the morning sun.
Fiona smiled as she placed her pack next to her cellphone, keys and watch, a great habit she had been forcing herself into. The phone vibrated at her eagerly. A picture of herself and a blonde woman smiling happily flashed on the screen. She picked it up and hit the call button.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE, FIONA!”
Fiona laughed at her old friend. “You too, Michelle.”
“How is the new place? How’s the big city? Well, not big I guess since you spent a couple years in New York… You’re not going to spend the day alone, are you?”
“Calm down, Chelle. One question at a time. New place is great…” She laughed at her friend.
The two had gone to high school together and, seven years later, still talked often. Michelle Lambert was, probably, her best friend. She had been the first one that she had come out to about her sexuality. Michelle had told her that it was obvious and that she hadn’t needed to come out at all. Anyone with eyes already knew. It was the honesty above all that Fiona loved about her. Honesty, loyalty and acceptance. She could tell Michelle anything and Michelle would tell her any and everything in return. Even if she didn’t want to know. That’s just the kind of friend that Michelle was.
“So Fiona, how are jobs looking out there?”
The question she really hadn’t wanted to answer.
“Well, uh, there are jobs here, yes. Most businesses aren’t really looking for people like me though.”
“And you’re not going back to the restaurant business because…?”
“I don’t know.” Fiona sighed angrily into the phone. “Every time I step into a kitchen it’s painful. I always think of Julianne.”
“Fiona…Honey… You have to just let go. She was your first love, yes, but she was a college romance. You’re not in college any more. You have to think about the future and other pretty ladies that you could meet if you let her go. She ruined the fun of your last two years of culinary school, don’t let her ruin any more than that. Live a little!”
“Yeah…” Fiona agreed melancholy.
“Tell you what, you go out on the twenty-sixth, find you some pretty young thing, take her to your apartment and—“
“Okay, Michelle, I get your point! No need to go further!”
“Fiona, there is always need to go further,” she joked, “And as they say, the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. But hey, I gotta go. Bradley and Jen just got here with their new baby. I have to go check on my little nephew and make sure he gets smothered with just as much love.”
“Alright. Have a good night, Michelle. Merry Christmas.”
It was a last resort, going back to the restaurant business. Fiona really had checked everywhere else in the last week. She had looked from fortune five hundred companies to simple retail stores—no one else was hiring. Le Petit Gateau was a small restaurant on the corner of the outdoor mall. The sign was faded with dark gray and green stripes and the glass looking in was slightly dirty. In the corner was their tiny help wanted sign that had caught her eye. The building was closed for Christmas Eve but would open up again the next day. Who opened on Christmas? She thought. Already she wasn’t sure if she liked the place. At this point, however, she was on her last dime and a job was a job.
Fiona pulled her jacket closer to her body and shivered. She had put in the last of her applications and it was time for her to go home. She took a last peek through the glass. A lit counter attracted her eyes. On top were cute cupcakes decorated in emerald green and ruby reds in honor of the season. The other tiny pastries, despite probably being there for days, looked fresh and inviting. Okay—she had to leave before she started to spend money that she didn’t have.
The twenty-four year old wiped at her white hair with a black gloved hand. Snow fell lazily through the misty night sky as she traipsed home. It was Christmas eve and she was all alone. But for once that was okay. She was fine on her own and would be fine on her own. Fiona walked home through the main strip of the outdoor mall. The once busy street was quiet. Few cars passed by at all, families too busy spending time with one another. She envied these people that she did not know, but at the same time, she didn’t. People were overrated. People changed. They were unreliable. But a walk through town never changed. The shops changed, leasing papers passed through hands, but the general look of a place never deteriorated. Fiona needed stability like that.
As she approached her door she fumbled with her keys. When she found them they slipped through her black clad hands and jingled to the floor. She crouched to the ground to pick them up. Mrow. Fiona looked up at her little guest. The brown and black cat perched on the stairway behind her. “Merry Christmas, little man.” She told the cat as she opened the door. She held it open for him again, hoping he would go in, but he didn’t and she wouldn’t try to force him. An idea struck Fiona. She left the door open and walked to the kitchen. Inside of her fridge were some deli meats that she had been trying to get rid of. She grabbed a few slices and met the cat outside.
Out of curiosity he had taken one step closer to her apartment. It was a small gesture, but it meant the world to Fiona. He was getting comfortable enough to get closer. That was a good start to any friendship as possible. She placed the meat on the stair next to him. He sniffed it suspiciously. After another few seconds he licked at the offering and greedily gobbled up the first slice. The second one was short to follow. The last couple slices, however, he did not eat. He gave one more look at Fiona as if in thanks, grabbed them gingerly in his mouth and ran away with them. She watched him run away into the night.
“He runs pretty fast for an old guy,” she remarked, “He must have a girlfriend.”
Shut up! She thought back to the snarky voice in her head.
“Wonderful, now I’m going insane as well.” She sighed to no one.
Fiona closed the door behind her and began to prepare for bed. She had a long day ahead of her tomorrow between staving off loneliness and applying at the few restaurants that were open. Hopefully she could find something. If not, well, she could always move back to Flagstaff.
© Copyright 2016 Katherine Hisenberg. All rights reserved.