When the cat didn’t return after five days, I finally called Mrs. Jo, not because I believed in those things, but because I wanted to give Yumi some peace of mind. “Thank you,” Yumi said with a small sigh. “You know, the cat means so much to me.”
The cat was Yumi’s first pet. We found it crying in the rain outside our apartment. A few days before, Dr. Kim had told us that Yumi could not have any children. She took the news pretty hard. She saw it as some curse from the ancestors, but when she found the kitten shivering in the rain, she believed it was a sign, or a promise from the heavens that she would have her own child one day. “Like Sarah in the Bible,” she had said, trying to help me understand.
So the cat lived with us for five years. It sometimes disappeared through the balcony, but it always came back after a couple of days. It had never been gone for this long. I began to worry. Not for the cat but for Yumi. She had been crying a lot and even refusing to eat.
“Please,” she said, as she was putting on her shoes to leave for work. “Be nice to Mrs. Jo. Disbelief won’t help anything. Please.”
I promised to be nice, but the worried look in her eyes didn’t fade as she stepped out the door.
The doorbell rang precisely at three as promised. I was expecting to see a grey-haired lady with a wrinkled face, but at the door was a young woman, probably in her late twenties. She was dressed in a black pant suit and held a small leather bag. Her hair was tied into a tight bun. She looked like a business woman.
“Please, come in,” I said, after the initial shock wore away. I led her to the living room. On the coffee table, I had laid out a tray with two glasses of iced green tea and a plate of ginger snaps. After sitting on the couch, she stared at her knee caps for a while, as if she had never seen them before. Then, she reached out her hand to the coffee table and drank the iced tea and ate three gingersnaps in silence.
“Our cat has been gone for five days,” I finally said. “My wife tells me you can tell us where he is.”
“No,” she said, grabbing another gingersnap. “But maybe I can call for him.” I nodded.
“You don’t believe me.” She tilted her head, amused. “No, I do. I believe.”
She didn’t reply. Instead, she took out a small piece of flimsy paper from her bag and placed it next to the plate of gingersnaps. It was decorated with red Chinese letters. I could only make out the meaning of one character: strength. Strength? I wondered. What does strength have to do with finding the cat?
“This should be pasted on top of the front entrance,” she said. “Will this bring the cat back?”
She looked at me as if she couldn’t possibly understand what I was trying to ask. I began to blush.
“A woman killed her beloved goat,” she said, studying her knee caps again. “What?”
“She believed that it would help her stop loving a certain man. She really believed this.” She looked up and began to stare at me. I could feel my face reddening again.
Like that, she sat in silence for a while. When I finally looked down, averting her gaze, she snapped her bag shut and got up. I also got up and followed her to the front entrance. Right before she exited, she pointed at the wall space above the front door.
“Right here will do,” she said. “The paper. Right here will do.”
Heather Jeong is a software engineer based in New York City. This is her first published story.