Jasmine was in trouble. She was late, very late. Well, about half an hour past her curfew to be exact, but it might as well have been two hours for all the difference it made to her mum. She quickened her footsteps and made it across the road before the flashing green man disappeared and the red one came on. She knew she should have left earlier, but you don’t get to celebrate your best friend’s birthday every day, do you? Not for the first time, she wished her mum would just cut her some slack. After all, she was already sixteen, hardly a kid anymore, and almost all of her friends did not even have a curfew. And it was not as if she was demanding that her mum drop the curfew altogether; she just wanted it lifted for special occasions such as today. That’s not too much to ask for, right? Unfortunately her mum didn’t think so.
By the time she reached her apartment block, she was feeling all hot and sweaty and breathing a little bit harder than usual from walking so fast. As she hurried across the void deck in the direction of the lifts, a flash of white jumped across her path, causing her to stop in her tracks very suddenly. She took a step back to steady herself and took a good look at the white thing which had stopped a few steps to her left.
It was a cat. There were always a few strays around her block, which a few kind-hearted animal (or more likely, cat) lovers living in the same block had been taking care of, quite well in fact. They would take turns to feed and clean up after the cats, and Jasmine, being an animal lover herself, loved to play with some of the strays and occasionally feed them as well. In consequence, she had gotten to know a few of her neighbours this way. One of them was a rather grumpy old man who would sit on the bottom of the staircase talking to the cats while they ate, occasionally admonishing them as if they were his children when they tried to steal each other’s food. She always couldn’t help smiling at the sight of him doing that, although she tried not to get too close in case he started scolding her as well. There was also a friendly lady in her early thirties who always turned up in the evenings, presumably after work, dressed in fashionable office attire and heels.
The cats themselves she could recognize all of them, at least the ones who hung out regularly at her block. There was a calico female she named Sunny because she could always be found stretched out and sleeping contentedly in the afternoon sun. A male with a sleek black coat and white paws she called The Boss because he could always be found sitting quietly in the middle of the carpark next to her block, sometimes on top of a parked car, solemnly regarding anyone who strayed close, looking very much like a mafia boss in a suit surveying his territory. She was particularly fond of a very beautiful ginger which she named Tigger after the tiger in Winnie the Pooh, because unlike most cats which appeared aloof and unfriendly, he was the most playful and hyperactive feline she had ever seen. He liked to amuse himself by pouncing on bits of rubbish like sweet wrappers and pretending to engage in a life-or-death battle with them which she found simply adorable.
She, however, could not recognize this one. For one thing, it did not look like a stray at all, more like someone’s expensive purebred pet. Its coat was pure white and of longer length than the usual stray, and its long tail was quite bushy as well. As it sat there looking up at her, she noticed that its eyes were of different colours. The left eye was amber while the right one was a brilliant blue. As she took a step forward and bent down to take a closer look at this highly unusual feature, the cat gave a soft meow, but remained where it was, regarding her with a wary expression.
“Hey... Where did you come from? I haven’t seen you before.” She knelt down on one knee and stretched out a hand to stroke it. The cat gave another meow but allowed itself to be stroked by Jasmine.
“Are you lost? Do you belong to somebody?” Another meow. There wasn’t any collar around the neck. Guess she would never know. She suddenly wished she could bring it home and keep it. It was a very beautiful cat in her opinion, and the odd-coloured eyes were like, totally cool. But she knew her mum would never let her, so there was no point in wishing. Oh well. She was about to stand up and continue home when she spotted a patch of red on the cat’s left hind paw as it shifted its weight. She had not seen it before because it was hidden by the cat’s body. She gently and slowly put one hand on the back of the hind leg and gently drew it out so that the red patch was fully exposed.
“Oh! You are hurt!” It was blood. It had already half-dried and the fur was matted. She couldn’t see the wound and she didn’t dare to push aside the fur in case it hurt and made the cat angry.
“I’d better bring you home and clean you up. You don’t want to get it infected.” The cat meowed as if in agreement. But there was one problem. Her mum wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about it, and what with her breaking her curfew, she didn’t think her mum would be very agreeable to her bringing the cat home, to say nothing of keeping it for a few days while its wound healed.
She stared at the beautiful odd-coloured eyes for a couple of seconds before making up her mind. She couldn’t abandon the cat here. She would just have to apologize profusely to her mum and probably promise to do all the housework for a month or something in exchange, but she had no choice.
She leaned over and tried to pick the cat up but it suddenly hissed, got up and stalked a few steps away before turning around to look at her.
“I’m not going to hurt you ok? I’m just going to bring you home and clean that wound up.” She slowly took a step forward, but the cat just moved another few steps away from her. She sighed, wondering how she was going to bring it home if it continued to behave in that manner.
At last, with no better idea, she just stood up and walked a few steps to the lift landing and turned back. To her surprise, the cat had also gotten up and followed behind her. It stopped when she did, about a metre away from her. She continued walking, and turning her head back, she saw that the cat was walking behind her with a slight limp. When she got into the lift, it just padded in silently after her and sat there licking its front paws. She looked at her watch. It was 10.40pm. Her mum was probably going to kill her before she could even tell her about the cat. The lift reached the eighth floor. She got out and walked slowly to her unit, trying to rehearse what she was going to say to her mum, the cat again trailing behind her.