“Don’t look so worried. He’ll love you,” Jerry said as he opened the door to his late model Caddy.
‘He’? Guess it wouldn’t be his mother I’d be meeting tonight. My heart sank. Jerry was going to tell me he was gay and he’d tried one last time to see if he could be straight and I was it and he couldn’t, so now we’d have drinks with his lover and he’d say we could still be friends…
I didn’t say much on the drive over. We pulled into the underground parking for his building and took the elevator to the tenth floor.
Jerry turned his key in the lock of 1003. I had just decided on a gracious approach to whoever he introduced as his lover.
“This is Fitzhugh,” Jerry said, throwing the door open with one hand as though there would be trumpets blowing somewhere and Clinton or maybe even Newt Gingrich would come out.
I stepped forward, set my purse down on a table beside the door and held out my hand. But there was no one in the room. It was a pleasant enough apartment; a long bank of windows along one wall, some plants and comfortable furniture in greens and browns.
So I’d guessed wrong again. Jerry didn’t want me to meet his mother and he wasn’t gay; he was crazy. Fitzhugh was a hallucination, like that rabbit, Harvey, in that old Jimmy Stewart movie.
Jerry had lured me up here to meet his imaginary friend who would find fault with me and they would find my lifeless body several days later in the park behind some bushes…
At least Mac and his aunt had gotten a look at him, I told myself, sidling back towards the door. He won’t get away with it. Jerry didn’t seem the killer type but then that’s what all the girlfriends and neighbours say on the tabloid shows after some maniac’s been arrested. Even serial killers have a social life…
“This is my cat, Fitzhugh,” Jerry was repeating politely.
I looked down. A feline monstrosity stared up at me. It was a lustrous black with glittery gold eyes, big enough to operate a can opener all by itself.
“I can tell he likes you,” Jerry said. “He’s fussy about his friends.”
Yeah, sure, I thought. I have a theory about people who are too close to their cats. Not a normal relationship.
“See how good we look together?” He indicated the mirror in front of us. There we were, Jerry’s dark good looks, my slim blonde self and what looked like a furry demon glowering on the floor between us. That old saying about three’s a crowd sure applied here.
Jerry moved closer and drew me into his arms. I lifted my lips to be kissed, closing my eyes and feeling the rough tweed of his jacket against my cheek. ‘Oh Jerry,’ I thought, ‘why couldn’t it have been your mother?’
Something raked my ankles as I kissed him back. I looked down. My pantyhose fell in shreds over my pumps. Fitzhugh was just taking a large bite out of my left heel. Then he stalked away to whatever dark places he inhabited in that apartment.
“Donna?” Jerry moved and knocked my purse to the floor. “Sorry.” He picked it up and jammed the contents back any old way. “Am I jumping the gun here? I mean, I don’t want you to think I’m a date rapist or something. I haven’t brought a woman up here in a long time.”
And he wouldn’t again, if Fitzhugh has anything to say about it, I thought. I was still staring at the gouge in my heel. The cat had scratched the suede off the right pump. I’d have to toss the shoes.
Jerry looked down. “Ohmigod, did Fitzhugh do that?”
“Oh, no. I came over here with my pantyhose down around my ankles, cat scratches and gouges in my shoes.”
“You don’t need to be sarcastic. I’m sure it was an accident. Fitzhugh probably smelled another cat on you.”
“I haven’t been around any cats. Ever.”
“Maybe that next door neighbour, Mrs. Patrickson, has cats. She seems like a cat person.”
“Canaries. She hates cats.”
“Perhaps you hate Fitzhugh too?”
“Darn right I do,” I said. I grabbed my purse and stomped out feeling the draft around my ankles. Cat: 1, Girlfriend: 0.