Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cat's Eye by Will Belegon

Bonnie reached for the doorbell again, for the third time. Twice she had pulled her finger back, and twice she had started to turn and walk back to her car. The sounds of music and laughter came through the door and from the backyard, but she was alone on the front porch. She could walk away and no one would ever know.

The door opened and a blast of sound and light blew away any hope of escape. A booming laugh emerged from a shock of red hair and yellow-green eyes flashed behind a Mardi Gras mask.

“Well, hello, little kitty. Do I know you? Me-Wow!”

Bonnie felt flush. She knew the Catwoman outfit had been a bad idea. It showed way too much skin and did absolutely nothing to hide her ample curves, as evidenced by the man’s reaction. But that decision was in her past and it was too late to regret it now.

“Um, I was invited...by Todd? Todd Lundquist? Is this the right place?”

“Oh, hey! Are you Bonnie?”

She looked at him with suspicion. What about her appearance was so unusual that he would know her name? She glanced back at the long driveway leading up to the big house. Judging by the cars, there were plenty of people here. Too many for her to stand out that much, especially to someone she had never met.

“Yes. How do you know my name?”

“Sweetheart, I know everybody’s name. Well, everybody here anyway. Soon you will, too. Besides, we’ve been waiting for you. Longer than we thought we would need wait. I’m sorry, I’m forgetting my manners. My name is Marcus and I have the honor to be your host. Please come inside.” Marcus stepped to the side and bowed, his hand sweeping across his knees as his red hair cascaded across his face. He laughed again as he rose, brushing it behind him.

Bonnie stepped inside. A half-dozen people were scattered around the living room, drinks in hand. The music pulsated from the back of the house. She didn’t see Todd anywhere.

“Follow me, fair lady, and we will attempt to locate the scoundrel who invited you. But I suspect it will not be hard. And if you lose me in the press of admirers, just look for the tail. Easy to spot anywhere.” Marcus grinned and spun around.

He was kidding about the crowd, although the scattered individuals they passed on the way to the backyard did seem to admire her. They all nodded to her and smiled, a curiosity in their eyes that felt out of place. Sure, people tended to know each other, but certainly she couldn’t be the only new person here? But no one seemed hostile, even the women... and considering the way some of the men were looking at her, that didn’t make sense at all.

He was not kidding about the tail. A dusky red and white, the bushy accessory emerged from a split seam in the back of his jeans. It bounced with a liveliness that made Bonnie slightly jealous when she looked back at the limp stuffed one curling behind her. She wrote a mental note to corner Marcus before the end of the evening and force the website or costume store name out of him.

They slipped between a pair of men who looked to be identical twins in matching eagle costumes and emerged into the backyard. An open space that could hold the house they had just walked through twice with room to spare, bordered by trees. Paper lanterns were strung on both sides near the house, with the back edge fading into darkness. Here the guests were more plentiful and seemed to account for the variety of cars on the drive.

She spotted him instantly. Todd was near the barbeque pit, sipping on a beer and talking to a beautiful blonde woman who was at least four inches taller than him. Bonnie’s heart sank. It had been too much to hope for, after all this time, that he would invite her as a date. The ease and familiarity between the couple was obvious. Still, she straightened her spine, determined not to let him see her disappointment.

As they strode toward him, Todd’s head came up and he closed his eyes while looking at the sky. Bonnie was reminded of the surreal moment in the fight, five Halloweens past. As she had imagined the change in his eyes then, she could have sworn she saw his nostrils flare just before his eyes snapped open and he turned to face her, a smile on his face.

Marcus snickered beside her. “Can’t fool that nose.”

As she turned to ask him what he meant, she was swept off her feet. Todd twirled her in a circle, laughter emerging from deep in his chest.

“Finally! I’ve been waiting for so long. I’m sorry it took me so long to contact you, but it just seemed right to wait for our next gathering. I’m sure you have questions…”

She looked down at him, bemused. There was no doubting the joy in his face, but as she watched it was touched with confusion. Again the nostrils flared.

Todd set her down as a small crowd gathered. The party guests crowded around, a look of anticipation on their faces. The blonde, who Bonnie now noticed was dressed as a lioness, set a paw on his shoulder.

“She’s not awake.”

“I can tell that, Larissa.” Todd gazed into her face, the confusion growing. “What I don’t understand is why. I expected her memories to be…well, sketchy. Things take time. But she is completely unaware.”

Murmurs of assent arose from everyone surrounding them. The anticipatory mood was beginning to be replaced with one of concern.

Marcus spoke. “I think this is between you and Bonnie, Todd. The connection between the two of you has always been strong.”

“I agree,” added Larissa, if that was the blonde’s name. “The poor child must be horribly confused. Take it easy, Todd. Don’t let your loneliness push you to an unwise choice.” She punctuated her words by pulling his head around and looking firmly into his eyes. “Understand?”

“I can handle it. Trust me.” There was no room for argument in his statement.