Jules and Felicia
- Billijean Martiello, 2013
The only point of contention between Jules and her boyfriend was his cat, Felicia. At first, Jules thought that she hated Felicia because she wasn’t what you would call an “animal person”, or perhaps because Felicia was so obviously a one-person sort of cat. Still, she had never outright hated another person, let alone an animal, and it was a strange, new feeling for Jules.
When Jules and Chandra first started dating, Felicia snubbed her. In fact, the cat acted like she didn’t notice that Jules was any more than a figment of Chandra’s imagination. However, it was as if the more serious things between Jules and Chandra became, the more possessive and jealous the fat tabby got. When Jules stayed over for the first time, Felicia noticed. The cat went from ignoring her to boring holes in the fabric of her being with sharp dagger stares. When Jules mentioned this to Chandra, he only laughed.
“She will get used to you.” Chandra always said, “Felicia is just an old girl. Give her some time.” Jules gave her plenty of time. She mostly stayed out of Felicia’s way, and even tried tempting her with treats. She really had wanted to get along with her boyfriend’s cat, and the more she got to know Chandra, and the more they began to care for each other, the harder she tried. Felicia was the only family that Chandra had, and Jules wanted the cat to like her. Felicia wouldn’t eat the tuna Jules brought her, or play with the catnip mouse she dangled in front of her face. She just sat on Chandra’s lap, eyes locked on Jules’s throat.
Last month, over dinner at their favorite Greek restaurant, Chandra had asked Jules to move in with him. They had been dating for a little over a year, and he felt like the time was right. He would have asked her to marry him, he said, but he knew how Jules felt about that. She wanted to say yes. She wanted to start packing that night, and move in on her next day off, but the thought of living with Felicia weighed in the back of her mind. Jules felt so silly, not wanting to live with a cat. There were no allergy issues, and it wasn’t as if Felicia had ever menaced her. All she did was sit and stare. No, glare. That was a better word for it. Still, Jules was the only one to notice, and Chandra insisted that Felicia was getting used to having her around. So, instead of saying yes, she said that she would think about it.
That night at Chandra’s, it was as if Felicia knew that she was considering moving in. She rubbed her body against Chandra’s legs as soon as he opened the door, mewing sweetly. She is good at sugar coating that voice, thought Jules. Then she thought, I must be nuts. Felicia is just a stupid cat. Felicia looked up at Jules as Chandra bent down and petted her fur, as if to say. Yes, you are crazy Jules. Crazy if you think you are going to move in here, with us. This is my house. This is my family.
Jules narrowed her eyes and stared right back at Felicia. “I have been thinking, Chandra.” she said, “I will move in with you. I really want to.” Chandra stood up and swept Jules into his arms, smiling broadly, his white teeth shining against his brown skin.
“I love you, Jules.” He whispered, “We will be one happy family here, you’ll see.”
Two weeks later, Jules had moved out of the apartment she had shared with two roommates, Melinda and Bryce, and moved in with her boyfriend, the love of her life. It was a hot Saturday in June, but she didn’t notice the heat. Her roommates and Chandra’s friend Kevin helped them move her things, and by evening, everything she owned was sitting in boxes on the carpet of Chandra’s third floor walkup. Chandra ordered everyone Thai takeout, and they sat amongst the boxes in the living room, laughing, drinking Corona, and relaxing after the long day. Felicia hid herself under the sofa and wouldn’t come out. Jules was happy about this, she felt victorious.
“Is that your mother?” Melinda asked, pointing to a small photo in a gold-plated frame on Chandra’s end table.
“Oh, yes! Thank you for reminding me. I got this out to show you, Jules. You said you wanted to see my parents. I don’t have much of them, but I managed to find this picture.” Chandra leaned over from his position on the floor, and grabbed the photo, warmth filling his eyes as he looked at it. “See, Jules. Mother was a beautiful lady.” He held it out in front of himself for the group to see.
Jules saw the lovely woman in the yellow sari, sitting in a wicker chair, but all she really noticed was the cat on the woman’s lap, a big, old tabby cat with a familiar cruel leer. Everyone told Chandra how beautiful his mother had been, and how he had the same silky black hair, the same white-as-snow smile. The portrait cat sneakily gestured at everyone. It seemed to unsheathe its claws, and promise death to those who crossed it. Only Jules noticed.
“She is lovely, Chandra.” Jules managed to say, words stumbling awkwardly from her lips. “Is that Felicia?”
Chandra turned the picture back towards him, wrinkling his brow. “This picture is older than me, and taken in India, so no. But now that you mention it, the cat does look a lot like Felicia. Funny coincidence!”
Jules was unnerved. For the first time that night, she noticed the cat’s eyes glinting from beneath the sofa, and the feeling of victory was diminished. I’m waiting, and watching, the eyes said, and Jules wondered if rat poison would kill a cat, or if a fall from a third story window would be enough.