Friday, August 2, 2019

#FridayFlash - Roadside Wishes


"Don't move. Please, don't move." The words became my mantra as I ran along the middle shoulder of the freeway. I ignored the vehicles rushing by inches from my left arm, and tried to keep myself near the barrier without colliding into it.

My focus remained locked on the kitten fifty yards ahead of me.

No one had noticed the small kitten desperately trying to jump over the barrier, but it was possible I was just the only one who had stopped. Not everyone loved animals as much as I did. Even amongst those who did, how many of them would willingly run on the road while traffic sped by?

The kitten thankfully stayed right where I'd first seen it. I worried about it actually clearing the barrier. Would it be blind to anything but the grassy verge across four lanes of busy traffic? Far too much traffic for it to make it safely across. It had used all its luck not being hit already.

I closed the distance and scooped the little one up. Relief flooded my system, almost as strong as the adrenaline that had gotten me here. It was alive!

The kitten didn't realize it was safe at first, just hung limp in my hand. Did it think it had died and this was kitty Valhalla?

"You're okay now, little guy." While I wasn't going to check under the tail in the middle of the freeway, I immediately thought of it as a boy because he looked like my Midnight.

It had taken only that brief glance to be reminded of my deceased tuxedo cat. My constant companion for thirteen years, it had broken my heart to bury him. Saving this little copy of him was the best way to honor our love.

He finally realized he'd been picked up, that a person was holding him. Traffic still blasted past us, but he was safely tucked under my chin. He meowed loudly, and I tightened my grip around him. "You're okay now." Fifty yards back to my SUV, and I could only walk swiftly so as not to jostle him.

"Relax, Baby. It's gonna be okay. I have you now." I talked to him in a soothing voice. Even if he couldn't understand me, he could hear the soothing sounds and feel the protective calm I was trying to project.

He snuggled against my chin, not trying to go anywhere. His entire body fit inside my hand, and I cupped his head with the other, stroking him with my thumb.

We got back to my SUV faster than I expected. Safe inside, I took a moment to settle him and myself. He meowed, looked around briefly, then threw himself back under my chin.

"All right, you're gonna have to hold on tight." I shifted and adjusted him until I had one hand free. Checking the mirrors, I prepared to get back into traffic and to the nearest exit. The kitten dug claws into my chest at the sound of acceleration, but remained quiet, nestled tight under my chin. I continuously stroked him with my thumb, keeping myself calm as surely as I kept him calm.

"We made it," I told him, navigating the exit, merging onto surface streets. "I'll get you home safely. Get you warm, and fed, and make sure you're okay." I talked to him the entire two miles home, and we were safely in my driveway soon enough. "Are you ready to go inside and relax?" He meowed.

I set him up in the spare room, in a dresser drawer half full of sweaters. "There you go. Dark, quiet, cozy. No more bright sun or scary cars." I smiled, stroked him once more, and closed the drawer most of the way.

Adrenaline finally left my system, and the shakes started. I needed a drink, a moment to relax and gather my thoughts.

What was I going to do? Post a found notice, help him get back to his family. If he didn't belong to anyone, was I supposed to take him to a shelter? He was a kitten, would likely be adopted immediately. Unless he was too injured for them to waste resources on, then they'd put him down. What a shame to think that I'd saved his life just for someone else to take it.

But I was getting ahead of myself. He needed water and food and rest before I worried about homing him.

I busied myself making a dish of tuna and getting a bowl of water. Hopefully the little guy had relaxed, maybe even fallen asleep. I'd put the bowls somewhere he could find them, then leave him alone for a while.

Stepping into the spare room, I nearly dropped the dishes in surprise. I couldn't really be seeing this.

The kitten hovered above the dresser, iridescent bat wings extended, fluttering occasionally. He had the same markings as Midnight, but his fur was pristine white and inky black. Aquamarine eyes blinked slowly, and his entire body shimmered with barely visible colors.

~Much gratitude for saving me.~

I dropped the dishes then. Their clatter barely registered past the echoey chime of his voice inside my head. A beautiful sound, like crystal bells, it continued to ring behind my eyes and warm my heart.

"What?" I finally asked. It was a stupid question, but it was the only thing that came out.

He blinked again, bobbing up and down, and I had the distinct impression he was laughing. ~You have my eternal gratitude for saving my life.~

The soothing sounds of his voice inside my head drew me forward, pushed aside my shock, awakened my curiosity. "Why didn't you just fly away? Why were you out there? Are you hurt?"

Another bob, and a flap of his colorful wings. ~I remember not how I got there, but I was too frightened to escape on my own. Even a faerie can become disoriented.~

"You're a faerie." My voice trailed off, the words caught somewhere between a question and musing. "I'm even more grateful I stopped. Not that I wouldn't have, but...well. I mean, you're a faerie."

He stretched and flexed like any kitten, but more adorable and lovely for the wings and sparkles. My hands twitched with the urge to cuddle him, but I resisted. It would surely be too disrespectful to treat him like the mundane kitty he resembled.

~I have not much power, but I may grant you a small boon before I return home.~

"A small boon? Like, a wish?" I frowned, tipping my head to stare at the faerie.

~Nothing so grand. Very small. Then I have to attempt to find my home.~

"You don't know where you live?"

He bobbed low, closing his eyes. ~I know where it is, but I was so frightened that I lost track of how to return.~

This poor little faerie just wanted to go home, yet he still wanted to repay me. Did I deserve a reward for doing the right thing? I couldn't believe his priorities while he was lost and alone.

I thought briefly of Midnight, imagining him panicked and hurt in the middle of the freeway, no one stopping for him, and him just wanting to get back to me. What would I give for him to be returned safely?

After a moment, I shook my head. "I don't want anything for myself. I just want you to go home and be happy."

He bobbed, tipping his head to one side, blue eyes sparkling like crystals. Several seconds passed while we said nothing. ~So be it.~ Then he fluttered forward and nestled against me.

I wrapped my hands around him, afraid to speak, but understanding in my heart what was happening. Tendrils of sparkling warmth filled my veins, and I heard crystalline purrs in my head. The faerie extended his love to me, all his gratitude, and all his trust.

"Love you too," I whispered, kissing his tiny head. This was better than any wish I could have come up with.

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