Shadow Walking

I watch her. I watch her all the time.

I watch her pour milk on her cereal. I watch her stumble out of bed. I see her wince as she crushes her feet into heels. I see her curse at her laptop when she’s working from home. I know she’s steered clear of wheat since December but eats chocolate in bed. I won’t reveal her darker secrets.

I know she loves Tom.

(But that can be changed.)

It isn’t hard to stay hidden. I stick to the shadows. I spend most of the day in the attic or the eaves or the space under the stairs. If she ever comes in I just stay very still. It’s amazing what people don’t notice. I stick to the dark places. There are spaces in the house that she doesn’t even know about. And everywhere there are cracks and peepholes, gaps in the plaster around the edge of pipes, wood grains and grating and small holes in the ceiling. As long as I’m quiet, I can watch her all day. And I am quiet. I am a master of it.

She has no idea that I’m here.

I can stretch my legs more at night in the darkness. If I move in the right way I am just another shadow. If I need to move further, across her room in the moonlight, I just time it along with some other big movement. A sweep of car headlights into next door’s driveway, the shadow of the big tree outside when it’s windy, the flutter of the curtains in the summer breeze. People are very easily distracted. And they see only the things they expect to be seeing.

Sometimes I simply watch her sleeping. There have been occasions when I’ve done that all night. Eyes bright with the darkness, not moving an inch. Just watching her carefully. Looking, still looking, for signs I can’t trust her. People often betray themselves when they’re asleep.

Tom’s there of course. Lying next to her. He hangs around her like an odour. He snores in his sleep. She doesn’t. He doesn’t deserve her.

It’s his food I eat of course. Leftovers from what she’s made him. He’s picky and snooty and he always leaves some, the ingrate. I scrape it up from the plates which she hasn’t washed up from the evening. It’s hardened by then but still edible. It’s enough. She’d notice if I tried opening anything new.

She never washes up after dinner. I know this about her. She gets lazy in the evenings. I don’t approve but I tolerate it.

So far I have not found any proof I can’t trust her.

Tom isn’t proof. He was always there, simpering around her like a pestering wasp without a sting. I was her favourite. And however attentive he might have been, however sympathetic, however grasping, she was devastated when she lost me.

I know. I stood in the shadows and watched her cry. It should have been proof enough but you can’t be too careful. So I stayed around, watching. Making sure.

I was a little bit worried when she gave up on the searches. When she started to settle with simpering Tom. I watched as she began to accept my absence. To make a home without me. To put away my things. It hurt, I admit it.

But it’s understandable. And the places she put my things are the places I hide. So in a way, without knowing it, she was returning them to me.

The odd thing about it is that I think Tom knows. He must do. I am sure, in the night, that he’s seen me. On several occasions. He’s a poor excuse for a hunter, but he still has his senses. I wonder if he leaves the food on purpose. Is he colluding with me? Or does he simply accept that I am his superior?

Maybe he’s got the better plan. I do doubt myself, sometimes, in my blackest moments. Seeing the way he behaves with her. Soaking up her attention, drawing her love. Sleeping with the warmth of her, stretching out in the sunshine.

No. I am simply being cautious. I don’t know if I can trust her yet. Soon, perhaps. But not yet. Better safe than sorry.

And when I reveal myself, she will know it immediately. That things were never the way she had imagined it. I am not lost. I never left. I am her master. And she is my cat.

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