Evelyn sat at the foot of her cat’s grave, drying her now bloodshot eyes. It was dusk, and the sky was a muddle of pinks and blues. With a sad sniff, she took the knife out of her back pocket and trudged over to the oak tree that would soon serve as her cat’s tombstone. They would’ve buried him directly underneath the tree, but the roots were in the way. She plopped down next to the tree, sitting on one of the roots that happened to jut out of the ground. Digging the blade into the light colored bark, she started to slowly etch his name, “Tobi.” Though she was using two hands to drive the knife into the wood, her arms still shook.
It had happened so fast. She knew Tobi was getting old, but she didn’t think his eyesight was that bad. Evelyn had just let him outside, in the front yard as always. He enjoyed spending most of the day in the outdoors, and had never gotten lost in their Floridian neighborhood. She wanted him to get one last jaunt in the afternoon air before he had to go inside for the night. Before Evelyn went back in her room, she decided to sit down on the front stoop and listen to music on her recently cracked phone. She zoned out, staring at her bare feet, thinking about her horrible day. When she glanced up, she saw Tobi strutting around in the green grass like he owned the place, which he practically did. Just like normal.
Once she had finished her “Marina and the Diamonds” playlist, she stood up to leave. As her hand wrapped around the bronze handle of their front door, she heard the screech of tires and a loud thump thump. The unexpected noise made her jump, and the slight crunch that followed made her stomach drop. When she turned around, she saw a car stopped in front of her house, and poor, sweet Tobi’s mangled body resting against the back tire.
From that point on, everything was a miserable blur. Calling her parents outside, the sincere apologies of the driver, they way Tobi’s neck shouldn’t twist like that, the crushed bones, bloody, crusty black fur…
“Tobi,” Evelyn whispered, the tears coming back with full force. She loved that stupid cat. Why did he have to go and jump out in front of that SUV? She had somehow managed to carve his name into the tree while her thoughts drifted. It was crude, and far from perfect, but it was his name inside a sloppy heart, and that satisfied her. Mosquitoes had started to appear, and she swatted a few away from her bare arms. Before she stood up, she put a hand over the carved heart, sending a silent prayer to her beloved Tobi’s spirit, wherever he was. Evelyn knew his name wouldn’t stay in the bark forever, but she really wished it would.
Suddenly, she felt a weird sensation building up from behind her eyes, and before she knew what was happening, she saw a fire blaze through the ruts of the carving. She yanked her hand away on instinct, but the fire continued to spread until even the dot of the ‘i’ in Tobi was burned into the wood. Once it dissipated, the feeling in her eyes slowly melted away too. Thoroughly distressed, she extended a trembling finger and ran it through the groove of the ragged heart. To her dismay, her finger was covered in fresh soot.
She shot to her feet. Evelyn didn’t understand what just happened, but she didn’t want to explore it further. It had been a long day. She was probably just hallucinating, which wasn’t good, but she liked that explanation. She was sure all she needed was some rest, and everything would be better in the morning.
She yanked open the sliding glass door adjacent to her backyard and closed it quickly behind her. Her heart was beating erratically while her exhales were coming out in short, jagged breaths.
She heard her mom call from the kitchen,“Are you okay Evie?”
Dang it, Mom must’ve heard me come in the door, Evelyn thought with exasperation. “Yeah, I’m fine mom. I think I’m gonna skip dinner tonight. I’m not really in the mood to eat right now,” she called. She walked over to the entrance of the dining room, where her parents were slowly sipping wine and finishing their dinner.
“Are you sure Hon?” asked her father, “I don’t think there’s ever been a time when you weren’t hungry.”
She smiled a little at the accurate comment.
“I know, but all I really want to do right now is get some sleep. I just feel so drained,” she said, casually crossing her arms and leaning against the doorway. Evelyn tried to play it cool, so that her parents wouldn’t question her actions. And she was prepared to fight them on this. She may have never skipped a meal in her life, but she was so done with being awake and constantly thinking about Tobi, and her miserable day. And she knew she’d immediately regret her decision once she woke up at 3 am and was starving. But that was a problem for her later self.
“Ok,” replied her mom, sympathy shining through her eyes.
“Thank you. ‘Night,” responded Evelyn, giving them a quick wave as she left.
“Night Pumpkin,” returned her Mother.
Thank God, she thought as she plodded up the carpeted stairs. Once she reached her room, she lethargically changed into her pj’s, her eyes already growing heavy. Evelyn collapsed onto her bed and dragged the sheet over herself. “So tired…” she mumbled absentmindedly into her pillow. Within minutes she was fast asleep, and snoring like always.