Athena

“Athena”

By: Francisco Dosal

 

“So how you been, how’s the realist estate life?” Susan asked as I stood in the living room waiting for Ben to appear.

“Good,” I simply answered. Walking towards the kitchen I started looking through their cabinets.

“You hungry,” she asked as Ben finally appeared.

“You won’t find any alcohol,” Ben explained. I rubbed my face in frustration.

“No, I’m not good,” I started. “I haven’t been in a long time. I quit my job. Did I tell you?”

“No. Why?” Ben asked.

“What am I doing? Why am I working? Why am I here? Why are we all here?”

“Because,” Ben started but I cut him off.

“I feel like,” I thought hard of what I wanted to say but nothing came together the way I wanted it. “I just need time to think. I came over to see if you’d let me borrow your shotgun. I think there’s a raccoon digging around my trash. You know I hate street animals.”

“In your state of mind, I don’t think you should be holding a gun,” Ben explained. Offended I stormed out.

It was a Sunday morning and I was not yet a religion man. Instead of church, I would sleep in and wake up near noon but during this morning, for some strange reason, I woke earlier. I woke expecting something or someone expecting me. I paced my house trying to understand these strange feelings. Something was missing. I could not figure it out. It was the same feeling that made me quit my job. I felt I was working for nothing and existing for no reason at all. For a while I felt like I was living with no purpose and so I began questioning what I did and why I did it.

Sitting in my study room I heard someone walking about my trash can outside. The raccoon I quickly thought. I looked outside the window expecting to see the creature but instead I saw two feet sticking out like antennas. Then the legs bent in and disappeared inside. I walked outside to confront the intruder and as I stepped out I could hear someone munching on my leftovers. I did not know what to say or do and so I waited for the hungry individual to present itself.

Finally, a head stuck out like a hedgehog in spring. She had thick dark brown hair and dark skin. Her upper lip was under her lower lip and her eyes suggested she was scared as she looked at me.

I did not know how to respond. I expected a male in his adolescence and instead I got a young girl who looked in her late teens. I simply asked. “Are you hungry?” and she shook her head. I asked again as I could hear her stomach growling. At a time when I had no idea what I was doing; all I knew was that I had a young girl possibly starving to death. Thinking back, I’m glad I invited her in because it would be her that saved me that day. “Come inside, cause I’m hungry.” I walked inside and left the door open for her to enter. She did not enter until I started cooking.

She did not say much. I guess she could not say anything with a mouth full. I asked her what her name was, she answered but I could not understand as food flew out of her mouth and into my kitchen table.

“Kitty,” she finally said swallowing.

She had on a pink backpack, I assumed than that she was a run away and noticing a bruise on her left shoulder, I assumed she came from an abusive household; only assumptions but who knew what her story actually was. I could not imagine why anyone would want to hit her. Watching her finish her plate I tried thinking of what to do. I wanted to call the police. I imagined them taking her back home. I figured I should get to know her before I made any impulsive decisions. Maybe if I got to know her situation I could make a clear decision or maybe she already had a plan and I would only be getting in the way. Or maybe she was not a run away at all.

“Are you a runaway?” I quickly asked. She raised her eyes in fear. Her upper lip hid under her lower lip. “That’s a yes isn’t it?” She nodded her head. “So where are you headed?”

“Nowhere,” she said softly.

“You shouldn’t be running around like this. There’s horrible people out there who will do nasty things. I mean God forbid you get raped or,” I stopped and saw her face go pale. “Not appropriate dinner conversation,” I thought.

That’s when I thought of Abigail. “Let me call a friend, maybe she can help.” I walked away to my study where I made a phone call. I explained the situation to Abby.

“I’m kinda busy at the moment. Let me call you back,” Abigail said quickly hanging up.

I returned to see Kitty making herself home. She had found herself asleep in my couch. I found it strange that she slept with her upper lip tucked in her lower lip but I had yet to see the strangest of all. I walked over to her and gently shook her shoulder. No response. I shook her shoulder again, she only turned over. That’s when I heard her snore, only it was not a snore. It was more like a cat purring. It was the strangest thing I had ever seen and heard. I sat down trying to think of what I could do. Nothing came to mind but one thing was for sure, I could not allow her to roam the streets anymore. She would stay inside my house until Abbey and I could come up with a solution.

I did not have a job at the time. So when Kitty woke Monday afternoon I had all the time in the world for her. She did not say much. I would ask questions and she would mostly like answer with a shrug or nod. I was getting nowhere and as the day was coming to an end I realized I had to throw in the towel. Giving up, I turned on the television and that’s when she sparked up like fireworks in July.

“Omg,” She yelled as soon as an image came on. “Don’t change it! Leave it!”

I dropped the remote as she nearly gave me a heart attack. Her attention was quickly drawn towards the television.

“You like this?” I asked not looking at what was on.

“Yea! I mean who doesn’t?!” she replied. “I’m so far back in episodes,” she stared at the television for a while. “I think this is. Omg! It is!”

“It is what?” I asked very confused. I began wondering if I should be just as concerned as she was. She did not respond. “Do you watch this back home?”

“No! Joseph don’t work. So he sold the television,” she said. “And mom don’t work either she’s always in her room sleeping.”

I was beginning to get somewhere. Than an announcement came on explaining a marathon. Kitty screamed, jumped up and down on the couch than looked at me.

“Can I please,” she said. I did not know how to respond. I did not care. She was not my child yet she made me feel like a father figure. Something I had never intended on being nor planed in the near future. “I promise to keep it down.”

“Sure,” I said faintly. She screeched and fell comfortably on the couch. She was young, innocent, and like any young girl she did not seem like a trouble maker. It seemed she was running away from a horrible life and in search of something not greater but something fair.

As she watched a reality T.V. show I guess she gained entire trust of me. She explained her situation back home. She was the middle child of five. She had a mother that only looked at her children as government checks. Her father had never lifted a school book nor any kind of tool. He did manage to lift a bottle of liquor and his hands on Kitty. She attended school but with horrible parents as role models, she could never unlock the potential within. But in my home surrounded by knowledge and the desire to learn, she quickly found an interest. I let her watch her marathon and as it ended she entered my study room.

She read or glanced through every book I had or what she called, “strange yet interesting books.” But she found a particular topic that she fell in love with. She loved reading about freedom. Freedom from the world. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from pain and suffering. I tried my best answering her questions and helping further her studying and fueling her desire for knowledge.

“When we die,” Kitty asked one dinner night. “What happens?”

“Well what do you think?”

“Hmmmm,” her eyes wondered. “I think we are finally free. I think in life we suffer so that we are longer scared of death. I think death becomes more embraceable knowing it honest and true freedom. What do you think?” she said very curious to what my answer was.

“I don’t know. I agree with what you say.” I stopped to think. “I think when we die we go to heaven,” I said. She burst out in laughter.

“I thought you were atheist.”

“I am,” I said confused to my own answer.

Kitty had been living with me for three weeks and in the process I returned to my job feeling fulfilled. I now had a purpose or felt that I did. Every day I worked I did so with meaning. I lived so that someone else could do the same.

Abby came over on a Tuesday night. She was in her formal attire. I think she had just left a courtroom. Placing her briefcase on my kitchen table, she looked at me tired. Falling in my arms, she looked at me tenderly. I enjoyed her visits. I felt she did so as well, because she could let go and allow herself to fall into someone’s arms.

“Why do we work ourselves to death with no end? What’s it all for?” I was ready to answer with the new revelation of mine. Than Kitty screamed. Abby jumped and heard her footsteps all around the house. Then she appeared and ran to me.

“He finally kissed her,” Kitty said than ran back to the living room.

“Who’s that?” Abby asked pulling away from me.

“That’s why I called you. She’s a runaway and I don’t know what to do.”

“Well you don’t let them in your house. You call the cops and let them deal with it. You don’t want problems with the law, remember.” Abby explained thoroughly but I only understood bits and pieces. She explained how Kitty had to leave. That I could end up in jail. In the end. Finally, she gave me the address of a shelter for runaway kids and teens.

“What’s for dinner?” Kitty yelled. “I want pizza,”

“I’ll order pizza for the three of us.”

It was awkward. No one said a word. Abby paid no attention to her. Kitty on the other hand, kept a close eye on her.

“So Abs. What do you do?”

“It’s Abigail,” she stated sharply. “And I’m a lawyer.”

“That’s cool, so can I ask you something,” Kitty said. Abigail only looked at her. “What is right from wrong?”

Abigail did not think about the question she quickly answered, “Whatever the government declares right from wrong.”

“So was killing Jesus Christ the right thing to do? What about segregation? Oh, and slavery?” My heart skipped a beat or two. I looked at Abigail. Her jaw opened, surprised at the young girls wit. If only she knew she spent more time in my study than I did. Then she turned towards Kitty and simply said with a smile on her face.

“I like you.” Abigail said smiling at her.

That night was blissful. Kitty would ask a question and Abigail would gladly answer her. I could only guess her feelings. I think she felt, as I did, that her life and life itself had meaning and that meaning was to pass down her knowledge to this young child. Abigail was talking about politics when she looked at me. That’s when I caught a glimpse of the future. A future where I was a father and Abigail a mother and I think she saw that same thing. The very idea never crossed our mind. We had been friends since childhood and even after splitting and going to different colleges we found ourselves inseparable by fate.

I could not sleep that night as I thought about how I was going to tell Kitty she had to leave. I did not want her to leave. I did not want to send her off to a shelter but Abigail was right. She could not stay here she needed to find a home, a proper home. Summer would soon be over and school would start once again. Thinking back, I wish things could have gone differently than how they did.

Kitty was in the living room giggling at whatever show was on when I got home from work. I walked over and sat next to her. “My whole life I been looking for something and I thought it was success.” I said as Kitty looked at me confused. “I thought that was the point of life, but after I graduated college and succeeded in everything I dreamed of I never really full filled myself as a human being. I felt like a human corpse. I felt factitious, because everything I had was factitious. The money, cars, house, and just everything.”

“What’s factitious,” she asked.

I wanted to say how she gave me purpose. That I saw her as my child. That she was the only thing that actually felt real and created real feelings but I could not.

“What’s factitious?”

“You can’t stay here anymore!” I said rudely. I was ready to explain my reasons and the shelter she could go to when Kitty quickly got up. Her face was red in anger. “Kitty!” I called after her. She grabbed her backpack and ran out the door.

I have a purpose in this world and I think it is everyone’s as well. I think we are here to love each other but mostly love what we create. Even though I did not create Kitty, I wish I had. All she wanted was to love and be loved in return the way every child desires.

That very day Abbigail walked inside without me knowing. She came inside yelling and hollering about legal work that I did not understand.

“Slow down,” I said.

“Let’s adopt her!” she said firmly. The void in my heart was filled again. The words shook to my very core. For the first time in my life I learned what it felt like to be happy. I jumped up and kissed Abby than ran to see Kitty but by then it was too late. She was gone and I had no idea where to search.

I had walked into the abandoned house. The house creaked, I thought it was ready to fall apart as I walked through the door and inside. I stood in an empty living room looking at all the renovation needed and that’s when I smelled it. I smelled copper. My heart sank into my stomach as a heard a child crying. I walked into a room, no one was inside but the smell of copper got stronger. Slowly I walked into the bathroom scared of what I might see.

The bathtub was halfway filled with blood and warm water. I remember her snow white knees sticking out like two little islands surrounded by a red sea. I cried. My lips did not shake and I did not scream in agony. Tears just escaped my eyes as if a pipe had broken loose inside my head. Her pale face was calm and for the first time she was in peace. It had been nearly a year since the last time I had seen her. I could only imagine the pain and suffering she had gone through but now she was free from it all.

I do not know if it was that day but I become religious. There had to be a God or something out there that made events occur so that everything came together perfectly. It seemed everything from my career to my personal life had led this event. As if I had been destined to be here looking down at this child and her newborn.

Me and Abbigail married and took the child as our own. We named her Athena. I do not really tell the story on how she came into our care because it sounds so bizarre and unreal, like something out a fiction story. I simply say she is ours although she resembles Kitty a lot and looks nothing like Abigail or me. She even purrs and tucks her upper lip under her lower one when she sleeps. A day has not gone by that I do not think of Kitty and wish everything could have ended differently. But we are all human beings trying our best to figure the chaos around us. And sometimes we figure it out when it is too late, but that’s life right?