The cat leaped from Dan's arms, and landed gracefully on the welcome mat. He padded his way behind Cassie's bare feet, and rubbed his side affectionately against her calves. Then, he raced down the hall towards the smell of food.
In a plain white dress, she stood in the open doorway. Cassie leaned up onto her toes, closing her eyes, and moved her lips towards Dan's cheek.
However, Dan was distracted by the cat, and turned his face to watch the feline's tail dart eagerly into the kitchen. And thus, his lips met hers.
Immediately, she withdrew.
Dan's face became a florid red.
And seeing his reaction, Cassie, too, began to blush. But she stopped, and giggled softly. Then she wrapped her hands around him, "Thanks for bringing my kitty home."
Dan felt her soft hair against his neck. A smell met his nostrils. She smelled like a forest on a softly raining day. He smiled then, not sure of what he was feeling, "You're welcome, Cassie."
But the tender moment was interrupted.
"Close the bloody damn door, Cassie!" a voice of angry love yelled from some place unseen. "You're the reason that dumb, deaf cat got out in the first place. Now, let me watch the game."
All at once, Cassie rolled her eyes, let go of Dan, and stepped back off the doorframe. She smiled awkwardly, then loosed her voice in a whisper, "Umm... I think you should leave. My step-dad says I should stay away from boys. And my dad just tells me to ask my other dad. And..."
Dan was already walking backwards across the porch. He didn't quite understand the parental situation Cassie was describing, but he wasn't sure if he even understood his own.
"And Mom's passed away."
She gently slammed the door, then.
And, having been walking backwards, Dan fell abruptly down the wooden steps of her porch. Grabbing the rail as he fell, he avoided breaking his tailbone.
"Wait," she called out the door, as it cracked open, "what's your name?"
A lame grin etched itself onto Daniel's face as he pulled himself up.
Head peeking out the crack, Cassie seemed eccentrically unfazed by his fall. And also by the angry, cursing request to shut the door that followed.
"Daniel," he told her, "Daniel Paddock."
"That's a nice name," she said, face unseen. "Cassandra Tanner."
The door closed, leaving him in the mist.
Dan walked home slowly, thinking about the kiss that was meant for his cheek. But as his thought lingered, and he passed more houses, he began to think of the theft he thought he'd witnessed. And the man who'd hit her... Is he her step-father? Playing back all she'd said, it occurred to him that she must have two fathers that were married to each other.
It began to rain, gently.
A man in white stood at Daniel's door. Even his hair was white. He was probably albino, as he looked devoid of pigment.
Daniel didn't notice him. As he walked up the driveway, all he could smell was the wet, moist tree above him. It reminded him of her.
The young man turned around as Daniel walked up the cobblestone walk. He cocked his head every-so-slightly to one side, and smiled. The shirt he wore had a name threaded onto it in black: Robert. With his stark outfit, the young man looked to Daniel as if he worked in an asylum.
Daniel was nervously quiet, wondering which bills his mother wasn't paying, "Who-who are you?"
"Speak up, son, I can't hear you," Dan was told. With one finger, the man tapped a flesh-coloured hearing aid that was plugged into his ear.
"I s-said, who are you?" Daniel asked in a shy, but louder, voice.
"Miss Paddock called me. Is she your mother? She said she found my cat." He extended a hand, to shake, towards Daniel. There was an ephemeral warmth in his pale features. He continued, as Dan hesitantly took his hand, "My name is Robert Jameson, but you can call me what everybody else does: Bobby."