The drive to the psychiatrist's office was a blurred dream, and his body worked in auto-pilot as his mind fidgeted incessantly, trying to find the safety of reason in a world of confusion.
By the time he'd parked and passed through the smooth swinging door to the series of carpeted stairs, he was desperate. The melon colored walls and the smell of stagnant cleanliness could do nothing to ease his mind, and the burgundy wood door at the end of the hallway could not soothe his itchy, teary eyes.
He knocked once and Mary's familiar voice called through to him. "It's open."
He entered, looking at the carpet in thought as he closed the door softly behind him and then straightened his shirt. Then he turned and stood where he was on the far side of the room from where Mary sat.
"A cat is haunting me," he said.
"A cat?" asked Mary, remaining absolutely still except for a single eyebrow which gently rose a few perceptible millimeters. "Don't you think that 'haunting' is a rather strong word? Cat's enjoy the affection of human beings, and to be followed home by a stray is relatively normal."
Harris opened his mouth to respond, but Mary interrupted him. "Come sit down," she urged.
Harris pursed his lips but moved forward regardless. He began speaking before he reached his regular chair though and so stayed on his feet as his words aroused an unfamiliar mix of emotions.
"The cat is following me like a spy. She followed my vehicle home. And then she somehow got into my house!"
"Are you sure it is the same cat? And perhaps you left a window open."
Harris waved his hands in dismissal, crossing her ideas off with an indignant amount of passion. "You don't understand," he said.
"Then help me to understand," replied Mary, gesturing once more for him to be seated.
He sat reluctantly, and then asked, "What should I do?"
Mary looked grim. "You have lost someone dear to you, and so your mind has fallen upon a new type of company."
"But I do not want the cat's company!"
"That means little," Mary said, "you have let your mind land upon another being and so the cat is there."
Harris was about to complain once more about the cat's presence, but then he realized what his psychiatrist was saying. "Hold on!" he said. "You think my mind has landed on a new form of company and so I am imagining the cat!"
Mary said nothing, but it was certain that this was her thought.
"You think I've lost it." Harris' voice carried a certain amount of anger, but then he remembered the spookiness of his encounters. He hissed a sudden breath and ran a hand through his hair. "...I've lost it," he commented, "I've completely lost it!" And then: "This is not good Mary! This is not good!" He was almost in tears.
Mary sighed. "When someone loses someone dear to them, they can sometimes cherish the past while moving onto the future. But some cannot cherish the past without unhealthy amounts of pain. That is you." She paused and then continued in a very serious voice. "Harris. I want you to let go. I want you to completely cut yourself off from the past. You have too much pain, and I want you to be happy."
"You think I should...separate myself from the memories..."
"Yes. Hide everything that will remind you of her. Start fresh. You know that the time you shared was precious. And now you may leave it in the past...like it was a separate life. You may smile when you think of it, but it will no longer be connected to you."
Harris felt terrible, but he solemnly nodded his head. It had to be done.
He left the office in a thoughtful silence, his heart dreading what he was about to do. He had decided that he would actually discard everything that would remind him of her. He just wanted to be happy again. And he wanted his sanity back. And so he would rush through the house, throwing it all into a giant garbage bag...no amount of tears and gasps could stop him. The psychiatrist had convinced him that it had to happen.
As he stepped into his house, his eyes went first to the living room. Her favorite chair was sitting by the fireplace.
He strode forward with wide eyes and beating heart. And then he stopped short, a sudden pang of fear hitting him hard. There was a fire. Yes, it was in the fireplace, but fires did not normally start themselves. And then he looked down.
The cat was sitting in Her favorite chair, watching the fire. And she didn't seem prepared to leave.
And then a far more powerful discovery collided with Harris as his eyes fell heavily upon the small velvet box that was under the cat's paw.
His mouth went slack in shock. He slipped to his knees.
The cat made perfect eye contact with him. Then she lay her head down upon the paw that sat on the case. It was the case that held Harris' loved one's engagement ring. He hadn't had the chance to give it to her.