I try to ignore the feeling of ice in my gut. Jordan doesn't know anything; how could he? There's nothing to know, anyway. Sometimes you've got to force yourself to forget things, or else they keep dragging along behind you like a string of tin cans. Forgetting is harder than remembering. You've got to cut the string.
So I look out the window at the scenery: scraps of garbage on the sidewalk, a chainlink fence around the grass field, a bus bench with f-u-c spray-painted on it. I guess someone ran out of time. The cat wheezes lightly.
"Are you kidding me? The cat's sleeping," I say.
"So?" Jordan asks.
"So its claws are locked into my skin!"
"We're almost there."
We finally leave the school zone and time resumes its normal speed. The cat opens her eyes.
"Now she's staring at me," I mutter as Jordan slows for a yellow light. I swear he started braking while it was still green.
"You're in a weird mood today," he says. He drums his fingers along the steering wheel. "Something on your mind?"
"No. Did you think something was?" God! He'll hear the catch in my voice, and then I'll have to start lying, and I'm no good at that. "There's nothing on my mind." I hope my voice sounds firm.
"That's funny," he says, glancing up to the mirror. His eyes are pale grey, just like the cat's fur. In reflection, they're even paler.
"What's funny?" My nostrils are constricting from the damn cat dander. I'm developing hives as we speak, I just know it. And an ulcer. It's so stressful to think that--No, don't think. Just sit tight.
"Well, I heard that you did have something on your mind. In fact, I heard it quite clearly when we started the car."
"That's ridiculous," I snort. "There's nobody else here."
"True," he says, nodding gravely. "You're right. "
This is startng to annoy me. What does he mean, heard it? And this damn cat is now crushing my legs like a brick. I try to shove it over to the seat beside me, but it resists. Claws like fish hooks. "Why don't you go smother Jordan?" I snap.
"We're almost there," he says for the fiftieth time.
"I thought we were going to your place," I say, noticing the mountains ahead, above the city roofs. They should be behind us.
"We're going the right way," he assures me.
"It's just that I have to meet someone in a little while," I toss out quickly. "So I can't take too long."
"You don't have to meet anyone," he answers softly. "You just made that up."
"No, I swear I do. I just didn't mention it before."
"In the animal shelter, I heard it quite clearly. You have no plans today. You were hoping I'd ask you in for a beer."
"How the hell did--" I glance at the door handle, then at the stoplight coming up a few blocks ahead. I don't care how stupid I look, I just want out of this car. I'm going to pull the handle as soon as we come to a stop.
I shift, ready to throw the animal off and lunge from the car. Has the cat gotten heavier? It feels like someone's strapped a rock to my legs.
"I told you," he repeats patiently. "I heard."
"What do you mean heard? Stop playing games with me!"
The cat starts up the purring again. It sounds like refrigerator motor. In the mirror, Jordan is staring right into the cat's eyes. He shudders, then breaks the stare to glance at me. I notice uneasiy that his expression is cold. The cat purrs louder as she finally extricates her claws from the fabric of my jeans and stretches them.
A sharp pain stabs my leg. I look down and gasp. Where the cat has pulled out her claws are little pools of blood, spreading out in two red paw-prints. It stings.
"She cut my skin," I say.
"I've heard of worse things," Jordan says. Why is his voice so soft and serious now? What could have changed in fifteen short minutes? He accelerates the car. The next traffic light never changes to red, and we zoom on without slowing towards the mountains that jut up like shadows into the sky.