Roxy knocked softly on Lilith’s door.
“Lilith, I can hear you in there. Can I come in?”
“Lilith, I brought some fancy cat food for momma cat. Can I come in?”
Roxy heard movement and some scribbling and looked down to see a hastily written note sliding under the door. It read: “Can you leave it and come back later? I’m sorry.”
Roxy sighed. This was going to be more trouble than she’d hoped.
“Sure Lilith. I’m leaving the food here. But I know you know that there aren’t any horses for our barn galloping tomorrow and I want to make sure you have some money for food for yourself so I want to give you $20 and I don’t want to leave it out here in the hallway for somebody to steal. Can I give it to you?”
Roxy heard a sigh and a shuffling of feet across the floor, the door opened a crack.
“Lilith, can I come in and pet the kittens? I’ve had a hard day and it seems like that would be helpful – you know?”
Roxy waited trying hard not to seem impatient or frustrated. As with a shy horse, Roxy knew that rushing would make things worse.
After what seemed like forever, the door opened enough for Roxy to squeeze in.
The room smelled like warm bodies and sweaty socks. Cereal boxes were neatly arranged in the windowsill on one side with cat food boxes arranged on the other like books. Everything else was a mess of laundry, comic books, a litter box and cat toys. Momma cat laid on the couch nursing three mewling kittens.
Roxy sat down gingerly and focused her eyes on the kittens. She petted momma on the head.
“They are really growing up!”
Lilith sat down on the other side of momma cat and picked up the gray tabby kitten and picked crusty bits from the corners of the kittens eyes. The kitten squirmed.
“So Lilith. As you know, some bad things have happened in Jude’s barn in the last few days and we think we both know who the bad guy is.
“Lilith, that groom, the big guy, the guys call him Tito.
Lilith shrank, pulling the kitten toward her belly.
Roxy busied herself with comforting momma cat. Right now that kitten had the important job of keeping Lilith from bolting out of the room. Roxy pressed on gently.
“If Tito hurt you – we can make him go away.”
Lilith had not expected support for herself. She was only thinking of what Roxy and others might need from her. Confused, she asked “What would happen to him?”
“Well, he’s done some bad things and we can get him to lose his license so he can’t come on the racetrack anymore. But you are the only one who has seen him do some things and we need to go to the authorities.”
“I just. I just… I just can’t talk to someone with a gun. I’m sorry. I get scared and words get mixed up and if he knows. That Tito guy, he might. Well he might.” Lilith’s eyes rolled to the ceiling and she started rocking back and forth holding the kitten too tightly. Momma cat stirred at the cries of her baby in distress. Lilith began to bang her head repeatedly on the wall.
“Hey. Hey.” Roxy was in over her head. This goofy chick was going to freak out and then everything would go to shit. She tried to think of Lilith as a terrified horse. What would she do if a horse was so scared it was willing to bolt and hurt itself to get away?
“Sh…… Sh…….” Roxy crooned. She averted her gaze but kept Lilith in her peripheral vision. She checked to see if her hands were balled into fists and relaxed those too. She remembered an old groom who once told her how to deal with a particularly flighty horse. This groom would pause before going into the stall and let out a giant and drawn out yawn. More times than not, the horse would pause and relax. Roxy had nothing to lose so she stretched her arms out and let out a giant head rolling yawn.
Then. She waited. And waited. After way too long, Lilith put the kitten back next to her siblings and sighed.
“Maybe we can talk to someone other than a policeman or security guard. Ann has this friend who is a lawyer, or a friend of a lawyer or something. He’s really nice, even if he recites poetry and shit.”
“Ann? Ann Garrison? Maybe I could talk to Ann.”
“I think Ann would like that. But Lilith. We need to talk about something else. We need to make sure that you are safe. Is there anywhere else you can stay? I don’t want to worry that you are afraid of Tito.
Lilith instinctively began to pace the small room. Roxy had gone too far.
“I. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t”
“Hey Lilith. Here’s the thing. I’m here to help you. Ann wants to help you. We aren’t going to let anything happen to you or to the cats. But you have to let us help you OK? Do you have any family you can stay with?”
“No. No. No. NO!” Lilith’s agitation and pacing increased.
Having no other thoughts, Roxy yawned again. Lilith froze and regarded Roxy warily. “You’re weird.” Lilith said.
“Totally weird my friend. But we gallop girls are a weird bunch. Let’s see if you can stay at Ann’s little place. You and the cats. Ok?”