Margeaux had already lived in the city for two years, but with some bummer roommates. She had basically survived the student housing co-op where she’d lived with fourteen other people — Australians on exchange, and some really unsavoury hippies whose hair fucking stank; she’d had to wear flip-flops in the shower. She was turning twenty this year and was glad to be finally living like an adult.
Or sort of, anyway. The thing was, Shanice and Clara were balls-up. They brought home like, everyone, and in the morning sometimes walked to the shower without bothering to put on a towel or even underwear. Both of their rooms were overflowing with garbage they picked up off the street — figurines and books that were falling apart — stuff that got left on the curb in front of random houses for poor people to take away. So, Margeaux was really surprised when they freaked at her for the cat.
“You don’t just bring an animal into someone’s home without asking,” Clara said, standing in the living room staring down at Cee Cee, who was silently lapping water out of a bone china bowl that had made its way into the apartment via Value Village.
Shanice chimed in: “Yeah, and I don’t want our guests to think that I’m okay with domesticating wild creatures. I mean, it’s so sad, they’re like little fucking love slaves for the lonely that get trapped in these urban mini-jails.”
“Jesus, Shanice.” Margeaux’s pitch jumped. “I’m going to feed it and give it a place to just chill the fuck out. I mean, before it came home with me it was living in a shelter. When people live in shelters we feel bad for them.”
“Have you been planning to get a cat without telling us?” Clara asked. “Because that is so uncool.”
“No! I’d just failed my Inuktitut mid-term, okay? It’s my language req. I suck at languages, and I can’t pass my program without it!” Margeaux’s chest heaved a bombastic sigh, and she fell down onto the couch behind her. “I was walking right past the SPCA, and like, just wanted to pet some cute kitties to feel better, and then Cee Cee was so gorgeous. I thought she’d fit in perfectly here.”
“Dude, I’m allergic,” Clara said.
“And I told you, I don’t feel comfortable with pets, like, politically,” Shanice said.
“Okay, okay, I’ll take her back to the shelter. Sorry!” Margeaux bit her lip so she wouldn’t start to cry.
A week later the cat was still living in her closet. She changed the dirt beads in the litter box every day, emptying used ones into old shopping bags and dumping them in the garbage bin in front of the subway on her way to school. Sometimes, when she knew Clara and Shanice wouldn’t be home, she’d let Cee Cee hang out with her in other parts of the apartment.
The sun was casting late-afternoon shadows through the lace Clara had tied across their living-room curtain rod, and Margeaux was rereading the same line in Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation for the fifth time when she heard footsteps and her roommates’ laughter approaching the door. Where was Cee Cee? Fuck fuck fuck. She didn’t see her anywhere, so she ran to check the kitchen, not thinking to put down her course kit first. Ceesers was licking up some spilled chocolate milk by the fridge. As Margeaux fumbled to grab the kitty, searching for a place to hide her, the Baudrillard ripped from its binding, and the rest of the three-hundred-page pack fell askew onto the sticky floor. She just managed to stuff Cee Cee in the oven as her roommates burst into the apartment, dusty arms full of grocery bags.
“Margeaux babe! What’s up?”
“Not much. Just reading some boring-as-fuck theory,” she said, collecting the tattered course kit and reorganizing it on the counter as Shanice opened cupboard doors and unloaded the contents of her canvas bags. “How about you?”
“We just went to Bulk Barn and bought some stuff to make brownies.” Shanice walked over to the oven and turned the dial to 375. “Jamie’s having a potluck tonight, if you wanna come.”
“Uh, yeah, that sounds cool.” Margeaux said, concentrating hard, trying to will the pale skin on her neck and collarbone not to break out in the signature red patches that were her giveaway.
“I’m going to jump in the shower while the oven warms up,” Shanice said, pulling down her leggings under her short cotton skirt, her socks catching. “We were just casting in the studio and I’m like, disgusting.”
“Great, I was just going to make a sandwich or something for lunch, so I can do that while you guys are getting ready to bake.”
“Yeah, cool.” Shanice turned and headed to the bathroom.
“I’m tired!” Clara slid her body down the side of the counter and let her legs splay out in the middle of the kitchen floor. “I just want to eat some cookies, smoke a J, make out with someone and fall into a deep slumber. You know?”
“Do you think you might bail on the party tonight?” Margeaux looked over at the oven and then quickly turned her attention back to Clara.
“I dunno,” Clara said, drooping her neck and sticking out her tongue, pretending to be dead.
“Why don’t you take a nap, lady? I can help Shanice with the brownies when she’s done getting clean.”
“That would be amazing!” Clara extended her arms, pursing her lips like a pouty five-year-old. Margeaux grabbed her hands and pulled her up to eye level.
“’Kay, g’night! Enjoy your sandwich or whatever.” Clara smiled and wandered down the hallway to her room.
Hands shaking, Margeaux started opening the fridge and cabinets frantically, trying to make decoy noise, then ran to the oven and pulled open the door. Cee Cee was inside, curled up like a cutie, napping in the warmth. Margeaux bundled her into her arms, hugged her, and then tiptoed over to the back door, slipping on a pair of boat shoes before stepping down the fire escape into the alley behind their place. She placed Cee Cee in a bundle on the ground.
“All right, love of my life, scram, get out of here!” Cee Cee didn’t move. Margeaux gave the cat’s butt a gentle nudge with her shoe. “Come on, baby.” But Cee Cee didn’t look up or stretch, much less saunter away, like Margeaux had expected.
“Ew! Fuck!” She kicked Cee Cee a bit harder, and seeing no movement, ran back up the fire escape and into the kitchen to wash her hands.