The warm tropical sun peaked through the blades of the tall palm trees that hemmed in our secluded little cove. The aroma of coconut rolled off Mommy and Daddy’s bodies. I simply loved the smell of the sunscreen. I would lick it all up, but Mommy said it is not good for me. Just once in my life, I wished that I could be human so I could have that yummy smell on me, but alas, I am but a floppy eared Labrador retriever doomed to live in a thick coat of brown hair. Don’t get me wrong, we live in the northeast and this thick matt of fur I wear comes in pretty handy in the winter, but the rest of the year? Well, it is over-rated.
I rose from the sand and softly tip-toed away from my parents to a little shack hidden away in a dense thicket of trees. It is here that I had stored away some snorkeling gear for just this moment.
I hastily put on my mask grabbed the snorkel between my teeth and made a beeline for the water. I scooted as fast as I could across the sand before Mommy or Daddy could stop me. Everything went fine until I splashed into the water. You know something friends, noise gets me into trouble every time. You would think I would anticipate that, but I always forget.
“Stop! No Cindee,” they yelled. I responded with a laugh and began to paddle my way out into the cove.
I love tropical water. It is always so relaxing and soothing, not at all like the water back home that is freezing even in the heat of summer. Arranging the snorkel just so, I buried my face into the water and entered another world.
Beautiful fish swam all around me. They were having so much fun. I watched them play tag and have swimming races. It was all very cool. I was just about to ask if I could play too when all activity stopped, and everyone scattered in different directions.
“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you,” I called out.
“I just wanna be your friend,” I said, flashing my best smile.
My plea had gotten the attention of one little yellow fish. She had stopped and turned to face me. Her eyes grew wide while taking me in.
“Friend,” I repeated.
“Behind you,” she screamed pointing over my left shoulder with her fin.
I turned just in time to see the alligator open his mouth wide in preparation to clamp down on little old me.
“Nooooooooo! Somebody help me,” my ragged voice called out.
“Cindee … Cindee, wake up, you are having a nightmare,” I heard the familiar sounds of a deep latin voice say.
“Cindee,” the voice said again, this time accompanied by a prodding in my ribs.
I could imagine Rapi standing next to me, poking me with his stubby little arms. My eyes popped open and I sucked in a deep lungful of air. The vague shape of a fat orange cat began to form. It was Rapi, and he was right, it was just a nightmare. I was not going to be dinner for an alligator. At least not today.
A quick glance out the window revealed it was still the middle of the night. The evening sky was pitch black, the darkness yielding only to the large silver orb dangling in the sky. If there was any more doubt as to the time of day, it was put to rest by the raw grinding of Daddy’s snoring.
I felt Rapi shifting next to me in preparation for a return to sleep, his warm body curled into a ball and pressed tightly against me. My brain had accepted that the large chomping reptile was only a resident of my dreams and feeling safe and reassured I let myself drift back into slumber.
My eyelids slowly slid closed, when out of nowhere a beautiful voice cut through the night air and began to lull me back into a deep comfortable place. I had almost submitted completely to dreamland when the rustling of a chubby orange cat drew me back to the waking world.
“Who is that?”
The voice came from Rapi, but it had an otherworldly quality to it. The bed began to shimmy and shake beneath me, my body swayed with the movement. I was about to write it off as another dream when the oh so familiar thud of a twenty-pound cat landing on an immovable floor reverberated through the darkness and stirred me to wakefulness.
“What is it,” I asked, my own voice sounding hazy to me.
“Don’t you hear that voice? It’s exquisite!”
Like a moth drawn to a flame, Rapi moved down the stairs in a trance like march. Worried about my friend, I sprang from my bed and tracked him down to the first floor and the big glass doors of the dining room.
“You okay,” I asked plopping down next to him.
“Mm, hmmm,” he mumbled. He had a serious look on his face, his gaze was intently focused out the window.
I followed his line of sight until I saw what had captured his attention. Rapi had become enamored with the silhouette of a slender female feline perched on a large branch and singing to the moon.
I wanted to say something to my friend, but my mind couldn’t form the words, so I let myself settle into silence and let the tune’s melody wash over me. In that moment I could relate to why Rapi had become so enchanted. It was obvious that her song touched him deeply, so much so that he scarcely moved until just before dawn, when she scampered down from our tree and raced off just as the first rays of a new day peaked over the horizon.
“Who was that” Rapi asked, his face still transfixed.
“You know, I really didn’t see her face,” I answered.
“Me either,” he scrunched up his face into a puzzled look.
“I have to meet her,” the orange cat’s voice contained a sense of certainty and urgency.
A giggle escaped my lips. Rapi can be so dramatic from time to time.
“I am serious,” he glared at me with determination etched in his features.
“But how will you find her,” I asked, worried that he had too much faith in actually finding and meeting this cat.
“I don’t know, but I will,” the ginger cat spat at me, his angry eyes burned through me.
“Thank goodness Mommy is taking us today,” I said, glancing over at Rapi who was all fitted in his harness. It had been a couple of weeks since the large orange cat had come with us for a walk, and during that time it seemed he had put on a little more weight. Of course, he wasn’t going to admit it, instead declaring that it was fluff, but judging by how Mommy had to adjust the harness so it fit, I would say it was probably a little too much food that was the problem.
Regardless, we trotted down the street with Mommy trailing behind us. Mommy was a much faster walker than Daddy, and believe me, today we needed a speed walker because Rapi was on a mission to find out the identity of the mystery cat. He even went so far as to call this Mission Siren.
We had just reached the end of the block when Marco and Polo, two beagles, rounded the corner.
“Hey Marco, Hey Polo,” I offered a friendly salutation as they were passing us.
“Hey Cindee and a … a … cat,” Polo replied with a nod in our direction.
“Wait,” Rapi stopped dead in his tracks. Mommy tried to gently nudge him forward, but he was having no part of that.
“Have you guys seen any new cats in the neighborhood,” Rapi called out after them.
“Nope,” Marco called back over his shoulder, not bothering to slow down.
The orange cat shot me an exasperated glance.
“Mission Siren Cindee, remember?”
“Oh, sorry, I forgot,” I mumbled apologetically.
“Let’s go Rapi,” Mommy complained, but in a nice sort of way.
The cat looked directly at her and gave her his cutest smile. Mommy excepted it and we continued onward without incident to the end of the block.
“Cindee, we need to go to the right,” he said out the side of his mouth, trying not to draw attention, but I thought the move itself was kind of suspicious looking.
“But we always go left,” I complained.
“Mission Siren,” the can responded through gritted teeth.
“Okay, okay I get it,” my voice gave away my fear that he might attack me.
At the corner we both turned to the right in unison.
“Well, aren’t you too a bundle of surprises today,” Mommy said, aware that we had a set routine that I totally refuse to diverge from and that today I was diverging.
Everything was going swimmingly; we would trot along and I would stop and read all the pee mail. Rapi, always anxious, would ask if there was any news about a new cat in town. He seemed to get sadder and sadder each time I had to tell him no, there wasn’t any news. We were about three quarters of the way down the block when we heard the familiar sound.
“Hey Cindee, is that a cat or a big round basketball you have with you?” Our heads turned to the right. The white bulldog with a brown patch of hair over one eye that we met on Rapi’s first walk was on the other side of a fence, pacing back and forth like always.
“Hi Charlie,” I called back to the bully, trying my best to be cordial.
“Hey Orangie,” he said staring at my friend with a menacing face and drool running down his chin. To my surprise Rapi stopped and sat down in the middle of the sidewalk.
“Hey Charlie, I need your help. Do you know anything about a new cat in the neighborhood?” the orange cat asked.
“As you can see, I don’t get out much,” the dog growled.
“So, that’s a no?” Rapi asked.
“That is a no fatso!” Now come closer,” the bulldog snarled, then flew into a rage of obscenities.
“Let’s go,” Mommy said, her voice cracking and her hands shaking.
We rushed to the corner and made a quick left. After the incident with Charlie, Mommy decided it was time to cut the walk short. We ran into a couple of more dogs on the way home, but nobody had heard anything about a new cat in town. I was ready to let the whole thing go, but not Rapi. He was obsessed with her and vowed that he would find out who this mystery cat was, even if it was the last thing he did.
Night had fallen. The day had passed with Rapi sitting in front of the big glass doors staring out at the tree branch that the mystery cat had been sitting on. The other cats in the house were worried about him. They told me that he had been sitting in the same spot all day and he didn’t even move for dinner.
“No dinner?” I asked.
“No dinner,” Bella, our grey and white feline housemate answered.
“Now I am worried, he loves food more than anything in the world,” I said.
“I know, that’s why I told you,” Bella purred.
“I’ll handle it. Thanks Bella,” I said smiling at her.
“Why do you always look at me like I am dinner?” she said, stumbling backwards.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, but it was too late, she had already scooted off and was up the stairs.
I strolled across the dining room and dropped down next to Rapi.
“What’s going on,” I asked.
“I have to find out who she is,” the orange cat murmured.
He turned to look at me, his eyes were bloodshot, his face worn and tired, even his shoulders had begun to sag.
“I have a plan, but I need your help,” his eyes pleaded with me.
“Sure, I will do what I can,” I reassured him.
The cat got up and dug through a pile of papers on top of the table and came back with a note card, which he handed to me. I glanced at the scribbling on it then looked up at him.
“Really,” I asked.
“Really! Can you just put it on the tree branch when daddy takes you out to pee tonight?” he begged.
“Sure, no problem,” I answered, and faithfully I did an hour later.
I had gone to bed with Mommy and Daddy, but truth be told I couldn’t get to sleep. I kept tossing and turning thinking about my friend Rapi all alone in front of the big glass doors, that’s when I heard the first familiar tones echo from the back yard and through the house. It was an eerie yet mesmerizing melody, the lyrics in a language that I didn’t really know. It could be coming from only one place.
I leapt from bed and scurried down the stairs where I found Rapi with his face pressed against the glass, his facial expression one of pure joy as he listened to the mystery cat sing to the night.
“She has such a beautiful voice,” I said, in what seemed like a moment of DeJa’Vu.
Her voice trailed off for a moment. Rapi and I watched everything unfold in front of us, knowing it was real, yet it seemed so dreamlike. She picked up the card I had left on the branch earlier and scanned the words. Rapi’s breath caught when she put the card down and peered over her shoulder in our direction.
Fluidly, she dove gracefully from the tree and pranced over to us. Rapi’s eyes grew wide. Somewhere from deep inside of him, the tiniest of squeaks escaped his lips.
Standing face to face with the glass between them, I became aware of just how enchanted Rapi was with her. She had a pristine coat of white hair and beautiful green eyes framed by the most delicate long lashes. It was time for me to step away from the doors and watch from a distance.
“Hi there, did you write this note for me,” she asked, tilting her head to the left.
“I … I … I did,” Rapi stuttered.
It was hard to contain the giggle that was rising in me. Mr. Suave and debonair had a crush on this cat, so much so that he was nervous. I had never seen him like this before. I stayed hidden in the shadows for a few more minutes watching them talk and bond and when things started to get a little personal, I decided it was time to head for bed.
“Do you wanna go out on like, like a date?” the deep latin voice asked, growing more confident and natural.
I couldn’t help but turn my head to watch this.
“I would love that,” she purred in a soft tone.
Quickly I tip toed up the stairs so as to not disturb them. Back in bed, I curled up in my spot in the middle of Mommy and Daddy and let my brain pour over everything I had just seen and heard until my eyes grew heavy and closed.
“Rapi has a girlfriend, how crazy is that,” the words tumbled off my lips and my world faded to dark, for just a moment, until I entered into another magical dream.