Charlie by Trisha Nelson

**TRIGGER WARNING: Gun Violence

Charlie sat on his little bed by the front window that Elsie made for him. That was his favorite spot in the whole apartment. He could people watch; some would even stop to talk to him. He would watch the squirrels and the birds. It was great. There was so much to see all from the safety of his little bed. The best time of day was in the early evening when the sun was warm but not too warm and all the families were out for walks.

Charlie was Elsie’s cat. He was black with long hair. But he wasn’t completely black. He had a little bit of gray that you could see around his front legs and one single long thick eyebrow whisker. The fluffy fur on his chin and neck made him look like a small version of a Maine Coon.

Elsie loved her cat. She rescued him from a local shelter. They thought he was around three, but really, Charlie was 36 and a Virgo. You see, Charlie was not a cat. Well, he is, now.

“Good morning Elsie,” said Charlie as he pounced on Elsie’s face three minutes before her alarm went off and thirteen minutes before her coffee would make itself.

“Not again Charlie!”

Elsie reached over and picked up her phone. She rolled over hoping to fall back to sleep. It never ever happened, but she did it anyway. She grabbed Charlie and cuddled him. He let out a small yelp, and she squeezed him harder. Her alarm went off, and she got ready for work.

These two had known each other before the night it all happened. They were best friends. They worked together in the finance department at a corporate office of some big box chain store.  And now they were friends, only in a different way.

“Charlie, mommy is going to work now,” Elsie said in a baby-talk voice as she scratched Charlie’s head and he purred.

“I will miss you while I’m gone.”

Elsie was the only human Charlie seemed to be able to understand. For the most part, everyone else sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown. It really seemed like Elsie could understand him too. The days seemed long and lonely while Elsie was at work, so Charlie slept. He climbed up to this little bed by the window, and he slept. The warmth of the sun shining through the window put him to sleep quickly.

***

It was a cold winter night, but he wasn’t cold. There was snow and brown sludge on the edges of the sidewalk. Charlie was sitting on top of a car as he watched everything happen.  Elsie was standing next to someone who looked so familiar, but Charlie had never seen him. There was another man standing in front of them, but he looked like a shadow, almost shapeless. The two men were arguing. But Charlie couldn’t understand what was being said. Things were getting heated, both men were now shouting at each other. The man standing next to Elsie moved in front of her. She protested, but he pushed her backward, and he lunged forward towards the shadow man.

“NO!” Elsie screamed.

“Elsie, run!”

The man pushed her away once again and wrestled the shadow man onto the ground. Elsie was frozen. But he yelled again, “RUN!”

She hesitated and took a few steps backward, turned, and started to run away. It suddenly got very quiet, and the air seemed to stand still. BANG. Elsie stopped running, she looked over her shoulder and started running back.

“Charlie!”

The shadow man was gone. She knelt down and screamed when she realized that her friend had been shot.

“It’s going to be okay. Somebody help!”

She struggled to get her phone from her pocket to call 911. Charlie was still sitting on top of the 

car. He desperately wanted to go to Elsie, but he couldn’t move. In between sobs, she was trying to explain to the operator what had just happened. She dropped her phone and started screaming, 

“NO. You can’t leave me.”

Charlie still couldn’t move. “Elsie!” He couldn’t stand up; it was as if some invisible force was holding him down. The more he struggled, the more the force seemed to grip him.

The ground around Elsie and the man began to turn bright red. She panicked and started screaming more frantically. And then she said his name, “Charlie you gotta hold on a little longer. Please, I’m begging you. You can’t leave me. I love you.”  The man groaned trying to speak. She hushed him pushing down on his wound. You could hear the sirens in the background getting louder. That meant they were close. The sirens were getting louder and everything got dark.

***

There was some tapping on the window followed by a high-pitched, “Hello there, cutie pie.” It was Emelia from next door tapping on the window waking up Charlie. He woke up and fell off of his bed still frightened by what he had just seen. Emelia laughed hysterically, “I wish I couldn’t have filmed that.” She continued down the walkway to her apartment. Charlie lay where he had fallen and stayed there until Elsie got home.

After recovering from his scare, Charlie remembered his dream. Who was that man? Why did she call him Charlie? Elsie got home from work that day. She didn’t greet Charlie like she always did. She didn’t seem like herself. Soon after she got home, her mother called.

“It’s been a year my dear girl. I’m sorry that you’ll have to spend today alone.”

“This is good for me mom; I have learned how to be alone. But I miss him terribly.”

They spoke for a few minutes, and then Elsie went into her hall closet. She took out a box with lots of pictures. She poured herself a glass of wine and started pulling out pictures. She quietly sobbed after a while. Eventually, her tears turned into giggles. She fell asleep before she put away any of the pictures.

***

Charlie was in the living room when he fell asleep for the night. Again, he found himself on that cold snowy street. But this time he was not a cat. He was in a human body.

“Hey, I am ready to go. For real this time.”

He turned around and saw it was Elsie, walking towards him. They started walking down the street when suddenly a thing jumped out in front of them.

“Look, I don’t want to hurt you.”

The shadowy figure pulled out a gun, and without even thinking about it, Charlie stepped in front of Elsie.

“Charlie, no.”

“It’s going to be okay.”

“Shut up, give me everything you have.”

Charlie slowly put up his hands, “Be cool, guy.”

The shadow spotted Elsie’s pearl necklace, he reached toward her. Charlie pushed the guy back. They started arguing. The man reached toward Elsie again, and Charlie stepped in front of her and motioned for Elsie to step back. He pushed the shadow again. It almost fell back but caught itself. Charlie lunged toward him trying to tackle it.

“NO!” Elsie screamed.

“Elsie, run!”

He punched the shadow in the face and turned around to see Elsie still standing there.

“RUN!”

Charlie punched the shadow again and then he heard a gunshot. Everything was quiet. His body felt cold. And he fell onto his back.

***

“Charlie!”

Charlie jerked himself awake.

“Charlie!”

It was Elsie. He ran towards her bedroom. When he walked in, Elsie was sobbing, holding a picture against her chest. Charlie jumped on the bed. He saw the pictures. They were all of Elsie and a man. It was the man from Charlie’s dreams. He looked up at Elsie, her sad eyes staring back at him. She picked him up and held him tight. In an instant, they both knew.

“I knew you wouldn’t leave me alone, Charlie.”