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"Take the house, take the kids, keep the dog and your d*mn car!" I shouted when we met with our lawyers. "Just leave me my clothes and car. I'll be happy. Damn it!"

"That's just like you, can't control your temper," my wife laughed.

"Put it in writing," I said to my lawyer and stormed out of the conference room. That had been two months ago. The divorce papers had been signed and filed and I had started paying child support. I got a transfer with Duncan Electronics to our Chicago offices. I moved to a small town just outside of the city. The commute was an hour during rush hour, but it was worth it. It was a peaceful community, Taylorsville.

Child support was not really a burden and I loved my kids. I loved my EXwife in the few moments we were able to get along without fighting. I missed the dog. Oh well, life went on.

After a couple of weeks I cruised the town checking out the few bars that were there. As stupid as it may have seemed, I was determined to find another woman and begin a new relationship. 'Women: you can't live with them and you can't live without them.' It was easy for me to see how true that was. I had been married to my ex-wife for eleven years and at first I had loved her dearly. In fact I still loved her dearly almost as much as I couldn't stand her. She had learned just exactly how to push my buttons and she seemed to enjoy doing it. Why? Heaven only knew. Well, I was free of her now, but I was also very lonely. Once you are used to being with a person, it is hard to get used to being alone.

In Taylorsville on the east side there was and old two story mansion which by day looked badly in need of repair and paint and by night seemed to be haunted. One night sitting in one of the bars I asked about the house. The bartender said, "Oh, you mean widow Gentry's house."

"I guess that's the one." I took a sip from my coke, my doctor had advised me to avoid alcohol.

"Yes, they were a young married couple and shortly after they moved in he fell and broke his neck. She rarely leaves the house and has let it go to rot. She also has lots of cats." He wiped the bar down as he spoke.

"How did he fall?" I inquired getting more interested.

"Fell down a flight of stairs, they say. Some say she murdered him, but it was ruled an accident. It seems that there was just not enough evidence to prove anything one way or the other." He began polishing glasses. I was the only one seated at the bar.

"What do you think?" I asked and it was more than passing conversation.

"Well, honestly, I guess it might be either way," the bartender laughed. "Anyway, she keeps to herself and don't bother no one. As long as she doesn't kill anybody else, I guess it's okay." He laughed.

"She must be lonely," I surmised.

"She has her cats to keep her company."

"That doesn't seem like much company. How old is she?" I asked.

"Probably late twenties or early thirties. About your age, I'd guess. You thinking about asking her out?"

"Could you refill my coke, please? I might just do that," I added.

"Well, she's a strange woman, if you ask me and even if you don't."

There were no single women in that bar that evening. It is hard to find single women it seems when you are wanting one. I was not a religious sort, so churches were out. The women at political meetings were usually older. The workplace was often a bad idea, especially if the relationship went sour. If a man showed an interest in a woman, she might take him as a stalker. Dating for a man past thirty was just almost frightful.

I guess I must have had the curiosity of one of widow Gentry's cats. I parked across the street from her house and sat in my car watching. It was an old southern style house with a large front porch lined with four pillars. There was a circular drive but no car. I suspected there might be a garage behind the house. Huge oak trees decorated the house and I suspected that they and the house were more than a hundred years old. There was a light in one room and I saw shadows against the curtains of the windows which I assumed must be a few of her cats.

I sat there for about an hour parked. It was as if I had no will to move. Finally I started the car. Just as I was about to move there was a silhouette which passed in front of the curtain. Although it was the size of a person, it was vague and without much detail. I waited for a few moments more and then the outline of the phantom became clearer and the curtains parted. I turned my head and though I knew she was looking out, I was embarrassed and quickly drove away. I did decide to circle the house as I left and there was a separate garage, but the doors were closed and I could see no cars.

I was certain she had seen me, but I doubted she gave me much thought. I had driven away almost the instant she had opened the drapes. I regreted that I had not tried to see her, but with the light behind her in the dark of night I would probably have distinguished little about her. Damn my curiosity! I was more drawn to her than before. There was a mystique to this woman that I couldn't explain to myself. I began to try to think of a reason to meet her.

Several days later I caught onto an idea that I felt would work. I had thought about things such as trying to rent a room from her to just going up and introducing myself. Excited about my idea I drove up the circular drive and got out and knocked on her door. There was no answer. I knocked again and then again. Still no answer. About to abandon the effort I tried one more time knocking as hard as I could, there was no doorbell. I turned to leave and as I did I heard the door open and a quiet voice say, "What the f**k do you want?"

Well, I could understand her displeasure and this kind of threw me for a moment. I stood there with my mouth open and a loss of words. "Well?" she repeated.

She was a handsome woman with dark hair and eyes. She didn't appear angry, but her intelligence was obvious. I could tell that she found my temporary discomfort a bit amusing. There was laughter in her eyes. She was slender and she was dressed in black. I guessed that she was still mourning her husband. She was quite pale, but she had a beauty and quality which were irresistable to me.

I struggled for something to say. "I ah, I came because of your cats," I told her with some truth.

"My cats?" she returned suspiciously and clearly distressed. "They can't possibly have bothered you, I never let them out."

"No. No. I didn't come to complain. I came to ask if I might purchase one. You see, I am new in town and I don't have any real friends yet and I thought I might buy one of your cats as a pet and companion."

"Oh no!" she exclaimed. "I don't think I could ever let one of my babies go."

"How many do you have?" I asked. It really hadn't occurred to me that it would be hard for her to give one up. I really hadn't thought it through. I thought about how I had felt being ripped from my children and dog and realized more what I was asking of her. Yes, it would be hard for her and she seemed to live for her cats.

"Twelve."

"I'm sorry. I hadn't really thought about how hard it might be for you to part with one."

"Do you really like cats?" she asked.

"Yes," I told her which was true to a point, though I was really more of a dog person.

She took me through the house until she had introduced me to all of her cats one by one. There were a variety of colors and sizes. "Smokey, Rowdy, Shadow and Midnight are the black cats. Smokey is very squeezy and Shadow and Rowdy look alike, but Shadow is much lighter. Caesar is the beige tiger striped cat, I refer to him as my stuffed animal. Gracie, the little black and white cat likes to play ball. She will retrieve it for you once she gets to know you. Rosetta is very affectionate." She clicked her fingers and Rosie stood on her hind legs and she rubbed Rosie's head with her hand. She showed me all her cats. It was easy to see that she loved them all.

"My husband preferred dogs, so we had a cat and a dog." I was mesmerized by her. She had a hypnotic comforting effect on me.

"If you don't mind me asking, what happened to your husband?"

"Oh, that was tragic. We were arguing at the top of the stairs and he turned to go down and tripped over the cat."

"Why were you arguing?"

"He wanted to have a baby, and I wasn't ready. I'm so sorry about that now." I could tell that she was geniunely agonizing.

There was a long silence and she said, "You are the man who was parked in front of my house the other evening, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"It is not really the cats that brought you here." she stated.

It was as though she was a mind reader.

"You wanted to see me. Why?"

"It was because you are a mystery woman and I have been drawn to you since I first heard about you. I felt that you must be as lonely for human contact as am I. Am I wrong?"

I watched her face and I could see a multitude of thoughts crossing like gusts of wind. I don't think she wanted to admit to herself that she was lonely for human contact. It was easy for her now to live as a hermit with her cats. I hoped that I wouldn't come to such a point in my life. "I have my cats for company," she said finally.

"Is that enough?"

"I'm frightened. I couldn't stand to lose another man."

I could see the trace of tears at the corners of her eyes and I realized that I might be trying to push things too quickly. I was anxious to know her better. My wish to do that was getting the best of me. I wanted to hug her, but I knew it was too soon.

"I think you should take a chance, take a chance with me," I said gently.

"But I don't know you."

"There is plenty of time to get to know each other."

"Leave me for a while. I need to be alone."

"May I come again?" I asked of her.

She hesitated and then said, "Yes, please do."

"My name is Matt."

"I'm Audrey. Nice to meet you Matt."
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