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Analiese sighed as she flopped onto her battered couch. She looked around her grungy apartment. Splitting her time between her two jobs – one as a fast food worker for a well known chain and one as a gas station attendant – barely gave her enough money to live on and this was all she could afford if she wanted to achieve her dreams.
She heard a soft purr and smiled as her cat Bourbon jumped up on the couch beside her, his intense blue eyes so like her father’s. She lifted him onto her lap. He snuggled against her and submitted himself quite willingly to her attention. “You love this, don’t you, furball?” she asked, her voice sounding tired even to her ears. She glanced at the alarm clock she kept on the desk she’d had since elementary school. “Don’t get too comfortable. I have to leave soon and I want a shower. I smell like gas.”
Bourbon reared up and gave one of his patented “I’ll make you feel better” hugs and nipped her lightly on the nose before jumping off and returning to the cat bed she’d made him out of some of her old clothes and the fluff from pillows far past their usefulness. She got in the shower and changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Grabbing her backpack and her laptop – the one real valuable thing in the apartment – she headed out.
Analiese scowled as she passed by broken streetlight after broken streetlight. Night school was the only way she was going to get her degree. She’d wanted to be a nurse for as long as she could remember, ever since she’d watched her mother die of cancer. Her father had encouraged this dream and had tried to put some money aside for her schooling. But a heart attack laid him low and all of his savings had gone for the medical bills. In the end, he’d died and left Analiese with nothing. He’d passed the day after her eighteenth birthday.
Now, at twenty seven, she was a semester away from becoming a nurse. She was worn out but excited. Once she started making enough money, she’d move into a new apartment in a better part of town. She could save some for her retirement. She would give Bourbon a decent bed, a cat tower, and the good cat food. She smiled as she drove down the familiar streets. Bourbon was far more dependable than any boyfriend, loved her unconditionally, and never tried to cheat her out of anything. He was the perfect partner.
Flashing lights ahead of her caused her to slam on her brakes. Two ambulances, three police cars, and a firetruck blocked the only street that would get her to school. She could see several vehicles piled into each other. She swore under her breath and started looking for a way to turn around. Another car had pulled up behind her and the driver was leaning on their horn, as if they couldn’t see the wreck in front of them. Analiese ignored the rudeness as a cop came over. He walked past her car and to the person behind her. The honking stopped.
The officer returned to her. She rolled down her window. “I’m sorry ma’am, but you’ll have to find an alternate route to your destination tonight. As you can see, there’s been a horrible accident,” he said.
“This is the only way to where I’m going,” Analiese said. “I’ll just turn around and go home. Missing class for one night won’t cause me too much trouble, and I’d rather not create more problems for you guys.”
“I’ll have the driver behind you move so you can back up then,” the officer said. He went back to speak to the person behind her once more.
As Analiese watched, the driver behind her pulled a gun and shot the police officer six times. She screamed as he fell. Several other officers ran past her, firing their guns at the driver.
Three people spilled out of the car, all wielding guns. They shot back, wounding several. Analiese unbuckled her seatbelt And laid as flat as she could to avoid stray bullets. She started crying, wishing that her father was there. He’d been a powerful man that could scare anyone into stopping whatever they were doing that he considered to be against what he believed was right.
A flash of blue caught her attention. Bourbon’s eyes stared up at her from the floor of the passenger side of the car. He jumped up over the seat and climbed on top of her. He leapt out the window. Analiese sat up, not caring if she died. She couldn’t lose her beloved pet.
As she watched, her blue eyed cat walked towards the gunmen. The first one glanced down at him, almost as if he were compelled to look at the black and white feline coming his way. His hands started shaking and the gun fell from his hands. He dropped to his knees, hands covering his head.
Bourbon turned his attention to the second gunman. He shared the same fate as the first. The third saw Bourbon coming. “Fuck you, devil cat.” He shot Bourbon. Bourbon staggered but continued walking forward. Blood poured from the wound in his side.
The third gunman tried to shoot him again, but his weapon jammed. He took a step back, and then another, and then another. Bourbon never took his eyes off him. A bullet from a cop’s weapon took the gunman down. Bourbon flopped to the ground.
Analiese, heedless of the guns still drawn around her, jumped out of her car and ran over to her cat. One of the police officers went to grab her and stopped. “Is that your cat, ma’am?” he asked.
“Yes,” Analiese said, sobbing.
“There’s an emergency vet over on 27th. Get him there now. He might be able to save him,” the officer said, helping Analiese to her feet and escorting her back to her car. He got her car pointed in the right direction.
Analiese got back in the driver’s seat and sped off down the road. “Hang on, Bourbon. We’ll get there soon. You’ll be okay.” She took her eyes off the road for a moment to glance at her cat. He was still breathing and his blue eyes sparkled as he gazed up at her. Something in her relaxed. He would be okay, and they’d have that ideal life she pictured. She continued speeding down the road, reassured that the vet could save him.