"Get in the car," Solo called out to me.
"No." I stood my ground.
"Lauren, I mean it. This is bad. Get in the car."
"DAMNIT, LAUREN! GET IN THE CAR! THIS IS SO FUCKING STUPID!"
& then it started to rain.
I was forced to choose between standing on this stranger's uncovered stoop hoping they'd answer their door or to get in the car for shelter.
I reluctantly got into the car.
"Close your door."
"Because the moment I do, you're going to drive off & I want to wait."
"Wait for what? We've been here 20 minutes AT LEAST. You know they're home; we could hear them inside. They're aren't coming."
"You don't know that!"
He put the car in drive and started to slowly drive away from the stranger's house.
"NO!" I shouted, jumping out of my passenger seat and out of the car.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" he slammed on the brakes.
"I don't want to leave!!!"
"Lauren, I'm sorry. You're not getting a kitten from these people. Look where we are! Look at this fucking place we are! They probably never even had kittens at all, EVER."
"But I had to text them! We drove all the way out here, 45 fucking minutes, getting lost every 15 minutes. I text him to say we were coming! They wouldn't do that!"
"Look, you're a smart girl who brought your boyfriend to what turned out to be a shady neighborhood and an obvious scam. There are no kittens here. Let's go."
I looked up from Solo's face, still standing outside of the car, and noticed that we'd began to draw attention from this stranger's neighbors. Elderly people and the inebriated young inhabitants of this neighborhood looked up from their lawn work and beer cans. They watched us.
Solo took a moment to look and noticed the same folks, peering into our car. Waiting to see what would happen next.
"Please," he pleaded with me.
I looked back at the stranger's home and huffed. I knew it was over. Defeated, I climbed into the car and closed the door. Solo reached over to lock my door for me and then we left.
I was angry. I wanted so badly to believe the strangers I'd found on craigslist, the first strangers in a very long time of searching and calling and emailing to respond back to my kitten inquiry, were going to give me a fuzzy little bundle of cuteness. I was bitter. & I was still mad at Solo; who's to say the owner of the home wasn't showering, wasn't listening to music with his head phones on, wasn't in the middle of choking on a bite of his ham sandwich, wasn't doing any of a million menial tasks which would have prevented him from coming to the door and handing me a free kitten? If only we waited, I dwelled on it.
Pulling into a sonic stop, Solo rolled down his window.
"Do you want anything?"
"No. I'm too upset to eat."
"I rolled down my window and lit a cigarette. The cigarette hung between my limp fingers outside my window and I could feel tiny raindrops kissing my hand.
I let him order.
"You know, it really pisses me off that you made us leave."
"No! We drove all the way out here, they KNEW we were coming! I think we should have waited."
"Stop. Even if it was all a scam, it should have been MY choice how long I wanted to wait. I should have been able to stand there without you shouting and cursing at me to get in the car. That was really out of line & I can't stand it. I can't stand that you acted that way."
Silence for a moment, and then he started, "Things really got out of hand back there. But listen, I know you noticed that that place wasn't safe. You heard them inside, talking and playing music. If they had kittens, they're gone now & you weren't getting one. But probably, there never were any kittens. Probably it was a scam to lure naive women out there. I mean, you said yourself that they knew you were coming. If it was real, why not answer the door? or any of your calls? If there were ever kittens there & they ran out before you got there today, why didn't they call you & say so when you text them that you were on your way? You know why? Because you ruined the whole thing when you brought someone with you."
I knew he was probably right. The neighborhood was old. Front lawns were overgrown and littered with old furniture and empty beer bottles. There were cop cars just pacing the neighborhood and stray animals having their way with the sidewalks. The people were home, we could hear them. They ignored two of my phone calls, ignored both the times I rang their door bell, probably watched Solo and I argue in front of their house.
"...I still think you were wrong for acting like a fucking nut with all that shouting and cursing."
"What do you want me to say, Lauren? When I realized what I was going on I just wanted to get the fuck out of there. That's it. I'm sorry I yelled at you, I'm sorry I cursed. But you were being irrational."
His food came. He slid his burger and fries onto his lap and took a slurp from his drink.
The fingers on my right hand suddenly felt hot and I looked over to see that my cigarette had shortened almost down to the filter. I brought it in and took one suck before tossing it into the rain.
I reached for a napkin & started wiping off my lipstick.
"Why'd you wear so much make up, anyway?" He asked me between bites of his burger.
"I wanted to look nice for the kitten," I said, pathetically.
"I didn't realize you wanted this so badly, I thought you were just going to get a kitten to keep Shakespeare company while you worked or went to class."
I shrugged. "I mean, that is why I wanted a kitten. & I kept going back and forth about whether it was the right decision but then thinking I was getting one for sure today, I guess I had my heart set on it."
I was still looking out of my passenger side window when he started making phone calls,
"Hi, I saw your ad online. How much is your adoption fee for kittens?"