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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2258797
Carl gets word his old boyfriend's cat as passed away.
9495556211: Its been a long time and I don’t know if this is still yur number… or if you blocked me, but i wanted you to know Sherbert died last night. passed away in his sleep. thought youd want to know

Biting his lip, Carl looked hard at his phone’s lock screen. After sliding down the notification, he was able to glimpse the text message without opening it, but he wasn’t sure how he wanted to proceed.

Sherbert, Terry’s cat, had died. Carl hadn’t spoken with Terry in years, not since their breakup. But when they were together, Sherbert was always part of the equation. “Sherb normally doesn’t like other guys but me. I guess that means you’re special,” Terry had said upon first visiting Terry’s apartment. He’d never known if it was a true statement, though. In hindsight, he supposed it may have been a line meant to make Carl feel special in some way. As if the only other living creature in Terry’s life had mystically passed approval onto Carl.

It worked. Carl immediately took a liking to Sherbert and was happy to see the long haired ball of fluff every time he visited Terry’s apartment.

At that stage, Carl stated Sherbert was already ten years old; still spry for a cat in what was comparatively middle-age. He would try jumping on the bed with them when Carl slept over - an act that was never welcome but always forgiven. Sherbert would run after laser pointers and flick Blue, the worn out, cheap maybe-mouse that had come in a bundle of twenty mismatched toys. What had made Blue so special was anyone’s guess, but Sherbert loved to bat it around.

Thinking back to the last Christmas Carl had spent with Terry and Sherbet, he remembered the cat being so excited about playing with the balled up wrapping paper. “I guess he likes the wrapping paper more than the fancy water fountain we got him,” Terry said with a smile. Carl had to agree: the water fountain was only visited for practical reasons: the paper ball was destined for the garbage can.

That was the Christmas Terry had asked Carl to move in. That was the day Carl knew he had to stop living a lie and finally tell Terry they had to end their relationship. “I can’t do it on Christmas,” he often told himself. But he also knew that Christmas rolled into New Years, and then into St. Valentine’s Day and before he knew it, they were planning yet another 4th of July trip with Terry’s mother and stepfather.

On Christmas Day, four years ago, with Sherbert purring in his lap between moments of paper ball, Carl started teasing out the idea.

“You think we should live together?” he asked Terry. Sherbert feebly tried getting away but Carl held fast, petting the silky fur in the way Sherbert liked best: the purring was comically loud while the instantaneous cat drool was obscenely messy.

“Yeah, don’t you? We’ve been together five years now. We know we’re going to be together forever. And, hey, Sherb is still crazy about you. I mean, listen to that! Who can get this car purring like that?”

You still jump from job to job. Your mom pays your rent and most of your bills. You spend your days off literally doing nothing when even Sherbert’s litter box needs to be emptied!

Carl didn’t say any of that, though. It had been words expressed in other ways on other days, but they always boiled down to the same thing: he never felt like Terry had been ready to live on his own, much less with a partner. He knew if Terry had been independent in any way, he would’ve moved in immediately.

That wasn’t the case. Carl has patiently sat through almost five years of hollow gestures and empty promises. It was now to the point where he was more excited to see the mottle-colored cat than he was his serious boyfriend.

On that day, when finally pressed for an answer, Carl accidentally threw a paper ball in a way that made Sherbert attack the Christmas tree, bringing the decorative feature and serious conversation crashing down. From there, the relationship slowly crumbled and Carl could barely remember the last time he had seen Sherbert in person, let alone Terry.

He had plenty of photos. Google often reminded him of seemingly important days and prompted Carl to stroll down memory lane by browsing through his Photos. Christmas was usually one such day, but the middle of May - when Carl had first met Sherbert - was always a reminder, even with only one picture being snapped that day.

Staring hard at the text, and at Terry’s potentially-manipulative way of getting his foot in the door, Carl decided to swipe it away. He didn’t delete it, but he left it Unread as he didn’t want Terry to see he’d gotten the message. Carl instead opened his phone’s photos and browsed through the Sherbert Album, aptly titled Flavors of Sherbert, and enjoyed the memories of a cat he would miss for the rest of his life.

He’d cried the last day he said goodbye to Sherbert, but thought there was always a chance at seeing him again. Knowing that could never happen now, Carl let his eyes well up ever so slightly. He then wiped his face on his sleeve, closed his phone, and returned to the work at his desk.

Word Count: 911
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