By D. Avery
From the school bus, a cat can be seen at the edge of the gravel road, a white cat that disappears into the weeds and grass, sauntering along the brook, back towards the schoolhouse. Who knows whose cat? This is the village, not all the animals recognized, not even all the people for that matter. Just something seen from the school bus, still within sight of the school.
The next day a white cat is at the front of the school when the bus pulls to a stop at the doors. From the bus it is seen, carefully edging along the low windows in the school’s brick foundation. The cat is unusual not just for being there, being at school, and not just for its entirely white fur, but most remarkably for its eyes. It looks, for just a moment, in the direction of the bus, and its eyes are of two different colors, one green and one amber. The bus empties, students filing down its length and down the treaded step and into the double doors of the school. The cat is gone from sight as the students stumble and scramble from bus to building. The sun has warmed the last of the night’s frost from the grass, from the bushes below by the brook, and has risen to brush the dusty high windows of the fourth grade classroom.
Inside, in the wide open hallway that is central to the four classrooms of the old building, a new student is spotted. No one at this school dresses like this girl, no one wears such a clean white button up sweater or such white leotards with a pleated skirt. This girl was not on the bus, she must have walked with the village kids. She looks slight, could be a fourth grader but she’s not, she does not go into that classroom, and also she seems older somehow. She must be in the fifth grade classroom. There are no words in the hall, just a glance and wondering at the sight of an unfamiliar student, a quiet blonde girl in a white cardigan sweater.
At recess the girl is alone. There seems to be a silence that surrounds her, that shrouds her from the other children whose boisterous noise of play bubbles and roils from across the yard, where they swing and slide and jump rope, oblivious to the new girl who lingers in the shadow of the school building, edging along the basement wall, tracing the bricks with a lazy finger. When approached she looks up and the cardigan, so white, and the very fine, very light blond hair, and the cheeks with just a hint of pink, those are not the most striking aspect of this quiet girl. It is her eyes, not quite round, one green and the other amber. She pauses, almost as if she will turn and run, but then she smiles, slightly, and continues to silently slink along the side of the school. There is respectful imitation and cautious, wordless questioning, two girls lingering in the quiet beside the building, tracing the bricks, then one again as the third and fourth graders get called in ahead of the older students. A hasty glance from this bustling line reveals just a glimpse of white as the new girl rounds the corner of the building, sliding out of sight. Swept along, filing into the building, the normal noise of the rest of the children returns to focus. The school day ticks on until the bus returns.
In the rush to the bus and a window seat, the new girl is not seen in the hallway, not spied through the open door of the fifth grade classroom. From the bus a white cat, with one green eye and one amber, is seen. It slips around the far side of the building, from the playground side, where it sits on its haunches in the grassy gravel by the brick foundation. It shows a pink pad and pink nose as it delicately wipes at its face. The cat looks up as the hinged door is pulled closed then it disappears into the bushes beyond the flagpole, the bushes that shield the brook that runs through the village, and the bus grinds away.
The next day, eagerly anticipated, bears disappointment. There is no cat. There is no new girl. Nor the next day, nor the next, and it’s as if there never was.