Those were the last words I ever expected to see in stark text on my phone when I woke up. I pulled my knees up to my chest and stared at them in wonder.
“I should be the one saying that, Mari.”
I whispered the words as I typed them out, breaking the morning silence.
“I’m scared, Jess.”
“Where are you?”
Silently, I begged her to tell me, to allow me back in.
There were hot tears on my cheeks again, just like every morning since she’d left me.
“Maria, I love you.”
My hands were shaking and the phone fell from my fingers. It wasn’t right. It couldn’t possibly end like this. I had to see her again, keep her safe and ward off her fears. I had to make up for what I’d done. I ran my fingers nervously through my hair, trying to keep down the sudden surge of anxiety that was screaming horrors in my mind.
“Jess, if you think you can make it safely, come to where we first met.”
The message flashed at me from within the blankets and I nearly started sobbing again in joy. Then another message.
“And if you don’t bring the Purritto, I will never forgive you.”
Chubs hated his carrier. It was a well-known fact of life, one made more troublesome by his nearly seventeen pounds of feline glory. I managed to coax him in with the last vestiges of carefully hoarded catnip supply and prepared to go. I’d pulled on a jacket and gloves, despite the warmth and wished I had a face mask.
“Come on, you monster, we’re going to see Maria.”
I was so happy I nearly sang. Chubs, for his part, merely yawned and started to sleep.
“Some moral support you are.”