Dreams Unwind

[t h r e e]

I stare at the cat tower in the corner of the bedroom, the levels all empty; the catnip ball hangs on its string, unmoving, and the hole leading to the bed section remains completely free of a twitching tail. My heart hurts at the lack of cat, and I drag my gaze away and to the screen of my phone as it dings in my hand. I don’t recognise the number that pops up at the top, but I tap on the notification anyway, watch as Tubs’s face disappears to be replaced by a message thread. My brow furrows when I see two photos of Tubs already in the thread, ostensibly sent by myself, but I don’t remember doing so. I shake my head and read the text.

>> Hey, how are you feeling? I hope you don’t mind that I sent pictures of your cat to myself.

<< Harry???

>> The one and only!

I huff out a laugh, typing out Well, thanks for letting me know you stole my number

<< I’m okay. Still worried and freaked that Tubs ran off but trying to keep my wits about me so I can get him back.

>> Are you going to go look for him tomorrow?

<< Yeah, I have a couple of hours between classes. Why?

Harry’s response takes a moment, and the typing bubble appears and disappears a couple of times before his text comes in: Just wondering. Was going to go out and search, too. We can stop by a copy shop and make missing posters beforehand.

I drop the phone to the bed, covering my face with my hands. Why the Hell is he being so nice to someone who he doesn’t even know? If I were in his shoes, I probably wouldn’t be spending so much time trying to help the person - I suppose this means I’m not as great of a human as Harry is turning out to be. Once I’ve gotten myself under control again, I pick up the device.

<< I can’t ask you to do that.You’ve done plenty already.

>> I haven’t done much, what are you talking about?

<< Well, let’s see…
<< You let me cry on you
<< You performed lifesaving surgery on my hand
<< You bought me coffee
<< And now this?? That’s so much to do for a stranger, Harry.

>> You saved me at Starbucks, so we’re even.

I snort, giggle to myself, even as I type back a response. The sound of the front door closing catches my attention, and I stand, cross the room to peek out. Henry passes by the end of the hallway, his eyes firmly on the phone in his hand. His lips are pulled down into a scowl, and even from this far away, I can see the tension in his shoulders. I frown but duck back into my room, closing the door. If there’s something he needs to get off his chest, then he can bring it up. Harry’s texted me back by the time I sit on my bed again. I stifle a laugh at his usage of the red-faced angry emoji, even though I’d put two thinking emojis in mine. I send back an agreement to let him help if he really wants to, but he should definitely stop making fun of Tubs’s name because it’s mean.

“Jo Beth, you okay in there?”

I clap a hand over my mouth, but it does nothing to stop the laughter exploding from me. I’m not sure how I managed to go so long without actually introducing myself to Harry, especially after I demanded his name shortly after we met, but here we are. I manage to respond to his texts as my dad appears in the doorway.

“What’s going on?”

“I’m okay, Dad, promise.”

“You sure? Because it looks like you fell off your bed.”

I push myself to my feet, sit on the edge of the mattress. “I did. But I’m fine.”

He rolls his eyes and walks away, but I can still see the small smile on his face as he turns. Harry hasn’t responded by the time I unlock my phone again, and I frown, setting the device aside. The sight of the cat tower in the corner reminds me, yet again, that my cat is missing. The amusement I’ve felt for the last fifteen minutes disappears in a rush, replaced instantly by guilt - how could I have forgotten, even for a moment, about Tubs’s disappearance?

Henry glances up from the book in his hand when I push open his bedroom door. He seems more relaxed now, and my nose scrunches up at the odour in the room. Weed does not mix well with Febreze, really. I cough pointedly, wave a hand in front of my face. He clears his throat and gives me a sheepish smile.

“Sorry. What’s up, kiddo?”

“Can I, uh, can I borrow your printer?”

“Everything okay?”

“No. No, it is not.” I plop down by his feet, reach for the joint in his hand. He passes it over easily. “Tubs got loose when I took him to the vet today. I dunno how it happened, I guess the carrier broke or something? I don’t know. All I know is he’s gone. So I was wanting to use your printer and, well, your laptop, too, to make a missing poster.”

“You’re gonna need more than one, Jo.”

I sigh and roll my eyes. “I know. But I’m gonna take that one to a copy shop and make copies. Use up their ink, ya know?”

Henry laughs quietly, hands me the joint as he waves toward the desk in the corner. I drag in a deep, slow breath and cough a couple times at the burn in my lungs then stub out the joint before crossing the room. After connecting my phone to his laptop, I copy the best picture of Tubs that I can find over to the computer and bring up a Word document. All I can hear in the room is the air conditioning system running, Henry’s breathing, and the swishing of the pages in his book when he turns them.

“Thanks, Unc, I appreciate it.”

“No problem, Jo Beth. Hopefully you can find that asshole cat of yours.”

I smile and slip out of the room, clutching the paper in my hand. Henry may insult Tubs every chance he gets, but it’s a badly-kept secret in our house that he also spoils the cat; far too many nights, I’ve woken up to Tubs not in my room only to find him curled up into a tight ball on my uncle’s chest. I grab the throw blanket off the armchair in the corner of my room, drape it over the cat tower. If I can’t see it, the sight of it being empty won’t haunt me so much. I sigh and check the time on my phone. It’s nearly ten in the evening, so I head toward the kitchen for a pre-bed snack. My dad shakes his head at the bag of chocolate-covered pretzels in my hand; I stick my tongue out at him, plopping down onto the other end of the couch.

“Where’s your cat? He’s usually up your ass.”

“He, uh… he ran away.”

“You’re kidding. Right?”

I shake my head, untwist the band around the top of the bag, and hand him a pretzel. “Nope. The carrier broke, and next thing I know, he’s darting away, and I can’t find him.”

“Why didn’t you say something earlier? We could have gone looking for him!”

“I, uh… Well, I met someone who’s gonna help me look tomorrow.”

“Jo -”

“Dad, it’s okay. I promise. I mean, I’m terrified that I’ve lost him for good, but…”

“You were laughing pretty hard earlier.”

“Yeah, that was my friend. I - I hadn’t realised I never told him my name, so it was kinda hilarious to me.”

I settle into the sofa further and focus on the movie that’s on - Next of Kin. Yummy, Patrick Swayze. My dad stares at me. I glance in his direction from the corner of my eye.

“What.”

“Him?”

Groaning, I throw a pretzel at him. “Stop it, Dad.”

“No, no, I wanna know more about this guy.”

“There’s nothing to know.” I nibble at the chocolate coating of my pretzel then blow out a breath. “Seriously. He found me panicking about Tubs and offered to help. So I sent him a text with pictures of Tubs so if he found him, he could let me know.”

“Sounds like a real white knight,” Dennis responds with a snort; I roll my eyes.

“He was being helpful, that’s all. I’m going to bed. Night, Dad.”

“Night, starlight.”

The bag crinkles in my hand as I push myself to my feet. My dad watches me go, but he’s already back to watching Briar and Truman fighting in the bar by the time I reach the hallway. I close my bedroom door behind me, shutting out the sounds of the TV, and cross the room to drop gracelessly onto my bed. There are no new notifications when I unlock my phone; something twinges in my chest, and I momentarily wonder why it bothers me so much that Harry hasn’t texted me again. Before I can question myself, I bring up the Safari app and type out “harry england” then “harry england green eyes” when nothing of use shows up, chew at my fingernail while the results load.

The third image looks familiar enough, and I squint, debating whether it’s a younger version of Harry or if I’m higher than I thought. I switch to a new tab and Google One Direction, and skim through the images until I see one that is absolutely, undeniably, undoubtedly the Harry I know.

“Oh, holy shit.”

No wonder he looked familiar when I first met him. I’d heard of the boyband before, even listened to them a few times during study sessions, but I never had paid attention to the names of the boys who made up the group. A voice in my brain whispers a question, will this knowledge change anything, will I treat Harry any differently? I shake my head - as far as I’m concerned, Harry is nothing more than the guy who’s helping me find my lost cat - then snort in amusement. I must be high if I’m answering myself. Putting my phone on the nightstand, I lean back against my pillows and concentrate on eating my snack. The combination of salty pretzels and sweet chocolate is much more important than the fact that my new friend just so happens to be Harry fucking Styles, internationally-renowned boyband singer.