by The Crazy Cat Lady

I cannot tell if I am real. Is dreamland the true reality of existence and waking life the illusion? Only the Universe knows. I'm just part of the game, but perhaps there's no such thing as existence. Maybe it's just a wish to fill up the gaps why we're here. I'll stop thinking and start telling you about her. She has become a haunting mystery to me.

It was one of those regular days I had to buy cat food; I didn't expect anything to happen. The small pet food shop was located a few blocks away from the elementary school I used to attend. By the time I edged near the school, kids started to run out of the doors excitedly to be picked up by their parents. Fortunately, I didn't get out at 3:30 PM. That would suck. Since I was a senior in high school, I got out at 1:30 PM and could cut anytime. I've never cut my classes though.

When I was about to cross the streets, someone called out my name. I was deciding if I should pretend that I didn't hear that voice or turn around politely to see who it was. I picked the second option and faced a familiar, Hispanic-looking girl. She was taller than me by a couple of inches and gazed at me with her hazel eyes. There was something ethereal about them that made my knees shake. She had beautiful tan skin and a nest of curly black hair that slightly covered her ears. She was slightly chubby but was still attractive in the dress that was thrown on top of her jeans.

"Do I...know you…?" I asked hesitantly. Her face looked familiar although I had never seen or met her before. Not that I can remember.

"Aren't you Ren?" she asked with a wide smile.

How did she know my nickname? My full name is actually Renshu, a masculine Chinese name that means benevolent forbearance—whatever that means. Although I'm female, I don't know why my parents ever gave me that name. I recovered from the surprise and nodded my head.

"Don't you remember me? I'm Joseph!"

Joseph? Who the hell was that? I scrimmaged through the memories in my head. Now that I think about it….

She unzipped her messenger bag, and it took a few seconds for her to fetch something out. It was a class picture. I saw my fourth grade teacher standing all the way in the right. Then I saw myself in the center and wanted to throw the picture in the garbage. It's too embarrassing to describe.

"See you? That's me," she replied as her index finger pointed to a girl standing to my left.

"Oh." I think it was that girl I never talked to but wait. How did she recognize me? Did I really still look like the same as that picture? My face was longer, and I was thinner. My long black hair was in a ponytail now not in my childhood's short haircut. I was sure I looked very different. And why was she carrying a class picture?

"I always carry my class pictures with me," Joseph answered as if she read my mind. "I have my kindergarten picture up to eighth grade. It's a hobby of mine."

A strange hobby of yours, I thought silently. Whatever, there are a lot of strange people around these days. It convinced me enough that I knew her. She didn't tell me how she recognized me, but I decided not to ask.

"Want to hang out later?" Joseph suggested. "I have to pick up my brother first."

I didn't know what kind of enchantment she casted on me, but I heard myself saying "sure." Although I had one can of cat food left for my cat at home, I was planning to do the shopping today. I usually placed my cat's needs first. Maybe I was just trying to be polite.

With that, Joseph grabbed my hand, and we headed to pick to pick her brother outside. I felt myself blush when I felt how warm her hands were compared to mine which were always cold. I felt the lesbianism rising within me and banished the feelings from my head.

She pulled out a young boy from the crowd. Like his sister, he was Hispanic. He had the same hazel eyes as his sister, and we started to walk home together. I didn't say much to her younger brother because I was bad with children; children made me uncomfortable. Cats all the way!

"So," I began, "Do you live around here?"

"Of course I do!" she answered. Stupid question I asked. "I live on 2nd—3rd street…" she said hesitatingly.

Wow. Either she didn't trust me or she had a memory problem. "I live on 5th street," I replied. "We kind of live near each other I guess."

When we reached the corner of a deli shop, her brother walked ahead of us and turned. I was expecting Joseph to follow him, but instead she remained holding my hand. She walked closer to me—too close which made me feel nervous and dizzy. I swear she could even hear my heart pound.

"Tell me, Ren," Joseph began casually, "do you like me?"

I almost choked on my salvia. "What do you mean? Like as in like like?" Did she suspect I was a lesbian? Was I that easy to read?

She smiled at me and once again hypnotized me with her eyes. I could feel my cheeks bursting any second. "Well, I like you," Joseph replied almost seductively.

You do? All of the sudden, I felt nothing else mattered to me in the world. Someone actually liked me. It was impossible to even imagine that. A girl like me? I was unattractive, weird, and lonesome. How was it possible for anyone to like me? Nevertheless, it was the first time a girl confessed that she liked me. You couldn't really understand how happy I was even though I wasn't sure if I liked her at all. I believed that I liked her though.

Joseph remained smiling. I didn't know she could remain that calm. She was almost unrealistic. "Let's go to your place."

Throughout our whole walk, I was worrying how my mother would react if she was the one opening the door and saw us holding hands. My mother tolerated gays, and I was slightly out of the closet. She did know I was a lesbian, but we never talked about it. I was also wondering how she would react to the "interracial relationship." But were Joseph and I really in a relationship now? I didn't even tell her how I felt about her. Even if she asked me again, I wouldn't be quite sure how to describe what I was feeling. It was all of a sudden, and I didn't even know her that much. Why did an old classmate like me? I was about to ask her, but then I remembered I had keys. So much about worrying about my mother.

"My room is kind of messy," I said while I opened the door.

We walked in, and she didn't comment the home. "I'll help you clean it."

My room is located near the kitchen. It appeared my cat wasn't inside, and I assumed she was probably sleeping upstairs in my sister's room. I had a lot of junk on top of my bed, and Joseph helped me pushed them inside a bin.

Suddenly, a long bang interrupted our cleaning. It was coming from the basement.

"Who is that?" I wondered out loud. Perhaps it was one my mother's friend, but when I was about to leave, Joseph stood right in front of me with her arms stretched out blocking the door. Her hazel eyes darkened and a serious look pasted on her face.

"I'll go check," Joseph stated with a protective voice. "Go upstairs now."

What the hell was she talking about? This is my house. I stared hard at her while the banging continued. Joseph jolted out of my room and ran to the basement locking the door shut, so I couldn't follow her. What in the world was going on? I banged my fists on my basement door, and Joseph shouted desperately at me to go upstairs immediately.

I felt a sudden shiver run down my spine, so I ran upstairs to my mother's bedroom. No one was home for some reason. I checked my sister's room and even my cat wasn't there. I went back to my mother's room and locked the door feeling so confused and frightened. I stood a few feet away from the door waiting for Joseph. I had so many questions swarming like a battlefield in my head.

I tear away from the door and went over to my mother's bed. There were two scissors lying on top of the blankets with a ball of red yarn. I saw my mother's knitting utensils and figured she didn't finish knitting. Without thinking, I grabbed the two scissors and snuck them under the bed. Don't ask what I was doing. I absolutely had no idea and was following every impulse in my body.

Suddenly, a steady knock came from the door. I quickly opened the door and hoped that it was Joseph. It was her all right, but there was something different about her this time. Her hazel eyes were darker, and she appeared taller. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me.

Joseph smirked at me. "Ren," she whispered huskily. Her voice sent another shiver down my spine. I stepped backward to the side of the bed where I hid the scissors. I almost jumped when she walked past me and went to the closet door. She swung it open and pulled out my mother's silk green box. When the lid flew open, my eyes dropped to the documents filled inside. They weren't just any type of documents; they were birth certificates.

"What are you doing with those?" I stammered. Why did she want my family's birth certificates? She was just an average teenager like me.

Joseph didn't answer and looked back at me. Her face suddenly softened, and she walked toward me. "I know you want me, Ren."

My body started to tremble, and I wanted to tear my eyes away from hers. I couldn't.

"Do you want me or not?" she demanded almost as if I offended her.

Then I finally understood what Joseph was talking. She wanted me to sleep with her. What? I was a virgin and wasn't I too young? I mean, I wasn't even in college yet and such a question was so spontaneous. First, she commanded me to go upstairs and didn't even bother to tell me what happened in the basement. Second, she invaded my mother's closet and left the box out. Now, she was asking me if I wanted to sleep with her.

I didn't know how messed up this could go because I found myself naked within a minute.

A naked Joseph slipped inside the bed and watched me stand in front of her listlessly.

"Umm…" I began embarrassingly. "I should probably take a shower first…."

Joseph sat up revealing her breasts. I was about to protest, but she pulled me down along her. I was so sure that I was going to faint any second because right now, she was pinning me on top of the bed. Just when our lips were about to touch, she vanished. I heard her cackling in the other side of the room and her footsteps racing down the stairs. I jolted up and found my mother's box missing. That bitch.

I growled and pulled out the scissors under the bed. I was too distracted to realize how she disappeared. All I wanted to do was to kill her for deceiving me. I found her in the kitchen holding the box, but her clothes were on. When she turned around, I stabbed the scissor's blade into her stomach. Her body collapsed by my cat's litter box, and I watched the blood leak out forming a red pool on the floor.

The color disappeared from my cheeks when I realized that I killed her! Shit! What should I do? My eyes moved frantically about the room, and I spotted the telephone. I tried to dial 911, but my fingers couldn't press the numbers. The numbers on the phone started to twist backwards as dyslexia washed over me. With frustration, I slammed the phone down and turned around bravely to face the dead body.

Joseph was gone.

That night I couldn't sleep. I couldn't tell my parents what had happened. I stayed lock up in my room and missed dinner. I could still feel myself trembling. Have I been hallucinating the whole thing? If so, I had to get that checked out. I might have some mental illness. But what worried me the most was if I ever knew a Joseph before. There was only one way to find out.

I finally left the bed I had been sitting on for hours and walked over to my bookshelf. There was a box of class pictures I kept which I should had burned. When I pulled out my fourth grade class picture, I stared at my younger self in the middle. But on the left of me, no one was standing there.