Lily and Francis

Their names were Lily and Francis. Francis sometimes went by Frank, or Fran if he was feeling silly, but Lily was always just Lily. She wouldn't answer to anything else. I always thought that was kind of funny, but she just has that sort of personality. They were very different, but that's often what brings two together—their differences, how they complement each other, and what one can offer to the other. Even her dark hair and his lighter dusting spoke to their dichotomy.

Before Francis, it was just Lily, and she liked that just fine. She was iffy about personal space—perhaps a touch of an isolationist. She never shared meals with anyone, and went about her days rarely making contact with a soul unless she had to. Lily spent a lot of time lost in her own thoughts, just staring out a window, rarely blinking. No one knew exactly what was going on in her head when she entered these periods, but it must have been fascinating.

Francis was of a different variety. When he came into Lily's life, she had no interest in speaking to him, or even being near him, which she made very obvious through pointed avoidance and not responding to any of his prodding. And Francis could most definitely prod with the best of them, although he seemed to have a good sense about when to back off. Maybe he was just patient, or perhaps he was so optimistic that he believed she had changed her mind about him every time he saw her. Regardless, he never seemed deterred, nor did he appear to be hurt when she rebuffed him. I admired his persistence.

Francis didn't spend all of his time chasing after Lily, but when someone does something often enough, it seems like they have a one-track mind. It's certainly what it seemed like to me. We all lived in the same very small town, so I saw his attempts at flirtation quite a bit.

I remember the first time that I saw Francis approach Lily as she ate lunch. Lily, a creature of habit, usually ate at the same place. He was aware of this, but didn't go bounding up to her right away. It could have been that, confident as he was, he wanted to take some time to formulate some sort of plan.

Whatever it was, it wasn't a very good one.

From where I had been sitting, I couldn't understand what they were saying. Or, rather, what Francis had been saying, since Lily didn't speak a word to him. He was animated; not forthright enough to sit down with her, but clearly full of energy. Yet, after a short first glance at the newcomer, Lily didn't acknowledge him at all. She just ate her food, lost in whatever world she spent her time in. It was actually rather impressive, the way she was able to act like no one else was there, even when Francis was right in front of her.

And after a few minutes with nary a peep from Lily, Francis gave up and went on his way. Although, the phrase "gave up" makes it seem like he was defeated. Far from it.

From there, Francis went on to find out as much about Lily as he could, to try to discover a way to her. He learned that she liked to run, so he would run, too, and meet up with her on her path. But that never lasted long, and she would keep going long after he had stopped to catch his breath, leaving him behind.

Lily liked to be outside and walk in the park, or just sit there and enjoy the sunshine, and Francis was the same way in that regard; in fact, it was she who saw him at the park one day, strolling through the grass, and she looked a little surprised. After all, it was usually she who was met by him. But once he saw her in turn, Francis perked up and came over to her, and the small break in Lily's cool demeanor was immediately repaired. Francis got the frosty shoulder and resumed his own leisure in the sun, alone.

But he was clever, and determined. He learned, from a reliable source, what Lily's favorite meal was: a seafood delicacy which she rarely had the chance to eat, but always enjoyed immensely. So he made some arrangements to have that very dish made for her at her favorite place, and next time he saw her, he invited her to eat dinner with him.

And, wonder of wonders, she accepted.

So they met, and ate, and even talked a little bit, from what I understand. But it must not have been magical, or Lily hadn't warmed up in quite the way that Francis had hoped she would, because there weren't any more dinner dates after that. In fact, Francis started to see less of Lily—or rather, she started to see less of him, as he was coming around less often. She noticed, even if she didn't want to show it; I sometimes saw her lifting her head up and looking around, searching for something that never arrived.

But one day, her enigmatic scans caught sight of Francis walking by her in the park. He wasn't heading to her, though, but going in a different direction, and he walked with a pronounced limp. He had hurt himself, somehow, and looked to be in bad shape. Lily watched him struggling along the grass, alone, her gaze not leaving this inevitably familiar page of her life for a moment. And there, I like to think, she took pity on him; but she also saw that he was much more than the person she noticed on her heels so often. It was just that, being so used to seeing him from that point of view, it took time to realize that there were many more she could look through.

She knew he lived alone—it likely came up during their one and only "date"—and that he didn't have anyone else like her to take care of him. Like it or not, she knew an awful lot about Francis. Lily went up to him and spoke, and to Francis's surprise, he turned to see her looking at his roughened leg with curiosity and care. They were close together, and I don't know what was said, but I do know that this time, instead of just following Lily, Francis was led by her. And that alone seemed to make the pain in his leg ease, if only a little.

The two of them went home, and Lily offered Francis her bed, to rest and put his leg up, while she examined it with a chastising gaze, as though to shame him for being so careless as to get himself laid up like this. Francis accepted it willingly enough, never looking away from her.

There wasn't much Lily could do. It was up to time to heal the wound, and that was what did all the work. But with the two of them together, time itself moved much faster, so Lily was working a bit of a miracle there, with Francis's help. And after that, there was more talking. More time together, and food eaten, and sun bathed in, and beds and floors and couches shared for afternoons and nights. It was a lot like love. But they were just friends.

Because Francis and Lily are cats, and cats don't fall in love.