A cat and a dog sit on opposite sides of the road, regarding each other silently. The cat is sleek and black, with impossibly knowing jade eyes. The dog is a giant, kindly-looking thing. Recognition fills the silent midday air.
“This is quite a surprise,” says the cat.
“You don't say,” the dog replies. After a moment he adds; “You look... good.”
“Thank you.” Neither of them say anything for a moment. That's the thing about reincarnation, it's unpredictable; the cat had honestly not expected to see him for a few more lifetimes. If she weren't so impassive and catlike, she might be breathless.
Dog wishes he could be as nonchalant, but the truth is he can't look at her, even now, without a slight twitch in his tail. She was always beautiful, and she always knew it. This new form suits her. Which is more than can be said for him; a great baggy lummox, always wearing his own body like an oversized coat.
Cat knows that she has this effect on him, but she can't help it. She would never in a million years admit how far she has fallen; how her name is now a ludicrous moniker bestowed on her by children, how she eats from any home that will have her when once she could sit alone in a restaurant and never have to raise her hand for the bill. That was before she met him, of course – the Man who would become Dog.
Now, years after they've both forgotten how many years it's been since they first met, Cat and Dog sit and stare at each other. This is typical of them, they've both come to realise. Not so much star-crossed, just a doomed mismatch. After a while, the cat turns tail, and begins to walk away.
“You're still...” Dog blurts out, but he can't finish the sentence. Still what? The love of his life? Of all his lives?
Cat looks back, and for a moment Dog thinks he sees something in her eyes, something old and familiar, but it could be his imagination.
“When will I see you again?” He finally asks.
“Don't worry,” she says, and he knows she understands. “We've got time.”
"Nine Lives" is a story from my anthology
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