Re-released September 2012 from Muse It Up, Canada
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Standing on the lawn in front of her house, her erstwhile boyfriend held out his arms to her. “Judy! Babe! You didn’t return my calls. I had to see if you were all right.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Judy noticed Carranza beginning to slink along the front porch railing with the same look in his eye that she’d seen when he hunted cowbirds.
“Graham.” She kept her distance, putting out a hand to ward him off when he reached out to hug her. “I wasn’t expecting you. What can I do for you?”
“Ouch! Babe, that’s cold. Is that any way to greet your fiancé?”
Judy focused on a point just behind Graham’s head where Carranza came to a halt. The cat’s tail began to twitch. She moved past Graham, trying to draw him away from the porch railing. Instead, Graham appeared rooted to the spot. He folded his arms and twisted his hips to keep her in sight.
Should she warn him about Carranza’s occasional lapse in judgment and tendency to pounce? “Fiancé? We haven’t talked about marriage, Graham. I’m even debating whether or not to return to Lewiston. In fact, I’m looking into other work. We only dated a couple of months, and not even exclusively.”
“Hey. I never dated—well, just once. Or twice. But those were country club functions and you weren’t available. What was I supposed to do? Come on, Judy. I put a lot of time and effort into this relationship. I came out here trying to make nice. I know how much you want to stay out here, and I do, too. . . . Owww!”
Judy watched dispassionately as Carranza flew through the air with the greatest of ease and landed, claws fully extended, on Graham’s back.
Judy managed to pull the cat off the twirling Graham. Carranza immediately went limp and slipped out of her grasp. He charged a few body lengths away and turned and looked at them both through haughty eyes before he sat and began to repair his ruffled coat.
“Judy!” Graham spun around again, his face a mask of anger.
“Here, Graham. Stop that. Let me see.” Judy ordered him to sit on the step of the porch while she went to find some lotion and bandages. She returned to find Graham hunched over.
Graham stared at her, his mouth pouty. “What’s with that animal? Did you train it to be an attack cat or something?”
Judy motioned for him to pull his shirt off so she could look at the scratches. She knelt behind him to wipe at the bloody slashes. “Of course I didn’t train Carranza to attack. He’s got a mind of his own.”
Graham reached back and grabbed her wrist, stopping her ministrations. “We need to get some things straightened out.”
Judy leaned back on her knees and wrested her arm from his grip. “You’re right. We do.” She bit her lip. “I don’t want to marry you.” She looked at him in time to notice the dark color suffusing his cheeks, his widened pupils and flaring nostrils indicating anger.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “A lot of girls like you. You shouldn’t—”
“I don’t want just any girl! I need. . .I want you.” Graham heaved himself up abruptly, hauling the torn shirt back over his head. He stepped a few paces into the yard and waved an arm. “Look at all this, Judy. You can’t live here alone. Take care of this land.
You need someone to help you. Now, be reasonable.” Carranza had not moved. Graham hesitated when his trajectory would have taken him near the cat. “Come back with me. If you do, we—we can hire someone to work the farm. Yeah. . .that might work. We’ll live in Lewiston and come back here whenever we want. You’ve got a good job. You don’t need to get another in this podunk town. And I can take care of us both if you don’t want to teach anymore.”