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Horace slept sprawled across his new bed by the window. He had a corner of the room to himself with a basket of catnip and toys and an elaborate scratching post. Kat leaned against Shaun's shoulder, eyes closed as he stroked her hair. She had been fighting sleep for nearly an hour, ever since they returned from shopping for Horace. Shaun turned down the movie's volume and slowly slipped his arm from beneath her. Horace watched with one eye as Shaun pulled the curtains shut. He had wanted to show her the photos of his new apartment but hadn't known how to bring it up. She had been quieter than normal.
It felt strange, he thought as he closed the bedroom door, being almost alone in the Martins' house. Kat needed the rest and leaving her seemed wrong. A stack of polaroids sat on the kitchen counter beside a basket overflowing with mail. Dishes were spilling from the sink and the trash bin liner looked ready to burst. Shaun grabbed the trash and walked outside to toss it in the large garbage can.
"When did you move in?" Quinn asked from the sidewalk, clutching a stack of magazines and envelopes. He held up a women's magazine. "This one came to our house by mistake, but the rest of this was already in their mailbox."
"You wanna bring that inside? I could use your help."
Quinn paused in the entryway. "We went through the garage when I helped her with the cat stuff. I didn't realize."
They threw out the old half-eaten casseroles and browning oranges from the fruit bowl, piling the emptied dishes into the dishwasher. Quinn filtered through the mail, tossing junk into the trash and making a separate stack for anything addressed to Kat. Shaun set the Roomba to work while he wiped the counters with disinfectant spray. Quinn lit the candle on the coffee table before collapsing onto the sofa. Shaun fell onto the cushion beside him.
"It seems weird that they went off to a craft fair and left the house like this," he remarked. Quinn frowned.
"Craft fair? They're not at-"
"Kat told me they drove up to Lake Mary for a craft fair today," Shaun insisted.
"I lied," Kat said. They turned to see her standing in the hall's opening, arms folded across her chest. She entered the room slowly, looking around as she circled the kitchen island. She flicked through the stack of envelopes Quinn had set aside for her. "No one asked you to do this," she said finally.
Shaun looked at Quinn.
"Sorry. I just thought if I separated-"
"Not the mail, Quinn. This," she sighed, gesturing to the newly cleaned room. "No one asked you to come in here and go through my stuff or stack up my mail or light my candles or turn on that stupid Roomba. "
The boys stared at her.
"I think you should go," she said quietly. This time they stared at one another. Kat started down the hallway towards her bedroom. "Both of you."
She closed her bedroom door softly and lay back on the bed. She looked around. Even her room had been disturbed, she never drew the curtains. The pale grey light they allowed was unnatural for mid-afternoon. Had they dusted the furniture while she slept? Washed her laundry? She couldn't fathom what made them think such invasive tasks were okay. Horace meowed from across the room, which she took as a sign of agreement.
He stretched before scampering onto the bed beside her. Kat reached out a hand, which he sniffed before throwing himself against the duvet, paws in the air. She had never yet been given an invitation to pet him, but he purred as she stroked the fur behind his ears. She turned the TV volume back up and switched to a show about house hunting. They sat together, Horace staring intently at the screen, as a couple searched for their retirement home in the Bahamas.
Later, he followed her to each window as she flung the curtains open. At the second window, a small green note was posted to the outer glass. In thick, slanted handwriting the word sorry had been neatly printed. She felt a twinge of guilt. She knew they were trying to help her, but the anger sprang from her like floodwater. She'd awoken to Shaun's absence and followed their voices, only to find them talking about her, her family, her home. And it was all wrong. They never put mail on the island. They didn't load plastic containers into the top drawer of the dishwasher. The fruit bowls shouldn't have been beside the fridge. Kyle should have been there. She could see him so clearly, sitting there with Quinn and yelling over some video game. And they expected her to be grateful like a clean house solved all her problems.
The wind ripped the note away, and Kat watched it blow across the yard. Indigo clouds were on the horizon. A Florida storm was on its way. She pushed open the window, letting the breeze roll in before the rain came. Horace leaped onto the windowsill, flicking his tail. He stayed there as the rain began to fall, even after she'd shut the window again, staring out into the backyard.
Kat was curled up in her round chair editing a research paper when Horace hissed and sprang back from the window. Daylight was fading even behind the cover of the clouds. Shadows crept across the yard. She could hear the TV playing in the living room. Her parents had resigned themselves to a true crime marathon after failed attempts to bond with Horace. Kat had rebuffed conversations about their grief counseling session at the church and became even icier when they commented on the living room's cleanliness. They had placed an order for Kat's favorite pizza, which the three of them now awaited.