It wasn’t until after our first fight, after the  polished enamel of the relationship had been scratched up, that I told Elaine I hated her Coco, her cat.  It wasn’t that I was allergic or hated all cats, just hers.  She looked at me with the gaping, wounded eyes, and asked how I could be so cruel. 

I realized by her tone that I had trespassed sacred territory. “I’m sorry,” I said, raising my hands in hapless capitulation. “It’s just that ... well, he’s an ugly cat,” which he was, hideously so, and lazy too, and he shed everywhere, all over clothes, furniture, pillows.  I had no choice but to cover my nose and mouth or I’d retch from the dander floating in her apartment.  Even then, I still smelled the little monster’s flatulence.     

Naturally, Elaine was blind to all of her beloved little Coco’s flaws and took my insult personally.  In criticizing Coco, I was cutting Elaine’s soft underbelly.  Maybe that’s exactly what I wanted to do, after having to listen to night after night of her insidiously heartwarming Coco stories, how she’d rescued Coco from the needle by mere seconds and whisked him home to safety.

I felt I was being reasonable, but when I muttered the words, “Just a stupid, smelly cat,” she lunged at me, claws out, and slashed my cheeks, hissing “Don’t you dare talk that way about Coco!”  

I yelped and was halfway to the door when Elaine leapt upon me, digging her nails into my back with savage fury.   “I’m sorry! Coco’s fine!”  I cried, desperate for my survival, but it was too late.  Elaine seized my throat by her fangs and slammed me to the ground, piercing my jugular.  

I lay on the cold parquet floor, quivering in her jaws as the death rattle set in.  The last image I saw before everything went dark was Coco sitting on Elaine’s sofa, perched upon a lavender pillow, bathing himself with his long pink tongue.