Chapter 05 – A Hopeful Heart
Being a major international hub for both aviation and shipping, and being one of the richest cities in the world, the port of Hong Kong received many types of travelers on its docks, from all over the world and with all types of appearance. But surely none of them were as different as the young lady who was pacing the wharf, waiting to board the cruise that would take her across the Southeast Asian coast.
And the reason she was so different was because she was not a human, but a feline, with gray fur, big ears with black tips, and a long, hairy tail sticking out of her burgundy blouse and white skirt. She also had a white hat to protect herself from the sun, and in her hands she carried a small brown suitcase, which she held firmly by the handle. The rest of her luggage was already aboard the ship, and she took the time to watch the frenetic movement of the harbor.
At that moment, a truck carrying a container passed beside the feline, who stepped aside for a few steps to give way to the vehicle. But the heel of her shoe curled up against a rock, and in a blink of an eye she fell into a pool of dirty water.
- Oh! Proklyat'ye! - she shouted in Russian, raising her arms and looking at the clay-covered figure with a sad and angry expression, so much that she did not even notice when a shadow hung over her.
- DD-Do you need help? - the feline heard a male voice stammering in English, and as she turned she gaped at the sight of an orange-furred cat standing there staring at her with a look of deep surprise - Are you all right? Can you understand?
- YY-Yes, I speak English - she murmured, looking intently at the stranger who was almost identical to her - You're just like me! Not a human!
For a few seconds they were silent, glancing from head to toe, still amazed at this unusual encounter, until finally the cat offered his hand to help the gray feline stand up.
- Thank you for helping me - she said with a faint smile, twisting her hat to remove the excess water, even though her clothes were all stained with mud - I've never met anyone like me before. My name is Nina Stankovisk.
- Thomas More, but you can call me Sea Cat - he said amiably, shaking hands with the new acquaintance - It's a pleasure to meet you, since a long time I did not talk to someone of my own species.
- Are there others like us around the world?
- Yes, they exist. Previously there were hundreds of beings like us, called bears and cousins, and who lived on a Caribbean island called San Martin. That's where I was born, even though it was 50 years since I had to leave, never having seen anyone of my kind in all these years traveling as a sailor.
- I confess I never imagined there were others like me... - said the snow leopard, who was increasingly surprised and interested in her new friend - So you're a sailor? Are you here for work?
- No, no, actually... I... Well, it's kind of complicated to explain... I'm just traveling to Vietnam, to a port called Qui Nhon.
- What a coincidence, I'm going to Qui Nhon too! I took a few months of vacation to tour East Asia, before returning to the United States. I love traveling around the world, I'm kind of a backpacker traveler who loves to know new cultures and new places.
- Well, that means we'll be traveling companions - Sea Cat said with a small, friendly smile, as passengers began to board the ship - The difference is you're a passenger, and I'll be a deckhand.
- Even so, I'll be very happy to know there's someone like me on the cruise - Nina said, picking up her suitcase and heading for the passengers boarding ramp before turning back to the cat one last time - I hope to meet you aboard, Mr. Thomas. Good job for you!
- Thank you, have a good trip - the orange cat said sheepishly as he watched the snow leopard move away.
There was a sense of joy in the heart of Sea Cat as he boarded the ship trough the access to the sailors. He did not know exactly what he was feeling, but he could not forget the figure of that gray feline, the smile, the bright eyes, the surprise and the happiness she had felt to discover that she was not the only one in the world to be special. Maybe that was what he was feeling at the moment too, the happiness of knowing that in addition to him, there were still other bears cousins around the world, including Mother and her new family.
No matter what that feeling was, the cat now needed to focus on his new job for the next four days as a deckhand. As he was acting free-lance, without actually signing a contract of employment, on second-class boats, usually the wages were not the best, but enough for him to eat, rent cheap hotel rooms for the night, and pay immigration fees.
After serving as a mechanic's helper on a container ship between Anchorage and Yokohama, and as a fisherman on a trawler between the Japanese port and Hong Kong, he had arrived in that important English colony encrusted in Chinese territory, where he learned that a sailboat called "Dawnstar" headed for Qui Nhon, one of South Vietnam's main ports.
He had actually been lucky to get a temporary job on that cruise ship that would continue along the Asian coast to Thailand and stop right at the harbor where Mother was headed. And after introducing himself to the superiors and receiving the ship's sailor uniform, as well as a to-do list and a basic training, Sea Cat quickly occupied his bunk and prepared to go into service, which consisted of servicing passengers on the deck, keep the ground clean, check hatches and lifeboats regularly, and be ready to handle any emergency on board.
Fortunately, Thomas had never been someone to complain about working, and he had done his job in the best way possible, although some Chinese passengers were very surprised and even frightened by his figure. His shift began around noon, ending at 9 pm, when the sun had set. And after dinner in the crew's kitchen, the cat took a walk on the deck, watching the night sky and the swell of the waves reflected in the moonlight.
Leaning against the ship's rail, he stood there in silence, his eyes fixed on the horizon, remembering when he was young and he loved to fish in the night solitude, with only the stars shining on his head. But he also remembered the day he took someone special in his little boat, to fish with him, and that on that day his life would change forever...
Family Love was really thrilled to be there, next to Sea Cat, fishing with him on the high seas in the middle of the night. A light breeze refreshed the pair of felines, while the orange cat and the yellow cat had the lines of their fishing rods thrown into the water. They could see the lights of Port Spain and even of Heartown blended with the starlight, and everything looked beautiful in the eyes of the young female cat.
- Thank you for bringing me, Sea - she said cheerfully, looking at the cat with a broad smile - I always wanted to fish at night with my father and your father, but they never wanted to take me with them...
- Silence, you'll scare the fish - the sailor murmured, looking at the young woman on the shoulder - When you're fishing, silence is very important.
- I'm sorry... - Family Love replied, lowering her head sadly and concentrating again on fishing, when she felt a hook in her line - I think I got one!!! Heavens, how heavy, I can't pull it!
- Let me help you! - Sea exclaimed, putting her rod aside and running to help her friend pull the fish to the surface.
Both held the fishing rod with all the force they had in their hands, while the feline turned the reel with many difficulties. Suddenly, a huge fish jumped out of the water, causing the female cat to scream in surprise and Sea Cat widens his eyes.
- A grouper! - he said in an enthusiastic tone - And weighs 35 pounds! C'mon, hold the rod firmly! Let's bring this fish inside!
- II-I can't handle it! - Family Love gritted her teeth and moaned for pain in her fingers as he tried to hold on to the reed.
Suddenly, the grouper gave a stronger tug, and the fishing rod broke in half making Sea and Family Love fall to the floor of the boat while the fish fled. With the sudden movement, the sailor's reed also fell into the water, but more importantly, the pair of felines fell one above the other, and accidentally their lips touched for a second.
Immediately the orange cat pushed his face a few inches away from the muzzle of the yellow cat, and they both fell silent, staring in surprise. Even if it had not been a kiss, it had been a very different sensation for both of them. Family Love was an energetic and vivacious young woman, while Sea Cat had his charm and was as hot as all the sailors. But there really had been the first kiss each of them had ever had.
- Oh... I... That was... - the female cat stammered, feeling her cheeks flush - I'm sorry for making you lose your rods...
- All right, I... I do not think I need them now... - the cat replied with a small, embarrassed smile as he gave a faint affection to the cat's face and saw her eyes sparkle like sparks - You really are so beautiful... And you have lips so warm and soft...
- You're a very handsome cat too... And... I loved your kiss...
- We can repeat it if you like - the male feline suggested with a wink before giving a soft kiss to the lips of Family Love - And we can do it all night...
The female cat melted when she felt those hot lips touch her face again, and before she realized what was happening, they were both giving a big, passionate kiss, starting to date as the adults did...
Sea Cat shook his head and sighed heavily as he remembered this, since a part of his heart now felt guilty for having done that to Mother when they were both so young and inexperienced. And as he thought of it, he kept moving slowly across the deck, past some sunbeds.
- Mr. Thomas? - he heard a familiar voice calling to him, and as he turned toward the chairs, he saw Nina lying there, wrapped in a travel blanket, with a book in her hands and a smile on her face - How nice to see you again!
- Mrs. Nina! - said the cat in a surprised tone, also smiling - It's my pleasure to find it again. Are you enjoying the trip?
- Of course, I watched the theatrical performance, and I've already used the gym services on board. And I'm a Miss... I'm not married...
- Oh, I'm sorry, I... - Sea felt his cheeks turn red.
- It's all right, Mr. Thomas, you could not know about that - the leopard said with a giggle, pointing to the lounger beside her - Now sit here so we can talk for a while.
- I can't, the sunbeds are exclusive to the passengers...
- Are you on working? Or serving duty shift? Is there a line of people wanting to use the chair? So do not argue with me and sit here by my side, for I am a passenger and I can ask that of you. Besides, if anyone complains, I'll say it was my request.
The gray cat gave Thomas a wink, smiling amicably at him, which made the feline sailor laugh. Certainly her new friend had a great presence of mind, and very convincing ways. Slowly he sat down in the chair beside her, and watched her in silence for a few moments as she put away the book and turned to the new friend with a smirk.
- Very well, Mr. Thomas, now how about telling me some of your adventures around the world? - she asked with a giggle - I bet that, being a sailor, you already must have seen many things and been in many places...
- Well, that's true - Sea Cat agreed amicably - I do not think there is a major port in the world that I have not yet visited...
- And how do people usually react when they see you for the first time, realizing you're a big talking cat? I do not want to sound inconvenient, but it's because I've never before had the chance to share this kind of experience with someone of my own kind...
- It's okay; I do not mind talking about it. Luckily most people are not biased, and many find it even curious and funny to see an orange cat talking and acting like a human. I've even been called Care Bear Cousin because of that cartoon "The Care Bears Family"...
- Then we are two, I am often called Care Bear Cousin by the children - agreed the snow leopard with a giggle - And I agree with you, most people are not prejudiced, although I've had problems with immigration agencies and even with someone who wanted to get my head on the wall at home. But the cops got him.
- As for me, I had trouble naturalizing like American citizen, especially since it was the time of the Second World War - the cat commented with a slight sigh - But after I proved to the Puerto Rican authorities that I was not a threat, everything was fine. And you, Miss Nina? Your accent, and the fact of being a snow leopard, tells me that you come from European Russia...
- Yes, I was born in the Ural Mountains, and I spent the first years of my life in pre-revolutionary Russia. My mother told me that she and my father were going to church when they heard a baby cry, and they found me in the middle of the bush, adopting me instantly.
- So you were born this way, different?
- Yes, exactly - confirmed the gray feline - When the revolution broke out, my family fled and immigrated to America. They have always treated me like a normal girl, just like my brothers and sisters. But I was always curious to know if there were any other people like me, or if I was the only talking cat in the world. Today I had my answer to meet you, Mr. Thomas.
Nina flashed a faint smile as she said those last words as a strange gleam came into her eyes. For some reason, Sea also smiled and lowered his head a bit shyly.
- And it's not just talking cats like you and me, our species was much larger - he said as he remembered the days gone by - We lived on a Caribbean island called San Martin.
- Where did Jumbo planes land virtually on the beach?
- No, no, this island is a little further south. Our San Martin is the site of the snowstorm...
Nina looked curiously at Thomas, she had heard of that place, a large Caribbean island, within the Bermuda triangle, which had been shrouded in an endless snowstorm since the 1940s.
- Yes, I've heard of this mysterious place - she said slowly - Is our species native to that place?
- Apparently yes. There were the bears, the largest group among us, and the cousins of the bears, which encompassed all other ethnicities, such as felines, dogs, monkeys, birds, foxes, sheep, raccoons... We lived in harmony with the humans, until someday... - Sea's voice became unstable, and he gave a deep sad sigh - One day a tragedy occurred... And I thought I was the only survivor of our specie...
- What happened? - the gray female feline asked cautiously.
- I do not know for sure... I was in the sea fishing, and when I returned... The island was already shrouded in that storm, and I could not even dock... When I arrived in Puerto Rico a few days later, I discovered that the Nazis had tried to invade the place, and that only a handful of humans had reached the United States... And for some reason, the storm also formed at that moment and prevented the invasion, but... There were no signs of other survivors... Especially bears and cousins...
Tears began to stream from Sea Cat's eyes as he spoke, it was really the first time in 50 years that he had talked to anyone about that painful affair. Having lost parents, brother, friends, all those with whom he had contact, was the worst thing that could have happened in his life. Nina saw the friend's extreme sadness and suffering, and gently laid her paw on his shoulder, comfortingly.
- I'm sorry for what happened... - she murmured gently - Then there are no others like us?
- It was what I thought until a little more than a month ago - said the feline sailor, wiping away his tears - But I have found that others of our kind have survived, and now I am on a journey of personal redemption to meet them and try to mend some past mistakes...
Thomas had said that in a thoughtful and even hopeful tone, which made the snow leopard feel extremely curious as to what he meant. However, she did not think it right to ask such questions to someone she had just met. Not that she considered that orange cat a bad person; in fact he seemed to have the best heart in the world and to be the most trustworthy person she had ever known. But she did not want to force him to make confidences to a complete stranger, and waited for him to continue the subject.
However, Sea remained silent, until finally he got up and gave a deep sigh, finishing compose.
- I think I'd better go to my cabin now... - he said quietly, looking at her friend - I need to rest for my shift tomorrow.
- I understand Mr. Thomas - she replied with a slight smile - But I expect to see you again tomorrow night, I'll be right here waiting.
The cat smiled shyly, since he did not expect to hear it, his eyes glowing momentarily. With a slight nod, he said good-bye and walked slowly across the deck. Nina stood there, watching him walk away, as she felt something strange in her heart, a feeling of peace and family as she had not felt for a long time. Maybe it was because the feline sailor was the first person of the same species she encountered in her life, but she was happy to be by her side anyway, and wished she could find out more about his secrets...
And indeed for the next three days, Thomas and Nina met many times on board, but especially early in the evening, at the same place, at the end of dinner, and out of service for the feline sailor. They both discovered that they had many things in common, besides being frequent travelers and having lots of stories to tell about adventures in far and exotic places.
With each passing minute they exchanged experiences, the feeling of friendship and companionship grew stronger and stronger. On the second night, Sea Cat taught some Mandarin words to her new friend, who in return also taught him two or three sentences in Russian. On the third night, she had brought him some sweet cookies she had prepared herself, and he taught her how to properly use the fishing line to catch large fish.
Finally, on the fourth and final night, the gray feline was completely fascinated by the mysterious and chivalrous figure of the orange cat, stirring her imagination and her heart. Thomas, on the other hand, also felt very well alongside that special friend, because for the first time in many years he found someone who did not judge him and did not despise him for being whom he was.
- The last person who treated me that way was my mother - he confessed at one point to the leopard, smiling at her - She always said that I should value my qualities and not gives up on fulfilling my dreams.
- And she seemed to be a very wise feline - Nina said with a smirk - You are an incredible person, Mr. Thomas. And I'm very happy to have found you, not just because you being of my kind, but because of who you are.
For a few seconds they both looked at each other in silence, and felt a slightly different throb in their hearts, while a different glow gleamed in the eyes of both the cat and the leopard. At first the two of them were charmed by this strange feeling, and a moment later they felt embarrassed, so much so that Sea Cat looked away into the sky, and Nina turned to the side of the corridor.
- I am also glad to have met you, Miss Nina - he said after a while in silence - Honestly, I hope... I hope we can meet again one day when my journey is complete...
- Well... I say the same... - she agreed timidly, looking sideways at the feline - I hope we can meet again... And that you succeed in your journey...
Again the two were silent, Sea having a pensive expression as he stared up at the sky. Finally he turned to Nina with a sad smile on his lips as she looked at him curiously.
- My journey is... To apologize to my old girlfriend for all the bad things I did to her in our youth... - he said in a tone of relief - For fifty years I had carried a gigantic guilt in my chest, thinking she was dead... Until I saw her in Seattle, about 45 days ago, and since then my only life goal is to find her again and ask for forgiveness...
- Oh!... - Nina murmured, putting her paw over the cat's hand - As you say, it seems like something terrible happened between you two... And she never forgave you for it...
- She must imagine that I am dead, since we have never seen each other again... She now has a new family, and she is also on a journey that will take her to our daughter Proud Kitten...
- Journey? Daughter? You have a daughter?
- Yes, I have... It's a long story... When I was young, I was very close to a yellow cat called Family Love, and one day we were fishing alone, on a night like this, when we went more far from what we should in our relationship. And a month later, we discovered that our night of love had caused consequences...
- Pregnant?!? - Sea gaped, staring at the yellow cat and Free Spirit -How so pregnant?!?
- You know very well how a female gets pregnant, Sea - the female lynx said, rolling her eyes - Your father and I never hide from you and Responsible where the babies come from... But Family Love did not know.
- Is this serious?!? - said the orange cat, looking at the young female cat - Did not you really know where the babies come from?!?
- NN-No, I thought the storks were carrying babies... - murmured Family Love, with her head down and her cheeks red with shame, her hands resting on her stomach - I did not think it was through that joke...
Sea Cat sat in the chair and covered his face with his hands, giving a deep groan before he was silent for a while.
- That can't be happening... - he muttered worriedly.
- Yes, this is happening, and it's just the beginning of the story - Free Spirit replied earnestly, looking at her son - I'm not really here to judge your attitude and that of Family Love, but your father and Mr. Stellar are very angry with what you did. In fact, Stellar and Curative wanted to go to the police station and report you for rape, and it was I who stopped them.
- Report me? - repeated the orange cat looking at the mother with a frightened expression - But I did not rape Family Love, and she is also adult! They can’t do it!
- They can, since she did not know the consequences of having sex with anyone, and you knew it. And any jury will condemn you for this, especially since everyone wants the Stellar family well. Now you only have one option, which is to take on the child and also your relationship with Family Love.
Sea closed his eyes and tilted his head back with a deep sigh at the sound of it. At that moment, the yellow cat covered her face and began to cry, feeling guilty for what happened.
- No, no, Family Love, do not feel like this, it's not your fault... - the lynx said politely, comforting the future daughter-in-law - Not even of Sea. But now you need to make a decision, and face the consequences of your actions. I will help you as much as I can, but you must do the right thing.
- Okay, you're right, Mom... - Sea muttered, sighing and rising to his feet, before holding Family Love gently by the shoulders - I'll take over the child, and you'll live with me. It's the least I can do.
- Thank you! - replied the cat between the tears, before hugging the boyfriend - I love you Sea! Thank you for not abandoning me!
- I love you too, Family Love, everything will work out... - he concluded in a low, unreliable voice, still trying to get accustomed to the idea that he would be a father and a husband from that moment on...
Sea Cat had his head down, and just looked up at Nina, who was still silent, holding her friend's hands.
- Well, I kept my word, and from that day on Family Love moved in with me and adopted the name of Mother Cat as a preparation for the wedding, but it did not occur... - he went on in a sad tone as memories ran in his mind - I was very proud, and I lived alone in a hovel near the beach since I was 15... I refused any kind of financial aid, even from my mother, and that's why we were very poor... Mother did not mind when I told her I could not afford a wedding ceremony, or even the value of a civil registry... She just wanted to be with me...
- She seemed to be really in love with you - Nina said quietly, with a small smile - Why did not you want help?
- Because my dad and I fought when I was 15, he said I just wanted to know how to fish and hang around, and I should follow my brother's example. So that day I left home and vowed that I would never go back, and make a fortune on my own. After Mother got pregnant, things just got worse between my father, my brother and me, and they never forgave me... Like her parents... And like all the locals on the island... We became the rabble of San Martin, our friends started to avoid us...
- This is very sad... - whispered the snow leopard with a sigh - Your friends were very prejudiced! They should have helped you and your family, even if it was only with moral support!
- I do not blame them... I've never really done anything good in my life, and I've always paid more attention to my fishing gear than my family... Everyone said I was a terrible husband, and after Proud was born, that I was a horrible father. But I always loved my daughter, even if I could not fully demonstrate it! I loved being with her and Mother...
- Now, my little girl, let's see if you've learned your lesson to be a great sailor in the future, just like your father - Sea said, showing a compass to his daughter Proud Kitten - Which side is the north?
Quickly the young feline smiled and pointed to the blue needle of the compass pointing to the letter N.
- That's right! But what if we try to turn it to the other side? - asked the orange cat, quickly turning the compass to another position as the needle spun for a second before pointing again to the north - Oops! It looks like it’s still pointing north. Can you get the needle to point the other way?
And he handed the compass in the hands of his daughter, who smiled and began to turn the object to all sides, trying to make the needle point in another direction. But the blue side always pointed north.
- Dada! - she said with a frown, pointing at the compass.
- Can't you turn the compass? - asked Sea kindly, before taking Proud and placing her on his shoulders - Then we'll try together! Come on, daughter, turn the compass! Turn the compass!
And Sea began to run through the house, holding Proud's legs on his shoulders, while she laughed cheerfully and turned the compass in all directions, while her father also turned in every possible direction. Finally he stopped and held the girl by the waist, lowering her to the floor and giving a kiss on her forehead.
- Always look north, daughter, and you'll always find Daddy and Mama - he said with a broad smile as the kitten hugged him, laughing happily...
Nina wiped the tears that formed in her eyes as she heard Thomas tell those memories to her. The sailor cat also had to wipe his tears, and a small smile appeared on his lips as he recalled the few times that he and Proud played together.
- I bet she learned that lesson - said the gray cat in a kind tone - She must certainly always look north and think of you and Mother...
- I'd like to think so, too... - the orange cat replied with a deep sigh - But I do not think she should even remember that I exist. The last time I saw her was the day Mother and I finally fought... She tired of waiting for my decision on our future, and she tired of being excluded by friends because of me... But she also tired of seeing me being a relapsed father, who did not care for her own daughter... Then she left...
- And you never saw each other again? Did not you even try to fix things?
- Of course I tried! When I saw Mother and Proud leaving, my heart was shattered, and I finally realized just how selfish and stupid I was being. I looked for my brother-in-law Caretaker Cat that same afternoon, and finally broke my pride and asked for his help...
Sea Cat stopped in front of the door of the small insurance office that Caretaker owned in a building in downtown Heartown. He did not want to be there, he did not want to have to go into that room, he did not want to have to beg for help! But it was necessary, if he did not do it then his whole relationship with Mother and Proud would be destroyed forever.
Closing his eyes and wrists, the cat heaved a deep sigh and pushed the door, listening to the sound of the bell announcing its entrance. The guarded cat was sitting behind the small desk, reading a newspaper carefully, and looked up to see who was coming in. But when he realized he was the troubled brother-in-law, he frowned.
- What are you doing here? - cried Caretaker earnestly, standing up sparking fire in his eyes - If you came to me to try to persuade Mother to return home, you've wasted your time! I give her full support for her decision to have finally abandoned you!
- II-I did not come to ask you to convince her... - the orange cat whispered, head down, hands behind his back and shyly dragging his foot - I've come to ask for your help... Can you lend me two hundred dollars?
- What?!? Are you kidding me?!?
- It's for me to buy the rings and the wedding dress in Puerto Rico! - Sea explained lively, looking at the blue tabby cat - Please, Caretaker! I know you want to rip my skin off, rightly so! But I want to fix things; I want to prove to Mother that I love her, and that I'm going to change! I want to change!
Caretaker looked at the sailor cat in surprise.
- AA-Are you saying you want this money to surprise my sister? - he questioned looking directly into the eyes of the Sea - How can I be sure that you will really change?
- Because I would never be here asking for your help, if I really did not want to change ... - replied the orange cat with tears in his eyes - You are the only person who can help me now...
I can't borrow money from my Mom, and my Father and brother would never help me ... Please Caretaker! I can't buy anything here in San Martin; nobody would sell anything to me, especially after what happened today! And I swear that as soon as return from trip in 15 days, I will sell my cargo of fish in the central market, I will pay my debt to you with interest that you think fair to charge, I will mark the date of the marriage, and I will pay all legal expenses and the party. I just need help! Please!
The sailor feline practically got down on his knees in front of Caretaker, his hands clasped and weeping desperately. This was his only chance to try to correct his mistakes and prove to his mate and his daughter that he loved them. For a few seconds the cautious cat was silent, looking at the future brother-in-law thoughtfully, until he took a deep breath, took his wallet out of his coat pocket and took two hundred dollars.
- All right, I trust you - he said, putting the money in Sea's hand - Just promise me that you will make Mother the happiest woman in the world and that you will love Proud with all your heart.
- Yes I promise! You will not regret it; I will do everything right this time! - Sea replied cheerfully, standing up and giving Caretaker a sincere hug - Thank you for trusting me!
- I just want to see my sister happy... And so do you. I promise I will not tell her anything until you come back, and I'll help you two reconcile.
- Thank you! Thank you! - the orange cat repeated deeply grateful, feeling that finally he would do the right thing and that Mother would have reason to be proud of him, as well as his brother, his parents and all his friends, and that he and his family would be happy from there day...
- But I was wrong... - Thomas said sadly as tears of pain trickled down his face - When I came back to the island, there was nothing else, no one... Everything was over... All my dreams have come to ruin... I've been living hell for the last 50 years, with my heart completely destroyed. At first, I used alcohol to try to console my feelings... I lost my boat, even my clothes for the drink... Until the day I tried to find death plunging drunk into the sea in Las Palmas... But then I had lucidity and gave up taking my life...
Nina was silent for a few seconds, not knowing what to say, before giving her friend a strong hug, hoping that it might somehow comfort the pain and sadness he felt.
- I'm sorry to hear that - she said sadly, trying to be comforting - But I'm glad you did not commit this madness... Or else we would not have met, and you would not even have discovered that your old companion is still alive... I understand now why you want so much to find her again.
- Asking for forgiveness to her will be more than taking a huge weight off my back. Will be the chance to redeem me from all my mistakes, and finally do something good in my life, something that really paid off.
Saying this, he took a small box out of his pants pocket and opened the lid, revealing a pair of gold rings.
- These are the alliances I bought for her in Puerto Rico... - Sea said as she displayed the object to Nina - It's the only memory I've kept from my life in San Martin, plus the compass of my old ship, and which I used to teach where was north for Proud.
- You know that if Mother is married and has a new family, you can't give those alliances to her, right? Do you still love her?
The feline sailor was a bit embarrassed by this question, and it took him a few seconds to respond.
- Yes, I know that. I do not want to destroy her life again, especially now that I know she's happy. Of course I still feel something for her, after all we will be forever connected thanks to our daughter Proud... But all I want is to just ask for forgiveness for my mistakes. After that... Well, if Proud has someone special, I'll give this rings for her, so she can start her own family... Otherwise, I'll throw them into the sea, to close this story...
- And what will you do next? - asked the snow leopard with curiosity - What are your plans for the future, Mr. Thomas?
- I do not know... - he confessed with his head down - I have not seen a future in a long time... I only know that this is the only chance I have to fix things in the best possible way, and heal that wound that I have in the heart. Tomorrow, when I disembark at Qui Nhon, I have hopes of finding out where Mother is, meeting with her one last time, and finally having her forgiveness.
- Well, I hope you get Mr. Thomas - said the gray cat in a friendly tone, receiving a faint hopeful smile as the cat's answer, before the two were silent again, reflecting on that conversation...
The next morning, with the ship already docked at the Vietnamese port, Sea Cat completed his last turn on board and received the salary for the four days of work. Holding his old suitcase, he quickly descended to the dock, and walked toward the port captain's office. As he walked, his thoughts were fixed in the hope that Mother would be there, and that both might meet again. Suddenly he heard a familiar voice calling him by the human name, and as he looked back, the cat saw Nina running after him.
- Miss Nina? - he asked in a surprised tone as the female feline stopped beside him - What are you doing here?
- I searched for you at the seamen's quarters, but they told me that you had already landed - she replied with a smile, catching her breath - I want to accompany you to the harbor administration. And if your old lifemate is here, I will help you to ask her forgiveness.
The orange cat opened a tiny smile as he watched Nina smile at him with those pretty lips and stare into those bright eyes. He felt really touched by the friendship the snow leopard showed for him, and his heart warmed in a way that had not long ago occurred.
- Thank you for wanting to help me, Miss Nina - he said amiably - You can’t imagine how much I appreciate your support.
- I really can't imagine it, but I can say we'd better run, after all every second is precious to your reunion with Mother - said the gray cat with a wink.
Quickly the two cats made their way to a white, dirty-walled building in the middle of the harbor, where they were attended by a young Vietnamese man who spoke poor English, but enough to understand what those strange visitors wanted.
- Yes, yes, an American sailboat named "Dawnstar" has landed here recently - he said, referring to the log book - The foreman noted that the passengers looked strange. But it left a week ago.
- One week?!? - Sea repeated desperately - Oh heavens! Where did they go? I need to know that!
- Here it says that the ship gave destination as Perth, Australia, through Singapore and Jakarta. Sorry for not being able to help with anything else.
The sailor feline gave a deep sad sigh, and walked silently out of the building, head down. Nina also felt sorry for the friend, since she really wanted to be able to do something to help him.
- I'm sorry you could not find a Mrs. Mother, Mr. Thomas... - she murmured sadly, holding the orange cat's hand - What are you planning to do now? Thinking of going to Australia?
- Yes... It's the only way... - he replied, turning to the snow leopard with a sad and discouraged look, as if all his hopes had been crossed by an impassable wall - I can look for work on some ferry that crosses Vietnam and the Philippines, and then try to get to Perth. But I can’t give up now, it's the only chance I have to fix the past...
Nina gave a faint smile, tears streaming down her eyes. She had never met someone like Thomas before, willing to face every hardship to ask for forgiveness. He really had a noble soul, as few people in the world possessed.
- I wish you all the luck in the world, Mr. Thomas - she said hesitantly, still smiling and crying - May you fulfill your wish, and be able to fulfill your journey.
- Thank you... - replied the orange cat with a faint smile, feeling the gray cat's paws holding his hands - I hope to see you one day, Miss Nina, it was a pleasure to meet you. Bye...
Saying this, he let go of her friend's paws, looked at her one last time, and walked slowly toward the docks, with sad expression, hesitant footsteps, but a steady gleam in the look of continue his journey, even if it seemed impossible...
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear the unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
Nina stood still, watching her friend walk away and feel her heavy heart. She would never be the same person again after meeting Thomas. And she felt so much not being completely honest with him, nor even trying to help him...
Suddenly she ran back to the building, swiftly entering the same office where she and the cat had been taken care of moments ago, to the surprise of the young Vietnamese attendant.
- I need to make a phone call right now! - she demanded seriously.
To right the unrightable wrong
To be better far than you are
To try when your arms are too weary
The reach the unreachable star
Sea Cat slowly walked the docks, feeling a great emptiness in his heart, and many doubts running through his mind. Not only because he had once again missed the chance to find Mother again and ask her for forgiveness, and not just because he feared he could not achieve it. But because he felt sad that he had left behind the one person in all those years that had heard his story and made him feel welcome again. He could never forget Nina Stankovisk...
But he needed to continue, and closing his eyes he wished the Great Wishing Star to guide him to Mother, to give him a chance to repair his mistakes, to let him take that terrible weight off his shoulders...
This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless,
No matter how far
To be willing to give
When there's no more to give
To be willing
To die so that honor and justice may live
And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will be peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
Suddenly, as he passed a crane carrying a number of rubber crates on a ship, Sea felt someone place a strong hand on his shoulder. Surprised, he turned and faced a tall, dark-haired man in a high-browed suit, wearing a light beige uniform and a white cap, certainly an officer from some ship stopped here.
- Mr. Thomas More? - the human asked curiously.
- Yes, it is me - said the cat, frowning slightly in surprise at the stranger - I'm sorry to ask, but do I know you?
- No, not really, but I've heard of you. You're looking for a job on some ship that's going to Australia, right?
- Yes, but how do you know that?
- Oh, let's just say I'm well-informed - said the human with a wink - Captain Jeremy Hanks, I am the captain of the "South Star", the tanker at the end of the docks bound for Perth. I am looking for an immediate second, and his services were recommended to me as that of an excellent sailor. I offer full payment and all the benefits included, like food, uniform and trainings. Do you want to join us on this trip?
- Ah... I... But... - Sea gasped at the proposal - But you do not even know me...
- Whoever told me about your services knows you well, and told me that I can trust you fully - it was Captain Jeremy's friendly response - Now come with me, I need to introduce you to the rest of the crew.
And the world would be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star
The cat began to weep with happiness as he accompanied the human toward the tanker. He could not stop thanking the Great Wishing Star for all the luck he had, and he felt his hopes of finding Mother Cat stronger and stronger. He could not imagine who had indicated his services to Captain Jeremy, but he would forever be grateful to that person for this...
Without being aware of it, a black car was parked a few hundred yards away, and Nina was inside it, crying with joy as she watched her friend walk toward the ship.
- I promised I would help you, Thomas... - she murmured with a smile, feeling her heart happy, before she closed the glass and motioned for the driver, who slowly walked away with the vehicle.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To try when your arms are too weary
And reach the unreachable star
Neither Nina nor Sea realized, since it was in broad daylight, but at that moment a magical light descended from the sky and shone on them as each one went on his way...