Neko no Ongaeshi
(The Cat Returns)
|Synopsis - Page 1|
The story opens with an alarm bell ringing and a hand reaching out to turn it off. Under the blanket, Haru moved into a more comfortable position; then realized that she was late for school, and quickly rushed to get ready, albeit without first doing a vanity check. She greeted her mother in the kitchen who told her to eat first. When Haru refused, she playfully tempted Haru by biting into her own topped-up bread and saying how delicious it was, while Haru looked on in a very jittery manner. Finally she said that it wasn't fair and ran off.
Things got off to a very bad start even before she got to school. Sneaking in wasn't going to work that day. Apparently, she was so frequently late that her teacher did not even bother to look up as he told Haru to sit down quickly. Her classmates, of course, laughed at her, and Haru was even more disappointed when she saw that the boy she had a crush on was laughing as well.
After school, Haru and her friend Hiromi were walking home, talking about Haru's unfortunate start of the day and their respective crushes (Machida for Haru and Tsuge for Hiromi). Haru had just learned that Machida already has a girlfriend who was a freshman and was arguing with Hiromi when they both noticed a cat carrying a parcel walking past them.
The cat was carrying a parcel in its mouth and the girls were wondering if it was stolen property. The cat had stopped just by the curb and was looking out for traffic. Hiromi shouted at it to be careful but it just crossed the road anyway. It's just a cat, decided Hiromi finally.
The traffic lights had turned green and traffic was on the move again. Right in the middle of the road, the cat dropped its parcel and was having a hard time trying to pick it up with its mouth. A truck was fast moving towards it but both the driver, who was talking on his cellphone, nor the cat seemed to notice each other until it was too late. Instinctively, Haru, with Hiromi's stick in her hands, ran towards the cat, swept it up, and made a dash just as the truck drove past her.
The stick crashed into a post and Haru lost her balance as both she and the the broken stick dropped onto the pavement. Panting from her escapade, she looked up to see if the cat was alright.
The cat was standing on both legs and dusting itself like a human being would. It noticed Haru staring at it and faced her, smiling- and thanked her for saving him, even bowing as well. It took a dumbfounded Haru a moment to say anything at all and bow back. When she looked up, the cat was already on his way again.
By then, Hiromi had caught up with her. As she lamented about her broken stick, Haru just looked on as the cat paused at a corner, bowed again, and scampered away again. She asked Hiromi if she saw what she saw. Hiromi hadn't obviously, but instead asked if she was okay.
Back home, she finds her mother in the kitchen in the middle of a pile of mess. She asks her mother if cats can talk. Her mother, too engrossed in her work, just said that she wouldn't know. It took a while for Haru's words to sink in.
Over dinner, Haru's mother told her about how she used to say that she could talk to cats when she was a child. Haru couldn't remember it and sat back as her mother related the story to her.