Not Meant To Be Broken

By: Cora Reilly

“There's nothing to be sorry about.”

She nodded. Again it was Pumpkin who saved the situation. He began purring loudly and rolled around on the ground in front of Amber's feet.

“Where did you get him?” I asked curiously. Pumpkin didn’t look like a cat that a pet shop would sell. Amber looked at me in surprise but her face turned solemn almost instantly. “A year after...“ She stopped herself. “Two years ago Dad and I went to a pet shelter because he thought I needed company. There were dozens of cats and they were all trying to gain my attention, purring, and nestling against my legs, except for one. Pumpkin was sitting in the far corner of the room, watching me with his one eye, not moving at all. He didn’t try to gain my attention and I realized that it was because he knew that nobody would want him the way he was. With a missing eye and a crooked tail. He'd given up. Nobody would want a broken creature like him...“

She hesitated, her expression sad and hopeless. “That's why I decided to give him a home, to show him that there was somebody willing to take a broken creature, that there was someone who would love him.”

Was Amber still referring to Pumpkin or was she talking about herself? The idea that she thought of herself as broken sent a jolt of fury through me. Fury at the men who hurt her. I wished those men were standing right in front of me so I could hurt them, hurt them like they hurt Amber.

For once I truly wanted to use what Martial Arts had taught me. But somehow I was pretty sure that no matter what I did to those bastards it wouldn't be nearly as bad as what they'd done to Amber.

“What happened to him?” I asked. ‘What happened to you?’ was the question I truly wanted to have answered.

Amber didn’t look at me when she replied, “The people in the pet shelter didn’t know for sure but they assumed that he'd been tortured by boys because he is so afraid of men.”

Another thing that she seemed to have in common with her pet. Fuck, I wanted to kill those sick fucks who’d attacked her.

Eventually she averted her gaze from Pumpkin who was still stretched out on the ground contently, and directed her uncertain gaze at me. A phone rang and she jumped. “That’s mine.” She hurried out of the kitchen.

The cat watched me with its one eye, as if it was trying to figure me out. Amber said Pumpkin was scared of men, but so far the cat hadn't run away. I took that as a good sign. Slowly, careful not to startle the cat, I knelt down to make myself smaller. I reached out. Pumpkin sniffed my hand, and then he started to rub his head against my palm.

“Good boy,” I said. Amber’s feet appeared in my vision as she stepped into the kitchen. She stopped dead in her tracks. Her gaze settled on my palm patting Pumpkin's head. Slowly, she walked a bit closer, but still out of my reach. She frowned. “Pumpkin, he's afraid of men,” she murmured. “He's never let anyone touch him except for me.”

I shrug, smiling genuinely. “Maybe I'm different. Not all men are alike.”

She considered me, and then she nodded once, accepting my words. She sank down on one of the chairs, watching me. I knew it wasn’t much but it was a start.


I sat on the sofa in my room, trying to read a book but my mind kept wandering to the events of the morning. Pumpkin had let Zach touch him. Why did he suddenly start trusting men, especially a man of Zach's size? He was built like a linebacker. Dad would be proud of me for that comparison. It had taken Pumpkin several months to let Dad touch him. Maybe my cat had noticed that my dad didn’t know how to act around him.

The sound of the bell startled me and I jumped up. Pumpkin hissed, leaped off the sofa and hid under my bed. I tiptoed toward my door and stiffened when I heard several male voices in the apartment. With shaking hands I locked my door and leaned against it to eavesdrop.

There were three male voices that I'd never heard before and then there were Zach and Brian. Unease swirled in my stomach. I tried to keep my breathing even as I listened to their conversation.

“There's a new club,” a man with a deep voice said. “Are you in?”

“Sure, Bill,” came Zach's immediate reply.

“Come on, Brian.” Another male voice urged. I heard the shuffling of feet, closer to my room, and checked my lock again.

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