When you live beside a cat café, it’s inevitable the fur will start flying eventually. Derek “Dez” Walker, a police officer wounded in a shooting, feels adrift and isolated as he makes a slow recovery. Others call him a hero, but it’s a title he doesn’t think he deserves.
When Dez intervenes in a burglary at the cat café near his apartment, he meets the owner, Francis “Fran” Green. Though he’s a hero to Fran for his intervention in the burglary, it’s Fran who becomes a strong source of support for Dez. Fran offers friendship to his vulnerable neighbour and, as they spend more time together, Dez comes to rely on Fran ... and his cats.
He begins to find the way out of his isolation, but does he deserve everything Fran offers?
The café was open again the next day. Dez saw Fran opening up at ten o’clock as he left by the street door. Fran gave him a wave, as he let in the short queue of customers already waiting outside. Dez waved back and hurried off to catch his bus.
He came back a couple of hours later and had to pass the window of the café to get to the door to the staircase. As he stood unlocking the door it suddenly opened, making his keys rattle against it. Fran stood there, wearing a big grin -- and another cat themed t-shirt, this one featuring a stylized ginger tabby sitting on a fence.
“Dez!” Fran said. “Oh, sorry.” He retrieved Dez’s keys from the lock and gave them back to him as Dez stepped inside. It was nice to be greeted so heartily, but a tad suspicious too.
“Fran. How’s your eye?” The swelling was still there and the bruising gruesome and purple.
“Oh, pretty bad. I’m mostly staying in the back to avoid scaring the customers too much. Can you come through a second? I have something for you.”
“Come and see.”
What the hell? Dez dropped the bag he’d been carrying and followed Fran through the door that led into the kitchen at the back of the café. It was small and crowded with four other people in it, all of them women and all wearing name badges in the shapes of cats.
“Girls,” Fran said, pulling the hesitating Dez inside by his good arm. “Here he is, the man of the hour. My hero, Dez!”
The women broke into a round of applause and a couple of cheers. Fran let go of Dez’s arm and picked up a frosted cake from a worktop. Piped on the top were the words Our hero, alongside some cat shaped decorations.
“The cats insisted I got you this.” Fran winked, which was extremely cute, but Dez found it hard to appreciate when his heart was pounding like it wanted to smash right though his ribs. The space was too confined. There were too many people. They’re just women, he tried to tell himself. Waitresses and cat carers. They’re no threat. Get a hold of yourself.
He couldn’t breathe ...
He backed up, bumped into the counter, knocking something off. It bounced and clonked on the tiled floor.
“I ... have to go.”
Fran was still holding the cake, but his face was a mask of concern now. The women were staring and the applause had stopped.
“Dez ... the cake ... you don’t want ...” Fran faltered the words out.
“I have to go.” Dez heard the panic in his voice. The fear. Fear of being trapped. Of not knowing what was behind him. He made it out of the door backwards and fled up the stairs, boots thundering and drowning out the music from the café.