I’m sitting in the Tribune Leclerc stand in Stade Abbé-Deschamps. Right at the back of the balcony against the back wall. Burnie’s still curled up on the seat to my right, just a black furry mass, fast asleep. Meatloaf and I have spent a while talking. In all fairness our discussions on tactical shapes and styles haven’t been very enlightening at all as he’s merely a feline figment of my imagination outfitted in full victorian garb, but I’ve been glad of the company. I come here most nights and it can be a quiet and peaceful place, but a lonely one too. Still, after a while we run out of things to talk about.
“…And the penguin says: ‘He’s not an eggplant, he’s retarded!’”
“I don’t get it” says Meatloaf, raising one of the markings on his head that resemble eyebrows.
“No, me neither”, I reply dejectedly. “I thought you might. I heard it on…” My voice trails off as I watch Meatloaf’s eyes start to wander away from mine. He seems to be looking right over my shoulder.
“I have to go, old friend. I’m sorry.” He whispers, suddenly quite panicked. He dons his top hat, stands and hurries away down the aisle, glancing back occasionally.
“What?” I call after him. “Why? What are you…” I turn my head in an attempt to see what spooked the poor moggie and my voice trails away once again. At first it seems as if Burnie has woken up and is looking at me from the adjoining seat with a wide smile. I’ve not seen the 6 foot dream-version of him before but the features check out: Thick black fur, white belly, inexplicable victorian garb, but there’s something not quite right about the way this cat’s looking at me. There’s something familiar about that smile.
“You are doing the finest job, Franjo!” It whispers excitedly. Realisation hits me immediately.
“What the fuck are you doing in my dream, Sylvania?” I growl.
The black cat giggles. “Oh, but you are confused!” She says. “Here!” Before I can respond the cat raises a paw behind it’s head and slaps me hard across the face, leaving my cheek stinging.
I sit bolt upright in bed, my cheek still stinging as my eyes dart around uselessly in the inky black bedroom. I lean over to the bedside table and press my phone’s home button, which illuminates the room with all the subtlety and finesse of a flash bang grenade. I recoil from the light but once my eyes start to adjust I note from the lock screen that it’s 3:30 in the morning. It’s 3:30 in the morning and it’s freezing fucking cold in here. Too cold. As the light of my phone dies away I pull the quilt tighter around myself and survey the room, now able to make out basic shadows.
“There, that’s better!” Squeals one of them.
“Yeah that’s much better actually, thank you.” I reply, keeping my voice as level as I can. “So let me rephrase: What the fuck are you doing in my flat, Sylvania?”
“Our promotion bonus!” She squeals once more, and with that she darts towards the bed and smiles that sickly Cheshire Cat smile. “You are doing the finest job in France, Franjo. We need to discuss our bonus for your inevitable promotion to Ligue 1: Home of the finest football teams in the World!”
“And you thought that inside my flat at half past fucking 3 was the ideal time and place to conduct this meeting, did you?”
She nods vigourously. “I could not sleep, Monsieur Franjo! I was far too excited…”
“CORRECT!” I cut her off loudly, causing Sylvania to jump. “There’s a good way to tell if you’re far too excited about something, Sylvania, and that’s if you’re so excited that you keep breaking into my fucking home.” I swing my legs out of bed and stand up, revealing my Everton branded pyjamas. I watch the corner of Sylvania’s mouth flicker as she sees them, but her expression turns back to shock within a split second. “Now you need to leave.” I say firmly. As my eyes continue to adjust to the darkness I glance through the open bedroom door and notice that the front door of my flat is ajar. “And how do you keep getting in here for fucks sake? After last time the locksmith promised me…” My voice trails away once more as I continue to look around and make another realisation. One that makes my heart drop right through my stomach. “…And where are Meatloaf and Burnie? Where are my fucking cats?”