I found a motel on St. Pete run by a quiet German couple. Earlier that day upon my arrival to town, I had deposited the money from the policy with no fanfare.
At check in I wore the black of a widow. I was very quiet, subdued, some might even say I seemed to be appropriately mourning.
On my first evening I wore to the pool a conservative kaftan, had a drink from the bar only at the cocktail hour and only one.
The police had questioned me a few days ago when my late husband died but only to rule me out, had made note of an alibi.
There would have been only the one motive, though a considerable one: the sizable life insurance policy.
After the questioning, I had to survive the duties – the mourning wife, funeral director, hostess and I was surprised I had it in me to be so cold and unfeeling. But all I had to remember was my husband’s iron grip on my arm, the bruising, the years of indignities, and I was a woman of steel. Before I left town I paid the death expert, my white knight.
At the beach, my first sunset there, how good the warm breeze felt on my cheek as I followed the path between the dunes, the setting sun on my back, the knowledge of the money tucked away in my account, my German hosts polishing my car in the lot.
There was a little brick hut apparently for storing beach equipment along the path. And beside it, a small concrete outcropping where five smooth black cats lounged.
What did they know? I thought to myself, amused. Very little.
On the beach as the sun fell I must have drifted asleep.
I woke up in the darkness to mewling and purring beside me. The cats, I thought.
One had pressed its lips to mine. I couldn’t move. It had taken all my breath, its yellow eyes penetrating the dark.
I woke, gasping for air. It had been a nightmare.
I sighed in relief and returned to my room. The next day, a group of them waited for me outside my door. I could barely pass to get breakfast.
I was not able to stay at St. Pete without the cats following me, more and more of them. It made me feel conspicuous and self conscious. And of course people looked at me.
I moved to another beach town further north and stayed inside most of the time but found they clustering near the door though I never fed them. They followed me when I went to to the grocery or to town, crowding in, harassing, mewling, hissing.
It’s been months now and I’m half crazed. To be honest, I hope to die.