Startled, I jumped up from the bench and without thinking, blurted out my thoughts.

“T-this is my place s-so you please find your own place-“stuttering my way through this brave dialogue I felt that maybe I sounded rude and so I added a “- Sir” at the end of my sentence.

“Oh I see, so this place belongs to you now?” smiling, the man went around the benches and sat on the one beside mine. I was glad that he understood my point so quickly. “Sit down, I’ll tell you a story and after that I’ll leave.” He patted on his bench. Hesitantly I dragged my feet to the bench in front of me and sat down at the corner, away from him.

“You know a long time ago this was my place. I went to a school that was in that direction-“he pointed somewhere randomly and continued talking, “- I would come here every afternoon to play with Kiko.”

“What’s a Kiko?” When he said that it was his secret base before mine, I suddenly felt some respect growing inside me for the old man. Well, if he is my senior here then I should at least pay attention to his story.

“Kiko is the name of a cat. She was a fine lady I must say. No matter how hard I tried to persuade her to let me touch her, she would always give me the cold shoulder and climb that tree-“ again he pointed, this time more accurately, towards a big tree, “-and she won’t come down till I went back home.”

“That tree is way too big for a cat to climb. Are you sure you are not making up this story uncle?”

The old man burst out laughing. “I swear I am telling the truth. That tree has actually grown quite a bit since the last time I was here. In fact this whole place is so different. The temple had just one small tiny room, the trees were smaller, there was a little stream on the other side of the forest which has dried up and there was no clear path to this place like there is now. This was a real secret place.”

I could feel my eyes popping out as I gaped at the old man. The scenery that he was showing me was more mesmerizing than I could imagine.

“Was it really that amazing?!” my voice came out higher than I expected. The part where he mentioned this place being a real secret got me up and I inched in closer to listen to the rest of it.

“Yeah. It was like a page out of a fairy tale. And it was all mine and Kiko’s.”

I had totally forgotten about the cat till he mentioned it again.

“You see Kiko did not belong to this place. She suddenly appeared out of nowhere one afternoon and I fell in love with her. But her lack of interest in me broke my heart. Still, not wanting to give up easily, I decided that I would win over Kiko’s heart.”

“But it’s just a cat!”

“She-“the old man stretched out his hand and knocked me on the head lightly, “-was so much more than a cat. Have some respect. She will get mad at you if you don’t address her properly.”

“Sorry” I quickly apologized while covering my head. Such a weird man.

“So I started getting food for her, every day. She ate it and then went back to ignoring me. After a few days, I started luring her in. I would hold on to the food till she came to me and then pat her on her head before handing out the food. It took me a month to become her friend. After that, the days went by like a peaceful dream. Every day was the same. Going to school, playing with Kiko on my way and then lazing around in my home for the rest of the evening.”