The Cat’s Whiskers – Chapter Twelve

Cat’s Whiskers Chapter Twelve

 

‘Soon be home, love.’ Lucy’s mum reached across the seats and gently touched her leg. ‘We’ll have something nice for tea.’

‘Yes.’ It was hard for Lucy to speak. She’d been so hoping the cat they had been going to see would have been Lucky. The pain of disappointment seemed to be trapped inside her throat. She knew how upset her mum was for her and knew how it would affect her if Lucy were to descend into the sobs of pain she wanted to. Her mum had tried so hard to help her find Lucky.

‘How about we watch Love Actually?’

Lucy nodded again, taking her mum’s hand and gripping it tightly. That was their favourite film, one they watched when something horrible happened. Like when granddad, her mum’s dad had died. They’d curled together on the sofa beneath a fleecy blanket, nibbling on popcorn, letting the gentle story take them into another world.

True to her word, when they got home, Lucy’s mum settled her on the sofa, tucked the fleece blanket around her knees and put on the film. A while later she returned with a bowl of popcorn and a dish of icecream.

‘I found these,’ she added, putting a packet of chocolate on the fleece blanket beside Lucy.

Lucy waited until her mum had left, gone into the kitchen and could plates and dishes rattling around as she prepared dinner, then finally she let go of the tears, curling her face into her knees as she sobbed. She’d been so disappointed. She’s hoped and hoped that the cat would have been Lucky.

There had been no sign of him for months. She’d so hoped that he was safe somewhere. That someone would have found him and would have got in touch with her. She knew how much Lucky loved her. He wouldn’t have left her and gone to live somewhere else. She knew how sociable he was, how much he loved getting petted and eating the treats that the neighbours gave him, but he would never stay away.

‘There’s one thing we know,’ her dad had said, ‘He’s not dead, we’d have found a body by now.’

Lucy had nodded. She couldn’t imagine how horrible it would have been to find Lucky dead on the side of the road, having been hit by a car, but at least she would have known what had happened to him. Now she had no idea what had happened to Lucky. He wasn’t anywhere in the village. They’d been to every house. He had just vanished.

Lucky crouched at the side of the road, watching the traffic whizzing past. He’d been so frightened when he’d had to dash across it. The great angry beasts had been going so fast, he could feel the air from them. He was so tired and hungry and had a raging thirst, he wanted to lie down and sleep, but he had to keep going on. He had to get back to Lucy.

He walked slowly across the field, keeping to the edge of it, as he had become accustomed too. It was safer there, out of the way of humans who might hurt him, or out of the way of other animals.

Above him he spotted the enormous shadow of a buzzard, floating on the breeze above him, searching for food. The gigantic bird saw the small cat walking slowly along the edge of the field.  Accustomed to looking for anything that was sick or injured he locked onto Lucky, the small animal beneath him didn’t look as if it would offer much resistance. Leisurely he swooped across the sky, eyes alert for what the animal beneath him was doing.

Lucky saw the shadow above him just as the big buzzard swept down, his claws extended ready to seize his body and bear him up into he sky. Summoning the last bits of his strength Lucky launched himself to the side. He felt the air stir as the bird swooped past him. Exhausted her crouched in the shelter of the wall beside him. The bird couldn’t get close enough to grab at him. Terrified he ran on, the last reserves of his strength rapidly running out, all that was left inside him was the urgent need to keep going.  He was close, he knew.

 

Lucy lay on her bed sobbing.  Nothing had been the same since Lucky had disappeared. She was always falling out with her Mum and nothing seemed to make her happy any more. She didn’t even want to watch television without Lucky sitting on her lap purring, his elegant head tilted to one side as if he were actually watching the programme.  Lucy cried until she could cry no more.  She had thought that she would stop crying after a few days, when Lucky had vanished, but the days had turned into weeks and here she was still crying. Lucy rolled onto her tummy and reached over to the framed photograph of Lucky that was on her bedside table.  Lucky looked out from the photograph, his green eyes sparkling with mischief. Lucy stroked the photograph, wishing that it was Lucky she was stroking. She could almost feel his soft fur beneath her fingers, almost hear him purring as her hand caressed his back.

“I think its time we started to look for another cat, don’t you, Lucy?” Lucy’s Mum said, putting the newspaper down on the bed beside her.

Lucy shook her head, “I don’t want another cat.” She replied sadly.

Lucy’s mother opened the newspaper.  “Let’s just have a look..” she turned over the pages until she found the pet section. ‘Perhaps you’d feel better if you had another… Accepted that Lucky’s not going to come back.’

Lucy shook her head, she couldn’t bear to think like that. It was too hard to think that she would never see Lucky again.

“Black kitten…” her mum read, sitting on the edge of the bed and running her finger down the list of advertisements.

“Mum!” Lucy snapped, making her mother look at her in surprise. Lucy never snapped at her mother, but she really didn’t want to have another cat. Nothing would ever replace Lucky, “I don’t want another cat. How many times do I have to say it?” Then without another word Lucy got up and then marched out of her room.

‘Please. Just for me.’ Lucy’s mum stood in the lounge doorway. Lucy curled on the sofa, her head resting on her knees. ‘I miss Lucky too. I’d like another cat.’

Lucy lifted her head and met her mum’s eyes, seeing the sadness that was there.

‘Ok,’ she nodded. It was just as hard for her mum to be without Lucky as it was her. If she couldn’t get over Lucky then perhaps she needed to not stop her mum having the fun of loving another cat.

Her mum sat on the edge of the sofa beside her, flicking back through the newspaper until she found the advert she’s looked at. ‘Here it is,’ she ran her finger down the paper. She tapped the number in on her phone and smiled gently at Lucy as the number connected.

Lucy sat up, listening while her mum spoke to the people who were advertising the kitten.

A short time later they were in the car on their way to see the kittens.

‘This doesn’t mean we don’t still love Lucky,’ Lucy’s mum reassured her as they drove.

‘I know,’ Lucy agreed. Her mum was right. They would always love Lucky, but perhaps it was time for her mum to have another cat. Lucy knew she would love it, but not the same way as she did Lucky. He would always be the love of her life, she’d never forget him, but this was about her mum not her.

‘Here we are,’ Lucy’s mum steered the car into the driveway of a farmhouse, after they had bumped up a long farm drive with overgrown verges at either side.

‘You’ve come to have a look at the kittens?’ An elderly lady came out of the house, wiping her hands on a tea towel. ‘I’m baking,’ she explained, hooking the teatowel on to the door which she pulled closed behind her.

‘’How many do you have?’ Lucy’s mum asked, as they followed the lady across a concrete yard towards an open fronted hay shed.

‘There’s six,’ she told them, leading the way into the shed. Lucy took a deep breath of the clean hay smell.

‘Up there,’ the lady pointed, ‘Can you climb up?’ She directed her question to Lucy who nodded in reply.

‘I think so.’

Lucy began to scramble up the bales, they were stacked one on top of another and made a kind of stair case. Lucy walked up, her mum close behind.

Right at the top, close to the iron girders that supported the roof of the building, were the topmost hay bales. There, in a hollow between a couple of the bales they found a ginger and white cat, surrounded by six assorted kittens.

‘Aren’t they beautiful.’ Lucy’s mum said, gently putting her hand out towards the mother cat. She purred at her touch, not at all afraid, or fearful for her kittens.

‘Have you had a cat before?’ The old lady asked, from below them.

‘Yes, we have. We’ve just lost ours.’ Lucy’s mum said.

‘I am sorry. Well these are ready to go to new homes. They’re all well grown and healthy.’

‘I can see that.’ Gently Lucy’s mum lifted out the kittens, who immediately woke up and began to play with one another, rolling in the hay, playfighting.

‘Which one shall I have?’ She asked, picking up first one, then another of the kittens. ‘They’re so beautiful.’

Lucy’s mum picked up a black one, it was the biggest of the kittens. ‘This one?’

Lucy shook her head, vehemently. ‘No. not a black one. I don’t want to be reminded of Lucky.’

‘You’re right,’ she gently put the black kitten down and began lifting the other ones, a ginger and white one, a white one with a single black patch over one eye which made him look like a pirate, a completely ginger one, a tiny tabby and finally one that was patches of ginger, white and tortoiseshell.

‘He’s lovely,’ Lucy stretched out a hand and gently touched the tortoiseshell kitten. He purred and then batted at her fingers with his paws.

‘I love him,’ Lucy’s mum held the kitten to her chest, rubbing his chin. The kitten purred loudly. ‘But this one is adorable too.’

Lucy rolled her eyes, her mum could never make her mind up.

‘Can we have two?’ Lucy’s mum wriggled to the edge of the bales and looked down at the farmer’s wife.

‘You can for me,’ she smiled, ‘they’ll be good company for one another.’

‘Right, that’s decided.’ Lucy’s mum handed her the white one with the black eye patch and with the tortoiseshell one tucked beneath her arm she eased her way down the bales.

Her mum put the two kittens into the cat carrier in the back of the car and after saying goodbye to the farmer’s wife and turning down her offer of tea and cake, they were speeding home.

 

Using every bit of his energy Lucky clambered over a wall. He hopped down quickly, knowing that out in the open he was exposed. The big buzzard seemed to have vanished, gone in search of other, easier targets, but you never knew.

The area he found himself in was familiar, he recognised the gorse bushes, the smell of the farm yard, the flowers, the sea air. Confident he ran on. He was nearly home. He remembered the hold in the hedge and squeezed through it, the bushes had grown up around the gap since he’d been there last and he had to wriggle to get through but then he was out and in the garden. He was home. Meowing with delight he went across the lawn, he was exhausted and it was hard to find the strength to keep going. His coat felt horrible, dirty, filled with thorns, but he was too tired to be able to clean himself.

Slowly he made his way to the back door. There had always been a bowl of water there for him. There was no water. No car. The door was closed, Everything was silent. He sat beside the door, hoping someone would come, meowing plaintively, but no one came. He wanted Lucy, he’d walked such a long way to find her and now she wasn’t there.

His last reserves of strength fading, he walked to the edge of the garden and crawled beneath the bushes where it was quiet and sheltered and safe.  Exhausted he curled into a ball, tucking his nose into his tail, too tired and hungry to care that the earth beneath him was damp. He slept, dreaming of the time he’s spent with Max and of Lucy. He missed the two of them, but now he was alone. There was no one to care for him.

 

The kittens were let loose in the kitchen. Lucy had taken Lucky’s bed away. He was never going to need it. The kittens would make do with an old blanket until they could buy a new bed for the two of them.

The pain of missing Lucky was so intense it was unbearable. Leaving her mum on her hands and knees playing with the kittens she made her way upstairs to her room.

Lucy buried her head in her pillow and cried. She was so glad that they had got two kittens. They would be company for her mum and for each other, but she missed Lucky so much. Nothing could ever replace him.

Lucky, beneath the bushes, woke from his sleep. He struggled to his feet, it was a huge effort. He missed Lucy, he needed her. The pain of missing her was too intense. He meowed, the effort exhausting.

Lucy closed her eyes, she could almost hear Lucky meowing in greeting, the way he did when she got off the school bus to come home.  Suddenly Lucy’s eyes flew open. She sat up, straining her ears. She hadn’t imagined it… she could hear meowing.  It wasn’t the new kitten, he had a quieter meow.

Lucy was off the bed in an instant and flinging open her bedroom window. She listened again, the meowing was faint, but distinct. It sounded like Lucky. “Lucky!” Lucy called, leaning out of the window. The meowing noise came again, closer this time and stronger. Not even waiting to close her bedroom window Lucy spun around and hurtled out of her bedroom and ran down the stairs, her feet barely touching the carpet. She flung open the front door and began to run. She ran across the lawn and out onto the drive and then she skidded to a stop, unable to believe her eyes. There, standing in the middle of the drive, skinny and dirty, but there all the same was Lucky. He had come home.