I dedicate this story to my mum who would have been 69 today and to anyone who has lost someone they loved too soon.
“I had best wash these dishes,” said Marion looking pointedly at her daughter Heather, hoping she’d take the hint it was time for her to go.
Instead Heather picked up the remote and switched on the TV.
“I’ll just see what’s on later, shall I?”
Marion stifled a sigh, as she gathered the cups and cake encrusted plates. She didn’t want to know what was on later, she just wanted to be alone. Not that she didn’t love her daughter’s company, but it was suffocating. By herself she didn’t have to pretend everything was okay, choke down cream cakes just to make it look like she was acting ‘normally’ whatever that meant. All she wanted to do was curl up under the duvet.
Her husband Pat wouldn’t have stood for this, he would have just told her outright it was time to go, in that blunt way of his. But Pat wasn’t here any more.
She could feel tears filling her eyes.
“Need a hand mum?”
“No, no,” she replied a little too brightly, “I’ll do us another cup while I’m at it. Tea or did you want another coffee?”
“Tea’d be good.”
She managed to get to the kitchen before the tears began to run down her face.
“Corrie’s on later mum,” called Heather, “d’you want me to put it in for record?”
No, she wanted to shout, I want my husband back but she daren’t say those words out loud.
“Sounds good,” she replied.
Wiping her face she filled the kettle, flicking it on then plonked the dishes in the sink with squirt of washing up liquid.
Opening up the taps, she watched the bubbles rise, trying not to look out of the window that overlooked the back garden. It had been Pat’s pride and joy but now she knew it was tangled with weed and overgrown. It was where she had found him six months ago, not breathing. She’d tried her best to resuscitate him but it didn’t work.
A brain aneurysm, the doctor said. Nothing that could be done.
She turned the taps off and pick up a plate, scrubbing too hard.
A huge thump against the window made her look up.
She was staring into a pair of green eyes.
Marion let out a small scream, as the plate slipped from her hand back into the sink sending a cascade of water over her feet.
Heather tore into the room, panting slightly.
“Mum are you okay?”
With a flash of ginger fur, the green eyes disappeared.
“I’m fine, it was just a cat,” Marion replied, attempting a smile. “Gave me a funny turn, that’s all.”
Heather didn’t look convinced. “How about I finish the dishes off, ay mum? I’ll bring you a cuppa in, in a minute ‘kay?”
With that she ushered Marion out of the kitchen.
It had taken over an hour to get Heather out of the house the previous evening, having suspected that the whole cat incident was entirely in her mother’s imagination.
Marion was now back at the sink, filling it ready for her breakfast dishes when she heard the thump against the window again.
Moving slowly, she turned the tap off and looked up. The cat stood on the window ledge outside, poised to run, its green eyes glaring at her.
Marion didn’t know how long she stood there having a stare out with the cat before it sat down on the ledge, not taking its eyes of her.
Marion had noticed the ginger fur yesterday but in the early morning sun, she could make out the almost golden stripes in its fur.
Looks a bit like a tiger, she thought.
Pat always used to say, ‘easy tiger,’ whenever she was angry in a way that had always made her laugh and forget why she was mad in the first place.
The memory made her smile.
“I’m going to call you Tiger,” she whispered, reaching towards the glass.
Her fingers brushed the window and suddenly Tiger bolted leaving Marion feeling a little empty.
It went on like that for days. She’d fill the sink and while the water went cold and the bubbles dissolved, she’d watch Tiger but every time she made a move to get closer, he’d run away.
She noticed that he seemed to be getting thinner and the absence of a tag around his neck suggested he didn’t have a home, which gave her an idea.
The next morning she grabbed a tin of tuna and spooned it into a bowl. Opening the kitchen window outwards she placed the bowl on the little ledge and ran the water as usual.
Sure enough, a minute or two later Tiger showed up. He was wary at first having not seen the window open before but the scent of tuna must have been too tempting as he was soon tucking in with gusto.
Carefully, Marion leaned over the sink and gently stroked his back, his fur was warm under her fingers. Tiger seemed to stiffen but carried on eating.
She did it again and again but he didn’t run away. instead he let out a long purr. Tiger sloped off as soon as he was finished but that didn’t matter to Marion, she felt something she hadn’t felt in a long time, happy.
The next day she laid out another bowl full of tuna in the morning, opening the window a little wider.
Lunchtime came and went, she’d filled the sink several times just in case but there was no sign of Tiger.
Marion left the window open until darkness began to fall and a chill began to creep into the house.
Have I scared him off? She thought.
Unlocking the back door, she went out and placed the tuna under the window just in case.
After a terrible nights sleep, Marion wrapped herself up in her dressing gown and slippers and went outside to check on the bowl.
She sighed with relief. The bowl was empty.
Picking it up she was about to go back inside when she spotted something in the tangles of weeds.
Her brain flashed back to the moment she found Pat.
She rushed over to Tiger, who was lying on his side, his breathing shallow. He’d thrown up the tuna into the grass around him.
Marion picked up the stricken cat, wrapping him in her dressing gown and she shot out the front door.
Luckily the nearest vets was only ten minutes away, her slippered feet pounded the pavement and they made it in five.
She rang the bell and hammered on the hoping there was someone in.
“Mum?” said Heather opening the door, dressed in her green veterinary nurse uniform, a look of shock on her face.
“Tiger…sick,” she panted holding out the bundle.
Heather became all business, taking Tiger and ushering her into the empty waiting room.
“Wait here mum,” she said, “I’ll get the vet to check him over.”
Still trying to catch her breath, she flopped down heavily on to the chair. She shivered realising she was only wearing her nightie.
That’s how long she was sitting there until a very tired looking vet appeared.
“How’s Tiger?” She blurted out in reply.
He smiled. “We’ve flushed his system out with some fluid and we’re going to keep him in a couple of days to make sure whatever upset his stomach has gone but he’s going to be fine.”
Tears pricked the corners of her eyes. “Oh thank goodness.”
His face turned serious. “Although I have discovered you haven’t had him microchipped. We can do it for you here, it is the law you know.”
“Oh, he’s not my cat,” she then explained about the daily visits.
“So what did you want me to do? Do you want to keep him or shall I phone the shelter?”
One Week Later.
The doorbell was ringing. Marion opened it to find Heather waiting with a box full of cakes. She gave her daughter a big hug, taking the cake box and guided her into the living room.
A little meow greeted them.
“I see Tiger’s made himself at home,” laughed Heather, sitting down on the couch next to him and stroking his ears.
Marion sat on the other side and Tiger immediately jumped onto her lap.
“How are you mum?” Said Heather.
“I’m grand. I’ve got someone coming out to do the garden in the next couple of days. When the weather warms up a bit we can sit out there and have our tea.”
“That sounds great.”
“And I’ve a book club, get out of the house a bit. Obviously not too much, now I’ve got Tiger here.”
Heather reached over and squeezed her mum’s hand.
“I got a some very surprising news off that vet of yours the other day. About Tiger I mean.”
“He is actually a she.”
They both laughed.
“Well, I think a change of name is in order,” said Heather.
“I agree,” said Marion smiling. “I think I’ll call her Hope.”
Copyright © LJ Cassidy
I do not own the rights to the photo.
If you see any spelling/grammatical mistakes please comment below and I will fix them. Thank you for reading xx