by Lynda Archard
“Yes, dear,” squirmed Larry, “I’ll be with you in a second.”
“Well get a move on!” The voice emanated urgently from the kitchen.
Poor Larry raised his hands above his head in despair. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, again. As he lifted his aching body from the chair, he stretched and yawned taking time to recover. He dare not tell her he had drifted to sleep. Why had he thought life was going to be easier with Ann? She was 20 years younger than his 40 years, and kept creatures he didn’t particularly like, cats. Larry knew he spoiled her by giving in each time another stray turned up. How could he say no to the love of his life?
This week had been particularly hard for them both as Ann remembered her promise that she wouldn’t get another cat after each one died. The words echoed through her mind over and over and she was not concentrating much.
“Please hurry up! I’m dropping them!”
Larry rushed into the kitchen to see Ann juggling with half a dozen pot plants. Two of them crashed to the floor. The rest fell through her waving arms as she tried to catch them unsuccessfully.
“Why didn’t you carry just a couple at a time?” he asked. Adding as an after-thought, trying to sound less critical, “You could have gone back for the rest.”
“And why do you always say ‘yes, dear,’ but don’t move yourself fast enough?” she cried. Tears welled in her eyes.
“You seem to care more about your precious pot plants and pets than me sometimes.” he said. He took the plants from the floor and carefully placed them on a chair. “Come here love.” Larry opened his arms to her. Her tears falling down her face faster as her anger began to subside.
“I need to keep busy Larry. If I don’t, I just think of Lizzy all of the time. I am lucky to have you. I know.” She looked into his eyes knowing he was doing his best, and his feelings had been hurt by her snappy comments too.
Larry looked around the kitchen. On the fridge were a number of pictures held by fridge magnets. All of the pictures were of her animals, of course. Lizzy’s picture stared out from the centre. At 5 years old she still looked like a kitten with her tiny frame. It felt much worse to Anne than when she lost Suki, her 15 year old cat. Lizzy was black and white with funny bandy legs and a scar on her left eye from an ulcer last year. She had got used to pampering her much more than the others and it was like losing one of the family when she died.
Larry felt Ann shudder, and seemed to know what she was thinking. He smiled and held her closer. “Shall I make some tea?” he asked softly.
“Oh yes please.” She replied tearfully.
Ann sat on the hard surface of the kitchen chair, her tears beginning to dry up. She had a feeling of numbness in her body. She was tired and unable to concentrate on anything. She stretched both arms across the Formica table, laying her head in-between them. Looking over by the back door she stated firmly, “I’ll wash the floor after my tea.”
“I’ll do it later. Just relax for a while.” said Larry, placing the tea in front of her.
“I need to keep active. If I don’t, I just think of the what-ifs that I could have done to save her.”
“No. Her time was up and she didn’t die in pain. You loved her.” he paused, “And just think, she wouldn’t have been treated like a queen cat by many people, would she? She was a bit freaky looking.”
Ann managed a brief smile, then she remembered how Lizzy sat on her lap from morning till night while she worked. “It’s just going to be strange when I go back to sitting at my computer.”
“Hello!” shouted a voice over the sound of keys rattling.
“In here Carl!” Larry responded quickly, relieved someone else was here to help with the small talk.
Carl breezed in with a smile. “Move over mum. I thought kids stretched out like that.” He shoved her arms off the table, just like she’d done to him so often when he lived at home. He seemed not to notice that she had been crying only seconds before.
“Hello Carl. What are you after now?”
“Nothing!” he shrugged. “Why do you always think the worst from me.”
“Probably because you haven’t telephoned me for the past few days. And it’s nearly dinner time.” she said, void of any emotion.
“No, I’ve eaten. Anyway, where’s the cats, I’ve bought a friend for them.” Without waiting for a reply, he disappeared into the hall, before rushing back to dump a bundle of pure white fluff in Ann’s lap.
“She doesn’t have a home. Can you look after her? Please.” he pleaded.
Ann burst into tears.
“What’s up mum? I got her from a shop, she looked lonely. I didn’t just take her, I bought her for you.”
The bundle of fluff began to purr loudly. Big blue eyes flickered open as Ann sobbed.
“Oh, she’s lovely.” said Larry. He quickly tried to hide his smile, “But Lizzy died last week and your mother doesn’t want a replacement. It just isn’t good timing son.”
Ann looked up in horror, “I’ll have her!”
“But you said...” He knew exactly what her reaction would be.
“I know. Oh look, she’s so cute.” Her tears were all gone now and she began to look excited and child-like at the prospect of another cat in the home. “She likes me. It’s just meant to be. Do you mind if we keep her?”
“Oh, those big blue eyes.” Now two pairs stared up at him. “But isn’t it too soon?” He looked at her smiling face and his false puzzled look faded into a smile as he shrugged and winked at Carl. His plan had worked. Well, he didn’t want her to think he missed Lizzy too much, or she might find another ten strays from somewhere. He rolled his eyes up as he gave in again. Trying desperately not to let her know he was responsible for the creature being here, he simply said, “Yes, Dear!”
© Lynda Archard