I woke up for the fourth time on that long night, having had a different version of the same dream I’d had the other three times. She had returned, unharmed, and my family was celebrating with tears of joy. Was it real this time? Had she really returned? I glanced over at my sleeping husband, and realised, yet again, that it had just been a dream. The knowledge was shattering.
This had happened before, and I knew that if she had not appeared by morning, the chances were very slim that she would reappear at all. Wasn’t that just what had happened with Lucky? He’d gone out at dusk, and had never been seen again. I tried to bring my mind back to the present. This would turn out differently. It had to turn out differently.
The next morning, my husband went downstairs first. I asked him to come straight back and tell me if she’d returned. I couldn’t bear to see the empty porch. He didn’t come. Instead, my young daughter appeared.
“Is she back?”
“No. Are you going to cry?”
“Yes, I think I am. See you after showers.”
The morning was bleak. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. The kids were chatty and oblivious, for the most part. I hid in the pantry and Googled who to contact. And I listened to the growling of the dog next door. Could he have her pinned and injured in there?
We got the kids off to school, I called the local council, dead inside, already knowing what they’d say. No, she’d not been turned in. Call this other number. No and no and no. And a “we don’t open until ten, please call back then.” I coached a client, leaving the pain alone for almost a full hour, though every sound on the porch outside my office made me jump up and stare out the window.
Once I was done coaching, my husband I wandered the neighborhood, calling, calling, Minnniii, Minnniii, looking into bushes, afraid of seeing the battered remains of her on nature strips, listening for cries that would alert us to where she was. Just like when Lucky disappeared, the streets were empty. The absence of her was a physical thing. It filled all the space around me, pressed me heavily onto the concrete. We’d been playing around with the idea of adopting a dog, full of hope for this new year. Now it seemed so pointless and futile. Everything seemed that way.
We went to lunch and couldn’t speak. Couldn’t meet each others eyes. Racing home afterwards, the streets and sidewalks were still achingly empty. No one came to greet us in our garden, no small creature stood on hind paws to kiss our hands. I went to the back garden and called and called, in a softer, less hopeful voice. The time had passed. She was truly gone.
I sat staring at my computer screen, not doing anything, called a few more shelters and cried.
It was a small cry.
I leapt to my feet. Standing there, unbelievably standing there, in all her small, black-and-white beautiful glory was our baby cat. She had come home! Against all odds, she had come home.
And the world is suddenly full of color again, and there is a point and a rhythm to the universe and everything is going to be okay.
All because a small black-and-white cat found her way home.