The moon glows brightly right above the oak tree planted in our yard as I parked my car in the garage. The moonlight beams through the leaves, ducking and weaving to light up the almost dead grass underneath it. Once I parked the car in the garage, I walk out and press the button to close the garage door. As I press the button and hear the creaking of the old door falling down, I hear something else, a mew. I look back into the garage and see a small cat under my car shivering in either fear or from the chill fall air. I quickly stop the garage from closing and walk slowly over to the small cat. It couldn’t have been more than six months old. The thing looks tiny lying next to the wheel of my car. It looked like I had just missed the poor thing when I was driving in. It didn’t look like it was moving at all; instead, its blue eyes stared at me. The way its body shivered gave it the impression of fear as it was looking at me. I didn’t see a collar anywhere on it. Where did it come from? I slowly reach my hand out hoping to get the cat out from under my car. It looks at my hand, and it moves back one tiny little paw step. I pull my hand back trying to think of another solution. I decide to head into my house quickly as I look around for anything I can use to feed the cat. I didn’t want it to simply freeze out there. I don’t even know how it survived outside for this long, but I know I have to do something. I check the fridge, see some salami, and with few other options, I take it out and head back to see the cat still under my car. It hadn’t even moved an inch, but its body was shivering even more now. I place a little of the salami in my hand and hold it out for the cat. It began to back away again, but after smelling the salami in my hands, it began to inch closer now. Its tiny breaths fall on my fingers as it leans into my hand. I felt its tongue lick my hand, and I let out a little laugh since it tickled just a little bit. The cat then began to climb into my hands and chow down on the salami.
“Woah now,” I exclaim to myself as I try to catch the bundle of fur wriggling around in my hands. I quickly walk into the house and place the cat on the kitchen table with a very small strip of salami for it to eat while I figure out what to do with it. I’m a veterinarian, but I’ve never owned any kind of pet before. I head down the hall out of the kitchen to look through the linen closet. I see a small towel that I could use for the time being, but as I was pulling the towel out, a picture that had been left on top was pulled out and fell on the ground. I lean down to pick it up and find it to be a picture of my wife when she was a little younger, and we were away for our honeymoon. The sun beat down harder than hell on the beaches of Florida, but the view of her flowing black hair and shining smile against the sunset made it all worth it. I awkwardly hold the photo considering putting it back in the closet instead, but I end up taking it with me and placing it a couple of feet away on the kitchen table with the cat. It had already finished almost all of the salami I gave it when I began to wrap it up in the little towel. As I carry it off of the kitchen table, it pokes its tiny head out and stares at me with its big eyes. I didn’t really know where to put it, so I just walk through the hall I had gone through and lie it down on the couch in the living room outside of my bedroom. I sit in the chair across from the couch and wait to make sure the cat went to sleep. It didn’t take too much longer, after about an hour or so of waiting and the cat closes its eyes, and I was able to go to sleep. I didn’t feel like sleeping in the queen size bed that was resting in my room. Sleeping in it made me uneasy. All the vacant space that I couldn’t fill. A space for two people where now there was only one.
The next day I wake up seeing the small kitten walking along the carpeted floor of the living room, its tiny claws dragging across and ripping it up. I quickly pick it up and move it to the kitchen counter where I have to keep an eye on it as it seems determined to walk right off. I get on the phone and call the veterinarian's office.
“Hello, this is Dr. Jameson’s veterinarian clinic. How can I help you today?” Rob, a coworker that’s a good friend of mine, asks on the phone.
“Hey Rob, it’s Leo, I have a kitten I’m going to bring over that I found in my area,” I inform him. There’s a slight pause as what sounds like Rob talking to someone else.
“We can try to get it in, but we’re pretty packed tight right now. bring it over and we can have a look.” I thank Rob and hang up the phone. When I turn to get the cat I saw the picture I had left on the counter and am reminded again of Jane. I didn’t like thinking about her. It had been too late once the ambulances arrived when she had entered cardiac arrest while at work. I thought that even though I was a vet, maybe if I had been there I could’ve helped, but I also know it’s one thing to be there when it’s all happening and another being somewhere else completely. I’m scared to admit that I’m glad I wasn’t there while she was dying. I don’t know how I would’ve handled the situation. I turn the picture down and pick the cat up as it was close to almost falling again. I get one old shoebox I had in my closet and put it in there. I make sure to keep the lid open, so it could breathe. I get in the car and buckle the shoebox into the passenger seat as best I could. The cat seems to be calming down a little once it was in the shoebox. It’s content to just stab its claws into the cardboard over and over again. Soon I arrive at the main vet office. It was just behind another store on the main road, and even as I was driving, it looks really busy. I take the cat out of the box and carry it with me through the main door. The little thing keeps on trying to scratch at my arms though, so I look a bit rough as I walk into the waiting area. I see Rob talking with a lady holding a leash on a dog. He’s wearing a lab coat over a plain white shirt with jeans, and his glasses rest softly on the bridge of his nose. It looks like his browner hair has begun to gray making him look older than he actually is. He finally notices me and motions for me to head through the back, so I put my name tag on the front pocket of my green button-up shirt and head past reception down the hall. I loop my way around towards the cat ward and find a place where I can put the kitten on the table. Not long after, Rob comes by.
“So, do you know if it has any diseases or has it shown any signs of injury?” he asks quickly, looking over the cat.
“No, it seems healthy enough. It’s been scratching a lot, but it might just be nervous or excited is all,” I explain to Rob as the cat scratches open a cut in his right glove. He takes the glove off and puts his hand in his pocket.
“You’re telling me,” he says.
“So, do you think you could just hold onto it for me?” I ask Rob. He looks long and hard at this cat. It honestly looks pretty silly as it excitedly plays with the paper tapestry on the table.
“No, we just don’t have the room. I wish there was more I could do to help. I’m sorry." I know this was a possibility. I have no right to get mad at Rob, but I also wish there was something more he could do.
“Alright, well thanks for letting me come in,” I thank him.
“Don’t worry about it.” He begins to leave the room then turns and looks back at me. “If you need some stuff, just head down this road, and they’ve got everything you could need for a kitten this small.”
He takes another short breath before saying, “I really miss you here at the clinic. I know it’s not been too long—ago,” he stops himself. “I just hope you can come over now and again to help out.”
I thank him again and bring the cat back out to my car and into the shoe box. I sit there in the seat for a while staring off before I look back at the cat. I then just noticed the cat’s blue eyes. They reminded me a lot of Jane’s eyes. I could feel a teardrop beginning to drip off my eyelid before I wiped it away. She’s the reason I haven’t been going to my clinic. It’s been three months now, but I won’t stop thinking about her. I’ve tried to move on, to block it out, but it still lingers.
It still exists—even though she doesn’t.
I look away from the cat and ignore it the whole car ride as I head to where Rob directed me. I park in the lot in front of the Petco store and leave the cat in the car, making sure to roll the windows down. I walk into the store with heavy footing. Ironically as a veterinarian, I don’t really like this place. It all feels too commercialized. I try to ignore it all the best I can and just grab the few things I need: a small bed, some food, a scratching post, and a litter box. I wheel my items up to the register, and the lady behind the scanner greets me with a smile.
“Will that be all for today?” She asks in the voice you hear from all store workers.
“Yes, I just needed a few things for an unexpected visitor,” I respond jokingly.
“Well, I have a cat of my own and let me tell you, I wasn’t happy at first with him, but the old fatso grew on me,” she exclaims while pointing to a small picture of a rather large cat she has taped up next to her. I chuckle a little at the name and picture but didn’t really progress the conversation much more than that. I wasn’t planning on keeping the cat for long. I had grown accustomed to living alone, and now I have to care for a little cat that just seems to show up in my garage one day with no explanation. After I purchase the items, I wheel them out to my car stowing them away in the back. I can hear the cat mewing in the front seat as I drop the bag of food into the trunk. Once everything was in, I drive home quickly and begin to bring everything inside. I bring in the litter first and motion for the cat to go in. It does just that, and I leave it to its business while I bring in more stuff. Once I brought everything in, I decide I should probably feed the cat something more than just a little salami.
“Come on,” I tell it as I walk towards the kitchen with the bag of food I had bought. I open it up and pour out a little bowl for it to eat from. When I look for it, I find that it didn’t follow me instead finding the scratching post to be of more interest. I pull the cat away from the post to get it to come and eat. I lightly push the bowl towards the cat in the hopes it would dig in.
“Well, go on now,” I say to the cat. I didn’t want to name it, but I also felt bad about just telling it to do things.
I kneel down close to the cat and say, “Come on Ja—” I stop myself from finishing the words. I was looking at the cat’s eyes again and didn’t realize what I was saying until it was too late.
“What about Lucy? Will that do?” I ask the cat. It didn’t respond and proceed to eat the food given to it. I wanted to go to bed, so after the cat had finished eating, I bring it over to its bed and let it rest for a bit before heading to my room. I lay on the right side like I always have and stare at the empty space left. Jane had always talked about having a pet.
She always joked, “You’re a vet! It should be easy for you.” With that thought, I drift off to sleep.
The first week was fine. I found out the cat was indeed a she, and she behaved well enough. She at least was able to understand her name and with some added help usually understood what I was trying to say to her. I didn’t want to get too attached. I had called Rob almost every other day just to double-check there were no openings at the vet. Even when I went to the local animal shelter a town over, they said they were full. It was a little annoying, but after a while, I got a good rhythm down with the cat. I’d wake up and give it some food. I’d let it have some fun at the scratching post, we’d have lunch, it would use the litter, I’d play with the cat some more, and then feed it one last time before bed. It didn’t seem to mind wandering around the house by itself while I worked from home. Recently though, the cat has just been staring at me as I go about my day. It didn’t matter where I went in my house; it will just follow me. I guess I have been neglecting some of its needs. It’s not something I really took into consideration. I drive to Petco again and buy a little plush, a ball, a small play mouse, and a feather wand. When I head up to the register, I’m greeted by the same cashier I saw when I first went.
“Looks like you’ve got quite the fun haul,” she comments. I reply with a simple yeah and am able to leave pretty quickly. When I go back to the car, I put the toys in the back seat except for the mouse which I toss into Lucy’s shoebox for her to bite and play with on the car ride home. When we get home, the mouse was in shreds across the box, so I bring Lucy and the box in to dump the contents into the trash. After that, I take out the feather wand and wave it around for Lucy to swat at. She seems to enjoy taking deep scratches and biting at them. There were moments I was worried that maybe it would break, but they seem to stay on pretty well. Though now a large collection of cat hair is stuck to my living room carpet, so I place Lucy in the kitchen with the ball and go to the other closet in the hallway to retrieve the vacuum. I should’ve expected it honestly; I don’t know why I was surprised to see the picture there. The one with me and her in front of our house. We had just gotten back from our wedding. We hadn’t even taken off our wedding attire when we just went into the house, and she told me she wanted to lie down on the ground. We stared up at the ceiling and decided whether we wanted to paint the room blue or green. The type of things we thought couples did once they bought a house. We lay there on the ground a little longer. She turned to me and grabbed my hand gently, softly wrapping her fingers around mine. She couldn’t look me in the eyes.
“Are you sure you want this?” she asked hesitantly and softly. The month before she had called me and told me she had Endometriosis. I looked at her now, and she was crying. I took my thumb and wiped the tears away from her face. I didn’t respond and stayed silent. Even at that moment, I realized what a mistake that was. Jane, I’m sorry I didn’t respond. I really should’ve told you that it was ok. That’s the one thing I wish I had done before you left. I wanted to tell you how much I didn’t care that we’d likely never have kids. All I wanted was her. I wanted her to be happy. I had wanted to grow a family with her. We could’ve adopted. We could’ve tried. But I let you down, I didn’t say anything when you desperately needed me to say something. Back in the present, I grip the vacuum handle and feel tears begin to form. I’m crying now, audibly sobbing. I shouldn’t have opened this closet. I should’ve just kept it closed, but now here I am crying to no one but myself. At least, that’s what I thought until I felt a small paw rest on my lap. Lucy was there now, mewing up at me. I immediately looked into those eyes. Those same eyes I looked into when I should’ve said something.
“I love you,” I said, picking up Lucy and cradling her in my arms.
“You probably can’t hear me, but I love you, Jane.” A small sob escaped my lips. “I loved you my whole life, you might have thought differently, but just know I did.” I put Lucy down and look back up at the picture and pick it up.
“You didn’t need to be anything else,” I say, bringing it with me to the living room. I place the picture down and continued to hold Lucy in my arms for a bit.
“You know Lucy, there was a woman named Jane,” I begin to explain. “She probably would’ve been crazy over you, but she’s not here.” I take a deep breath.
“I think you should know since you’re going to be staying here a little while longer.” I give her a small scratch around the neck before petting the top of her head.
“I’m sure Jane wouldn’t have minded one bit.”