KATS, KATZ, CATS AND CHRISTMAS (final segment)
A while later, as we were watching our guests enjoying their meal, I said softly, ‘Peace on Earth, goodwill towards cats.’ I wasn’t being flippant, and although it seems rather funny now, it didn’t appear so to me at the time.
Finally, it was close to the time for the cats to take their leave, and they began the ritual of the previous year. I was absurdly pleased to recognise the old tabby with the damaged ear, and stroked and tickled him with real affection. Then others demanded a share of my attention and I was kept busy.
The cats melted away as suddenly as I remembered from the year before. This time, however, as we were clearing up I felt a peremptory claw jab not-so-gently into my leg – and there was my friend the battered tabby. He trotted a short distance away, gave a raucous cry over his shoulder, and then waited. ‘Don’t be greedy,’ I smiled. ‘I’m too busy to stroke you at the moment.’
Picking up another set of plates, I gave a yelp as a set of claws in my leg demanded my attention yet again. ‘Oh, alright!’ I said resignedly, but as I bent to stroke him he moved just out of my reach, giving another unmusical yowl.
I know it sounds farfetched (although no more so than what had gone before) but the cat actually made me follow him, and for some distance too. We seemed to be headed towards a more deeply-shadowed group of yachts to the side. Then I’ll swear that he grinned at me as he rubbed up against the legs of the girl who, seeing discovery was imminent, had emerged defiantly from her hiding-place.
‘You’re here!’ I yelled in a mixture of surprise and delight. ‘How did you get past … I mean, what are you doing hiding? Why didn’t you join us?’ After a pause during which she made no response, I added with an enormous effort, ‘Where’s … Ken?’
‘I broke it off,’ she responded dully, flicking her mane of dark hair.
‘Oh, wow!’ I shouted. ‘That’s terrific!’
Puzzlement and traces of dawning hope chased one another across her features. ‘Ken and Kats got married three months ago,’ she offered in a hesitating voice, staring intently at me.
‘Well, good for them!’ I said happily. ‘Fantastic idea, that, don’t you think? Definitely worth consideration!’
She swept her hair away from her face in a bewildered gesture, and then stepped forward to take both my hands in hers. ‘But … the way you stared at her … and ignored me … I was sure you were head-over-heels in love at first sight …?’
‘I was!’ I interrupted. ‘With you, but I’d only just realised it then. I was staring at her thinking how unbelievably beautiful she was, and in a sudden flash I wondered why I didn’t get the same tingly feeling from looking at her as I got from looking at you. I could tell immediately what a wonderful person she is, and somehow that drove it home that it didn’t matter. She wasn’t … you. It’s hard to explain, but … I felt that if, to me, looking at Kats was … well, like looking at a beautiful picture of the countryside, then looking at you was … erm, like being in the countryside. I … no, that doesn’t really explain it either …’
Then it suddenly occurred to me that I was taking an awful lot for granted, and I began stuttering feebly, ‘But you … I m-mean, how do you f-feel about m… that is, do you think there’s a chance you c-could lo… lov… ?’
She let go of my hands with a little squeal, jumped at me, and hung with her feet just off the ground, half-strangling me with her arms locked around my neck. ‘I think I loved you from the instant I first set eyes on you!’ she half-laughed, half-sobbed in my ear. ‘Why do you think I broke off with Ken? And now, please tell me your name!’
‘Can I be bridesmaid?’ Mrs Katz asked jokingly, looking at both of us with great tenderness …
That was several Christmases ago, now.
‘Fairy Godmother Katz’ became part of our family, moving into a garden cottage in our grounds.
At the middle of this year, she passed away quietly.
This Christmas, four of us will be keeping her appointment; Kats and Ken were accepted into the secret society the year before last. All of us can’t wait to see if her Christmas miracle still operates without her. We feel sure that it can and will, and that she’ll be with us in spirit – enduring, as the spirit of all that is good and wonderful in Christmas must be.
© Colonialist December 2011 (Letterdash/WordPress)