Chapter Three

It was my good fortune to find Mommy sitting on a sofa in the family room. There was a palpable sense of intensity in the way she was rummaging through a couple of beat-up cardboard boxes, that had not fared so well in the move.

She must have heard me padding into the room, because she lifted her eyes to meet mine, then greeted me with a wide toothy grin then went back to work on the container while I plopped down on my backside and watched her peel the tape from the lid then pull the flaps open.

“Hey baby girl,” she said, stopping to take me in with her gaze.

I smiled, then turned to look away.

“You wanna help me?”

I couldn’t resist the urge to face her, and when my eyes connected with hers, my whole body slumped.  If she only knew what I had said, would she be so kind to me? I wanted so much to scream, to tell her how sorry I was for betraying her.

“Let me get these stupid things out then you can put them on the sofa in the other room for me, okay?”

It was perfect timing.  She needed help and I needed to be helpful.  Not just helpful, but helpful to her.  It was a perfect symbiosis.  Holding the battered carton between her legs, she reached inside and began to pull.  Whatever was inside, it didn’t want to come out. 

With a loud grunt, she set the box down and collapsed back on the sofa, and struggled to catch her breath.  By now, it was obvious to me that she needed a hand with this, so I stuck my head inside the corrugated container, grabbed a mouthful of fabric, and pulled with all my might. 

“Good idea, Cindee!  Here, let me help!” 

She stood across the box from me and together, we yanked and tugged on the contents until it sprang free from the carton with a whoosh.    

“We did it, Cindee,” she whooped with elation.

“I didn’t do anything, it was all you Mommy,” I barked and danced around.

I stepped back, feeling like I had grown a foot taller, and watched wide-eyed as Mommy reached inside the cardboard carton.

“What is it?” I asked, all the while rocking back and forth and hovering about the box.

I was about to lose it.  I do not recall her ever moving as slowly as she was right now.  Couldn’t she see that she had a curious dog on her hands? 

“Take it out,” I barked, and prepared to nudge her in the derriere at the same time.  Right as I was about to give her a poke, she stood up straight, cradling a blue and grey pillow in her arms.

I sighed and plopped back down on my rear end.  All the titillation had worn off leaving behind a hollow feeling.  It was hard to believe that a pillow could put up that much of a fight. 

Mommy had already tossed it on the carpet and pulled out another two that were clones of the first one.  Part of me was ready to sneak out and see what was going on upstairs, but a promise is a promise, and I could not abandon her again, so I set to work, grasping one of the pillows between my teeth. 

It was so easy; I was sure I could do more so I bent down and tried to grab a second one.

“Silly girl, you need to take them one at a time,”

Her hearty laugh lifted my spirits.  Everything seemed so right that I had forgotten all about my spat with Rapi.  Dutifully, I scooped up the cushions and transported them one by one into the other room until all three were in place, then turned and trotted back to the study.

The fragile joy that had been budding inside of me came tumbling down in an instant

“Why can’t you understand?  It’s over, Nate!”

The anger in Mommy’s voice carried across the room and bounced off the walls.  My mouth fell open, and my tail curled underneath me.  Not Nate again.  He was the whole reason I had to leave my friends behind and come to this place. 

“No, you listen to me …”

I am not sure, what Mommy ever saw in him.  He was never very nice to me.  He didn’t like Rapi or Yehudi very much either. 

“Don’t call me again!”

Mommy pressed the phone off and slumped down to the floor where she sat cross-legged, her back against the sofa, and tears streaming down her cheeks.  I couldn’t help but stare at her through moist eyes.  She saw me, and quickly averted my gaze, choosing to bury her head in her hands.

It wasn’t until I started to walk to her that I became aware of my tongue hanging out and my own body trembling.  Storm clouds began to gather around me, and a rush of fear and anger flashed and burned through my body.  It was like being on a boat that had come unmoored and without a paddle to steer it.  Unsure of what to do, I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and fought to steady myself.

“Mommy?”

The question had unintentionally come out in a panicked tone. Knowing I needed to do something to calm down, I took a deep breath through my nose.  The smell of the freshly cut flowers that were sitting on the end table filtered past my nostrils and tickled my brain.  With the air filling my lungs, I took a moment to let the fragrance wash over me.  Little by little my brain was able to cut through the fog, and I started to regain control of myself.

“Are you okay Mommy?”

I drew closer then eased myself down beside her and found a spot on her shoulder to rest my head.  Instinctively, she set the phone down and ran her fingers through the thick matt of fur on the top of my head, then ever so gently, threw her arm around my shoulder, and drew me into her.

In her other hand, she held been holding a photograph, its corners creased, and edges worn.  It seems she had located a small suitcase filled with old photos and had been going through them when that jerk called. 

With her eyes still swollen and moist, she gazed down at the old picture.  Unable to resist, I stretched out my neck to get a better look. 

“You two are always so cute together!”

I looked up to see her reaction.  Our eyes met and she held me with the most loving glance.  She sniffled, then smiled tenderly.

I returned my focus to the image.  It was a snapshot of me sprawled out on the chaise, only I wasn’t alone.  Snuggled up into a ball next to me was a certain chubby orange tabby cat.

Laying eyes on it was difficult; both of our faces were adorned with joy, which was an emotion that was not particularly abundant lately.   My heart sunk into the depths of my stomach looking at it.  I wanted so much to stand up and walk away, but I couldn’t.  There was a bigger part of me that needed to hold onto that memory, that had to have those feelings back again. 

“Look how skinny Rapi was!’

My head snapped up and I glowered at Mommy.  She smirked, then shrugged.

“You are right, Cindee.  He was still chubby, but skinnier don’t you agree?”

A giggle that had been hidden inside of me escaped.  It seemed a little wrong to feel that happiness at first but I let myself have that one delight.  It seems a little laughter is exactly what I needed.

“Where is Rapi anyway?”

Her eyes searched the room, then came to rest on me.  That second or two of peace was fading fast and that overwhelming burden I had been carrying around for the past twenty-four hours was starting to creep up on me again.

“Somebody called me?”

The orange cat poked his head around the door frame and scanned the room until his gaze settled on Mommy. 

“Come here Rapi, I want you to see this picture!”

Her voice was light and airy.  Even better, that sing-song tone was back and the sound of it cheered my soul.

The cat, responding to Mommy’s invitation, lumbered across the room; his round belly hung beneath him swaying with each step like a tiny schooner traveling across a squalling sea.  Upon reaching the sofa he squatted and prepared to leap but abandoned the idea at the last second.  He repeated the maneuver once again, but it wasn’t until the third attempt that his feet left the ground, and he landed on the sofa with all the grace of a bull in a china shop.  Rapi still wasn’t ready to make nice.  He chose to keep his distance from me, taking up residence on the other side of Mommy.  Once comfortable, he peered over her shoulder at the image.

A large grin spread across the feline’s face.  I could feel the same sense of happiness and nostalgia rolling off him that I had been experiencing.  We glanced at one another, each of us wearing a look of delight.  It was like old times.  It was like nothing had come between us. 

The moment was fleeting though.  His eyes narrowed and the grin that had been warming me transformed into a deformed frown in front of my eyes. 

My mouth fell open in disbelief.

A new determination had come over him.  The cat was not going to be the first to give in.  Not this time.  He turned his head away from me and nudged Mommy’s cheek with his own.  The snub cut deeply. 

“I don’t need this,” I huffed.

My face burned with heat and I wanted to be as far away from him as possible, so, I leaped to my feet and stormed off toward the kitchen.

“Cindee, where are you going?”

The sound of Mommy’s voice cut through the white-hot rage and caught my attention.  Knowing it wasn’t her fault, I came to a halt and turned to face her.  She gazed back at me, her forehead heavily creased and her mouth hanging open.

“What’s going on sweetie?”

A thought had formed in my mind and I was about to share it when the cat sat up straight and stared me down.  Thinking better of it, I clamped my lips shut and was about to turn and walk away, but before I had the chance the end table drawer flew open and rammed into my shoulder, then slammed shut just as abruptly.

I yelped, then jumped away from the piece of furniture

Mommy, on the other hand, vaulted to her feet, arched her eyebrow, and cocked her head ever so slightly.

“What the …”

Copyright 2023 H Scott Moore

Author: H. Scott Moore

H. Scott Moore, a native of Western New York State, grew up enjoying the rhythm of life in the changing seasons. One day, he became intrigued by his dog, Cindee, and what she might be thinking and feeling. Inspired, he set out to create a world that combines his passion for animals and his curiosity about the natural and supernatural worlds. The result is a space where we can travel with Cindee and her friends and enjoy their adventures too! When he is not working or creating, H. Scott likes to spend his time on the trails with Cindee, Mylo, and his wife Simone.

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