“Are you ready for breakfast? Toast, cereal…?” Pete’s voice called. My ears pricked up. I was always hungry. But the question wasn’t aimed at me. I closed my eyes, curled up on Charlie’s warm lap. He was regaining a known, familiar smell, the last of the sharp clinical smells fading.
“I’m not hungry. Later.”
“You won’t regain your strength by not eating.”
“Stop fussing, I’m not an invalid,” the pitch increased by frustration, the warm hand on my back stiffening. “Have you fed Jimmy?”
“That bloody cat is fat enough!” A lie!
“Did you remember the milk?” The clattering of china, sharp like the voices.
“You don’t like milk in tea.”
“Isn’t it coffee?”
“You wanted tea. If you want coffee, get it! Or ask your dad’s damned cat!” exasperation sparked, built up static electricity discharging.
A door slammed.
“Jimmy move.” I was pushed from a warm lap, cross at being disturbed.
Unsteady feet shuffled on wooden boards, a cane tapping, all familiar sounds as Charlie headed towards the kitchen. His breathing was heavy, his gait unbalanced. A thud as he fell heavily.
“Stupid fucking stick!”
“You okay Charlie?” Pete’s anxious words.
“No!” sobbing, pain dredged from deep within.
“Love, I’m sorry.”
“I’m scared,” the voice whispered, words emerging through sobs. “What if I can’t…?”
“Let’s get you into the chair. Hang onto me, get your balance.”
“Where is that walking stick?” a long pause. “I hate the bloody thing. I want to burn it.”
“It’s hospital property. You could try – metal doesn’t burn well.””
“Fuck it! Fuck the hospital!” “Jimmy, move!” An unfriendly address to me, rightful owner of the chair. Of course I’d moved into the warmest place, the place where Charlie had been sitting. Our shared place in the sun, a cashmere rug to keep out the chill.
“Sit, let me put the rug back over your legs. See, Jimmy is waiting for you.” I waited, impatiently, tail twitching. A calculated feline response to being disturbed. I possessed an unerring ability to find comfort, despite surrounding turbulence.
“Are you okay Charlie?” asked Pete, gentle. Charlie put his feet up on the footstool. As he did so he looked at me, brown eyes disappointed, deep in shadow. “We bought you a scratching post…” he pointed to several pulled threads, and sighed, rubbing my head. How could I not purr?
“Your father loved that cat…” commented Pete. A chuckle full of shared memories.
“Adam hated him.”
“It was mutual.” Pete’s words grim.
“I didn’t see the darkness in him Jimmy.” Charlie’s fingers moved, rubbing between my ears, slipping beneath my chin. I had: Hackles raised, beyond my control, spitting, claws drawn. He threatened to take me to the shelter. But three loved-up months later when that bullet flew into Charlie’s back, I knew I’d been right.
“He’s gone now.”
“So is dad. I wish he’d seen Jimmy go for Adam’s jugular – he would have been proud.” I purred harder. I think he was proud too.