I’ve written before about Mona, the cat who, with her sister Lisa, shares the house with our neighbours Edith and Hannes. Mona is as audacious as Lisa is shy. She roams the neighbourhood, coming into this house as well as others. She appears suddenly and pushes herself into our legs, demanding attention. She needs no invitation to settle herself on the bench at the breakfast table. Grey and white, she’s fat, sleek and confident.
Edith and Hannes are away on holiday this week. They left Mona and Lisa in the care of me and another neighbour, who goes into the house twice a day to put down fresh food. The cats came come and go into their house as they please through cat flaps. But they are lonely. The neighbour with the keys tells me the food is not being eaten. Even shy Lisa can be found at our doors, hungry not for food but attention.
Mona, bold as ever, has taken to spending even more time in this house. First thing in the morning, before Himself is even up, she appears at the door that opens from the bedroom onto the flat roof of the garage. Let in, she snuggles on top of the bed or settles purring in my lap. I’ve put a towel on a chair in the living room so she can make herself comfortable there. Holding her in my lap, I recall our beloved cat Puisín. How hard it was to leave her in the care of our neighbours when we were away for two, even three, weeks at a time. When we returned, they would tell of her loneliness.
‘She missed you,’ they would report. ‘She seemed depressed.’
I knew they had done what they could to care for her, but the pangs of guilt and fear that thoughts of her loneliness brought haunted me during every trip we took. I think of that as Mona presses her head against me, purring as I stroke her.
It looks, however, that Mona, affectionate as she is, is fickle, quite fickle. For Edith and Hannes have been gone only a week and already she seems to have transferred her loyalty to me. As a mark of her appreciation, she has just now laid at my feet a love offering. A very small, still warm, inanimate but only recently so, dark, fur-covered token of her affection. She is extremely proud, brushing against my legs then moving toward the tiny still thing, anxious that I should see it.
If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
I hope Hannes won’t be jealous.