Till The End
The squeak of the balcony door announced her arrival. Mitzi was back from her daily prowl, ready to disrupt my afternoon. Carrying herself like an Egyptian queen, she walked into the lounge and, with a graceful leap, took possession of Simon’s lap, totally ignoring my presence. I must have been wearing my invisibility cloak, again. Simon began stroking the silver fur, as if on command.
Bloody cat, I swore silently. I should have left the balcony door shut!
‘Look at those beautiful blue eyes. You could drown in them,’ my husband mused.
Well, not so long ago you used to say the exact words to me, I retorted in my head. ‘Have you seen the invitation to the 2005 biology class reunion?’ I said out loud.
‘Yes,’ Simon said. ‘Do you think I should go?’
You’re asking me, professor? Now that’s a development! You never cared about my opinion before! ‘It’s up to you, dear, it would be a shame to upset your former students.’ Especially the ones of the female kind, I added under my breath.
‘I suppose. Only my conference days and all these reunions and parties are well over,’ Simon said, as the cat stepped up her purr a notch.
Finally, you got some sense! I exhaled. Cause you never took me with you and when you did you always made me wear my invisibility cloak, never mind my skinny dresses, high heels and all. And boy, didn’t everyone love their favourite professor and esteemed colleague! But, here we are, still together. This is what matters.
‘Jacinta’s coming to visit next week. She’s looking forward to seeing you,’ I said.
‘My favourite daughter.’ Simon sighed.
Your only daughter, I corrected him in my head.
‘Is she bringing the kids?’ Simon asked.
‘Yes.’ It came out more as a grunt. Mitzi stopped purring and flicked her tail.
‘How lovely.’ Simon smiled.
Or not! I was always the one having to do the cooking and the washing up and clean up after the kids. I did enjoy their company though. The last time they had visited, little Sarah had called me ‘Nana’ for the first time. It was sweet, really, even if it came through a mouth full of mashed up mango. And Jackson, he was so proud he could write his name–
‘Sammy, I don’t feel too well,’ Simon whispered. The hand that had been resting on Mitzi’s back slid down and made a slapping sound as it hit the sofa. Mitzi shot out of his lap and disappeared under the TV cabinet.
‘You’ve forgotten to take your medication, haven’t you?’ I said. ‘You know what your doctor said.’
Simon’s face twisted. ‘I’m sorry, Sammy, I’m so sorry. I… I…’ His eyes closed.
‘Simon, please talk to me. Simon!’ I reached out and touched his face. It felt rubbery soft, like a doll I used to have as a child. I stared at the lifeless husk that was my husband, his head slumped to one side, his mouth drooping, a stream of saliva trickling down his chin. I got up, retrieved my phone and dialled triple zero.
It was a stroke that brought Simon down. We had been warned.
The sight of him on the white hospital bed, tubes coming in and out, machines beeping, was unsettling. He breathed on his own, just, but I was told he was in a coma. I stayed with him for as long as I could, and then trampled home. The cat had to be fed.
As soon as I walked through the front door to our apartment, Mitzi poked her head out of our bedroom where she slept, her eyes huge, pleading, looking directly at me. I shook my head. Mitzi retreated back to the bedroom.
The same ritual was repeated the next day, and the day after. On the third day Mitzi failed to appear. I didn’t think much of it but when Mitzi didn’t turn up for dinner, I knew something was wrong.
I found her in the bedroom. I would remember what greeted me there for the rest of my life. The cat’s body hung in an unfinished pirouette on the side of the bed, the claws of her outstretched paw embedded in the mattress, head lolled to the side, back legs and tail trailing on the floor.
Mitzi was gone.
So was Simon. The last call from the hospital came later in the evening, as I held Mitzi’s body in my lap, stroking her silver fur.
Buddy, a rescue from our local pound, lay curled at my feet, leaning into me. I ruffled his scruffy coat and smiled. Buddy licked my hand. I felt peace. Outside on the balcony, the last rays of the summer sun enveloped my pot garden in a soothing tangerine glow.