Have you ever noticed how we seem to attract what we fear the most? Maybe it is for a reason…
I always hated cats. Everybody knew it, including the cats. But the only thing this piece of information would encourage in this detested feline species was a willingness, a keen willingness, to win me over to their side. If there was a cat in the room, it would only care about getting my attention, no matter how many other people were in the room, and it would do anything to get it, including serving me up half dead mice and squeaking baby birds.
So I was not surprised when it was a cat who greeted me first when I moved into my new townhouse in the long dreamed of Notting Hill. The cat was, yes even I could see it, a fine specimen, a credit to its race I would say, with its golden and white stripes, plump fur and intense green eyes. It reminded me of someone, but I could never really get who it was, it seemed to escape my attention every time I tried to figure it out. My first instinct was to shoosh the cat out the door, but the cat’s response to that was just a rather insulted lazy glare. I was too afraid to touch it, and even tried to coax it with various food items, but the cat refused to go anywhere. It stretched out its long hairy body to its full length on my beautiful newly acquired sofa, and there it remained, staring at me. The sofa was positioned in front of the TV, and it ended with me watching the news seated on the floor while that good-for-nothing prince of a cat occupied the sofa. I kept glancing at it nervously over my shoulder.
The thing I hated the most about cats was how unpredictable they were. I had experienced first hand how they all of a sudden got it into their stupid heads that they wanted you to scratch their belly or decided that your fringed skirt was an interesting plaything, and suddenly, without any warning at all, they were all over you, paws, claws and teeth. You could never really trust a cat, and I certainly did not trust the cat sprawling itself all over my new sofa. And those eerie green eyes……god how they creeped me out, staring at me coolly without a hint of intent.
I decided to let the cat have the living room to itself and retire to my bedroom early, but when I got up to leave, that awful cat followed me! I sprinted over the floor and managed to sneak into the bathroom and shut the door swiftly with a bang before the cat could follow me in there too. I was so relieved to be alone and safe that I decided to just sleep on the central heated bathroom floor. I spread beach towels for a mattress and folded several hand towels to shape a pillow. But before I could really fall asleep the cat started meowing and whining in that horrible cat language outside the door. I opened the tap in the sink to maximum flow and covered my ears with more towels, and eventually I fell asleep.
When I woke up it was still barely dawn and the light was dim and lilac outside the little bathroom window. I got up, closed the tap, and there it was again, the warning wails of my jailer. What was wrong with that damn cat! I tried to go back to sleep, but after tossing and turning for two hours I gave up. I armed myself with a wet dripping toilet brush, unused of course, and slowly opened the door with my heart pounding madly in my chest. The cat stepped aside and gave a little startle when he saw the wet toilet brush, and I could walk freely into the kitchen, but with the cat following me from a safe distance (safe for him or me?).
I put the kettle on for tea and popped a few slices of bread into the toaster. The cat stared at me from his spot on the floor. “Well, all right,” I said to it, “here you go,” I tossed a piece of toast down on the floor, but to my surprise the cat didn’t even react, he just sat there staring dumbly at the discarded food, as though I had insulted him. I opened the fridge and tried with a piece of sausage, but even that seemed uninteresting to the cat. When I wolfed down my own breakfast, he just continued to stare at me with a rather curious expression in his eyes. He looked…..amused…as though I was doing something extraordinarily entertaining. “You’re a strange one, aren’t you,” I said, and the cat lifted his mouth and widened his eyes, and if I hadn’t known better I would have said he was…smiling!
“But what will I do with you? You’re a pretty thing, I mean, pretty for a cat that is. You must surely belong to someone.” I switched on my ipad and typed “missing cat in Notting Hill” into the google search bar. Hundreds of hits popped up. I started browsing through them and after about an hour I came across an ad with a picture that looked just like my feline guest. “Lucky,” I said, “is your name Lucky?” The cat meowed and stretched out his paws positioning himself close to my feet. Well, there was no telling if this was Lucky or not, I’d better call the number listed under the picture of the missing cat. I tapped my phone and dialed the number. The minute the beep tone started a phone inside my own house rang. ” I never brought a landline phone,” I said startled. “What’s going on?” I disconnected the call on my mobile phone and the ringing inside the house stopped. This was getting too spooky! I called the number again and the ringing started again. This time I let it ring and traced the sound to an old stationary phone with a ring dial and a grey receiver, I picked up the receiver. “Hello? Helllo?” I heard my own voice echo in the speaker on my mobile.
“The old owners must have forgotten to disconnect the phone,” I said and looked at the cat who had followed me on my search around the house. ” But that means…..oh you poor thing, did they leave you here?” Lucky, if it really was him, meowed and licked my leg on the spot between my sock and my trousers where it was bare. I typed in “Phone company Notting Hill” on my ipad and found a number I could call. When the automated welcome message connected me to the right adviser I explained my problem, and he assured me that I was right, the old owners had forgotten to disconnect their phone. I asked if he had a new phone number to where they were staying now, but that he could not help me with. I decided to call the real estate agent who had sold me the house instead, he must know something. “I’m sorry Miss, all I know is that they moved to Paris in a hurry, something about a job offer. But hold on, I can at least give you their last name. One minute…let me see…..yes here it is….Carlson….their last name was Carlson, and the name on the contract here is Michael, Michael Carlson. ” I thanked him and disconnected the call.
“Michael Carlson” I typed into the search bar. But there were too many hits. “Michael Carlson Notting Hill, England” I tried. This time I was in luck, only a few hits popped up on the screen, one also listed a mobile number. I dialed it and waited. After five rings someone picked up. “Is this Michael Carlson?” “Yes, yes it is,” said a deep man’s voice. “Oh, good. I am the new owner of your old house in Notting Hill, and I wondered….did you forget your cat here?” The line went quiet. “Hello? Hello, sir? are you there?” “Yes, yes I am here. Our cat Lucky is dead.” “What!? But I just found an online ad saying that he is missing.” “Well, yes, he was. I must have forgotten to take down that damn ad. A few weeks later, after he had gone missing someone found him. He had been hit by a car. They took him to the vet, but there was nothing to be done. His injuries were too substantial, we had to put him down. My daughter loved that cat.” I didn’t know what to say. “Oh, I am so sorry sir, it must be another cat I’m talking about. I am so sorry. Please forgive me for bothering you.” “No problem, I hope your cat finds his way back home,” said Michael Carlson, and we hung up.
I sat down in my chair and stared at Lucky, or the cat that wasn’t Lucky. “Who are you?” I said. I thought maybe if I could just managed to get him outside, he would go home on his own, so I opened the front door and called him (I still called him Lucky). Lucky took a few steps towards me, but stopped before he reached the door. He looked at me with such sorrow in his eyes I just couldn’t get myself to shoosh him. “Don’t you need to go pee or something,” I asked desperately. But Lucky just turned around and went back inside.
Lucky stayed with me a couple of weeks. I could never tempt him with any food, and he refused to go outside. At night he slept on the floor next to me in my bedroom, I eventually had to let him in otherwise he would spend the night crying and wailing and keep me up until I passed out of sheer exhaustion. Then one day he was gone. Just like that. I never saw him leave and I never saw him again. But some days, I caught myself staring at the empty sofa, missing him.