Thanks to all who took the time to read, rate, and/or comment on my entry at midlife collage. I did not win the contest, but I had fun writing the entry. For those of you who didn’t have the chance to read it, here is the original vignette I entered into the contest (it was slightly edited to meet their standards). Those of you who have already read the vignette are free to ignore this post.
(NOT SO) EMPTY NEST
Kiki mewed her way into our lives one cold night. She crept up to our front stoop after dark, and told us that she needed a new home. It was during that interlude between the fall and winter holidays, and it was not a moment too soon. Our college-aged son had returned to school after Thanksgiving, but release for Christmas was not yet on the horizon.
We laughingly told him that we had rented out his room to a stray cat. Kitten, actually, no bigger than a minute, and with a voice to match. I asked my husband how he had ever heard her from outside; he said that he was listening when she needed him to. The most loving cat I had ever met, who unhesitatingly appropriated my shoulder as her favorite perch.
Having raised a son, I was used to the rough and tumble that Kiki thrived on; our little “Devil Kitty” who well knew her place as the baby of the family. It was the constant physical attention just when I was expecting an empty nest that was new to me. She relaxed into my shoulder when I sat, curled up on my legs when I reclined, tucked herself into my belly while I slept. Missing my child had to abate under the relentless need. At the same time, she was the skitteriest being: at the slightest interruption, the smallest hint that someone was entering the room, she was claws out, tail down, out the door and down the hall, under the bed, before the intruder even knew of her presence.
“I thought you said you had a new cat,” we heard over and over, and I’d show them the scratch marks to prove it. “Maybe you’ll meet her one day,” we tried to assure, “when she gets over being so skittish.” But she continued to show only the tail end of her tail to any and all visitors, not deigning to engage them in any other way.
We told our son not to expect to see much of the new arrival while he was home. That first night, he walked in the door, slung his backpack to the floor, slouched in his chair, and before he could properly situate himself, she was up on his shoulder, purring away, as though he’d always been the chosen one. I was content. My two babies would be just fine, and the nest was full once more.