She came to our neighborhood on a hot July day six years ago. I saw her walk up my driveway in her white stockings looking for all the world like a little gray princess with a white tip on the end of her tail. I was sitting on the steps in front of my house, and when she saw me, she danced the rest of the way to my side. She sat in front of me, a tiny kitten weighing no more than a wet dishrag, but she had the regal bearing of every one of her much revered Egyptian ancestors.
I have two house cats of my own, so it was quite easy to offer her a bowl of food and another of water. She ate slowly and with grace, looking up at me often, then when the bowl was empty, she daintily placed her white paw in the waterbowl and then licked it clean.
Two little girls lived next door, and they immediately wanted the kitty to play with them. They brought their Mom over and we talked for awhile. She said she liked kittens, and would enjoy having a cat for the little girls. I agreed, wondering then if the kitty would enjoy it as well. Together we named her Cupcake and decided we would both make sure she was well cared for.
We live near a park, a convenient place for people to drop stray animals. I thought at the time that Cupcake might have been one of them. She chose to remain here, going back and forth between the two houses, but she seemed to prefer my garden during the summer. Everytime I stepped outside, Cupcake appeared. She checked the holes I dug, she sniffed the flowers I planted. She even drank from the water hose.
When the days shortened and winter came, this kitten, who would never go inside even when invited, followed me into my garage one evening, and made herself right at home. She lived there when weather was not to her liking, and in no uncertain terms, she let me know she wanted to be fed inside the garage. She also wanted her bed there. At first I placed it in the far corner, but the next morning I found it right beside the inside door, as close as she'd ever get to being inside my house. She must have dragged it there, because it has remained in that spot for six years.
After the novelty of chasing a kitten wore off, the little girls seemed never to pay much attention to her anymore. Still she visited the house next door occasionally.
The summer when Cupcake was three, my husband died suddenly, and sometime after his death I was sitting on my deck when Cupcake appeared. She sat quite solemnly in front of me, staring into my eyes, and I crawled out of my shell of mourning long enough to sit on the deck beside her. We began talking that evening, she and I, though it was purely a one sided conversation. She was a good listener and I needed to talk.
That same year, there was talk of divorce coming from next door. The little girls told me first, and Cupcake was listening. Soon the day came when my neighbors split and moved away. Cupcake was left behind, but she didn't seem to mind at all. She continued to live her life with me.
That year she started bringing me gifts, a frog at first, placed right in the spot where I stepped every morning as I went outside for coffee. I nearly dropped the coffee cup I was carrying, but instead I put the frog in a plastic bag and placed it where dead frogs most likely need to go, and all the time I thanked Cupcake and told her what a perfect little cat she was.
The gifts continued. In winter I found one brown feather placed just in my path as I entered the garage from the house. There were moles, mice, and once a butterfly. In turn, I made sure she was the best fed cat around. Sometimes I'd save pieces of yarn and roll them into a ball. Cupcake batted that yarn ball around the garage for hours, then she'd bring the mangled thing back to me for repairs. Though she could come and go at will in the garage, she seemed to always be there when I came to tell her good night, and again in the cooler mornings when she'd eat and I'd drink my coffee.
On summer mornings, she would greet me at my glass door, then we'd have breakfast together, side by side sitting on the deck, Cupcake with her Fancy Feast, and me with my coffee. I don't remember all the stories I told her, but she listened quietly to my every word. There were times when she'd crawl into my lap and just lay there while I talked. Those were the best times.
One evening I came home late. Cupcake was always waiting for me by the door, no matter when I came home. On this evening, she wasn't by the door. I started inside, when I heard a tiny meow. It was dark and I couldn't see, but I knew it was Cupcake's 'Hello'. I looked around. Nothing. I went inside and turned on the porch light. I heard it again. 'Hello'. I looked up and there she was, walking around the top of my brick arches, reaching a paw down as if to touch me. I'd never seen her there, and panicked for a moment. I raced inside for a ladder, because the top of the arches was about 15 feet above the ground, but connected to the roof.
I got the ladder situated, and Cupcake stayed just above my head, one white paw reaching for me. It was very late, and very dark, and the ladder was on uneven ground. Thoughts of falling off my perch were not appealing, but I couldn't leave Cupcake stranded. I climbed the ladder as far as I could climb, braced my elbows above my head on the brick, and reached up for Cupcake.
She jumped, landed on all fours on the ground behind me, then raced in darkness toward the back of the house. I thought she was frightened and running from something. There was nothing to be seen anywhere near me, so I took the ladder back inside and grabbed a flashlight. I stepped outside again, determined to find my frightened little kitty. It was nearing midnight after all. Three steps from the front door, I heard it again, the meow of a tiny 'Hello'.
She was back again on top of the arches. "Good night, Cupcake," there would be no more ladder climbing for me that night. She was so proud of her trick she let me see how she did it the next morning when I joined her for breakfast on the back deck. She jumped from my glider to the top of the potting bench, then from there she jumped to the roof. Looking down at me, she meowed her usual 'Hello'. She actually looked as if she laughed. From that time forward in spring and in fall, she sunned herself on top of the brick arches. She never fell off, not even once.
I saw her embarrassed once, and only once. She was such a graceful little cat, and she had such dainty moves. But one day I was working in my daylily bed, and she was walking toward me, balanced on one of those thin rails that I used to outline the garden bed. It was early morning, and she suddenly slipped off into the dew covered grass. She recovered quickly, took one look at me, then leaped straight up in the air as only a cat can do. When she landed, she turned her back to me and daintily strutted away, as if to say, 'I meant to do that, it's part of my repertoire of graceful moves.'
I noticed a short time ago that she was looking very thin. She still gardened with me, and she ate every bite I gave her. She didn't enjoy the fireworks last Sunday, the city fireworks can be seen from my front yard. She jumped from my lap and ran to her bed in the garage with the first burst of noise and light. After the fireworks were over, I took a few kitty treats to her, and she peeked at me from her bed. "Good night, Cupcake."
I made an appointment with the vet for Thursday, he had no time for her earlier. She ate well on Tuesday, but I could see she was thinner, slower to move. I sat and talked with her for an hour or more, and she listened to all my words. I told her good night, I did not know it would be our last 'Good night, Cupcake'.
Isn't it so beautiful, the love between an animal and her person? And isn't it so perfect, the communication found there? We had a special bond, Cupcake and I. She didn't belong to me, but I belonged to her.
My heart hurts and I've shed many tears, but Cupcake was in my life when I most needed her, and maybe I was in hers when she most needed me.
I hope you have a special pet in your life, one who is as special as Cupcake was to me. She's tucked away in my heart now, and someday soon I'll be able to smile when I touch my heart and say, "Good night, Cupcake."