Five months after Steph’s mum kicked the bucket, we adopted a cat. A calico cutie with green eyes, it twined itself around Meggie’s legs and into our lives.
“Her name’s Abigail,” Meggie announced on the drive home. Abigail was too close to my deceased mother-in-law’s name, Annabelle, for my liking. But Meggie was twelve—that fragile time between child and adult where everyone sits on tenterhooks—so Abigail it was.
That kitty—sweetly purring the entire ride home—decimated the living room curtains and rendered the area rug unusable within ten minutes of being in the house.
“I think that cat’s in cahoots with your mother,” I joked to Steph that evening over our third glass of red. “She never liked those curtains or that rug.”
Steph snorted. “You have to admit, they were kind of fugly. You don’t have a flair for interior design, dahlink.” We laughed, but the memory of my mother-in-law left me vexed.
In the first week, the cat—I couldn’t bring myself to call that grimalkin Abigail—unpotted all my herbs, dragged its backside across my pillow and ripped the pages of my favorite book—a first edition, signed copy of Stephen King’s “Cujo.”
“Weird,” I said to Steph after we wrangled the cat into the laundry room and bolted the door. “How many times do you think your mother knocked my herbs out of those pots?”
“What are you saying?” Steph eyed me across the amber liquid in her glass.
“And she thought I was psychotic for loving horror stories.”
“She wasn’t wrong.” She took a gulp of whiskey. “Jeez, I’m just kidding,” she scoffed, noting my scowl.
I didn’t mean to leave the door open, it was just bad luck it was the car door twenty miles from home.
Steph must have left Abigail’s carrier on the backseat and that ball of fluff and needles found its way in. Hell-cat was yowling so loudly I had to let it out. Unfortunate that it ran into the woods—it looked like a demented, multi-colored crab as it skittered sideways, puffing its fur into a corona of hellish proportions.
“Run ‘Annabelle,’ run as far as you can. That’s right, I know who you are. Run!”
“But where could she have gone?” Meggie wailed.
“Gotta look for the silver lining, Meggie,” I said.
Steph quirked her eyebrows at me. “And what silver lining would that be?”
“Hellca… Abigail’s probably much happier in the wild.” I raised my beer, attempting to hide my smile.
The dog showed up the next day. An enormous Saint Bernard, caked in mud with goopy eyes, lumbered through Steph’s gardens and sat, expectantly, outside the patio doors.
“He looks just like Grandpa Stuart,” Meggie said. I had to admit there was a strong resemblance to my dear old dad, gone for two years. The droopy jowls, the red-rimmed eyes.
I sipped my tea and glanced at Steph, who was frowning on the couch.
“Can we let him in, Dad?” Meggie was already sliding the door open.
“Sure,” I said. “Let’s call him Stewie.”