When I moved to Ohio in early 2004 I insisted on taking my black cat Spook along with me. I failed to realize that he would not know the difference in our long driveway into the woods in Georgia and the narrow but well-traveled road mere feet from our house in Ohio. He lasted about a month before one of the locals who drove too fast on that little country road ended his life. I didn't have time to cry the day Spook died because it was the opening day of my sister-in-law's greenhouse. But the following morning while I was washing his food and water bowls and putting away all his things, it suddenly hit me that he was gone. I sobbed uncontrollably for quite some time and stared out the window at the spot next to the road where his life had ended.
About six months later The Man found a tiny black kitten while he was parking his tractor-trailer for the weekend. (I am convinced that the kitten was put there by someone who knew how upset I was over Spook's death, but no one ever owned up to it.) He brought the kitten home to me, which I suppose was the only tender thing I can ever remember from him. He did not like and did not believe in pets, so it was quite a sacrifice for him to bring me the kitten instead of snapping its neck and throwing it into the field. We wanted to name him Lucky since he was under the trailer by the time it was parked. But we thought it was a girl kitty, so we named her Lucy. The vet pointed out to me the difference (they weren't that big when we first looked at him!), and we decided to name him Lucius. When I moved back to Georgia it naturally followed that Lucius would come with me.
In August of 2007 I found Lucinda in an outbuilding on the property where I was house-sitting for my aunt. I waited to name her until I was sure she was a girl kitty. She is a calico, and I have since been told that all calico cats are females. (Reminder to self: Google that.) She was very tiny and very shy, and it took quite some time before she would come close to me. But as she grew she trusted me more and more, and at some point she came to live inside with Lucius and me. They got along very well, and I loved to watch them together.
When my aunt moved into her house and I moved to the basement apartment where I now live, it was not possible to take the cats with me and my aunt agreed to let them stay with her until I could find another home for them. After several months my aunt grew weary of the responsibility (which she took seriously) and asked me to come get them. Knowing I really couldn't keep them inside, and fearing that outside they would be at the mercy of some of the big dogs in our neighborhood, I debated and pondered and cried and cried. At one point I even pictured myself dropping them off in the middle of the night on a farm out in the country where they would be happy and catch mice and frolic and play all day. Of course it was only a fleeting thought which disappeared entirely when I saw them. Lucius came to me right away, but Lucinda seemed to be angry with me for leaving them in the first place. It took some time and patience, but I finally managed to get them both into my little pickup truck and head for home. I deliberately did not feed them until I got them to their new home.
It was raining and miserable that day. I found a place under my deck which was dry and decided to feed them there. Lucius came right away and ate voraciously, but Lucinda eyed me warily for awhile before timidly coming up to the food bowls. She ate a little and then went into the woods behind the house. I assumed she was going to check things out and explore the woods and the lakeside. That was five days ago, and it was the last time I saw her.
I have cried so much that I can't cry any more. I feel totally worthless, as if I have lost something rare and valuable. I have tried to tell myself she was just a cat, a stray that wandered into my life and never did seem to love me like Lucius does. But I keep seeing her sweet face the way it looked the last time I saw her.
Of course I have thought the worst. That's my nature. Think the worst and nothing can disappoint you. I have heard the dogs in the neighborhood barking and wondered if they saw her. I walk out on the deck and try to detect any sign of movement in the woods, but there is none. At times I think I can hear her meow, and I imagine she is in a tree or caught in some underbrush. I can't get to her, and I can't help her.
So I have decided instead to imagine that Lucinda has gone on a journey, trying to get back to the only home she has ever known. In my mind I see her slipping through the woods, crossing over the streets and following her cat senses leading her home. Maybe she stops along the way to eat whatever scraps have been discarded at a home or a restaurant. Maybe she rests under a shelter for a time before continuing her journey. This is the only way I can rest, thinking that she will succeed in making her way home again. I'm looking forward to the call from my aunt telling me Lucinda has shown up there.
Goodbye, Lucinda, and good luck. I will miss you.