“I still remember the day I first met you. I was walking home from school on a Friday afternoon in the pouring late March rains, and thought I saw something furry and dead under the playground equipment. Like any inquisitive child, I had to go investigate, even though I was certain I’d be horrified by the site. Except I didn’t find a drowned ground squirrel, but you: cold, wet, and clearly half-starved. I couldn’t leave a kitten there to die in the elements like that. I remember how tiny you were when I slipped my gloved hands around your soaked body and stuffed you inside my coat. You were too weak to put up a fight.
“When I came home with you, my parents were uncertain. ‘You can’t just bring home any old animal and expect to keep it, Bridgette!’ my father had said. ‘What if he’s sick with something that’s contagious to humans?’
“But I pleaded. I was an only child, and I wanted a playmate. I was a good kid, that did my homework, and cleaned up my dishes, right?
“My mother proved to be a bit more sympathetic. ‘We can’t send him back out in that weather. Let’s clean him up and get him some warm milk, and when the animal shelter reopens on Monday, we’ll take him there. They can take care of him and find him a home.’
“Except, that isn’t what happened at all, is it, Tabby? It only took a weekend for you to make us all fall utterly in love with you. Especially me.
“It was like you were attached to my side! When I played on the swingset, you’d bat at my shoelaces everytime my feet passed by, like it was some great game. On sunny afternoons, we’d sit together on the freshly mown grass and you’d roll over and give me this look with your big green eyes, as if begging me to tickle at your furry white belly so you could playfully attack my fingers. And remember when we’d play space ranger? Somehow I always ended up finding a planet filled with a race of intelligent alien lifeforms that looked like kittens that could level entire civilizations with their cuteness. Ah, we had so much energy back then!
“But you grew so fast! I guess, as a child, I never really understood just how much quicker cats age compared to humans. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t.
“Instead I spent my childhood blissfully unaware of just how short our time together would be in the grand scheme of things, enjoying all the memories we made together. Do you remember the summer when our air conditioning broke and there was a huge backlog to get a repairman out to fix it? The house was so hot I couldn’t sleep at night, so Mom and Dad let me camp out in the backyard in a tent where it was cooler. I’d fall asleep to your body curled up at the foot of my sleeping back, and then wake every morning to… err… your lovely little ‘gifts’ left outside the tent; dead birds and rodents and whatever else was left of your nightly hunts. You were such a resourceful cat!
“And I grew too. As I got older, we didn’t play like we used to, but you didn’t seem to mind too much, as you’d grown a lot more lazy yourself. Being a proud and independent creature, you were pretty content to simply be nearby, watching over everything I did… at least, until you deemed I’d had enough time chatting online with my boyfriend and it was officially Kitty Time, at which point you’d plop yourself down across my keyboard to get your point across. I think Dax got very good at interpreting cat-type.
“I was a lot more self-conscious then, and I think my own teenage uncertainties about my appearance and taking extra effort and care in my grooming meant I spent a lot more time in your grooming, too. But you loved it. You’d rub up against my leg and then go over to my dresser and stretch your little kitty body out to tap with one paw up against the top drawer where you knew I kept the brush. It was so cute, whenever you did it, I had to stop what I was doing and come get the brush and oblige. It was then I realized just which one of us was the one that was trained in this relationship, hahaha!
“Those hormonal teen years were filled with so much angst, weren’t they? But you know, when I think back on them now… you were always the first one I went to when I needed to rant about the world. When I felt lost and upset and just wanted to scream and rage, I went to you, and told you all about it, and cried and held you and snuggled you, and I always felt better afterwards. I always felt calmer. More in control. And then when I really had to face what was going on, I could do it with a clear head, because I’d already released all those pent-up emotions. For that, I can’t ever thank you enough, Tabby. I feel like another person just wouldn’t have understood. They would’ve judged me. But never you. You always had cuddles and soft purrs to offer, no matter what was going on.
“So it was really, really hard when the time came to apply for university. It was the first time I was going to have to be away from you. How could I leave you behind like that? You were such a part of me at that point, it was terrifying. But I guess that is just part of growing up, isn’t it? Having to leave behind those we love the most, and learning how to cope without the support we’d leaned on for so long. At least I knew you’d be there, waiting for me, whenever I came home to visit for the holidays. It didn’t lessen how much I missed you during that time of my life, though.
“When I’d finally graduated from university, it was time to strike out on my own. But I wasn’t willing to do it completely alone. Like I’d always intended, I came back for you. I could tell my parents were going to miss you dearly, but they understood; they knew you were my cat and I think they felt better about the whole “leaving the nest” situation knowing that I’d at least have you with me. The place was a real dump, but what could one expect, just starting out in the real world with hardly any cash? Yet somehow, I was excited at the time. My own place. With you.
“It could have felt horribly lonely, being in that little shack out in swamp country all alone. But somehow, I was content. I had you curled up by my side at night, and the house felt like home. You made it feel like home.
“I only wish that I had noticed sooner how old you had become. How you started having trouble moving, to the point you could no longer leap up on top of the bed anymore. And then you stopped eating, just little nibbles here and there. You knew what I didn’t want to face; your life was coming to its end. And as you’d become a little less lively each day, a little more sickly each day, and I didn’t want to face that fact… I’m now doing this as the only act left that I can for you, Tabby. Because I love you so much.”
“Bridgette Lee? We’re ready for Tabby now.”
“This is it, Tabbykins. Give Mommy a smoochie. I’m going to miss you so much…”
I’ll love you forever.
This was written for the February Monthly Short Story Challenge from the Sims forums, which tasked folks to write a story in 500-2000 words using 1-15 screencaps using the theme “A Different Kind of Love.” It is a completely stand-alone story, not using any characters from any of my other works (although there is a cameo from my January short story, for the keenest observers!)
When I heard the theme, I pretty much knew I was going to do pet love (this is probably unsurprising considering my Cat Chronicles story) but I was having a hard time deciding what direction to go with it since most of the ideas popping in my head just seemed better as chapters for that story. Big thanks to my BFF Todd for giving me the idea I finally went with (sad as it is) as I think it is something that all pet owners have to deal with.
While this story is fictional, parts are inspired from real events. I actually had a cat named Tabby as a child. My father was working parttime at a hardware store at the time, and this very resourceful stray kept running into the shop to get warm by the wood pellet fire places. The owners were going to call the shelter to get the cat, but my cat at home had recently ran away and never come home, so my Dad said, “I’ll take care of the cat” and brought him home. He was extremely skittish at first, but the old “buttering the paws” trick worked and he became extremely loyal to the family. When my family moved from Oregon to Idaho, our house didn’t have air conditioning, and the Idaho summers were so hot, my sister and I actually did sleep in our backyard in a tent, and Tabby really did leave us dead birds at the foot of our sleeping bags in the morning! I couldn’t take him with me when I moved out of the house (my apartment doesn’t allow cats, but they allow birds, so my family let me take our cockatiel with me instead), but I remember visiting the house one day, going down to my old room, bringing Tabby inside, and laying with him on the bed for a long time. For some reason, in that moment… I just knew. I felt an odd… peace. I could tell how old he had become after all those years, and somehow laying there snuggling together, it was like something passed between us, but I can’t describe it. I wasn’t exactly surprised to hear from my parents not long after that they’d made the decision to put him down. I still mourned, but I was glad we’d had that moment together where we’d said goodbye. Recently I found some old photos of him, here and here.
If you would like Tabby to live on in your game, I have him available for download here. The file contains both kitten and adult versions.