The House That Loved

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
An aging woman and a lonely kitten learn the real meaning of home and family.

Submitted: June 03, 2017

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Submitted: June 03, 2017

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Kitten strolled through the fragrant garden of the three-story, faded-blue house on Broadway Avenue, as she did every day. It was early in the morning, and late in the spring, and Kitten loved the early-morning, velvety-soft grass, so cool and wet. Kitten loved to lick the moist, sweet-smelling dew from her paw pads and between her toes. The house and garden had been neglected for a long time, and the grass was tall and the flowers grew wild in the ancient backyard garden. Kitten was young, and each new place she explored was fascinating, but Kitten had come to especially love this grassy, sweet-smelling, wildflower world into which she so softly but firmly stepped each day. She had a favorite flower, a pink one, that she always stopped to sniff and admire, as she journeyed across the landscape of the abandoned old house. It was a tall house, Kitten thought, and she surmised that it must be a mile high, at least! 

Kitten was a beautiful little girl with a fluffy, thick, bright orange coat, highlighted with subtle stripes of dark orange extending from the top of her head, down her back, and along her tail. Her two front paws were white, and she had a white stripe extending from her forehead down the full length of her nose, and on her fuzzy chest, was a scruffy patch of white. She had abundant energy, strong muscles, razor-sharp instincts, and a forceful, determined gait, yet she also possessed a grace and elegance and gentleness that was distinctly feminine. Kitten didn’t have a name, like she knew other cats did, but she longed for one, a real name all her own! And she longed for that special someone who would call her by her pretty name, and welcome her into a real home filled with love.

Kitten’s mama had died when she and her three siblings were babies. Then, a few days after that, one of her sisters died. The three remaining kittens were left to fend for themselves, and it was hard and sometimes scary, but they knew it was necessary. Kitten and her little sister and brother had learned early that the world is not always a nice place. Sometimes, when they would stroll and hunt and prowl together, mean people would throw things at them, or yell angry words that the young felines could not understand, but knew were unkind. Once, while the tiny trio was parading up a battered sidewalk, Kitten’s sister was kicked by an angry boot, and knocked into the middle of the street! To rescue her, Kitten and her brother had to race desperately between a barrage of fast-moving cars. While her brother steered them back to the safety of the sidewalk, Kitten carried her baby sister by the scruff of the neck, just as Mama had carried them during the brief time they had all been together. It seemed that they were especially vulnerable to mistreatment when they were searching for food--perusing a neighborhood trash bin, pawing through a dumpster, or daring to take a few bites from a bowl full of good-smelling food meant for another cat. . .not for them.

After a brief period, for their own safety, and to more adequately feed themselves, the three young felines decided to separate and to go their individual ways throughout the neighborhood. But, before they did, they hugged each other tight, shed a few tears, and promised each other they would one day reunite. Kitten’s brother said that someday, maybe they could all live in the same house with a family who loved them and took care of them. He said that Mama would have wanted them to stay together, and Kitten and her sister knew he was right. And so, for now, they sadly parted.

Kitten missed her siblings every day, but she was determined to survive, and survive she did, quite well in fact! She was proud of that, and thought that her mama would be proud of her, too. After being on her own for only a few days, Kitten walked down a new street one morning and discovered this wonderful old house and garden! Feeling safe and comfortable, Kitten began to linger at this house for hours, often curling up for long naps on the front porch on a worn, but warm little rug that was just the right size. Kitten could tell this was no ordinary house. In fact, Kitten believed that this was a very special house, indeed!

She was born in 1889, rather. . . .built, I should say, Dear Reader, for she is House! Once upon a time, her beauty was unparalleled in this part of the city, and large groups of people often gathered on her front walk to admire her tall round turrets, her red brick pillars, and her magnificent garden. However, to House’s great sorrow, this was no longer true. The decades had passed, the people had moved away or died, time had tumbled forward, and House was left behind. Her massive front door that once opened wide to welcome Victorian ladies and gentlemen into her entry parlor to warm themselves on cold, winter days, now meekly stood with fading paint, rusty, corroded hinges, and missing its once prominent, lion-head doorknocker. The dining room, once the setting for elegant parties and Christmas dinners beside a roaring fire in the mahogany fireplace, its long table positioned in front of a wide, tapestry-draped floor-to-ceiling window, now was devoid of furnishings, and showed no sign that sumptuous food was once served here to an appreciative family and guests. And House fondly remembered the alluring aromas that once emanated from her kitchen and dining room and permeated the entire home.

Windows that were once thrown open in the early morning to welcome the fresh, cool breezes of long-ago springs, were now boarded up on the outside with yellow lumber and giant red nails. Inside, the windows were cracked, almost impossible to open, and clanged and rattled frightfully during the pounding winds of thunderstorms. The massive living room fireplace, where children’s Christmas stockings once hung, and where green ivy draped gracefully across its mantelpiece, now lay bare and cold. Upstairs, the bedrooms of the legions of children House had watched grow from babies in elaborate rocking cribs into adults bringing back their own children for a visit, now were empty and silent.

Her dear staircase, her own personal pride and joy, was still magnificent despite years of dust and decay, but not a soul had ascended or descended its sturdy steps in years. How she had loved seeing families race down her stairs to greet returning soldiers from the Wars, and children and pets fly down on Christmas mornings to open the many packages spread under a shimmering Christmas tree. But her cherished steps held dark memories, as well. House remembered with a special grief when Mary Louise Kempfer, a beautiful and kind young woman of only 16 years, had become sick and died of a terrible flu in the sultry summer of 1917. House remembered with horror how she had helplessly watched as Mary Louise’s illness descended upon her and stole her away, and how Mary’s grief-stricken father had so lovingly carried her down these steps to place Mary in her casket for burial. How House had grieved for her and shuddered and cried along with Mary Louise’s huddled family for months after the tragedy.

House’s chimneys, now blocked from years of dirt, debris, and soot, cried out for warmth in howling rainstorms and freezing winters. House shivered in the wintertime, trembled during thunderstorms, and was uncomfortably hot in the summertime, the many windows not even slightly opened to let in a little cool air. The two red brick pillars that held up her wonderful upstairs sitting porch, where countless residents and their pets had enjoyed gentle summer breezes in the evening while resting in high-backed rocking chairs, and later in metal foldable chairs, were now starting to lean slightly. The porch itself was even starting to sag frightfully, and was attempting to take its cracked, wooden white railing down with it in an inevitable total collapse. Some of the original red tiles on House’s roof had blown off in violent storms, and rain sometimes drip-drip-dripped into House’s attic. Sometimes in the midst of the dense quiet, House could hear the echoes from her ancient walls of voices long since gone, voices of all those she had once loved and held in her warm embrace. And sometimes, she even recognized shadowy images from the past, spiritual remnants of those who, like herself, could never quite let go.

A long time ago, House had even had a name. A hand-carved wooden sign hanging on her porch for her first twenty years, proclaimed “Oak Manor” for all to see, and House had felt so proud and so loved. House was old, alone, and tired, very tired. But even though her decaying boards sometimes ached and hurt and caused her to shudder from sudden jolts of pain, House stood--with all the determination and dignity she could muster, she still stood. And she wondered if her creaky old joints and bones would ever move again, and if her walls would ever again know warmth or coolness or laughter or love.

Recently, though, things were looking up for House, and in the last few days, a lovely little kitten had been roaming her overgrown garden, and the little kitten seemed to especially love the pink lilies, because she would stop and sit and stare at them for a long time. House looked forward to seeing Kitten each day. Seeing her everyday helped ease her loneliness, and House sensed, quite accurately, that Kitten was also sad and lonely. House loved watching Kitten curl up and sleep on the fraying, faded rug that still lay in front of her thick oak door. And House loved Kitten and watched over her, and hoped that she would stay.

House had always loved animals, and there had always been animals with House, as far back as the beginning. When her first resident, Mr. Charles Rogers, a prominent banker, carried his bride up the oak-lined walkway and over the threshold of their newly-built home in June, 1889, his regal and attentive Irish Setter, Rusty, followed closely behind. In the 1930s, Pepper was a cute little yellow puppy with huge ears and big feet who grew into a stunning Golden Retriever who, in his old age, loved to warm himself on cold days in front of the living room fire. And then, in the 1960s, there was Midnight, House’s favorite pet ever, a fluffy, short-tailed, coal-black kitty with a few fur strands that glowed red in the sunlight streaming in through the copious windows. Midnight was a small cat with a big personality, who was fully aware of House. Midnight would frequently sit in the living room with his human family and face one of her many walls, and meow boldly, telling her about his many outdoor adventures, while his humans stared incredulously and asked him, “Midnight! What in the world do you see there???” Rusty, Pepper, and Midnight were all buried in House’s backyard near the garden, although no one remembered them now, except for House. Midnight’s grave even contained a small marker bearing his name, although the grass had grown so tall, that it was now completely hidden. Like Midnight, this new kitten had a big personality, too, and House could tell that she was a very special kitten. There were other pets buried on the property, too. And House loved and remembered them all with fondness.

House longed for someone to transform her into the well-loved, well-cared for home she had once been. And so, House radiated with all her remaining strength, and sent forth a warm, welcoming, loving beam to all and any who would take the time to stop, and listen, and see. House believed her outward message of love had brought her this little kitten, and she was so happy and grateful. But House also knew that she needed a new resident to occupy her dark and empty shell. And then one day, House saw a yellow car pull up and stop in front of her crumbling iron gate, and she noticed a woman look out the car’s back window and stare at her intently, for what seemed like a very long time.

 

Less than a mile away from House and Kitten, in a small, one-bedroom apartment, lived Lydia Fischer. Lydia had been alive for 60 years, and felt every year with weary intensity. In childhood, healthy little legs had propelled her across her family’s backyard to leap onto her swing set, to run and skip for hours, and to eagerly join her classmates for recess on the school playground. As a teenager, Lydia fondly remembered walking to school with her friends, carrying her schoolbooks. And as a young adult too poor to afford a car, Lydia had walked everywhere she needed to go, sometimes for miles, without ever giving it a second thought--she walked to work, walked across town to visit friends, and eagerly charged up staircases. She careened down sidewalks and across intersections to travel to the grocery store, and walked back home effortlessly, despite being heavily laden with multiple bags of groceries.

These simple activities were now just memories. Her once-healthy knees and hips were now swollen, stiff, and painful. Her long, graceful limbs, that had never failed her in her youth, could now barely move. Now, a step up onto a curb was challenging. Trying to rise from her couch was a major effort, and sometimes created a sudden jolt of pain so fierce that she was forced to fall back down clumsily onto the cushions. And when she finally stood, remaining standing was cumbersome and tiring. And walking! She could no longer realistically call it that! It was a hobble, now, at best. No matter what difficulties life had thrown at her in the past, Lydia always had her energetic, healthy body to carry her through any situation. Lydia, who had once believed she was invincible, now took satisfaction in getting through the day and not falling, and not tripping, and not injuring herself. She was largely successful, although her knees, shins, and hips occasionally reflected a bruise or two to remind her that she was invincible no more. But Lydia still had her pride, and so still she stood, still she hobbled, with as much determination and dignity as she could muster.

Arthritis had found Lydia, just as it had found her grandmother so many decades before, and it was not going to let her go, no matter how hard she resisted. With the death of her beloved cat, Tika, the year before, Arthritis was now her only companion. Sometimes she spoke to Arthritis gently, and politely asked it to leave. Sometimes she railed against it in anger and demanded its immediate departure, but to no avail. Arthritis steadfastly refused and stubbornly remained.  Her arms ached, and had become slightly bowed outward. Her wrists and elbows hurt, especially in the morning. Today, shortly after waking, but still lying in bed, Lydia sensed that something was wrong with her right hand. When she finally managed to push her aching hand through the blankets into full view, she discovered that her fingers were stiff, red, and grotesquely curled inward towards her palm. She slowly stretched out her long fingers and pumped her fist until her hand again resembled the familiar appendage she knew and loved. And so began another day--another day of struggle, pain, immobility, and frustration, always abundant frustration. Lydia sometimes wondered if her creaky old joints and bones would ever move again. 

Despite life’s setbacks, however, Lydia was determined to restore her health and better her life. She wanted to really be somebody. Despite her age, and her aches and pains, she still had her wits, her instincts, her education, her imagination, and most importantly, her curiosity about life, a curiosity which had grown steadily since childhood. And Lydia had fond memories of her childhood, even though it had been lonely. Lydia was an only child born to older parents who coped responsibly with having an unexpected child, but who never bestowed unconditional love or indulged in frequent outpourings of affection. Lydia's parents died when she was young, and she had then spent the expanding years seeking unconditional love and acceptance, sometimes finding what she needed, sometimes not. And now with a severe physical malady to cope with, Lydia's loneliness intensified.  Lydia wanted to change her circumstances for the better, however, and she was not going to let the past, old age, or that devil, Arthritis, stop her!

Lydia longed to be a famous, successful writer. Lydia, in fact, had written a book, her very first book, and she was so proud! Its title was, “Abbey Tabby, Feline Detective”. Abbey, the main character, was a lovely Tortoiseshell with huge green eyes and dark gray stripes, who had always been homeless, but sought to better her existence. Abbey not only had good looks and a sweet temperament, she also had razor-sharp instincts, and an uncanny knack for investigation and detection. She started her own detective agency, initially operating behind some trash cans in the back of her favorite alley.  Her business catered to the investigative needs of the many cats in the area, who often needed assistance in finding people and things. And Abbey had become a success! She was so successful, in fact, and so highly regarded, that she finally opened her own tiny office in the basement of an aging, abandoned, downtown Seattle warehouse. She even hung out her little shingle by the door, and so far, business was brisk.This book, which Lydia planned to be the first in a series, chronicled Abbey’s adventures as she tracked down missing friends, missing toys, missing humoms, and a particularly baffling case concerning Hamish, a highly renowned hamster. Hamish had mysteriously vanished from his cage and his house, despite being under the watchful eye of his honorary brofur, close friend, and confidante, Oscar the Cat. Oscar, frantic and grieving over the disappearance of his beloved friend, had sought Abbey’s help to locate and return his chum to his rightful place. For over a year, Lydia had sent her completed manuscript to several publishers, but all to no avail. Rejection after rejection followed each hopeful submission.

It was almost summer now, and things were looking up for Lydia. Hope raised its optimistic head again, and Lydia mailed her manuscript to yet another publisher. She had also started feeding a little gray kitten. who possessed one white paw, three gray ones, and little patches of orange on his chest and tail. He was such a cutie! She had first noticed him one Sunday afternoon when she stepped onto her porch for a breath of fresh air. Across the parking lot, she noticed a wide-eyed and apparently frightened little feline pawing through her building’s dumpster.  At that time, Lydia remembered having several cans of unopened cat food on hand, which she had purchased as she optimistically awaited Tika’s recovery from illness. Tika had never recovered, and Lydia could not bear to throw away any of her remaining cans of cat food. When she saw Gray Kitty, Lydia brought a plate out to him, which he eagerly devoured. Every day since then, he came back for a meal.

One day, as Lydia patiently waited to hear from the new publisher, she took a taxi to go to the grocery store and to take care of some other errands. On the way home, her cab took her along Broadway Avenue, and while the car waited at a red light, Lydia's gaze was riveted to the house on the southwest corner of the intersection. There was something about it, she couldn’t quite place it, but there was something familiar about this house, even compelling. After they cleared the red light, Lydia asked her driver to pull over to the curb in front of the iron gate, and he graciously obliged. She sat and looked out the back window for what seemed like a long time, just staring at this imposing, yet lonely structure. Lydia had the sense that this was no ordinary house.  In fact, she had the sense that this was a very special house, indeed!

After a while, Lydia’s driver asked her if she was ready to go home. She said, “Yes”, somewhat reluctantly, and thanked him for stopping. Even as the taxi pulled away from the curb in front of House, though, Lydia was unable to break the spell. She turned around in the backseat to continue staring, and did so until House completely faded from view. Back home, Lydia’s driver carried her groceries inside, while she climbed out of the cab using her cane. She thanked and paid her driver, and he went on his way. As Lydia put her groceries away, she realized that she was tired after her brief journey. Lydia was grateful that an electronic riding cart had been available for her to use at the market. Sometimes she would go and would have to sit and wait for a long time for a cart to become available. Going to the grocery store and running errands was a “big day out” for Lydia, and physically, quite an ordeal.

Early that evening, Lydia set out the usual plate for Gray Kitty. After he ate, he scratched at the front door, and Lydia welcomed him inside. That night, he curled up next to her on her bed, shut his eyes tightly, and fell asleep. As she lay in bed, Lydia could not stop thinking about the house on Broadway. And for several days afterwards, memories of House weighed heavily on her mind.

A few weeks passed. It was a Friday afternoon in late June when Lydia got the news. She opened her mailbox, and discovered that the small, independent publishing company, “Fur Fiction Publishing”, to which she had sent “Abbey Tabby, Feline Detective”, had written her a letter. They liked her book and wanted to publish it! Enclosed with the enthusiastic letter from Editor-in-Chief, Christina Curtis, was a check--an advance on her first sales! Lydia was thrilled! She had found success from doing something she loved, and she could not have been happier! That evening, Lydia sat on the edge of her bed and rested her face in her hands and smiled. Success had found her, and now she would have some money to spend, too, and she could better her life, and do some things she had always wanted to do. If she could, she would have jumped for joy! But, she was content and happy, and just sat still for a long time, savoring the moment.

First thing Monday morning, Lydia called a neighborhood real estate office and inquired about the mysterious and fascinating house on Broadway Avenue. Ben, the agent she spoke with, told her that the house was indeed for sale, and that any reasonable offer she made would likely be accepted by the home’s current owner, a local bank. Ben told her if she wanted to look at the house the next day, he would stop by and unlock the front door that evening.

Lydia took a cab to House the next day, but then, about halfway into the journey, abruptly asked her driver to let her out of the car, telling him that she’d like to walk the rest of the way. Lydia didn’t exactly know why she wanted to walk, as walking was always difficult. However, she was feeling very upbeat and positive about her life , and she was curious to see if she could complete the walk alone, without any assistance, except for her cane. After she paid her driver and exited the cab, it was another six blocks to the house, and just a block into the journey, Lydia was already in pain and struggling. About two blocks into the walk, Lydia found herself on a sidewalk where a hopscotch pattern had been drawn in pink and blue chalk. Lydia remembered her childhood, when she would draw a hopscotch pattern on her parents’ patio in several different colors of chalk, then hop back and forth, enjoying herself immensely, and laughing the entire time. She stopped for a moment and pondered the irony, that she was now struggling to take each step, and leaning heavily upon her cane, as she traversed the numbered path. Lydia admired how colorful it was, and how well it had been drawn. Lydia had walked about two-and-a-half blocks when she needed to rest. She was out of breath and in pain, and she regretted her decision to walk. However, after sitting on some stairs and resting for about ten minutes, Lydia forced herself up again. The rest of her walk was arduous, but she continued. As she finally approached House’s iron gate, Lydia was in such pain, and so tired, that she felt nauseous and near fainting. Before trying the lock on the front door, she sat on the crumbling concrete steps of the front porch for a couple of minutes. She became aware of a bird chirping excitedly, and she looked up into the branches of an old oak tree. On the lowest branch, sat a gray mockingbird. He kept turning from side to side, displaying himself, as if he were intent on her admiring the full glory of his feathered physique!

The front door was indeed unlocked. Lydia had to push it hard to force it open, but finally it gave way. She entered a large, dark foyer. To the right of the front door, there was an area that appeared to have been an entry parlor at one time. There was a small fireplace on the right wall and space for chairs in front. The fireplace was cold and dirty, and appeared to not have been used in years. To the left of the fireplace was a winding, dark mahogany staircase that meandered upward to an impressive balcony overlooking the foyer. The staircase was still beautiful, despite a massive buildup of dust and cobwebs. Lydia looked up curiously, but helplessly. There was no way she could climb those stairs, at least not today. At the top, behind the balcony railing, there were several observable entrances into what must have been bedrooms. Lydia noticed a cracked pane of stained glass in a porthole window halfway up the stairs. There was no light coming through, however. The wood floors of the house were bare, except for thick dust and occasional broken glass. Lydia, depending heavily on her cane, was careful where she stepped. It was dark, the windows were all boarded up outside. To her left, through an arched entryway, was the living room. Another fireplace, much larger, graced this room, as did several floor-to-ceiling windows, two of which still had pieces of frayed, faded fabric hanging from rusted curtain rods. Broken glass from an old chandelier was strewn across the middle of the room. Through another archway off the living room was a long room with a stunning hand-carved mahogany fireplace, and a matching, faded mirror hanging above. Lydia surmised this must have at one time been the dining room. What an elegant room it must have been!

Then she entered the kitchen. Someone, at some point, had started to remodel it, as there was a row of newer-looking cabinets along one wall, but the project apparently had been abandoned. Lydia pushed open a back door off the kitchen, and looking outside, Lydia observed a large backyard that was overgrown with weeds and tall grass, but there were a few flowers along one section of the rickety old fence, and she knew that must have been a garden at one time. Sitting by some lovely pink flowers, almost out of sight, Lydia spied a kitten, a fuzzy little orange one, and she cheerfully called out and said, “Hi, cute kitty! I love your house!” Kitten silently stared at this newcomer to the property. Inside, connected to the kitchen, was a hallway that led to a large bedroom and bathroom, the latter of which contained a new-looking bathtub with a shower overhead. The kitchen hallway led back to the foyer.

Lydia was tired from her walk and sat down slowly on the second step of the staircase. She leaned her head against the meticulously hand-carved railing, and although she didn’t intend to, she promptly fell asleep. And House watched over Lydia while she slept, and hoped that she would stay.

In her dream, Lydia glided effortlessly over to the front door. It was standing open, and Lydia saw a handsome young couple, the lady wearing a long pink dress and carrying a pink lace parasol. She and the man were being trailed by a sleek, cheerful Irish setter. Suddenly the man scooped the woman up in his arms, and she threw her head back and laughed happily. Together, the three of them entered the house, and hugged each other profusely, and seemed to not notice Lydia floating nearby. She turned, and in the living room, she saw a fluffy black cat meowing vociferously at the wall, as she blithely glided through the room. There was a long table in the dining room, which had been set for ten places, and in its center, tall, thin tapir candles were burning brightly. She floated upstairs, and in one of the bedrooms, there was a young woman singing sweetly and gently rocking a baby in an elegant, canopied crib. In her dream state, Lydia easily transcended the adjoining wall, and found herself in another bedroom. This one was much larger, and another mahogany fireplace, similar to the one in the dining room, was lit and glowing. Across from this fireplace was an antique brass bed, topped with a colorful patchwork quilt. A large purple rug graced the area between the bed and the fireplace. Off to the side of the bed was a large closet with a crystal doorknob, and there was a small room in the turret, filled with overstuffed chairs and a prominent desk in front of one of the many windows that encircled this room. A well-dressed gentleman in a vest and suit sat behind the desk, feverishly writing something down on paper, and oblivious to Lydia’s presence. Looking through the turret window, Lydia observed bright daylight, and a lush, colorful garden suddenly appeared, filled with copious flowers in full bloom. Suddenly, Lydia was downstairs in the entry parlor again, and saw a young couple talking bashfully, and quietly holding hands in front of a crackling fire.

Lydia felt herself being gently tugged, and her eyes suddenly snapped open and she was back again, sitting on the staircase, with her head resting against the railing. The house was growing darker. She looked at her cell phone and discovered she had slept for over an hour. Even though Lydia was alone in this big house, she did not feel lonely. In fact, she felt welcome here, as if she belonged here. How beautiful she could make this house again! Now that she would have steady income, she could make the house into a real home. She promised herself she would call Ben, first thing in the morning. She called for a taxi to pick her up and she returned to her apartment.

To help her move into her new home, Lydia hired a wonderful young woman with a warm smile, named Geri. She and Geri went about the business of cleaning and clearing her apartment, and moving her things to the house on Broadway. Lydia rented a small truck for the two of them to use for a few days. For her heavier furniture, she hired a moving service for one day to do the job. The very last thing she did before she turned and quietly said goodbye to her long-term residence, was scoop up Gray Kitty, who by now had become a regular fixture at her apartment, place him gently in Tika’s pet carrier, and take him with her to their new home.

Arriving ahead of Lydia, Geri had let Kitten inside House, and when Lydia came in with Tika’s carrier, Kitten sensed something very familiar and very special about its passenger. When Gray Kitty confidently stepped into the entryway, Kitten recognized her older brother! He looked well-fed and happy, and he and Kitten ran swiftly toward each other and hugged and greeted each other affectionately.

Lydia and Geri set about cleaning House. Geri busied herself sweeping, mopping, and polishing the staircase, while Lydia got a broom and dustpan and started sweeping up dirt, debris, and glass from the foyer, entry parlor, and living room. Because of her arthritis, the work was slow and difficult for her, but Lydia persevered. She was so happy to own her own home at last! Lydia had hired a young man named Anthony as a handyman and landscaper, and while Lydia swept, Anthony started removing the nails and boards from outside the living room windows. Lydia, using a stepstool, had just successfully removed a set of frayed, torn curtains, when daylight suddenly burst into the room! Anthony and Lydia smiled at each other through the now-unobstructed window glass, after the last board came tumbling down. House was overcome with happiness! How many years had it been since she had seen light streaming in through the windows? It was glorious!

During Lydia’s first week in the house, she purchased large fans and had them placed around the home to provide some cool air until she could have air conditioning installed. And she and Geri both struggled mightily, and finally succeeded, in opening the stubborn windows and letting in fresh air. Anthony mowed the front and back lawns, cleared out weeds, trimmed a couple of the trees lining the front walkway, and began to water and replenish the garden in the backyard. After the backyard grass was newly mowed, Lydia discovered a little marker near the garden that read “Midnight”. Lydia thought this must be a former house pet, perhaps the talkative, raven-haired cat in her dream? She purchased a small rose bush, and asked Anthony to plant it next to the marker, to honor and remember this former resident.

Lydia hired a company to install a chair lift so she could finally go upstairs. She and the two cats had been sleeping in the first-floor bedroom for a week. To her pleasant surprise, the master bedroom was exactly as in her dream, fireplace, turret, and all! Because of her dream, she bought a large brass bed and covered it with a multi-colored patchwork quilt. She purchased a purple rug and placed it between the fireplace and the bed.

Geri worked in the kitchen to get it into a usable state. Lydia had the utilities hooked up, and the vintage 1960 gas stove and oven, after a thorough cleaning by Geri, were ready to use. There was only one usable bathroom, the one downstairs--The old shower still worked OK, although it spit viciously at Lydia the first time she turned on the water! Lydia scheduled a plumber to come and help renovate the two upstairs bathrooms.

Lydia began to seriously consider names for her two newly-acquired felines. She liked “Leo” for Gray Kitty, as he was strong, brave, and loyal—lion-like qualities that she admired, so “Leo” just seemed like a natural choice. Lydia adored Kitten—After all, Kitten came with the house! After just calling her “Kitty”, for a few days, Lydia took notice again of Kitten’s penchant for the pink lilies in the backyard. Lydia observed that Kitten loved to stop, sniff, and stare at them. At first, Lydia thought about naming her “Lily”, but somehow that didn’t seem right. Then she decided on “Pinkie”—it just seemed to fit the cute, feminine, energetic little kitten. Kitten loved the name “Pinkie”, and she was so happy to finally have a name of her own!

As Lydia was enjoying her new role as “homeowner”, there was good career news for her, too. Her book was selling well, and she continued to prosper. During the day, Lydia cleaned, and hired workers to continue House’s renovations. A new coat of exterior paint was added, the upstairs balcony was bolstered and repaired, and the chimneys were professionally cleaned so they would be usable this winter. She met with an interior decorator who came to House and advised Lydia on furnishings, light fixtures, and new wallpaper. At night, Lydia worked at her desk in the turret office, writing her second book in the “Abbey” series. Life was good!

House was happy! She loved Lydia, and enjoyed hearing her and Geri talk and laugh during the day. At night, she quietly watched as Lydia wrote, and was soothed by the gentle noise her typing generated. And when Lydia was sleeping, House loved seeing the cats play together, and race up and down the stairs.  Pinkie would often talk to House, and House loved listening to her tales of the garden and her adventures in the neighborhood.

While the humans worked, Pinkie and Leo were busy combing the neighborhood, looking for their little sister. They desperately wanted to find her and bring their family together again. If it were possible, the duo could have used the assistance of Lydia’s fictional detective, “Abbey Tabby”, to find their missing sibling! While Lydia wondered where they were disappearing to all day, the two kittens roamed the neighborhood, up and down every street, up and down the alleyways. They searched inside abandoned houses, and attempted to sniff out their sister among the bushes and flowers in front yards and back yards. Once, they caught a glimpse of fur on a tree branch, and they both rushed up into the tree, but, alas, it was another cat, not their sister. Then, after several days of searching, Leo spied a colorful little tuft of a tail protruding through a hole in a broken-down old wooden fence. The little tail swished lazily around several times. Leo deftly climbed to the top of the fence and looked down. There, behind a bush, was his little sister, napping in the sunlight, and looking very thin. Around four in the afternoon, Lydia heard frantic scratching at the kitchen door. When she opened it, to her surprise, she saw three kittens standing there, all staring up at her. In between Leo and Pinkie was another little cat—a fuzzy Calico, and she strongly resembled Pinkie, although she was shockingly thin. Lydia opened three large cans of food, and gently set down an extra plate for the newcomer. Naming her was easy--Lydia called her “Callie”. Leo and Pinkie doted on their baby sister, and the three kittens were so happy to be reunited and living as one family again. They talked about their mama sadly and joyfully, and believed she was watching over them, and that she was happy they were all together. Callie ate well in Lydia’s house, and began to put on weight.

Lydia decided it was time to do some renovations on herself, as well. She scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, so that she could begin to have the surgeries she needed to repair her decayed hip and knees. Her publisher scheduled a book tour for her starting in April, so she set a goal to have her surgery done before that time.

When she purchased the house, Ben, the real estate agent, had shown Lydia a vintage photograph of the front wraparound porch of House, and a small sign was hanging from its eave. She couldn’t make out what the lettering on the sign spelled, but she correctly surmised that it was the name for the house. So, because this was the house that “Abbey Tabby” had built, so to speak, Lydia had a wooden sign made, with the lovely carved letters spelling out “Abbey House” for all to see. She asked Anthony to hang it prominently on the front porch eave, so that everyone who came here would know and remember that this house was special, she had a name. And House was so happy to be loved and cared for again! And she loved Lydia and the cats, and kept her secret that it was her special beam of love that had reached them, and had drawn them all here.

When she needed a break, Lydia loved to sit and soak up the sunshine on a cushioned lawn chair Anthony had set up on the neatly-mowed front lawn. While she sat, Leo, Pinkie, and Callie played together. One mid-October afternoon, as Lydia sat napping in her chair, one of the cats leapt exuberantly onto her lap. Lydia opened her eyes and saw the sweetest little face in the world watching her intently. And Kitten, now Pinkie, her tiny eyes squinting in the brightness of the autumn sun, looked up at Lydia and gave her the sweetest little smile a happy kitten ever smiled!

THE END

 


© Copyright 2017 Melissa Lee Taylor. All rights reserved.

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