Even though I was happy for Dolly because she’d found a forever home, I was still pretty sad for myself. I missed curling up in the warm, fluffy fur of her belly and purring as she licked my ears and neck with her giant, scratchy tongue.
I moped in my cage with my chin on the floor between my front paws. I barely moved even when my brothers stepped on me in the course of their wrestling matches. I ate a few kibbles here and there, but the ache in my heart was so big that most of the time I couldn’t feel my hunger pangs.
The Shelter People tried to help me. First they put me in a room full of other elderly cats — I suppose in the hope that I’d be able to forget about Dolly and find another old kitty friend. But I moped in the granny- and grandpa-cat room, too.
“What’s the matter, Blackie?” the Shelter Lady asked me as she sat down on the floor next to me and gently stroked my cheek. “The vet says you’re healthy and I’m doing the best I can to make you happy.”
She wiped away a little bit of water that had leaked from her eye. “I know it’s hard since Dolly left. If it helps at all, I miss her too.”
I looked up at the Shelter Lady. My eyes burned and moistened a little bit and I crawled over to her and curled up in her lap.
“But Blackie, you’ve got to eat. I’m worried about you!”
I’ll try, I said, stretching out my paws and giving her a poke with just the tips of my claws.
True to my word, I did try. Really, I tried! But even the smelly gooshy glop didn’t entice me. I ate a few bites here and there because if I didn’t, the world would start spinning around me and I’d feel like I was going to fall over.
One day I woke up from my dreamless sleep back into my dreary waking world, and I overheard two Shelter Humans talking, and I knew they were talking about me:
“… lost three ounces since Dolly left,” one voice said.
Then the other replied, “The vet says if he loses any more weight we’ve got to start force-feeding him.”
Force-feeding? That didn’t sound like fun! But what was I supposed to do? I missed Dolly so much I couldn’t even stand the ache of the iron lump in my heart.
I drifted off again, anticipating the painless oblivion of unconsciousness.
But then I heard something: A voice in my head, beautifully deep and dark, jasmine-scented, and filled with the memories of millions and millions of naps.
Peace, little one, it said. May your pain abate and your joyful memories of your faithful friend Dolly remain.
You must keep eating, keep drinking, keep breathing, child, because you have work to do.
But I’m so sad! I cried.
An aura of compassion and kindness settled around me and vibrated with the rhythm of a purr. Then the voice continued: Every cat has an important mission in this world. Dolly went to fulfill the final part of her work and her journey in this body, and the time for you to begin your mission is coming soon.
For the first time in lots of naps, I found myself starting to feel interested in life again.
Good girl, the voice told me. And yes, of course I know you’re a girl. I don’t know why those silly humans haven’t figured it out yet.
A brief chuckle.
Now listen, child. The Shelter People are going to take you and your brothers to a place where you’ll meet some more humans. One of those is a lady who recently lost a cat friend. She doesn’t know she’s looking for another cat, but that’s the way it usually goes! The voice chuckled again.
You’ll know this lady when you see her. I trust that you can make yourself suitably appealing and irresistible.
Of course I can! I said. I pride myself on being cute, fun, and glamorous, all at the same time!
Naturally, darling, the voice said. We black cats do have a gift for that. Now, wake up and have something to eat. You’ve got a lot of growing to do!
Thank you … er … uh, what’s your name? I asked.
I am known to cats as Glorious Flower of Wisdom, the voice told me. But my most recent person called me Sinéad.