On January the 10th she took down the tree and made her way up the attic stairs to store the reds and greens of wishful thinking next to the unwrapped gifts of last year.
Returning to the kitchen she admitted the task was a bit more of an effort than it was back in November, before the horrible accident that left her with a limp and alone except for dear old Strudel.
“We’re getting old aren’t we Strudel?’ she asked.
Without expecting any reply she reclaimed her cup of spiced apple tea and shuffled to the chaise where Strudel lay sleeping.
“Scoot over and let me recline.” she whispered with a prod. Wincing through his lazy green eyes Strudel obliged.
She leaned to rest her tea on the table beside her and nudged the photo out of the out of her view. "That's better." she sighed then leaned back, closed her eyes and savored the aroma.
Her thoughts darted back to the glass on the photo frame; how it was smudged with oily prints- how dull the varnish appeared… how the corners seemed loose...
She raised up, turned the photo face down and mumbled, “I don’t feel like cleaning today.”
Strudel knew the truth was she couldn’t bear to look at the photograph of what use to be. It was just too painful. He could sense her anguish, he always could. She counted on his endless compassion and without fail he snuggled in closer to comfort her.
Unable to sit any longer she gave him a peck on the head, picked up the cold ceramic mug and hobbled back to the kitchen to warm it for the fourth time that morning. Strudel looked up at her and shook his head.
“They’re not coming are they old man?” Without waiting for a reply she answered, “No, no of course not.”
She placed the tea in the microwave, set it to sixty-five seconds and picked up a stack of mail.
After thumbing through the parcels she stacked them neatly beside the other eight heaps.
The microwave sounded to alert her that the tea was [once again] hot. beep beep beep
“Oh my, I had forgotten we had the hard candy. You know it’s my favorite. Why with all this clutter lying around it is no wonder…”
The canes and ribbons of Christmas peppermint were joined together in a clammy mass beyond salvaging. With a sigh she dragged the garbage can to the counter and tossed the sticky crystal dish, candy and all into the receptacle.
Contemplating the overwhelming stacks of mail that needed attention; replies and renumerations she was not ready to face. She took a deep breath and swept them one by one into the bin before dusting her hands.
She hadn’t heard Strudel as he rose and began stirring but he was beside her now, stroking her, looking at her – staring at her. His eyes cut to the trash can and back to her.
“Did you want to keep those redundant old cards? I don’t see the point of opening them. They all say the same thing. Merry this and happy that. They bore me!”
Again came the beep beep beep.
Strudel seemed confused as he looked toward the beeping microwave then back to the trash can full of sealed envelopes.
“A clean sweep, that was our resolution, right?”
His glaring made her uneasy.
“What do you want from me?” she asked in desperation.
Strudel yawned, raised his back and rubbed himself against her calf.
“Alright!” she said as she reached into the trash and retrieved a cream colored envelope.
“Are you happy? Stop staring. You think it could be a bill, huh? Well I have no money to pay them so what does it matter?”
Strudel nudged her lightly.
“Why do you press me so? I’ll look but it won’t change a thing.”
As she gave in she could hear him humming over the sound of paper tearing.
Her trembling fingers reached in and felt the raised edges of the quality paper, her heart sank. Slowly she pulled the 8 ½ x 11 document from its wrapping and with wet stinging eyes read:
CERTIFICATION OF VITAL RECORD
Blotting her face with the hem of her robe she gently placed the smudged certificate back into the receptacle atop the others for Wednesday’s pickup, set the microwave once again to 65 seconds and looking down at Strudel quietly said, “They’re gone. They are never coming back and you are just going to have to get over it.”
If only he could embrace her…tell her that it would get better, that they would see these hard times through just like all of the others but his feline form prevented him.
With trembling hands and teary eyes she reached and picked up her old confidant, the sounding board who so many times had absorbed her pain and kept her secrets.
“Today is my birthday and I will not have you upsetting me. Capish?”
If Strudel could have uttered capish he would have because he fully understood her loss, after all it was his loss too even if he didn’t quiet understand it.
“You won’t mind I hold onto the gifts for just a bit. I’ll keep them in the attic –out of sight so it doesn’t upset you."
Grimacing as she lowered him to the floor she continued, "It’s just until I can figure out what to do with them. It wouldn’t make sense to throw away Jenny’s doll when it’s never known the hug of a little girl and I can’t take it back to the store. It is a perfectly good doll, you understand don’t you?” Strudel purred, scraped his claws across the rug and stretched.
“And Eddies train set… we’ll have to find a special boy who appreciates trains. Most now prefer electronic games so that may take a while. I’ll need for you to be patient old friend."
Strudel lazily walked back to the chaise and meowed.
"Okay, I'll be there in a moment. Did I ever heat that tea?"
"I know, I know my tea is not as good as his was. Johnny did make the best cup of tea I’d ever tasted.”
Strudel briefly groomed his backside and yawned.
“Alright, I hear you. Let me warm this tea and I’ll come over and sit with you.”
She once again set the microwave to sixty-five seconds, placed the lid on the trash can and murmured, “I’ll miss his tea.”
Copyright © 2011 by Janna René Hill
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing by the author.
Cover: All art is original in its creation and sole property of _jrh
Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.