I close my eyes and focus with all my might. The tips of my whiskers begin to tingle; my lips are quivering. I take one… two… three steps forward, until my nose touches the stonework of the house.
“You can do it, Bainbridge,” whispers Stan from behind. “Just believe in yourself.” I turn around, look at him and smile. He and Dave are nervously holding paws.
I face the house again, and steady my own nerves with a deep breath. Edging forward a little more, I feel the roughness of the stone scratch the end of my nose.
“One more push,” says Dave, “and you’ll be through. Just remember that—”
Closing my eyes, I scrunch up my face, anticipating some kind of pain. I walk forward; my knees are knocking together.
But it’s not hurting me; passing through is not painful at all. I feel only warmth, as if something is hugging me tightly. Oh my goodness, it’s actually happening. I’m moving through something solid. The sound of Dave’s voice disappears, as do the smells from outside. My nose twitches and my nostrils open wide. I can smell damp, and then dust from the stonework. Now… now there is a strong scent of humans. “Ah,” I say as my body relaxes.
I open my eyes and gasp. I’m in the drawing room. There is a funny box on a table with moving images on the front side of it. It’s making sound, but it’s muffled. I look up. I recognise the patterns on the ceiling; my eyes used to follow the swirls until I went dizzy. I feel myself going again, so shake my head. The sudden movement causes my ears to pop. Everything sounds clearer now.
“I’m here,” I whisper to myself. “I’m back home.” I glance around at my surroundings, sniffing everything I can. I jump onto a familiar looking chair and pat it with my feet. It feels soft. I don’t recognise the fabric, but I know it’s the same chair that was here when Betsy was a girl; I know because I used to scratch its legs! We used to sit in this chair together, daydreaming and looking out of the window, while singing along to the gramophone.
“Oh no!” I call out, as I arch my back and let out a hiss. There are voices coming from another room. I quickly jump down from the chair and hide behind a bureau, until they’ve gone.
Once it’s clear, I walk into the familiar hallway. Excitement rushes over me. I am actually home. My toes sink into a plush carpet as I walk into the sitting room. The voices are getting louder again. I hide behind the door; my nose pressed firmly against it.
The people walk into the room and sit down on the sofa. Their faces look red and a small girl is hugging a woman; it must be her mother, but I don’t recognise them.
The clock on the mantel chimes and I jump, knocking into a vase. It wobbles to and fro before settling back in its spot. Phew!
“Look.” The young girl points directly at me.
I freeze, holding my breath, daring not to blink.
“Mummy. Look, it’s a cat!”
“Don’t be silly, Ruby.” The woman turns to a man, and shakes her head. “I think she’s after attention,” she whispers. “Maybe she should watch some television to take her mind off it all.” The man smiles, but he has tears in his eyes. He tightly hugs Ruby and the woman.
Ruby does not take her eyes off me, but I slip out of the room and down the hallway. I hear her cry out, “Bye, kitty. Come back soon.”
I dart up the stairs and towards Betsy’s old room. This is the last place I need to see before I leave. The door is slightly ajar and I sneak in, not sure what I’m expecting to find.
The window is open and the curtains are blowing in the breeze. I look to the side, towards the bed. My heart falters and my chest tightens as tears form in my eyes. Blinking them away, I step forward.
“Betsy, is that you?” I scrutinise the old woman’s face, every single line and dimple. My nose sifts the air. She doesn’t look like the Betsy I remember, but I see from her eyes that it is her. She turns to me and groans in pain. “Don’t move, Betsy. I’m coming to you.”
She tries to smile, and holds out something in her hand. It’s a piece of paper. I jump up onto the bed to take a look, but she drops it to the floor. I watch the paper float down, landing on the carpet. I lean over the edge of the bed. I can’t read what’s on the paper, but my eyes look over the shapes of the letters.
I miss you so much. I wish you would come home. It makes me sad that I did not say goodbye to you properly. I want you to know that I miss your purr and the way you nudge me with your wet nose. Mummy says I shouldn’t cry over you any more, but she doesn’t understand how I feel. Daddy said I have to be a brave girl now. He has promised me that one day I’ll see you again. I can’t wait for that day to come. I hope it’s soon.
Aged 9 ½
Betsy whispers my name. Her voice is croaky. I move up towards her face and rub my nose on hers. She closes her eyes. Her chest stops moving up and down.
“Betsy… Betsy.” I call out to her, but she doesn’t respond. The air around us has turned cold all of a sudden; everything is grey. A gentle breeze blows in through the open window. I look at Betsy’s eyes; they have lost their sparkle. A shooting pain tears through my heart. “Betsy, I am so sorry,” I whimper.
In a heap, I flop onto the bed, crying. My heart is breaking all over again. This time Betsy has left me, and before I had chance to tell her how much I love her.
I nudge her hand, but it doesn’t respond; it falls limply over the edge of the bed. I close my eyes and sob. I’m struggling to speak, but I try for Betsy’s sake. “I just wanted to tell you—“
Then I feel it. A child’s hand runs down my back. The hairs on my spine stand up. There’s laughter and I can hear the gramophone playing in the background. The pain in my heart disappears as I feel her warm touch. I look up, and there she is. There is my Betsy, my Betsy with the curls. She smiles at me and says, “My beautiful Bainbridge, you came back for me. I always knew you would.”
Thank you for reading ‘Dear Bainbridge’. This is a work in progress, but the extended and edited version will be available from Amazon later on in the year.