the hunt for __________

We’ve been looking for hours. We’re both aware that once we finish searching through one area, she might move from where she was and into that new area, though with the little meows she offers now and again, we’d like to believe she’s actually stuck somewhere. We’ve tried shaking the treat tin, all but her came rushing our way, we’ve tried the catnip container and the same result happened.

I don’t know what to do and I don’t know where to look anymore. I’m exhausted just thinking about looking for her some more but we both know that we have to find her. She wouldn’t be meowing if she wasn’t stuck in some places. Eventually, after another treat-shake and no response, I let myself collapse against one of the walls. I didn’t know what to think anymore.

Quentin stepped closer, stepping over cats hoping for treats since we’d just more or less announced that we were giving out treats though we really were just trying to find Astra. “We’ll find her, really. She can’t be far, we’ve made sure that all the doors everywhere were closed and she was with us last night, we haven’t gone outside. She can’t be far.”

It wasn’t all that comforting though I knew he was doing his best. I was scared to no end that something was going to happen to her if she wasn’t found soon. She probably had no access to food or water where she was from and that was just something else added to the top of all those worries that were gnawing away at me.

Just then, however, a soft meow sounded. I shifted my weight and I looked up towards the stairs leading to the second floor, the door was ajar. I wasn’t sure how I hadn’t noticed it before but my heart took a leap right into my throat. Had I left any windows open up there? I couldn’t recall though it shouldn’t have changed much, all of them had screens on them and even though she might have tried she shouldn’t have been able to get out.

Plus, that little noise of hers hadn’t been all that far away. I found something akin to relief flooding me though I knew it would be short lived. Once we found her, I’d worry that I hadn’t realized the door was open and that any of the other cats could have gotten in there and destroyed who knew what. I was a worrywart and it was my price to pay for this life on the planet. That’s how I saw it, in any case.

Quentin was looking up the stairs too and I knew he’d noticed the door. He was moving up before I’d gotten back to my feet and he slipped inside, closing the screen door. When I made it up moments later, I opened and closed that door myself, double-checking to be sure it was latched and actually locked.

I still had the tin of treats in hand so I gave it a shake and went quiet. It was silent for a moment before we heard a little meow coming from the far end of the building. That was the area where most of the bigger plants grew though it was also where I kept the cacti. My heart caught in my throat again as we tried to follow the sounds. I didn’t dare shake the tin too often by fear that she was stuck between the cacti and was hurting herself trying to get out.

It turned out to not be the case.

When we made it to the ‘tree’ area of the garden, I looked up and there she was, sitting on a semi-high branch, looking piteously down at us. It wasn’t that high a jump but I couldn’t recall ever seeing her jump from much of anywhere, let alone even just the cat condos and trees that were actually taller than this, she could climb up them but when she got stuck at the top she always started meowing to be taken down. Astra was our no-jump cat. I didn’t love her any less for that.

I handed Quentin the tin and I carefully stepped forward. I reached up and there, my fingers curled around her and pulled her down without a single hitch. Relief swelled in my chest as I hugged her securely to me and I closed my eyes, telling myself I really had to make sure to never again leave that door unchecked.

Quentin petted the top of her head lightly when I stepped closer, she purred deeply, nestled as close as she could manage. We both walked back out of the garden area, Quentin stepping out second and checking the door once then a second time to make sure it was closed and secured.

Once we were back on the second floor, I carefully set her down and she looked up at me expectantly. I suppose some treats were bound to be expected, we’d shaken the tin quite often in our search of her and the other cats were all still close enough too. Caelan ran over the moment Astra was down and more or less bowled her over. I laughed, feeling the relief settle a bit more securely in my bones and I shook my head.

“I still don’t know how it happened, Quentin.” Later, settled in bed, my mind still had refused to let go of the whole deal and I knew it would bother me for a while more still, it was inevitable though it was as annoying as it was inevitable.

He shrugged gently next to me and reached out, his hands settled on my shoulder, he massaged them for a moment and I felt some tension ease out of my muscles, almost out of my bones. “I know I made sure it was closed and latched so unless she slipped past me when I did my morning check up, I don’t know how she got in.”

I knew it wasn’t during the morning check up, the door had been ajar, which meant I had forgotten to close it in some ways. I closed my eyes with a low sigh, fingers tugging at my hair in frustration though after a moment I stopped and looked up. A laugh escaped me as my mind settled on one particular thought. “Maybe it’s my helper spirit. Remember a while back I was sure there was something up there in the garden with me? Something I couldn’t see?”

He might have nodded but I couldn’t see, he did breathe a soft note to let me know that he remembered what I was talking about. It was good to know I wasn’t all that crazy. Though it didn’t make sense, why open the door at all and cause a potential accident? I frowned and tried to will my mind to let go of everything so I could manage some sleep. I knew it wasn’t going to happen but it still was worth the try.

Quentin carefully moved away from me and tugged on the curtains about the bed, letting them flow down over along the sides. The material was so light that it did seem as though they always floated on their own in one direction of the other. He was so gentle when he gathered it all back up in the mornings to set it up along the hooks we’d installed on the bed’s posts.

I sighed at the sight of the curtains he’d worked on and created from scratch and I closed my eyes. It was beautiful, even in my mind and I let my thought latch onto that sight over anything and everything else. I knew that if I focused on this beauty, on this particular memory, I would have an easier time resting.

Smiling, he settled next to me again, opening his arms for me and I settled against him, pleased for the closeness and the contentment that filled me then. I would worry about the rest of the world tomorrow.

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