Molly is missing. However bright the day (and yes, we have another good one - diary note) my heart's gloomy. I know she's only a cat. But she's our cat and she's part of our family. The girls include her in their drawings and in their writings. She's sometimes depicted as orange with 8 legs. She is in fact tabby with four legs, but no matter. Perish the thought that I would ever want to harm their tender creative instincts with harsh criticism. The point is that she is a very sweet cat. In fact the sweetest cat that I have ever known. No bitchy clawing she when being tickled under the chin or being dragged by a three year old in an alarming manner across the kitchen floor in an attempt to pick her up. And if they succeed she will sit there looking, well, merely slightly disturbed, as her fur is stroked the wrong way and her legs left dangling. Now the children are all at school she is my cosy little companion, curled up on the chair by the Aga, pottering about the garden with me, greeting me when I return to the house with upright tail and cheery chatter. When we take a family walk up or down the lane she will follow, faithful, dog-like. It really is very endearing. Not like these grisly cats who give all the others a bad name, swiping out as soon as look at you, huffing fishy breath all over you and who frankly couldn't give a stuff if you were dead or alive as long as they get fed.
And you know the worst of it is that, as I let her out into the howling wind and lashing rain (strange decision on her part) late Saturday night, I thought to myself, 'Gosh, how sad if this was the last time I ever saw her, plodding off into this Bronte-esque night'. I even opened the door again, just to watch her mooch away and warn her that there'd be no coming back till the morning cos I was to bed. Earlier in the week, I 'd also been having thoughts as I watched her potter across the lawn at how empty it would be when she departs this world. She's 6 now, the same age as my daughter. She joined us when they were both about 3 months old. I reckoned she's see them grow into adults if all went well. Then I'd not only have to confront empty nest syndrome but the death of the cat too. Still, that was a problem for another day. So when she failed to reappear all of Sunday (howling wind and lashing rain), and now it's Monday afternoon, I'm full of self-flaggelating thoughts along the lines of 'why the hell did I have those thoughts, now I've gone and blooming well made it happen, stupid cow'. I even burst into tears all over my homoeopath when I was meant to be there discussing my daughter. I apologised for being foolish and she said 'No, it's important', which I thank her for. Because it's not really is it? As I searched the edges of the field opposite, peered into marshy streams and down rabbit holes, and poked about in the hedges up and down the lane, needles in haystacks came to mind. She could be bloody anywhere for God's sake. But at least I was trying. If I hadn't tried, I'd have felt wretched. I thought of all the policemen and women who have meticulously searched fields, moors and woods; the people who've suffered losing a family member and not knowing what's happened to them. The kids that run away from home; the wives, husbands or partners that up and leave; kidnaps, hostages...the agony of not knowing what that beloved person is going through, why they did what they did, where they are and what they might be suffering. Helpless, mind-blowingly, frustratingly helpless to find them, save them. Get there before it's too late. I imagine it could send you insane.
I collected Middle Daughter from gym and she asked if Molly was back. I collected Youngest Daughter from school and she asked if Molly was back. I collected Eldest Daughter from the school bus and she asked if Molly was back. I said 'No', three times in a quiet voice tinged with loss. I wanted to believe she'd pop out from behind the bushes when we got home but it was no surprise when she didn't. She'd been away too long. It was very out of character. As the wind and rain set in again with the darkness we sent up another little prayer. I hated to think of her out there and the chair by the Aga looked very empty. Watching the news, I saw the story of the missing tourists in Ethiopia, seemingly now aggressively taken hostage. It was very humbling and I sent up a prayer for them too.