(Bella, on high alert, like usual)
We had been away for the weekend, and about an hour after we got back, I noticed I hadn't seen Bella. I started looking for her. Eventually, the whole family joined in. We looked everywhere -- under beds, in closets, upstairs, downstairs, behind the couch, etc. Finally, Kathy said, "Uh oh," and pulled back the curtain of a window that Bella likes to sleep on the sill of. The screen was partially popped out. Right in the corner where Bella likes to sleep. I immediately started crying. This caused the kids to cling to me, sobbing in fear. The four of us were a mess. Kathy sucked in a deep breath, and stuck her head out the window to look at the ground below, anticipating a mangled Bella carcass. "Oh thank god. She's not there," Kathy said. We all let out a sigh of relief, and moved our search party outside. In the wet grass, in the dark, with flashlights.
After about 20 minutes of crawling around in the wet grass looking under hedges, Kathy finally located Bella underneath a hedge, about 5 feet from where she would have landed when she fell out the window. She was cowering against the house, on high alert. I was poised to grab her as Kathy nudged her out from under the hedge with a baseball bat. She suddenly shot past me like an arrow, and bounded off into the darkness. The kids and I began bawling with renewed vigor. "SHE'S GOING TO DIE OUT HERE! SHE'LL GET HIT BY A CAR!" I wailed. "WHERE IS BELLA? WHAT IF SOMETHING EATS HER?" the kids wept. "Don't worry, we'll find her," the only rational person replied.
But we didn't. And the following morning, at 7 am, we were supposed to leave for California for a funeral. I was up half the night, wringing my hands, wondering if I should fly out separately, at a later date. How could I just leave for four days with my poor kitty running wild in suburban New York?
At 5 am, the alarm went off. "Ugh," I said. "I barely slept." "MEOW," Bella asserted, at the sound of my voice, from somewhere directly below my bedroom window. I went outside, and saw her sitting partially under the hedge, looking at the wet grass with disgust. Each time she tried to step on it, her paw would get wet, and she would shake it in frustration and glare at me, as if I had made the ground wet just to piss her off. I walked over, picked her up, and carried her inside. She immediately went under the bed and did not come out again until after we left for the airport.
After that, she was a changed cat. The kids can now pet her, on limited occasions and for a short period of time. She walks around the house as if she owns the place. She doesn't dart under the bed when someone enters the room. She's still not the bravest cat in the world, but she is a lot better.
This weekend, I am turning thirty. I have tried, without success, to get Kathy to agree not to have a party or do anything for it -- to just let it slide by. I am not sure what it is I am afraid of. Dying, I guess, much like Bella the Cat. I'm not particularly afraid of ageing. What milestone birthdays do, though, is make us face the fact that we are going to die someday. And that "someday" is closer than it used to be.
Coincidentally, the day before my thirtieth birthday is predicted by some to be the Rapture, which would render all this worrying moot. I guess if I have to choose between turning thirty and the end of the world, I'm going to go ahead and opt for the birthday. As one of my dear friends pointed out to me, it's probably in my best interest to avoid having to stand and be judged as long as possible.
Anyway, if Bella the Cat can fall out the window and come through it a braver and happier cat, perhaps I can face the thirtieth birthday. Or the apocalypse. Whichever.