For the last four days my family and I have been in hell. Those who don't have pets can skip to another feed. We have two cats, about a year old,sister and brother , named Macy and Gray. They in turn adopted a feral cat, a calico we named Cali as she gradually moved in. Four days ago, Macy disappeared. She'd done this once before, gone for about a day.
At first we weren't worried; Gray seemed oblivious, bounding in from a day outside with Cali in tow. After the second day, I started openly worrying, trying to reset expectations and prepare my daughters for the possibility of a bad outcome. I replayed the last time I'd seen her, me too busy with work to stop and pet her; surely she took offense and stalked out, I berated myself. Images of hawks swooping down out of the sky alternated with thoughts of the fox glimpsed in the big tree between the house and the cliff.
Last night, I woke up at 4 in the morning; my wife was laying there softly weeping. We held each other til dawn, letting each other mourn and steel ourselves for the task of comforting our children. The drive to school was grim, as my 11 year old kept pushing for hopeful answers and getting muted resignation instead. Our 5 year old pretended not to hear but soaked it in, turning her gaze away like she does when her parents argue only to chime in like a wise old soul if things threaten to fall apart. We were getting used to the worst outcome.
Tonight as we sat down to a quiet dinner, the phone rang. My wife had posted a notice about Macy up and down the twenty houses on our block. Now a man from two houses up the hill was calling to say he might have our cat. I took my daughter's hand and walked up the sidewalk to the doorway. I could see the cat through the glass panes--black, medium long haired, gold eyes. After 4 days of deepening despair it was hard not to belive we'd caught a big break. But as I reached down to pick her up, she shrank back, and then, when I picked her up, wriggled out and slightly scratched my hand. My daughtere picked her up and she looked scared and not quite Macy. Still, I asked her to go back home and get her mother to take a look.
Seconds later my cell phone rang. It was my daughter, crying, saying they'd found Macy. I started to interrupt, telling her we just weren't sure, but she repeated herself until I finally understood. She'd gone down the hill toward our house, running into her mother who was coming up the hill with a flashlight with which to help out. As they met in front of the next door neighbor's house, they both heard a familiar persistent meow coming from the window of the downstairs garage. My wife ran to the door, noticing the flyer she'd left lying on the ground unseen by the neighbor. He came down and opened his garage door, and as I came running down the hill, my daughter clambered out of a box-filled storeroom with.... our Macy. Thin, thirsty, and thoroughly alive.
None of us are believers in fate, but tonight we're taking nothing for granted, including what we think we know about the ways of the world, our lives, and our loves. Now I'm sitting here on our bed, waiting for our youngest to wake up as Macy purrs by her side.