She arrived in a cardboard box over twenty years earlier. The runt of the litter, she wasn't even chosen by my husband when he came to select a cat. She came free with his purchase of her sister, a somewhat larger, cuter kitten.
She was tiny, mottled brown and orange in colour, with large yellow eyes and pointy ears. She looked a bit like a gremlin but was far gentler in nature. She might take on a burly spider if feeling particularly fierce. She would follow me down the street as I walked my infant daughter to nursery school. I would fear for her safety on the road and turn round to chase her off back home only to find her behind me again a few steps later.
She outlived her better looking sister by eight years. I was worried she would be lonely and brought new kittens into the house, which gave her a second childhood for a while as she chased them about. She grew skinnier, tattier, louder, madder. She became a suitable mad old cat for a mad old cat lady. She only wanted human food and would yowl incessantly, annoyingly, until I caved in and shared. She developed a relaxed attitude to litter trays, preferring, in her old age, to go in exciting new places like games consoles, behind the television or in my shoes. Her favourite place to sleep was in a cardboard box on the landing.
She always hated travelling, being in the car frightened her. So the vet came to us because I couldn't bear to see her scared. The tumour in her abdomen, he told me, was the size of a cricket ball. I was doing the right thing, he said. Would I like to stay? Of course. I held her and talked to her and then she was gone.
My husband carried her out of the house in her cardboard box, an unconscious echo of her arrival so long ago.
It's no different to any other relationship, really. There will always, at some point, be a parting. It hurts and on some level we know it's inevitable but, for the most part, we forge ahead regardless, keeping our focus on the journey. If we didn't we would never have pets, children, lovers, careers or even new shoes, we would be too scared of losing them. This deliberate act of forgetfulness is what enables us to keep starting anew. The pain fades and only the silvery scars remain to remind us.