“You really are a lovely cat,” Tommy Flannigan gently stroked his big hand over the young black cat’s fur.
Lucky purred, he loved to be stroked. He rubbed his head against Tommy’s hand.
“I really am very fond of him,” said Tommy’s mother, taking Lucky into her arms and holding him so she could rest her cheek against his soft fur.
‘He’s fond of you too,’ Tommy smiled, smoothing his hand over Lucky’s back. His eyes met his mother’s. It was good to see her looking so happy, she had been so lonely after Tommy’s father died. She’d been very lost for a long time with no one else around her house, Tommy knew, had seemed very empty. He was delighted the little black and white cat had turned up, he was great company for his mother and had made her smile again, something he hadn’t seen for a long time.
‘Won’t he be scared in the crate?’ Mrs Flannigan gently handed Lucky to Tommy. She bent down slowly on stiff limbs and peered into the inside of the cat carrier. Tommy had bought a small, soft red blanket which he had used to line the bottom of the carrier.
‘I don’t think so,’ he said, running a hand over the blanket, feeling the softness of the fabric.
‘I’d nearly get in there myself.’ Gently he turned Lucky so he was facing the basket.
‘Don’t be scared,’ Mrs Flannigan told him, putting a hand on Lucky’s head.
“Now my little friend, let’s have you in here.” Tommy opened the wire door and gently pushed Lucky into the cat basket.
“Do you think he will mind being in there?” Mrs Flannigan eased her stiff back as she crouched down to peer into the cat basket.
Tommy shook his head. “No, look see, he’s quite happy in there.”
“I think he is,” Mrs Flannigan agreed as Lucky rubbed himself up against the wire gate of the cat basket.
“Come on then.” Tommy lifted the basket, “It’s time we were on the road, we’ve a long way to go.” He turned to look at his mother, seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. It was a huge thing for her to do, to leave her home and come to live with him. This house had been in the family ever since before Tommy was born.
Mrs Flannigan and Tommy’s father had bought the house before he was born. They had lived here all of their lives in the cottage at the edge of the village. When Tommy was born the house had been quite tumbledown and neglected. That had been the only reason his parents had been able to afford to buy it. Gradually as he grew up and his siblings, a brother and two sisters were born the house was extended, as his parents could afford it they made changes to the house. A new bathroom had been put in, a better kitchen. The garden, now beautifully laid out and maintained had been created out of the wilderness of brambles and weeds that had once surrounded it. Now the house was elegant, behind its stone exterior the rooms were sumptuous, painted in pale colours that lit up the rooms when the sunlight flooded in. As the children got older, the new kitchen had been replaced by an even better one, bathrooms had been built into some of the bedrooms.
Then, as the children got older and began to leave home the rooms became un-used. Habited only at Christmas when everyone returned. After his father had died his mother had shut off more of the rooms and had employed a gardener to help maintain the grounds. It began to be a chore for her to look after the house and so Tommy and the rest of the family had got together one weekend and had decided, along with their mother, that the time had come to sell the family home they all loved and for her to go and live with one of them.
One of Tommy’s sisters, Maeve lived in a city flat, the other, Anna had a big and very noisy family, his brother Declan lived abroad, in Paris where he worked. Only Tommy had a small family and plenty of room. His wife, Marie was delighted they could offer her a place to live. Their home was out in the country, far away from the village and she was often lonely. She felt it was a fabulous idea to have Mrs Flannigan stay with them, company for her and help with the children.
The big family house had been put up for sale and brought soon after by a young couple who had two small children. The house would be perfect for them, one in which they could all live together with their growing family surrounded by the lovely garden at the edge of the village.
Still it had been a wrench for Mrs Flannigan, she had sold a lot of her furniture and was very sad at seeing possessions she had loved going to different homes, even though she knew she didn’t want to stay in the house any more and really did want to stay with Tommy. Still the thought of the move was hard.
“Two hundred miles,” Mrs Flannigan sighed. “It is such a long way away.”
Tommy put the cat basket down onto the floor beside the kitchen door, crossed the distance between him and his mother and gently folded her into his arms. “I know it is a long way away, but you will be with me. I’ll be able to look after you now that…” he paused before continuing, “now that you are getting older.”
Then seeing the look of dismay that clouded his mother’s wrinkled face, he pinched her cheek in a cheery gesture, “and don’t forget you will have your new friend for company.”
Mrs Flannigan glanced towards the cat basket and smiled. “Yes, it will be a new life for both of us.”
Then with a final glance around the kitchen Mrs Flannigan set her jaw determinedly and nodded at her son. “Right, I’m ready.”
Tommy picked up the cat basket and opened the door, standing to one side to let his mother walk slowly out of what had been her home for the last forty years. Taking a deep breath she stepped out of the kitchen, remembering what had seemed moments before when Tommy’s father had carried her through the front door as they began their married lives. The years had flown past so quickly, she had been young then, full of hopes and dreams. She was old not, her hopes and dreams all fulfilled. Except for spending a long retirement with Tommy’s father. He had died too young and she was alone.
Mrs Flannigan pulled the green front door behind her. It shut with a familiar thud as the door fitted neatly into the frame. For a moment she stood with her hand still on the door. ‘So many different colours,’ she shook her head gently, remembering the years, marked by the different colours the front door had been, the hours Tommy’s father had spent painting it. The hours she had spent doing the same since he had died. She would miss the house. Resolutely she took a deep breath.
‘Time to get going I think.’ She let go of the door and turned away from the house and walked away down the garden path.
Halfway down the path she stopped, unable to see for the tears that filled her eyes.
‘Oh, Tommy,’ she said, shaking her head as she covered her face with her hands. ‘What a big change this is going to be. I’ve been here for so long, it feels so strange that I won’t be here again.’
Tommy put the cat basket down on the path and gently cradled his mother in his arms. ‘I know, it will be strange for a while, but you’ll love it with me and Marie, and the kids, you’ll see. No house to worry about, nothing to do except the things you want to. Painting. You always wanted to do that. And you’ve got your little cat, he’ll look after you as well.
Mrs Flannigan nodded her head. ‘I know, I will be fine. Just need to get my tears out of the way.’ She sniffed hard and blew her nose on a tissue and then taking a deep breath eased herself out of Tommy’s arms.
‘Come on son, let’s get going.’
Tommy shook his head at his mother’s strength. He had been worried about her, but he knew she would be fine.
“It’ll take us a good few hours,” Tommy said, leading the way down the garden path, “we will stop for some tea on the way.”
Lucky put his paw against the wire door of the cat basket. He wasn’t sure he liked it inside the plastic box.
It was comfortable enough, there was a warm fluffy blanket for him to lie on, but he didn’t like the feeling of being shut in.
He could sense that it was time for Lucy to come home. He should be getting home and going to wait for her at the bottom of the drive. Lucky enjoyed waiting for Lucy when she came home from school. Sometimes he hid in the bushes at the side of the drive and jumped out of her as she walked home and sometimes he just sat on the wall beside the gate and watched for her bus arriving.
He let out a plaintive meow, hoping that Mrs Flannigan would let him out of the cat box. “There now little puss,” said Mrs Flannigan, “you just relax we will be in our new home in a while and I will find you a nice new place to sleep.”
Lucky peered through the wire gate, he could see the countryside flashing past through the car window. There was the gate where he waited for Lucy and there was Lucy, in that split-second Lucky saw the worry on her face, saw her mouth open and heard her shout his name. He meowed again, as loud as he could, he had to get out of here and get back to Lucy.
“I hope you aren’t going to keep that up all the way back to my house,” Tommy said, glancing over his shoulder as he steered his powerful car along the country roads.
Lucky put his paw against the wire gate and tried to move it, but it would not open. He was trapped. Filled with misery Lucky lay down on the fluffy blanket, the first chance he got he was going to get out of here and head back to Lucy.
After an hour the car stopped. “We’ll get a cup of tea, here, break up the journey,” Tommy said, opening the passenger door for his mother. “Your little cat is very quiet now, thank goodness,” he added.
Lucky peered through the wire gate, he didn’t recognise any of the scenery that he could see out of the car window.
It was dark when the car stopped for the second time. Lucky sat up and stretched himself, he had been asleep, curled on the fluffy blanket, lulled by the warmth and motion of the car. “Here we are,” Tommy said, picking up the cat box. Lucky felt himself swinging through the air as Tommy led the way down a neat garden path. It smelt unfamiliar to Lucky, he couldn’t smell the pleasant tang of the farmland, rich soil and animals.
A moment later the cat box was put down in a brightly lit room and Mrs Flannigan opened the wire door.
“Here we are then,” she smiled, reaching in and taking hold of Lucky, “this is our new home.”
She pulled Lucky gently out of the cat box and carried him across the room. Lucky looked around himself, taking in his new surroundings. He was in a large, warm room, filled with comfortable looking furniture. Everything smelt strange, Lucky’s nose twitched taking in the unfamiliar odour. And then he realised what was different, there was no smell of humans in the room. Everything was brand new.
“I don’t know if I will like it here,” Mrs Flannigan said quietly, sitting down and putting Lucky onto her lap, “I’m going to miss my own little house.”
The hand stroking Lucky’s back began to move slower and slower until finally it stopped. Lucky heard Mrs Flannigan’s breathing slow as she began to doze. He waited for a moment just to be sure she had gone to sleep and then he slid quietly off her lap. There was a bowl of water and some food laid down beside the front door. Lucky crouched beside the bowls and ate hungrily. Then slowly he made his way around the granny flat, looking for a way out. He looked in the bedroom, then into the bathroom and all around the room where Mrs Flannigan slept in the armchair. There was no way out.
He curled miserably on the bed, missing Lucy desperately. He didn’t even move when, ages later Mrs Flannigan came into the room and got into bed. Later, when she turned out the light Lucky heard her sobbing softly. He crept closer and curled beside her until she went to sleep.
In the morning he was woken by the sound of banging on the door. A few moments later two young children burst into the room carrying a big bunch of daffodils. “Welcome! Granny!” yelled the small boy, flinging his arms around Mrs Flannigan.
Lucky watched as the two small children perched on the edge of the bed chatting happily to their Granny. When they had gone, rushing to get ready for school Mrs Flannigan got out of bed, “I think I’m going to enjoy living in this Granny flat,” she said happily, tickling Lucky behind the ears.
She spent the day tidying the flat, taking all her photographs out of the boxes and putting them out on the shelves and putting her books onto the book shelf and her clothes into the wardrobe.
The two children came back to see her when they came home from school.
“Do you know,” Mrs Flannigan said, when the children had gone, “I just know I am going to be really happy here.”
That evening just before she went to bed Mrs Flannigan opened the small window in the kitchen. “Just to let in a bit of fresh air,” she said, rubbing Lucky’s head.
Lucky waited until she was asleep and then he stood up, easing his sleek back from beneath her hand. He jumped up onto the top of the window, the night air ruffled his black coat. He paused for a moment, looking back at the old lady. She was going to be alright without him. Then he turned and slipped out of the window and into the night air. He was going home. Going back to Lucy.