I got home late last night from an Opening at the theatre to find Mark asleep on the couch and the girls tucked into bed, passed out. The house was quiet and my brain over active, so I stayed up for an hour before heading downstairs to bed. Mark had crawled into bed with Lily by that time, as she was waking up a bit and having a rough go of it.
When I got downstairs my cat wasn't waiting for me, as she usually is. I closed the slider to the canyon that had been left open all day, checked to make sure the cat door was unlocked into our bedroom and sat down on the bed. No cat. And somehow I knew there wouldn't be.
This morning I took Maya to the edge of the canyon, just yards off the back of the house and said, "Go find the kitty."
And she did. What was left, anyway. All we found was fur and a bit of bone and my heart broke on the spot, tears streaking down my face and sobs pushing out of me in great ragged breaths. I knew it and yet, I needed to know it for sure. I followed Maya a bit further into the canyon but when we reached the thicket where the coyotes sometimes den up, I couldn't take another step. There was no more to see. I just couldn't.
Climbing back up the steep hill to the house, I could hardly breathe. Mark wrapped his arms around me when I came into the house while Lily and Anya tried to figure out what the heck was going on. We explained it, the best we could, talking about how Millie was a hunter who would catch lizards and birds and this time, something bigger than her was the hunter and had caught her. They got the concept, but not the emotion as Millie had never liked the kids, despite Anya's repeated attempts to make friends. They knew I was sad and for that I got hugs and some pretty lame, but welcome, 3 & 5 year old style jokes. Anya wiped at my face with a rag, catching my tears and then blowing in my eye... I'm thinking she was just trying to get me to stop.
Maya lay on the floor nearby, silently watching all of this. I went and lay my head on her chest and whispered thanks to her for giving me the evidence I needed to not be sitting in wonder for the next week.
The thing is, Millie had been giving us such trouble lately. I'd started calling her, "that damn cat" when I'd find that she peed on the dog bed or scratched Anya again as she tried to make friends with the disgruntled cat. The only time I loved having her anymore was when she'd come cuddle on my lap at night and I'd wiggle my fingers in her soft fur, getting her motor up to speed as she rubbed her face against my hand. I can't help but wonder if she was meant to move on and yet, I am so very sorry that it had to be in a moment of terror. I never wanted anything so awful to happen to my girl.
Eleven years ago she was so tiny your could cup her in a single hand and search around for the cat under all that fluff. She loved sniffing armpits, especially after a hot, dirty day. She would sleep in the bathroom sink, fitting perfectly into the roundness of the bowl and drink from the faucet if you set it on a slow dribble. She once set her tail on fire. She could leap from the balcony to the roof of our old home and sometimes would barely make it, grabbing on with a single claw and hauling herself up to safety. She hated most people who were not me, but for me she poured nothing by love and devotion into my waiting hands.
God, I'm going to miss that little shit.