She sits motionless on the narrow windowsill. The sheer white curtain covers her profile, like a bride behind her veil ready to face a new life before her. Her ears begin to twitch at the sound of a bird’s chirp in the distance. It was a sound she had heard many times before, every time we moved to a new city. It could’ve been the faint sound of the ocean’s waves, a mile away that had perked her fancy this time. Just when I thought I had figured out her intentions, she begins to lift her perfect triangle nose in the air to smell something pleasant and inviting; the scent of a gladiola perhaps, as it sways in the air in the crisp ocean breeze? I could only guess, as Shayna stares out the open window. She now tilts her head, her large circle eyes fixated on a small grasshopper that just paid us a visit on the other side of the screen.
I call out her name, and she turns her head towards me. Her eyes, now gold enveloped slits, turn their gaze towards mine. “Meow,” she replies as if eager to know more.
“What do you think of it?” I respond. I knew it was difficult for any territorial feline to leave the comfort and familiarity of her home every two years, but it was the lifestyle of a military spouse and a military cat, no doubt.
I pat her velvety head with my fingertips, as she sprints away in search of new adventures. I watch her head straight for the 3-story pile of boxes that were stacked neatly in the corner of the room. Shayna now makes her home on its peak, watching the world below her. She seems more at easy than she did only three days ago. It’s a far cry from the 5-year-old scaredy cat that first started the journey of a nomad almost 10 years ago. Each year, I’ve seen her embrace her new home quicker every time we’ve made the change. She’s not only grown in age, but in worldly experience.
I tackle the rest of the giant stacks of boxes, ready to open up memories that were forgotten and packed away a few moves ago, only now ready to experience their second life. I unwrap the crackling brown sheets, hopeful that all of my favorite pieces are still intact through the heavy jostling of the boxes in the truck. I carefully place each mysterious piece on the floor, lined up in an assembly line in front of me. Shayna takes one look at the crinkly paper, and decides to escape her retreat high above the ground. She dashes down gracefully and heads straight for them. She moves her nose towards each piece, sniffing the outside layer, her nostrils moving in and out with each sniff. It’s something familiar, her twitching whiskers signal. She’s certain it smells like me, and immediately rubs her long, heavy body on each and every piece, eager to place her scent with mine.
A minute later, her attention is diverted once more. She turns her gaze to the large sliding door. I watch her stare intently, her tail thrashing from left to right as she crouches her body down to get a better look. My view is obstructed by the cream-colored curtain. Must be another squirrel in the yard. But Shayna continues her obsession with the animal or person outdoors. She can’t bear it any longer and takes matters into her own paws. She claws at the glass and impatiently lets out another meow.
I jump from my cross-legged position among the maze of boxes and glimpse out the door to see the new visitor. I chuckle at the sight of a large ebony colored tomcat on the other side of the glass door.
“You made a friend already?” I ask Shayna as she meows back. “I should’ve known,” I reply. Shayna had a funny habit of attracting strays every time we moved into a new area. I often wondered if she ever missed Tommy the cat and his daily visits back in our old home in Norfolk, Virginia. Their only interactions were deep stares across the transparent glass and a few wags of the tail. Although Shayna never ventured out in the yard, I knew she grew to welcome the visit from her handsome admirer. She waited in the same spot at 3 pm every day, like clockwork.
“Our new friend looks a little thin, maybe we should feed him.” Shayna agrees. She leads me to the cupboard that now housed her dry kibble. I grab a paper bowl and pour a good handful of food.
With one hand on the bowl, and another hand blocking Shayna from the sliding door, I step out into the backyard to meet our new guest. I can see Shayna scratching the glass vigorously with both paws, as if searching for a lever to open a secret door.
The black cat rubs up against my legs, happy for the company, and stands on his back paws sneaking a peek at the food bowl. He devours the kibble as soon as I place it down before him. He seems to be a house cat rather than a stray. His dark coat is luxurious silk under my fingers. Although he doesn’t wear a collar, he’s friendly enough to belong to someone or did at one time, during one of his nine lives. Perhaps he’s an indoor/outdoor cat patrolling the streets in search of his own adventure or two. Only time would tell. It was something I looked forward to discovering, and I knew Shayna would too.
“I see you met Max;” I hear a female voice call across the fence.
“Oh, my cat, Shayna, introduced us,” I reply with a smirk.
“Max is quite social. There’s no neighborhood cat he hasn’t befriended,” she smiled; “I’m Linda. Welcome to the neighborhood.” An older woman in her late 60s stretches out her hand to meet mine. She has sympathetic eyes that reflect the light blue hue of the calm sky above and a warm smile adorned with small, fine lines.
“Thank you. I’m Victoria.” I chat with our new neighbor and learn that she’s a retired Navy nurse who was lucky to spend most of her career here in the area. She tells me about the must-see places in the area – the secret beaches, the best place for lobster rolls, and the coolest museums in town. She promises the kindest and most helpful neighbors in town and the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had in my life. All just a holler away across the fence.
I smile, knowing I’ll be in good hands here. I’m just a few adventures and exciting tales away from feeling like I belong. Who knows, maybe it’ll make my list of favorite places? I shake the dreamy thoughts away, and head back to tackle the boxes.
A few hours later, I clean my sore, dirty hands, and get ready to make some dinner. As is customary in our house, Shayna gets her dinner first. Her ears perk up at the sound of the opening can. She digs in, savoring the familiar flavor on her tongue. Meanwhile, I sift through the pots and pans stored in the kitchen drawers, not remembering their spot in a new kitchen that’s half the size of our last. Once I have all my ingredients and supplies in place, I start making my grandmother’s famous minestrone soup. It was one of my favorite recipes. Each comforting spoonful always reminded me of home.
When dinner and clean-up is done, we settled into then worn folds of our slate blue couch. I turn on the TV and fumble through the new local channels until we find our favorite show – House Hunters International. I sit back, daydreaming of our new adventure down the road while watching a young couple deciding between three apartments in Barcelona. “How does Spain sound?” I ask Shayna. She looks up to meet my gaze, closes her eyes and settles her head right back down on her paws, enjoying the warmth of my lap. As if to say, not yet, let’s take it one nap at a time. I pet her head in agreement.
As twilight turns to dark, I turn off the TV. I head into our bedroom knowing Shayna would be tagging along close behind me. It’s her favorite time of day – bedtime! I put my pajamas on and creep under the warm covers. Shayna jumps on the bed right after me, and snuggles under my arm, as she’s always done every night since we became a family. “It’ll feel like home soon, don’t you worry,” I tell her, knowing it will.
A new city and life isn’t always easy, but we’ll embrace it fully. It’ll always be a great adventure as long as we know we can rest our heads and paws for the night, together.
Tammy B. Tsonis was born in Bari, Italy, and migrated to Chicago, IL when she was 6 months old. She is mother to two boys, and a military spouse. She is a writer of fiction short stories, poetry, and a novella. Her poem, Chicago, was published in Local Honey Midwest Literary Magazine.