The Grey Ghost
Even two days later the house feels very empty. In Australia it always takes a while to clear the odd bits of clutter that follow guests - the things that won't fit in the case, the bits and pieces left on shelves in bathrooms, and the jobs left to be done. Here, with my lovely efficient staff, things are whisked away and out of sight, the bed was stripped and remade and within a few hours it was almost as if Tabbi had not been here.
There were odd little things that happened though. A bottle of water in the bathroom had been tipped onto the floor and left water everywhere. I kept feeling strangely as if I were being watched. The house often makes odd noises, and our neighbours can be noisy, but there seemed to be more times when I looked up from what I was doing and thought 'what was that?' I kept seeing flashes of movement out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked up there was nothing there. We have security film on all our windows. It cuts out a lot of available light and makes the house dark, but it also keeps it cool and at this time of the year I am grateful for that. Disconcertingly though, it turns each window into a mirror if it is darker outside than inside, so when the film first went on I often caught movement from the corner of my eye, only to realise that it was me! This seemed to be at times when I wasn't moving around.
None of it was anything to put a finger on - it was just a bit odd and I was happy to believe that I was missing my lovely daughter and her bubbly presence.
This morning Bob brought me a cup of tea in bed. I would like to pretend that is unusual but it is almost routine - but never unappreciated. He gets up earlier to go to work, I tend to like to work late into the nights and then sleep like a log in the last few hours of the night. It is school holidays so there are no beeping cars and school assemblies singing raucous versions of the National Anthem with more enthusiasm than melody. Without my early morning wakeup tea I would probably sleep till eleven. He often brings snippets of news with the tea - a really interesting bit of news from an email or Aussie papers on the internet will actually mean that I drink it hot!
This morning's news was "I find this extraordinary, but there seems to be a cat in the house".
Talk about instant attention! This house is impregnable. I used to think that meant that it couldn't become pregnant. I know know better, but certainly it seems odd that anything could get in uninvited. The windows are kept tightly shut as the air is full of dust and heat and keeping the house closed keeps it cooler. For security reasons doors are always closed and locked. Local cats - even the two that I feed - are too shy and skittish to come in even invited. The two slender apricot males that sleep on our doormat will leap up and seethe and undulate back and forth a safe three metres away till fed.
However, the evidence was irrefutable. A nasty smelly pile was deposited in the centre of the small bed in our dressing room.
Our first assumption was that the cat had been in, used the bed as kitty litter (I don't much like that bedspread either) and gone. On second thoughts I started to put together the odd glimpses of movement and realised that I might not have been imagining it.
So today I cruised the house quietly, shoes off, scaring Veronica half out of her wits when I suddenly appeared beside her. She did not believe the cat could still be inside. I was starting to agree with her. We saw no other evidence. Then at 12.30, having spent too long on the computer in chat with family at home, and in great haste I was rushing around to get ready for a trip to the museum to investigate Tutenkhamen's underwear.
I grabbed some lunch and took it upstairs to eat as I changed. I brought the plate down to the kitchen and there was a flurry of movement from the sink as an elegant charcoal cat - in that lanky stage between kitten and cat - erupted from the sink and whirled around the room, skittering sideways on the tiles in its frantic haste to get away from me. I tossed it a piece of not-time-to-eat-it-chicken as I stepped away and back into the doorway. I moved out of sight and watched the chicken, to see the cat apporach it slowly. He is beautiful and I have seen him often before. He is long and slim and elegant and with the large ears and long face of the classic Egyptian cat. I must have moved because he saw me, and with his piece of chicken in his mouth he took off up the back stairs.
I had to leave for the Museum - but left instructions that he was to be quietly tempted out of the house with a food trail, not chased and frightened or they would have more mess to clean up! I arrived home after my staff had left, but have no idea if I still have a cat inside or not.
I love cats, but not when they are raging around the house untrained! It is nice to have the ghost mystery cleared up though - especially since Bob very kindly did the worst part of the clear-up!