Dear Tabitha, A Love Letter.

 

Dear Tabitha,

bernicerayhollins.com

Remember when I brought you to my new apartment for the first time? It was my first apartment all to myself. No roommates, no boyfriends. I was proud of it, proud to bring you there.

You weren’t as excited as I thought you’d be. The first thing you did was run and hide under the bed.

Our relationship had been strained for the past several years. It wasn’t intentional of course. I would’ve brought you along with me if I could’ve. I often wonder what was going through your mind all those years we were apart. Did you wonder what happened to me? Did you wonder where I was, or if you’d ever see me again?

I feel selfish for not having thought of you more. It was a distracting time of my life – college, first jobs, boyfriends. None of which are good excuses.

I tried to find you a home. My cousin lived in Arizona and thought she’d like to take you to live with her. She made arrangements to come get you and fly you down to Phoenix. But she changed her mind when she came to get you and you tried to bite her.

I’m so glad you tried to bite her because if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have you as a friend anymore, and you might’ve forgotten me completely.

I couldn’t blame you for disliking the apartment at first. For the past five years, you’d lived outside on the farm. You had complete freedom over where you went and when. My apartment was small and in the city. There was just one window and no outdoor space for you. But within a few days, you were right at home.

In many ways, it was like we’d never been apart. I worked two full-time jobs and didn’t get home until almost midnight, sweaty and exhausted. But you’d greet me at the door, talkative as ever, ready to tell me all about your day. I looked forward to coming home to you, eating my dinner of celery stalks and hot sauce while you curled up on my lap and purred to me.

Sometimes I think back to when I was a teenager, when Mom first banished you to the outdoors. She didn’t care for you much. You were nothing but a nuisance to her. You’d scratch the furniture – so they had you declawed. I had to pay for it with my babysitting money. Forty dollars. We could never keep you off the dining room table. Mom finally had enough and forbade you from coming inside.

When it poured down rain you would come to the window well of my basement bedroom and yowl. Until one night, I opened the window, popped out the screen and let your curl up at the foot of my bed before shooing you back out the window in the morning. This became our routine. There was a spot at the bottom of my comforter where your wet, muddy fur had stained the lavender fabric a dingy brown. But I didn’t care.

You seemed to enjoy the indoor comforts of my apartment. You’d sit on the window sill and watch life go by on the street below. It was a busy neighborhood – lots for you to observe with a higher viewpoint than you’d ever had at the farmhouse.

I was delighted when you bonded with my boyfriend. He’d called out of work, sick with a cold. But he stayed at my apartment that day and you took care of him while I was at work. You seemed to like him more than you liked me, but I was okay with that. I was flattered that you approved of my choice in men so much.

We aren’t always the best judge of characters though. When that relationship had run its course I thought you’d be happier with him than you would with me. I regret that choice every time I think of it, which is almost every day. If I’d known he was going to take out his anger towards me on you, I would’ve never left you behind.

But you’re safe now, and I’ve never left you since. My judgment improved over the years, as well.

We recovered from that ordeal. I let new people into my life. Better people. And you let them in too. Resiliently, as if we’d never been hurt in the past. But I’d promised you it would never happen again, and I meant to keep that promise.

You got sick. I knew I was going to have to let go, but I wasn’t ready for it. Not yet. You couldn’t move or even open your eyes. We knew what was wrong, but couldn’t help you. It’s not that I gave up on you, I didn’t want you to go through more suffering, more pain. He saved you, though. Force fed you fluids through an eye dropper. It was a rough week, but you pulled through, you fought, and you’re still here because of it. Because of him.

So I kept him. And you.

That was almost five years ago. In February, you’ll turn twenty. As I’m writing this, you’re sprawled out across my legs, face nuzzled into the afghan my aunt crocheted for me. Softly vibrating while you snore away in a deep sleep.

I wish I could know that you understand how much I love you. When you aren’t here anymore, there will be a piece of myself that is missing. You have been there for me through everything. When no one else could relate to what I was going through, you were there. I always felt like you could understand – somehow. I treasure all the long conversations we’ve had late into the night, early into the dawn. You understand me, you get me – on a level no human ever has.

I did nothing to deserve you, and yet, here you are with me anyways. And that’s what is so remarkable about love, I suppose. We saw each other through the hard times and the good times and still came back to each other time and time again. And when you do finally pass, I’ll be honored that part of me will go with you.

Yours Always,

Stephanie

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