Tabatha sat frozen in the drivers seat of her 2003 Toyota Corolla, her hands wrapped tightly around the steering wheel. She loved this car. It wasn’t pretty to look at. It had several dents and scratches, and the paint was chipping in a few spots, but it was paid for and reliable; in her mind, that made it perfect. She’d been sitting in the parking lot outside her office for over half an hour watching the lady bug move slowly across her dash. She knew her clients would be waiting inside, in the board room, but could not bring herself to get out of the car.
She’d seen the Coccinelle, as her french grandfather called them, last night when she’d parked the car in her laneway. Tabatha hadn’t given it a second thought, but this morning as she watched it, she grew more and more certain it was Oscar—that he’d found her and needed her.
Oscar had been Tabatha’s family cat. She’d adored him since the moment parents had brought him home as a kitten when she was four. He had beautiful, soft, fawn and black fur that lay smoothly across his back in distinct stripes that changed to delicate dots, lines and gentle swirls as it wrapped over his shoulders and hips onto his belly where is faded to a soft blond fuzz. When she learned that his colouring was called tabby, she hadn’t understood why her mother wouldn’t let her name him Tabby. She remembered being so excited by the idea that they could share the same name. Her mother, always the pragmatist, had seen the obvious flaw in this choice and had put her foot down, telling Tabatha that the kitten already had a name. His name was Oscar after the famous Austrian poet, playwright, and expressionist painter, Oscar Kokoschka. Tabatha had acquiesced not because she was impressed by the artist but because she happened to be a huge fan of Oscar the Grouch from sesame street. So Oscar would do.
Oscar had turned out to be remarkably docile, most unlike his grumpy namesake, and when Tabatha was small she had dragged him about the house with her. She loved to rub her face in his fur and never paid much notice to which end was up. Oscar was unperturbed and tolerated all of her affection. As she grew into her teen years, he became her confidant. He would curl up beside her on her pillow as she did homework, and he was reliably there for her to bury her head in supple fur as she wept over various heartaches.
She’d been so distraught to leave him when she’d gone off to live in the dorms her first year of university that she had begged and pleaded with her mother to let her take him with her second year when she got an apartment with her best friend, Annie. Her mother had been reluctant, but when she saw the effort that Tabatha put into locating a suitable pet friendly apartment and considered her daughter’s homebody tendencies, over developed sense of responsibility and bookworm habits, she was finally swayed and agreed to a two month trial period. Tabatha’s care of the family feline treasure had met her mother’s approval, and he had been allowed to stay.
Tabatha’s mom had confessed later that since Oscar was already fifteen, even though he was in excellent shape, she really didn’t think he would be long for this world. Oscar proved her decisively wrong by not only surviving but thriving for an additional twelve years. He’d been twenty seven when he’d crawled into the laundry basket last winter to have a nap and had simply not woken up again.
To say that Tabatha had been heartbroken would be a severe understatement. She was thirty one years old and had no real memory of life without Oscar; she found she could barely breathe in his absence.
Tabatha had gotten on with life as one does but she carried an invisible wound, a painful, bleeding, gaping, hole in her chest that no one could see. Her mom had suggested she get another kitten, but that was a ridicules proposal. She didn’t want another cat. She wanted Oscar.
The ladybug was not the first creature Tabatha suspected was Oscar. There had been a sparrow that had landed on her bedroom windowsill several mornings in row in April and she’d been pretty sure she could see her old friend in that birds eyes. Now here was this lady bug. Tabatha had to get into the office. She reminded herself it was not reasonable to stay in her car because she believed her cat may have returned to her as a Coccinelle.
Tabatha unwrapped her hands from the steering wheel and reached over to lower the window an inch before opening the door. She leaned in close to the little red and black insect and whispered, with a tremor in her voice, “I love you” before stepping quickly out of the car and closing the door. If he was still there when she was done work, she’d get him a terrarium.
I am less photogenic than my dog.