In that posting I related the sad circumstances by which Soxy regarded us as having betrayed her fragile trust. It seems she's on the way to forgiving us, though it has taken two and a half years. There are strings attached – her conditions, needless to say.
That she seemed likely never to come round was hugely disappointing to Tracey and Christian. When we returned from Melbourne, they did their best to convince her we were staying, but no blandishments were sufficient. At night she would prefer to starve and freeze rather than come inside to eat or to sit at the fire.
'Idiot cat,' said Tracey, with colourful verbal embellishments I won't write down here. Some family secrets must be preserved.
One freezing night round June this year, snow was predicted. One of us opened the front door that night and she simply strolled in, tail high in the air. I own the joint. When she ate food in the kitchen, we left her alone, because people hanging around made her nervous. They're going to try to catch me or do something evil. I just know it.
We were sitting in the lounge, expecting from the moment she finished eating to demand immediate release from the comparative warmth of the kitchen to return to the bitter conditions outside. Instead, she strolled into the lounge and sat Sphinx-like in front of the fire.
Every time someone moved, she swivelled around to see who was going to leap upon her and try to tear her to pieces. She didn't stray from the hearth.
Surprisingly, nor did she demand to be let out when we went to bed, but remained basking by the fire. A couple of years older and fatter than before the Great Betrayal, she'd mellowed. True, when Dr Who was on she covered her eyes, and in dreams sometimes she acted out great dramas, judging by her body movement. Mostly, she sat or lay with tail wrapped neatly around her legs, the perfect embodiment of qi.
Over the next few days, she decided for herself whether to stay in or go out. She knew when the night was going to be extra cold, and usually stayed in, but not always. She had territory to defend from the black and white cat with the mournful drawn-out mew. (The first time I heard it, I thought some cat, maybe Soxy, was trapped or poisoned and in terrible pain, but it was just the rival cat doing its thing.)
She settled fairly well into the lounge area, though never failed to react to the slightest movement from one of us. Occasionally she took to strolling over to Christian, asking to be made much of. He obliged, as was his duty as an underling.
She was still a princess, asserting her authority. That never changed. Sometimes she'd ask to be let in, and then sit just outside the door. Now and again, affecting great reluctance but genuine condescension, she'd come in, after a bit of ego-stroking by the door-opener.
More often than not, the door would be closed in her face by the impudent human, but on its reopening seconds later, she'd walk in with a facial expression like the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey. There, let me add hastily, the comparison ends, apart from certain qualities of disposition.
Mission complete. Humans playing their subservient role at the door, taking their cue from the Mistress of Ceremonies.
When so inclined, she'd even play with her old toys; a realistic little mouse in particular. She'd act out the role of cruel mouse tormentor as with live mice, and then go to sleep with it, hugging it to her belly.
|Laugh and I scratch your eyes out|
We got a clue when next door's ancient little terrier cashed in his chips and went to Jesus.
'I still want to leave his dry food out,' the neighbour said sadly, 'but I've stopped. Soxy will miss it.'
So that was it. All these years Soxy had been nicking poor Muttley's nuts. (Well, I think that's what the neighbour called his dry food, but I'm not going to check for fear it will spoil my story. We always called Soxy's her "crunchies".)
That may help to explain the Garfield-like physique she had acquired. Mind you, in that department she has nothing on Christian's friend's cat, Hamburger, who makes Garfield look like a cheetah and Soxy severely anorexic.
When it's not cold enough for a fire, she sits in front of the burner, looking aggrieved, staring at its glass door and willing it to fill with bright red coals and gentle flames flickering around the wood.
'Never go away again,' she says as she strolls over, 'or I'll... I'll....'
The threat remains hanging in the air, like an unanswerable question.