Lydia heard him several times in the night. The cottage roof is his hunting route. He pads across it, heavy-pawed. Once he stopped to claw at the skylight, making strange mewling noises. She didn’t let him in. What if he had a mouse? The poor thing might escape, run for cover in her bed. She pulled a pillow over her head. It is the fourth anniversary. A kaleidoscope of random memories dances behind her eyelids. Thirty-six years have passed since we kissed under the honeysuckle. You said you’d never leave me.
When she wakes again a soft grey light has crept silently into the room. She can hear the blackbird’s fluting calls. The nest is hidden in the thickest part of the hedge. An ancient hedge of holly, beech and hawthorn, it runs the full length of the top garden, shielding the vegetable plot from the keen winds. The hedge that has outlived you, how can that be?
Over the last few days, Lydia has been watching the bird flitting back and forth with plump worms. She must protect the chicks; save them from death, from the stalker. Last year she’d found three tiny bodies lined up like trophies behind a plant pot in the conservatory.
She looks over at Pavarotti. He is lying on the grassy mound near the hedge. Insolent. He twitches his tail and stares back at her with slanted emerald eyes. He knows they’re there. She listens out constantly for the blackbird’s warning calls. The hosepipe is rigged up and ready to douse him if he gets too near. She vows she’ll never have another cat. How can he have nine lives when you only had one?
In the conservatory she checks for signs of a killing in the night. Her boy has re-positioned himself in a pool of sunlight. He purrs and stretches lazily when she bends to tickle his belly. His fur is luxurious, soft and thick as velvet. You loved him so.
The blackbird tilts its head and sings sweetly on the gate. All is well, there is still hope.