This is Mabel. She was one of my parents' beloved cats.
She died on Saturday morning after being hit by a car on the country lane in the idyllic English village my parents live in. The lane idiot people, despite the speed restrictions, still speed through.
Mabel was a pretty awesome cat. She was a rescue pedigree reject. She didn't make the elite cut so my parents collected her, her sister, and two others – one Christmas and brought them all home. It was the best Christmas ever.
From the start, they all had their roles. One was neurotic, The littlest was my Ma's lap dog, Mabel's sister was the typical cat and Mabel was in charge, quietly and confidentially.
There was another thing, too. Mabel only had eyes for my Pa. Sure, she was happy with an ear tickle from us, a head scritch or a warm lap, but with my Pa, she loved him completely. She had her routine. She liked to sit on his feet. She liked to lie on his chest as he woke in the morning and when he whistled, she would drop whatever wildlife she was terrorising and come running in response.
I loved Mabel too. I loved that when I visited she would be the first on my bed when I opened my bedroom door. And when I came to leave, she'd take up residence in my suitcase lid in protest.
So when a text came through on my phone on Saturday morning as I was driving to Cheltenham to see Jenny M, I was gutted to see the preview panel from its place on my dashboard telling me Mabel was dead.
It was from my very sad Pa. He had no other words.
On my stereo at the time was a song by Brandi Carlisle called Hiding My Heart, which is about meeting someone amazing but knowing they're going to disappear one day so you hide your heart so it doesn't get hurt.
As wept quietly at the news, I remembered not only the words of the song but a conversation I'd had with MET man earlier in the week.
We were chatting about stuff and I mentioned that one of the reasons I was putting off getting a cat, or indeed any other pet, was because I was terrified of loving it and then it dying. Indeed, I once fostered out my goldfish Charlie to my Ma for this same reason.
But what I forgot here, was that I did already have a cat I loved more than anything, I had Mabel.
And, while the realisation that the bundle of white fur would never be around to disturb a FaceTime conversation with my Ma again was horrible, I also realised that I wouldn't have changed those moments for anything. Not knowing Mabel would have been a far bigger loss.
I know I'm slow in rejoining this party after quite a time away, but I can't be afraid of loving stuff just because I'm afraid of losing it.
So through the sadness of Mabel dying also comes a clarity. It is time for me to stop hiding my heart.
It is time for me to get a cat*.
But she will never replace Mabel, for she was one of a kind.
*metaphorical or real