Pandy was the perfect cat. A purebred Siamese, she was slim and aloof. Her fur was hued a darker shade than most Siamese, but it was soft, silken, and rich. Large blue eyes took over her dark face. They were human eyes that carried equal amounts of disdain and tenderness for whatever she was watching. Though Pandy moved slowly, she did so with such grace the fact that she was old never crossed my mind.
That morning, a day that was far too cold for May, I was smiling. It was officially one month until I left fourth grade, and one month until school was merely an afterthought. I rushed through my breakfast and hopped back up the stairs to my room. After throwing on a thin, magenta dress, decorated with horizontal blue stripes, I moved to the bathroom to pull my hair into a ponytail. Pandy was in the doorway, lying across the tiles like it was a plush bed.
“Pandy, move,” I said. She merely tilted her head up at me, as if to say she understood, but wasn’t going to do anything. “Come on Pandy, someone’s going to step on you.” I nudged her up, she tried to lie back down, but I pushed her out of the bathroom. She glared at me in resentment, sulking into the office and plopping on the floor.
“Isabel, we’re leaving in five minutes,” my mom called. I said one last goodbye to Pandy, who was still sprawled sideways in the office, and raced to meet Mom by the front door. She was looking down at her phone, her chestnut hair falling in front of her face.
“I’m the first one ready to go,” I announced proudly. She laughed a little.
“You’re fast as lightning. Lila! Jake! Let’s get moving,” she yelled to my sister and brother, who were lagging behind.
When we reached school, Jake and Lila ran to the front door. I got out of the car, but turned around.
“Mom, after work can you make sure Pandy’s OK? She was being weird and lying in the middle of the bathroom.”
“Of course sweetie,” she promised, glancing nervously at the clock. “Hurry to your class, school’s starting soon.”
“Bye Mom!” I yelled over my shoulder.
The school day seemed longer than most. Every time my mind wandered, I thought to myself: Is Pandy OK? What if Gatsby eats her? Gatsby, our playful, cat-obsessed German shepherd puppy grasped at any chance to chase Pandy. Since she seemed listless, lying in the middle of the floor I worried he would catch her.
Finally, school was over. When I unlocked our front door, Gatsby trotted over to me and my sister, and sniffed our backpacks deposited on the floor. I checked his muzzle for blood. No red spots—I felt relieved thinking Pandy was OK.
“I’m gonna turn on a movie,” Lila said, clicking on the T.V. to set up Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
I wanted to check on Pandy and ran upstairs. I almost didn’t see her. She was still in our small office, stretched on top of a black footstool. She was unmoving–her head at one end, her tail dangling off the other.
“Are you OK Pandy?” I leaned down to pet her. Her head twitched slightly which relieved me. Then I saw the urine. It spilled over the footstool and gathered on the floor.
“Pandy,” I said, reaching out to poke her stomach. She hated when people did that, her claws jumping at the offending hand and leaving a jagged scratch. She didn’t claw me. A quiet moan escaped her throat and she opened her eyes. Pandy looked so much older. I was scared. Her ribs protruded from her fur, and hers eyes were foggy and red rimmed. Pandy’s cobalt eyes were never foggy. They were loving, hateful, annoyed, regal, but never foggy.
She’s okay, I reassured myself. She’s just tired. Gatsby had slunk upstairs to sniff, but Pandy didn’t even flinch. Knowing that she should be hissing at him, or at least scurrying under a bed, it hit me.
There’s something wrong with Pandy! I darted out of the room.
“Lila!” I screamed. Grabbing Gatsby and forcing him back down the stairs with me, I threw open the TV room door.
“Something’s wrong… Pandy’s peed all over and is barely moving. Will you go up with me?” Lila shook her head no.
“Call Mom,” she told me. It took me too long to dial Mom, my fingers pressing the wrong numbers.
“Hi Isabel, what’s up?” Mom sounded cheerful.
“Pandy’s not moving, can you come home?” I begged. She gave a long sigh.
“I don’t know how fast I can get there. Stay with her. Can you do that?”
“I love you Sweetie.”
“Love you too.” I ran back to the office.
I looked at Pandy’s fragile back to see if it still moved. Was she breathing? Her lungs strained to gather air, then a weak exhale. I kneeled down so my face was level with hers, the floor hard beneath me.
“I love you Pandy,” I told her, stroking her fur and rubbing her whiskers the way that made her purr. She blinked open her eyes to look at me, and I could see pain through all the blueness.
“You’re OK Pandy,” I chanted. “I love you so much.” Her shallow breaths rattled in her chest. Her tail no longer jerked side to side. I realized how frail she was, choking back a sob, tears stinging the back of my eyes. I didn’t want to stop petting her, to stop telling her how much I loved her. I don’t know when the labored breaths stopped, when her body went from almost still to completely still.
Mom left the front door open in her rush to get to me.
“Oh sweetie,” Mom said after checking on Pandy. She pulled me into a hug. I didn’t want to cry anymore, but the tears wouldn’t stop. “Go downstairs,” she told me gently pushing me out of the room.
I sat on the couch and finished the movie with Lila, not remembering a thing I saw.
My dad cleaned everything up and brought Pandy down in a box.
“Why don’t you say goodbye,” he told me.
“Bye Pandy,” I said. “I love you.” I reached out and placed my hand on her head, petting her for the last time. “I don’t want her to leave,” I thought to myself.
“We’ll bury her tomorrow Bells,” Dad said, giving me a sympathetic smile. I nodded and turned away from the box.
I spent that night curled in my bed crying into Skippy, the white stuffed cat I’d owned since I was two. My eyes were sore and my throat so tight I had trouble breathing. I cried until I was too tired to do anything besides close my eyes and sleep.
I already missed Pandy desperately. Lila had cried, and Jake was sad, but I was devastated.
I came downstairs the next morning, with my head heavy and eyes bleary. Mom sat me down on the couch with her. I settled into the soft cushions, clutching a green pillow in front of me.
“I didn’t get to talk to you with all the craziness last night,” Mom said. “How are you holding up?” I shrugged, struggling to find the words I needed.
“I wish I hadn’t known Pandy,” I stated after a long pause.
“You don’t mean that sweetie. Pandy lived a long, happy life, we should be happy about that,” she told me.
“No,” I said angrily with a vehement shake of my head. “It’s not fair, I don’t want to miss her. I’m never going to stop missing her.”
“I know it hurts Sweetie, but if you didn’t know Pandy you wouldn’t have all the memories.” Mom paused, debating what to say next. “Sometimes, when we lose someone we love we’re angry they’re gone. But we should be happy we knew them, right?” She squeezed my hand and looked at me, expecting an answer.
“I guess,” I muttered, not truly agreeing. It would’ve hurt less not knowing Pandy, but Mom didn’t understand.
We buried Pandy the following day. It was warm, with a cold nip of spring wind. Pandy’s grave was shallow, in the corner of our backyard, under Dad’s cherry trees and next to the blueberry bushes. I swept away some extra dirt; everything had to be perfect for Pandy. We decorated her coffin with shaky flower drawings and pictures of her fourteen years.
Mom talked about Pandy as much as you could talk about a cat. I wanted to say something, but choked up every time I tried to speak.
Jake was the only one of us kids who managed to say anything. “We love you Pandy,” he said. “You were the best cat, and… I really miss you.” Dad placed the box in the grave, and covered it back up. He joked that maybe Gatsby would dig it up, but nobody laughed.
After everyone went inside, I searched around the backyard for a flower. I found a wilting dandelion, the vibrant yellow washing away, and the one white rose on our fledgling rose bush. I placed the bouquet over the freshly laid dirt.
“I’m going to come back every week,” I promised Pandy.
For over a month, I kept my promise, quietly placing fresh flowers on Pandy’s grave.
Weeks turned into months, spring became summer, then gold and red autumn leaves sprinkled the ground. I kept my promise until that fall, when it was hard to find flowers, and too cold to sit outside.
The next spring, I went to Pandy’s grave. I stood there and searched myself for sadness. Guilt curdled in my stomach when I couldn’t find any. Turns out, Mom was right, the anger and sadness had dissipated, leaving me content with memories I have of Pandy.