It would take a miracle to find the the other cat. Could she keep the promise to her daughter after choosing only one of the bonded pair?
Posted in , Sep 25, 2020
“You can get a kitten,” I promised my seven-year-old daughter, Cali. “As soon as we get settled in our new apartment.” Her life had been uprooted when her father and I divorced, and I wanted to give her something to look forward to. So one Saturday morning, shortly after we unpacked the last box, we headed to North Bay Animal Services to pick out her new pet.
There were plenty of cats to choose from, but Cali had her heart set on an orange-and-white kitten. “Actually, we’ve got two of those,” the attendant told us. “Brothers from the same litter, in fact. A bonded pair. We call them Caramel and Butter.”
She brought the kittens to a private room where Cali and I could meet them. For more than an hour, we tried to choose between them.
“Can’t we just take them both?” Cali asked.
“We have to follow the rules of our new apartment,” I said. “Only one cat, remember?”
“I know,” Cali said with a sigh. “But look how much they love each other.”
I couldn’t deny it. They played like the best of friends. When they tired out, they curled around each other, their identical markings creating what looked like a heart. Still, the landlord had been clear about the rules. One cat only. And as long as both kittens got a good home, they would be fine.
After a long deliberation and a lot of tears from Cali, we decided to bring Caramel home. Cali renamed him Ozzy. That night I watched Ozzy and Cali fall asleep together, telling myself, They’ll forget about the other kitten in no time.
How wrong I was. Ozzy really did seem lonely without his twin. No matter how Cali and I tried to distract him over the next few days, he wandered around the apartment, crying, as if looking for his brother.
I told Cali to give it time, but after two weeks of his mournful howls and Cali’s tears, I broke down. I drove back to the shelter with Cali. I was betting on the kittens looking so much alike that our new landlord wouldn’t even realize that there were two of them.
“I remember you,” the shelter attendant said. “But I’m afraid the other kitten isn’t here anymore. He was adopted four days ago.”
Cali was inconsolable, and I was desperate to calm her down. So desperate that, when I opened my mouth, something foolish came out. “We’ll find Ozzy’s brother,” I said. “One day, we’ll adopt him too.”
“Promise?” Cali said.
“Promise,” I said.
What are you doing? I asked myself. I knew I’d never be able to fulfill that promise. But it was the only thing that seemed to bring my daughter some peace.
With time, Ozzy got used to being on his own. And Cali, thank goodness, stopped asking about the other kitten. Our new life was working out just as I’d hoped. I even started dating again. One guy, Brian, seemed promising. I’d met him online and talked to him for months before we planned a date for a night when Cali would be at a friend’s house for a sleepover. Brian was a widower with a daughter, Ruby, just a year older than Cali.
When we finally met in person, Brian and I really clicked. We had a nice Italian dinner, did some dancing, talked about our kids and the many places we’ve lived. Turns out, we’d spent most of our lives within a mile of each other but never met.
After dinner, we swung by Brian’s house. “Ruby’s visiting her grandmother so I can stay out late,” he said. He gave me a short tour of his home, then led me out into the yard. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of orange and white. Ozzy? I thought, shocked.
How had he gotten here? Had I just shared pasta with a guy who’d stolen my cat? There were plenty of orange-and-white cats in the world, but not with the exact color patterns as Ozzy. I’d recognize him anywhere, and right now he was strolling across Brian’s backyard.
“That’s my cat!” I blurted out.
“That’s my cat,” Brian said. “Well, Ruby’s cat really. My wife picked him out herself shortly before she died. She knew he would help Ruby when she was gone. Butter’s a part of the family.”
Butter? Could it be? Had I found Ozzy’s long-lost brother at last? Brian and I compared shelter adoption papers. Sure enough, Butter was Ozzy’s twin! Eventually, Brian brought Butter over to reintroduce him to his brother.
“They might not even remember each other after two years,” Brian said. “We should be prepared for a little hissing.”
But there was no hissing. Ozzy and Butter nuzzled each other with enthusiasm, as if to say, “I know you! Where have you been?”
Today Ozzy and his brother are inseparable. As are Brian and I. He and I married last August and are raising our girls together. And that impossible promise of mine to Cali? Somehow it was one I managed to keep.
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