Bella the Cat
Bella the cat likes to sleep. In summer she curls into the cool embrace of the sink in the guest bathroom. Since Orit hardly ever has company, Bella can remain undisturbed in the basin for hours, until the sun goes down and the house starts to shed its heat. Then she comes forth, slowly stretching her limbs to shake out the drowsies before walking to the bowl of food beneath the kitchen table. Bella never runs, no matter how hungry she is.
Routines change in the fall, when sunlight slants farther into the house through the front window. Bella abandons her reclusive summer retreat for the sun-warmed wood floor of the front entry. She likes to extend a lazy paw toward the hem of Orit’s skirt each morning, pretending to delay her. They both know it’s a game. Orit stamps her foot and exclaims in surprise anyway. Sometimes she even drops her books and kneels next to Bella, proffering coos and cheek rubs in contrition for leaving.
Bella doesn’t mind when the days turn colder, except for Thursday afternoons when Orit does her grocery shopping. The wind bites at her every time Orit opens the door to bring in another bag, so Bella scampers away to the warm spot on the desk behind the computer. Departmental parties are Bella’s favorite part of winter, though it takes her a while to get used to the noise and smell of strangers drifting through the house. Most of Orit’s students like cats. Bella makes sure to change the minds of those who don’t.
When Orit brings Geoffrey home for winter break, Bella sniffs the corners of his suitcase and licks the green residue from his toothbrush. He always pets Bella when he visits, with long smooth strokes from the top of her head to the tip of her tail. But those are usually short visits – on weekend mornings while Orit is getting her coat, or in the evening while he waits for Orit to serve dinner at the formal dining table. Geoffrey’s never stayed so long before.
When the trees begin to bud, Bella spends hours motionless on the back of the armchair, crouched low as she watches every returning bird that flits into the backyard. A cracking sound emanates from her throat and her tail twitches with the coiled energy of her leonine ancestry. Later, Orit scolds her away from the long white web that dangles in the closet, but not before Bella has examined the large tennis shoes and Oxfords that now rest beside Orit’s high heels and pumps. They smell of strangers, human and feline.
Spring cleaning chases Bella from room to room, her feet leaving a trail of small circles across newly vacuumed carpet. Geoffrey carries box after box into the house, slipping cat treats from his pocket to her as he comes and goes. He tells her about falling in love, lets her lick the stranger’s odor from his hands, and repeats the name Kasparov. Bella loves to snuggle into her warm bed after Orit pulls it from the dryer. Now there are two beds instead of one.
Bella the cat likes to sleep. It’s harder this summer, with so many little ones stumbling underfoot, always scratching for a teat. She looks wistfully at the empty sink above her before grabbing the last kitten by the scruff of the neck. She carries it to join the others in a squirmy, insistent mass while Kasparov patrols the hall, sometimes stopping in the doorway to scent his family. Bella watches him pass, his arrogant tail high in the air, his footsteps softly annoying in their free wandering. Then she jumps into the bathtub with a grunt, shoves her wriggling children aside, and stretches out for a long, cool nap.