Read the first part of this story here: It All Began With a Cat Named Lizzie
Lizzie’s leg was now well in place and I agreed it was time for her to return to her colony. Giulio came to the apartment and with some difficulty, we managed to secure her in a carrier.
As the car wound up the now familiar steep roads to the little village, I gazed out of the car window with a sense of nostalgia. I looked back to that day Andrew and I had discovered Lizzie and the weeks that followed, sharing her recovery. I’d become attached to my little waif and now I had to let go. My stay in Taormina was almost at an end; once I had deposited this small cat, only a few days remained before I returned to England. I felt altered by the experience, already beginning to view Sicily with a different eye.
We found her street without difficulty and, setting down the basket, opened the door. Lizzie shot out, hesitated for a moment and then dashed away. Not even a thank you!
‘You don’t need one,’ Giulio remarked. ‘Look what you’ve done for her. Shall we go?’
But I felt I couldn’t leave it at that: I told him I would stay there in Castelmola for a while and return by bus. We shook hands.
Behind me, a door opened and a slender woman wearing a flowery pinafore stood there. She spoke to me in Italian.
‘So it was you who took that poor cat to the vet? She is part of the colony I feed. I wondered where she had gone.’ She held out her hand. ‘I am Antonella. Please come in, I would like to offer you coffee.’
Another cat lady! I accepted, made a ppretenseof sipping the coffee, wickedly black and strong. Yuck! Sicilians have a lethal relationship with caffeine. Not just a beverage, it is more like a constant companion.
‘Tell me about the cats,’ I prompted.
‘Ah, the cats!’ she smiled. ‘They are my babies. When I go out into the street with food they all come running. I have fed them since they were kittens. Poor beasts, so many people here dislike them and wish them harm. But what have they done? All they want is a bit of affection and enough food to eat.’
She paused and eyed me curiously. ‘You paid the vet to treat that cat?’
‘It must have cost a lot of money.’
I named the sum.
She shook her head. ‘That was very good of you.’
‘I can’t bear to see anything suffering,’ I replied. ‘Someone had to help her.’
The room had a sense of an old-fashioned parlour, rarely used. I sensed a melancholy about Antonella and her smile did not quite reach her eyes. Her gaze went to the crucifix hanging on the wall. ‘I too cannot bear suffering,’ she said.
A few days before I left for England I went back to Castelmola. I took the path that I now knew so well and there was Lizzie coming towards me. I opened a tin of Whiskas and she began to eat it. Then her mother, the pretty grey cat, arrived and tucked in. As I stroked Lizzie, I felt so happy. My little one could now lie and enjoy the sunshine. Her leg might never be quite the same again, but she was home with her mother and sister. I felt so glad I had restored her. Giulio had been right: she belonged here in her feral world, but there was a part of her I liked to think remembered me, affectionate in her own way. All I could do now was pray she would be safe.
The sun shone down onto that little road and I stayed with Lizzie another half-hour. Those weeks in the apartment had somewhat tamed her and, now she was returned to her small domain, she allowed me closer to her. I made to leave but came back again – I didn’t want to go. In the end, it was she who got up and strolled away down those steps, oblivious to the pain of my parting from her.
‘Goodbye, Lizzie,’ I said. ‘Take care of yourself.’
There were tears in my eyes as I walked away.
About the Author:
Jennifer Pulling is a writer, award-winning playwright, and journalist who has worked for many national newspapers and magazines as a travel and lifestyle writer. Her play, The Return won the Clemence Dane Cup. She is the author of Monet’s Angels (John Blake).
Jennifer runs the project Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. Her book The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue relates her one-woman mission to save an island’s cats. https://www.jenniferpulling.co.uk