I was distraught when my last English cat died, but it happened just before my sister got ill, and it meant that when I needed to rush down to Taunton hospital, four hours’ drive away, I could slam the front door and go without worrying about the cat. Poor Spud. She’d had a rough time of it when her own sister died – run over in the street outside my house; Spud went nuts, became neurotic and needy, anxious if I went down to the corner for a newspaper, clingy when I was at home. I was quite soon to discover for myself that losing one’s sister will have a negative effect. Spud did lose Rusty – all she knew was that Rusty didn’t come home one day; she searched the house and the garden for her, calling and calling, for months. I didn’t lose my sister – I was there when she died and knew exactly where to find her afterwards.
I’ll gloss over Spud’s ending: can’t bring myself to think about it. It was six months later that my sister died; a year after that my mother died. Then I swore I’d never again accept the responsibility for another life.
The vow lasted for four years until I moved out to Măgura. My cousin Rob made the trip with me, and we were staying at Adriana and Gheorghiță’s place up the road from my building site of a house. One day Gheorghiță beckoned to me, and led me to a shed. Opening the door he leaned down and scooped something up; when he turned round, there was a tortoiseshell kitten nestled against his chest. My heart melted like caramel. All kittens are irresistible, but bright-eyed and fearless, this kitten was more enchanting than most. About five or six weeks old, he was bold, funny and tireless, but skinny; I bought a box of cat biscuits and started feeding him, then bought tins of cat meat which he inhaled greedily. I told myself, and insisted to Rob, that I didn’t want a cat, didn’t want this one. But one night I let him stay in my room, and sleep on my bed – and that was that, really. The kitten’s ecstatic discovery of the duvet was delicious, and he thrummed and throbbed with joy all night, nestled into my neck or curled tight on top of me.
Rob wanted to call him Scuzzy, but I couldn’t cope with such a horrible name for such a charming cat…