Home Is Where the Heart Is
The cat made one more attempt to crawl back into the spot she’d claimed, but Beryl turned on her side to see the clock.
“Six o’clock? Why are you doing this to me? Don’t you know I need my beauty sleep?”
“Meoawrowrow,” came the reply as Miss Kitty pushed her nose into the crook of Beryl’s arm.
“Not funny. Go back to sleep.” Beryl wrapped her arm around the cat and tucked her in, close to her stomach, knowing full well that wouldn’t solve the problem. All she wanted was a few more minutes and maybe she could drift far enough away so the cat’s antics wouldn’t bother her.
“Meowrowrow,” the cat said again, pushing herself away with all her strength. She slithered out from under Beryl’s arms, climbed up onto the woman’s hips and meowed as loudly as she could.
Beryl harrumphed and swung her legs over to the edge of the bed so she could sit up. Miss Kitty followed, staying close to Beryl’s body.
“What in the world?” Beryl muttered. She finally got up and followed the cat to the kitchen. Miss Kitty jumped up on the counter where her food dish sat and looked at Beryl expectantly.
“You have plenty of food in there. You’ve only eaten a little bit,” Beryl complained. She looked down at the nearly empty water dish on the floor.
“You could have just told me,” Beryl said. “If you’d said something last night, we wouldn’t be having this problem right now.” She rinsed it out, refilled it and put it back down. “Is that enough?”
Miss Kitty padded her way over to Beryl and rubbed her face on Beryl’s arm.
“I”m not too happy with you right now. It’s been a long week and now you want attention?”
Beryl had just returned from a week on the east coast. She’d met with several gallery owners and her agent had set up two meetings with large corporate clients. There was some big money available if she wanted to do the work. And she would. She’d learned long ago that staying busy meant keeping the fear-of-going-broke monkey off her back.
Miss Kitty jumped to the floor, wove her way in and out of Beryl’s legs and then walked to the water bowl, sniffed it and hunched down in front of it, waiting for something to happen.
“You’re a strange cat. It’s fresh water. I promise.” Beryl sat down at her table, glancing toward the kitchen door. She wondered if she’d be able to go back to sleep now.
Her agent wouldn’t quit trying to get her to move out east. How long had they been working together? Twenty years now? And he refused to believe that she was happier in Iowa than she could ever be anywhere else. But one week in that chaos reminded her why she loved Bellingwood. There had been meetings and lunches and parties and breakfasts all day long, every day. He assured her that if she lived in the area, those would be spread out to be more manageable, but she knew better. One lunch would lead to another and she’d never have time to actually work.
The parties were the worst. That scene was not a place Beryl was comfortable in. She couldn’t bear the fake kiss-kiss greetings or the blatant self-promotion people did at any cost. In all her years of being part of that crowd, she’d made very few real friends.
She chuckled to herself. She didn’t have many real friends here in Iowa either, she supposed. But it was certainly easier to get a handle on people’s intentions and agendas.
Miss Kitty had quietly been lapping at the water in her bowl and jumped up on Beryl’s lap, nudging her hand. Beryl stroked the cat’s head, down her back, and up the tail. She took a deep breath as her hand rubbed the soft coat over and over. “It’s why I come back here,” Beryl said quietly. “I can be as crazy and wacky as I want and nobody tries to one-up me. They just let me be who I am. No pretense, no fake lovey stuff, just real. I’ll never leave Iowa.”
Before the cat got too comfortable on her lap, Beryl stood up and carried Miss Kitty out of the kitchen, flipping the light back off. Sunlight was coming through the windows, but there were no plans for today, so it wouldn’t matter how late she slept.
Lydia had learned not to call Beryl too early in the morning unless she wanted to get an earful. There were plenty of times the woman didn’t care. Beryl had learned that if Lydia needed her, she needed to wake up and get on board. Now that Andy was happily married, she didn’t call quite as often. Beryl grimaced. It really wasn’t about being married. Andy was busier now than she’d been when she was raising kids and teaching. Between working at the library, maintaining the odd little pop culture museum at Sycamore House, her grandchildren, and responding when Lydia needed something, Andy was always going.
“Old ladies, huh,” Beryl said, sitting down on her bed. She lay back and let Miss Kitty get comfortable on her stomach. “This is the best time of our lives.”
The cat purred loudly as Beryl pulled the sheet over the top of both of them.
“Gonna be okay under there?” Beryl asked. Miss Kitty wasn’t much for being under the covers during the summer time, but they’d missed each other this last week.
This really was the best time of her life. She lived where she wanted to live, had great friends who understood when she needed to hide out and work, but jumped right in when she was free to spend time with them. And that little Rebecca was such a joy. Beryl had never taken a student as young as her, but the child was a sponge. Maybe they really would go to Paris and Venice, to Rome and Cairo together someday. Rebecca continued to talk about it and one day showed up with a travel book for Europe. Beryl would love to travel with someone who saw the world with such joy.
Beryl smiled as she thought about the book she’d brought back. Rebecca would love looking at it. They didn’t have much street art in Bellingwood and graffiti was only seen on the trains flying through Boone. They’d been talking about graffiti and murals that Rebecca had seen on television. Anything to keep that little mind’s creativity at its peak.
The cat moved off Beryl’s stomach and curled up beside her head.
“Okay,” Beryl said. “We’re going to sleep now. Lydia called last night and there was an accident on the highway in front of Polly’s house. You know what that means, don’t you?”
Miss Kitty purred and pulled her paw over her face.
“That’s right,” Beryl said. “It means we’re in for a wild couple of weeks. I can hardly wait. How about you?”