Mollys Nine Lives. By Maureen Allen.
Gentle rain fell as Ali patted the last bits of soil to cover the grave of her beloved cat. The previous day, Molly died after being hit by a car. Giving Molly a place to rest under the silver birch was Alis way of saying good-bye to her cat that was more like a familiar than an ordinary pet. From the day Molly was born, they were inseparable; wherever Ali went, Molly followed. She even had her special seat in Alis Discovery the cubby in the centre console that was for storing CDs and such. Molly allowed Ralph, Alis Lurcher, to sit in the passenger seat until she tired of her cubby. Then she would chase Ralph into the back and sit on the warm passenger seat.
Wiping tears from her face, Ali went up to the house to change her clothes. She was expecting two visitors from her writing group Dorothy and Chris from Virginia and Massachusetts, respectively, to arrive at any minute. Both women were travelling together to visit Ali in Scotland and she was anxious to show them Scotland and her home. Colin, Alis husband, was meeting the women at Edinburgh airport to give Ali time to bury, and properly say good-bye to, Molly. Ralph heard Colins Discovery coming up the drive and started barking. Ali went to the kitchen and put the kettle on to boil and noticed that the rain had stopped. She was sure both ladies would appreciate something to drink and eat after their flight and the hour-and-a-half drive from Edinburgh to Jedburgh. After kissing her husband, Ali hugged and kissed her guests. She was excited to finally meet the two women she had known online for several years. Colin took their drinks order and disappeared into the kitchen.
Im so sorry to hear about Molly, said Dorothy.
Yes, terribly sorry, said Chris.
Fresh tears ran down Alis cheeks and she wiped them away quickly.
It was only yesterday, Ali, you need time to come to terms with it, said Chris.
Do you remember what a wreck I was when Boots died? Dorothy asked. I thought I would die of grief.
Yes, you are right, Chris, Ali said as she took the tissue her friend offered. She patted Dorothys hand and said, I just didnt want our meeting to be spoiled by my tears.
Dont worry about that. Weve been there and we understand. Molly was a part of your family. Wasnt she born on Halloween? Dorothy asked.
Yes, she would have been six years old this coming Halloween, Ali said after drying her eyes and blowing her nose. She was such a cuddly cat with many endearing ways. Here, look at this. Ali showed Dorothy and Chris a photograph that Colin took of Molly sleeping with her head tucked under Alis chin. I wish we could attach a MP3 file to this picture. You would be able to hear her purring.
She didnt purr, darling, she sounded more like a two-stroke engine, said Colin as he placed a Coke in front of Dorothy. Tea for Chris, a cappuccino for my enchanting Ali, and a Belhavens Best for me.
Are you ladies hungry? Ali asked her two friends.
Yes! both women echoed.
Seeing that its almost dinner time, shall we eat? Colin caught a salmon this morning and it should be nearly ready, said Ali.
Colin laughed when he saw the two womens raised eyebrows. Yes, we have a stream on the property and the salmon are huge. One will be enough for all of us. After dinner, Ill take you three lovely ladies out for a ride in our wee boat. That is, if everyone isnt too tired.
Summer in Scotland is glorious with the healthy green grass and trees, the vibrant colours of the wildflowers, the deep lavender of the flax fields, and the brilliant yellow of the rapeseed crops. The moors, covered with an assortment of heather ranging from deep purple to fuchsia to white, lend a finishing touch to the exceptionally beautiful landscape. In addition, with Scotland being at such northerly latitude, it benefits from long days of sunshine. During high summer, the sky never truly gets dark.
Ali watched Colin from the kitchen window as he readied the boat for their after-dinner ride. Out of the corner of her eye, she could also see Ralph near Mollys grave. She took off running when she saw what he was doing. Ralph, stop! she shouted. Ralph paid no attention to Ali and continued to dig at the loose dirt. Stop! she shouted. Ralph dug as if possessed by a demon. Colin came running when he heard Alis shouts.
Come on, boy, out of there! he said as he grabbed Ralphs collar. The dog dug his paws into the ground and refused to move. Colin picked up Ralph and brought him to the boat, whispering comforting words along the way. Ali shook her head. It hadnt occurred to her that Ralph would be missing Molly as well.
Chris and Dorothy joined Ali, Colin, and Ralph at the launch. Its not the QE2 but it serves our purposes, said Colin. Welcome aboard the Princess Ali!
The Princess Ali was an eight-seat rowboat with an outboard motor attached. Colin had placed thick cushions on the bench seats for the women. It was as much for their comfort as protection from chipping paint. He had also stowed several bottles of wine onboard along with a collection of plastic glasses. After opening a bottle of wine and serving Ali, Chris, and Dorothy, Colin shoved off and guided the boat down the stream until it met the Jed Water. Their journey had begun.
The women chatted at length about their writing, their families, and their aspirations. It was familiar territory, having discussed it all before on the groups e-mail list, but this time it was different they were talking face to face. Their friendship, strong before they met, cemented after only a few hours. Gone were the doubts that accompany online relationships and in its place was first-hand knowledge that only comes from being with a person in real time.
Engrossed in their conversation, the three women were unaware of their surroundings. Their chatting ceased when the boat came to a halt. Colin stopped the boat near the remains of a chapel that was close to Ferniehurst Castle. It was one of Alis favourite places, and Colin thought it was a lovely place to show Chris and Dorothy.
Colin secured the boat and the group climbed up the embankment with Ralph in tow. As soon as they reached the chapel, Ralph howled. No amount of admonishment or comforting would silence him. Finally, Colin took Ralph back to the boat. The dog went to sleep immediately and Colin returned to the chapel.
If you ladies would like to follow me, I know of a place nearby that gives a lovely view of the castle. We cant go onto the Ferniehurst estate, but we can take a peek, said Colin.
Dorothy and Chris agreed to go but Ali wanted to stay put. She had seen the castle many times before and she suddenly wanted to be alone. Once the others were out of sight, Ali sat on a nearby rock and let her tears flow. She didnt know how long she had been sobbing when she heard a womans voice ask her why she was crying. Molly was killed yesterday and I was all she could say.
She was a lovely cat. I understand why you are so upset, the voice said. Ali stirred and looked towards the voice. A handsome woman with long, chestnut coloured hair stood beside a fawn - just inches from her. I am Diana. Yes, that Diana, she said in answer to the question in Alis eyes.
You have been one of my most devoted agents, Ali. You have been exceptionally kind and loving to every animal I have given you.
Alis mind raced. Was this woman really the Goddess Diana? Why was she appearing now? Ali had heard people say that gods and goddesses had manifested before them but she thought their stories were made up, or wishful thinking at best.
Dry your eyes, Ali, and know that Molly is well. Your husband and friends are coming back.
Diana disappeared before Ali could voice her question.
Was that the coolest castle or what? asked Dorothy. Yes, stunning! answered Chris. We can visit the castle tomorrow if you like, offered Colin. What do you say, Ali?
Yes. That would be lovely. I think its time we got back home.
On the journey back home, Ali was preoccupied. She kept thinking of what Diana said. Molly was well. What did she mean? Molly was dead and that was the end of it.
Chris and Dorothy realised that Ali needed to be alone with her thoughts and they directed their conversation towards Colin. Colin entertained them with stories about Scotland in general and Jedburgh in particular. Then he sang some rugby songs to make the trip go by quickly and to make the ladies blush. Before Colin got to the really rude songs, they were home. Ralph was the first one off the boat, and he ran to the silver birch tree. He barked his happy bark and ran back to the boat. Back and forth he ran until the group followed him to the tree.
Sitting on Mollys grave was a kitten. She was a longhaired tortoise with green eyes, just like Molly.
What? cried Ali.
I dont believe it! said Colin.
Whats going on? asked Chris.
Where did that kitten come from? asked Dorothy.
Ali knelt on the ground and the kitten ran to her. She climbed up Alis shirt and nuzzled her neck. Ali closed her eyes and wept with relief and joy. This is what Diana meant when she said that Molly was well, said Ali.
Diana who? asked Dorothy.
Its going to be a long story in the telling, dear friends, Ali said. Lets get into the house and get the kettle on. And, why dont we get our pajamas on and be comfortable?
Colin walked into the house with Ali who was still holding the kitten. Do you really believe this is Molly? he whispered in her ear.
Its Molly alright. Look. Ali lifted Mollys fur to show where the microchip had been implanted five years ago when they travelled to the States for a month.
I dont believe it! exclaimed Colin. Molly jumped down from Alis arms and went directly to Colins slippers that he kept in front of the fireplace. Molly burrowed into the mule skin slippers and went to sleep, as she always did.
Im convinced. Thats our Molly! No other cat, entering this house for the first time, would go straight to my slippers and settle down for a kip just like Molly did. But, how is it that shes here with us again? Why?
If you will kindly make the tea while I change my clothes, Ill do my best to answer your question when were all together.
Once everyone had settled in the drawing room around the fire, Ali told the story of how Molly had come into her life.
It was a beautiful autumn day, Halloween, as a matter of fact, when Colin took me to the chapel near Ferniehurst. I was depressed because I found out that day that we could not have children. Colin went to the boat to get the picnic basket just before an old woman came into the clearing. She was holding Molly. She said that Molly had been born earlier that day and that her mother died giving birth. The woman asked if I would take care of Molly. She was just a tiny ball of nothing and I worried about how to feed her. Alis eyes closed as she remembered the scene.
I took Molly from the woman and put her inside my cardigan next to my heart. Listening to my heartbeat soothed her and she went to sleep. The woman told me that I was the right person for Molly. She also said that Molly would be with me for a lifetime. At the time, I thought the woman meant that Molly would be with me through her lifetime, not mine."
Colin was happy to have Molly as part of our family and he helped nurse her until she was old enough to eat solid food. We were concerned about Ralph but he wasnt jealous of Molly. He even taught her some fine points about hunting when she got older. Come to think of it, it was Molly who helped me get over being depressed about not being able to have children. She and Ralph are our children, I suppose.
Chris wiped a tear from her eye and said, That was a lovely story, Ali.
Ive got a question, said Dorothy. Do you think that the woman who gave Molly to you was Diana in her crone guise?
Dorothy, you are brilliant! Of course it was she! Diana told me tonight that I had been loving and kind to every animal she gave me. Yes, the old woman must have been Diana!
Pardon me, but Im not getting this goddess stuff said Chris.
Sorry, Chris. In the Old Religion, gods and goddesses are like saints and angels in your religion, said Ali.
Oh, I get it. Your god has His, or Her, helpers.
Yes, and its a humbling experience to meet one of them!
Ive got another question. When are you going to write about this? This story has to be told, you know, said Dorothy.
Yes, Ill write about it someday when I figure out how to make it sound believable.
Molly got out of Colins slipper, stretched, and walked towards the stairs. Meow! she said.
Yes, my love, its time for bed, Ali said with a laugh.
Before we go, said Dorothy, may I phone the States? Ive got to talk to my daughter.
Sure, said Ali. Would you like to use the phone in the kitchen?
No, this one will do. Dorothy picked up the phone from the table next to her and called home. Melissa? Do you remember that woman who we met last week who had the puppy that looked like Boots? I want you to What? When? Oh, my gosh! Yes. Its ok. Ill call you in a couple of days. I love you!
What was that all about? asked Chris.
Last week Melissa and I met a young woman in the Wal-mart parking lot, and she had a puppy with her that looked just like Boots. She said she was moving and could not take the dog, and she asked if we could give it a home. I couldnt make myself take the dog because it looked so much like Boots, even though I wanted to. What happened tonight with Molly got me thinking thats why I wanted to call Melissa. Well, dont you know that Melissa met the woman again today and she accepted the dog on my behalf? Melissa is convinced the dog is Boots. The pup does everything that Boots used to do including chewing the wires on my computer!
Wonderful! cried Ali.
Wow! Two in one day! Is this how your goddess works all the time? asked Chris.
Theres no standard answer to that, Chris. It works the same in your religion, does it not? asked Ali.
I just wonder said Chris. She looked deep in thought and the others kept silent and left her to it. Then, with a hint of a smile, Chris said, I wonder if Diana would grant me a favour even though I do not follow the Old Religion?
Its worth a try, said Colin.
Ill have to think about that, she said. Im off to bed. Its been a wonderful yet tiring day and weve got Ferniehurst Castle on the agenda tomorrow. Thank you for a lovely meal, Ali. And thank you, Colin, for catching the salmon and for the boat ride. Night, all.
Good night, they all echoed.
At four oclock in the morning, Chriss mobile phone went off. Who is texting me at this time? she wondered. She switched on the light and saw that the message was from her cousin, Jenny. What is so important that she has to text me here in Scotland? she said aloud.
Jennys message was short and to the point. Found a bird like Shadrack. Will keep him here until you get home next week.
Chris was stunned. Her much-loved parrot, Shadrack, had passed away two years ago but she never thought of replacing him until just a few hours ago.
Thank you, Diana, she said. Im going to have to rethink this goddess stuff when I get home.
Maureen A. Allen NLP Pract. BBNLP
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