Peep was lying under the bed, enjoying the cool air from the air conditioner. The Daddy had only recently put in two window air conditioners, giving in to the reality of getting older. Peep didn’t care why, actually – she just enjoyed the cool. As she rolled onto her back she saw the scratches she had made on the bed slats two years ago. The first time the Mommy had gone away she’d been gone for such a long time and Peep had taught herself to count to keep track of how much time it would be until the Mommy came home again. Peep looked at the scratches and reminded herself of her counting system. First scratches – one for each day. Then paws, four scratches equaled one paw, just like she had four claws on each paw. Next cats, four paws equaled a cat. That was obvious. Four cats equaled a house. She’d decided that because no house should ever have more than four cats, for the sanity of the cats and the people who lived there to take care of them. Last was four houses equals the world, because two years ago she was sure that there could not be more cats than that in the whole world.
Peep shook her head, wondering at how naïve she had been back then. She’d been such a little Peep, even though she’d already lived through at least four Longest Nights that she could remember. She stretched, enjoying the pull of her muscles. She had even grown over the last two years. She didn’t look like a skinny little kitten any more. In fact she looked like the middle-aged cat that she was, but Peep preferred to think of it as being having the build of a mature, responsible cat.
Not only did she look different, Peep acted different. She wasn’t afraid to go outside anymore, and often enjoyed sitting out near the Daddy’s special outdoor burner for hours on end. She could keep an eye on the little pond for frogs and the trees for chipmunks when she sat out there. She laughed a bit when she remembered how scared she’d been of her brother, Fuzzy. He was just a bully – he stopped picking on her once she’d faced him down and told him that if he expected to be able to come in her house and eat her food that he’d better behave.
Everything was so different now. Well, except Rudy. Rudy still though she was the ‘Queen of All She Surveys’, and since Peep had no interest in competing for that ridiculous made-up title Rudy was welcome to it. LT was slowing down and not interested in yard patrols and days-long journeys. The Mommy was working in Mary Land all the time now, but came home on the weekend. And Daddy – well the Daddy hadn’t changed. He still went out and did his work every day and then came home to his real job – taking care of Peep, Rudy and LT. He fed them and loved them and played with them.