Clem was becoming a grown up cat. That didn’t mean that she didn’t like to play fetch or pounce games, but she felt that her mind was becoming, well more mature. That was a good thing mostly. She could figure out how to get the yarn lady to give her treats (scratch on her scratching board rather than on the furniture, she could find her way out of the duvet cover if she got stuck at the wrong end and she didn’t get scared as much when the yarn lady went out.
Today, though she’d discovered the downside of growing up. While playing fetch with the yarn lady, one of the yarn balls came unraveled. Clem was mortified. That was her sister, Tamsin. If Tamsin could come unraveled, could she, Clem also come unraveled? Maybe if one of her whiskers came lose, maybe it would pull out the other whiskers, and then even her fur? Would she be a naked cat, or worse, would her insides also come unraveled? She wasn’t too sure what was inside her skin…well honestly she had no idea what was inside her skin. She knew that food went in one end and poo came out the other, but maybe it was all connected and could just come apart if she had one loose whisker.
Clem brought the tiny center of Tamsin that remained to the yarn lady, with the rest of the yarn trailing from the kitchen. She dropped it on the yarn lady’s lap and sat down to plead for her to heal Tamsin. “Please, oh, please, you have to make Tamsin better. Can you do something to heal her? I’ve seen you use band-aids when you cut yourself, but I think Tamsin is beyond band-aid help. You’ve got to make Tamsin better, I love her!”
The yarn lady looked at Clem. She’d never seen her quite this upset before. She was pacing and meowing piteously, and all over a yarn ball. It wasn’t like she couldn’t fix it. She’d fixed most of them by this time, as they tended to unravel, even if she threaded the end through the middle of the ball after knotting it off. She picked up Clem and cradled her in her arms. “It’s just a yarn ball, Clementine. I can rewind it – I do it all the time. You’re tough on them you know. And if the yarn is too damaged, I can make you a new one, just like I did this one. It’s just scrap yarn left over from other projects.”
Clem looked at her in horror. This was not just scrap yarn, it was her sister. She remembered the day when there was the terrible storm and she’d gathered all her family and friends around her, and knew that they would protect her. There’d been Tamsin and Archie, her brother and sister, Hettie, Tinker, Babs and Mehetabel. And the giant pompom that was Mommy. They’d all sat together through the terrible lightening and thunder and kept each other from getting scared.
The yarn lady patiently rewound the yarn ball, speaking calmly to Clem the whole time. “You know, I made these for you when you first came to live with me, months ago. I didn’t have any cat toys, but I had lots of yarn, so after we came home, I found a couple skeins of leftover yarn and wound up a bunch of these. It was so funny – some days I’d find you surrounded by them if I’d been out for a long time. I guess it’s because you’re an only cat. You needed to pretend to have some friends.” She finished up the repair by taking a long sharp leather needle with a large eye and running the end through the center of the yarn ball. “There you go. All fixed.” She tossed it into the kitchen, and Clem went chasing after it.
Instead of immediately bringing it back for the yarn lady to throw again, Clem sat down next to it and patted it very carefully. “Tamsin, are you okay?” The yarn ball didn’t answer. It just sat there. Clem patted it again, and this time it got stuck on one of her claws, but it still didn’t say anything.
Clem sat back and looked at it carefully. She then made a sweep of the house, finding the rest of the yarn balls. She found Archie and Babs, but there was no sign of the rest. On the other hand, there were several yarn balls in various colors that didn’t match her friends. Thinking back, she remembered that some days the yarn lady would give her a new yarn ball. At the time she hadn’t though anything of it.
She sat them all together in the bedroom on the other side of the bed, where she wouldn’t be easily observed by the yarn lady. If she was going to have a serious conversation with her friends she didn’t want any witnesses. “Okay. What are you all? Archie, Tamsin – talk to me. Please. Just say something. And the rest of you – what do you have to say for yourselves?” The yarn balls just sat there. They didn’t move and they certainly didn’t say anything.
Clem lay down and looked at them and thought deep thoughts. When was the last time she’d had a conversation with one of them? She didn’t really remember. They played together, sure. Clem would bring one to the yarn lady and she’d scoot them across the floor so that Clem could chase them. It was her all-time favorite thing to do. She talked to them. She’d tell them about her day, or about something yummy the yarn lady had made, but come to think of it, they didn’t talk back.
Thinking back to the day of the thunderstorm, she remembered something. Archie had reminded her of her real cat brother because he had a long tail. Tamsin and Archie were real cats, and yarn balls weren’t cats. They were just, well, yarn balls. Loneliness had made her make up friends for herself. These really were just yarn balls. Fun things to play with, but not her siblings and friends from the shelter.
The yarn lady was sitting on the couch reading, and Clem climbed up next to her and wormed her way onto her lap. This one was real. She fed her and loved her and cleaned her litter box, and scratched her head very gently, as she was doing right now. Clem sighed. Growing up wasn’t necessarily fun.