The slamming of the back door screen and the shrieking of the girl as she tore across the yard woke Bob from his nap. Folding his ears back as he yawned and stretched, his front legs then his back. Reluctantly he slunk to the edge of the yard to crouch beneath the lavender bushes, leaving his warm corner of the patio in the sun. His old joints were stiff and he was on no mood for the crushing hugs and rough play the girl would force on him if he stayed in the open.
The screen thumped closed again, calmer this time. Bob saw Leigh moving a plastic chair. She sat, and opened a book in her lap, but watched the girl for several moments before looking down to read.
Bob remembered how he and Leigh used to spend the whole day together sometimes. He would sit in her lap as she worked at the computer or pounce on the laundry as she folded. Since the girl had been big enough to move around though, Bob had slept hidden under the bed most of the day. He learned quickly that that was the only way to stay safe from being poked or his ears or whiskers pulled. Now he only came out after the girl was in bed. To get a short precious time in Leigh’s lap again for proper, gentle ear and chin rubs.
He looked at Leigh reading , then at the girl who was now at the far end of the yard screeching some sort of song as she ran in circles. He stuck his head out from under the bush. Then crept a little further. Before he’d thought things through he had covered half the distance to Leigh. He found himself airborn, swinging in a circle. The girl held him under his front legs, his back feet dangling as she flung him around in her dance.
“Caroline! Stop that!”
The swinging stopped, but he dangled still, his spine screaming for some support. Then Leigh had him against her chest, one arm under him, the other rubbing his ears. She carried him to her chair, and then set him in her lap. He thought about jumping down and back to his hiding spot in the bushes.
“Caroline, come here. You pet him gentle, like this.”
Leigh ran her hand down his spine. Then a smaller hand hit him, pushing him down, and followed the same path. “Gentle, gentle. See, he likes that.” The second time, the small hand was softer, but it plucked at his fur before departing.
“I’m sorry buddy,” Leigh said, scratching his chin in the spot he loved. “She’ll get better. I’ve got you now though.”
Bob curled up and settled into her lap, purrs overflowing out of him. Like old times.