Dorothy Poole was sitting at her kitchen table with a cup of tea, idly dunking a gingernut biscuit.
At 87, it had just been her and Thomas since Ted died, and now Tom was gone too.
The rules were that when you moved into the complex here you could keep your pet, but when they passed away, they couldn’t be replaced.
Dorothy felt it was going to be awfully lonely this Christmas without Tom, but he had lived to be a good age. She’d found him stiff as a board curled up in his favourite chair one morning.
Not exactly a friendly cat, she remembered the first time she’d met the new warden and how Tom had glared at him from the sofa. She chuckled at the memory of Jerry spluttering when she’d told him he was eating tuna fish cake off Tom’s favourite plate.
Wiping away a tear, she got up to put her cup in the sink, noting the soggy ginger clumps in the bottom which she would normally scoop into his dish.
The tears started to flow and she sat down again.
The doorbell rang, and dabbing at her eyes with a lacy handkerchief, one of the last gifts from Ted, she went to answer it.
Jerry was standing on the doorstep looking a little worried and sheepish at the same time.
‘Hello Mrs Poole,’ he said. ‘How are you feeling today?’
‘I’m OK Jerry, thank you for asking. Come on in. Would you like some tea?’
‘That would be nice, thank you.’
‘No cake today I’m afraid, but I have biscuits if you’d like one’.
‘Thank you, but no. With Christmas coming up, I’m trying to cut down a bit beforehand, but a cup of tea would be very welcome.’
Sitting by the window, Jerry loosened his tie and looked around the room.
Mrs Poole had always kept her apartment spotless, but it seemed strange Thomas not being there, and he felt a little awkward.
‘Out with it lad,’ Dorothy said. ‘What’s on your mind?’
‘Um, it’s a bit embarrassing really. It seemed a good idea at the time and now, er, well, I’m not so sure’.
‘Is something wrong, Jerry? Should I be worried?’
‘No, no. Nothing like that. Actually, I have a favour to ask, and it’s quite a big one in the circumstances.’
‘OK. Try me.’
‘You know Mrs Roberts at Number Six?’
‘I know Jean. She’s not been well.’
‘Yes, that’s right, and I was wondering…………’ he shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
‘Yes?’ Dorothy prompted.
‘Um, I was wondering……………’ he paused for a heartbeat then continued all in a rush
‘wondering if you could look after Twix over the holidays.’
Dorothy looked at him in surprise.
‘She has no family, and got very upset at the thought of him going into a cattery and er, asked me to ask you.’
‘Yes, her cat. I perfectly understand if you say no having lost Thomas not all that long ago, but I said I’d ask …………….’
‘Twix,’ she repeated.
‘He’s a lot smaller than your Tom was but rather cute. He’s part persian, hence the name. Mrs Roberts thought it suited him as he’s chocolate brown with what she calls caramel eyes.’
Dorothy looked across at Jerry and said ‘I don’t know……. ‘
‘Mrs Roberts was taken into hospital yesterday and I had him overnight as there was no-one else. Could you help her out do you think?’
Dorothy thought of all Jerry’s kindness over the last eighteen months or so since he’d taken over as warden. He’d even remembered to send her a birthday card, and when Thomas died, he’d helped her bury him in the little garden at the back of the apartment block where so many loved pets had been laid to rest.
‘I’ll try Jerry. Bring him over and we’ll see if we like each other.’