As romantic as it is tragic, Sophie and Tinker’s friendship was destined to be, says Peter Glover

 

Where Tinker came from, I have no idea.  He had simply accepted the invitiation of an open window, and lay curled asleep on my favourite armchair.  Firm in purpose, I went to pick him up and carry him out into the garden.  The moment my hand touched him, he purred loudly and I found myself stroking his belly.  I felt honoured.  For a cat to show such trust to a complete stranger was a great compliment – but then Tinker was a very clever cat.

I told myself he could stay until morning, but not on the armchair.  I put him on a shaggy rug in the kitchen and he continued purring loudly as I went upstairs.

The next morning, Sophie, my beautiful blue Persian, followed me down for breakfast, totally unaware of Tinker until he strutted out into the hall.

I froze.  Would Sophie leap at Tinker? Or would Tinker go for Sophie?  The last thing I wanted was flying fur.  But Tinker was more than equal to the occasion; in one swift move, he hid behind the curtains, and with little dabs of his paw, convinced Sophie there was something hiding in the fabric.

Within seconds, the two of them were rapturously involved in a great game of curtain mouse.  There it was: this uninvited stranger had won instant approval from the lady of the house, and already made his presence felt in his new-found home.  

In appearance, Tinker was quite ordinary, with a short, white coat daubed with black.  He was in perfect condition, so there was the possibility he was lost or missing.  He wasn’t ‘chipped, so I placed an ad in the local paper.  However, Tinker remained unclaimed and kept me on as his pet.

Sophie, of course, became his utter slave. Being young and flirtatious, she often slipped through the garden fence and behaved in a most unladylike manner, fanning herself out on the pavement, inviting admirers.  But Tinker had set his territory and Sophie belonged to him.  

Tinker loved to hunt.  In fact, he had a perfect mania for chasing and catching anything that moved.  It took him some time to discover that snails were actually alive, due to their dreary slowness.  Yet they too took their place amongst the spoils of his trophies, and often appeared between the folds of Sophie’s blanket.  Every night they slept together in the one basket.  I must admit, I felt quite left out of this big cat affair between Tinker and my best girl.

Three months flew past and Tinker became another hairy heartbeat in my home.  In some previous existence he’ been deflowered and couldn’t father any kittens.  Sophie, on the other hand, was a young, voracious queen and ready to be matched with an exceptionally fine sire.

I had taken her to selected breeders in the past, but to no avail.  Sophie had always returned, pure as the driven snow.  However, this one time proved a complete success and nine weeks later she gave birth to four gorgeous kittens.   

There was, however, some mystery attached to the appearance of one.  Three kittens were perfect miniatures of their mother.  The fourth, however, was shorthaired, white, and daubed with black patches.  How that striking resemblance came about I shall never know.  I put it down to auto-suggestion – Tinker seemed capable of anything.

Sophie turned into a moody, suspicious mother.  This came as a complete surprise to Tinker, who, on the morning of the birth, entered the nursery and had to flee for his life with a grey demon hot on his heels.

Fortunately, this fierce order of protective maternity was short-lived, and five days after the kittens were born, Sophie padded out to the garden.

On spotting her, Tinker immediately shot up the nearest tree.  But Sophie had no trouble in coaxing her former admirer down.  Step by step, yearning for a return of those happy times, Tinker clambered down.  Within seconds they were rolling, kicking and making ambushes in the grass.

But Sophie’s maternal instincts soon tugged at her heartstrings and she returned to the nursery.  Tinker Afollowed.  His nose twitched as he sniffed the warm, milky air.  Gently, he raised one paw and delicately dabbed the nearest kitten on top of its head. The kitten trilled.  It was alive and therefore ought to be hunted – but the kitten belonged to Sophie, and was treated with caution and great respect.  Advancing again, Tinker licked the top of the kitten’s head.  Sophie approved and playfully cuffed Tinker behind the ear.

The kittens grew quickly.  All found good homes.  In time, Sophie got over the loss of her babies and life returned to normal.  She and Tinker were devoted to each other.  The whole world was their playground.     

The tragic day when my beautiful girl was taken from me was unbelievably sad.  Sophie was knocked down just outside the house.  I carried her broken body inside and wrapped her in her special blanket.

I dug a small grave beneath the apple tree.  Sophie lay in her blanket, quite still.  Tinker came out of the house fresh from his nap, rolling and stretching, eager for a romp.  But Sophie was not for play that morning so he padded off to chase a bird.

When he returned, he sat down by her body, trying to attract her attention.  He mewed and trilled all her favourite sounds.  He rolled onto his back and padded her gently beneath the blanket.  Finding no response, he made a feint of running away and hiding.  But Sophie didn’t follow.   She wanted to sleep, and lay very still.

The grave was ready and Sophie was laid to rest.  Tinker just sat there and watched.  Motionless.

That evening, I noticed something white under the apple tree.  It was Tinker, sitting at Sophie’s grave.  I called him, but Tinker didn’t even look my way.  He just sat there, all night, at Sophie’s final resting place.  The next morning, he vanished altogether.

On Sophie’s grave I found five snail shells and a tiny white feather.  I never saw Tinker again.  He disappeared as suddenly as he had come.  Had he gone to search for his beloved, somewhere beyond the rainbow?  Would he find her amber eyes, bright in the early morning sun?  Maybe, someday, those two little souls will find each other again. My heart was shattered. Twice.

I like to think they are together – and am so grateful that I knew them both.

Peter Glover

Peter's story first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Your Cat magazine.

My thanks to both Peter Glover and Chloe Hulkin, Editor of Your Cat magazine who both gave me permission to put Star-crossed lovers on The Daily Mews website.  

Here's the copy of the front page of the magazine, Peter's story appeared in: 

Your Cat magazine cover for July 2016

A Cats Purr

"Cats make one of the most satisfying sounds in the world: they purr ...

A purring cat is a form of high praise, like a gold star on a test paper. It is reinforcement of something we would all like to believe about ourselves - that we are nice."

Roger A Caras

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