“Water for yoouu, water for you, aaannnd… water for you!” She lowered her arm and gave a satisfied sigh.
“Oh! I almost forgot about you my dear! That’s not good, no no no!”
The morning sun shone into the little room, glistening against the water droplets on their bright leaves.
They drank readily, gulping the water, letting it soak through their soil and all the way to the bottom.
They gazed at the girl with longing eyes, “Thank you, thank you lovely!” they all cheered.
Her eyes filled with that of love and protection.
She looked at all of the living, breathing beings that took up her small space; they were all flourishing. She couldn’t help but hold back tears as the reality of her earlier absence set in.
This thought, however, was quickly intruded by soft fur rubbing against her left leg. She looked down at Cud Cuds, and her gray, silver-tipped hair, with green eyes stared back at her without saying a word.
“Oh good MORNING my little kitty! I missed you so so much!”
She giggled at the sweet kitten-sized Cuds. The animal knew.
Routines & Promises
The room was quiet as she paced from one end to the other, pruning leaves, cleaning the litter box, vacuuming, dusting, making her bed, and doing all the chores someone of her age could think of.
They all watched her. Cud Cuds laid on the bed, curled in a ball, but one eye was always left open for the girl. The others, however, were building up the courage to speak to her.
They nudged and spoke to one another with their eyes and expressions. Finally, the Peace Lily spoke up.
She let out a small cough, straightened herself then said to the girl, “…hey sweetie, we were all wondering…i-if you were, um…uh, al-alright.”
The Lily looked behind her at the others who lowered their heads, then turning back, met the eyes of the girl. The girl smiled at the Lily and walked carefully over to her.
A small sigh escaped the girl before she covered it with a smile, “Of course I am okay my loves. I’m so so sorry that I haven’t been able to be around as much as I want to.”
She said this while gently caressing the vivid rainforest green that covered the leaves of the Peace Lily. The girl had hoped they wouldn’t notice…but they always did.
Cud Cuds could move, unlike the plants; she always knew what happened, and no doubt the plants heard it.
The Lily looked down at the girls bruised hands, then traced her gaze up her arm, past the scrapes and to the gentle eyes that always took care of them.
They all wished they could do more, but what could they do? A plant cannot take on a giant and neither can a cat. The girl was on her own and all they could do was be her anchor.
“Hey,” she spoken gently to all of them, “I will try my hardest, hardest, hardest, to be as present as possible,” she held the leaf of the Peace Lily in both of her hands.
Emphasis was left on the last “hardest,” because no matter how hard she tried, she could never truly promise them. All she could do was try.
They all looked at the girl and she looked at them. Without a word, so much was said.
They knew she was trying her hardest, they knew she loved them, and they knew she would never intentionally hurt them; but she knew what was outside the room — what she had to face every day, and all she could hope for was that at the end of the day, she could walk back into the room with a pitcher full of water.
A Giant’s Voice
Every day the routine was repeated. The girl woke up and said “good mooorrrnnniiiiinnnnggg” in a pippy, cheerful voice.
She opened the blinds for the one window in her room, dressed herself, brushed her long black hair, then tended to everyone. She checked leaves and paws alike, watered, fed, and loved them each, every single morning.
Then, as she completed all tasks for the start of the day, the voice would call. When this voice called, the chitter chatter stopped, smiles faded, and the worry set it.
The girl looked at them, “I have to go…” she murmured. Cud Cuds rubbed against her leg, which received the cat a gentle head pat.
“Please don’t go.”
“I have to.”
“But why?” cried the plants.
Cud Cuds shot them a piercing look; the cat hated when the plants interrogated the girl. They had no way of leaving the room like she did, they couldn’t see what the girl went through.
“Hey, quit with the questions. I don’t want her to go either, but you know it’s not your place to ask her things like that!”
The cat’s fur rose with anger and frustration towards them for daring to make her owner upset.
“Hey,” the soft voice of the girl said. She squatted down to pick the cat up gently. Cradling Cuds in her arms, she soothed her with gentle strokes and a low hum, “It’s okay Cuds. I know you’re just trying to protect me, but they’re allowed to be curious and express their emotions, just like you. We can all feel the emotions we want.”
Tears started to swell in her eyes as she watched the worried cat and timid plants, “and we should never ever, ever be punished for feeling those things.”
Her voice quivered at the end.
“Mama we’re sorry…”
“No no, it’s alright babies.”
She sat the cat down and hugged the bottom of their pots, with this, they wrapped their soft foliage around her.
She sniffled as she straightened up, “I have to go because the voice is calling. It doesn’t come in here and I don’t want it to, so if I don-”
The voice called again. Silence.
The girl turned her head away from the door and back to the plants, she spoke quietly, “If I don’t go, it will come in here and I don’t want that…because I’m afraid that…that if it comes in…it might try to t-take you or hur-urt you.”
Cuds sat as close to the girl as possible. All the cat could do was be there as a support for her when she felt alone.
“And if it were to take you away or hurt you…and I couldn’t…if I couldn’t…” she began to sob, “If… if I couldn’t fix you, then…then I wouldn’t be able to…keep going. I need you. All of you…and, and… without you, I am all alone,” she cried, her breath was rapid, and words were becoming difficult to form.
They all rushed to her with loving words of support and gentle touches.
“We love you so much.”
“It’s okay to cry.”
“We’re here for you.”
“We’re not going anywhere baby. We will always be here, waiting for you to walk through that door.”
“Oh little one, we love you.”
At these words, the girl’s breath stabilized.
The voice was calling again, but this time it was closer, angrier.
“I have to go,” she rushed for her shoes and jacket, and gave each of them a kiss and a hug.
“Good bye my dears. I will see you again,” she said with tears still lingering.
The girl looked at her cat and nodded her head towards the door, “You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” the cat said in a falsely courageous tone.
The girl looked around one last moment, smiling at her dear plants.
She loved them so.
Cud Cuds walked beside the girl, down the hall and into a foggy living room with stained carpets, yellow walls, and closed blinds.
The contrast from the girls room to the rest of the house was stark. Her room contained bright shades of green, pink, white, and brown, but this room was dingy, smoky and dull.
The cat stood close as the girl came into view of the voice. She observed everything.
“What took you so long?” The voice was like venom as it seeped its way into every corner of the girl’s skin.
It sat at the dining room table. The dragon-like smoke pooled out of the monster’s mouth as it stared at the girl.
“I’m sorry…I uhm…woke up late.”
“Don’t do that shit anymore, you know you’ll be late for the bus and I sure as hell ain’t taken your ass if you miss it.”
“Yes ma’am…” The girl swayed her left leg against the carpet.
The voice looked her up and down, “What are you still standing there for? Go! The bus’ll be here in like five minutes.”
“But I haven’t eaten yet!”
With this small protest, the voice quickly slapped the girl’s small cheek. As her face reddened, tears also began to rise.
She should’ve seen it coming. Anything more than a “yes ma’am” got her hit. She should know this by now, she told herself.
“Oh knock it off before I give you a real reason to cry,” the voice waved her off, “You can eat at school as usual.”
With this comment, the voice went back to smoking its cigarette. The girl held her cheek with her palm, looked down at Cud Cuds, and towards her bedroom door, then back to the voice.
Her voice quivered under the shaky breaths between tears, “I’m…sorry, mom. I-I won’t do…do that aga-ain…”
The woman tilted her head back and released a puff of smoke into the air; all of their lungs being filled with the chemicals, “You should be. You’re seven years old. Figure out how to do shit on your own and grow up.”
“Ye-es, ma’am-m…” the little girl gave her cat a kiss goodbye, wished her plants a safe and loving day in her mind, then she pushed the screen door open and began walking down the driveway to the bus stop.
Her cheek, still red from the slap, throbbed in crisp morning air. She looked back at the place she called home and narrowed her eyes towards the window where her plants sat, waving goodbye.
The young one smiled and waved a happy goodbye to them all.
The girl arrived home and immediately went to her room — hungry, but regardless she was excited to see them all again.
Luckily, the monster had gone out as usual, so she was all alone. She rushed through the house to grab the water.
She could hear Cud Cuds meowing in the room, anticipating her return. The little girl knew what the kitty was saying, despite it only being a meow to everyone else.
As she walked, the gray, smokey hall was washed away by the light of her room as she opened the door with a pitcher full of water, to the smiling faces of the plants and her cat.