I woke with a mop of cat in my face. Bono's owlish eyes gazed unblinking at me.
Closing my eyes, I pretended to sleep. The feather duster of Bono's tail brushed my cheek. He mewed urgently.
We had a big day ahead. A potential adopter, Monique, was coming to visit. A cat lover and oncology nurse, she sounded ideal. But what if Bono cowered under the bed the entire time?
As I ran my hand over his spine his body vibrated into a purr. Fostering a cat while staying in New York City had sounded simple enough, but I'd grown attached.
Affectionate and beautiful, Bono was stricken with kidney failure. The good workers at Bideawee had given up hope of finding him a home. He'd come to my apartment simply for a break from life in a cage.
Along with countless others, Monique had fallen for Bono and his story in The Huffington Post. She was the only one willing to meet him face to face so far.
Desperate to impress, I bought fresh flowers. Bono watched bemused as I mopped floors and straightened piles of papers.
The doorbell rang 10 minutes early. To my horror, Bono shot straight under the bed.
I liked Monique the moment we met. Disappointment flashed across her face when I explained where he was hiding. As we sat on the sofa, Monique said she'd always loved black cats. She hadn't been able to consider opening her heart to another since her precious Onyx had died five years earlier. She kept Onyx's ashes in her apartment, and had a shrine to him in her kitchen.
My chest tightened. Bono would be unbelievably lucky to be offered a home with Monique. If only he'd come out from under the...
"Oh, there he is," Monique said warmly.
Bono raised his tail and strutted toward her. He leapt on to the sofa and wrapped himself around her hand, purring. The chemistry between them was immediate - and powerful. It was almost as if Bono had been waiting for this moment his entire life.
"Something about him reminds me of Onyx," said Monique as Bono sprang on to the coffee table in front of us. "I don't mean to sound strange, but do you believe in reincarnation?"
My non-committal answer was interrupted. Bono sprang off the table and wedged himself between us. Fixing us with those headlamp eyes, he meowed intensely first at me, then Monique.
"Oh, I thought so," Monique crooned to him.
Goosebumps prickled up my arms. These two were meant for each other.
Except there was a third party to be considered. Monique needed to speak with her husband Barry before making a commitment.
Later that day, I packed Bono's food and his bed from the shelter. Not that he used it any more. He'd been sleeping on the pillow beside me. I'd dreaded the thought of wrangling him back in his carry case, but he meekly let me slide him in.
As I carried him back to Bidawee, past the UN Building alongside East River, it seemed only yesterday Lydia and I had taken the same route in reverse.
Lydia had wept then because we'd been told Bono had a sad and limited future. Now he had a wonderful life ahead with Monique and Barry who, to everyone's delight, had conceded to cohabit with another feline.
Waiting in the foyer of Bideawee, I listened to Jon the pet whisperer fielding a call from someone anxious to rehome an incontinent 14 year old dog. His patience was endless, as usual.
Bono sat inside his carry case calmly observing the traffic of cats, dogs and people.
All relationships end with goodbye. In this case it was happening sooner than my selfish heart would've preferred.
But there had only ever been two options for Bono and me- the misery of him going back to the shelter on my return to Australia. Or the joyous knowledge he was getting a fresh start with devoted owners who, as medics, weren't the least phased by feline kidney failure.
Monique and Barry arrived beaming. I introduced them to Jon.
"You can go now," Monique smiled at me.
I rubbed Bono's nose through the carry case and whispered to him.
That little black cat with a lion's haircut had enriched my time in New York beyond words. Through him I'd met incredible people and experienced the soft heart of the city. His story had touched people around the world.
Walking back along East river, I gulped back tears. But that was only the cold spring air making my eyes water.
Darling Bono. It was the best possible goodbye.
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Helen Brown is the author of CATS & DAUGHTERS: They Don't Always Come When Called.
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