The Old Lady With the Cats: Part Two.

by | Mar 31, 2024 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

Instead he took something from his bag.

The intricately carved wooden door featured a cat-flap in the bottom right-hand corner, into which the steady stream of small creatures disappeared. As the opening swung to and fro, Kenzie caught the rising and fading of an elderly female voice, speaking in soft Arabic. He recognised the word قطة cat, Arabic for the small semi domesticated beasts.

He knocked on the door and waited. Several minutes and another dozen cats elapsed before it opened ajar. Two large brown eyes appeared in the crack and even from there,he could see them open wider with surprise. They were joined by the same soft voice.

“Do I know You?” The intonation had a slight American hint to it.

“Are you the old, erm, I mean the lady with the cats?” The words had hardly left his mouth before he regretted them.

“I am indeed the old lady with the cats.” The eyes smiled clearer than any faces he’d encountered, before changing again to those of recognition.

“Kenzie? Is that you?” The door opened and a wave of fur rolled away from it.

A slightly built woman in a black and gold coat dress completed the picture. Her face, though reflecting her obvious age, was youthful in its countenance, matching the eyes perfectly. Her hair was parted in the middle above a high, intelligent forehead. There were grey flecks, fine strands of natural highlights, like silver linings around the darkest of storm clouds. He noticed how tiny her hands were as she brought them up to her mouth in shock.

“You know my name?” The man was equally surprised.

“Of course I do. I’ve known you since you were fifteen. How long is it?” She asked, her hands moved up to her cheeks. A glint of a tear appeared in one eye.

“I’m forty now. You tell me, maths was never my strong point,” he confessed. Kenzie had taken to this stranger, even though it was the first time they’d met. “Do I know you?” A mild panic overcame him as he recalled someone from his grandad’s past. The woman seemed to recognise this and alayed his fear.

“Well, I’ve never been to the UK and I assume that this is your first visit to Egypt,” she countered.

“Yes, I’ve only ever been to France. Oh, and Mauritius when I was a baby. That’s where my granny was from.” He recovered his composure and, with it, some bravado. “So you’re not her then?”

“Wrong country, I’m afraid. As I used to say to your grandfather, we have trees here that are older than her country.” The woman laughed but behind her humour there was a tinge of sadness. “Where are my manners? Please, come in. I’m sure I can find you something to drink.”

”Thank you, tea would be fine. Do you have milk?” The man asked, entering the yard. He was immediately surrounded by resurgent cats. They seemed to take the woman’s invitation as a form of approval for the tall foreigner.

The tiny house belied the imposing walls which surrounded it. Although, both were immaculately maintained. Two thoughts crossed Kenzie’s mind. The woman’s desire for isolation against her popularity with the locals, and the absence of the usual evidence of the presence of cats. He followed the woman into the house and the theme of cleanliness continued.

As he had assumed, the little bungalow had only three rooms. The woman disappeared into one of the two doors from the studio-like lounge and he heard the sound of water. Shortly, she returned with a tray adorned with a teapot, two glass cups, a jug and a plate of pastries.

“Sit down please, Kenzie. You’re making them nervous,” she said, placing the tray on a small round table and nodding at the cats weaving between his feet.

Kenzie sat on the single sofa and she kneeled on the floor in front of the table.

“Nana?” She asked, a mischievous grin appearing on her face.

“No thanks. I hate the vile stuff,” he replied, his sudden feeling of embarrassment quelled by her equally teasing smile. She tore a couple of leaves from a mint plant on the table, placed them in her cup and poured milk into Kenzie’s. The hostess addressed her guest.

“Tell me, how is your grandfather? I haven’t heard from him in such a long time. How did he know I’d come here with the cats?” She quizzed him, ushering him to eat and drink in typical Arab fashion. “It’s called kahk . Don’t worry, they’re plain ones, left over from Eid.”

Kenzie picked one up and tentatively took a small bite. His face was distorted before the sweet touched his lips.

“I see you’ve never changed. Now, tell me about your grandad,” she said smiling. He could make out the residual beauty in her aged features. It was like looking at the future of the beautiful flower girl. Something registered in his mind about the two women. In a strange way, he saw himself with the young woman but she assumed the identity of his host.

Kenzie still didn’t answer at the second attempt. Instead he took something from his bag. The object had the same effect on the woman as his initial appearance had at the front door.  She looked through the gaps in the fingers of her raised hands at the yellow book with its brass clasp. This time the tears were real.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    Intriguing.

    Reply

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