“It’s not, ‘kick you in the face’ spicy, it’s more of a rising tension then boom kind of spicy.” As I was discussing various details of the new romance novel I’m reading, there he was, the most beautiful person I had ever seen. I continued to drift into a state of bliss; thinking of the life we would have once we get married, when I’m rudely interrupted.
“When will you get over yourself and ask him out?” said Ivy, my angsty temperamental best friend. Her blood red dipped hair and bold makeup made her look extra intimidating today. I gave her a look of disbelief, appalled that she could think such a thing.
“Look at him and look at me, I look like a homeless lady that was trampled over by a bunch of squirrels!”
“And who’s fault is that?” Ivy rudely shot.
“Mine.” I admitted. I quickly changed the subject. “Um… so how’s Jade?”
“I know what you’re doing Clara.”
“Op, look at the time, I gotta run, bye!” I abruptly rush away, turning on my headphones to avoid any other conversation. I hurry along the sidewalk keeping my stride in pace with the music I’m listening to. I start to think about how beautiful a place downtown is, the nature, the lights, the couples strolling by. There it was, another reminder of how lonely I am. Instead of taking Ivy’s advice and ‘Woman Up’ so I can ask out Luke, I read trashy romance novels and play Cupid. I am instantly distracted by autumn leaves floating in the air.
Soon enough, I am there; the best place in the world, Domestic Pet Rescue. I know what you’re going to say, ‘An animal shelter is such a depressing place’, well to that I say ‘You’re wrong’. Domestic Pet Rescue is a place of new beginnings, a place to find your forever companion, a place where I get to play matchmaker for animals. It is the greatest job ever. I set my stuff down at the front desk and make my way to all my new furry friends in need of a home.
“Hey Rico, who’s a good boy? Your forever family is coming today buddy, I can just feel it!” I say in a squeaky high-pitched voice.
“Aw Luna you look cuter than ever, that family I talked about? They’re coming today!”
“Hmmmm, himmm, hiummm, hium” she whined.
“What up Rango? You feelin less cranky today?”
“Hieghss” Rango had just been neutered, so he was a bit sour those days.
“Okay I get the message moving on, ooh who do we have here?” I direct towards the head of Domestic Pet Rescue, Miriam.
“That is Gladys, she has just transferred here from out of state.”
“She has a few… behavioral problems”
“Yeah… but I figured that our greatest match maker would be up for the challenge of finding old Gladys here a home?”
“Of course! Come here you cranky old lady!”
“I wouldn’t do….” Before I could hear her, it was too late, Gladys attacked both my hands leaving multiple bleeding scratches along my arms.
“AHHH! What is your problem?”
“Okay if that’s how you’re gonna be, I’m going to need reinforcements.” I march my way to the bathroom to first clean up my wounds, then I grab an apron and some gloves; ready to conquer Gladys’s anger.
After hours of trying to get Gladys to let me check her over, he shows up while I’m bent over a sink trying to wash the grime off of my arms. Why? Why did he have to show up then? Not only did I look like I was hit by a bus, but I was also covered in scratches and animal excrement, you can thank Gladys for that.
“Wow, you look terrible, I thought you were supposed to be ‘The Animal Whisperer’ ?” I turned around suddenly, shocked to see him, Luke, ‘He wasn’t supposed to be here, he doesn’t volunteer on Mondays, wait, he changed his schedule in order to get extra hours assisting in the lab. How could I forget that?’
“Um.. I am” I stumbled. ‘Oh why did he have to have those curly blonde locks and those deep brown eyes. If he wasn’t so cute I could probably give him more coherent sentences. I’m an expert when it comes to animals, romance. I’m at the top of my class. Why can’t I speak?’. “This is Gladys, she’s new… and has some…problems.”
“I can see that.” He laughs, oh that adorable laugh. “Do you need any help?” ‘Why did he have to volunteer here, don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with him, but I can’t focus on anything with him here. I’m a 25 year old woman who can’t even do her job with a man nearby. I just get so lost in thought,’ “Clara” ‘I forget where I am, what I’m doing,’ “Clara?” ‘Who I’m even talking to, once I get lost into those eyes, I’m gone.’ “CLARA!”
“Hmm… what? Oh sorry, uh what did you say?” I blush, clearly embarrassed.
“Do you need help?”
“Oh yeah that would be wonderful, the other animals could really use some attention, oh and Luna’s adopted family should be here in about… thirty minutes, so prepare for that.” It’s always so satisfying to know that I brought life back to an animal’s life. Luna had only been there for two weeks and I found her a home easily. Rango had been there for almost a month, but he needed to visit the vet so the fact I got him a home a month after his surgery, I would say is a quick success.
“Ok, got it… anything else?”
“Nope!” As I walked back to the kennels I thought, ‘Ugh, now back to Gladys, why does this gray mungy cat have to be so difficult, I just want to find her a HOME, is that so wrong.’ Clearly Gladys could read thoughts because once I reached her place of residence she tried to bite my legs through the cage as a response. “Dammit Gladys, what is your problem?! Look, we are going to have to learn to be friends in order to find you a home, understand?”
“I’m going to take that as a yes.”
After a month of exposure to visitors, Gladys had made little progress. Gladys and I had learned to get along, but once a new person came to see her she was back to the way she once was. She would hiss, scratch, bite, anything to get that person away from her. I didn’t give up, I would continue on my quest to find Gladys her forever home. Well I was planning on it, until I got some unfortunate news.
“Clara, can I talk to you for a minute?” I slowly make my way towards Miriam as she beckons me over with a few hand waves.
“Yeah? What’s going on?” I questioned cautiously as I noticed the sad look on Miriam’s face.
“Well, as you know Gladys has been having a lot of problems…”
“So…we don’t have the resources to care for her in the ways she needs.”
“We could raise money, I could ask Luke to help start a fundraising campaign!”
“Clara, you know Gladys would need to see an animal behavioral specialist in order to make any strides when being around strangers.”
“This has been her seventh animal shelter, she is almost 8 years old, it’s time to let her go.”
“No, we can’t.” I protested. “I will not let you do this.”
“Look, I do empathize, but there is nothing we can do.”
“What if I find a specialist, what if I raise the money and work with her on my time to get her a family of her own?”
“Clara, the appointment for her is a month away, if you can do all of that by then, wonderful, if not…” I turned and walked away, tears stinging my eyes. For the first time, I had failed to find someone their match. As I looked at that grumpy gray cat, I knew I could not give up. I would talk to Luke, although impossible, I would ask him to help me fundraise.
After a few weeks of working with Gladys non-stop, Ivy decides to stop by at my apartment for a check-in.
“Look I’m not saying to stop working with her, I’m just saying you should give yourself a break every once and a while.”
“If I take a break, if I change my schedule one tiny bit, Gladys may never be adopted and could be put down!”
“Why don’t you adopt Gladys? She clearly likes you, she is literally rubbing up against your leg and purring.”
“It’s just, look at my plants, they are dying, meaning I can’t take care of them, so how am I supposed to take care of a cat?”
“Cut the crap, what is the real reason?”
“Okay…it’s just difficult to talk about.” She gave me a look hoping I would continue, I did. “Gladys is almost 8 years old, meaning she won’t be around forever. If I continue to build a relationship with her, parting will be so much harder.” Tears start to prick my eyes. “When my mom left, it changed something in me, a hole formed where my love for her once was. That was the day I stopped living. I had to pick up every piece left of me that she shattered and glue myself back together. I can’t go through that again.”
“… but this time will be different.”
“How do you know?” I choked out.
“…because when you find the right people or animals, they don’t leave, you shouldn’t deprive yourself of future connections based on a horrible experience. I understand being cautious in who you choose to let into your life, but not letting anyone isn’t protection, it’s destruction. I’ll leave you alone, but please just think about what I’ve said.” Ivy left the apartment, leaving me alone with my thoughts. ‘Look at what you did, you have made your only friend leave you due to your own trauma. Why do you do this to yourself? You haven’t left the house in days because you’re fixated on trying to get this cat adopted. When you could fix the problem easily by adopting her, but no you can’t cause you’ll love her and eventually she’ll leave you, just like everyone else.’ As I curl up and sob on my couch, Gladys comes up next to me and purrs, trying to comfort me the best way she can.
“Gladys, you are a wonderful cat,” I cry, “but you deserve someone who can properly take care of you, not damaged goods.” I wiped my tears away and started working with Gladys once again.
After multiple attempts of finding Gladys a new home, several awkward fundraisers with Luke, and a specialist on animal behavior, I finally was able to have someone adopt her. An elderly woman, Elizabeth, was going to arrive that Monday morning just before Gladys’s appointment at 3pm that afternoon, just making the cut off.
“So, you finally did it?” Miriam asked.
“Yes, Elizabeth, she is coming in today to pick Gladys up.”
“Aren’t you going to miss her?”
“Of course, but I’m just relieved she will have a home and live the rest of her life in peace.”
After a few hours of waiting, Domestic Pet Rescue get’s a call.
“Hello, this is Domestic Pet Rescue, Clara speaking, how may I help you? Uh huh, oh no is she all right? Oh, yeah I’m sorry too. Well, tell Elizabeth, Clara sends her wishes. Okay, bye bye.”
“Who was that?” Miriam asks cautiously.
“Elizabeth’s son, she had an accident and is now in the hospital.”
“Is she okay?”
“Yeah, but she is being moved into a nursing home, she can’t take care of herself anymore.”
“Oh Clara I’m so sorry.”
“Can’t you please give me more time, I’m so close to finding Gladys a home.” I begged and pleaded with Miriam, but it was no use, we had too many animals and not enough funding. With Gladys gone, I could regain my focus on helping the new animals get adopted. As I watched Miriam gather her things to bring Gladys to the vet, I locked eyes with Gladys. She looked scared, as if she knew what was going to happen. Her eyes pleaded with me to stop Miriam and to let her live. I felt a tear slide down my cheek as Miriam picked Gladys up. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore. “STOP!” I yelled. “I’ll take her in, I’ll adopt her.” Thoughts rushed into my brain, ‘What about when Gladys dies, you’ll be a wreck, you’ll fall apart.” It didn’t matter, I couldn’t let this sweet creature die. I loved her and that was enough for me to put my fear aside and take a chance.
“Jeez, you didn’t have to yell. I figured you would say that, I have the papers already printed out.” As I completed the paperwork, I could see a sparkle light Gladys’s eye. I grab the carrying case Gladys was in and start to head out the door, when I bump into him. His eyes fall to mine, as he steadies himself.
“Oh, look who got adopted.” Luke states, as if he saw this coming from miles away.
“Yeah, I finally just decided to do it.”
“Well, good for you, I guess that means no more middle of the night texts with new ideas for the next fundraiser?”
“I guess it does…”
“I’ll see you around!” Once he turned to walk further into the shelter, Gladys seemed to give me a look that said ‘Go on, ask him out, you’ve been crushing on him for forever, do it!’.
“Luke, wait… I was wondering if maybe…you would like to hang out? As a… ya’know… a date?” He returns my question with a smile, before I could hear his answer I knew I would no longer let myself be controlled by fear. Luke looks at me and says…