I wake up early to stalk the litter box. The cats blink sleepily at me when I turn on the kitchen light and then wrap themselves around my legs even though their official breakfast time is still a couple of hours away. I put down food for Chestnut in the kitchen and take Cleo into the bathroom. I sit on the closed lid of the toilet seat and watch her eat. When she’s done she will use the litter box, that’s her routine, though the day before she did things backwards which is why I am up before the sky begins to lighten, sitting in the cold bathroom half asleep, waiting for my cat to pee.
The sterilized collection cup with the orange lid sits on the countertop beside me; I have taken the top off the covered litter box in the corner. If this goes smoothly, I may be able to sneak back to bed for a few hours.
Cleo finishes eating, eyes the wooden laundry box with Morgan’s clothes from the day before piled on top, then turns and sits by the door.
“You should pee Cleo,” I say and she looks at me with her round green eyes. We stare at each other for a moment and I know it is futile so I open the door and we leave the bathroom together.
I dish myself some yoghurt with blackberries, put the kettle on for tea because it is cold, and eat quietly at the table. Chestnut sits on the chair next to mine, his chin just an inch above the tabletop, and watches me eat by the lonely yellow light of the kitchen. When I’m done, he gets the bowl and I wander over to the railing that overlooks the entryway.
I stand looking down into the darkness with the kitchen light at my back. I am wrapped in a blanket, the hood of my sweatshirt pulled up over my head, as I lean against the wall.
I can just make out Cleo’s lighter coloured shape stretched out beside Murdoch’s dark one. I know it is Murdoch even though it is Molly’s bed because he is curled into a ball the way he does when the house is cold, which it was when I stumbled down the stairs at 5:30 in the morning, the fire burned out so that only the tiniest coals winked weakly when I opened the door of the woodstove, reached in with the metal prod and stirred them up, raked them forward and opened the damper wide, then selected the smallest bits of wood from the cart, peeled some birchbark and tossed it in.
There is a faint orange glow visible through the glass of the stove door indicating heat to come, but my eyes are trained on Cleo, trying to decide if she is settling down for the long haul. She spent the entire day before on that bed while I hovered about waiting for her to do something; lid off the litter box in the bathroom, collection cup standing by.
Behind me the kettle is starting to boil and I make myself a cup of tea instead of a pot, still convinced I may be returning to bed before the day really starts.
I sit at the table and I read, my feet up on the chair where Chestnut sits waiting for something interesting to happen. I sip my tea as the minutes tick by and the blackness at the windows fades to indigo and still Cleo does not pee. “This is insane,” I say to the room.
And then Molly’s face appears at the baby gate at the top of the kitchen stairs and there is no denying the lightening sky and the snowy white woods outside the window emerging from the black. I can hear Morgan upstairs getting out of bed and the day officially starts.
The dogs go out, come in, get breakfast and the cats get second breakfast. I carry Cleo into the bathroom and set her down in front of her dish and then I am sitting in the bathroom for the second time this morning waiting for my cat to pee. And then she does and I catch it in the cup and for a moment I am so excited I forget to be tired.