Cleo appeared on the trail in our woods as if she had always been there, as if this trail was well known to her and in fact belonged to her and she was just letting us use it out of the kindness of her tiny feline heart.
She looked like she belonged there too, after I got over the initial urge to scoop her up and run her back to the house. We heard her meow before we saw her, the dogs and I. We meandered our way between the trees leaving our house behind in search of adventure on our daily walk. It was a gray day and the light fell heavy and flat to the forest floor and the harsh, ringing meow coming from the underbrush seemed to cast the flatness of the light in to sharp relief.
It was slightly jarring to hear Cleo’s crisp voice breaking the serenity of the woods and when she appeared she seemed bigger than I would have imagined her to be amongst the trees, but she also seemed to be well camouflaged in her mottled coat of leafy beige and gray the colour of storm clouds.
“Reowr,” she said again as she set her green eyes on the three of us and marched down the trail to meet us, white legs flashing.
“Hello Cleo,” I said, bending down to pet her head as she leapt up to meet my hand with a trill and a couple of short meows. “What are you doing way up here?”
And she looked at me with a look that was both knowing and filled with secrets.
“You should go back to the house,” I said, always thinking about what might be lurking behind trees that would find a house cat just the perfect thing to abate pangs of hunger. But she trotted happily beside us for a few moments, any thought of returning home or leaving the woods clearly not even a glimmer in her mind.
When we reached the fork in the trail, the dogs and I turned left on a path that would follow the edge of out square of woods where it butts up to the clamour of white poplar saplings that jostle for space in the new growth forest and eventually turns towards the mountain.
Cleo loitered at the fork, contemplating her options. I glanced back over my shoulder, curious if she would follow. But instead she trotted off in to the woods where there was no clear trail, moving with the relaxed purpose of someone with a plan pretending not to have a plan, just like a cat who thinks she owns the forest.