So I had a lot of time to think.
One thing, I decided that I wanted us to adopt Stray Cat and get her settled in before I return to school.
I figured it should happen any day now, since we’ve become BFFs already!
Then, of course, there was talking with Riley and making sure she was OK with me leaving again.
I finally had a chance to talk with her late one night after the kids were asleep.
“I’m getting sleepy,” she said, just as I joined her at the table. “Think I’ll turn in.”
As soon as I told her I’d been waiting for a chance to talk with her alone, she said she wasn’t that tired. Bed would wait.
We small-talked for a while about music, about Roxy, who’s growing up to be such a good kitten. About Zoey, who’s everybody’s sweetie. Riley said she thought Stray Cat would fit in just fine.
“I hope so,” I said. “You know, after we adopt Stray, there’s something I’m thinking of doing.”
Not smooth, I know. But I didn’t know how else to tell her.
“You mean, going back to college?” she said.
Of course, she knew. I can’t keep anything secret from my IF.
“But how would you feel?” I asked. “I really think that what I want isn’t more important than what you want, and what’s best for the fam is most important of all.”
Have you ever known anyone that, when you look in their eyes, everything suddenly becomes clear and simple? That’s what Riley’s like.
“Dreams are important,” she said. “You know, we can’t always do what we want. And so that makes it all the more important that we do so when we can. And right now, you can. There’s nothing keeping you here. We did great last time you went away, and we’ll do great now. And you’ll keep in touch.”
“I’ll email everyday,” I said. “And we can chat online.”
So just like that, it was settled.
We talked a bit about living arrangements. I’ve decided I want to move back to the old dorm. I really like the bed there. And you can stay over whenever you want, right?
So it was settled. As soon as we adopted Stray Cat, and she was adjusted to living here, I’d head back to campus.
I went out to see if I could talk Stray into coming inside.
But when I got out there, she’d already crossed the street. I called to her, but she kept on walking. I watched until she was just a tiny white speck in the distance.
Stray Cat’s left. She made up her mind to be a solitary. She’s chosen to live wild like Stray Dog before her.
When I got back inside, I felt sad at first. I’d really wanted Stray to join our family. But it’s her choice.
Then I realized there was nothing holding me back, no reason to stay any longer.
“Guess I’ll take off, back to the university,” I told Bo.
“You mean, tonight?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve already been accepted. Why wait til next term?”
“Can I have your laptop?” Bo asked.
I told him sure. I’ll buy a new one at the University Bookstore with my student discount.
The shuttle dispatcher said my ride would be there in an hour, just enough time for me to pack and say my goodbyes.
“Don’t forget to study,” I told Bo. “Work on your skills. You’ll be heading off for college yourself soon enough, and you want to be ready!”
He blew me a kiss. My brother may be crazy, but he’s a tender kind of nuts.
“Don’t worry about us!” he shouted as I got into the van. “We won’t burn down anything!”
I rolled down the window to shout my goodbyes to Patches and Riley.
“Be good! Have fun! Keep my brother out of trouble!”
Patches just laughed.
Shannon, I’m so excited to be leaving, and at the same time, my heart got tight when I looked back at our house. Would they remember to water the plants once the frost left? Will they get along OK? Will Roxy be a big cat by the time I get back?
Riley looked at me. I could see she was telling me that she’d miss and not to worry. I know she thinks I’m doing the right thing. I think so, too.
And soon, I’ll see you!
It just hurts my heart a little bit to say goodbye to our home, my family, and our sweet misted valley. The van pulled out just as the sun was rising.
I heard tiny voices shouting. “Farewell, fine scholar,” it sounded like they were saying.
And when I turned, I could’ve sworn one of the gnomes was waving.
Shannon, I don’t know if you’ll get this before I arrive! If you do, you can laugh behind my back at how foolish and sentimental I am. And if you don’t, we can laugh together.
Shannon babe, I’m on my way!