I have to tell you what happened on Valentine’s Day. Mine has to have been the worst in the entire country.
There was an envelope: ‘Please do not bend. This is for a really special person.’ Ooh! Card! Someone loves me! I’m not a pariah!
I opened it. The first page was promising; how smug was I? ‘Somewhere, somebody out there is thinking of you and the tremendous impact you made on their life.’
Oh, well. That’s nice. Aww.
But then I turned the page.
‘It’s not me. I think you’re a t***. Having just read your Diary, you’ve blown it.’
At first I thought, who is it from? And how upsetting. Then I realised. The only person apart from Nic who knows my address is… David.
I decided not to retaliate. To Rise Above, when as we all know I am far more likely to Sink Beneath. Which is just as well as on Sunday he sent a worrying text.
‘Hi. Susie has been very confused, just standing in one spot. Am taking her to the London Animal Clinic.’
I called them. It turned out Susie had a low white blood cell count and failing kidneys. I told them she is 18, but to do everything possible for her. She was placed on a heat pad, given antibiotics and put on a drip.
I drove to the clinic in South London at full speed on Monday morning. All the way there, I kept saying out loud, ‘Susie. Mummy is coming. Please wait for me.’
I got to the clinic at 2pm. Her vet showed me to a room and told me he would bring her to me. After a couple of moments, he brought her in: she was wearing a little tank top and was on a big cushion. One stripy paw was bandaged, with a cannula, through which they had been giving her fluids and drugs. ‘Close the door!’ I shouted, conditioned from 18 years of being the human companion of a feral cat who would disappear at the drop of… anything, really.
‘She is not going to escape,’ the vet told me. ‘She cannot lift her head.’
Susie cried when I said her name; a great big loud, ‘Wahhhhhh!!!!’, showing her little pink tongue. She was skin and bone. ‘My darling Susie,’ I whispered, kissing her forehead; she had learnt over the years to kiss me on demand. ‘You have been the best cat I could ever have wished for.’
Everything was about Susie. Couldn’t buy a flat as she’d not be able to go out. Couldn’t be near a busy road as she’d get squashed. I only moved her to live with David to keep her away from Gracie, the cat-killing collie. Only fear for her safety could separate us.
‘Can you give her more drugs, fluids, a chance?’
‘It’s very sad, watching her in the kennel, unable to move. I would be upset if you were to leave today and we had not put her to sleep.’
The vet started to talk about how he would do it. ‘Please don’t hurt her,’ I told him. ‘When Squeaky died, she cried out, and hung on to me with her paws.’
‘I won’t hurt her. She will not recover. She is a very old cat.’
He went away while I kissed her ears in private, her fur damp with my tears. How many mice did she put on my bed in the middle of the night, for them to take refuge down my top or under Squeaky’s bulk? How many prawns was she hand-fed, at room temperature (never give Susie anything straight from the fridge; she will only turn up her delicate nose)?
The vet returned. I stroked Susie’s tiny face as he gave her the injection, then placed a stethoscope on her heart. ‘Don’t, it’s cold!’ I shouted.
‘She has already gone.’
I looked into her big, dark eyes and I knew she was no longer there; she was like a toy. It was like the moment my mum died. One less person who would gaze at me with a love that isn’t about being jealous, or sending abusive Valentine’s Day cards, or scoring points.
That night, I still had to work: I had to attend the Oxfam catwalk show, the closing act of London Fashion Week. I took my seat front row and, while the models paraded up and down, I couldn’t help the water flowing down my face.
A woman in a huge hat took one look at me and said, ‘I know. Slow fashion is really moving. Mind if I Instagram you?’
She’s really lucky I didn’t smack her in the face.