I fell in love this summer. And like most holiday romances, it was sweet, tender and short-lived.
Less typically, the object of my affections (and that of my hubby and son too), had four legs, huge eyes, a furry face and fitted into the palm of your hand.
It all started one week into my 'staycation' at my in-laws' country house about an hour north of Athens. For a couple of days we had been hearing the plaintiff cries of a kitten somewhere nearby. My Other Half, bless 'im, decided he couldn't leave the poor thing in distress and set about trying to find the source of the pathetic mews. He soon found it, in a closed storage space under the stairs in the abandoned house next door.
He emerged with a tiny, terrified, trembling ball of tabby and white fluff, with one huge blue eye and a swelling the size of a marble where the other should have been. Cleaning her up revealed an infected cut under her eye - and it also relieved the swelling and showed another frightened eye blinking at us and mutely begging for help.
At most, she was two weeks old - an age when she should still be with her Mum, who was nowhere to be seen. My maternal instincts kicked in the minute I clapped eyes on her.
Hubby named her "Skala". Greek for the stairs under which he found her, and we set about trying to find ways to feed her, and make sure she could thrive. The vet wasn't optimistic - she was dehydrated and way too young to have much chance of surviving being separated from her mother.
And yet, over the course of the next two weeks, she rallied. Her eye healed, daily saline injections according to the vet's instructions replaced her lost fluids, she started eating from a tiny baby's bottle, and - after a couple of false starts - she started trotting around. Hugs were a big favourite, and she would clamber up to your neck where she would snuggle up, or she'd sit on your chest and intensely study your face with a gaze filled with trust and determination. She even started making efforts to clamber out of her box - something we saw as a sign that she was doing well and getting stronger.
Sadly, it was just that which was her downfall.
My son found her lifeless on the floor next to her box this morning. Apparently, she had climbed out and fallen badly, either hitting her head fatally or breaking her neck. Just a couple of hours before I had given her a full bottle of milk before leaving for work early in the morning.
So, today we are trying to get used to the idea that Skala was destined to be part of our little family for just a short while. Just as we had started to think that she would survive the rough start she had in life, her time with us ended.
She came, she stole our hearts, and then she was gone.