Sylvia climbed the stairs slowly, the humidity was high this summer and she stopped on the landing. Sighing deeply, she pulled a stained hanky from her pocket. Sylvia wiped her face and the back of her neck. Swinging the hanky in front of her face, she sought relief in the meager stir of air. “God love me and save me” she muttered. Stuffing the hanky back in her pocket, she continued her slow climb up the stairs.
“This third floor apartment is going to be the death of me” Sylvia said out loud. She grimaced at the sound of her own voice. When did she start talking to herself, she mused? Last year, before Miss Cleo came to stay, she hadn’t been in the habit of speaking at all. Sliding the key into the lock, Sylvia saw a card flutter to the floor. A small groan escaped her lips as she bent over to pick it up and stuff it in her pocket.
“Meeeoooooww!” an over weight gray tabby cat came running towards her when the door swung open. “Why Miss Cleo, what have you been up to?” Sylvia cooed. The cat rubbed against her swollen ankles, circling them twice before running back into the room, racing ahead of Sylvia.
“Any phone calls today?” Sylvia asked her furry friend as she headed for the phone. Miss Cleo was already there, tail twitching and staring at Sylvia from her perch on the arm of Sylvia’s only chair. One glance at the message light burning steady told her no calls had come in that day. But still, just to be sure, she picked up the receiver and listened. A dull dial tone answered her query, not the exciting “beep-beep-beep” that heralded a message. Maybe it’s a mistake thought Sylvia dialing the voice mail number. “You Have No Messages” the cold electronic voice informed her.
Miss Cleo watched as Sylvia went through her daily routine, it was always the same. First the telephone, then Sylvia would lower her head and say the words “Dear God, please help me.” Next Sylvia would slump into the chair and begin making noises that sounded sort of like purring to Miss Cleo, only louder. This was Miss Cleo’s favorite time of the day, she would climb into Sylvia’s lap and purr along with her. Sylvia would let salty drops of water fall on her back, then wipe her fur dry with the hanky.
“All right Miss Cleo” Sylvia stroked the cat, “time for us to get up and make some dinner.” Sylvia ignored the complaints of the cat as she set her down on the floor. She saw the card that had been in her pocket. “Must have fallen out when I got the hanky for you Miss Cleo” she spoke out loud to the cat. “Let’s see what it is.”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Sylvia read the card to Miss Cleo, “Matthew 11:28.”
“Miss Cleo, would that describe me, weary and burdened?” Sylvia let out a bitter laugh. “Maybe weary of that phone never ringing, that’s for sure.” She picked the cat back up “How about you Miss Cleo? Are you burdened by catching my tears every night?” she smirked at the cat and rolled her eyes.
Sylvia was about to flip the card into the trash when her eyes saw the word rest. Like the message light on her phone it started blinking, “rest-rest-rest.” How odd, she thought I must have strained my eyes with all that crying tonight. Sylvia closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath. She opened her eyes and looked at the card, again the word “rest-rest-rest” blinked at her. Something leapt inside Sylvia’s belly, sending a rush of adrenaline through her.
Turning the card over, she read: “Camp Meeting Tonight 7 p.m.” Sylvia stared at the card, “Transportation Provided” and “Call 1-4-JESUS”
“Miss Cleo” Sylvia addressed the cat “I am going out tonight!” The cat watched as she went to the phone and dialed a number. “Yes, this is Sylvia Brown. I’d like to attend the meeting tonight. 316 Vine Street. Thank you.” Sylvia hung up the phone and left the room.
Miss Cleo was confused; Sylvia did not hang her head and say the words. She didn’t slump into the chair or start purring and dropping the salty water. “It was the card” thought Miss Cleo, “things will never be the same.”
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