Where’s ’Lizabeth?


Perfect love casteth out fear (1 Jn. 4:18).

Amy Jo looked up at the big clock on the living room wall. The short hand was on four, the long hand on twelve. She had waited the whole day for four o’clock to arrive.

She hurried to the front window of her new house and opened it. It was a warm, sunshiny day. Quietly she watched and waited. Soon an older woman holding a polka-dot umbrella rounded the corner. Next to her trotted a shaggy dog named Bert. Amy Jo knew his name because every day the old woman and the dog stopped in front of Amy Jo’s house and the old woman would say, “Well, Bert, where’s our slowpoke today? Where’s ’Lizabeth?”

“There she is,” Amy Jo called when ’Lizabeth finally appeared. But Amy Jo was shy and spoke so softly that no one heard her. All anyone could hear was ’Lizabeth crying loudly as she ran to catch up to the old woman and Bert.

“Meow. Meow,” cried the orange cat with white paws, but Amy Jo knew she was really saying, “Wait for me! Wait for me!”

“Why don’t we go out and say hello?” said Mother as she peeked through the window with Amy Jo. “Miss Gray seems like a nice person. I think she lives just around the corner. And I bet that Bert and ’Lizabeth would like to make a new friend too.”

Amy Jo shook her head. “I don’t want to,” she said, feeling afraid.

Miss Gray carried her polka-dot umbrella opened, even when the sky was full of sunshine. And her white hair was stiff and stuck out every which way. Her thick glasses made her eyes look small and of mean, and her shoes were heavy looking and lumpy. Amy Jo did not want to meet Miss Gray, only Bert and ’Lizabeth.

“Are you sure?” asked Mother.

“Uh, huh,” said Amy Jo shyly.

“Well, maybe tomorrow,” said Mother.

Amy Jo watched as Miss Gray walked on with Bert by her side and ’Lizabeth calling, “Meow. Meow. Wait for me! Wait for me!” She watched until they were tiny specks at the end of the long sidewalk.

Every day they passed Amy Jo’s house, pausing in front to allow ’Lizabeth to catch up. Amy Jo longed to hold the orange cat, pet her fluffy fur, and touch her soft white paws. Mother had said that someday they might also have a pet, “Small, like ’Lizabeth.”

’Lizabeth was special, but Amy Jo liked Bert too. The more she saw the two of them, the more she wanted to make friends. But she was too afraid to talk to Miss Gray, even though Mother had said that it would be all right.

“How about today?” Mother would ask as Amy Jo stared out the window.

“No. Not today.”

“Well, maybe tomorrow,” said Mother.

But then something strange began to happen. Amy Jo still ran to the window each day at four o’clock, but Miss Gray and Bert and ’Lizabeth began to come by later and later.

“Oh my, Bert,” said Miss Gray one afternoon, “where’s our lazybones today? Where’s ’Lizabeth? I declare, she’s getting slower and slower all the time.”

After a few minutes ’Lizabeth would appear crying, “Meow. Meow. Wait for me! Wait for me!” But she didn’t run to catch up to her friends. She just walked along. And each day Amy Jo saw that ’Lizabeth looked bigger and rounder than the day before.

“Oh, Bert,” said Miss Gray one rainy day. “Where’s our ’Lizabeth? Poor ’Lizabeth. She’s just not herself lately.”

Amy Jo began to worry as ’Lizabeth finally turned the corner. She was growing so fat that she had to stop to rest on her way to Miss Gray and Bert. When she reached them, she rubbed her back against Bert’s shaggy legs and meowed loudly as if to say, “Thank you for waiting.” Bert licked her face.

“That means they’re friends,” Amy Jo told her mother. “I want to be their friend too.”

“Really?” asked Mother, smiling. “Is today the day we say hello?”

“No. Not today.”

“Well, maybe tomorrow,” said Mother.

But the next day when Miss Gray and Bert walked by Amy Jo’s house, they didn’t stop to wait for ’Lizabeth. Amy Jo watched closely for the orange cat, but there was no ’Lizabeth that day. No “Meow. Meow. Wait for me! Wait for me!” Amy Jo felt sad.

There was no ’Lizabeth the next day, either. Or the next. Amy Jo was very worried.

“Where’s ’Lizabeth?” she asked Mother.

“I don’t know,” said Mother. “Why don’t we go ask Miss Gray.”

“No,” said Amy Jo.

But many days passed, and still there was no sign of the orange cat with the white paws.

Where can she be? Amy Jo wondered. What has happened to ’Lizabeth?

One hot afternoon Miss Gray and Bert stopped in front of Amy Jo’s house, but again just to rest for a moment. “I do miss our ’Lizabeth,” Miss Gray said, patting Bert’s head. “Things are just not the same without her.”

“Where’s ’Lizabeth?” Amy Jo called, but not loud enough to be heard.

“Where’s ’Lizabeth?” she called the next day, but again no one could hear her soft words.

Amy Jo was sure that something terrible had happened to the orange cat.

“Where’s ’Lizabeth?” she wailed that night as Mother tucked her into bed.

“Tomorrow I’ll ask,” said Mother.

“Me, too,” said Amy Jo bravely. “I want to ask too.”

But at four o’clock the next day the telephone rang. Mother was still talking when Miss Gray and Bert turned the corner. Amy Jo grabbed Mother’s hand, but Mother said, “I’m sorry, Amy Jo, but this call is important.”

Amy Jo watched anxiously as the polka-dot umbrella passed by the front gate. “Where’s ’Lizabeth?” she called in her loudest, bravest voice.

Miss Gray stopped. Bert stopped beside her. “Did you hear something, Bert?” she asked.

“Where’s ’Lizabeth?” Amy Jo called again.

“Who wants to know?” asked Miss Gray, looking around.

“Me,” said Amy Jo, running out to her front porch.

“Me who?”

“Me, Amy Jo.” She hurried out to the sidewalk.

“How nice to meet you, Amy Jo,” said Miss Gray.

She smiled, and Amy Jo saw that her eyes did not look mean, after all. And it was very shady under the pretty polka-dot umbrella. Amy Jo patted Bert’s shaggy head and decided that she liked Miss Gray very much.

“ ’Lizabeth should be along any minute now,” said Miss Gray.

Amy Jo turned and watched as ’Lizabeth rounded the corner. “Meow. Meow,” she called. “Wait for me! Wait for me!” Then she ran to catch up, just as she did before. Amy Jo felt happy to see ’Lizabeth again and gently touched her soft orange fur.

Suddenly, Amy Jo heard lots of meows, and around the corner came one, two, three, four black kittens with white paws. Far behind them ran a tiny orange kitten with white paws that looked just like ’Lizabeth.

“Meow. Meow,” the tiny kitten cried. “Wait for me! Wait for me!”

“Oh, how sweet,” said Mother, coming out of the house. “No wonder we haven’t seen ’Lizabeth for a while.”

“We’re very proud of her,” said Miss Gray. “Aren’t we, Bert? But I’m afraid we’re going to need someone else to walk with us, to be sure that everyone stays together.”

“I will!” said Amy Jo. She wasn’t afraid of Miss Gray anymore. They were friends already. Maybe Mother would buy her a polka-dot umbrella too. And maybe, just maybe, she would ask Miss Gray for the little orange kitten that looked just like ’Lizabeth.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki