By the next afternoon Bex had gone from being angry to being worried. Although her temper could get the best of her, once she calmed down she knew there would be a fight ahead of her, and she had no idea how she would prepare for it. She had spent that morning emailing some of her clients to see if anyone knew of an attorney who could help her. She wasn’t hopeful, but someone might know of someone who could help.
At 3:00 Lindsey showed up to help her worm the cats. Lindsey attended the local high school and would be starting her senior year in a couple of months. Her dream was to go to Virginia Tech and become a veterinarian. Although she had a job with the vet in town, she came out once in awhile to help Bex with some of the cats, and Bex was always grateful for an extra pair of hands. And after a sleepless night, she was grateful for the extra ears as well.
“Wow, he sounds like a total jerk,” Lindsey said as she forced open Ginger’s mouth and popped in a pill. She held the cat’s mouth closed and gently petted her throat to help the pill go down. She put Ginger on the floor and straightened up. “Are we doing the feral pen next?”
Bex sighed. She wasn’t sure she was quite ready for that, but it needed to be done. “Did we get everyone out here?” she asked. Lindsey looked around the small room at the cats milling on the floor. “Let’s see, I just finished Ginger, you did Fred, and I think we got Popeye, Princess and Bugsy. What are you going to do about Dinah?”
Bex shook her head. “Let’s just leave her for now. She still seems to be agitated and stressed out, and had some wicked diarrhea yesterday. I’ve got an appointment for her to see Dr. Baxter at 4:30, and I don’t want to give her anything until after we get back.”
As they headed out to the feral pen, Lindsey asked, “How can he take the land if the Szczepanskis gave it to you? I mean, if it was in their will and everything?”
Bex smiled. “That’s a good question. But I guess just because someone puts something in their will, it doesn’t mean it automatically happens. Someone else can come along and say they didn’t mean to do it, or they were under the influence of someone, or even that they were blackmailed. Or sometimes people just aren’t very happy they didn’t get something they expected, which is what happened here. And really, I can’t say that I totally blame Tiffany. She doesn’t know me – we’ve never even met – and here her parents have left me a whole bunch of land that she thinks of as belonging to her.” Bex paused for a moment. “I just wish now that I’d had a chance to meet her sooner. I’m not even sure if her parents told her I was living out here.”
Lindsey said, “So they just let you start living out here? Why? Weren’t they using the land for anything before you got here?”
Bex laughed at the younger girl’s questions. “Well, it was really kind of an odd situation. I had just moved back in with my parents after. . ., well, anyway I was living with my folks and had gone to the Pet Palace to see if I could sell them some services, maybe create some brochures or a newsletter. You know, I was trying to get them for a client. Anyway, when I got there they had all these cages out front with cats in them that they were trying to adopt out. I was just looking at all those kitties and it made me so sad.”
“As I was standing there, this older woman came up next to me. She said, ‘Isn’t it a shame they have no one who wants them?’ I looked at her and said, ‘Oh, I want them, it’s a matter of where I would keep them.’ She laughed and we started talking. I don’t know why, but she was so easy to talk to. I started telling her how I would love to start a refuge for cats. A place where they could live out their lives and be cared for, even if they were feral. And then we talked a little bit about feral cats, how it’s very hard to relocate them, and how most of the time the best thing you can do is a trap, neuter, release program. But that I wanted to do more than that.”
Bex smiled at the memories she was reliving. “So she asked me what I thought I would need for something like that. I told her the first thing I’d need is a lot of land, and then a place to live. I told her that I was just back in town and trying to get some freelance writing jobs, but at that point it wasn’t enough to keep me going. She asked me a lot of questions about shelters for the cats, vet care and food. She was really interested. We kept talking, and the next thing I know she’s inviting me to lunch with her and her husband the following week.”
“And that was Mrs. Szczepanski?”
“Kate, yes. I met Bill when we had lunch in town, and he was just as delightful. It was obvious that Kate had already talked to him about the land. He told me that there was about 20 acres they hadn’t used in quite awhile, and that there was a little trailer set up on it that I could live in. For free. Can you imagine?” The teenager just shook her head.
“It turned out that the trailer was in pretty good condition, and mostly just needed a lot of clean up. And of course a lot of the land had to be cleared. Fortunately that big outbuilding was already here, so once I put in the cat door it was just a matter of getting the cats out here. I was able to get a satellite dish for Internet so I could keep freelancing, and then it was just some hard work and elbow grease to get where I am now.”
“Wow, that’s amazing.”
“It really is,” Bex said and then laughed. “But Bill made me write a business plan and outline what I was going to do in terms of putting up shelters, how I’d pay for food and vet bills, all that stuff. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what he was really doing was forcing me to be realistic. And I realized that I could do this, but it was going to be hard and I was going to have to sacrifice a lot.”
She stopped walking and looked at Lindsey, all the smile gone from her face. “I had no idea they were leaving me land in their will, I really didn’t. We never talked about it.” She paused and said softly. “It was devastating to hear they’d died.”
“So what happens now?” Lindsey’s open face was worried as she looked at Bex.
“Right now?” Bex smiled and put her hand on the teenager’s shoulder. “Right now we de-worm some cats that will not be at all happy about the situation.”
Lindsey didn’t smile and was still looking worried. Bex unlocked the door to the outbuilding where the feral cats were currently penned. She said honestly, “I really just don’t know Lindsey, I’m just going to have to take this one day at a time.”