I first met her when I started college, right from the start she stood out from the rest of the crowd, her black hair that seemed to shine. Her green eyes that could sparkle and shine one moment and then, like the weather of her Scottish homeland, change in an instant to be full of storms and lightning. But mostly it was her pure presence, her grace, the almost feline way she used to walk. Though her name was Kirsty, she soon got the name of Cleo from her beauty and cat like presence.

We spent a lot of time together, but I was just one of the people who tried to share their life with Cleo. Men were like bees around a honey pot with her, she always had them queuing to be with her. Some ended with smiles like a cat who has had the cream; others found that the cat had claws and came away with a different point of view.

But all the time she was there, her green eyes flashing, and her beauty out-shining the stars in the sky. I spent some time with her, but knew I could never be one of the chosen ones. Perhaps because of that we became friends and spent more time just talking about things, and being there for each other when milk got spilt, and hearts got broken. One thing about Cleo was her appetite for adventure. Each year she came back from her travels with some new adventure, some new happening, and normally a new scar to add to the few that already marked her from her travels during her year off from college.

She had been bitten by a snake in Africa and had only just made it to the missionary’s medical center to get some antidote. She had been surfing off the coast of Australia when a shark had attacked the person surfing next to her.

After the first summer at college she came back telling tales of her travels across America and how she got caught up in a robbery at a bank in some small town. Gunfire had filled the air, a bullet snatching her earring from her ear and leaving a scar across her lobe. She talked to me after about the trip and I spent many an hour listening to her paint the pictures with her soft Scottish burr.

And so it went on, each year something different each summer another adventure for her.

I remember our graduation, and the way she looked at the ball afterwards, wearing, well almost wearing a dress as black as her shining hair. She was queen that night, and men came to pay homage to her. I will never forget though she made sure that I had at least one dance with her.

After college we went our separate ways, Cleo and I. We passed the odd letter, and hearing that her life had not changed. Several times in her adventures. I found myself thinking how lucky she had been, and how close she had been to death. A ship sank under her in the Greek Islands, she got caught up in a terrorist attack in the far East.

Then one day we met, quite by chance, I knew as soon as I saw a dark-haired beauty glide into the room, that it was she. Her hair was still black and shining, her face now tanned, and her eyes lit the room. The grace, the poise, oh yes it was her. She caught me looking at her, and a smile lit her face when she recognized me. We sat there for hours, telling each other of our lives, feeling at home with each other like we were still at college. I loved hearing her talk of her adventures. It seemed several more times for her there had been a brush with death, but she smiled. “After all” she said “she was a cat and had nine lives”. We arranged to meet again the following day.

That night the comment about the nine lives kept going around my head. I counted the stories, the near misses so to speak, and realized that she had used eight of her nine lives. The rest of the night I could not sleep.

The next day I had met her, and being a non-workday had been with her all day.

That was the start of our relationship, we went out as a couple, soon becomins lover. Then she moved in with me, and we became “us”.

Now though, the ninth life was there, the last life. This time though that life would be wrapped in my protecting arms. I knew like a cat she would need her time alone, and need her space. But I would be there waiting for her, knowing she was mine at the end of the day. Giving her all the love I had.

The knot that was tied on that day of our wedding would keep her safe, this may be her final life, but it was also a new beginning for the both of us.

Barry Eva 2001