Ryan knew that things had not been going well, but he never thought that it would have been so hard. It had been two weeks since he and Catherine had decided to take a break. They both knew that it was the only thing to do, something was wrong with them, it was just so hard to understand what. Ryan had spent many nights thinking about what he could have done differently, maybe if he had more money to take her out, a better job, of if he had encouraged her more.

He just couldn't help thinking that he would end up getting hurt again. He knew how she still felt for him but the thought that she would find someone better still echoed in his head. Every time they talked, and every time he saw Catherine he knew that he loved her and that they would surely come back to each other he just wished he knew when and how.

The phone rang, which was something that shocked Ryan now because it didn't happen as often any more. He looked at the call display and of course it was his grandparents they had been asking him over a lot lately. "Hello!" Ryan said trying to sound cheerful. "Hello Ryan, how was work today?" His grandmother sounded delightfully cheerful today which made him think that she must have wanted something. "Oh it was the same as every other day. What do you need Grandma?" knowing that she would have something for him to do.

He hoped that he did not have to come over and help his grandpa make one of those flower pot lights again, he hated making those they took so bloody long and were so useless. "Well, I don't need anything, it's my friend Belle, you remember her don't you Ryan, she's the one who comes over for coffee on Tuesdays. Anyway she's going away on a trip to Las Vegas and needs someone to watch her cat. She'll only be away for a week, and I figured since you have two cats now that you would know what to do, she will pay you if you want?"

She finally paused and waited for Ryan's reply. Ryan figured that he had nothing better to do with his spare time lately. "Sure grandma, you can tell Belle that I'll watch her cat. She doesn't have to pay me though. Her cat doesn't have diabetes or anything does it?" He started to wonder if he had got himself into something.

"No, Tigger is just an attention starved orange calico cat, he likes his food a bowl of milk every day, and he is allowed outside once and a while for a run. Belle's left me all the things that you need to know here. I have her house key and I can show you where it is."

She seemed eager about the fact that Ryan was going to do a favour for her friend. "It seems as though you already said that I would before you asked me grandma?" Ryan just laughed knowing that she would do something like that.

"Well, I thought that you would say yes, I know that you like cats, and if you didn't I would have asked your brother Dave. He doesn't have any way to get there every night though." "Yeah, I know. Well, I have to shower and then I will come over and get all the stuff." You could hear in the tone of her voice that she was impressed with her grandson. " Thank you Ryan. Don't rush, I have to wait for the health nurse to come help your grandpa anyway, bye dear." Ryan knew that if he didn't hurry his grandpa would get mad that he was there so late. "I'll see you soon grandma, bye."

Ryan had been so angry at his grandpa for being such a grouch to everyone lately. Though his grandpa had had a stroke and his whole right side was paralyzed and he was in a wheel chair, that did not give him the right to tell everyone where to go.

His grandparents had been under a lot of stress lately. Ryan's Mom had mentioned that they should move into a home, so that his grandpa could get more assistance. It was getting to be to much work for his grandma and they have had to have a health nurse come a lot more. His Grandpa wanted to stay at his own home and be independent, though he isn't! His grandma is tied down to watching and taking care of him every minute and he gives her no appreciation at all.

Ryan shook his head, put his cat snowball on the floor and headed for the shower. He got himself together in a half hour. It was only six thirty so his grandpa can't complain about him being late. Ryan decided to have a cigarette on the way, yes he had started smoking again, but with all the stress he would have gone crazy without something to deter it. He made it a quick trip getting the keys and the address, the short list of how to find everything in the house and Tiggers vets phone number, which made him laugh. Belle was leaving in the morning, and would be back next Friday.

Ryan had another long day at work, he had stayed late again trying to catch up. Realizing that the only way he could ever catch up was if there were two of him. Ten people had been laid off in the last month and so they had just delegated Ryan with another job on top of doing maintenance. This has made things harder because things are being done but not fixed, unless Ryan stays late everynight, and eventually he will become worn out and then nothing will be done. He had a shower and went to have a quick nap before he went to look after the cat. The quick nap ended up being three hours. It was nine thirty and Ryan thought that he had better hurry and feed Belle's cat.

He felt so weird going into someone's house that he didn't know. "Tigger, here kitty?" He looked for the light switch on the wall, and heard Tigger come running up from downstairs. "YOWL," Tigger brushed up against Ryan's leg almost tripping him up the stairs. Then he led the way to the kitchen and straight to the empty food dish. "YOWL," he cried again as Ryan opened the pantry, took out the bag of cat food, and poured some in the bowl. Tigger didn't even touch it, then he opened the refrigerator, found a bowl and poured some milk.

Tigger dove into the milk and did not stop until the bowl was empty. Ryan stroked the cat thinking that with the cold, Tigger would not stay out long. So he opened the screen door and sent him out. Taking a quick look around he realized that this did not look like the home of an eighty year old woman. She had pictures of friends and grandchildren on the wall but the same modern furniture and decorating that he would have chosen.

He walked into the living room and noticed that she had the movie Armageddon on the table. A movie that even Ryan's mother wouldn't watch. He noticed an old worn out book beside it. Ryan sat down, let his curiosity get him and opened it up. The first page had been written with fountain pen, Belle Anderson's poetry and thoughts - 1940.

He looked around as if he was doing something he shouldn't be. He decided that she wouldn't have left it on the table if she did not want someone to read it so he started turning the pages. All of Belle's thoughts and feelings were written out in poetry with so much passion and emotion that reading it made you feel as if you were there. Ryan read about the way Belle saw things. Her family, the boys she liked, and all the dreams she had about what she would become.

After one hour of reading her book he felt that he knew her. He knew how she felt about Bill, her boyfriend. He knew that even with the dreams she had she knew her future was planned for her, and that it would be the same as every other woman's back then, staying home and looking after her husband and children.

He could feel how passionate she was about life and love in the way she described everything she was going through. Ryan felt so bad that a woman like her did not get to become something more and have a choice of career. How could she, a woman with so much to offer have to live a life so ordinary?

Back then they didn't have those choices. A woman's role was a woman's role. Ryan thought for awhile after this and realized that he should not be jealous of Catheine's future. He should be glad that she can be what she dreamed about instead of writing all her unfulfilled dreams in a book.

Then another poem caught Ryan's eye. This one was about Belle and Bill. They had been together a year by then. Belle wrote about how she knew that something was missing in their relationship, and if she didn't stop and try to find out what it was then she would always wonder if they were right for each other.

Then she continued to write about how they talked it over and decided that because they were still in school maybe a break would be good so they could have time to think things out. Not to be a prude, but Ryan thought that things like that didn't happen back then. People met, got married and had lots of children. To know that he was going through the same thing that an eighty year old once did was sort of comforting to him. He couldn't wait to see how Belle and Bill fixed things.

Ryan flipped through the pages, and found something that caught his eye. She mentioned the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. Ryan had always liked that story when he was little and his mother would read it to him when he wasn't feeling good. For those of you who don't know, the story is about a toy rabbit who comes to life because he was truly and deeply loved, Belle continued to write.

Becoming real is something we each must do if we want our lives to amount to more than superficial relationships with superficial people. Until you're real, meaning who you really are inside you can never be truly loved by another person. Love doesn't make you real, as it did the Velveteen Rabbit, that love comes from within yourself.

What qualities are integral to the people you love and admire; kindness; compassion; strength; honesty? What qualities do I possess myself?

Being real is being the same person all the time. Most people have fragmented themselves. One side of your personality at work, one the person you are with your friends; one for your mate, and with the deepest core you only evidence when you're alone at home in front of the fire. The feeling that your core personality is not fit for public, obviously shows that you don't think much of yourself. How can you expect someone else to love you, if you don't think you're worthy enough of their love? And if they show any signs of loving you anyway, you won't trust that love, because deep in your heart, you're sure that eventually, when they find out who you really are, they won't love you anymore.

That was it! That was what his problem was. Ryan knew that he never thought much of himself, but until now he never realized that it effected the way his relationship went with Catherine. He was jealous that she may get a good job when she finished school, and that she would amount to more than he did. He just never thought that he was, or ever would be important to anything, or anyone for that matter. To think about it, if he didn't go to work, they wouldn't know how to fix half of the things that he does. Catherine had said that when things were bothering her, Ryan was always great at helping her deal with them. Belle's book had struck a chord in Ryan's mind that needed work.

He spent awhile thinking about what he had right in front of him, and realized that he had all that he needed. He had his own place to stay, his own food to eat, a truck, two cats, and a great relationship with his family. All that was missing was that he needed to be happy with what he had and if he wasn't, do something about it. He walked around Belles' house thinking, wishing that he could do something about what he just discovered, though he knew it would still take time. He needed time by himself.

"Oh, Tigger?" He had forgotten that he let the cat outside. He looked at the clock and it was two am! He hadn't stayed up this late without being tired in a long time. He must have been too wrapped up in thought with the book. Ahh, he had realized that tomorrow was going to be a long day at work with little sleep. He had been going to bed early lately. He went to the kitchen and opened the sliding door. "Tigger? here kitty kitty, damn it's late and I have to go to bed, Tigger!"

He called for what seemed like forever. "It's cold out! This cat should be dying to get back inside. Tigger, here kitty!" Ryan figured that he would go out looking in the alley for him. He went around the block three times calling for Tigger and didn't see a thing. Oh great! Wouldn't he look responsible loosing her cat the day she left. He called until his legs were numb from the cold, and by the time he came inside it was three thirty. He found the guest room, set the alarm clock for six and fell asleep.

The clock seemed to ring a second after he fell asleep. He had so many thoughts going through his mind and with the cat missing it was impossible to have a peaceful sleep. He got up, called for Tigger for awhile longer and then decided to call in sick. Ryan had never missed work when he wasn't sick before, he seldom stayed home when he was sick. He would go anyway and have a miserable day and then sleep all night. But he did need more than two hours sleep to do anything properly at work.

Kevin, Ryan's boss was not happy when he called, but was sincere when he said I hope you recover soon. Ryan knew that he would have a lot of work to catch up on when he went in on Monday. He called for the cat again and then went back to sleep for a few hours. He woke up again at noon. He realized that his body's idea of a few hours was different from his mind's had been lately. Tigger was still no where to be seen, he wasn't that worried though, his sister's cats would always disappear for a few days and they would come back. He just hoped that Tigger wouldn't take more than a few hours.

Ryan spent the day reading more of Belles book, and relaxing. He hadn't spent a day relaxing in so long. The day went by rather fast and by six o'clock he heard the worst noise come from outside the kitchen door. It was Tigger crying bloody Mary to be let in. Ryan gave him his bowl of milk right away, feeling guilty that he had been out so long, though Tigger chose to. He hovered over the cat and gave him a lot of attention. He figured that it was safer to leave the cat alone after he had had some food and affection.

The weekend went by fast, Ryan had called up some old friends, realizing that he needed to go out with people. Besides his brother, he had lost touch with a lot of good friends. He felt better going out for a change, that was one thing that he needed to do more of. He had spent so much time at work lately, that he had forgotten about his social life. He was still young and needed to have fun once and awhile. It was the first weekend that Ryan had not gone in to work for almost a month.

As the week went by Ryan actually started to enjoy Tigger's company. He was a very affectionate cat and had a good personality. Friday night came faster than he thought and Belle would be home in a few hours. He straightened up around the house and made for sure everything looked as it did before. He heard Belles car pull up in the drive way and almost felt nervous.

He wanted to tell her that he read her book and that he learned so much from her experiences, but would she be mad? What if she didn't want anyone to read her book, did have a lot of personal stories in it. He had only met her once before, but now he knew her so well. Would she be upset to know that he had stayed over that night? Where was the cat? "Tigger!" Ryan saw Tigger run out from the kitchen, he was probably eating again.

Belle opened the door. "Hello Ryan, hello Tigger, how did your week go?" Ryan was never going to mention Tigger going missing. "Things went great, if you ever want someone to watch your cat again just let me know, or if Tigger ever wants to play I'll be more than willing to. How did your trip go?"

He helped Belle grab her bags and got her in the door. "It was nice to go back to LA again, a lot has change since I was last there." Ryan didn't know that she had been there before. "How long has it been since you were there before?" Belle had to think for awhile, which brought the impression that it must have been a few years ago.

"Well, Bill and I were around fifty when we went, so about thirty years ago. It was good for me to go again by myself." Ryan didn't know what she meant, did she not get to see everything when she went with Bill? Belle continued, "I didn't think that I could do it but I did!"

Ryan understood now what she had meant. It was hard to go without him and not think of the good times they had when they were there together. That was something he could see Belle doing; testing herself to see if she can still do things without her husband. Belle took off her coat and shoes and she and Ryan moved into the living room. They sat right in front of the book.

"Belle, I hope you don't mind, but while I was here I couldn't help but look at your book. It looked interesting and so I wanted to see what it was about. I started reading and enjoyed it so much that I couldn't stop." Belle was smiling so Ryan continued. "It was amazing. The way you show your emotions and thoughts about things really helped me take a better look at the way I see things. I read all the experiences that you went through and you handled them with all the right intentions and thoughts in mind. It helped me see things a lot clearer through someone else's eyes."

He continued to tell her about how her problem that she had with Bill, he was going through with Catherine, and that her book gave him some good advice on what to do with things. She listened attentively to all that he had to say and thanked him for complimenting her.

She gave him more advice. Ryan was never so open to criticism until now. She had the best solutions for helping him make himself happy, and not everyone else, which was what he was doing before. They talked for almost four hours. Ryan had never felt so relieved to get all that was bothering him off his chest and to know what to do about it.

Belle and Tigger had helped Ryan more than they would ever know. He now knew about the changes that he had to make with himself. He also knew that he could not make them overnight. He had to either find the things that he enjoyed about his work, or quit complaining and look for another job. He had to quit whining about what he didn't have and start enjoying what he did have. Above all, he had to think of himself first.

He had to learn to feel better about the person he was or change the things that he didn't like. These things would all take a lot of time to discover and he knew that. He also knew that he had to stay friends with Catherine until he worked on himself before they could try their relationship again. And if things didn't fall into place with them then it was not meant to be. Though there were many times when he just wanted to be with her to make things better, he knew now that he had to make things better with himself before he could have a real relationship with anyone.

Copyright © 1999 Catherine Lewis

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