She calls me Frankie, short for Frankenstein. It was October 2018, she was raking leaves in the front yard when she first laid eyes on me. Moments before I had been thrown out a car window three houses down, a group of young boys cut my throat. I landed on the concrete, feeling a stinging sensation as the blood started to flow. The car squealed off as she came running towards me to help. In a state of sheer terror and panic, I ran. I’ll never know how I came to survive that. I burrowed myself in a dark place for weeks trying to heal. The bitter cold winter was upon me and I was hungry. I ventured out in the darkness in search of food, that’s when she saw me again. I wound up on her deck and cried at her window, it was 2°F. Her eyes shifted from the TV to me, as she flew towards me she blurted out “that’s that cat”! I was already gone. Why would I stay? She would probably hurt me like all the others. I’ve never known a kind hand. She came out with a flashlight and tried to hunt for me for a while. I kept hidden under her neighbor’s deck which I called home during that time. The only warmth I felt that winter was from a nearby dryer vent that, when running, would briefly take away the sting of the cold. Frostbite took a part of my ear anyway. When Spring came, I was skin and bones with patches of hair falling out. Searching for food, I came across a big glob of peanut butter behind a house. The moment I licked it something bit my leg. A spring-loaded trap for a rat clutched my rear leg as I ran. When I finally shook it off, I was injured, but I could still hop as bunnies do. Still hungry, wandering from yard to yard, I found no human kindness. I was even shot in the face with a BB gun. The bad infection ran its course as I laid in my worn in spot under the deck for several days. As a result, all my teeth fell out. The swelling on my lower jaw was still the size of a baseball. The BB would forever stay in my face. Extreme hunger once again drove me out of hiding. As I limped between the houses, there she stood. She recognized me, I am all black with a white mark on my chest. There was pity in her voice when she blurted out, “oh no, poor baby”. She disappeared briefly but returned shortly with a bowl of food. Even though I was ravenous, I would not come out to eat it until she was gone. She left food and water every day. I was able to get more rest so I could heal. When it was June, I started sitting out there waiting for food, only getting close to the bowl when she was about 15 steps away. Sometimes she would just sit down in the grass and talk to me. Her voice was soothing. It was confusing as I still didn’t trust humans at all. By August she began moving the bowl a few inches closer to her house every day. I was willing to hop up on her deck to eat. I felt comfortable laying in the warm sun with her cats who seem to accept me being there. She still kept her distance. By the end of September, I would wait outside her door wall for food. Seeing her brought me comfort. One brisk day in October her door wall was opened slightly. My food was on the inside. What? I bravely stepped on to the soft carpet, how different this was from my rock hard bed made of dirt. She sat across the room and talked softly while I ate. But when she reached for the remote, the movement of raising her arm frightened me. It was getting cold outside again. One morning when I returned, there was a small flap instead of an open door. I learned quickly that if I pushed it with my head I could get in to get my food. Sometimes it felt so cozy and warm after I ate, I would just lay down and close my eyes next to my food bowl for a minute or two. Each day brought a longer stay. Ever so patient she would lay down to my eye level about 6 feet away and just talk to me. I liked it. One day when she was laying there she slowly wiggled a little toy at the end of a wire in front of me. In that moment I forgot all my pain and all my fear, I played with that toy like I was a kitten. I didn’t go back to my dirt shelter that night. My forever mom checked on me often, and was elated that I stayed inside, sleeping next to my bowl. I would never sleep in the cold again. Oh, and I learned to use the litter box right away when she put dirt and leaves in it because I didn’t know what cat litter was. I do now. Each day I became braver and explored a little more of the house, knowing that I could dart outside quickly if I needed to through the flap door she made just for me. Sometimes my mom would forget and move too fast, that still kind of scared me. On Valentines Day-I guess that’s when you tell people how much you love them. When she was preparing my soft food, I felt so happy, I rubbed on her leg. I touched her for the first time, it was my choice. I’m pretty sure that made her tear up. I started to do that every morning, or pretty much anytime she prepared food for me. (Did I tell you I like food?) Then it happened, she touched my back with her hand and it caught me by surprise. My first reaction was to turn around and strike her, which I did. My nails are my only defense after losing my teeth. I drew blood and felt terrible, she just smiled like it was no big deal. The next day, she touched me again, I turned to strike, but I didn’t use my nails. It still scared me, a little. She tried touching me every day. Eventually I realized she would never hurt me. The next time I held my breath and froze, her gentle fingers touched my head, scratched behind my ears, she even touched the scars that disfigure me. I learned to trust. I knew I was safe. Weeks later, I found that big soft thing she sleeps on every night. Now I rest touching my forever mom and wake up often to make sure I’m not dreaming. I know I belong here. I am home. I even let her trim my nails. My forever name is Frankie and I am finally loved.