After my final IVF attempt, I look on Gumtree for a cat. A lady is selling a litter of kittens. Gingers and Tabbies. £85 each. The lady lives in a rundown council flat near Crystal Palace, a poky, uninviting little place adjacent to a gloomy, underground carpark, but on this chilly November evening, her flat feels so very warm. She leads me into the kitchen. The smell of blueberry muffins emanates from the ancient oven and I can hear the rhythmic rumbling of the dishwasher. In a cardboard box in the corner is the mother, a disheveled-looking black cat, and hanging onto her chest are six tiny kittens. She stares at me with her huge amber eyes and I stare back. Then two barefooted boys in spiderman pyjamas wander in sleepy-eyed. The lady pulls a ready meal out of the microwave and plonks it on a plate with some peas.
'Take this to Daddy, love,' she says to the older boy. I hear the door of the next room open, then a man's voice and laughter from the TV.
'Can you buy two, miss?' says the younger boy tugging at my hand. 'We need the money.'
'I'm not sure,' I say.
'Quiet, Jayden,' says his mum and lifts him into her arms.
'Which one should I choose?' I say.
'It's up to you, love,' she says, ruffling her son's hair. 'They all have their own little characters.'
Then she puts the boy down, removes each kitten from its mother and brings the bundle of fur over to me. They jump on and cling to my sweater, six weeny sets of claws.
I'll choose the most tenacious, I think, the one that stays on the longest. And one by one, they all drop off until only one remains, a tiny blue-eyed tabby.
'This is the one,' I say and stroke its soft head.
I give the lady the money and place the small animal in the carrier. I try to ignore its minuscule miaows as I head out of the dark carpark towards the bus stop.
'You're okay, baby,' I say over and over as the kitten continues to cry. 'You're okay.'