She actually knows that isn't his name, the same way he knows her's isn't Boo. She's never told him the real one, of course, but he never asks to know even though it's been eight years now and he looks more tired each time she sees him. The fur around his face is turning grey and he's impossibly smaller, betraying her dream memories where he holds her in a single hand and against fur so thick it would smother her. She got bigger instead and now the pig tails have disappeared somewhere along the way, probably lost with the old purple leggings. Her pajamas are blue now and she tells him they match pretty good together.
Kitty doesn't visit every night, and sometimes she has to wait for weeks to see him again, though it's never as long as the first time he was gone. She doesn't move her bed away from where it sits in front of the closet door, and most nights she falls asleep waiting for the door to open on the other side, while pink flowers burn into her eyeballs. Sometimes he comes late, after she's asleep, and she comes back awake feeling enormous hands as they slide her beneath the covers and draw them up to her nose. There's a low laugh that always lurks in his throat when he does that, but sometimes there's a sigh that sneaks past too. She waits until he turns around to go back through the door before the covers are up and she screams "Boo!" and he's laughing so hard it makes him clumsy and he almost squishes her to jelly trying to give her a hug.
Those nights were always her favorite, but they made her tired and her teachers used to get mad when she fell asleep on the playground just below the slide. They would find her with wood chips clinging desperately to otherwise straight hair and dirt ground into her leggings, which mom would begrudgingly scrub when she got home. Now she has gym class instead and there is no slide to sleep under. She likes playing soccer with the boys (because the girls are really bad and don't take it seriously) but she always screams her head off when they put the obstacle courses up which are really her favorite and she has to run them as fast as she can.
She talks to a lot of doctors lately, but she's not sure if some of them are real doctors yet since they don't wear stethoscopes and they think running too much means she's sick. Last time, they asked her if she had trouble sleeping because of the day and night she disappeared from her room and told everyone it was Kitty who brought her back. She looked at mom, who just looked sad back at her, and then shook her head no because it would make mom less sad and they weren't even real doctors. They still make her take pills and she feels sort of like a grown up doing that, but she doesn't know if she likes it deep down or the idea of being a grown up at all. The pills make it harder to stay awake at night to wait for Kitty, but she still tries her best anyway.
Strangely, she doesn't remember that night and day she disappeared, not really. Only vague, fleeting impressions of things like shadows of dreams and trying to tell them to anyone else causes them to shake their head and sigh. When he visits, Kitty likes to hear them anyway as he holds her in his arms and wears the big round toothed grin he always puts on for her. He had to tell her the story of it all when he finally came back, again and again, doing silly voices for Mike and using only her ugliest toys for Randall and the man with spider legs. But she knows he likes it even better when she tells him of her dream memories and sometimes he just sits there and looks sad and happy all at once, perched at the foot of her bed and almost breaking it – it sagged permanently until she got the new one – his massive shadow all but swallowing her whole in the night when he visits. She also got a blue fuzzy blanket for christmas because she tells everyone that's her favorite color right now and she wants everything to be blue (except her closet door – that will always be white with pink flowers). The blanket is laying on the floor of her closet because when she misses him most she lies on top of it and pretends that her fingers are tracing the soft lines around his eyes and face where his fur is short and like rose petals.
Kitty's friend Mike used to come with sometimes too – not much, but sometimes. He was almost as wide as he was tall and his feet left green stains on her carpet she had to scrub out with towels before mom found them in the morning. Those nights she laughed so hard she had to shove pillows into her face to keep from waking up mom and dad. Mike always said how "business was good" thanks to her and that she saved the world before she could remember doing it. He said a lot of things she didn't understand, but they made Kitty laugh and the bed would shake under all of them like an earthquake. Two years ago Mike stopped coming and that was when she saw that Kitty's face looked grey and tired for the first time. She asked where he went only once and all Kitty could say was "Everyone gets old, sometimes you get too old."
Tonight she turns eleven and she snuck a cupcake with a candle for Kitty even though it's her birthday and not his because she wants him to have it. He didn't say he would come, but she thinks he will anyway, even though it's been almost a month since he was back. On the bedside table, the light up face on the clock reads AM now instead of PM and she puts the cupcake there so the frosting doesn't get all over the covers if she accidentally falls asleep. Her head bobs up and down like someone is pushing her and then all she remembers is the pillow, but maybe there were hands pulling up the covers over her shoulders and his voice saying "better this way."
The cupcake is gone in the morning.