For my sister: here’s the story you didn’t get last week. For everyone else…sorry. It was pretty fun to write, and only made me want to throw up a little. 😉
The Christmas Kitten
There wasn’t a note because it wasn’t a baby. There was a basket though, the covered kind Belinda used to take on picnics when she was a little girl. It had a fist-sized rock from the garden border on top of the wicker flap. Belinda frowned over at her flower bed. The missing rock was a pink one flecked with black mica and bits of white quartz, one of her hand-picked favourites. It had clearly been out on the step for a while; the rock had a fluffy cap of snow.
The rock bounced a bit, disturbing the snow. Something was trying to get out.
Belinda put down her snow shovel. She had been about to shovel the steps for the post man. She had only recently learned that his name was Pat; Postman Pat. Wasn’t that a lark? He wouldn’t be around for a few days, it was Christmas Eve, but she liked to get the snow done before it got too deep.
The basket lid was still moving. Belinda took off the rock and set it aside. The little black kitten inside immediately tried to scramble over the lip of the basket. Belinda scooped it up and looked around.
“Who in the world…?”
She held the kitten at face level.
“Who leaves a kitten on a doorstep at Christmas? Hmmm, kitty? In a wicker basket, too. You’re the biggest cliché ever. Yes you are.”
Belinda looked around again. Two of the little girls next door had come outside, bundled in snowsuits and trailing a toboggan behind them.
Belinda had lived in the little house for several years and hadn’t really gotten to know any of her neighbours. The couple next door had a gaggle of girls of various ages, and an overindulged son who had broken her window playing baseball last year. The couple had been suitably mortified, and immediately insisted on paying for the window. The son showed up a few hours later to bashfully apologize, but Belinda hadn’t given the ball back, and instead she had stowed it in her junk drawer to gather dust.
“Hey. Girls,” she called. “Do you girls know anything about this kitten?”
“Kitten?!” they squealed together and rushed over. The toboggan was forgotten on the driveway.
“Can I hold your kitten?” the youngest one asked. She had blue eyes and that kind of fly-away blond hair that turned brown eventually.
“It’s not mine,” Belinda said as she handed it over. “I just found it.”
“Awwww…cuuuute.” The older one said. “What’s it’s name?”
They clearly weren’t listening, because they were too busy fawning over the kitten.
“It doesn’t, have a name. And it’s not mine.”
“You should name it Whitey,” the younger girl said authoritatively.
“Noooo Lissy,” the older one frowned, “she should name it Holly. Because it’s Christmas.”
It seemed like a good name.
“Holly. It’s a good name for a Christmas kitten,” Belinda agreed. “Do you think your parents would let you have a kitten?”
The girls gasped in delight. The younger one jumped up and down.
“Our dad has to work late, but we can ask our mom!” Lissy said, and they ran back home across the lawn.
Belinda knew it was pretty shameless going through the girls like that, but they already had one cat. They’d have the supplies they needed to get them through until the pet store (and the animal shelter) opened again. Belinda took the kitten inside and closed the door.
Inside the house, Belinda put the kitten on the floor to explore. She looked at the little tree that she had set up on the side table. Holly batted at the ornaments and jumped back when one fell, but soon lost interest in the tree and wandered around, nosing in the corners and under the chairs.
“Poor little muffin. All alone at Christmas.” Belinda sighed. “Me too.”
Belinda thought about her family, who all lived down east. She’d seen them in the summer, and they had exchanged colourful cards and cheques through the mail, but it wasn’t the same. There was a tentative knock on the door and Holly skittered under the chesterfield. Belinda opened the door.
It was the woman next door and all six of her children, even the window-breaking little boy. She held a box in front of her.
“Uh, hi,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever introduced myself? I’m Karyn, from next door?”
Karyn had limp brown hair and everything she said ended on a high note, like a question. The kids jostled and elbowed each other, trying to get a look inside at the kitten.
“Lissy and Greta said you found a kitten? Well, we can’t keep it but I brought you some cat food and cat litter until you can get some of your own?”
Darn! Belinda thought. It was a good try.
“Thanks,” she said out loud, taking the box Karyn offered. She looked at the children at the door. “They can come in and see the kitten, if they want.”
Belinda looked up at Karyn as the children rushed in around her. She looked harried, and tired.
“Do you want a drink?” Belinda asked, raising an eyebrow. “You look like you need a drink.”
Karyn smiled, and followed Belinda inside. Outside, the lights twinkled across the quiet snow.