I am SO excited because it's finally time for the Cat Anthology bloghop!
The story MUST have a cat in it (obviously :p )
You can write a story within your usual genre - even if it's a sci-fi cat, or a paranormal cat, or a love story that has a cat in it
You can write a poem if you prefer
The absolute maximum word count is 2500 words
All entries must be edited by the author prior to publication
You MUST write somewhere on your post that you allow permission for me to use your work in the book
You must also attach a short bio and one link to a place people can find you online
Authors retain copyright for any work submitted to the anthology, and can republish their own work elsewhere, with the understanding that all proceeds for THIS anthology will be going to Cats Protection (Teignbridge and Totnes Branch).
Okay, so, here is my entry. You may recognise these characters if you've read my novella, If I Let You Go!
“Madison, can we go home yet?”
Tilly tugged on my hand, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. Hard as she tried, she couldn’t hide the fact that she knew a surprise awaited her when we got home. I should have found a better hiding place for the kitten toys and cat adoption information, but how was I to know she would rummage through my wardrobe in search of suitable shoes for dressing up? I’d caught her holding a catnip mouse and staring at the kitten on the front of the “How to Take Care of Your Cat” book I’d hidden under a pile of clothes, and when she heard my footsteps, she threw the mouse back in the cupboard and somehow emerged holding onto my favourite pair of Irregular Choice heels, a look of innocence on her face.
“Not yet,” I told her. “I thought you wanted to go to the toy shop and look for things to put on your Christmas list.”
“Santa already knows what I want. Let’s go!”
I’d taken her out for lunch to her favourite pizza place while the last minute bits of the “surprise” were tied together, and I had to keep her out until I got a text to let me know everything was ready. I hoped for the sake of my sanity it wouldn’t be too much longer, because Tilly had been begging me to take her back to the apartment pretty much since we walked out the door. Even her favourite sickly sweet dessert didn’t take her mind off the fact that there would be a kitten waiting for her when we returned.
It was difficult to hide my own glee because there was an extra surprise awaiting her, one she could never have guessed.
“What’s the rush?” I asked, wondering if the six-year-old bundle of happy at my side would confess she knew something was up.
Her cheeks flushed briefly, and she pulled me along the street. “I just want to go home now. You said we were going out for lunch. We’ve had lunch, so we can go.”
“Not so fast.” I stopped. Her hand slid out of mine and she stumbled forward a few paces, her momentum still strong.
“Madison! Come on!”
I took her hand in mine again and steered her towards the toy shop. “This is supposed to be a girls’ day out. So let’s shop.”
Tilly groaned, realising she wasn’t going to wear me down. As we walked, I couldn’t help but breathe in the cold November air as it whipped around us, leaving a pleasant sting on my cheeks. It was only early afternoon but there was a wintery darkness all around us. Lights from Christmas trees glistening in shop windows made the usually bland streets look like a winter wonderland, and a little shiver of happiness rippled through me because we were getting closer to the best Christmas ever.
Things in the Hartley household had been a little manic recently. In fact, since Tilly’s dad, Dominic, left to work in New York just over nine weeks ago, our lives had been tipped upside down. The lines of my job as Tilly’s live-in nanny, and then becoming Dominic’s girlfriend, had blurred in ways neither of us had expected, but while he was away we both agreed we’d – mostly – continue as employer/employee until he came home in three weeks and we would spend out first Christmas as an actual family.
The chaos had been added to when Dominic’s mum, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew had come to visit two days ago. They weren’t all staying with us, just Dominic’s mum, Jane, but it had thrown our routine a little out of kilter. I couldn’t complain though. I loved them all and they were an integral part of my plans.
As we reached the window of the toy shop – an impressive festive display of bright tinsel and fairy lights surrounding a selection of toys Father Christmas’ elves would envy - Tilly let out a heavy sigh.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She peered up at me from beneath her long lashes. “There’s just too much to choose from.”
“I thought you were after the Sylvanian Families canal boat and some more animals?”
“But which animals? There are so many to choose from.”
It was true. She already had enough to start her own toy pet shop, but there were plenty more she hadn’t got her hands on yet.
“I think the chocolate bunnies are cute,” I said, pointing to them.
Tilly nodded. “I like them. But I like the cats too. I wonder what my cat will-”
Her eyes widened and she slapped her hand over her mouth. With a roll of my eyes, I said, “Matilda Rose, did you really think I didn’t know you knew?”
“You knew?” she shrieked. “But… if you knew, why can’t we just go home and see my kitten?”
“Because I have to wait for Nana to let me know she’s picked him up and taken him back to the flat. You’re going to have to act surprised, honey. Nana came a long way to help with this surprise.”
“I can act surprised.” She straightened her face, took a few deep breaths to “centre herself” then let out a large gasp, her jaw dropping before she grinned like the Cheshire Cat and jumped up and down. After a couple of seconds, she stopped, bowed, and said, “Was that okay?”
I laughed out loud and pulled her into a hug. I should have felt bad for teasing her. In reality, there would be no need for her to fake shock, but I had to have a little fun. Getting the plans in place had been like a military operation.
My phone buzzed in my bag, and Tilly grinned again as I pulled it out.
All ready. Just text when you get outside so we can put everything in the box before you come in.
I tapped back a quick reply then turned to Tilly. “Okay, the wait is over. We can go.”
Tilly could barely keep still in the car on the way home, and my own stomach began to bubble with excitement too. I’d been waiting for this day just as much as Tilly. Trying to keep secrets from her was hard – I’d never done that before. But it would be worth it when she saw what was waiting for her.
After parking the car in the underground car park, I sent a message to Jane to tell her we were coming up the stairs.
“Are you ready to pretend to be surprised,” I asked, trying to stall us just a little to give Jane more time.
The butterflies in my stomach intensified as we began our walk up to the flat. I wanted to talk to Tilly on the way, but I was too excited to form any words. Beside me, Tilly seemed to feel the same way, so we exchanged happy smiles, saying nothing.
I unlocked the front door, and there stood Jane beside a large cardboard box in the middle of the hallway.
Without missing a beat, Tilly’s eyes narrowed. “What’s that?”
Yup. Definitely worthy of an Oscar.
“It’s a gift for you,” Jane told her. “An early Christmas present.”
She glanced up at me, mischief dancing in her eyes behind her faked confusion.
“Yes, it’s for you,” I confirmed, trying to resist rolling my eyes again.
Cautiously, Tilly approached the box, as I considered how much it would cost to send her to stage school. She lifted the lid, and I bit on my bottom lip, waiting with anticipation for her to see her real surprise.
Tilly screeched and stumbled backwards as Dominic rose from the box, holding a sleeping, tiny, grey fluffy kitten carefully in his arms.
“Hi, baby girl.”
Still in shock, Tilly stared at her father; I didn’t think she’d even noticed the kitten yet. I glanced at Jane, and we smiled at each other as Dominic stepped out of the box. He crouched down in front of it and Tilly ran towards him, halting when she finally spotted her new pet.
“Oh my goodness!” she gasped.
Dominic lifted his free arm and wrapped it around Tilly, and her head fell onto his shoulder as she squeezed him tight.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. “You said you wouldn’t be home until Christmas!”
“Well,” Dominic began, “I’ve worked very hard, and my boss said I could come back early. No more New York. No more long business trips. I’m home.”
Tears misted my eyes. Of course, I knew he was coming home early, but the truth of it, that we would finally get to all be together without Dominic leaving all the time was the best thing I could have asked for.
Tilly cautiously reached out her hand towards the kitten, then drew back. Jane and I both walked towards them, and I kneeled down on the floor beside Dominic. He turned to give me the kiss I had waited so long for.
“I missed you,” he said.
“Missed you too.”
Our kitten wriggled in Dominic’s hand, as if asking for attention, and he slowly opened his eyes.
“Aww,” Tilly said in a soft voice. “Can I hold him?”
“Of course,” Dominic said. “He’s yours.”
Tilly sat down on the floor as Dominic handed the little ball of fluff to her. She ran a gentle finger across the top of his head. “He’s so soft.”
“What are you going to call him?” Jane asked.
For a moment, Tilly pondered her grandmother’s question before her face split into a huge smile.
“I think I’ll call him Santa.”
Okay peeps, now go and check out everyone else's entries!