Couldn’t resist it.
Hilda Scally put down her cup of tea and her head turned slowly, following the antics of the kitten as it chased an imaginary mouse behind her chair.
“Whose is it?” she asked.
Irene started. The idea that the little cat might belong to someone hadn’t crossed her mind.
“Nobody,” she said, defensively. “It just wandered in.”
The kitten made a grab for Hilda’s ankle and she swept her feet out of the way.
“It didn’t just drop out of the sky, though, did it?”
“I’ll leave a notice in the shop. If anybody’s lost a cat they can come and claim it.”
“I’ll bet it’s got a dozen brothers and sisters,” Hilda went on. “You’ll have ’em all traipsing in sooner or later.”
The kitten rolled on its back and looked at Irene upside down. She smiled. “Sheba used to do that when she was little.”
Hilda huffed. “A dog’s different. More intelligent. You can talk to a dog.”
Irene gave her a look. “Not like your Stan.”
Hilda huffed again and chuckled. “Let’s just say, I get more sensible conversation out of Blackie.”
“I’ve never had a cat,” Irene said. “It’ll be an experience.”
“You’ll have to get it spayed.”
Irene shrugged. “Time enough for that. We’ll see if somebody claims it first.”
She cleared the tea things away and got a piece of paper and a biro out of the drawer. Stripy kitten found Nelson Street, she wrote, and added her phone number at the bottom. She looked at the paper wondering what it would feel like if the phone went and it was someone who’d lost a cat. She knew. She felt it already, the slow, tearing pain of loss. She sighed and the sigh came out as a sob. Suddenly aware that she could no longer hear the skitter and patter of paws, claws and balls of tin foil, she pushed back the chair in a panic. She looked under the table and the dresser, behind the coats in the hall, inside the corner cupboard. Her breath was short, her heart pounding when she found the kitten in the bedroom, curled up asleep in Sheba’s basket.
Irene went back into the kitchen and tore up the notice.
“You’re my Sheba now,” she whispered. “Don’t let anybody tell you different.”