Enjoy this short story featuring Snowball the kitten in her new home, Weber Haus, a beautiful Victorian inn filled with love.
“Oh, my word. Is that what I think it is?” Miss Tilly exclaimed.
“What?” Emily glanced in direction Tilly pointed but was distracted momentarily by the large bruise on the back of her hand, marring the paper thin skin.
She took the gnarled old hand in hers, inspecting it closer. “What happened?”
“Oh, who knows.” Miss Tilly waved her off, like shooing a fly. “I’m an old woman. It’s not important.”
Emily did a double take as Tilly hurried away; her attention still focused on whatever she’d seen. Emily had been living and working at Tilly’s B&B for a while now. Long enough for Tilly to become more than her boss and landlady. Though Emily had a large family nearby, Tilly had become like a beloved great aunt. Every nonsensical, sweet natured, forgetful part of her.
They were supposed to be looking around one of the various unused buildings on the large property known as Weber Haus. Emily had an idea about turning it into a bakery and shop, maybe, eventually, a coffee house. That was, if Tilly was amenable.
Pulling her jacket closer around her to ward off the chill of oncoming winter, she hurried her steps at the concerned tone in Tilly’s voice. She found her staring at the old, grey stump of a tree. Peering over the old woman’s shoulder, she gasped.
There on the top of the tree stump, tucked into a hollow, was a tiny white kitten. Newborn, its eyes and ears still remained closed. The tiny thing was asleep, wrapped up in a navy wool scarf.
“What on Earth?” Emily muttered. Who could have left it here? No way did a mama cat arrange her baby in the item of clothing that neatly. “It must be freezing.”
Even wrapped in the scarf, the temperatures had been steadily dropping for weeks. It even smelled like winder, crisp and clean, though snow had yet to cover the leaves that crunched underfoot.
Without a thought, other than saving it, she scooped the tiny thing up in her hands cradling it against her chest. The kitten wriggled and gave a little mewl. Of fear or maybe protest at being disturbed.
“What a sweet, little mite.” Tilly reached out to run a finger over its head, and the kitten leaned into her touch, its face all scrunched up in the cutest way. “What should we name it?”
Nope. No way were they keeping a kitten.
She’d been hired as a cook for the B&B but had swiftly seen that Miss Tilly couldn’t keep running it on her own. So Emily had taken on more. And more. The grand house and estate had a ton of upkeep, and the money wasn’t holding out, though they were full up most days. But she couldn’t add one more thing. Not even a soft, adorable thing that made her want to rub her cheek over its long fur.
“We should take her to the local shelter,” Emily said firmly. “I’m sure they’ll know better how to nurse her. Eventually they’ll find her a home.”
“Of course. You know best, dear.” Miss Tilly smiled.
That had been way too easy. Rescuing a kitten would be catnip to Tilly’s soft heart. She’d given in way too easily.
But she didn’t argue, simply got Tilly settled in the car, cuddling the kitten who’d fallen asleep like a little angel. Except the shelter was closed on Sundays.
Emily turned the car and headed to the other end of town to the vet, who, as luck would have it, was open on a Sunday. The vet, a middle-aged man who talked to Tilly like an old friend, checked the kitten out and proclaimed it healthy. And a girl.
He then explained the rigorous process of helping a newborn kitten who didn’t have her mother. Keeping her warm, but not too warm meant holding the kitten against one’s body at all times. The tiny thing would have to be fed by bottle, a tiny bit every few hours, including through the night. Not to mention the rubbing her private bits with a wet cloth to stimulate it to release its bladder and bowls.
“We’ll take good care of her, doctor,” Miss Tilly assured.
The woman was practically glowing. Emily hated to take that happiness from her. With no family of her own, except a nephew she’ raised after he lost his parents—a nephew who traveled the world as a photographer and was never home—Tilly had no one.
“We’ll take her tonight and do everything. But tomorrow, she goes to the shelter,” Emily amended firmly.
“That’s what I meant.” Again, Tilly’s smile left Emily wondering, but it wasn’t like she could air those suspicions. She’d hurt Tilly’s feelings if she was wrong.
The rest of the day, after getting home, was spent trading off taking care of the kitten. Granted, Tilly probably did the most caring because Emily had things to do. Making dinner for their guests. Preparing ahead for breakfast. She’d decided on a French toast casserole that she could make ahead of time. That would free up her morning a bit. Then, of course, the toilet in the “King’s Random” bedroom backed up. She managed not to have to call the plumber. This time. But that was coming, she could tell.
Unfortunately, the night shift with the kitten fell on her shoulders. Tilly getting up and down in the dark to prepare formula and feed the kitten every few hours was disaster waiting to happen. Not to mention a broken hip. Which was how Emily ended up caring for the tiny thing all night long.
About three in the morning, bleary eyed and sleepy in the quiet, soft darkness illuminated by the light from the bathroom, she sat on the edge of the bed cradling the kitten and watching its tiny belly grow round with the formula. Only a thimble full, really, fed not through a bottle but a syringe.
She put the syringe aside and tickled its little belly. She did have the softest fur, already long and luxurious. With a weary sigh, Emily lay back on the bed, the kitten on her chest, against her skin, like the vet had instructed. No heating pads, because, apparently, she could burn.
Emily was just drifting back to sleep when a tiny wriggling body pulled her from oblivion. The kitten squiggled and squirmed, squeaking the entire way, up to the crook of her neck where it promptly curled up in a nest made of Emily’s hair. After a second, its little body set to vibrating.
“How can something so tiny make that much noise,” Emily grumbled.
But she wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all herself. The tiny animal had managed to burrow itself into her heart. Emily sighed and closed her eyes again. “I guess we should call you Snowball,” she whispered.
And promptly fell asleep with a contented smile.
Love a matchmaking kitten? Look for Snowball’s Christmas, a full length novel coming October 2020 with Kensington.