When Paige loses her job, two new kittens offer love
Excerpt, Starting Over Book One, More Than a Job
The computer whirred through its boot-up and opened to her email. Today was Friday. Had it only been a week since she’d walked away from her work life? She scanned the notes that had come in from friends and former co-workers who had just learned about the layoff. Her hands trembled, and she fought back tears. She couldn’t read them all. Not yet. It was too hard.
Paige closed the laptop and pushed away from the desk. She’d give herself a little more time. She grabbed a jacket and gloves and went out into the garden to tend her fall mums. Besides, she needed to bring in some wood. A storm was coming in, probably rain, but maybe snow. A fire would take the chill off the house.
She heard them before she saw them. Tiny squeaks filling the air as she wheeled the wheelbarrow to the woodpile. She got down on her hands and knees and peered around and behind the stacked wood until she spotted the source of the noise. Four little kittens nuzzled a black cat, nesting in a pile of leaves between the woodpile and the fence.
The mama cat looked up at Paige then looked away, apparently uninterested and not particularly frightened. Paige took her firewood back to the house. She parked the load inside the screened back porch, thinking about the coming storm and the vulnerable little family. Well, she didn’t have to leave them to the elements. She rummaged through the garden shed and came up with a tarp. At least she could give them some shelter if rain did come. She fastened the covering to the fence, anchored it in the woodpile, and let it drop to the ground behind the felines to give them shelter on three sides.
Then she propped the screen door to her back porch open about six inches and put water and a few food scraps on her back step. She took an old blanket and molded it into a nest up close to the house, out of the wind she was sure was on its way.
She met her neighbor at the curb when she went out to bring her empty trash container back behind the fence.
“Hey, Linda. How’s your life today?”
Linda was about the age Paige’s mother would have been if she’d lived. Not quite fifty, she worked at an accounting firm downtown. Her husband was older, semi-retired, and ran a tax business out of their home when he wasn’t polishing his Corvette or riding his Harley. Linda knew the neighborhood. She’d know about the cat, if it belonged to someone.
Linda’s ready smile was accompanied by a shrug. “Can’t complain. It’s busy here and at work — end of the quarter, you know. But busy pays the bills.”
Paige cringed. She’d need to be busy and paying bills before too long. “Got a question for you. Have you heard the little family just on the other side of your fence, against my woodpile?”
“Family of what? Not rodents, I hope. I can’t stand mice, and rats scare me to death.”
Paige laughed. “No, no. Sorry — didn’t mean to worry you. Just the opposite, in fact. The arch enemy of all rodents.”
“Cats?” Linda faced her now, obviously interested.
“A black mama and four little ones,” Paige confirmed.
“Is she all black?”
“As far as I could see. She doesn’t seem wild. I wondered if you might know who she belongs to.” Paige glanced at the sky. No blue — just the heavy gray of clouds, probably holding a lot of moisture. “I’m a little worried about her. I think we’re going to get a storm.”
Linda’s gaze followed hers, and she nodded. “I think you’re right. I can feel the moisture in the air. With the cloud cover we may get lucky — it might stay warm enough to rain rather than snow. But it could go either way. Why don’t you show me your little family?”
Paige let Linda in through the gate and gestured behind the woodpile. One lone kitten mewed for its mother as it rooted around the otherwise empty little nest.
“You must have scared the mother when you came for wood,” Linda, the all-knowing cat lover, said. “Either scared her, or she knows the storm’s coming and she’s looking for better shelter. Wait. She’s moving them.” She gestured for Paige to move back, took a few steps back herself, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “She’ll be back for this one in a minute if we don’t disturb her. Let’s see where she goes.”
They didn’t have to wait long. The black cat, a little thin but proud and beautiful, trotted back from around the corner in Paige’s yard. She took the last kitten into her mouth, holding it firmly by the scruff of its neck, and trotted out of sight. Paige and Linda peered around the corner to see where she went.
“Looks like you’ve inherited some cats,” Linda observed, waving toward the animal depositing the last of her little ones into the blanket beside Paige’s back step. Then the mama cat settled herself into the folds beside them.
“How about that? I put it out a few minutes ago, but I was worried about how to coax her to use it. I guess she found her way without any coaxing on my part.”
“I’m pretty sure mama cat belongs to Tom and Judy, across the street. We’ll have to let them know.”
Paige was thoughtful. “Do you think that maybe, when they’re weaned, they’d let me keep one? I like the little brownish colored one.”
“It’s a tortoise-shell, or a tortie. They can be a little temperamental. You want two, not just one. Two cats will entertain each other.”
“Makes sense.” How weird. Paige had put pets on her list and now here they were, on her doorstep. “Which house is Tom and Judy’s again? I’ll let them know their cat’s okay.”