That One!

[CW] Write a short story, where each sentence starts with the letter T. r/simpleprompts

Image by Annick Vanblaere from Pixabay

The young girl jumped in place, her long golden ponytail bouncing as she pointed to a group of frolicking kittens. “That one, Mommy, that one!” Tangled as they were, it was impossible to tell which feline “that one” could be. Trying to solve the mystery, the girl’s mother crouched down and brought her face to eye level with the animated youngster.

Their exchange grew harder to hear, but easier to see, as the mother tried to coax more information from her euphoric child. Though I could make this easier on everyone by telling them they could go in and play with the kittens, I wanted to hang back and enjoy the cuteness of the moment for just a while longer.

The mother would point and say “Him?”, and then the girl would shake her head no and point in the same direction and insist, “Her!”. Truthfully, they could be pointing at the same kitten. “Time’s up”, I prompted myself. Taking a few steps in their direction, I cleared my throat and smiled helpfully.

“Taking an interest in any of these cuties?”, I asked the youngster, while flashing a look of respectful acknowledgment to her mother. There was a shared look of understanding that passed between us. Though we were the adults, we both knew who would be making the final decision. The girl nodded emphatically and pointed again toward the kittens. “That one!”, she stressed the first word and looked up at me, her expression pleading for me to understand.

There was only one way to solve this mystery. Turning slightly, I pointed at the door while I grabbed a couple of cat treats from my pocket and handed them to her. Tightly gripping the treats, she looked to her mother for permission before she rushed through the doorway. Terror gripped the group of rescued felines, their fight or flight instincts driving them to the safety of the nearest hiding spot.

The only cats remaining in the open were the playing kittens, souls who hadn’t been on this planet long enough to learn fear, and the protective shadow of their ragged Mama Cat.

The years hadn’t been kind to Mama Cat. Tears notched her ears. Time had worn her fur down to a dull rug of clumps. Though we had tried to help by shaving off the worst of the mats, it hadn’t done much for the old queen’s looks. Those ten-week-old kittens that everyone wanted to play with were the result of Mama Cat being dropped off at the shelter as a pregnant stray and being overlooked… day after day. Thus, she now remained, as her kittens were adopted out and taken from her. Through all of this rejection and loss, she had won over the shelter staff by meeting it with unyielding dignity and spirit. The matriarchal tabby stirred as the girl rushed towards her dwindled family.

The girl passed the oblivious pile of kittens and stopped before Mama Cat. They locked eyes. The age difference between them could have been months. To try and comprehend the vastness of their different backgrounds would have been impossible. The girl stood still. There was something about Mama Cat that calmed her. The feline seemed equally spell struck. Time paused while they gazed at each other. Then, Mama Cat rose to all four paws, and regally attended to her visitor.

Toughness, a mask she had been forced to wear, melted from her as she rubbed back and forth across the girl’s legs. Tiny mews fluttered from her scarred snout. The girl plopped down on the floor and grabbed Mama Cat up in a gentle hug. Throaty purrs filled the room. There was no doubt who the girl had been pointing to. Their bodies intertwined, the girl pressed her open hand towards Mama Cat’s whiskers. The treats were scarfed down between her booming purrs.

“That’s the one, I think!”, I suggested, hopefully, to the woman still at my side. Tears glistening in her eyes, she nodded in affirmation. The chance to turn away couldn’t have come any quicker; I wiped the corners of my eyes as I power walked to the adoption desk and started the paperwork. Thankfulness filled my heart and sent more tears to replace them; Mama Cat was finally going home.

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