Chapter One

The Talk About Tiny

"But Mother, he's too tiny and weak, he's no fun to play with!" argued Ruby furiously. She shot a hostile glare at her brother, Tiny. As his name explained, Tiny was a small black tom with one white paw and blue eyes. Ruby hated him; he was always babied by their mother, Quince, and was no fun to play with. The fragile kit was the runt of the litter, and Ruby and Socks always made fun of him because he was so tiny and useless. The vulnerable little tom's frightened looks always made Quince meow, "Socks, Ruby, why don't you play with your brother?" The scrawny, pathetic pest! Ruby yowled inside her head. Always telling Mother this and that!

Calmly, Quince mewed, "Now, Ruby, your brother can't help being small. He was born like that." Rolling her eyes, the pale gray kit retorted, "Well, I bet he wasn't born such a chicken!" Turning around fiercely, she walked away, thinking, Why does Mother only care about Tiny? It's not fair! Just because he's a coward, she does everything he wants! Quince always fulfilled every of Tiny's requests. After her brother, Socks finished announcing his complaints about Tiny, he padded behind her. Socks was a black tom with a white muzzle, tail-tip, and paws. As they explored the house, Ruby told Socks, "Now that the brat is gone, we can play hide-and-seek!" Laughter broke between the two as they decided who would be the 'it'.

"I'll be 'it'!" Ruby offered immediately. Her tracking skills were good; there wasn't a thing she couldn't find inside the house. As she counted to ten, she heard Socks' loud pawsteps thunder in her ears. When she reached ten, her brother was out of sight. Crouching down, she began to sniff, and followed Socks' trail. As she tracked down her brother, she spotted a room she had never seen before. Isn't this the room Mother told us to keep out of all the time? Inquisitively, she poked her head to have a good peek, like any other good kit would. She saw Quince pounce onto a soft azure couch. Curiously, she watched her own mother talk to a picture. The old pale gray she-cat murmured something she didn't catch.

Distracted, Ruby leaped and hid behind a shelf as Quince exited the room. What picture was Mother looking at? Ruby wondered abruptly. She bounded onto the couch and spotted a framed picture of a ginger tom. Is that our father? Wonders flooded her mind. How come none of us have ginger fur? Ignoring her own questions, she knocked off her thoughts. No, I got to find Socks first. Diving down from the sofa, she landed on the chilly floor elegantly and departed the room.

Briskly she continued to follow Socks' scent, tracing down each whiff in the house. Finally, she spotted a black tail with a white tail-tip wagging impatiently behind a potted basil plant. "Found you!" she growled playfully. A black tom with a white muzzle padded out, grinning widely. "I thought it would take you forever." Smiling, Ruby opened her mouth to speak. Just when she was about to share the news about the picture to her littermate, she heard the sweet, rasping voice of her mother. "Feeding time, Socks, Ruby!" The two jumped up, excited. Time for their meals!

Ruby and Socks raced into their room, and saw Tiny already licking his milk bowl while Quince was on his side. Spoiled kit, thought Ruby bitterly as she passed her littermate. She and Socks finished their milk rapidly, and then ate the small, tasteless brown chunks that their housefolk gave them. It was disgusting, and never filled their bellies, but at least it was something to eat. As she and her brothers lied down to nap, Quince prodded her shoulders quietly. Her mother motioned her to leave the room, and she followed her mother drowsily. As soon as they were outside the room, Quince whipped around and pleaded kindly, "Oh, Ruby, please don't be mean to Tiny. He does not enjoy being so small either, but when you two are being so cruel to him at the same time, it's very hard for him, and you have to learn to understand."

Curtly, Ruby shot back, "But Mother, you always baby him just because he's different. He's just smaller, weaker, and more cowardice and you do whatever he wants for him!" Quince's eyes glimmered sadly. "Do you understand the feeling of being bullied by every cat?" Fury was stuffing up Ruby's throat as she whined unsuccessfully, "Do you understand how I feel?" Darn it, thought Ruby. My eyes are turning watery! Oh, no! I'm going to cry… I can't let that happen! Infuriated, she wailed, "You just don't care about me!" She stomped back into her room and buried her face in her gray pelt. This can only be Tiny's fault, she thought heatedly. Giving the sleeping black tom a glower, she drowned into sleep.