A Kitten for Louise
Two weeks was an unbearable amount of time to be away from home…for Pent. So to ask him to be away from his beautiful wife and his comfy black leather chair for an entire month was almost asking the impossible.
A choice was not something he was given, and so he had boarded a plane for overseas after kissing his wife goodbye in a crowded airport. That was business, he supposed.
He stepped off of the plane a day short of a month later to find no one at all waiting for him. Ignoring the others whose loved ones had been waiting for them was hard, particularly the man whose girlfriend practically tackled him as soon as she laid eyes on him.
Nothing to worry about, he thought as he waited for his luggage. He was an entire day early! He could surprise Louise with a bouquet of flowers and…himself. Maybe he would take her to a movie, or to dinner, or to dinner and a movie.
Outside of the airport sat three scruffy-looking girls, the scruffiest of which held a small cardboard box.
"Look Sir," she said, standing up to shove the box under his nose. "Twenty-thousand dollars and they're yours."
She looked to be about eleven, with short, dark hair. The other two girls were clearly her sisters, one older and the other younger. The older girl—maybe by a few years, he wasn't sure—stepped forward and shook her head.
"Farina!" she scolded. "Mom ordered us to get rid of them, not sell them for an impossible price!"
"Fine," she said, turning her blue eyes back to him. They were hardened with resolve. "Five bucks. Don't'cha got a lady friend who'd like one?"
Her words forced him to actually look inside the box. On top of a faded floral-print pillowcase sat two black-and-white kittens. They peered up at Pent curiously, their little white paws batting at him as if they thought they could climb him if they tried hard enough.
Louise had grown up around cats. In fact, she often mentioned Snowball, her childhood companion that had looked…quite like a round, white ball of snow.
He peeled out a ten-dollar bill. He didn't have a five, but that was okay. By the look of things, the kids probably needed a lot more than ten dollars. He could spare it. His business trip had been…quite successful.
Maybe he wouldn't spend the evening out to dinner and a movie with his wife, but instead…at a pet store looking at litterboxes and pink collars.
Farina, he thought she was called, balked at the larger amount of money. "I ain't got no change," she said bluntly, and hesitated to take it from him.
"Keep the change," he replied.
She blinked at him and crammed it into the pocket of her jeans before setting the box down. "Boy or girl?" she asked. "Or both?"
He couldn't very well bring home two cats, but he did feel guilty leaving the last one there all alone…
No, one was enough. Louise would spoil it rotten and it would walk all over his laptop and sit on his paperwork and be a wonderful new addition to the family.
"Boy," he said, thinking of Snowball.
She carefully lifted the smaller kitten and put it in the palm of his hand.
"Thank you," the smallest girl mumbled from behind her eldest sister's skirt.
"You're welcome," he said. "My wife will love this little guy."
He still felt guilty for leaving that last little kitten by itself… She gave a plaintive mew and peered over the edge of the box at him. He might have turned around and taken her, too, but the gentleman and his girlfriend were already being approached by the three children. "Five bucks and she's yours. Got no fleas or nothin'."
And with the way the young woman picked up the kitten and cuddled it? Well, he knew that it had already found a home.
Now, he had to get home. With a kitten and his luggage.
He hailed a cab.
The house looked even better than it had a month ago. The wraparound porch looked prettier, the white curtains looked cleaner, the swing looked…bare without her sitting in it. He couldn't wait to get inside and throw his arms around his wife and ask her to go look at cat food with him.
With a smile on his face, he left his luggage at the curb and opened the front door.
The nameless kitten was curled up in the crook of his arm, and he carefully pulled open the squeaky screen door in an attempt to be as sneaky as possible. Pots and pans rattled from the kitchen, and he tip-toed down the hall and peered around the doorway to see his lovely wife.
She was concentrating hard on icing a cake. She had flour all over her yellow apron, and her hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail. She looked even prettier than he remembered.
He crept back to the hall and dialed her cell phone number. It took four rings before she could pick it up, no doubt with sticky fingers. (He would help her with that problem later.)
"Pent!" she said excitedly.
"A cake?" he asked. "For me?"
She'd probably assumed he'd needed picked up from the airport…before his comment, anyway. Unless he was just really lucky at guessing games. He hated guessing games.
He heard her coming only a moment before she flung herself at him. It was all he could do to keep her from squishing the poor kitten. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close for a long moment. She smelled like carrot cake. His favorite.
"Let me look at you," he murmured, pulling back before he reached up with one hand to brush her bangs from her flour-streaked face. "Mmmhmm… Mmm…" He smiled, "Even more beautiful than I remembered."
She giggled and blushed, "You're just saying that." But then she gave him a stern expression. "I can't believe you didn't call me from the airport," she said. "I would have come to get you."
"I have something for you."
It seemed to distract her well enough. He held out the kitten (surprised, really, that it hadn't bothered to utter a sound) and waited for her reaction.
"A kitten!" Her eyes lit up, and she scooped it up before smiling widely at him. "I'll add it to my collection," she told him quite seriously before walking toward the den.
He stood still for a moment, and then trailed after her. "Collection…? Wait, what? Louise, what collection!"
When they got to the den (also known as Pent's office), there was a baby gate at the door. Inside…were kittens. Cats. Billions of them.
"You replaced me with cats!" he said rather loudly.
Okay, maybe there were five or six at the most.
"I was lonely," she said innocently and scratched the head of a calico; the animal promptly rolled onto her back to get a tummy rub. "Actually, I was asked to foster these little guys until they're old enough to find a home."
The mother cat, a grey tabby, watched Pent with interest. Pent watched her right back.
"This little," she lifted the tail, "boy will fit right in." And she set the black and white sleepy kitten down next to the calico. The calico didn't show any interest in the newcomer, but a small ball of black came stumbling out of nowhere and plowed into the guy, knocking him to the side.
It was all Pent could do to peel his eyes away. They were quite intriguing in their own way. (He would have to remember to ask Canas if he knew anything about them.)
Louise's fingers were still sticky, but Pent wasn't too keen on the idea of helping get rid of the icing any longer. He wasn't sure, but he doubted kitten fur tasted very good.
"I can't believe you replaced me with cats," he said as his wife stepped over the baby gate. "I also can't believe you actually bought a baby gate for kittens." Carefully, he lifted one leg over it and then brought the other over afterward, relieved that he hadn't tripped. He'd never been the most graceful person on the planet, after all. "Was it really necessary?"
"Well," she said, with her hands on her hips and an ear-splitting grin on her face, "We'll need it again in about six months."
"More kittens?" he asked absently. Whatever would they do with a dozen cats?
"No," she said, and patted her belly. It looked relatively normal from where he was standing.
Louise began to hum a lullaby on her way to the sink to wash her hands.
It took a moment for her words to sink in, and by then she was already back in the kitchen finishing up the cake. He chased her down. "Hey, wait, what? Louise! Are you serious?"
A belated happy birthday 'fic for Myaru.