Hope Springs Eternal Contest
Number of Prompt Chosen: 32
Pen-name: XXX
Title: Even Griffey Doesn't Always Get a Home Run
Word Count: 2461

Rating: K+

Pairing: N/A
Summary: Hi. I'm Griffey, a kitten ready for my own person, and this girl, Bella, really seems to like me. Why won't she take me home? Things are a bit confusing for a kitten and a four-year-old, but we're muddling through the best we can.
Disclaimer: All characters and recognizable elements of the Twilight Saga belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.


I sat in a cardboard box outside the Thriftway with what was left of my littermates.

We snuggled together against the cold December mist, looking at each person who passed by on the way in and out of the store. We'd all been told that it was time for us to be big cats, leave our mom and her person, and go out to find our own people. We were all scared, but Mom said she did the same thing when she was our age and we'd be fine. Most of the big people glanced at us quickly but then moved on. The little ones always tried to come pet us, and sometimes their big people let them. That was fun if the little person was gentle, but after a couple of them pulled on my tail and ears, I stayed toward the back of the box and let the others go first.

This was the third Saturday we'd spent in this box. There had been six of us, but now only three of us were left. We wondered if today would be our turn. Each time someone passed, I looked at the face and thought, Is this the one I'll go home with?

"Daddy! Can I pet the kitties?"

I looked over toward the voice and saw a little girl and a big man. They had the same color brown hair and eyes, but the little girl didn't have the man's mustache. I always thought people's fur was kinda strange.

"Sure, sure, Bells. We can't take too long, though. We still have the shopping to do."

She let go of his hand and skipped toward us. I tilted my head to the side, evaluating her possible tail-pulling propensity. She seemedokay, but I wasn't sure. I decided I didn't have to retreat to the far corner of the box behind my mom, but I wasn't going to the front, either. She crouched down and extended her hand. I was impressed when she held it a few inches away and let my sister come to her, rubbing her cheek against the little girl's fingers. People weren't usually that polite, especially little ones. I took a step closer. She did the same with my brother, who purred and made her giggle. I can purr better than him—I bet she'd giggle even more.I took two more steps, and now I was within her reach.

She looked at me and smiled, holding her hand toward me. "C'mere, kitty. I won't hurt you. You're so cute!" I took the last step and sniffed at her fingers. I sneezed—she smelled like she'd been close to a dog—and I wondered if she was as nice as she seemed. Only one way to find out.I let my head bump her hand, and her fingers rubbed my ears and head. Oh, she's so gentle!I purred as loud as I could, and sure enough, she laughed more than she had at my brother.

"Can I hold him?" she asked my mom's person, who gave permission and told her to make sure she supported my hind feet.

I stopped purring. Over the last three Saturdays, I'd learned that holding can be quite nice, if not completely comfortable, or it can be awkward and even painful. It was one way to see if somebody would make a good person for a cat. The little girl put one hand under my chest and one under my hindquarters and lifted. So far, so good...Since she was doing it right, I didn't squirm. Then she pulled me closer until I rested against her chest. Not bad, not bad at all...I still hated being off my feet—it just made me feel very weird—but she had a soft sweater that seemed to welcome my claws, and she put her face next to mine so that our cheeks rubbed together.

"Hi, there," she said softly. "I'm Bella. You are so sweet." She kept one hand under my hindquarters and started stroking my fur with the other. I let my loud purr start up again, and she giggled before looking up at the man with her. "Oh, Daddy, isn't he so cute?"

I followed her gaze and saw a strange expression on the man's face. He looked like he was fighting with himself about what to feel, but affection for the little girl seemed to win. Mostly, anyway; he also seemed a little sad. "He's very cute, Bells. Don't forget, though, we need to do the shopping."

She sighed and frowned. "I know." Then she whispered, "I wish..." and gave me the most longing look I'd ever seen from any of the little people who'd been pulled away from our box. I didn't think she meant for the big person—her daddy—to hear, but I could tell he did. The sadness in his face deepened.

She gave me one last stroke and set me gently back in the box. What? She's leaving me? She's the best person to come by in three wet Saturdays sitting in this box! She can't just leave!I scrambled to the edge of the box and hooked my front paws over the edge, gazing up at her pleadingly. I added a "mew" or three to try to change her mind. The longing in her face increased.

She bent down and gave my head a quick pat. "Sorry, kitty. I gotta go now."

She went back to the big man and took his hand.

My mom's person spoke up. "Charlie, if you want to let her stay her and play with them while you shop, I'd be happy to keep an eye on her for you." I spared a quick glance at her to see sympathy on her face. Does she know why the little girl—Bella—won't take me?

"Won't that make it worse?" he asked gruffly. "I'd let her keep him, but she's only here for two weeks. She can't take a kitten back to California; Renee's allergic."

"She knows that. At least she can play with Griffey there for awhile."

"Griffey?" said the big man and the little girl together. They both laughed.

My mom's person chuckled. "Yeah, Bill named them all after Mariners players. That little guy is Griffey. The other two are Valle, the female, and O'Brien, the other male."

The ends of the big man's mustache curved up. "What, no Swan?"

My mom's person chuckled again. "She found a home last week."

The big man's smile faded, but he asked Bella, "Would you like that? Stay and play with the kittens while I pick up a few things?"

Her little face brightened and a huge smile appeared. "Yes! Thanks, Daddy!"

The man's mustache curled up again, and he stroked his hand down Bella's hair. "All right, honey. You be a good girl for Mrs. Marshall, and stay right here, okay? No wandering."

Bella rolled her eyes at him. "I know, Daddy. Iwasn't the one who wandered—Jake did. I just went to bring him back."

"Right. Okay, I'll be back in just a little while." With a quick pat on the shoulder, he walked briskly into the store.

My mom's person laid a folded blanket on the ground next to our box. "Here you go, sweetie. You can sit on that and hold him in your lap, if you like."

"Thanks, Mrs. Marshall." As she lowered herself to the blanket, she said in a singsong voice, "Criss-cross, applesauce." Once she was settled, I was laid in the little pocket formed by her criss-cross-applesauce legs. She pet me gently as she spoke.

"That wasn't fair. Jake's only two, but he's really fast. Was I supposed to just let him keep running down the beach? He coulda fell in a tidal pool. But then Iget in trouble for going too far away."

I mewed and rubbed my face against her hand. "Well, okay, he kinda got in trouble, too, but he's only two. He didn't get it." She sniffed.

"Yesterday was fun. Jake's mom made a great dinner, and it was really cold, but Jake's dad made a big fire. He tells the best stories. Kinda spooky, but really cool." She frowned. "He wouldn't tell all of them, though. Rachel asked for one, and he looked at me and my dad and said that story was 'for another time.' I wonder why? Grown-ups are weird."

My mom's person interrupted. "Here, honey. He loves to play with this." She handed Bella a string with a feather tied to the end of it. I jumped to my feet and crouched. I knew this contraption. It was my mortal enemy. One day, I was going to shred that feather... I pounced, but the feather jerked away at the last second. Dang it! Always so close...

Bella giggled and moved the string, laughing as I leaped after the feather. After a while, though, I got tired. I tried to snag it with a paw, but I didn't jump anymore.

"

Aww, are you getting sleepy, Griffey? C'mere." She set me back in her lap and stroked my fur. "It's funny you have a baseball name. My daddy loves baseball." She sighed. "I bet he'd let me keep you, but I don't live here. I just visit. And he's very important. He takes care of everyone in Forks. I don't think he could take care of you while I'm in California with my mom. Plus, he has to take care of Grandma Swan. He's really scared 'cause Grandpa Swan just died. He's 'fraid she's gonna die, too. He won't say he's scared, but that's what he is." She shook her head and her hand stopped its movement.

Hey! That feels good—don't stop.I bumped my head under her hand, trying to get the pets going again. She laughed and obliged.

"Mommy would love you. You're just too cute not to. But she's 'llergic to animals. I wanted a dog—" I shot her an incredulous look before submitting to more pets; how could anybody want one of those...things?— "but she and Grandma Marie said I can't have one 'cause it would make her sick. I bet kitties make her sick, too." She hugged me close and kissed the top of my head. "Oh, I wish I could keep you! You are so awesome." I purred and bumped my head under her chin, trying to help. I didn't understand everything she said, but her voice was pretty and soft. I let it flow over me as I curled up and started a catnap.

"Do your mommy and daddy live together?" she asked, stroking my fur as I semi-dozed. "I see your mom, but not your dad, so maybe you're like me. Do you just get to see your dad at Christmas and summer? I love seeing my daddy, but I wish it was hot here. It's so cold, and it rains all the time. At home, it hardly ever rains, and it's warm even at Christmastime."

She shifted position and settled me into a comfy spot without even waking me up. "I asked Daddy why he didn't come live with us, and he said part of it's 'cause of Grandma Swan. She can't move, and he has to stay here for her. I wish she could move, too, and then we could all be together somewhere warm." She frowned. "But he said he and Mommy can't really live together anymore, 'cause of the divorce. They can't be happy together."

She exhaled impatiently. "But they're not happy anyway. Daddy's sad and worried, and Mommy doesn't like living with Grandma Marie. Sometimes, when they think I'm asleep, I can hear them fighting. Grandma Marie doesn't think Mommy's 'sponsible. And Mommy keeps saying, 'just a few more months.' She said once she finishes college, she'll start teaching and we'll move out of Grandma Marie's house." Bella sighed again. "I don't wanna move. I like where we live. I just wish they wouldn't fight."

Her foot started to jiggle, and it woke me up. How dare that thing interrupt my nap? It is so in trouble...I turned and pounced on it. She giggled and kept moving her foot. I pounced again and snagged her shoelace with my claw. Yes!I crouched and started to play with the lace, chewing on the end with determination. Whatever that hard thing was had to go.

"Here comes your dad, honey," my mom's person said.

I heard footsteps approach, but I had work to do so I didn't look up. This hard thing was not cooperating.

"Hey, Bells. You about ready to go?"

The shoelace was jerked from my paws when Bella stood up. I'm not done with that—get back here!I pounced on her foot and continued chewing.

Bella giggled. "Okay, Daddy. Isn't Griffey cute?"

"Sure is. Seems to like your shoes."

"Uh-huh. We played with this feather, too, and he took a nap on me."

"Sounds like fun."

My mom's person lifted me up, unhooking my claw from the shoelace and ignoring my attempts to get down. She put me back in the box, and I looked up at Bella.

Her brown eyes filled with tears as she knelt down and gave me a few last pets. "I'm sorry I can't keep you, Griffey. I hope you find a good home." One drop made its way down her cheek.

Her dad bent and patted her back with the hand that wasn't holding grocery bags. "He'll be okay, Bells," he said huskily.

Bella nodded. "I know. Someone will just love him. Maybe someday I can get a pet." She stood and backed away from the box. After wiping the tear from her cheek, she held her dad's free hand.

"I know you'd love to have an animal hanging around the house, but it just won't work right now," her dad said. "Maybe someday, sweetie." She nodded and sniffled a bit.

My mom's person spoke up. "We're right around the corner from you, Charlie. If she wants to come play with them while she's here, she's more than welcome."

Bella's dad smiled. "Thanks, Connie. We may take you up on that." He tugged at Bella's hand and they turned to go. "See you later."

"See you later."

I watched Bella walk away, frustrated. Why can't she keep me? She's great! I hissed, just a little. And I didn't get to finish that shoelace!


A/N

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**This one-shot takes place in December 1991, the last year Bella spent Christmas with Charlie in Forks (at least according to the movie; the books don't mention Christmases, just summers). The events that likely took place in the lives of the Twilight characters at that time are taken from the Illustrated Guide, mostly the sections talking about Charlie and Renee. I had to guess a bit, though, since exact dates weren't given for when the elder Swans died (just that it was about four years after Renee left, within six months of each other) or for when Renee got her degree and moved out of her mother's house.

1991 was the Mariners' first winning season, but they wouldn't make the playoffs until 1995. Ken Griffey, Jr., was Seattle's MVP that year; he was a great hitter and outfielder, and he would be a key element in the team making it to the playoffs four times while he was there. Dave Valle was a catcher, and Pete O'Brien was an excellent infielder (first base) and the highest-paid player on the team that year. Russ Swan was a relief pitcher who saw his career-best ERA that year, 3.43; he died tragically young in 2006, at 42, following head injuries received in a fall down a flight of stairs in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. (Am I the only one getting a few shivers?)