Читать онлайн "The Homeless Kitten"

автора "Холли Вебб"

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... his nose, curling up into a sad little ball.

“Night, Mum.” Lily peered round her mum’s office door on her way to bed. “Oh, that one’s so cute. Wow, you can really see how fluffy he’s getting.” Lily leaned over her mum’s shoulder, admiring the photos of Stanley on her computer. “What are you looking at the photos for? Are you sending them to Grandma?” Lily’s grandma loved cats, too. She lived in Scotland so she hadn’t seen the kittens yet but Lily had been telling her all about them on the phone. Grandma had told Lily how jealous she was.

Her mum looked up. “No, I wasn’t. Maybe I should though, I hadn’t thought of that. I was actually looking for a good photo to send to Amy for the shelter website. The one they’ve got up there now is all the kittens together – we need one of just Stanley on his own.”

Lily took a step back, suddenly feeling breathless. She knew that Stanley was going to be adopted, too, of course she did. But this made it all too real – and too soon. He looked so cute in the photo on Mum’s screen – he had his mouth open in a mew and his little pink tongue was showing. His eyes were shining emerald green and his fur was standing out around his head in a fluffy halo. Anybody would want to adopt him, Lily thought miserably. Who could resist such a gorgeous boy?

“Oh, Lily…” Mum turned round in her chair, reaching out to hug her. “I know you love him…”

“Couldn’t we keep him?” Lily pleaded. “He’s so special…” Her voice wobbled and her throat felt like it was closing up. She couldn’t get any more words out.

“You know we were only looking after them for a little while, darling.”

Lily nodded and sniffed and then dashed out of Mum’s office, racing upstairs to her bedroom. She flung herself down on her bed, burying her face in her pillow, her eyes full of tears. Why couldn’t they keep Stanley? He got on amazingly with Hugo. Mara had been right when she said they made a perfect pair. Hugo had looked after Stanley all morning after Bella and Trixie had gone. In fact, Lily was pretty sure that Hugo would be as upset as her if Stanley went to a new home.

She just had to explain all that properly to Mum and Dad. Lily rubbed her eyes and sniffed determinedly. Maybe she should write down a list of reasons to keep Stanley, just to make sure she didn’t forget any of them. And then she would find just the right time to convince her family…

Lily woke up suddenly, her heart racing. She sat up in bed and peered around anxiously, trying to work out what was wrong. Everything in her room looked strange and ghostly in the darkness. Why had she jumped awake like that?

She was just about to settle down again, fussing with the crumpled sheet and wishing the night wasn’t so hot, when loud barking erupted downstairs – mixed with ear-splitting yowls. Hugo was obviously furious, it was his angry bark, over and over again – and then there was a crashing sound.

Lily flung back the sheet and headed downstairs at a run, not even stopping to think what was going on. Something awful was happening. She could hear voices in Mum and Dad’s room – they’d clearly been woken up, too, and Carly appeared in her bedroom doorway as Lily started down the stairs.

She was surprised to see the kitchen door was open but then realized that Mum and Dad must have left it ajar to keep the room a bit cooler for Hugo and Stanley to sleep in. Hugo wouldn’t come out of the kitchen anyway, he loved his basket. But maybe Stanley had come out of the kitchen and got lost in the dark. Had that crash been him knocking something over in the living room, maybe? That wouldn’t make Hugo react so badly though, would it? He was still barking – quieter barks now and furious growls. Lily couldn’t remember ever hearing him so upset.

Lily switched on the kitchen light, murmuring, “Stanley? Hugo? What’s the matter?” Then she gasped. The kitchen looked as though someone had run round pushing everything that they could find off the surfaces. The pile of newspapers from the recycling box was scattered all over the place. The vase of flowers that had been in the middle of the kitchen table was tipped over, cascading water down on to the tiles. There was even a mug smashed on the floor just below the sink.

Hugo was standing in front of the sink, growling angrily at the window above it. Lily shivered, suddenly wondering if there had been someone in the garden? Perhaps Hugo had been woken by a burglar? Could he have made all this mess just by jumping about, trying to raise the alarm? Even though he wasn’t usually clumsy, he did sometimes knock things over by flailing his tail around when he was really excited.

“It’s OK, Hugo, shh,” Lily murmured. “What’s wrong? And where’s Stanley?” she added. When she’d gone to bed, Stanley had been curled up in Hugo’s basket, snuggled in between Hugo’s paws, and both of them had been asleep. There was no little white kitten in the dog basket now, or in the big plastic box.

“Stanley?” Lily called worriedly. Where was he? She ducked down, searching under the table and behind the bin but there was no little white kitten.

“Lily, what’s going on?” Dad hurried into the kitchen, with Mum and Carly close behind. “Wow! What happened here?”

“I don’t know! Hugo’s really upset and I can’t find Stanley. He isn’t anywhere.”

Hugo came over to Dad, sniffing and nosing at his hands, and Dad rubbed his ears comfortingly. “Hey, he’s got a scratch on his nose,” Dad said. “What happened, boy?”

“Oh, Hugo, did you cut yourself on that broken mug?” Mum crouched down to look, too.

Hugo pulled away and padded over to the sink cabinet again, this time leaping up and planting his paws on the edge of the sink. He wasn’t supposed to jump up like that but nobody stopped him.

Then a little white face peered out from behind the curtains. Stanley – with his long white fur all fluffed up. He was huddling in the corner of the windowsill, looking terrified.

“There he is!” Lily exclaimed gratefully. “How on earth did you get up there?” She hurried over to the windowsill, picking up Stanley and cuddling him close. She’d never have thought that Stanley could make the jump on to the counter – he must have jumped on to a chair to get him halfway. “Come on, Stanley, it’s OK. What happened?”

“It’s pretty obvious,” Dad said anxiously. “They’ve been fighting. Hugo couldn’t have cut his nose on that mug, not unless it actually fell on him. That’s a cat scratch.”

Lily could feel the white kitten’s heart hammering and his ears were laid back. Hugo dropped back down to the floor and stood looking up at Stanley in Lily’s arms.

“That can’t be right,” Lily said, shaking her head. “Stanley loves Hugo. They were even asleep together in Hugo’s basket when I went to bed! And Hugo wouldn’t hurt Stanley.”

“He didn’t!” Carly said angrily, crouching down beside Hugo and putting her arm round him. “Stanley hurt him! Look at his poor nose!”

Mum sighed. “We don’t know which of them started it. I suppose we’ve been lucky we haven’t had any issues with them until now – it’s weird this has happened so suddenly... But if they’re going to start fighting with each other, we’ll have to talk to Amy in the morning. Stanley’s old enough to stay at the shelter now until they find a home for him. Hopefully they’ve got room.”

“What?” Lily gasped. “No, Mum, he’s staying here. We said we’d look after him until we found him a proper home. He can’t go to the shelter!”

“He has to, Lily,” Dad said gently. “I know you’ve loved having the kittens here and you’ve worked so hard with them but we can’t risk Stanley being hurt if he and Hugo aren’t getting on. What if Stanley tries to scratch Hugo again and Hugo lashes out? I know Hugo wouldn’t deliberately hurt him – at least, I don’t think he would – but he’s just so much bigger than Stanley. It’s not safe.”

“And this is Hugo’s home!” Carly put in.

“She’s right, Lily,” Dad said. “We can’t send Hugo away.”

Lily shook her head, tears starting to well up in her eyes. Stanley wriggled a little as one fell on to his nose and he licked it, liking the salty taste.

This couldn’t be happening, Lily thought, looking miserably from Dad to Mum to Carly. Everyone seemed to be certain that Stanley had to go. How could this be happening now? Tomorrow was supposed to be the start of her grand plan to convince everyone they could keep their gorgeous kitten forever – and now instead he was going to be sent to the shelter.

“He just can’t,” she whispered. “He’ll hate it there. We saw the cats when we went to get Hugo – they had those little rooms. He’s used to a whole big kitchen and my bedroom. He’ll be so lonely without us.” And without Hugo, Lily added in her head. She still couldn’t understand what had happened. Hugo had never barked at the kittens – not even when he’d first found them in the woods. He’d looked after them so carefully – Stanley even slept in his basket. This just wasn’t right.

But nobody was listening to her. It felt like all the plans were already made – Mum and Dad were discussing who could go and drop off Stanley at the shelter. Carly was still petting Hugo and glaring at the kitten.

“What are we going to do with them tonight?” Dad murmured, looking between Stanley and Hugo. “We can’t leave them both in here, obviously.”

“I’ll take Stanley upstairs with me,” Lily said quickly. It was their last night, she realized. Her last time to cuddle him