In collaboration with Hannah Kenny. Illustrations coming soon!
Marmalade’s morning had been absolutely exhausting. She had completed Morning Patrol of all three levels, visited the litter box, had a bath, and tried to catch the twinkling fairy that had been tormenting the living room for days. She was surveying a warm sunbeam on the carpet and just settling in for Morning Nap when her ears twitched toward the porch. The orange and black spots on Marmalade’s soft white fur shuddered in unison as she froze, listening. Green eyes wide, she contemplated the possibilities: Family was out so it wasn’t Mom, Dad or Girl who made the noise, it must be an Intruder.
She stayed like this, head lifted off her round paws like a Sphinx, waiting for the sound to come again. Marmalade needed at least three and a half disturbances to investigate; she didn’t want to risk exerting herself further unless it was a matter of Homeland Security. As the porch noise didn’t bother her again, Marmalade quickly relaxed into a light snore, her tail tucked around her small oblong body.
When she woke sometime later, very much refreshed, Marmalade had completely forgotten the mysterious porch noise. She stretched her paws and arched her back before sauntering to the food dish. Now that her brother Marshmallow was gone, she never had to worry about getting to the food before he ate it all. She preferred to graze where he tended to gorge. Strolling past the windows that look across the porch and into the Jungle, she thought about how brave Marshmallow had been. He would venture as far as Family would let him and then report back to her with incredible stories of beasts and rugged terrain.
She was so engrossed in thoughts about her brother, Marmalade almost didn’t see the Intruder. A flash of orange and white on the porch made her stop mid-walk. One paw in the air, Marmalade stood absolutely still waiting for another sign of the visitor. Her first thought was to run and hide immediately. Remembering her brother’s braveness, however, she forced herself slowly forward. Her heart beat quickly as the slinked to the window and peered onto the porch.
Marmalade instinctively started chirping loudly at the glass – she had never quite mastered the Meow. A few yards away, on the lower portion of the deck, a cat younger than herself was lazily swatting at the bees buzzing from flower to flower. She wanted a closer look but was thankful for the glass; Marmalade had only ever seen one or two other cats in her whole life and Marshmallow always made sure they didn’t get too close. Suddenly, the Intruder was bounding up the steps and heading straight toward Marmalade!
Her tail puffed out, Marmalade bravely held her ground, but she could feel her paws get sticky with nervous sweat. A little skinny but with bright curious eyes as green as Marmalade’s, the stranger stared inside. She didn’t meow, she just looked at Marmalade from the other side of the window. Whiskers gently brushing the glass, the Intruder’s pink nose was just close enough to make a tiny smudge on the pane. Marmalade was astonished: this cat had black and orange spots just like her! She immediately relaxed, estimating that any cat who was even remotely as pretty as her must be a Good Cat.
Paws together in front of her, Marmalade sat very still and stared back at the stranger. They contemplated each other for a while, neither moving to speak. Marmalade didn’t know what to say, she was too nervous. She thought the younger cat had been about to break the silence when she suddenly tensed and swiveled her head to look into the Jungle. With a fast glance back at Marmalade, the Intruder was off dashing through the grass, her white fur reflecting brightly in the midmorning sun. Marmalade watched until she lost sight of the other cat and felt the Homeland was sufficiently Secure.
How thrilling! Marmalade thought as she made her way back to the sunbeam, which had grown much larger in her absence. Curved in a wide semi-circle, Marmalade considered the meeting with the Intruder as she drifted into Second Morning Nap. She had noticed that the younger cat’s fur was clean but there was a look in her eyes that reminded her of Marshmallow: hunger. He was always hungry. I wonder where she lives and where she came from; will she be back? Does she have a family? These thoughts about the whiskers in the window consumed Marmalade until she had again drifted to sleep.
A few Christmases ago, Hannah and I wished our calico cats could somehow become friends, because how adorable would that be?! We then realized what great stories could come out of their friendship if they were involved in capers, hijinks, and adventures – and that their names make a great title for a series of kids books. Molly was a stray when she found Hannah’s family and my family adopted Marmalade and her brother as kittens. Marmalade was nearly 17 when she recently passed away, prompting me to eulogize her with a first installment of Molly & Marmalade.