Hannah’s Kitchen. Photo Credit: Raina Ng
“I woke up in bed with a man and a cat,” Deborah Ennis said as she pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in July and Deborah’s sister, Hannah Anne, had already opened all the kitchen windows, letting in a gentle breeze.
“And that’s different for you, because…?” Hannah Anne dropped the tea ball into the teapot and gently placed the cover on. “Did you actually know the man this time?”
“Gods, Hannah, you can be such a bitch,” Deborah leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms. “Of course I knew him. It’s that guy I met last weekend in that club in Manchester.”
“Yeah,” Deborah smiled. “He’s such a nice guy.”
“I’ll bet,” Hannah mumbled as she reached for a blueberry muffin. Louder, she asked, “So, what’s the point?”
Hannah sighed and shook her head. “About waking up with him.” She pointed at her sister. “I don’t want details.”
“Oh!” Deborah’s eyes went wide. “It’s the cat.”
Hannah raised an eyebrow as she took a bite of her muffin. Bridget entered the kitchen and bleated loudly, announcing her need to go out. She stood at the door, pointedly looking at Hannah. Hannah sighed, stood and as she approached the door, growled at Bridget, “You know how to let yourself in. You better figure how to let yourself out.” With that, she yanked the door open, narrowly missing Bridget’s nose and held the door for the goat. Bridget snorted and trotted out to the backyard. Hannah snarled and slammed the door shut.
“Geez, Hannah. What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s that stupid goat,” she said as she sat back down at the kitchen table. “Always needs me to let her out, but she damn well can get inside even if the door is locked. I’m getting tired of it.”
“You never get this upset with Bridget,” Deborah said as she poured some tea into a coffee mug that was boldly labeled, World’s #1 Witch. “Something else is bothering you.” She pushed the mug over to her sister. “Anything to do with why you shut down the yard sale early?”
Hannah accepted the tea and took a sip. “Yeah, I guess. I have a lot to think about.” She put the cup down, took another bite from her muffin. “Doh, wad abow da cad?”
Hannah swallowed. “I said, ‘Now, what about the cat?’”
Deborah chuckled, a deep throaty sound. It was something she did naturally and one that most men thought attractive. “Of all the things Aunt June taught us, you never did get the hang of not talking with your mouth full.”
Hannah scowled and said nothing.
“Yeah, so, this cat,” Deborah took a sip from her own tea and smiled in delight. “Wow, Hannah! What is this?”
“I’m trying a new blend. You like it?”
“Mmm hmm,” Deborah nodded. “It’s good.”
Hannah smiled. “Thank you. I’m thinking of setting up a tea counter in the shop and I’m trying out some new blends.”
“That’s a great idea!”
“Thanks. Now, tell me about the cat.”
Deborah nodded. “When I woke up this morning, Jonathan was still asleep and there was a cat in the bed with us.”
“It was probably his,” Hannah dismissed.
“No, we were at my place. I don’t have a cat.”
“Oh. What did you do with it?”
Deborah pushed her golden hair over her ear. “I shooed it out.”
“Okay, then,” Hannah smiled. “Problem solved.”
“Not quite, Hannah,” Deborah leveled her gaze at her sister. “It came back.”
Bridget bleated loudly at Hannah’s elbow. Hannah and Deborah both jumped, Deborah letting out a little squawk.
“By the Three, Bridget!” Hannah yelled. “Stop that!” She pointed towards the living room. “Go watch Animal Planet.”
Bridget turned, tail up and strutted from the kitchen.
“One of these days,” Hannah muttered, dropping her head into her hands.
“The cat did that,” Deborah said, pushing her glasses up her nose.
“Did what?” asked Hannah, voice muffled behind her hands.
“Popped back,” Deborah nodded towards the living room. “Like Bridget does.”
Hannah looked up eyes anxious. “What kind of cat was it? Black?”
Deborah glared at Hannah expecting to be picked on, but when she saw that Hannah was serious she took a deep breath. “No. It was a tabby.”
Hannah let out a breath. “Thank the Mother.” She waved a dismissive hand. “You’ll be fine.”
“Really? Black cat bad, tabby good?”
Hannah grinned. “Something like that.” She took a sip of tea. “Where is it now?”
“Well, I tried three more times to get rid of it, but it always came back,” Deborah shrugged. “I left it on the bed.”
“Okay. It might be a familiar sent by another witch, but I don’t know any other witches closer to us than Manchester.”
Deborah’s eyes opened wide. “Is that bad?”
“Could be. Familiars have been known to act as spies.”
“Spies!” Deborah leaned forward, her voice shaking. “Why would anyone want to spy on me?”
A large tabby cat jumped up onto the table and sat down. Both women froze, tea mugs halfway to their mouths, eyes locked on the cat. The cat calmly looked back and forth between them.
“I thought you said you left it on your bed,” Hannah whispered.
“I did,” Deborah hissed.
The cat looked at Hannah and nodded. “Hello, Hannah,” it said.
Deborah fell to the floor, spilled tea darkening her golden hair.
It’s a brand new Harper’s Grove Tale, starring Hannah, Deborah, Bridget and a cat for this week’s Master Class. I was given the honor of choosing this week’s prompt for the class and after careful consideration, I chose, “I woke up in bed with a man and a cat.” It’s the opening line of Robert Heinlein’s “To Sail Beyond the Sunset.”
This story slots nicely between the yard sale story (which comprises All the Demons and A Gold Medal) and the unfinished evil mist story (currently comprising Paedric’s Incantium and Out of the Frying Pan).