“Cat’s got my tongue, I guess,” I said for lack of anything else to say. Melanie continued to look at me bleakly. “Sorry, lame joke,” I said instantly feeling contrite. For her this wasn’t a joking matter. The only one not perturbed was Porter, who indolently began licking his front paw.
“So what’s her name?”
“He’s a boy and his name is Porter.”
“Porter? How did you decide on that name?” I asked.
“Mother named him. She said he behaved like a haughty English butler she used to know.” Melanie got down on floor and awkwardly pulled the cat on to her lap. Amazingly he immediately settled in, despite the fact the cat was half again bigger than her lap. “He’s no trouble Miss. He doesn’t eat much, because he’s really good at catching mice.”
I shuddered with the thought that there were enough mice lurking in my townhouse to maintain this cat’s plumb sleek condition.
“Please Miss, can I keep him?” Her grey eyes glistened with wet desperation.
I had already accepted the bizarre responsibility of a child for two weeks. Hey why not throw a cat into the mix. And damn even me, Ms What do I know About Kids, could intuit how important Porter was to Melanie. This little kid had just lost her mother.
“Okay, he can stay. There are no rules against cats here. But you’re in charge of caring for him. And by the way, call me Eleanor.”
Her body went limp as the tension flooded out. Fervently she squeezed Porter, then hopped back up on her chair and voraciously began eating her sandwich.
Me, I was busy mentally compiling a grocery list. Gad I would need to buy milk and cat food for sure, but what else does a little girl and cat need? What did I eat when I was kid?
Weren’t kids suppose to have baths before they went to bed? I glanced over at Melanie. Both her body and eyes were drooping with fatigue. Okay, no bath.
“Let’s get you and Porter settled for the night. I will make him a dirt box in a rubber maid container until we can stop at the pet store tomorrow to get him what he needs.”
I picked up her suitcase and said, ” Follow me, the guest room is situated between my bedroom and the bathroom.”
Melanie followed me and Porter followed Melanie.
I flopped the suitcase on the bed, snapped it open and was dismayed. There wasn’t much in it and what was there was obviously dirty. An undefinable odor hit me smack in the face. Bloody Hell! What to do now? Winging it I said, “Let’s be silly tonight. Why don’t you wear one of my t-shirts to sleep in?” Melanie was too tired to care. Before long she, Porter and Mr. Bear were all settled in.
“Are you comfy?” I asked.
“Yes Miss,” Melanie answered as she looked up at me in an expectant manner. What? Did she expect me to kiss her good night? We hardly knew each other. Come off it. You sound like some prim prude. I was torn. As a compromise I fiddled with the top of her comforter and smoothed her hair. Oily. Yep, bath was going to be the first order of business tomorrow morning.
After cleaning the kitchen I took my cup of tea into the living room and sank into the folds of my favorite chair. I looked at the clock and it was only 7:30. Dang I was bushed already. I better do something to rev up my stamina, if I was going to make it through the next two weeks.
I sat up with a start. I still had to make a dirt box for the cat. Oh goodie, aren’t I lucky. Oh well I’ll be fodder for the neighborhood gossips, if anyone spies me out in the garden bed with a rubber maid container digging in the dirt with a serving spoon.
To be continued—–