Dramatis personae of this saga…
ROBIN WASSERMAN: Golden curls, mind like a cleaver. Occupation–writer and cynic
HOLLY BLACK: Like a Goth Snow White. Wiser than everyone. Occupation–writer
CASSIE CLARE: Redhead, and thus not to be trusted, no matter how great her taste in shoes, jokes or cats. Occupation–writer
THEO BLACK: Looks To Be Determined every day. Once there was a mohawk. Basically a whirlwind of excitement. Occupation–artist
JOSH LEWIS: Beware, hiding sly humour beneath rumpled hair and spectacles. He wears a mask! Occupation–writer
MAUREEN JOHNSON: Hers is the stare of a killer. Occupation–writer who fiends for kittens
So, a bunch of my friends and I, the criminals listed above, were on a writing retreat in the French countryside. Oh it was a beautiful time, full of sunshine and rolling hills and lavender in the garden and orchards where we would scrump for apples. Sometimes we would wear berets while we scrumped apples (Robin did not scrump apples, because that is thieving and she is an honest soul. She did play look-out while I munched on the apples of sin, though). Sometimes we would just wear berets around the house. (We were in FRANCE.)
Sometimes Cassie would scream ‘Help, I’m being tormented by weiners in berets.’
… She was just jealous because she didn’t have cool berets like us.
Now, the Robin mentioned above is a much more active bee than the rest of us. I am content with sitting on a sofa and reading, and occasionally getting so into the reading that I gesture wildly and fall off the sofa with a crash. But Robin would ride her bicycle every morning. Every. Morning.
Sometimes we would go on walks.
… Sometimes Robin would go on walks and I would go on what, in sporting terms, is known as a ‘trip for ice-cream.’ Sometimes we would go together. Beautiful French countryside, beautiful Robin, beautiful ice-cream! Perfect happiness.
This one time we had an adventure. It was all my fault.
But I feel like I can’t be blamed, you know? It was a NATURAL IMPULSE. I am only human. If you cut me, do I not bleed? If you put an adorable leggy kitten in front of me, do I not try to pet it?
It is what I do with cats. I see a kitty, I reach out and go ‘KITTY!’ I have a lot of love to give. To cats.
So, one of those teenage kittens with long legs and still a teeny-tiny body, slinking through some dry yellow fields. I said ‘KITTY!’ and leaped forward without much hope: usually cats rebuff me with scorn. I am like that sleazy guy in the bar who is always striking out with cats: the cats are all ‘Don’t even dream you’re going to pet with this.’
But little grey kitten let me pet her. Pet, pet, pet! She seemed happy with the attention. Then I went and caught up with Robin, flushed with kitty victory.
ROBIN: … Okay, Sarah. Don’t look behind you but…
SARAH: *looks behind her*
SARAH: Oh no kitty…
ROBIN: We just have to keep walking. She’ll get bored. Don’t look behind you. She’ll stop following us if we keep walking.
ROBIN: Walk faster!
We did walk faster, stealing glances over our shoulders as we went. The kitten was wobbling determinedly along the country path. The kitten, like a fluffy little terminator, just kept coming.
ROBIN: Honey, go home. Honey, please stop.
SARAH: We’ve gone too far now. Robin, you know there’s no going back.
ROBIN: Honey, this is a bad idea. We’re bad ladies.
The kitten was determined on her course.
ROBIN: Sarah, you cannot touch that cat again. Sarah, promise me.
SARAH: Robin, I swear. Robin! You can TRUST me.
… All right, look, it wasn’t my fault.
We were crossing at an intersection. A van was speeding down the road.
KITTEN: Oh look! I must run out to meet my new friend the van!
SARAH: SARAH POUNCE!
ROBIN: Oh Sarah, you promised!
SARAH: I lied. I lied.
Once I carried the kitten across the intersection, though, we were responsible. (ROBIN: LEAVE ME OUT OF THIS SARAH! But I knew she was too soft-hearted to abandon two foolish wandering things that did not know their own way home…)
It took us a long time to walk that two and a half miles home. The kitten occasionally collapsed by the side of the road, mewing and rolling hopefully to see if I would scritch her. She enjoyed trying to make friends with cars, bicycles, trucks and ponies, and then I would snatch her up and press her to my pounding heart.
She was so amenable to being seized and zoomed through the air in my pterodactyl-like clutches that I began to worry she didn’t have claws, but then we met an Alsatian and she went up a thorn tree like tree-climbing lightning. So we figured she did have claws, and then had to work out how to get her down from the thorn tree. I wound up a bit scratched (not by the sweet little kitty, by the sweet little thorn tree). Also on my ass in a ditch.
Robin may have started to laugh at me, a tiny bit. She also stopped saying ‘Honey, don’t’ to the kitten and instead would say ‘Oh, honey’ in a way that indicated the cat’s fate was sealed.
Eventually, we walked through the gates of our holiday home, and found the others. I was trying, as I walked with a cat at my heels, to think of a way to break the news of what I had done gently.
ROBIN: GUYS. GUYS, SARAH SCRUMPED A KITTEN!!!
SARAH: We both sort of–
HOLLY, THEO, CASSIE & JOSH: Seems like something Sarah would do.
That was when our merry band sharply divided. Holly and Josh instantly joined Robin on what we call Team Sensible Actions and Responsible Behaviour.
Cassie and Theo instantly joined me on Team Fiending For Kittens.
HOLLY AND JOSH: Don’t let that kitten in the house! Don’t feed that kitten!
CASSIE AND THEO: Kitty wants to come inside wif us, yes she does! Does kitty want some ham? Kitty loves ham!
HOLLY AND JOSH: Please do not name that cat. That is not our cat.
CASSIE AND THEO: What have you guys been calling the cat?
SARAH: Robin kept calling her honey…
ROBIN: Leave me out of this, this isn’t my fault!
SARAH: Miel is French for honey.
So Robin and I named Miel together, as co-kitten scrumpers should. (It’s possible that she was just the kitten scrumper lookout, but it still counts.) By that evening, full of ham and milk, Miel was curled up with all four legs around Holly’s bare leg.
Aw yis. Life was good.
ROBIN, JOSH AND HOLLY: We must inform our friend Maureen, who is coming to stay, that there will be a STRANGE CAT here.
MAUREEN: A KITTY! I’M COMING KITTY! KITTY!!!!!!! DON’T LET THE KITTY GET AWAY!!!
ROBIN, JOSH AND HOLLY: All right, Team Fiending For Kittens, you win this round.
Miel never used her claws on people. Miel, it was clear from the start, loved people. She followed us from place to place throughout the house, even though she was clearly still tired and still hungry, anxiously as if we were going to go away. Theo, the biggest sweetheart in the place, could not stop feeding her.
Also once she had rested up a bit, she began to play little kitten games. Her favourite was hiding behind a sofa or a wall and waiting, her small pointed ears entirely obvious, to leap out, surprise us and wrap her pad-pawed legs around one of our legs and strut off convinced we had been terrified.
Miel also enjoyed: playing with bits of lavender, and lots of sleeps. Robin always went to bed early, and I always slept in late, so Miel would bed-hop between us: I would wake up in the early morning with a fountain playing outside and a kitten under my chin being like ‘She said she was going for a bicycle ride! Inconceivable! Also, purr!’
Artistic Portrait of Small Cat and Large Birdcage.
However, what we were going to do with Miel was something of a concern. My proposal of living in France forever with the kitten was vetoed because of ‘we have lives, Sarah’ and ‘your French is atrocious, Sarah.’
LANDLADY: We will fix this situation! We’re going to put the kitten out in the road.
SARAH: Madame, I am too indignant to speak French at this time! I SAID GOOD DAY!
I didn’t actually even say that. I just gave her a weird, bug-eyed stare, seized Mel, crushed her to my bosom and ran away at speed. Miel was just like ‘Whee where are we going’ and I hid behind the lavender until the landlady was gone. Cassie had to weakly explain ‘mon ami… elle est fou. Like, totally, totally fou. Quelle fiending for kittens.’
Holly and Cassie then activated their Kitten-Saving Wonder Twins powers, and bent their mind toward kitten rescue. Cassie, Holly and I took Miel to a vet, to see if she was chipped or anything, and had perhaps wandered from home. The vet was of the opinion that Miel was a summer kitten, abandoned when grown less teeny and cute, and said it happened sometimes, especially as she’d clearly not been in the best state when we found her.
… The vet seemed alarmed when I burst into tears and tried to blow my nose on Miel at this tale of woe.
CASSIE: All right, what if we wanted to take the kitten to another country? Ireland or America?
VET: You can’t take the cat to Ireland without a three-week quarantine!
VET: America’s OK though. It’s lawless there. Give the kitten a rabies shot and they just don’t care about quarantines. They have enough to deal with with all the urban crime, and also cowboys.
HOLLY AND CASSIE: …
SARAH: America is an untamed land, it’s so true. The people there, so uncivilised.
HOLLY AND CASSIE: Why you little…
VET: So I’m going to get you guys a tiny kitten passport.
SARAH AND CASSIE: KITTEN PASSPORT THE MOST CUTEST LITTLE PASSPORT-
VET: And I’m going to give Miel a shot-
SARAH AND CASSIE: Look it says Miel on the kitten passport-
HOLLY: Guys, guys I don’t think Miel likes shots-
SARAH AND CASSIE: We’re going to put a little kitten picture in this little kitten passport-
HOLLY: Miel’s about to-
MIEL: I WILL RUIN YOUR LIVES AND BITE THIS VET’S FACE OFF!
SARAH AND CASSIE: It happened with no warning, none at all!
I was very startled by Miel’s sudden turn to the dark side. She bit that vet good and proper. Pro tip: when terrified by your kitten going evil, do not try to hide behind your tiny short friends. They will be no help at all, and if they are redheads, they will laugh at you.
The vet was very understanding about the biting, and also the blood, and also the screaming (that last part was me).
VET: I am a vet, n’est pas? C’est la vie!
SARAH: I love our zen vet!
MIEL: I will kill you all for this indignity…
SARAH: … Cassie, hold me.
SARAH: What’s funny?!
CASSIE: … Your pain.
SARAH: … REDHEADS.
Cassie was brave enough to pick up Miel after her fit of rage, though, so maybe I should quit ragging on redheads. She cuddled Miel down from the cliff of fury and also weighed Miel, and I guessed Miel weighed twice what she actually did. Miel sulked all the way home, either because of the shots or because I said she looked fat.
The vet sold us a kitty carrier and told us we were doing a good thing, though admittedly he seemed puzzled by our passion for the kitty passport. (Passportion?)
Miel did not enjoy the kitty carrier. I am told she did not enjoy it on the way to the airport, either. (I took an earlier flight, and merely received updates. Maureen’s texts informed me that she had to change all of her clothing in an airport bathroom due to Miel. I laughed and laughed, and immediately the plane informed us in a serious voice that there were some issues with the engine but we would be flying anyway. Instant plane karma!)
Miel was going home with Holly and Theo, and our sensible Holly was worried about getting her through customs.
HOLLY: We have a cat, in that carrier, but we have a clean bill of health and a little kitty passport, see…
HOLLY: Don’t you want to see the tiny kitty pass-
THEO: We could have a rabid bat in this carrier for all you know.
CUSTOMS: Do you have a rabid bat in this carrier?
HOLLY: NOPE, NO WE DO NOT.
CUSTOMS: Well, we’ll take your word for it. Proceed!
We’re all a little alarmed by how easy it would be smuggle in a rabid bat. We’re also all a little sad that they didn’t get to use the kitty passport.
I was coming, after the Smart Chicks tour (which was awesome), to do an event with Holly and Libba Bray (which was super awesome!). I was also excited to see Miel again, and hoping she was doing well. For we all had one concern.
This concern was called Lily. Lily is a hairless cat. Holly loves her. She only loves Holly, and nobody else. Holly and Theo have two white cats already–pallid shadows of cats, living in fear of Lily.
Lily is a demon.
Just like that cat.
I arrived at Chez Black, and saw Miel. She was wearing a fleur-de-lis collar that said MIEL on it, because Theo is an artiste. And she had done something amazing to Lily.
LILY: I hate you.
MIEL: HELLO MY NEW NAKED FRIEND.
LILY: I’m going to ruin your life.
MIEL: YOU LOOK COLD. YOU NEED SNUGGLES!
LILY: Only I sleep in the bed with Holly.
MIEL: I’M SO GLAD WE MET. NOW WE SNUGGLE TOGETHER!
LILY: What’s your name, so I can draw it on the litter box when I bury you in a shallow grave?
MIEL: I SHALL CALL YOU BALDY, AND YOU SHALL BE MINE.
Miel, the cat who tries to make friends with vans, wore Lily down. Now Lily the demon cat has a friend! (Just one friend.) They snuggle together! (Lily looks very guilty when caught snuggling. She’s all, ‘It means nothing!’)
I admit I miss Miel, but she continues her career of adventuring and staying close to humans, even if that means snuggling in Holly’s desk drawer.
DESK DRAWER SNUGGLES!
And Miel was there for Unspoken’s release, on September 11. I had already had bad news about Unspoken and a book chain, and I was pretty sure nobody was going to buy my book and I was going to have to change my name. I also had wild plans of running away to sea. (I just need to stow away aboard the ship of a very attractive captain with a heart of gold beneath his gruff exterior, who will be drawn in despite himself by my, uh, quirky charm…) That day, I was so sick with nerves I could barely talk to my friends, but I sat with Miel clutched to my chest in the herb garden, and heard her purr and smelled rosemary and thyme.
Then I went back inside to my friends, who welcomed me with hugs, and Robin and Maureen took me for a walk to town. We had ice-cream and champagne, and managed to not pick up another kitten. (Though if we’d seen another kitten, I’m pretty sure Maureen would have picked it up. Team Fiending For Kittens For Life!) My friends are pretty cool, and so are kittens.
When fate shuts a door, it opens a kitten window. So, thanks for that, fate!
Sorry about that, Holly and Robin. I know the kitten is my fault.