“Dad says you’re leaving.” Stephanie stood in the doorway to Veronica’s bedroom and watched her pack.
“I think that’s for the best.”
After a couple minutes of silence, Stephanie spoke again. “I think you should stay.”
Veronica paused, the shirt she’d just finished folding in her hands and turned her head to study the teenager. “Steph, I know you’re upset and I don’t want to make it any worse.”
Slender shoulders shrugged. “I’ll be okay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Dad and the boys would be upset if you left.”
It wasn’t an apology or forgiveness, but Veronica had a feeling it was as close as she was going to get right now. She wondered if she’d ever get it. “Ok.” Alone again, she sat on the end of the bed. A sound near the door had her looking up.
“Hey. Everything okay?” Jon had heard his daughter’s last comment, but wasn’t sure what it meant.
“Yeah.” She stood up and joined him in the doorway. “Let’s get some breakfast.”
Half an hour later, while the kids were gathering shoes, jackets and backpacks, Jon approached Veronica and kissed her gently, one hand lifting to smooth her hair away from her face. “I gotta take the kids to school. Are you going to be here when I get back?”
“Good. It’s where you belong.” He turned away before she could react.
Veronica shook her head at him. She didn’t know what she’d say if he’d let her. Once again he was five steps ahead of where her head was at.
Late the next afternoon they were in office. Stephanie was talking to a friend on the phone, and the boys were outside playing. Veronica was going over her notes from the interview Jon had just finished when they heard the boys yelling.
“HELP RONNIE! RONNIE COME HELP!”
“I knew it! One of them’s fallen in!” She ran out of the room.
She met them at the back door. Jesse had his arm hugged into his chest. “Where are you hurt?”
“I’m not. But this little guy might be.” He shifted his arm to expose a small black kitten, shaking, shivering and soaking wet.
When she bent closer, the little face lifted towards her revealing white cheeks. The tiny mouth opened to emit a weak mew. “Oh, you poor thing. Where did the boys find you?”
“He was at the edge of the river, trying to climb out, but he kept falling back in.” Jesse explained.
“Ronnie, you help him? Make him okay?” Romeo pleaded.
“I’ll try.” She glanced up to see Stephanie and Jon had come to see what was going on. “Steph would you get a towel please?”
“I’ll warm some milk.” Molly offered.
When Steph returned with the towel, Veronica wrapped the kitten in it and carefully rubbed to dry the fur, trying to check for injuries. A tiny pink tongue came out to lick her hands whenever it could reach. As warmth returned to the small cat it started to move around. When Molly set down the dish of milk, she set the kitten down and watched as it eagerly rushed over and began to lap delicately. “Doesn’t seem to be hurt. Just cold and hungry.”
“Can we keep him?” Jake turned pleading blue eyes to Veronica.
“I don’t know buddy. You know your dad’s not big on cats, and it might bother his allergies. Besides, it might belong to someone already.” Although that young and by the river...she had an idea what had happened and it was too horrible to think about let alone tell the kids.
“Pease?” Romeo added his voice to his brother’s.
Veronica hid her grin at Jon’s expression. He didn’t really want the animal, but he didn’t want to disappoint his kids either. Finished eating and worn out, the kitten walked over to where she was sitting on the floor and climbed into her lap. She stroked the still damp fur with one hand.
“I don’t know boys. You’ll have to ask Molly what she thinks, she’ll be the one looking after it most of the time.”
“If it’s okay with your Dad, it’s okay with me.” Molly threw the ball back in Jon’s court.
Four heads turned back to Jon. Stephanie was sitting at the island, busily writing on a piece of paper.
Jon sighed. “We’ll have to see how my allergies react, but if it doesn’t bother me too much, you can keep him.”
“Yay!” Jake and Romeo ran to hug their father.
Stephane handed him the piece of paper she’d been writing on. “Here.”
“A list of everything we need for the kitten.” She knew her dad was a pushover when it came to things like this. Anytime they’d wanted pets, they’d gotten them. Fish, turtles, dogs....their last one, Copper, had died just before they’d moved to New York. It was her mother that always argued against it, knowing that she’d have to do the majority of the caretaking, but her dad always managed to talk her around. Plus, she’d seen the look on Ronnie’s face when she’d seen the kitten. Her dad would put up with watering eyes and a stuffy nose if it meant Ronnie was happy.
Jon sighed again. “Come on, you can come to the pet store with me.”
“What are you going to name him?” Molly asked.
“Blacky.” Was Romeo’s choice.
“No, Fred.” Jake argued.
“How about Sylvester?” Jesse suggested. He’d been watching old cartoons.
Veronica could see where he’d get that. The kitten was black with white cheeks and all four paws, but... “I hate to break it to you but she’s a girl.”
“Are you sure?”
She checked the hind end again. “Yep.”
“Oh...so what are we going to call her then?” Jake asked.
Veronica thought for a moment. “How about Boots?”
“Like Puss n Boots! Okay, dat good.” Romeo agreed and bent down to stroke the small head. “Hi Boots.”
When Jon and Stephanie got back with the supplies, Veronica conferred with Molly on the best place for the litter box and the food dishes. “I hope she was with her mother long enough to be litter trained.”
“So do I.” Molly’s agreement was heartfelt. Veronica chuckled.
They showed Boots where everything was and were relieved when she immediately showed that she did indeed know what a litter box was for, and she was satisfied with dry food. Veronica wasn’t sure how old the kitten was, but was guessing two or three months. Looking over the array of toys, she crooked a brow at Jon.
He shrugged. “She’s got to have something to play with.”
Veronica reached up to kiss him. “You’re just a big softy.”
“Sssh. Don’t tell anyone, you’ll ruin my image.”
Stephanie snorted. “Yeah, ‘cause it’s such a big secret Dad.”
The evening was spent coming up with new games to play with Boots. It really was no wonder the poor thing slept all day.
A few days later, Stephanie entered the office in search of Veronica. “You know how you said that Dad’s not big on cats?”
Veronica looked up from her laptop. “Yeah?”
Veronica followed her into the den to find Jon had fallen asleep on the couch, his hand curled protectively around the ball of fur on his chest. Hearing them, Boots lifted her head to look at them. She blinked twice, the tiny mouth opening in a wide yawn, then settled back to sleep.
To the kids’ delight, and Jon’s – and Veronica’s – relief, Boots didn’t seem to aggravate Jon’s allergies. Still, while he’d watched the kids play with her, he’d never shown any interest or signs of affection – or so they’d thought. Veronica couldn’t fault Boots for her choice of resting place. She knew just how comfortable that chest was to sleep on.
“Looks like we’ve got a new member of the family.” Stephanie commented.
“Uh huh.” Veronica hesitated. “And how do you feel about that?”
They both knew it wasn’t just the cat they were talking about.
Stephanie didn’t take her eyes off the sleeping kitten. “There’s always room for one more in this family.”