Stowaway – by Mel Andela

I hunch against the tree that sways high above our house, waiting for Lena to venture inside first. She peeks her head in the back door and I see her ponytail swishing back and forth as she looks around. Impatience builds along with the sweat on my neck.

In the typical way of spring, it had been cold when we’d left that morning, but now the sweater I had paired with my jeans and worn runners was way too hot. My back was clammy but I couldn’t take it off just yet, not until we were inside.

“Come on,” Lena beckons me over her shoulder in a loud whisper. I’d been on my toes ready for the signal, and hurried across the lawn and into the house.

The kitchen is dim and hushed despite it being the middle of the afternoon. Sunlight filters weakly through the green curtains over the sink, casting a colour across the linoleum that reminds me of the forest. Tucked between trees with soft footfalls on earth and moss is one of my favourite places to be, and I find the colour comforting.

“Quick, to the bathroom.” Lena waves her hand, though I am right behind her. “Can you keep it quiet when we go by mom’s door?”

My arms are wrapped around my middle, firmly holding our secret stowaway under my sweater. “I think so,”

With Lena still leading the way we tread down the hallway, our toes landing nearly silent on the thick carpet. Mom’s door is first, a firm wooden blockade against the rest of the house. Only darkness leaches in the gap between it and the floor, and there is no sound. It’s been like this for days.

The next door is open just a crack and we can see the crib, sitting just as quiet, bars stoic in slats of sunlight and gently floating dust mites.

The bundle held against my stomach begins to wriggle, and we only just make it into the bathroom when it squirms out the top of my sweater.

Lena catches the kitten as it finally frees its tiny bottom, and lets it leap into the sink. It plops onto the porcelain with a tiny mew.

“Made it!” Lena grins, poking her tongue through her gap teeth.


We had been on our way to the wooded area where we liked to play when we heard a shrill mewling. We’d found the kitten behind a fence, tiny paws scrabbling at the dirt with toes outstretched, ears perked up and pointed in our direction. We hadn’t seen any sign of other cats nearby—not babies or mama—so we had scooped it up, quickly deciding to bring it home. We discussed the details on the way—we would keep it in our room, bringing it water and scraps of food, until we could convince mom and dad it was a good idea to keep it.


“What do we do now?” I wonder aloud, watching the kitten leap and spin around in the sink, tiny paws sliding on the shiny surface.

“It’s a little dirty,” Lena muses, hand on her chin. “We should give it a bath. It’ll be good for it; and mom and dad will see we’re taking good care of it.”

I nod at her wisdom. I proceeded to plug the sink and run warm water—‘not too hot, not too cold’, I could hear mom’s words. As the sink fills Lena opens the cabinet and takes out the bottle of baby shampoo that’s still there.

“This is probably good for it, since it’s a baby,” she reasons. She tips the bottle very slowly, both of us intently watching the yellow liquid pool towards the opening, until a thin stream of soap drips into the running water. She jerks it back upright when the bubbles start to foam up. “There.” She looks pleased.

We scrub the kitten with light fingers, rubbing its little head and back and legs tenderly, trying to do it the same way we had seen mom wash the baby. The dust and dirt melt away until the cat is soaked and scrambling, but clean.

Lena grabs a small towel and wraps it, patting the sodden kitten with a gentle touch. She looks a lot like mom, especially holding something small and bundled, and I suddenly feel very sad. There is a strange look on Lena’s face too as she slowly pats the towel. I want to say something, but don’t know what. I’m full of so much lately, but can’t ever seem to describe it. Lena’s eyes meet mine and we both seem on the verge of speaking, only the words stay just out of reach.

“Do you think mom will like it?” I finally say, posing the question instead of the unnamed, unnameable thing in the room.

“No,” Lena answers, looking at the towel. “But dad will.”

I pet the kitten’s head, the fresh fur soft on my fingertips. It mews again, this tiny creature that had needed our help. I hope we have saved it, but know we might not be able to protect it from everything. It could get sick, or hurt, and we might not be able to do anything about it. This truth, newly learned, was fresh in the back of my mind.

I draw my hand away at the thought, momentarily tempted to tell Lena we shouldn’t keep it after all. But I watch it’s little reaching nose and tiny stretched-out toes, and change my mind again. I want whatever time we could have, and hope that maybe it was a little more comfortable and a little more loved because it was with us.

“She might.” I shrug as little kitten paws bat at my fingers. “If we can’t keep it, maybe we can make a little house in the backyard. It can stay warm in there, and we can bring it food. Or maybe Drew would take it,” I refer to our neighbour friend, whose parents loved pets.

Lena and I sit on the tile floor as the kitten leaps and rolls around between us. As we make plans for our new little ward I feel a quiet contentment fall over us, something that hasn’t happened in a long while.

Mel fell in love with the magic of storytelling at a young age. Realizing she could create that magic too, she started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil. Mel lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada, reading anything and everything, and writing short fiction and poetry whenever she gets the chance.


One thought on “Stowaway – by Mel Andela

  1. Wonderful little story, Mel! Thank you for sharing with us.
    If I may…for me, the entire tale hinges upon one sentence, and all the sadness that it implies.
    “The next door is open just a crack and we can see the crib, sitting just as quiet, bars stoic in slats of sunlight and gently floating dust mites.”
    Perhaps you’re also a fan of Hemingway’s famous story–and one of the shortest in history–
    “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”
    Great job all ’round!

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