Image source: Stine86Enge on Pixabayl
Jim gazed at the large portrait hung on the living room wall - His parents and his grandma holding a snow-white furred cat. A little cursive writing by the edge read - Sharon, Abbey, Mary and Manny.
"Mummy, do you miss Manny? I want a cat too." Jim asked his mother who stood by his side, staring at the portrait too. A nostalgic smile flooded her face, followed by a sober look as she reminisced…
The evening became windy, blowing dirt towards a dilapidated, uncompleted building. A little to the left revealed some tents built with thick nylon and rags.
Sharon sat on the ground, her back rested on the mossy wall. She pulled her worn-out dress down to cover her cold toes. A rustling sound from the grasses behind drew her attention. She walked to the spot, parted the grass and there was a small snow-white cat, licking its bloodied paw.
"Hey kitty," she whispered. The cat looked at her and mewed in response. Sharon picked the cat up, went into her tent, tore a clean piece from one of her dresses and gently bound the wounded paw. The cat leaked Sharon's hand in gratitude. She giggled and stroked the cat.
The sound of running feet cut short her acquaintance with the cat. A hand pulled the opening of the tent aside as a boy of twelve peeped in. "Abbey!" She exclaimed.
"Sharon, let's go. Dare says a woman is giving out fried rice in take-away packs close to the market. Hurry", Abbey said.
He held out his hand, Sharon latched on and he pulled her up. "Where'd you get the cat from?" Sharon held the cat to her chest. "I found her in the bush. I think it's a girl." Abbey rolled his eyes, "of course it's a girl cat. Come on". Sharon smiled, put the cat down and they raced to the market.
After squabbling and his shirt was torn, Abbey got a plate of fried rice. He held Sharon's hand and they walked away from the crowd, sat on the steps of a church, dug into the rice with their bare hands.
Abbey ate slowly so Sharon could eat more. She dropped few grains for the cat. She could not hide her kindness any more than she could her bony body. Abbey had always lived on the street most of his life since his uncle turned him out when he was eight. He became friends with four other orphans and they made the dilapidated building their home hoping the cops will not force them to move.
He saw Sharon on one of his pick-pocketing days, standing up to Skippo, an orphan too but a bully. Other children knew to avoid him or else they would get hurt. Abbey came to her rescue though it got him a black eye. They had been friends ever since.
"Are you okay? I could go get more", Abbey offered, noticing her sunken eyes and cracked lips that bled often.
"No, I'm okay. Let's go back to the tent." Then the cat jumped off her laps and ran. "Hey! Wait!" Sharon called out.
"Let the cat go," Abbey suggested. He tried to hold her hand, she won't let him. "No," Sharon replied and jogged after the cat. Abbey ran after her. The cat took them through some streets till they arrived at a beautiful terraced apartment.
A middle-aged woman stood by the front door when she saw the cat, then two dirty, hungry-looking children. "Why Manny! You naughty cat. I have been searching all over for you." She picked up the cat, then noticed the cloth binding its wounded paw.
She walked up to the children. Abbey stood in front of Sharon, partly shielding her with his thin body. The woman noticed the protective gesture. "Is she your cat?" Sharon whispered from behind Abbey. The woman smiled, "Yes. Manny is my cat. It's a he. I am Mary Baker."
"Really?" Sharon moved from behind Abbey closer to Mary.
"Yes. He went missing last night. Thank you for taking care of him."
"It's nothing, ma'am." Abbey drew Mrs Baker's attention. "I am Abbey, this is Sharon. We-w-we are orphans."
Manny jumped out of Mary's arm and trotted into the house. Mary smiled. "Abbey, Sharon. Welcome to my home. Come in. Let's get you out of the cold. A hot meal will make a lot of difference." And the three of them walked into the house which became Sharon's and Abbey's new home.