Authors: Ellen Miles
With special thanks to my
kitty expert Kristin Earhart,
for all her help.
This book is dedicated to Catherine,
who loves cats.
“What are you drawing?”
Mia Battelli looked up to see Logan staring down at her sketch. His long brown bangs hid his eyes.
“It’s the traffic circle by the park.” Mia brushed eraser bits off the paper. Her class was studying maps, and everyone was drawing part of the neighborhood around the school. When they were done, they were going to build a miniature version of their neighborhood out of clay, showing the school, the park, their houses, and other important places. Their teacher, Ms. Rivera, called it a diorama.
“Why did you draw a cat on that building?” Logan asked. He jabbed a finger at Mia’s sketch.
Mia didn’t like the way he pointed at her drawing. What was Logan Barrow doing at her desk, anyway? He usually sat on the other side of the room. “That’s Wags and Whiskers,” Mia said. “The cat is there to show it’s the veterinary office.”
“Ms. Rivera said we’re only supposed to include important places.” Logan twirled his pencil between his thumb and two fingers.
“Wags and Whiskers
important,” Mia said. “We take all our foster cats there.” The Battelli family had fostered two cats—actually they were both kittens—so far. Mia and Michael and their parents had taken care of the kittens until they found forever homes for them. Mia had told her class all about it at meeting time.
“Well, it’s okay for your sketch. But Ms. Rivera has to approve it for the diorama.” He twirled his pencil again.
Mia scowled. “You’re right. It’s up to Ms. Rivera,” she said. Mia happened to know that Ms. Rivera had a cat
a dog. Their teacher
would definitely agree that the vet’s office was important enough to be on their map.
Why was Logan bugging her? He hardly ever talked to her, probably because they had nothing in common. Everybody knew that Mia loved cats. Logan, on the other hand, loved sharks. He wore his shark T-shirt nearly every day, and he had already done about three oral reports on sharks that year. He spouted shark facts the way other boys spouted baseball statistics. Mia was not interested in sharks—or Logan.
Logan shrugged. He started to turn away, then stopped. “I know a cat you could foster,” he said.
Mia blinked. “You do?”
“Yeah.” Logan looked right at Mia. “Our neighbors are moving, and they can’t take their cat with them. She’s really fancy. All poofy and white.”
Now Logan had Mia’s full attention. “Is she a Persian?” she asked. She pictured an elegant cat with long white hair, bright round eyes, and a flat, wide face.
“Yeah, I think so,” Logan said. “Do you want her?”
Did Mia want to foster a Persian? She always wanted to foster new kitties, and her family had never fostered a purebred cat before. It sounded too good to be true. She squinted at Logan. “Why don’t you take her?”
“We can’t,” Logan answered. “My dad’s allergic to cats. And dogs. And horses. Just about everything.”
“Logan, Mia?” Ms. Rivera called from her desk. “Is there something you want to share with the class?”
Logan stood up straight. “Just going to sharpen my pencil,” he said.
“The sharpener is up here, not at Mia’s desk,” Ms. Rivera reminded him.
Over at the next table, Nicole Strauss nudged Merry Winters, and they started to whisper and giggle. Mia rolled her eyes. Why did certain
people have to make a big deal about it whenever a boy talked to a girl?
“Oh, yeah,” Logan said. He headed toward the front of the room. Nicole and Merry giggled some more, until Ms. Rivera shot them a look.
Mia felt her cheeks burn. She bent her head and concentrated on her drawing. She wanted to ask Logan more about the Persian. What was her name? How old was she? When could they pick her up? But Mia knew she had to talk to her parents first. Fostering a cat was always a family decision—a big one.
When the last bell rang, Mia rushed to her cubby and grabbed her backpack. She glanced around for Logan. He was walking toward the door with a bunch of friends.
“Hey, Logan!” she called. Logan looked over his shoulder. “What about the cat?” she asked.
Logan shrugged. “I’ll talk to my mom and call you later,” he said as he headed out the door.
Mia frowned. So much for getting some answers.
She headed for the stairs, where she usually met Michael. Her brother was in fifth grade. He was tall and skinny for his age, and he had big feet, so she could always hear him bounding down the steps before she could see him. “Ready?” he asked when he appeared.
“Ready,” Mia said. Michael had promised to walk around the neighborhood with her so she could get more ideas for her map.
“Guess what?” she asked Michael as they left school. “We might have another cat to foster.” She told Michael what Logan had said about the Persian cat. “I want to talk to Mom about it, but I don’t even know the cat’s name yet.”
“I wouldn’t tell Mom or Dad until you know the details,” Michael said. “Don’t get your hopes up.”
Mia sighed. Michael was right. How could she convince Mom to foster a cat she didn’t know anything about? It was better to wait until Logan called with more information.
They hiked up and down every street in the neighborhood. Mia took notes and drew little pictures to help her remember landmarks. After a while, Mia’s stomach began to growl. She remembered that Mom had given them money for a snack at Mrs. Lopez’s bakery. Mia sniffed the air as they walked. She knew they were getting closer to the bakery when a sweet smell drifted through the air. “What are you going to get?” she asked.
“A black-and-white cookie,” Michael answered, just as she’d known he would.
Mia ducked under his arm while he held the door open. “You always get that,” she said. Mia could never decide. She looked at the shelves of pies and colorfully decorated cakes and at the glass cookie jars on the counter. “Maybe I’ll get a lemon bar today, since we’ll probably order cupcakes for my party next week.” The Battellis had been on vacation for Mia’s last birthday, so now, six months later, her parents had said she could have a half-birthday party.
“Maybe Mrs. Lopez could decorate them with cat faces,” Michael suggested.
“Oh, that would be so cool,” Mia said. Her brother knew how much she loved cats of every kind. Siamese cats, tabby cats, calico cats. Fat old cats and tiny kittens. Wild cats, like tigers and lions. She loved them all. Mia was definitely going to ask Mom if she could have kitty cupcakes.
When they had gotten their treats, they walked out of the bakery and down the street. Mia took little bites to make her lemon bar last longer.
The Battellis lived in a brownstone building around the corner from the bakery. When Mia and Michael turned onto their street, Mia spotted Mom outside with her watering can and pruning shears. Mrs. Battelli worked at a nearby garden shop, and their house was full of plants—inside and out.
Mom straightened up from a prickly rosemary bush. “Hey, guys,” she called as she shielded her eyes from the sun.
“Hi, Mom.” When Mia hugged her around the waist, she could smell the spicy scent of rosemary. It reminded her of spaghetti and meatballs.
“Anything exciting happen today?” Mom asked.
“Nope,” Michael said as he loped up the stairs and went inside.
“How about you, Mia?” Mom said.
Mia thought again about the Persian cat but remembered what Michael had said. She was dying to tell Mom, but it was probably better to wait until she knew more. “Not really,” she replied.
“Hmm,” said Mom with a funny little smile. “Well, I’d say that promising to foster a new cat sounds pretty exciting to me.”
“What?” Mia stared at her mother. She gulped. How had Mom found out? “I didn’t promise anything. This boy in my class, Logan, told me about a cat. He was supposed to find out more and call me. I don’t even know her name.”
“Duchess,” Mom said. “Or should I say ‘
duchess’? That’s what Logan’s mom called her.” She pulled off her gloves, shook out the dirt, and tucked them into the pocket of her gardening apron. “Will you get the watering can for me?” she asked as she headed inside.
Mia grabbed the can. Mom didn’t sound mad, but she didn’t exactly sound happy, either. “Why did Mrs. Barrow call you?” Mia yelled as she hurried down the entry hall after Mom. “Logan was
supposed to call me.” Mia kicked off her shoes and followed Mom into the kitchen. “I was waiting to get more information before I told you—I mean, asked you—about fostering her,” Mia explained. She felt frustrated. Why couldn’t Logan have called her first, the way he’d said he would? Now everything was all messed up.