Short story: Millie’s Holiday, by Jill Stanton Huxton

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Millie was feeling sad and she just couldn’t seem to cheer herself up. She’d tried playing with the toy mouse the nice lady had given to her. She’d even tried sniffing her catnip pillow, rubbing it against her ears and under her chin - that usually worked. But not today - today she just felt sad.

The trouble was it had been a long time since Millie had last seen her Mum. She couldn’t count the days, of course, but she could feel it was a lot longer than when she normally left her at the cattery, and that worried her. It worried her a lot.

She tried not to remember the day she was brought in - it was too upsetting. She’d been having a lovely nap in the armchair at home and she could tell Mum wasn’t feeling very well, in fact, she knew she hadn’t been well for a while. Cats have a sixth sense about that sort of thing, that’s true. But that morning she had taken a turn for the worse and it had all got rather too stressful for Millie.

One minute she was talking to her friend on the telephone and the next she had collapsed on the kitchen floor. Millie panicked at first, not sure what to do, and hoping she would just wake up – but she didn’t. She thought maybe if she sat by her for a while, purring loudly, that everything would be okay. She knew Mum loved it when she purred. So there she sat, beside her, on the kitchen floor, purring. But it didn’t help, she just wouldn’t wake up.

Millie was just wondering if there was anything else she could do, when all of a sudden, she heard the key turning in the front door and Mr Roberts shouting out along the corridor if everything was okay. She wanted to tell him that, no, everything was not okay, but of course she couldn’t.

When Mr Roberts saw her Mum lying on the floor Millie noticed he turned a strange colour and seemed to be very short of breath - but he still managed to pick up the telephone and talk to someone on the other end. It seemed like only minutes later before the doorbell rang and Mr Roberts rushed back down the corridor to answer it.

Millie hated it when the doorbell rang, she always ran upstairs as quickly as possible, but this time she only just managed to squeeze herself behind the back of the sofa before two large men appeared with a stretcher. She knew this was bad news because Mum liked to watch a hospital drama on the television and whenever anyone appeared with a stretcher everyone started talking louder, or even worse started shouting.

The two men lifted her carefully on to the stretcher and carried her out of the house, with Mr Roberts stumbling along behind them, slamming the front door as he left. He didn’t say goodbye to Millie or tell her where they were going.

It took her a few minutes before she decided it was safe enough to come out from behind the sofa and then when she did she wasn’t sure what to do. She knew she was trembling - she hated it when that happened. She thought maybe the best thing would be to pretend everything was okay, so she plodded over to her food bowl to have a few of her munchies. She ate a few, but really didn’t have much of an appetite, so she decided to groom her tail instead - it was always getting knotted up and Mum spent ages patiently brushing it for her. Millie thought this was something positive she could do.

After she’d finished she suddenly felt very tired so decided she would go upstairs and have a nap on the bed. Surely she would be back by the time she woke up?

The next thing she remembered was seeing Mr Robert’s large round face and bulging eyes peering over her. And before she knew what had happened he stroked her on the head, told her everything was going to be okay, and then stuffed her into her cat carrier, which was hidden behind his back!

And that’s when she’d ended up in the cattery, the place she always went to when she had a holiday. Of course, Millie didn’t know what a holiday was, but she knew that once Mum starts using the word ‘holiday’ a lot more than usual, she would end up here.

She couldn’t complain, really, it was very comfortable, and the ladies that looked after her were always fussing over her. Still, she was always over the moon when she arrived to pick her up again. And Millie had noticed over the years that Mum would always cry when she saw her, which made her suspect that whatever a ‘holiday’ was, it wasn’t very nice for her either.

So, here she was, patiently waiting - and up until today she had been reasonably happy, reasonably optimistic that she would be arriving to collect her soon. But now she wasn’t so sure.

In fact, because Millie was so preoccupied with these thoughts she hadn’t heard the door to the cattery open and she hadn’t heard the familiar footsteps growing nearer. It was only when she heard someone crying and she looked up to see her Mum bending down to pick her up that she realised everything was going to be okay. She hugged her so tight Millie almost couldn’t breath, but she didn’t care, she just purred as loud as she possibly could because she knew her Mum would really like that.