Her eyes flew open. A pair of sea green eyes were gazing down at her.
“Mother . . . wakie, wakie.”
LW’s mouth dropped open. Not only was her SND cat Puddie standing on her chest, looking as fluffy and gorgeous and diva-like as ever, she was also—
“Talking. You can talk now, Puddie?”
Puddie gave a twitch of her gloriously plume-like tail. “One of the perks of achieving So Not Dead status, it seems. Now I don’t have that wimpy little meow, as you used to refer to it, Mother dear.”
Puddie gave a somewhat disdainful sniff of her dainty little pink nose and twitched her tail once more. That sniff reminded LW of somebody . . .
Puddie licked her paw and began to wash her face. “It’s the voice you always imagined me having, remember? If I had been able to speak before I crossed over, of course.”
LW nodded slowly. She was feeling slightly addle-pated, to be perfectly honest.
“So, let me get this straight—when Thumper and Callie cross over, Thumper will sound like a female version of Peter Lorre playing a mad scientist plotting to take over the world, and Callie will sound like–”
“Yep,” Puddie interrupted. “A flighty teenager hyped up on too much Red Bull.”
Ladywriter grinned. She’d always carried on conversations with her pets, but they did tend to be a trifle one-sided.
Puddie settled down on LW’s chest. She still put out some serious BTUs (Beauteous Tabby Units) and she still had her lush V-8 Caddy purr. LW could have done without the warmth (it was, after all, Alabama in August) but she was truly glad to hear that deliciously smooth purr. She would love to have a car with an engine that purred so deliciously.
“Gizzy thought you’d be pleased. About me having a voice.”
LW raised her eyebrows. “Oh, Gizzy, is it? Are you getting chummy with the Dark Knight?”
Puddie smiled (cats can and do smile; they just don’t show their teeth like those silly dogs) and gave a slight incline of her pretty head.
“He’s been lovely. He gets me my own bowls of Chocolate Moo-llineum Crunch to enjoy. Another perk of being SND. I can eat as much Blue Bell ice cream as I like—including chocolate!—and never get sick or gain an ounce.”
Puddie was so smug, she now looked just like the cat that swallowed the canary.
“Sounds as if Sir Guy is spoiling you rotten—well, rottener.”
Puddie blinked. “Well, you did it first, you know.”
Ladywriter stroked Puddie’s fur—oh, how soft and luxuriant it was once more!—and shrugged. “Yes, I suppose I did.” She paused. “Thumper really misses you, Puddie.”
“Really? She was always up for a good cuddle, weird kitty that she was . . .” Puddie gave a small sigh. “So—she really does miss me?” There was a certain wistfulness in her voice now.
Ladywriter nodded. “Yep. She’s been crawling into bed with me on a regular basis, looking for a cuddle. You know that isn’t typical.”
Puddie smiled. “Too true. Wait until winter. She’ll be glued to you, Mother.”
LW chuckled. “Yeah. Guess it will help cut down on the electric bill, though.”
“Puddie . . .” A certain deep, dark chocolate voice called out.
The kitty’s eyes brightened and she stood up and stretched.
“That’s Gizzy. He’s going to make us banana splits.”
Puddie butted her LW’s face with her head, rubbing her cheek against her mother’s.
“I love you, Mother,” she whispered and then bounded out the door, plume-like tail held high, plenty of spring in those four fuzzy paws once again.
LW felt something suspiciously like a tear rolling down her cheek. “I love you, too, you big ol’ fuzzy cat, you,” she whispered.
She heard an odd scrabbling sound. A black and white head popped up, bright green eyes goggling at her, and a rotund body hurled itself clumsily onto the bed.
LW smiled and crooked her finger. “Come here, you weird kitty, and get some lovin’.”
Thumper, the three-legged tuxedo cat, was only too glad to oblige.
Sometimes, you just have to lean on each other.