Eli ran down the street as fast as he could. He held his drawstring backpack close to his chest and tried to avoid eye contact with anyone he passed. He weaved in and out of the crowd until his house came into view. Once he made it to his yard, he noticed an open window and his mother standing inside the kitchen. Eli stopped in his tracks. He couldn’t go into the house now. His mother was supposed to still be out shopping.
He looked left and right trying to find somewhere else to go. He noticed the stable and knew that was empty. His father and brother had taken the horses out to stretch their legs. Eli knew they wouldn’t be back until dinner.
Eli ran into the stables and into one of the horse’s pen. He sat down on the pile of hay and stared at his backpack.
Eli hugged his backpack to his chest tighter holding onto his breath as well. The voice didn’t belong to his father, brother, or even his mother. He knew who it was but he didn’t want anyone seeing what he had found.
His friend poked his head around the wooden pillars and grinned. “Hey, there you are. I thought I saw you run by. I tried calling your name but I don’t think you heard me.”
Eli cracked a small smile. He had tried his hardest to make sure no one saw him. He thought Neville said he had a lot of chores to do and wasn’t able to go out. He must have finished them early and went out in search of Eli to hang out.
“What are you doing? You look like you’re hiding or something.” Neville questioned tilting his head to the side. He entered the stable and sat down beside his friend.
“I am hiding.” Eli replied. He tried not to grit his teeth but Neville was the one who said he couldn’t hang out. Now Eli needed some peace and quiet and Neville was bothering him.
“Why are you hiding?”
“If I could tell you, I wouldn’t be hiding in the first place.” Eli replied.
Neville frowned. “Oh,” he stood up and turned to leave, but Eli grabbed his arm and gently pulled him back down.
“Well, as long as you’re here. I guess this would be fun with more than just me. I mean, this is going to be a hard secret to keep to myself.” Eli explained.
Neville sat back down and grinned giddily. “Oh, there’s a secret involved? I want to know about it!”
“Then keep your voice down.” Eli scolded in a low tone.
“Sorry,” Neville whispered.
“You can keep a secret, can’t you?” Eli asked cautiously.
Neville nodded his head looking serious now. Eli noticed his gaze turned to the black backpack but he remained silent, patiently waiting.
Eli balanced the backpack on his laptop and slowly opened the top of the bag. He peered inside and glanced over at Neville. His friend looked like he was breaking out into a sweat in anticipation at what Eli was going to pull out of the bag.
Eli opened the bag a little bigger and reached his hands in to pull it out.
Neville gasped when his friend pulled out a small gray kitten. He put his hand over his mouth and Eli couldn’t tell if his friend was shocked or worried or excited. Eli held the kitten close to him. It mewed softly but seemed pretty content to be held and petted.
“Where did you get him?” Neville asked softly. He reached his hand over and stroked the kitten gently.
“I found him on the side of the road. There were a lot of people around. I didn’t want him to get stepped on so I scooped him up and brought him here.” Eli explained.
“And your mom said you can keep him?” Neville asked in a shocked tone.
Eli shook his head. “No, remember I said this was a secret?”
“Oh, yeah… so you’re just going to keep the kitten hidden?”
Eli sighed. “I don’t know. It’s not right for me to do that. It wouldn’t be fair to the kitten or to my parents… plus, I’d get in a whole lot of trouble.”
“So…” Neville looked away from the kitten and at his friend. “What are you going to do then? You have to tell your mom soon. It’s going to start getting cold out and you can’t leave the kitten in the stables. The horses would trample it!”
Eli narrowed his eyes. He obviously knew the kitten couldn’t stay in the stables, but now he was just imagining the kitten getting trampled. Why did Neville have to put that thought inside his head?
“I just told you, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I want to ask my parents about it but I know they’re not going to want a kitten and I can’t just let the kitten go back out onto the streets.” Eli said in a stressed tone. He hugged the kitten closer to him.
“You don’t really think your parents would force you to toss a kitten out onto the street, do you?”
Eli jumped hearing the new voice. When he opened his eyes, Neville was standing looking nervous. Eli’s mother stood in the doorway of the stables smiling.
“Oh, Mom…” Eli said standing. He looked down at the kitten in his arms and then back up at his mother, who sighed but was still smiling.
“We told you no kitten because we can’t afford to buy one right now. But I’m sure you have some allowance saved up?” she asked.
Eli nodded his head.
“Then maybe you and Neville should run to the store and get the kitten some food and a bed. Maybe get him a toy or two.”
Eli and Neville grinned at one another. Eli’s mother stepped to the side and pointed to the door. “You’re welcome. Now get a move on before it gets too dark.”
Eli gave his mother a hug. “Thank you!”
His mother took the kitten out of his hands. She snuggled with it to her cheek. “I’ll keep an eye on this little guy. Go on.”
“But Mom, wait.” Eli said and Neville paused in the doorway. “What about dad?”
His mother giggled staring at the kitten and stroking his chin. “Your father’s fine. He won’t be able to resist this face… Besides, I think I can convince him.”
“Oh, right. You’re always in charge.” Eli grinned.
His mother winked at him.