The Land of Miu (3rd edition)
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The Land of Miu
Book 1 of The Land of Miu Series
Karen Lee Field
First published in 2010 with the title “Cat’s Eyes”
Copyright Karen Lee Field 2010
All rights reserved. Except as provided by the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, without the prior written permission of the author.
ISBN 978-0-9943362-0-0 (ebook.)
Cover design by DigitalDonna.com
Text design by Karen Henderson
A believer in magic
“Mummy, there’s a dragon sitting on our veranda,” called Emma from the front steps.
Sitting in a sunny alcove near the kitchen, twelve year old Kate Dawson rolled her eyes and looked up at her mother.
Jacqui Dawson continued to spread chocolate icing over the top of a freshly baked cake. Kate returned her gaze to the book in her lap, ignoring her half-sister’s outburst. She only managed to read a couple of words when her mother’s voice interrupted.
“Emma’s only five, Kate.”
Kate remained silent. The warmth of the sun through the window making her feel sleepy, she watched her mother sprinkle finely chopped almonds across the top of the cake. Their eyes met. She knew what was coming before her mother spoke.
“Please go and see what she’s talking about.”
Kate sighed and snapped the book shut. “Mum, do I have to? It will only be something stupid.”
Her mum raised an eyebrow. “Yes, you do.”
Kate wanted to slam the book onto the low table beside her and storm out, but she knew that reaction would only get her into trouble. Instead, she let the book slip into the crease of the soft cushions and walked out calmly.
Outside, Emma sat on the top step with one hand pressed over her mouth. The other hand clasped one of their two kittens, Jasper, tightly in her lap. Kate looked around and saw nothing to indicate a dragon was anywhere near. The shrubs were tall and green, not squashed into the dirt as would be expected if a dragon came to visit. The flowers smelt sweet, the opposite of what she suspected the odour of a dragon would be like. Kate wasn’t surprised by either of these things. She didn’t expect to find a dragon, just like she didn’t expect to see half the things her little sister claimed to see.
Kate stood with her hands on her hips. “Where’s the dragon, Emma?”
Emma bobbed up and down, obviously trying to be quiet. Jasper meowed as he tried to free himself from the little girl’s clutches. “Shh, you’ll scare it away.”
Kate wasn’t sure if Emma was talking to her or the cat.
Emma pointed at the rocks in the garden, a huge smile lighting up her face. “It’s right there, sunbaking.”
Taking a step closer, Kate squatted down in time to see the long, scaly tail of a tiny lizard disappear behind a rock.
“Oh, you scared it,” Emma said, a pout taking the place of the smile. Jasper leapt out of Emma’s arms and ran into the ferns to hide with his sister, Sophie.
Kate shook her head. “It’s only a lizard, Emma. Not a dragon.” Anger bubbled up inside her. When would Emma stop telling these stupid stories? “You shouldn’t make things up all the time. It’s annoying. I was trying to read.”
“What’s all the shouting about? What’s going on with my girls?” a deep voice called from the driveway.
Emma jumped onto the grass and ran into her father’s arms, while Kate sighed once again.
“Where’s my hug?” Joe Dawson picked Emma up and swung her around, making Emma scream with delight. She threw her arms around his neck and pressed her cheek hard against his. Their blond hair mingled, indistinguishable. Laughing, he walked up the steps and held his free hand out to Kate. “Do I get a hug from my big girl too?”
Turning away, Kate rushed inside, grabbed her book and fled to the back yard.
Rectangular in shape, visitors always commented on the mysterious landscaping. No one could see the back fence from the house, even though the block wasn’t very big. Shrubs and flowers had been strategically placed to provide areas of privacy.
Kate crossed the grassed area where sheets flapped gently on the clothes line.
She walked through a gap in the shrubs and sat on a bench overlooking a rock and flower garden. A wooden well took pride of place in the centre of the garden. The well was tiny, no bigger than a potted plant, but Joe had promised to build a large, brick well when he had time.
Kate stared at the array of flowers surrounding the well and sighed with contentment. This was one of her favourite spots. The other being her bedroom, which was the only place she could find solitude. She opened the book and read.
Ten minutes later, Kate’s mum appeared, carrying a basket of folded, clean washing. “Kate?”
“Yes?” Kate closed her book again.
Her mum put the basket down and sat beside her on the bench. “Your dad told me what happened when he got home from work. He’s worried about you.”
“He’s not my dad.”
“Kate!” They stared at each other for a moment. “Joe adopted you. He loves you and I won’t have you being disrespectful.”
Kate turned her gaze back to the colourful garden and remained silent.
“He tries so hard to include you, Kate, and to love you. I hate seeing you brush him aside like you do. And after all these years ... it isn’t fair.”
Kate allowed herself to be pulled into an embrace. “We both love you.” Her mother’s voice sounded croaky. Kate felt a lump come to her own throat. “We just want everyone to be happy.”
It had been such a long time since they had hugged each other. Kate buried her face into her mum’s neck, sweet perfume filling her nostrils, soft blond hair tickling her arms. For a moment, Kate almost believed it was possible to let the feelings she had go. The sound of footsteps, and the squeal of her half-sister, evaporated the moment.
Emma crawled up onto the bench between them, forcing mother and daughter apart.
“What’s up?” asked Emma, looking up into Kate’s face.
“Are you crying?”
“No,” Kate said through gritted teeth.
Their mother stood and held out a hand to Emma. “Come on, you can help me with dinner. Kate wants to be left alone for a while.”
With another loud squeal, Emma pushed herself off the bench and grabbed her mother’s hand. “Can I put the fancy shakers out? I love those shakers so much because they look like soldiers. Sometimes, I pretend they talk to me.”
“Yes, you can. Come along.” Bending to pick up the basket of washing, she turned and winked at Kate. “I’ll call you when dinner is ready.”
“Joe, I don’t know what to do.”
Kate paused at the living room door. Her mother sounded upset. Maybe she should return to her room and come back later.
“Calm down, Jacqui. Kate doesn’t have to call me ‘Dad’ if she doesn’t want to. I understand. ‘Joe’ is better than ‘Mr Dawson’. I’d hate it if she called me that.”
“But it’s been almost seven years since we were married. I thought she would have accepted you by now.”
Kate wanted to turn around and walk away. She knew eavesdropping was wrong.
“I will always love Kate like she’s my own. When she’s older she’ll know that, but pressuring her now will make things worse.
“I feel caught in the middle,” came her mother’s soft reply. “I love you both.”
“I know that, and so does Kate. Stop worrying.” A pause followed and then Joe added, “As I always say, ‘Life is experience, but you can’t have experience until you have life’.”
Kate returned to her bedroom. She looked around the room, everything was neat and tidy. Everything belonged to her. She touched the gold framed photograph of her biological father and then touched the long strands of her own hair, which had fallen forward over her shoulder. It was thick and dark, just like her father’s. Almost black. Sadness filled her. He had died when she was only a baby, so she had no memories of him. She wished she had at least one.
On Friday afternoon, Kate arrived home from school to find the house quiet. No one was home, but Kate wasn’t worried. She was old enough to be on her own. She was twelve.
Sophie and Jasper, the two tabby kittens, played in the backyard. Kate remembered the morning her mother had opened the front door to find them sitting on the door step, looking frightened and hungry. That was only three months ago and already the whole family loved them both dearly.
Kate never tired of watching them chase each other—tumbling, jumping, racing and play fighting, but sometimes they got rough with each other.
She couldn’t help but laugh at how serious they looked then. Their little faces had many expressions and their eyes were so mysterious. Kate loved cat’s eyes.
This afternoon was no exception.
Kate sat on the bench and felt something brush against her legs. She looked down to find Jasper staring up at her.
Kate patted her lap. “Come on then.”
Jasper sprang up onto her lap and started purring. Kate scratched his ears and stroked his back. He rolled over, stretching out one paw to gently touch her face. Kate laughed and rubbed his belly. “You’re a lovely cat.”
She looked at the little well to find Sophie sitting regally beside it. “Do you want a cuddle too, Sophie?”
Jasper jumped down and ran into the flower garden. Kate could see his green eyes looking at her, but he refused to come out when she called him.
Kate’s gaze returned to Sophie. The kitten stared at her. Kate couldn’t pull her gaze away. Sophie stood, her tiny white paws dainty in the lush green of the garden. Tail straight up in the air, the kitten walked slowly towards Kate and stopped two strides away. She sat in that regal position again, her long tail wrapping itself around her paws.
“What’s wrong, Sophie?”
Jasper crept out of the garden and walked over to sit beside Sophie. Two sets of green, mysterious eyes stared at her. They were only babies, so why did she see knowledge behind those eyes?
The spell was broken when Emma rushed out the back door. “Kate, we’ve been to the park. It was such good fun. You should come with me and Mummy next time.”
Jasper jumped high into the air and dove into the safety of the shrubs and flowers. Sophie shot Emma one disgusted look and followed her brother. Mysterious eyes once again nothing more than cat’s eyes.
“There’s no need to shout, Emma,” said Kate. “You scared the kittens.”
Emma covered her mouth with her hands for a moment and looked at the two sets of eyes staring at her. “Oh, I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry, little kitties. Come and play with Emma. Come on.”
The kittens turned and ran farther down the garden.
“Emma, tell me about the park,” said Kate, trying to distract her sister.
Emma climbed up onto the bench beside Kate. “It was wonderful fun,” she said with a grin. “Mummy pushed me on a swing, and then I pretended I was a monkey until my arms were sore.” She showed Kate her sore arms. “Then I rode a butterfly into outer space. That was the best fun of all.”
“Emma, don’t be silly.”
“It was a butterfly on a big spring,” said Emma. “It rocks all over the place. I was pretending. It’s lots of fun to pretend.”
“I know,” replied Kate.
Emma nodded her head, the excitement plain on her face.
“I’m going inside now. Coming?”
Emma slid off the bench.
“No, I’m going butterfly hunting.”
After dinner, Kate grabbed her book and returned to the alcove to read. Everyone was watching television. Kate thought she’d get a few minutes peace. She was wrong.
“What are you doing, Kate?” asked Emma.
“What’s it about?”
Kate sighed. “It’s about a princess who runs away to live with some dragons because she wasn’t happy at home.”
“Oh.” Emma pressed her nose against the glass and peered out into the dark night. “Where are Jasper and Sophie?”
Kate looked out at the stars. “I don’t know. They usually want to come in by now and sit with Joe while he watches TV.”
“Or run up the curtains to make Mummy mad,” said Emma with a giggle.
“Yeah, that too.” Kate couldn’t stop the grin that spread over her face.
“Did they run away from home too? Like the princess in your story?”
“Don’t worry, they’ll be back soon,” said Kate. “They’re probably hunting for mice.”
“No, I mean when they came here. When they were really little.” Emma held out her hand. “Remember when they could both sit in Daddy’s hand?”
“Yes, they were little, but kittens don’t stay with their mothers as long as humans do,” said Kate, looking down at her book. “Why are you asking all these questions?”
Emma didn’t smile. Her eyes were wide and her face pale. “I think the kittens are in trouble. I heard them talking today and they said a meanie by the name of Min was after them.”
“Emma, stop making things up.” Kate swung her legs from under her and pushed her feet into her slippers. Her fingers turned white as she clasped the book tightly.
“I’m not,” said Emma. She shook her head. “When I went butterfly hunting I heard them under that big rock down near the fence. They didn’t hear me ‘cause I was quiet as a mouse, but I heard everything they said.”
Kate stared into Emma’s eyes. The little girl looked sincere, but Kate knew better. “Cats don’t talk.”
“Our kitties do,” said Emma. “Jasper said Min will find them soon and he wanted to run away. I don’t want them to run away. I love them so much.”
Kate groaned. All she wanted to do was read her book, not listen to Emma make up tall-tales about their tiny kittens. When would she grow up?
“Emma, you’re being silly,” said Kate, rolling her eyes. “I don’t have time ...”
Emma spun around and reached for Kate’s hand. “I’m not pretending, Kate.”
The knot in Kate’s stomach grew tighter.
“They are in big, big trouble,” said Emma, releasing Kate’s hand to throw her arms wide to indicate how much trouble she thought the kittens were in. “Min is coming for them and he’s going to kill Sophie.”
“That’s enough!” Kate stood and walked half way across the room. “I’m sick of the stories you make up and I’m going to my room.”
“My room is out of bounds to you, Emma,” said Kate, ignoring Emma’s plea. “I don’t want you following me and I don’t want to hear any more about talking cats.”
“But Kate, Min is going to kill Sophie,” called Emma. “We have to help them.”
Kate awoke with a start. It was still dark outside, but the red digits on her clock radio told her that the sun would soon be rising.
Something had woken her, but she wasn’t sure what it was. Then she heard a noise and she knew it wasn’t the first time she’d heard that sound that morning.
It was the yowl and screech of a cat. It made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
They had to be
right outside her bedroom window. Kate turned over. A dark shadow of a person stood beside her bed. Kate’s breath caught in her throat. Her heart pounded. She sprang into a sitting position.
Kate reached towards her lamp, the dim glow shone on Emma’s tears. Two large eyes stared at her.
“What’s wrong?” asked Kate. “Why are you crying?”
“The kitties need our help,” said Emma, wiping the tears from her face with both hands. “I told you Min was after them.”
Kate threw the blankets back. “It’s all right, Emma. All cats fight with other cats.” She grabbed a tissue and wiped her little sister’s face. “Cats hunt at night and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. Did you know that? That’s why Mum likes them to come inside at night.”
Emma shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. You heard them. Min’s here. I know it.”
Breathing a soft sigh, Kate left the bed and took hold of Emma’s hand. They walked across to the window and Kate flung back the curtains. “Here. Kneel on the table so you can see,” she said to Emma, lifting her up.
It was dark outside, but the bright moon gave off enough light to see by. Everywhere was quiet and still. Everyone was asleep. Below the window, standing in the shrubs, was a black kitten with gold eyes. Opposite it stood a small, shaggy white cat. They couldn’t see its eyes because it had its back to them.
The black cat’s head was low to the ground. It looked like it was about to attack the white cat, but then it saw the girls and looked up.
The white cat leapt through a gap in the shrubs and ran away.
Gold eyes stared up at the girls. Emma moved closer to Kate, who quickly put her arm around the little girl’s shoulders.
“See, it’s not the kittens,” said Kate in a whisper. “It’s two strays.”
“I don’t like that black cat. It looks mean,” said Emma in a quiet voice.
The cat turned, ran through the shrubs and disappeared over the fence.
Kate pulled the curtains closed, blocking out the world. “Well, it’s gone,” she said. “We can go back to bed now.”
She lifted Emma off the table and put her down on the carpet.
“I can’t sleep.” Fresh tears spilled down Emma’s face. “I want Sophie and Jasper to come home.”