Here is a Malkin Moonlight first birthday celebratory story…
Picture by Arabella Board.
One morning the sky is full of the noise of seagulls being friends, and perhaps just a little bossy with each other, while below the recycling trucks are going about their usual business of emptying glass. The air is warm, and Roux tilts her nose to it.
‘It’s going to be hot,’ she says. ‘A lovely summer’s day, which it should be today.’
‘Why should it be sunny, mama?’ Mimosa asks.
‘Because it is a special day, and we do not like the rain, do we my love?’
‘No, mama, we do not. The rain makes my fur wet and my paws cold and my nose gets in a very bad mood. But why is it a special day? You haven’t said.’
Just then she sees her very best friend Calica, sitting on the wall that divides the Recycling Centre from the Nature Park. Calica has a mouth full of flowers. She drops the flowers on to a pile she has already collected, ‘Mimosa! Mimosa! We’ve been called to Newspapers/Magazines/Books – your mother says there is important news.’
‘Mama…’ says Mimosa turning, but her mother is walking away her tail raised in a determined fashion, heading for Newspapers. ‘Come on, Calica, let’s go and find out what it is.’
Over in Newspapers, Dew is sitting on top of a big green bin, waiting for everyone to assemble. He has a look of importance on his face.
‘Oh, but Malkin, it worries me,’ Roux is whispering. ‘Mimosa is so like you. She’s more like you every single day and you remember what the moon told us.’
‘I do. That she will be a fine explorer, and she has something rare inside her, but we are not to tell her and we must let her go, when the time comes, when her sixth sense and her heart pull her away.’
‘That’s the bad bit, but it’s not the worst bit, Malkin. You know the even worse bit.’
‘I know, my love. I know what troubles you: that Mimosa might not come back from her exploring.’
‘Oh Malkin, I fear we will lose her forever. That the pull will take her somewhere: it will become too strong and she will not come home. Or she will meet terrible …’ but Roux finds she cannot finish that sentence, so she starts another, ‘Even when she is here half the time it feels as if she’s not, not really. I remember when she was still a tiny kitten and Dew read her the book about Wild Things, and afterwards she ran up to me, with the words still reflecting in her eyes, and she said, Mummy, Mummy, I want to sail to an island. Let me go, do. Yet she knows nothing of the world. You must prevent her leaving, when she tries to.’
‘Roux,’ Malkin says, looking into his wife’s pale green eyes, ‘you know that we can’t. We can’t go against the moon: not the one in the sky nor the one in her soul. When the moon gave her the present on her forehead, I think a little moon magic got mixed up in her blood and travelled to her heart.’ And Malkin draws his wife close, and breathes in her smell of wet grass and the smallest, sweetest flowers, and he remembers the night the moon united them in marriage, and he considers that being close to Roux is, in fact, the very best feeling in the world. The smoke and cream coloured cat rubs her head into the white circle around her husband’s neck.
‘Pardon us for interrupting,’ says Yellow, appearing with Marmelade. ‘Thought we’d say hello.’
‘Oh, hello you two. Marmelade! That is very beautiful. What is it?’
‘Bonjour, cherie. This? This is just a little trinket, a little something-and- nothing. Yellow found it for me in the Re-Use Shop. It is called a tiara, cherie, and it is made of the diamonds. It is clear to me that a princess has thrown it away as it is a little broken. This is the way of royalty. I know, it is in my blood. Set it straight, Yellow, it is falling over one eye.’
‘We cannot have that, my lady,’ and Yellow pushes the tiara up, ‘we have to see those beautiful eyes of yours.’
‘Ah but cherie, why have we all been called to Newspapers? And why is Dew sitting all puffed up like that? He should know that the pride is a very terrible thing. Humility is a virtue,’ and she sticks her blue nose up in the air.
‘It’s gonna be a scorcher!’ Yellow says, ruffling his fur and setting his ears back. ‘Like a bit o’ sun I do. What are Mimosa and Calica talking about over there? Mimosa pointing all around like that, like she’s explainin’ something and Calica is lookin’ mighty sad.’
‘That cat is saying goodbye. Adieu. I can tell these things. I am very sorry for you and Malkin, cherie, but I am afraid you are going to lose that one.’
A mew escapes Roux and Malkin puts his paw on top of hers so their rings are together.
‘Not lose like that, cherie, not all the lives at once! Non! Mimosa is too clever for this. I mean she is one for the wanderings. She will be gone and it will be soon.’
‘But I don’t want her to go, Marmelade.’
‘It is true that you don’t, and yet you have to let her leave. It is the nature of love, I’m afraid. Perhaps she will return, perhaps non. But take comfort from Crispin – here he comes. Look at him. That one will never leave – he is too greedy. Mon Dieu! I do not know why he is not the size of a bin. He must have very good genes.’
‘His genes might be good, Marmelade,’ Yellow says, ‘but you have the finest genes in this Recycling Centre.’
‘Merci, cheri, it is because I am a Chartreux descended from the French nobility.’
Crispin joins the semi-circle of cats, licks sushi from his mouth, and tucks his tail in neatly. He sits next to Calica, as he always does, and notices that her nose is quivering a little, and that when she tries to greet him her words come out in a muddle, so she falls silent, and twitching.
‘What’s this all about then? Why’ve we been summoned?’ Crispin asks her, but she stays silent, and twitching, and Crispin notices that her vast blue eyes look very shiny.
He looks up at Dew and thinks for a moment that he seems older, and his one life does not shine so strongly from him, but at that moment Foss and Sonata arrive with Toxic and Salt. Once everyone is settled in the semi circle, Dew clears his throat, then begins.
‘Cats! There is news of the biggest kind!’
‘Quick news?’ asks Marmelade, but Dew ignores her.
‘Big news. News of the most important kind.’
All the cats tilt their ears forward.
‘Today it is our dear friend Malkin’s birthday and you are all cordially invited to a party over this evening in Glass Bottles and Jars!’
‘Hooray!’ all the cats say, then the cat choir begins to sing.
‘Happy birthday, darling,’ Roux says.
Malkin shakes his head, ‘I had clean forgotten.’
‘Then it is just as well you have me.’ and Roux bumps her husband’s nose with her own, and he feels her happiness for him, but deep beneath, lurking like the worst kind of danger, he feels her worry.
Late that night, long after the party has finished, Malkin is wandering, because he finds he cannot sleep. He stops in front of a green bin, raises his tail, and makes a magnificent leap, as if he’s cut off his deal with gravity. He lands without a sound. He raises his nose to the magic of the moon-pull. “Please, oh Moon,” he says, then he kneels, and touches his nose to the cold metal, and the wind ruffles the moon ring around his neck.
The moon pulls a cloud from her face. “Good night, Malkin Moonlight, and happy birthday.”
“Good night, Moon,” says Malkin, dropping another bow, “and thank you. I have not seen you for such a long time.”
“You have been busy helping others, and so have I, but now you need my help.”
“It is true. I have come to ask for your help.”
“Mimosa is ready to leave your Recycling Home. She feels the pull, as you did. It is very strong in her.”
“Roux is worried – so worried.”
“But you both know that she has to follow the pull, because it is the tug of destiny.”
“We do know. And we are so grateful that you blessed her with your moon presents. But we are so afraid.”
“And yet you know you must let her go.”
“We do. But would you…?”
“I will watch her, Malkin, but you know I cannot watch her all the time.”
“But if she ever falls into terrible danger?”
“Then I will appear.”
Malkin drops another bow that makes the moon swell with pride for the little black cat she named so long ago.
“Remember that she was born when I was full, Malkin. Her sixth sense is very strong. She has my blessing on her forehead, and on her front paws. She will step lightly into trouble, and spring lightly away.”
“And she has all nine lives, although, Moon, sometimes she is so reckless. We don’t know what to do with her. We don’t know where she gets it from.”
“Mimosa has something rare inside her Malkin. You know this.”
“And you also know that now is the time to let her go.”
For a moment all is quiet. The night wraps the comfort of its cloak around the black cat.
“I will tell Roux,” Malkin says, and his voice has a scratch running through it, “that perhaps we will not see her again.”
“It is right, Malkin, to let her go.”
“Do we still have some time with her, oh Moon?”
“You know the answer to that in your heart.”
And Malkin listens to his heart, and he knows it is time to let his daughter go.
Nearby, in Mattresses, his wife makes a small sound of sorrow in her sleep just as a small black kitten, with a full moon on her forehead, opens sharp green eyes, and stretches out a white paw.
Then she stretches out another white paw.
Mimosa looks at her two white socks and she feels the strongest sensation. It has been growing and growing in her, like an ache or a mild pain, but now it no longer hurts. Now it just feels complete, and right, and completely right.
So the kitten goes to touch her nose against that of her mother Roux, and her brother Crispin, and her best friend Calica, who she has already taken the time to say goodbye to – Calica is soft inside and out, and Mimosa knows that if she had not warned her she was leaving it would have hurt her too badly.
Then Mimosa leaps away from Mattresses. She has one more person to say goodbye to, and she can feel him near.
Under the crisp, cold moonlight, she sees her father walking towards her.
She stands still.
“I know,” her father says, taking his last few paw steps towards her, and pressing her cold nose with his. “I know.”
“It’s so strong, pappy.”
The scratch in Malkin’s voice is worse than ever. “The moon will guide you,” he says, “Look to the moon.”
“You have been to see her, pappy.”
Mimosa looks up at the velvet sky. “Yes,” says she, “I have always felt connected to the Moon, and the feeling has been growing stronger and stronger. Wherever I am, I will look at her, and think of you. The world may be a big place, I believe it is, but the night sky is not so vast. I can always see the moon, unless she is new and then I still feel her in me, in my blood and my sinews, and in my socks and right behind where she placed the circle on my forehead. I feel her strongly, as if I have the whole of her in my mind.”
“So you will never be too proud to ask for her help. Sometimes you can be…” but the scratch has become too loud, and has cut Malkin’s words in two.
Mimosa looks up at the sky, and pretends she has not heard the break in her father’s words. “I will never be too proud to ask for help,” she says.
“Will you come home one day?” Again he stops speaking, and looks at the full moon reflected in his daughter’s eyes, so like his own. “For your mother?”
“If I can, pappy, I will.”
They bump noses one final time, then Mimosa turns from the Recycling Centre that she was born in, and heads towards Exit/Entrance. She leaps on to the barrier that separates her home from the rest of the world, looks one last time at the silhouette of her father, then Mimosa Moonlight stretches out a white-socked paw, and takes the first paw step of her journey.
The night is very black, and Mimosa wears it just beautifully. She is made for darkness, cut from it, and lit by the stars. Her heart is sad to say goodbye to her home, but her head feels bright and full of light, because her paws are springing, and her thoughts say Explore!
“Made for the night,” she says to comfort herself as she runs, “cut from the darkness. The shadows are my friends, for I have my own light, on me and in me.”
The roundabout is waiting for her, asking circular questions.
There are not so many cars, and Mimosa is not afraid of traffic or loud noises, born as she was in her Recycling Centre home, but the circle confuses her, and she feels her sixth sense spin round and round in circles. Every time it starts to break away in one particular direction, the circle starts spinning again, and it is so hard to read. She sits still and focuses all her senses, but particularly her sixth. Then she knows which direction to head in because the perfect feeling of being herself hums inside her more strongly.
“So this is exploring,” she says as she runs, nose to the wind and the new smells it carries, “It is like the feeling of nose bumps, and reading, and my mother’s eyes when she looks at me closely, and how I feel when my father Malkin talks to all the cats at home.” Then she is reflective, just for a moment. “It is also like the fights with my brother, Crispin. Oh how he loves to cause a fight, and win it.” But then Mimosa feels the whisker-tickle of sorrow, so she steels herself, and, for a while, casts away experience and her thoughts of home. “The Recycling Centre will always be my home,” she says, “and it will always be there. But I have something to do before I can return. And I must follow its pull.”