“Look! There’s another one. Beat you good, brudder!”
“Aach…what’s the score now?”
The two young cats lay on their backs in the meadow, watching the night sky for shooting stars. It was a particularly good night for them – clear and nearly cloudless, the merest hint of a breeze rustling the leaves in the tall elm under which they lay. They had been playing this game since the moon came up, revelling in the mild night air, the fragrance wafting off the grass and, above all, each other’s company.
Jaguar had been stalking shadows through the undergrowth that morning when he had suddenly stopped still and sniffed the air. There was a change in it somehow. Not a scent as such, but a change in the texture and the feel of the air in his nostrils. He rolled his tongue and opened his mouth a little, employing his unique olfactory senses to try to analyse the sensations hitting his nose. He still could not identify it, but he was seized by a compulsion to follow it to its source.
He set off, alone, not really knowing where he was heading, but following the scent which he knew was calling him and him alone. He pushed out of the undergrowth and found himself following the path that lead – well, it only had one destination. It was a shock, but he knew…
He immediately became aware of the skittering of small, beclawed paws behind him and, turning round, he found he was being followed by a group of kittens and young cats, all of them keeping a respectful distance, until his sudden stop caused a major pile-up as the leading kitten applied her brakes a little too sharply.
“Where are you going?” she asked him
“You know where. This path only leads to one place”
“Can we come too? We’ll be everso quiet”
Jaguar doubted that, but he found it hard to deny the precocious, woolly kitten, who had been among the group who had met him on the night of his arrival. He would always be grateful for her laughing, eager face and her tinkling laugh which had so eased the shock and fear of his sudden and unexpected arrival but, tonight – well, it wasn’t her night. It was his…theirs.
“I need to do this on my own, Honey”, he said as gently as he could, so as not to hurt her feelings.
“He is coming….”
The kitten smiled and signalled her pack to turn around, and they were gone. Jaguar resumed his walk, following the path as it crossed the small silver stream, where he drank, and past the bed of butterfly bushes where the earth was nice and soft and ideal for digging small but necessary holes, and into the stand of silver birch trees where the afternoon sun danced like flames across the velvet grass. Then, he was on the springy turf at the end of the bridge.
He was not alone. Many cats were waiting and, to his surprise, among them he saw the two old female cats with whom he had shared his home for a short while. He had once found them formidable and intimidating, but now they smiled in greeting and booped his nose and he was glad they were there.
Then, the murmur and rustle of sudden activity, followed by quiet…the air electric with suppressed excitement and, suddenly….he was there. Handsome and sleek, his head held high, scanning the crowd for a face he knew he would find…
There are no words adequate to describe the joy of their reunion. They dashed to each other, wrestling, washing, chewing ears and paws and purring like a thunderstorm, until they were finally able to gather themselves enough to say “hello”. As they walked side by side back through the birch copse and watched silver moonlight playing where the sun had once danced, they talked.
“I’m worried about him. He’s on his own now”
Jaguar understood. He himself had worried about his brother, left alone with nobody to play with or snuggle with. His fears had proved to be unfounded, though. “Remember when we were altogether in that white room, with all our brothers and sisters?”
“Oh yes, how can I forget? I used to see stripes even when I closed my eyes”
Jaguar smiled at the memory. “Were you ever afraid, or hungry, or sad?”
“No, never, although I was a bit dubious about being dipped in that bucket”
“Hmmm…yes, that was an odd one. I’ve asked around here, and nobody else can recall ever being dipped in a bucket, so I guess that was something that the she-hoomin liked to do. We went along with it to please her, but she fed us and cuddled us and kept us safe and warm in return. And what did you think about our special hoomins?”
“They were wonderful. I couldn’t have loved them more”
“Did they ever let you down?”
“Then be sure that they won’t let him down. They will do what they have always done and will do right by Sam. Whatever path they choose, he will be loved and cared for. You will be able to watch over him – your star will be right next to mine and the Circle will name it tonight so he can always find it. He’s going to be OK”
They walked on in silence, while Jaguar smiled at the rustles and squeaks made by the kitten pack as they frantically dived out of the way under bushes and behind tussocks, while still trying to sneak a glimpse of their exciting new friend. Tomorrow, they would meet him and he would be mesmerised and charmed by their fun and joy and their simple, uncomplicated little hearts, just as Jaguar had been.
But, tonight belonged to the brothers.
And so now, they lay on their backs together in the meadow and they breathed in the warm night air and savoured the tang of fresh grass and distant oceans and Jaguar shared his knowledge of the moon and the night sky and they raced each other to spot shooting stars…
Two Jungle Kittens, together again on their next big adventure.