I haven’t written much lately. But I did write this. It’s for you. For free. And it won’t cost much of your time.
Christie stepped aside as a few more laughing workers bounced down the steps into the freedom of a Friday night. She looked at her phone and checked the time. Quarter past. It wasn’t like Darren to be late. Maybe she should call him.
She’d found his number and was about to press ‘call’ when he appeared, glowering. “Sorry,” he said, clattering down the steps. “Hanson went on and on and on.”
Christie knew what that was like. The boss in full spate was hard to shut up.
Darren grasped Christie’s arm. “Let’s go. I don’t want to be late for this party. There might be a job opportunity in it for me.”
Christie fell into step beside him, hurrying along the footpath. Stopped by the traffic lights Darren dithered, bouncing on his heels as the cars went by, throwing up a fine spray from the wet road.
A tiny wail caught Christie’s attention. “That sounded like a kitten.” She gazed around. Nothing but wet pavement. But there it was again, somewhere low down. Staring around she spotted a storm water drain, still gurgling with the last of the shower’s runoff. Crouched down she peered between the bars of the grid and made out a bundle in the corner, the light reflecting from huge eyes. “We’ve got to get it out.”
“What are you talking about?” Darren grated. “We have to go.”
“It’s a kitten. It’s trapped. It’ll drown.”
He rolled his eyes. “It’s just a bloody cat. Thousands of the things are put down every day.”
Christie stared up at his scowling face. He wasn’t quite so cute and handsome from this angle. Heartless bastard. “Go. I might see you later.”
“Sure.” He stormed off across the road. Ignoring the fading thud of boots, Christie pulled at the bars.
Christie peered up at the man standing beside her. Pete, the senior software engineer where she worked, a nice enough guy, but quiet, a bit stand-offish. His hair flopped into his face as usual. Just as well he wore glasses. “There’s a kitten trapped down here.” As she spoke the tiny creature meowed again.
Frowning, Pete pushed his hair aside and crouched beside her, inspecting the grille. “If I can get my fingers under here…” He reached between the bars and heaved. Once. Twice. With a squelch the grid lifted and slid aside. Together they peered down into the darkness, while the kitten yowled again, its voice barely audible above the drip of water and the sound of passing cars. The pit was deep, Christie judged deeper than she was tall.
Pete stood. “I’ll go. You’ll get dirty.”
Before Pete could climb into the pit Christie grabbed his leg. “I’ll go. I’m lighter than you. I won’t be able to pull you up.”
He chewed his lip for a moment, then nodded. “Get yourself over. I’ll lower you down.”
Holding her wrists he lowered her until her feet sank into ooze that made her flesh crawl. The kitten crouched in the corner, all wet fur and huge, frightened eyes. Her heart melting, Christie picked up the tiny body, cradling it in both hands. Poor little thing, wet and trembling. She wondered how long it had been there.
“Hand it up here, Christie.” Pete’s face was a dark oval, silhouetted against the evening sky.
She placed the kitten into his waiting hands.
“Poor little puss,” he murmured as he put the little creature in his jacket pocket. That done, he reached down for her hands and dragged her, muddy and bedraggled, out of the drain. “Okay?” he asked as he steadied her with a hand on her hip.
She nodded. “Kitten?”
Pete lifted the kitten out of his pocket, stroking its head with one finger. She could hear the purr from here. The look on the man’s face hit Christie right in the heart.
“I think you’re one life down, little fella, one very lucky little cat.” The grin on his face morphed into something else she couldn’t quite pick. “Do you mind if I keep him?” he asked. “I mean, if you want him…”
Grinning, she blinked away the incipient tears. “No. I’d like to, but I can’t.” She’d been afraid he was going to suggest the council pound.
Pete looked her up and down, making her aware of her damp, filthy clothes. “Um… I can give you a lift home. If you don’t mind stopping at the supermarket so I can pick up some kitty litter and food?”
Pete had lovely blue eyes behind his glasses. Wiping her nose with her grubby hand, she said, “We’d better stop at the pizza joint, too. Looks like I won’t be going out to dinner, after all.”
“I’m a good cook. If pasta and a salad would suit?”
“I’d like that. Then I can help you clean up Lucky.”
He had a lovely smile. “Lucky it is.”