Sue loved her garden. She loved the muted purple and green of the lavender, and the sweet buzzing of the bees mingling with the chuckle of water falling gently into the small fishpond. She loved its air of peace and serenity, even here in the middle of the city. True, it was neither as neat nor as well-stocked as she would have liked, but she had done what she could in the time left after work and looking after two teenagers.
She sat near the pond, a tumbler of gin and tonic on the table beside her, her eyes closed to intensify the feeling of the sun on her face; it was warm for a September evening. Some time she would have to finish her presentation for tomorrow, but not yet. And she’d better make sure that Guy had finished his homework. Oh, and bother, Damien had football at school tomorrow and his kit was dirty; he’d left it at school, in the kitbag, in his locker all week, only bringing it home this afternoon. Her eyes opened, the sense of peace dispelled.
Thea, the tabby cat, sat on the edge of the pond gazing into the water at the koi. She looked up and blinked at Sue, uncurled herself in a leisurely fashion, and strolled over. She stopped just beyond Sue’s reach and looked up expectantly. Sue patted her lap, and made encouraging noises.
“Come on then, Thea! Up you come!”
Thea stayed put, and raised a paw in the gesture that meant “Please stroke me.” Sue took a swallow of gin and tonic, and smiled. The ice-cubes tinkled in the tumbler, the lemon rubbed against her nose as she drank, and her hand was wet with the condensation on the glass.
Thea closed her eyes twice, slowly, and walked away. She pushed past the lavender, pausing to pat at a furry, tan bumblebee, and then leapt up the brick wall to perch on the top.
“Not bad for an oldie,” commented Sue.
Thea ignored her, sniffing carefully at her perch. Sue wondered whether a stranger cat had been into their garden. Thea waggled her haunches and sprang into the adjacent garden. Sue closed her eyes again. There’d been caterwauling last night, and Thea had raced out through the cat-flap. She’d been dishevelled when she came back in at about 11 o’clock; she’d seemed smug. You couldn’t help wondering what she’d been doing.
Sue drank the last mouthful of gin and tonic without opening her eyes, and imagined herself a cat. She crept through the bushes, staying out of the moonlight. The feeling of the shrubs against her fur helped her to know where she was. She could smell the warmth of a small mammal, and held herself completely motionless while she listened for the rustling that would tell her where it was. She was hungry, she wanted to tear through thick skin into the tender meat below, to feel the juices run down her chin.
And then she was distracted by a still more enticing scent, the musk of a tomcat. Her tail became erect with anticipation, with pride…
“Darling? Dinner’s ready. Are you cold? Would you like a cardigan?”
Sue opened her eyes. There was Clive, looking unnecessarily concerned. She smiled at him, took his hand and pulled him towards her, kissed him hard on the lips.
“I’m fine, just fine. Let’s go eat!”


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