Stupid car. Stupid tree. Stupid storm. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Mary Ann trudged through the damp forest, making her way to her in-laws cabin. Well, her future in-laws cabin that is. Once she saw the road was blocked she had decided to abandon the car and cut through the forest. Rather than take the long winding detour the road had to travel. Glancing at her GPS to make sure she was still headed in the right direction, she picked up her pace.
She was already coming late to the reunion and now this. Not that it could have been helped. She was low-man on the totem pole and no one would swap her shifts. Although, in all honesty, she hadn’t tried that hard. Umberto’s family was… difficult. They all spoke English, she new that, but most followed his mother’s lead and refused to talk in anything but Italian around her. Not the most welcoming of situations. Francesca didn’t think she was good enough for her son.
Did she ever stop to think that Mary Ann’s dad thought the exact same thing about Umberto? No. Did that stop her father from welcoming Umberto into the family? Definitely not. But she loved him, warts and all, and boy was his family a wart. This weekend would be terrible. Three and a half days of sitting in silence while Francesca critiqued her. Mary Ann had picked up enough of the language to know that much.
The lights of the cabin started to peek through the trees. Again, quickening her pace, she shoved her phone in her pocket and stumbled the last few yards. She had almost made the clearing when her boot was caught by a root. She tumbled to the ground, landing hard on her elbows. Pain jolted up her arm and she rolled onto her back to breath through it. While lying there, a low mewling crept through the forest.
Taken aback Mary Ann bolted up. Back on her feet she paused, listening for the sound. Picking her way carefully, she tracked the source of the sound. It lead away from the lights but finally, at the mouth of the drive way, she finally saw it. On the far side of the road, barley visible even now, was a cardboard box. Throwing caution to the wind, she ripped the soggy box open. Inside were a litter of kittens. Her heart dropped as she realized some of them were dead. The two still living prodded their heads against the others’ bodies. No reaction came from them. Her heart broke and instantly the two cats wormed their way into it.
Hating to leave them for even a moment she tore her way back up the drive way. Spotting Umberto’s car near the back of the long line of cars she made her way to the driver’s side door. She was about to wrench it open so she could trigger the trunk when the cabin finally caught her eye. She and Umberto would be having a discussion on the difference between cabins and mansions in the woods. What stood before her, sleek wood work and massive glass walls, was not the dainty little cabin he had made her believe it was. Sure, it was picturesque, just like he said, but it was not what she had pictured. Shaking her head, she returned to her task at hand.
From the trunk she grabbed the beach towels Umberto always had. She had thought it odd to keep such a thing in the trunk, now she was thankful. She jogged back to the kittens and wrapped each up in their own blanket. Taking a little time to snuggle and dry off each cat individually. Loading up her arms she walked up the drive, more nervous than ever. She was about to arrive late, dirty and carrying half-drowned abandoned strays. Yes, that would make the perfect impression.
Arriving at the front of the house, she was frozen. Did she knock? Ring the doorbell? Waltz in like she owned the place? She was saved any decision making when Adriana happened to pass by. She caught sight of Mary Ann struggling with her parcels and opened the door for her.
“Ciao Mary Ann,” she gushed warmly. Thank goodness she was here. Adriana was the only one that broke her mother’s apparent “no English around Mary Ann” rule. Adriana was the youngest, a free spirit, and loved nothing more than urking her mother.
“You’re looking a bit rough this evening.”
“There was a tree down in the road. I went for a bit of a hike.”
“And found some friends?”
“You could say that, see for yourself.”
Adriana crossed to her, giving her a kiss on each cheek in greeting before taking one of the bundles.
“Cats!” she yelled before an evil grin spread on her face. Well that was ominous. “Come, they look starved. There is some broth simmering, we’ll give them some of that.”
Glancing around for any other family members, she saw that the house was eerily empty. At least on this level. For how many cars there were the place should be crawling with people. Then she remembered how enormous the house appeared on the outside, it still wasn’t the little cabin she had pictured. Mary Ann cleaned off her shoes the best she could then hurried down the hall to catch up.
Adriana already had a bowl of soup and two baby medicine syringes out and ready. She must be excited because she was moving fast. She gestured to the stool next to hers and Mary Ann took a seat. Placing the bowl between them Adriana picked up a syringe and filled it with the liquid. Then, she carefully picked up the kitten, still snug in the towel, and cradled it like a baby. Once the kitten was again calm she started, slowly, feeding the it. Gently pushing down the plunger, giving the kitten plenty of time to drink at its own pace.
“Well, the weather might not be good, but something good came of it, huh?”
Smiling, I repeated her actions and agreed, “We’ll probably want to deal with the rest of the kittens. Otherwise some wild animals will get hold of the bodies.”
“I’ll make a call, there are people who deal with road kill around here. Even if this isn’t their standard fare, it isn’t unheard of either. So, tell me about your-”
She was cut off by a shriek. Jarred from her seat, Mary Ann stood and turned to see Francesca in the doorway of the kitchen. Her face had paled and she was staring at Adriana in horror.
Only then did Mary Ann remember Umberto mentioning his mother had a ‘little thing’ about cats. He had glossed over it so much she had completely forgotten. Apparently it was much, much more than a ‘little thing’.