Sitting on the bench with her back to the picnic table in Peter’s backyard, Denise could feel the warmth of the sun, but there was still enough chill that she was glad to be wearing her favorite pink sweater. She waited patiently for Peter to return with the surprise he wanted to share with her. When he left it sounded like he ran into the neighbor’s yard, so he was going all-out to keep it secret.
Or maybe that’s just where he was storing it, because she could hear his steps approaching from that direction now. He loped up and she tilted her head to smile at him. “So what is it?”
“Hold out your hands,” he said.
She put down her cane and turned her hands up.
“Make a cup.”
She brought her hands together to make a cup.
“Don’t drop it.”
“Peter, what...Oh!” she exclaimed, because suddenly her hands were full of a warm, fluffy animal shape. She didn’t even need the tiny “Mew!” to identify it when she could feel its long whipping tail and tiny needle claws.
Peter had put his hands over hers to help support, but let her pull away as she brought the kitten up to her face to nuzzle. The downy fur tickled her nose, and she could feel its delicate ears and the soft prickle of whiskers.
“The neighbor’s cat had kittens, and I know you can’t keep one, but I thought you might like to pet one for a while…” He sounded endearingly embarrassed. He was probably pulling at the neck of his hoodie.
She hastened to reassure him. “What a wonderful surprise!”
She took a break from rubbing her face on the kitten to give him a smile. “Here. Sit down next to me and it will have more lap to explore.” She placed the kitten in her lap, restraining it with one hand so she could pat the empty space beside her with the other.
Peter sat down, pressing their legs together to provide double the lap space for the kitten. She could smell the fabric softener on his clothes, most likely chosen by Paige given the tropical scent.
The kitten took a few steps then flopped down in the crease where their legs met. Denise wiggled her fingers above it and felt its paws batting at her in response. The awkward way their arms jostled together when she did this motivated Peter to move his back to the tabletop and she happily leaned into his side.
“You know how Quincey hates cats? So of course Paige is trying to convince mom we should take one.”
She laughed. “Of course.”
They played with the kitten a while longer, snuggled together on the bench, but finally Denise said, “We should probably get this little guy back to his mom.”
“Yeah.” Peter gathered up the kitten, but before he could stand up she put a restraining hand on his shoulder and leaned in to peck him on the cheek.
“Thank you. It was the best surprise.”