Author: Chris Cook
"Miss Kitty Fantastico Banzai!!!"
Tara opened an eye and looked across the front garden from where she was lying, stretched out on one of the large, flat stones placed artistically among the flowerbeds.
"Are you okay Miss Kitty?" she meowed.
"Fell inna water," Miss Kitty's kittenish voice emerged bashfully from the stand of bushes between Tara's position and the little pond in the corner of the garden. Miss Kitty herself emerged a moment later, soaking wet and embarrassed, and trudged over the path leaving little wet feline footprints on the paving stones.
"Play in the sun for a while," Tara said, closing her open eye again, "you'll dry off... and try not to keep diving into the pond."
"'Kay," Miss Kitty said brightly, perking up and darting into the flowerbeds in the sunny half of the garden, out of the house's shade. Tara opened both eyes and gazed casually at the dense foliage when she heard a rustling, scrabbling sound, and noticed one of the bushes shuddering. Miss Kitty's ears appeared briefly through the leaves at the top, then vanished, replaced by her tail, which was straight up, poised for action.
"Miss Kitty Fantastico Banzai!!!" The tail vanished, and a second later there was a leafy thud from within the greenery.
"'m okay," Miss Kitty said in her most dignified voice.
"Did you jump into the fern again?" Tara asked idly.
"...yes," Miss Kitty replied cautiously.
"You're incorrigible," Tara said, shaking her head with an amused grin.
"'m in-corra-jabble," Miss Kitty murmured to herself with some satisfaction. A moment later the top of one of the other bushes started to sway as she climbed it.
One day, several weeks after Miss Kitty Fantastico joined the household, Tara's usual morning nap in the front garden was interrupted as her feline senses alerted her to stealthy motion nearby. Joyce and Giles were at work, Buffy and Dawn at school - not that a clumsy human could sneak properly anyway - which left only...
She opened her eyes a fraction, so that she would still seem asleep, but could just see through the slit between her eyelids. A shape was slowly moving beneath a pile of garden cuttings, left over from the weekend. As Tara watched, the shape cautiously burrowed its way towards her, keeping itself unobtrusively beneath the cover of the leaves at all times.
"I can see you Miss Kitty," Tara said, chuckling to herself. She sat up and tilted her head to one side, aiming her ears directly at the moving pile of leaves, just to make a point.
A leaf lifted out of the pile, balanced atop Miss Kitty's head. She gave Tara a beaming smile.
"What are you up to now sweetie?"
"Sneakin'," Miss Kitty proudly replied. "Gonna explore." Tara nodded - Miss Kitty's journeys of discovery tended to extend little further than the boundaries of the house and its garden. Seeing as the kitten's imagination seemed to be limitless, this was quite sufficient to keep her occupied for hours on end.
"Don't explore anywhere dangerous," Tara said idly as she lay back down.
"'Kay," Miss Kitty said promptly, ducking back beneath her leaf pile.
It was not long afterwards that Tara's ears perked up to the sound of a small van pulling up outside. She recognised the aggressive purr of the motor and dismissed it - it came and went every morning her people went to work, and when they got home the truck had left bits of paper in the mailbox for them to read.
"Tara," a faint voice drifted to her on the breeze, "what's this?"
Tara sat up and craned her neck to peer over the garden wall. There was the van, just as she remembered it, bright red with a white stripe. The person who belonged to it, in his usual blue coat, was just returning to it from his visit to the mailbox. Tara had used to sit up and watch the procedure every morning, when she was new to the house and learning its ways, but eventually she had gotten used to it, and the mailbox person never seemed to pay any attention to her anyway.
What was different this time was Miss Kitty, in the back of the van, peering out from among the sacks of paper, looking more than a little nervous.
"Miss Kitty!" Tara called. "Come down from there!"
"Tara?" Miss Kitty meowed. "'m afraid..."
"Jump down!" Tara meowed at the top of her voice, but even as she saw Miss Kitty's ears fix on her, and the kitten tense to move, the mailbox person swung the van's door shut, never even noticing the inadvertently stowaway kitten.
"Tara!" Miss Kitty's voice came through the door in the wake of its resounding clang. "Tara?"
"Hang on Miss Kitty!" Tara called to her, jumping the wall and landing easily on the pavement beyond.
"Tara, help!" Miss Kitty's voice was almost drowned out as the van's motor purred louder, and it jerked away from the kerb and began to pick up speed. Tara didn't hesitate, but ran along the pavement after it.
"I'm coming Miss Kitty!" she meowed. But it was no use - the van sped up faster and faster, and there was nothing Tara could do to keep it from outpacing her. She flattened her ears back against her head and ran after it, keeping going even after it had disappeared from sight.
"I'll save you Miss Kitty," she promised, sprinting along the unfamiliar pavement as the territory she knew was left far behind, "somehow..."