Beep! Beep-beep! Beeeeeep!
I roll over and slam my hand into my alarm clock. Time for yet another boring day of high school.
After rubbing the sleep out of my bleary eyes for a good thirty seconds, I peel myself out of bed. The sheets stick to me. It might be early September, but it’s still hot.
I hurry through my morning routine—or as much as I can without getting sweaty after my shower. I pressed the snooze button one too many times. Or maybe it was three too many times.
Back in my room, I stand in front of my mirror. I straighten my ponytail. I zip up my dress-code-approved khakis. I button my shirt. I double check that I didn’t skip any buttons and that my shirt is right side out today. I don’t need another disaster like yesterday.
Today’ll be different.
In the mirror, a furry gray lump flashes.
I sigh, then turn around and pet that furry gray lump. It’s a stuffed animal, a cat, and it laughs at me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a cat. But no, my dad’s allergic, so I can never get one.
One Christmas morning eight years ago, I thought that my wishes had come true. As usual for Christmas day, I woke up at five in the morning and ran downstairs, eager to check out my presents.
A furry gray lump of a cat lay beneath my full stocking.
My heart thundered in my chest. Joy sparked over me. My fingertips tingled with it.
My parents had done it. They’d gotten me a cat for Christmas!
I sprinted toward my new best friend.
It didn’t move.
A stride away from it, my smile dissolved into a frown. My stomach sank. Disappointment smothered that joy.
It was a stuffed cat, a joke of a cat. My parents didn’t mean it that way, but still it hurt.
I named my new stuffed animal Moonlight, placed it in my room, and moved on.
Now, it sits there, reminding me of what I can never have.
It’s just for now. In two short years, I’ll go to college and my life—and my decisions—will be my own.
I can’t wait.
“Hurry up, Betsy. You’re going to miss the bus if you’re not careful,” my mom yells up the stairs.
I clamber down them and grab my stuffed backpack from the bench. I hug my mom goodbye.
I grit my teeth. It’s just my imagination, brought on by seeing Moonlight earlier.
My brows furrow. My mom freezes beside me.
An echo of that eight-year-old joy tingles in my fingertips.
“Did you hear—”
My mom nods.
Together, we open the front door.
A tiger-striped kitten with the most beautiful amber eyes looks up at us. Meow?
I scoop her up.
And purrs and purrs and purrs. She butts her head against my shoulder. She claims me.
My lips stretch into a grin. I can’t help it. I love her already.
But will I get to keep her?
My heart in my throat, I turn around to face my mom.
She shakes her head.
My mom presses her lips into a thin line.
Then she herds me and my beautiful new kitten to the basement door. “Put her down there for now. You’ve got to get to school, and I’ve got to get to work. We’ll talk about it later. I’ll get her water and some food so you don’t miss the bus.”
I beam at my mom and my new kitten, hugged close to my chest. “Thank you, Mom! Thank you so much!” I bury my face in my kitten’s fur and inhale her scent. “I love you, Lady Amber. I’ll see you in just a few hours, okay? Don’t disappear while I’m gone.”
The school day inches by, the longest day ever. The whole time, I worry that I dreamt the entire thing, that my cat will be gone by the time I get home.
After the longest bus ride ever, I run to my house. My backpack filled with books, notebooks, and binders crashes into my back over and over, but I don’t care about the bruise. I have to see Lady Amber.
At my front door, it takes me about forty-seven hours to get my key out of my backpack and even longer to fit it into the lock with a trembling hand.
Clll-ick. The lock unlatches and I shove the door open. I run to the basement door.
My heart blasting its way through my rib cage, I open that door.
Lady Amber purrs. She rubs against my legs. She was waiting for me.
I scoop her up and cradle her in my arms. Her amber eyes search my face, like she’s memorizing everything that I am.
She purrs even louder.
We’re a match made in heaven.
Unfortunately, Lady Amber and I didn't get our happy ending. A few days later, our neighbors stopped my mom and me during my paper route and asked us if we had seen their missing kitten.
I wanted to lie so badly, but my mom wouldn't let me. And so, Lady Amber (or whatever they called her) returned to our neighbors. Over the years, we occasionally saw her stalking around the streets, but I never got close enough to pet her again.
It's not all tears though! A few months after this, one of my friends offered me a kitten that had been born in her barn.
And both my parents said yes! Apparently, Lady Amber showed my dad that he could live with a cat and his allergies.
I had that cat, named Nosey, for her entire life. 😊 See pics from when she was a kitten and a young adult above, including pics of teen-me.
Even though I write YA romantic urban fantasy, I often pull inspiration from my real life.
And I promise you, I do not hunt vampires in my spare time. 😂
Sometimes, I like to experiment with this technique more directly, and I write a 100%-true story from my life (or at least mostly true, sometimes I take small liberties + my memory might not be 100% correct).
Then I turn around and add magic and fantasy to that story (or "magic-ify" it as I like to say).
And I magic-ified this story! Read the magical version with a talking cat (of course) here.