- Vol. 07
- Chapter 08
The bell above the doorway jangles. Bingo barely lifts his head from the floor. Mackerel, Smokey and Leo all turn to look.
It’s that woman again. She drifts into the shop, trailing the smell of freshly cut grass. A waft of cinnamon and citrus. A shawl the colour of toffee lazily draped over her shoulders.
Sunshine and Charlie ruffle their feathers. From his cage behind the counter, Baby lets out an alarmed squawk.
Her hair falls in long dark tendrils over her shoulders. She rests a palm on the top of my head. I stay very still. Her hand is soft, but her eyes are hard.
I trot over to Mr. Spenlow, who is bristling a little. He smiles.
The woman turns her head dolefully towards the cages. “I’ve come to collect Mr. Atkinson’s order. I came to speak to you about them last week?” Something in her syrupy voice tells me she knows Mr. Spenlow remembers her.
“Of course. He arranged payment yesterday.” Mr. Spenlow gestures towards the cages, stacked like tiers on a cake. His eyes take on a sheen of sadness. Baby and Shere Khan are both suddenly very still behind the bars.
“Wonderful.” The woman takes one cage in each hand, and we begin our chorus of crying.
She moves quickly towards the door, her eyes flicking between our sad faces. A current of frustration shudders through her arms.
Shere Khan’s paws press against the base of his cage. His eyes are like gemstones. Baby lets out a mournful chirrup.
Mr. Spenlow smiles gently. “I hope they will be happy. Please don’t hesitate to call if you need anything at all.”
I stand beside him as she closes the door. He strokes my ears.
He usually says he hopes they will be happy in their “forever home.”
I wonder why he didn’t say it this time.