Amber was only eight but she knew terrified screaming when she heard it. Living on a farm, the screams of animals weren't new to her but this was different. Amber put her dolly down and stood up from where she was playing in front of the house, she looked around and frowned. The sound was coming from the barn behind the house. Amber turned to Dolly and pointed a finger at her.
"Stay here. It might be somethin' bad" she whispered. Amber walked around the house and towards the barn, she knew Mummy would be mad if she was caught but Amber wanted to see what was making that awful noise. She crept past the opening and around the corner to where some old crates were piled against the wall; Amber struggled up to the top and peered through the dust streaked window.
The kittens were only a few hours old when Harper took them from their mother. They just couldn't afford anymore mouths to feed and this was easier than waiting for people to buy them. Harper filled a bucket with water and carried it and the kittens into the barn. With a deep breath, Harper lifted kitten after kitten and held them under the water under they stopped moving. When the last kitten was lifted from the bucket and placed back in the basket, Harper emptied the bucket and carried the tiny bodies out of the barn.
"Mummy?" Harper turned and smiled, Amber was standing behind her.
"Hello sweetheart. You know you're not supposed to go in the barn."
"I wasn't in the barn, mummy. What's in the basket?" Harper's smile faltered, she glanced down at the tiny soaked bodies and then back at her daughter.
"Oh, nothing honey. Why don't we go and see if your brother's awake." Harper held out her hand but Amber walked right past her and picked up her dolly from the dirt packed ground. Harper sighed and followed her into the house, dropping the kittens into the large rubbish bin on her way past. Amber was sitting on the kitchen floor near the stove; she was stroking the cat and seemed deep in thought. Harper's youngest child, two year old Leroy, was gurgling away in his high chair.
"Where are the kittens?" asked Amber. Harper lifted Leroy from his chair and tucked him into place on her hip.
"I'm sorry honey. God took them." Amber stroked the cat a few more times, nodded once and left the kitchen. Harper watched her go and felt bad for the child; maybe it was time to have the chat with her.
A few weeks later, Harper came downstairs to the kitchen and groaned when she heard the familiar crying of kittens. It was definitely time to get rid of the cat. She glanced behind her but, as far as she could tell, Amber was still sleeping in her room. Harper lifted the kittens into her arms and once again took them to the barn along with a bucket of water. She was so absorbed in what she was doing that she didn't notice the eyes watching her from the barn window.
Twenty minutes and it was all over. Harper folded the bodies in her house coat and left the barn, she deposited the bodies in the same bin before going back into the kitchen. She picked up the phone and was about to call her mother to come and get the cat when she spotted Amber standing in the doorway.
"What happened to the kittens?" she asked. Harper placed the phone back in the cradle and turned to face her daughter.
"Did you see them?"
"I heard them crying. Where are they?"
"God took them, honey" explained Harper. Amber stared at her for a moment before nodding once and going back upstairs. Harper breathed a sigh of relief and picked up the phone, she dialled her mother's number as she headed up the stairs to give Leroy his bath.
Harper was just about to lift the gurgling and laughing Leroy from the bath when Amber came into the bathroom and held out the phone to her.
"It's grandma, she wants to talk to you." Harper took the phone with one hand and waited while Amber adjusted herself so she could hold Leroy upright in the shallow water.
"I won't be a minute baby" said Harper. She stepped around the door and pulled it almost shut. As she talked to her mother she darted looks into the bathroom but Amber was happily splashing in the water with Leroy. Harper's mother agreed to take the cat and said she would be there in thirty minutes. Harper smiled and disconnected the line; she placed the phone on the side table and stepped back into the bathroom. She screamed.
Amber was still crouching next to the bath but instead of holding Leroy upright, she had one hand on his back and was holding him down in the water. Leroy wasn't moving; his arms and legs floated in the shallow water.
"Amber, what have you done?" screamed Harper. She scooped the tiny, limp body into her arms and dashed downstairs to her car.
Amber watched her Mummy run from the room, a few minutes later she heard the car start. Amber emptied the bath and went to her room; the cat was sitting on her bed. She perched on the edge and stroked the cat's head.
"Don't worry about Leroy. He's in a better place. God took him" said Amber.
The cat purred.