Magic Kitten: A Christmas Surprise, page 1
Sue Bentley’s books for children often include animals or fairies. She lives in Northampton and enjoys reading, going to the cinema, and sitting watching the frogs and newts in her garden pond. If she hadn’t been a writer she would probably have been a skydiver or brain surgeon. The main reason she writes is that she can drink pots and pots of tea while she’s typing. She has met and owned many cats and each one has brought a special sort of magic to her life.
A Christmas Surprise
Illustrated by Angela Swan
To Tibby, my fondly remembered marmalade sweetie
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi – 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,
Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published 2007
Text copyright © Susan Bentley, 2007
Illustrations copyright © Angela Swan, 2007
All rights reserved
The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted
Dust swirled round the young white lion’s paws as he bounded through the dry valley. Flame knew he shouldn’t risk being out in the open. But maybe this time it would be safe.
Suddenly, a terrifying roar rang out and an enormous black adult lion burst out from behind some thorn trees and bounded towards him.
Flame leapt into a clump of tall grass. A bright white flash filled the air and where he had once stood, now crouched a tiny, snowy-white kitten with a fluffy tail.
Flame’s heart thudded in his tiny chest as he edged slowly backwards to where the grass grew more thickly. His Uncle Ebony was very close. He hoped this disguise would protect him.
The stems to one side of Flame parted with a rustle and a big dark shape pushed towards him. Flame tensed ready to fight, his emerald eyes sparking with anger and fear.
‘Stay there, Prince Flame. I will protect you,’ growled a deep but gentle voice.
Flame gave a faint mew of relief, as an old grey lion peered down at him. ‘Cirrus. I am glad to see you again. I had hoped that by now, Ebony would be ready to give back the throne he stole from me.’
Cirrus shook his head gravely. ‘That will never happen. Your uncle is determined to rule in your place and sends many spies to search for you and kill you. It is not safe for you to be here. Use this disguise and go back to the other world to hide.’
The tiny kitten bared his sharp teeth as he looked up into Cirrus’s tired old face. ‘I wish I could fight him now!’
Cirrus’s eyes flickered with affection. He reached out a huge paw and gently patted Flame’s tiny fluffy white head. ‘Bravely said, but now is not the time. Return when you are strong and wise.’
Suddenly another mighty roar rang out. The ground shook as huge paws thundered into the tall grass and then came the cracking of crushed stems.
‘You cannot hide from me!’ roared Ebony’s harsh cruel voice.
‘Save yourself, Flame! Go quickly!’ Cirrus urged.
Sparks glowed in the tiny kitten’s silky white fur. Flame mewed softly as he felt the power building inside him. He felt himself falling. Falling…
‘I really hope it’s going to be a white Christmas!’ Molly Paget said, peering hopefully out of the landing window. She sighed as raindrops snaked down the glass and blurred her view of the street outside. ‘Oh, well. There’s still a week to go.’
Molly jumped down the stairs two at a time and went into the kitchen where a delicious spicy smell filled the air. Her mum was just fetching a tray of mince pies out of the oven.
Mrs Paget looked up and smiled. ‘I heard you clumping down the stairs. What’s the hurry?’
Molly grinned. ‘There isn’t one. I’m just feeling in a good mood. Can I have one of those pies?’
Her mum nodded. ‘Course you can. Take one of those on the plate, they’re cooler.’
Molly picked up a mince pie and bit into the sweet crumbly pastry. ‘Mmm, yummy. Tastes Christmassy!’
Her mum smiled. ‘I’m glad it passes the Molly test!’
‘When are Gran and Gramps arriving?’ Molly asked, munching.
Her grandparents lived near the coast. She hadn’t seen them since the summer holidays, but they were going to spend Christmas at Molly’s house. Molly’s eyebrows dipped in a small frown as she remembered how during the last visit to her grandparents’ house, she had had to take her shoes off before going into the sitting room. Everyone always sat at the table to eat and no one was allowed to watch TV in the daytime. Molly hoped Gran would be less strict this Christmas.
‘They’ll be here the day before Christmas Eve,’ her mum said, wiping her hands on her apron. ‘I’ve still got puddings to make, a cake to ice and heaps of presents to buy. And we haven’t even made a start on clearing out the spare bedroom.’ A worried look crossed her face. ‘Your gran’s lovely, but she has very high standards.’
Tell me about it, Molly thought. ‘I’ll help you. I’m brilliant at clearing up and stuff,’ she said brightly.
‘It’s nice of you to offer, but Molly and the word “help” can sometimes spell trouble!’ Mrs Paget said wryly, ruffling her daughter’s blonde hair. ‘I’ll get your dad to give me a hand with the bedroom. It’s his parents who are staying, after all.’
‘Did I hear my name mentioned?’ Mr Paget said, coming into the kitchen. His hair was speckled with dust and there were cobwebs sticking to his blue jumper. He quickly washed his hands before helping himself to a mince pie.
‘Da-ad! You’ve got yucky stuff all over you,’ Molly said, laughing. She reached up to pick off a cobweb.
‘Have I? I didn’t notice,’ Mr Paget said around a mouthful of pie. ‘I’ve just been in the attic. I had to move a mountain of old rubbish to get to the Christmas tree and decorations. Anyway, I found them in the end. They’re in the sitting room.’
‘Brilliant!’ Molly said excitedly, already speeding out of the kitchen. ‘I’m going to put the tree up right now!’
‘Slow down a bit, Molly!’ her mum called after her.
But Molly had already gone. Mr Paget shook his head slowly. ‘Molly’s only got two speeds. Fast and faster!’ he said as he followed his daughter.
By the time her dad came into the sitting room, Molly had her arms full of folded, green spiky branches. ‘There’s an awful lot of tree,’ she said peering into the long box. ‘I don’t remember it being so huge.’
Mr Paget laughed. ‘Well it can’t have grown since last year, can it, you muppet? I’ll fetch the step-ladder.’
Molly looked up at the Christmas tree, which almost touched the sitting-room ceiling. ‘It’s dead impressive. I can’t wait to decorate it!’ She fished about in another cardboard box and produced some tissue-wrapped packages. Unwrapping one of them, she looked closely at the blue glass bauble. ‘Isn’t this lovely? It’s got silver-frosted snowflake patterns all over it,’ she said delightedly. ‘Have we got any more like this?’
Her dad nodded. ‘There are lots of them. I remember them hanging on our Christmas tree when I was little.’
‘Really? They must be ancient then,’ Molly said.
‘Cheeky!’ Mr Paget said, grinning, giving her a playful nudge in the arm. ‘I’d forgotten we had those baubles. Be very careful with them, won’t you?’
‘I will,’ Molly promised, unpacking the precious baubles very gently.
Mr Paget peered into the empty cardboard box. ‘That’s funny. I thought the tinsel and other stuff was in there too. Maybe it’s in the garage. I’ll go and have a look.’
Molly frowned. She knew that her dad couldn’t resist tidying up when he was looking for things. He was bound to be ages. ‘Aw, do you have to do it now, Dad?’
Mr Paget grinned at the look on her face. ‘Impatient to get going, aren’t you? Why don’t you make a start on the bottom branches? But you’d better wait for me to come back before you do the ones higher up.’
‘OK!’ Molly said, already tearing open a packet of little green plastic hooks.
As soon as he’d gone she began hanging baubles on the tree. Soon, the bottom branches were finished. Molly stood back to admire the way the blue, red and gold glass gleamed prettily against the dark green.
Her dad still hadn’t come back. Molly looked longingly up at the higher branches. She shifted her feet impatiently. ‘Come on, Dad, you slowcoach,’ she grumbled. She hesitated for a moment longer and then dragged the step-ladder closer to the tree.
He was bound to be back in a minute. She’d just start doing a few more branches. Climbing halfway up the ladder, she began fixing baubles to the branches that were within easy reach.
This is easy, she thought, I don’t know what Dad was worrying about.
She climbed higher to hang more decorations. At this rate, she’d soon have the whole tree finished. At the top of the ladder, Molly leaned out further to try and reach a branch near the top of the tree that would look perfect with the bauble she was holding.
And then she felt the ladder wobble.
‘Oops!’ Throwing out her arms, Molly tried to grab something to steady herself, but her fingers closed on thin air. She lost her balance and banged against the tree. It shook wildly and decorations began pinging off in all directions.
Molly heard the precious baubles smash into tiny pieces as they hit the carpet. ‘Oh, no!’ she wailed.
She looked down as she swayed sideways and then everything seemed to happen at once. The ladder and tree both tipped sideways and started to fall to the ground.
‘He-elp!’ Molly croaked, tensing her whole body for the painful bruising thud as she hit the carpet.
Suddenly, the room filled with a dazzling white flash and a shower of silver sparks. Molly felt a strange warm tingling sensation down her spine as she fell. The air whistled past her ears. There was a sudden jolt, but no hard landing.
To her complete shock, Molly was hovering in mid-air half a metre above the carpet. Swirling all around her was a snowstorm of brightly sparkling glitter!
She gasped as she felt herself turning and then drifting gently down to the carpet where she landed on her behind with barely a bump. The sparkling glitter fizzled like a firework and then disappeared.
Molly sat up shakily and looked around.
The ladder was upright and the tree was straight and tall once again. The delicate glass baubles were all unbroken and hanging back in place on the branches.
‘But… I heard them smash! I don’t get it…’ Molly said to herself. What had just happened? She felt like pinching herself to see if she was dreaming.
‘I hope you are not hurt?’ mewed a strange little voice.
Molly almost jumped out of her skin. ‘Who said that?’ She twisted round, her eyes searching the room.
Crouching beneath the Christmas tree, Molly saw a tiny fluffy snow-white kitten. Its silky fur seemed to glitter with a thousand tiny, diamond-bright sparkles and it had the biggest emerald eyes she had ever seen.
Molly’s eyes widened. She must be more confused and shaken up by her fall than she’d thought. She’d just imagined that the kitten had spoken to her!
She looked at the kitten again and now its silky white fur and bushy tail looked normal. Perhaps it had wandered in when her dad left the door open on his way to the garage. ‘Hello. Where’ve you come from?’ she said, kneeling up and reaching a hand towards it.
‘I come from far away,’ the kitten mewed. ‘When I saw you fall I used my magic to save you. I am sorry if I startled you.’
Molly gasped and pulled her hand back as if she had been burned. ‘You… you can talk!’ she stammered.
The kitten blinked up at her with wide green eyes. Despite its tiny size, it didn’t seem to be too afraid of her. ‘Yes. My name is Prince Flame. What is yours?’
‘Molly. Molly Paget,’ Molly said. Her mind was still whirling and she couldn’t seem to take this all in. But she didn’t want to scare this amazing kitten away, so she sat back on her heels and tried to stay as small as possible. ‘Um… I don’t know how you did it, but thanks for helping me. I could have hurt myself badly.’
‘You are welcome,’ Flame purred and his tiny kitten face took on a serious look. ‘Can you help me, Molly? I need somewhere to hide.’
‘Why do you need to do that?’ Molly asked.
Flame’s emerald eyes lit up with anger. ‘I am heir to the Lion Throne. My uncle Ebony has stolen it and rules in my place. He wants to keep my throne, so he sends his spies to find me.’
‘Lion Throne?’ Molly said doubtfully, looking at the tiny kitten in front of her.
Flame didn’t answer. He backed away from the Christmas tree and before Molly knew what was happening she was blinded by another bright silver flash. For a moment she couldn’t see anything. But when her sight cleared, the kitten had gone and in its place a magnificent young white lion stood proudly on the carpet.
Molly gasped, scrambling backwards on her hands and knees. ‘Flame?’
‘Yes, it is me, Molly,’ Flame replied in a deep velvety roar.
Molly gulped, just getting used to the great majestic lion, when there was a final flash of dazzling light and Flame reappeared as a silky white kitten.
‘Wow! I believe you,’ she whispered. ‘That’s a cool disguise. No one would ever know you’re a prince!’
Flame pricked his tiny ears and started to tremble. ‘My uncle’s spies will recognize me if they find me. Will you hide me, please?’
Molly reached out and stroked Flame’s soft little head. He was so tiny and helpless-looking. Her soft heart melted. ‘Of course I will. You can live with me. It’ll be great having you to cheer me up if Gran gets in one of her grumpy moods. I bet you’re hungry, aren’t you? Let’s go and find you some food.’
Flame gave an eager little mew.
‘Find who some food?’ said her dad, coming into the room with a big cardboard box in his arms.
Molly jumped up at once and turned to face him. ‘Dad! Something amazing has just happened. I almost fell off the ladder… I mean… er…’ she stopped guiltily, deciding that it might be wise to skip that bit. ‘I’ve just found the most amazing kitten and I’m going to look after him. And guess what, he’s magic and he can ta–’ she stopped suddenly again as Flame gave a piercing howl.
‘Flame? What’s wrong?’ Molly said, crouching down to talk to him.
Flame blinked at her and then sat down on the rug and began calmly wash
‘You and your imagination, Molly Paget! A talking kitten indeed!’ Her dad shook his head slowly. ‘I don’t know where that little kitten came from, but you’d best pop outside and see if one of the neighbours is looking for him!’
‘No, they won’t be…’ Molly started to say, but she saw Flame raise a tiny paw and put it to his mouth, warning her to keep quiet. ‘I’ll go check on the neighbours,’ she finished hastily. She picked Flame up and went into the front garden. ‘What was all that about, back there?’ she asked him once they were alone.
‘I did not have time to explain before your father came in that you cannot tell anyone my secret,’ Flame mewed softly. ‘You must promise, Molly.’
‘Oh, no!’ Molly’s hands flew to her mouth. ‘But I almost told Dad everything. Have I already put you in danger?’
Flame shook his head. ‘No, it is all right. He did not believe you. Luckily, grown-up humans seem to find it difficult to believe in magic.’
Molly breathed a huge sigh of relief as she looked into Flame’s serious little face. ‘I promise I’ll keep your secret from now on. Cross my heart and hope to die.’
Flame nodded, blinking at her happily.
‘I guess we should go and pretend to look for your owner. Come on,’ Molly urged.
‘So we’ll just have to keep Flame…’ Molly finished explaining as she faced her mum half an hour later. Flame nestled in her arms, purring contentedly.
Mrs Paget was stacking things in the dishwasher. She stood up and reached out to stroke Flame’s soft little white ears. ‘Oh, dear, we hadn’t planned on having a kitten, especially with the grandparents coming to stay. But if you’ve asked all around…’ she said uncertainly.
Other author's books:
- A Summer SpellVacation DreamsClassroom ChaosMagic Bunny: Chocolate WishesA Splash of ForeverCircus SurpriseMagic Kitten: A Christmas SurpriseA Glittering Gallop
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