Chapter Two - The Cat
Stevie's back garden, with its strip of overgrown lawn and low wooden fence, looked much the same as others in the housing estate. Except for his dad's shed, which took over the rear half of the garden.
It was a square, windowless, box-like building that Stevie's dad had built himself. And when his dad was in a good mood, which wasn't often, he let Stevie sit inside on a wonky chair and watch him fix other wonky chairs and tables to resell at car-boot markets. At all other times, which was most often, the door was closed, and the shed was strictly off-limits.
Stevie's dad appeared from the shed and stormed back into the house. Stevie wandered around the garden, kicking straggly, weedy flowers, humming a tune to himself, trying to ignore his mum and dad shouting at each other. He wondered why parents on TV never seemed to fight.
As Stevie neared the shed, he noticed his dad had left the door ajar. And then Stevie heard a clunk and a "miaow" from within the shed. He glanced towards the house. His mum and dad were arguing in the kitchen, but he couldn't see them, which meant they couldn't see him. Stevie decided it was safe to risk a quick peek inside the shed.
"Puss, puss, here puss, puss," he called, hoping to coax the stray cat outside before his dad returned and caught them both in the shed. There was another "miaow", but the cat did not appear. Stevie swallowed his fear and slipped into the shed. Against the far wall, surrounded by stacks of broken-legged chairs and tables awaiting repair, was the source of his parents' latest argument, the old travel trunk.
Intrigued, Stevie approached the trunk. It was coated in dust. He wiped a patch clean and saw a collection of stickers from all over the world, with names of strange places and pictures of tall buildings, bridges, canyons and— "miaow". The cat was in the trunk! Stevie eased open the lock and lifted the lid. A pair of green eyes, set in a smudgy face gleamed back at him. "Miaow," said the cat.
Stevie held out his hand. The cat leaned forward to reveal a rust-coloured coat with white socks. It sniffed nervously, and then wiped its whiskers back and forth against his outstretched fingers and purred. Stevie smiled.
His smile vanished when the back door opened and slammed shut. The cat jumped from the travel trunk and disappeared under a table. Stevie heard his dad's heavy footsteps pounding down the garden path and fear coursed through him. He had to hide before his dad caught him in the shed. And so Stevie followed the cat's example and hopped into the trunk, lowering the lid just as his dad creaked open the shed door.
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It was dark inside the trunk and musty. Dust tickled his nose, and Stevie had to rub it to stop from sneezing. His heart thumped so loudly he was sure his dad would hear him. Outside, Stevie heard muffled sounds as his dad cursed and threw tools about the shed. Inside the trunk, it was hot and hard to breathe. Inside the trunk, it was hot and hard to breathe. Stevie was suddenly thirsty, too. He licked his lips and hoped his dad would soon return to the house.
And then Stevie sneezed. Twice.