(advent) Monday, December 10

Monday, December 10

Hey, Molly, do you mind if I head out for a few hours? Schrodinger poked his head around the edge of the kitchen door.

“No, but don’t forget to be back by the time school gets out,” Molly said, looking at the clock on the wall. “You’ve got about four hours.”

That will be enough, Schrodinger said. I just need to talk to someone.

Molly left her task and went to kneel down next to him. “You know you can always talk to me, right?”

He leaned into her, feeling the warmth of her presence as she put her arms around him. I know, he said. But I need to talk to someone who isn’t you. It’s something… He trailed off, not sure how much to say.

“Something for Christmas?” Molly suggested.

Yes. Schrodinger looked up at her, glad of her help. You understand.

“Absolutely.” She gave him another hug and got back to her feet. “Have fun.”

Schrodinger nodded and went out the front door before he could see anyone else. He trotted jauntily along the road for a few minutes, until he sensed a Road coming near him. Then he jumped up into the air, and disappeared, landing back on the cool magical surface of the Road that led out of Carter’s Cove, and to a place he rarely visited any more.

The magical Roads that connected the Realms were like highways in the human world, allowing beings and items to move between the various planes that were inhabited. CrossCats were one of the few mortal races that could use the Roads instinctively, and they were highly prized as couriers and navigators. Once, Schrodinger himself had thought he might end up as a courier. Then he’d met Molly and Drew, and decided that contrary to many of his kin, he didn’t want to not have a home. They had made him welcome. They were his family.

Now, though, with all the changes coming through, he wasn’t as sure of his place as he had been. Neither Drew nor Molly had said anything to him, but that might only be because they weren’t sure what to say. And he didn’t want to be the one to broach it, not if they hadn’t thought about it. To be perfectly honest, Schrodinger realized that he was afraid they wouldn’t want him around any more.

Which is probably nonsense, the logical portion of his brain said. I mean, come on. You are as much a member of the family as Drew is, and Molly would have said something to me.

She wouldn’t let me worry about this. She loves me. She and Drew want me around. I just wish that I could talk to them about it, but what if they didn’t think it was an issue? What if they realize it would be easier if I wasn’t here?

No, Molly wouldn’t let me stew….

Well, but you are stewing, another voice in his head said. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be standing in the middle of a Road, talking to yourself, would you?

Schrodinger shook his head and looked around, shocked. He WAS standing there in the middle of the Road, but he was no longer along. A larger CrossCat sat next to him, watching him with sharp but kindly green eyes, an embroidered collar around her dark neck. I’m assuming you were coming to see me, the Librarian said, the tip of her ebony tail twitching in amusement. I could hear you thinking about it in the Lair.

Schrodinger hung his head. I’m sorry, he said.

Sorry for what?

For disturbing your studies, Schrodinger said. The Librarian was always studying something.

Darling kitten, studies can wait. The Librarian swatted him playfully with her paw. What are you so worried about? Tell me.

<><>

True to his word, Schrodinger trotted through the door about 5 minutes before the others, and Molly saw with pleasure that his eyes were brighter than they had been in the last few days. Wherever he had been, the news had cheered him up, which was good. She’d been worried enough that she was thinking of going to the Librarian for help, since the CrossCat had been Schrodinger’s teacher. Was still his teacher, as far as she knew. Now it looked like that wasn’t necessary.

The tea room had been quiet all day, since it was snowing off and on, which meant that only the die-hard regulars were in. Stephen and Lucille Dorr had claimed their normal table, and Molly had been out to freshen their tea once. Lucille was knitting a lovely shawl, and Stephen was reading out loud to her. Not loud enough to bother anyone, of course. They never did.

The quiet had given Molly time to think about what was going to happen after the holidays. Once Christmas and New Year’s were over, she and Drew really had to make a decision about what they were going to do. She hadn’t mentioned the job opportunity to anyone yet, not even Aunt Margie or Sue, because it would be such a big change. Would it be worth it? She and Drew were still discussing it, after all.

The downside of being a kitchen witch is that you can’t use the tasks of baking to stop the bad thoughts running through your head, she reflected ruefully.

Luckily, that quiet was shattered with the arrival of the children, who were exuberant about something. “Molly, Molly, Molly, there’s a new store getting built!” Gideon said, shedding snow like a miniature yeti.

“I know!” she said, smiling down at them. “It’s Kris’s store. Have they started the walls?”

“More than just the walls!” Kaylee said. “And there are dwarves making it!”

That was impressive. While the dwarves were friendly to the Cove, they didn’t always actually fabricate the buildings. Usually that was something that the humans couldn’t afford, to be honest. Apparently Kris had more credit that way than she’d imagined.

“Wow,” Molly said, smiling at them all. “Maybe she’ll let you guys come and watch for a while.”

“That would be AMAZING,” Gideon said. “Let’s go ask!”

Let’s do the Advent calendar first, Jack suggested. It might send us over there anyways, after all.

“Oh, good point!” Zoey agreed. “Let’s see where the kitten is!”

Molly joined them at the calendar, drying her hands on a tea towel. The little kitten was waiting for them, his eyes bright and his tail twitching. Once they were there, he ran down the stairs into the hall. This hall reminded Molly of the hall at CrossCat Farms, but only if they really decorated it. Swags of greenery were wound around each baluster, and wreaths surmounted each newel post. Bright red and gold ribbons contrasted with the dark green of the garlands, and brightly-colored birds peeked in and out of the branches. The wall sconces had swags as well, with brightly flaming candles of burgundy. On the bottom landing was a small table, topped with a tree that also had birds in its branches. There were some small presents under the tree, and a glowing silver snowflake danced on the very top.

As the kitten came down the stairs, each of the candles sank down to a glowing pinprick, until the only light in the room was from the glowing snowflake. They all watched as he rooted under the tree, and to everyone’s surprise, the birds flew up and swirled around him, then turned into the words “Time to get your tree!” Then they came out of the calendar and swirled around the kitchen before dropping little branches into the children’s hands. Attached to the evergreen branches was a golden ticket that said, “Come and find the perfect tree!”

“Are we going to the tree farm, then?” Lily asked, turning to Molly.

“We are!” Molly said, grabbing her coat and purse. “And we’ve got a special mission, too!”

“A special mission?” Kaylee’s eyes went wide. “What special mission?”

“I’ll tell you on the way!” Molly promised. “Shall we go?”

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