Christmas, smack in the middle of summer, was also smack in the middle of kitten season. Catheline usually stopped outside the pet store in the shopping centre for a few minutes when she took the children Saturday-mornings shopping and her daughter Olivia had decided that she wanted a kitten for Christmas. Catheline did not want there to be a kitten for Christmas. She and Lachlan had four children ranging from sixteen year old Cybil to six year old Olivia, a McMansion house with a just enough backyard for a rotary clothes line, two cars with which to provide parental taxi services and an Education Department assigned Designated Tutor because Thaddeus’ thirteen year old explosions had turned out to be rather more than ‘just hormones.’ A cat of any size seemed unnecessary.
The family had assumed that the Designated Tutor would go on his own vacation when school broke up for six weeks of holidays but instead Mr Rathbone had slotted intensive magic summer school into the time that ordinary school had occupied so Thaddeus was working harder, and more enthusiastically, than he had all year. Magic didn’t run in either Lachlan or Catheline’s families so no-one knew why it had turned up so strongly in Thaddeus. However Mr Rathbone was happy to watch the other children too, was less trouble than the au pairs some of their friends had and he came with gold-plated ‘Working With Children’ checks and certification. During term Catheline had been coming home from work to find everyone’s homework had already been done, sparing her the uphill battles, so she was happy to have him take the children in hand for the holidays.
People said that you never got just one gifted child in a family but Cybil was as unmagical as you got despite flirting with a goth-look, Frank at nine and a half was fanatical about his soccer while Olivia liked dolls, drawing and occasional dressings-up. Catheline hoped they weren’t gifted, their grandmothers glaring at each other over whose fault Thaddeus was had been quite enough.
The Christmas presents were wrapped and under the tree, there were no kittens and Catheline went to sleep knowing that tomorrow would start about five…
“Thank you! Thank you!” Those were the first words Catheline heard and they were coming from an excited six year old standing beside her bed. “My kitten came!” Then she was gone again.
Catheline rolled over and found that Lachlan had rolled to face her. “I thought we agreed on no kitten?” she asked.
“We did and I didn’t get one. I think we should go see what’s going on,” her husband suggested.
They were decent down stairs and downstairs in under five minutes. On the lounge room floor Olivia was sitting beside the Christmas tree, the unopened presents stacked beside her. In her hand was the string of a cheap, glittery, thread-wrapped foam bauble off the tree. She was dangling it in front of a three month old kitten that was batting at the bauble with its paws. The kitten had short, grey fur with an almost mauve tinge and wings to match. It was definitely not the sort of kitten Olivia’ parents were used to.
“I think she’s too young for training,” commented Mr Rathbone disapprovingly from behind them, “but if her familiar has shown up, then it’s not too early to be laying the foundations. I would suggest good manners, gardening and cooking as a starting point.”
Catheline turned to look at him. “So, two of our children are gifted?”
The tutor raised a long, thin eyebrow at her. “My dear ma’am, in my professional opinion all of your children are gifted. Thaddeus is merely the only one who requires formal tutoring at this point. I put it down to a double dose of one of the more obscure recessive genes.”