I watched the last of our belongings as they were loaded onto a white moving truck. The truck had a banner across the side that said, “Twenty-Seven Men Moving.” I thought it was an odd name for a moving company, especially since there were only two men moving our belongings out of our house in Austin, Texas, and we would follow them in my mom’s gold Town & Country van. The whole time my mom was busy directing the movers, and I was in charge of watching my little brother, Diego. I really wasn’t thrilled with this responsibility. I’d much rather be playing or watching something on YouTube Kids on my iPad.
In fact, I’d much rather be cozy inside our old house instead of moving at all. My mom had gotten a new job as a clerk at a law firm, which is why we were moving. I didn’t make friends easily, and I was worried I wouldn’t make friends at my new school.
My brother and I reluctantly climbed into the minivan and began the long drive to Tampa, Florida.
After hours and hours of driving, we arrived at our new house. It appeared smaller than our last house and had pink brick. While I thought the pink brick looked kind of cool, when Diego saw it, he said, “Yuck.”
We began the long, drawn-out act of unpacking our things in the new house. While my mom helped me unpack my clothes and place them into my dresser, she asked, “What’s wrong, honey?” I guess she could see the sadness on my face.
“I’m just sad, I didn’t want to leave my friends back home,” I said.
“I know, honey, I’m sorry we had to move. But it’s just you, me, and Diego. I had to go where I could get work to support us.” My dad had left us when I was five years old. He and Mom had had a “falling out,” as she called it. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I was not happy my daddy left us.
“I know, Mom. Hopefully I will make some new friends at school tomorrow,” I said.
Tomorrow was our first day at our new school, and we were starting near the end of the school year, which made things even worse. I was more worried that no one would want to hang out with me...
“You’ll always have your brother to play with,” Mom added.
Diego was eight years old, a year younger than me. We looked alike. He had the same brown hair and brown eyes. He was almost as tall as I was even though he was younger. I loved my brother and liked being with him, but he really annoyed me sometimes. Being a year younger, he always wanted to be doing what I did, and sometimes I wanted to play alone!
I opened the next moving box and excitedly took out my telescope. I had saved up six months of my allowance, so I had enough money to buy a small one. I had recently been interested in astronomy, after watching a TV special that talked about the planets and the sun. At our old house, my mom had allowed me to set the telescope up in the window and look at the stars at night. I took the telescope over to my new bedroom window and started getting it ready to use that night.
“I’ve been thinking,” Mom said. “Let’s take a break from unpacking. I want you to see something.”
“What do you want to show me?” I said.
“It’s a surprise. Get your shoes on and get your brother.”
We all hopped into the van again. My mom drove for only a few minutes this time before we pulled up to a small, red brick building with a single glass door for an entrance. We entered the building, where a lady was manning the front desk.
“Hi, my name is Rachael, I called earlier,” said my mom.
“Yes, come right this way. They are all in the back,” the lady said.
We followed her through another door and then saw a large cardboard box in the back. As we approached it, I saw something moving around inside the box.
“Kittens!” Diego yelled excitedly.
Diego and I ran to the box and saw six kittens inside. There were two black kittens, a white one, a yellow tabby, a black and white kitten, and a gray tabby.
“Oh my gosh, Mom, is this what you wanted to show me? We can get a kitten?” I said.
I was so excited. We had never had a pet before, and I had wanted to have a cat for a long time. I had played with one of my friend’s cat at her house and begged my mom to get one, but back in Austin, our old landlord hadn’t allowed pets.
“Yes, honey, you can pick out whichever one you want,” she said.
I was so happy that I could hardly concentrate enough to pick. It seemed surreal.
Diego said, “Get the black one!”
I looked at the two black kittens. One was smaller and had blue eyes. The other was larger, in fact, larger than any of the other kittens in the box and had shiny gold eyes. I picked up the black kitten with the gold eyes and said, “I want this one.”
The kitten looked up at me when I picked him up. He was calmer than the others. He almost seemed thankful that I had picked him. He started purring and rubbed his head against my hand. I held him close to me, hugging him as we went to the car. I was so overjoyed in that moment, as was Diego. We got to the car, and Diego said, “Can I hold him now?”
I decided that I would be nice to Diego and let him hold him. I think my mom got the cat to cheer us up, and it certainly worked! Our next stop was the pet shop to get the kitten some food, toys, and a litter box.
“What do you want to name the new kitten, Eva?” Mom asked.
“I will name him Puma,” I said cheerfully.
Diego agreed. “Puma, yeah, I like that name, too!”
Once we got home, Mom let me set up Puma’s new litter box and give him a place to sleep. We didn’t have enough money to get a pet bed for him, so Mom said to get a few towels from the bathroom and make one. I laid out the towels carefully so they formed a nice, warm bed for him in the living room. I put his litter box in the hallway right off the living room and showed it to him. He took to it right away and used it. We were able to get two small toys for him that were only a few dollars each: a mouse covered with pink and blue fur and a long tail and a set of balls with bells inside.
Diego had come into the room and said eagerly, “I want to help, too! What can I do?”
I handed him the package with the balls in it. “Here, open this. Let’s see if he likes them.”
While he opened the package, I opened the one with the toy mouse. Puma sat on his new bed, watching us closely as we opened up all of his new toys. He appeared to be excited about them. I set down the toy mouse and Diego set down the three toy balls near Puma.
“Let’s see which toy he wants to play with first!” I said.
Puma got off his bed and walked over to the toys. He went to the toy mouse first and sniffed it like he was examining it. He then walked over to the green toy ball and started to bat it.
Diego yelled with excitement. “I knew it. He likes my toy! I picked out best!”
Puma started to really get into playing with the ball. He batted it again, and it rolled across the room near the couch. Without missing a beat, he ran off to chase it.
I heard my mom approaching the living room. “Guys, it’s time for dinner. Go wash your hands.”
“Okay, I’ll be back later, Puma, have fun! I left your dinner over there near your bed,” I told my new kitten. Puma looked away from his ball, looked at me for a few seconds, then returned to playing with the toys.
That night, I tossed and turned. It took me a long time to get to sleep. I was worried about the first day at our new school. I knew my brother would be there with me, but he’d be in the grade below me.
I left my bedroom door open, hoping Puma might come visit me. My mom usually told us to close our doors at night, but I think she cut me some slack since she was trying to help me feel better. After a few hours, I awoke to Puma climbing up on the bed. It was tough since he was so small and the bed was so high up. It took him a few tries to get up in the bed. Puma curled up next to my head on the pillow and started purring. I put my hand on him and drifted back to sleep.
The next morning, I could hardly eat breakfast. I felt like I had butterflies in my stomach, I was so nervous. Diego didn’t eat much either. My mom drove us to school. When we arrived, my mom walked us to Diego’s classroom first. She left him with his teacher, Ms. Parker. Diego hugged Mom and looked anxious.
“Don’t worry, honey,” she said, “you’ll be going to the afterschool care program here at the school. I’ll be here at four-thirty to pick you guys up. Have a good day.”
We left, and she walked me down the hall to my classroom. As we walked, I noticed that this school was nicer than the one back home. A few kids had already arrived, and they were talking to our teacher, Ms. Lake.
My mom went over and introduced me. “This is Eva, we are new in town,” she said.
“Oh, hi, Eva! I’m so happy to have you in my class,” Ms. Lake said. “You can put your book bag and lunchbox over there.” She pointed to an area with hooks on the wall to hang our belongings.
“Okay, Eva, have a good day. I’ll see you tonight,” Mom said.
“Okay,” I said in a small voice. I found my seat and waited for class to start.
The first part of the day went okay. It was full of normal classes like social studies, science, and math. I hoped Diego would have the same lunch period as me, but when I was finally heading to the lunchroom, I saw Diego and his class heading back to their classroom. As it turns out, his grade’s classes had the lunch period right before mine!
Being shy, I sat down at a table by myself. My mom had packed my favorite lunch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with grapes on the side. I loved peanut butter and never seemed to tire of it. Sometimes, I’d have the sandwiches with just peanut butter, and sometimes I’d have them with different flavored jellies. Just as I was biting into my yummy peanut butter and peach jelly sandwich, I saw a blonde-haired girl approaching the table.
“Hi, I’m Jenny. Would it be okay if I sat with you?” she said.
Jenny sat down at the table with me. “You’re new to the school, right? My family moved here last year, so I know how it is to be the new kid. I can show you around the school if you want,” she said.
“That would be great!” I said. I was happy and surprised that Jenny had come to talk to me. I was glad. It was good to have a new friend.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Jenny showed me around the school after class, and then I went to afterschool care to wait with Diego until Mom picked us up. She arrived at four-thirty sharp. I was happy to see her and wanted to get home. I had been thinking about Puma all day, wondering what he was doing and hoping he hadn’t got into too much trouble.
When we got home, we could tell Puma had had a good time. All of the throw pillows from the couch were on the floor. They had been visibly clawed and chewed on. A picture frame had been knocked off the coffee table, though luckily it had not broken, and the curtains in the living room had rips where it looked like Puma had climbed them. On top of all this destruction, Puma’s toys were all over the living room floor. This all seemed like typical rambunctious kitten behavior, but there were a few strange things, too, like items out of place. My mom’s favorite flowered vase was now on the living room table when it had been on the shelf before. The kitten himself was nowhere to be found.
I walked in first and saw the catastrophe in the living room. My mom was going to be mad!
Diego walked in right after me and, with a look of shock on his face, said, “Whoa, what happened in here?”
My mom followed us in, surveyed the living room, and said, “Seriously, little Puma? Eva and Diego, go clean up the mess.”
I was surprised. I thought she would be more upset, but maybe she took into consideration that he was a kitten and that it was his first day at home all by himself. Diego and I cleaned everything up and put Puma’s toys in his toy bin, which was a plastic Tupperware container.
Where was Puma? I hadn’t seen him at all since we had gotten home. I started looking around the living room. I looked under the table and then behind the couch. I found Puma behind the couch, where he looked freaked out like he was scared. He saw me, then came out and climbed into my hand. He calmed down and started to purr.
“It’s okay, Puma, we are home now. I bet you were scared being home alone all day,” I said.
Puma looked up at me. His golden eyes seemed to agree.
“You can come help me and Diego with our homework while we wait for dinner,” I said. I took him with me to the kitchen table. He sat on my lap while Diego and I worked on our homework.
The next day we got ready for school, and I told Puma goodbye and to be better behaved today. My mom dropped us off, and we walked into the school. Jenny was there in the hallway waiting for me.
“Good morning, Eva!” she said.
“Hi, Jenny! This is my younger brother, Diego,” I said as I pointed to him.
“Hi, Diego,” Jenny said with a smile.
“Hi,” Diego replied timidly.
“I need to walk him to his class. My mom asked me to make sure he gets there okay,” I said. We all walked to Diego’s class to drop him off.
“Bye, Diego! I’ll see you after school,” I said.
“Bye, Eva,” Diego said, looking worried. Jenny and I walked to the hallway for our classes.
“Bye, Jenny, see you at lunch,” I said.
“See you then!” she said.
After a long series of normal morning classes, it was finally time for lunch. Jenny sat down with me at the lunch table.
“PB&J again?” Jenny asked.
“Yeah, it’s kind of my thing,” I said.
Jenny was eating the school lunch, which that day was spaghetti and meatballs with green beans. It didn’t look as appetizing to me as my sandwich.
“Hey, would you like to come over to my house and play this Saturday?” Jenny asked.
“Sure! I’ll ask my mom if I can come over. Would it be okay if I brought Diego with me?”
“Sounds good, I just got a new videogame console and some multiplayer games. We could all play together,” she said.
The rest of the day was uneventful, but after we arrived home from school, we saw that Puma had played again. His toys were all over the floor, and a few things were out of place. A figurine and a book from the coffee table were on the floor.
Without missing a beat, my mom said, “Eva, please clean up Puma’s toys and then go do your homework.”
Diego said happily, “She didn’t tell me to clean up, so I’m heading straight to the kitchen!”
“Well, I guess I’ll do it all by myself,” I said miserably as I looked at him.
I turned back to the living room to clean, but I was shocked to find that, suddenly, none of Puma’s toys were on the floor. As if by magic, they were all in the toy bin, and Puma was lying on the couch.
“Leaping lizards!” I said. “The toys were just on the floor. How did they get put up? Puma, did you help clean up your toys?”
Puma stared at me blankly. There was no way he or anyone else could have cleaned up his toys in that short amount of a time. Did I forget that I cleaned them up?
“Well, I guess I’m done cleaning,” I said as I headed to the kitchen.
Puma jumped off the couch and followed me.
Mom asked as I entered the kitchen, “Eva, are Puma’s toys cleaned up?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Okay, thank you,” she said.
While Mom was in a good mood, I decided to ask her about Jenny’s invitation.
“Mom, my new friend at school asked if I could come over and play at her house this weekend,” I said.
Diego piped up. “Hey, can I come?”
“I already asked her if you could come, and she said yes,” I said.
“All right, honey,” Mom said. “I will need to meet and talk to her parents before I drop you off, though.”
“Okay, she invited us to come over on Saturday,” I said.
Mom nodded. I was so excited to go to Jenny’s house that weekend. “She said that she has a new videogame console we can play,” I told my brother.
“Oh, really? Awesome!” he said. “I hope she has some racing games.”
That night I noticed Puma was calmer than the day before. He must have been adjusting to being home alone during the day, I thought. I was glad he was doing better; he had done really well adjusting to his new home.
The next night when we got home from school, surprisingly no toys were out in the living room. Nothing was destroyed or out of place.
“No mess to clean up in the living room!” Mom said. “That’s a win. Go ahead to the kitchen to do your homework.”
Diego and I went into the kitchen and sat at the table, and Mom walked in with us. “Well, I guess I spoke too soon. Puma spilt his food on the floor,” she said. I walked over to look. All the food was out of the bowl and on the floor.
“Please clean it up, Eva. I’ll be right back,” Mom said.
“Ha ha,” Diego said in a snarky voice, “you have to clean up after Puma again.”
I turned to Diego with a glare. “Shouldn’t you be doing your homework?”
Diego sighed. “Yes.” At the new school, we had both had more homework. It was taking us about two hours to complete it every night.
I headed to Puma’s bowl to clean the food off the floor, but just like the mess in the living room the night before, it was magically back in his bowl.
“What? How did that happen? I haven’t even cleaned it up yet!” I said.
I had started to wonder if I was losing my marbles. The food had magically been cleaned up today, and yesterday was the same with the toys.
“Diego. did you see that the food is in the bowl again?” I said.
“No, I didn’t see it, I was doing my homework. Are you sure you didn’t clean it up?” he asked.
I thought for a minute, but I didn’t remember cleaning it up. What in the world was going on? Was I forgetting things or just going mad?
As we were entering the house the next afternoon, Puma darted outside.
“STOP, PUMA!” I yelled.
The cat ran to the yard next door. Unfortunately, that neighbor had a dog, and she began barking and chasing Puma back to our yard. I was so worried she would hurt my kitten! Puma ran like I’d never seen him run before. He was almost like a blur, he got back to our yard so fast. I opened the front door, and Puma ran into the house with us. The dog chasing Puma was all black with shiny green eyes. When she got to our back door, she stopped abruptly. Through the glass, I could see her sit down quietly and stare at Puma and me.
“Shoo, dog, go home!” I said.
Puma looked at the dog. It was as if they were having staring match. Finally, the dog retreated and returned to her yard. Puma went to the couch and lay down. I thought it was odd that the dog sat there without barking. I’d never seen a dog remain so calm after chasing a cat. Still, I had more to do than worry about some dog. I locked the door and headed to the kitchen to do my homework with Diego.