Mystery at Midnight©
Elizabeth C. Main
“‘Fraidy cat, ‘fraidy cat!” Sam danced around the kitchen table, keeping out of his sister’s range. “Want me to look under your bed and chase out the ghosts, ba-a-by?” He drew out the last word.
“No, I don’t!” she shot back. “You’re just the biggest, biggest . . . hippopotamus in the whole world!” She never should have told him how scared she was. She was always making that mistake, telling him secret things and then having him laugh at her.
Sighing, she retreated to her bedroom and looked across the rug to the bed, snug against the far wall. From here it was impossible to tell whether there was anything under it. Maybe she should ask Mom for a new bedspread, one that didn’t reach clear to the floor. That might help.
Making sure no one was around, she picked up the stick horse she had started keeping by the door and slowly moved toward the bed, holding the horse by his head with the stick straight out in front of her. She poked under the edge of the bedspread. Nothing there.
That was the trouble. There was never anything there in the daytime, but lately at night she had started hearing noises under the bed, and last night she had even felt something move underneath her.
Sally got up off her knees and went to ask Mom about the bedspread. She found her in the living room, petting the rounded white sides of Snowball, their cat. “Kittens any day now,” said Mom.
Sally settled next to Snowball and took over the smoothing of her silky fur. Snowball purred in a lazy, contented way.
“Can I have a new bedspread?” Sally asked.
Mom looked surprised. “I thought you liked the one you have. You picked it out.”
“I know, but it’s pink, and I’m getting a little old for pink,” Sally said.
“Six is too old for pink? I didn’t know that,” Mom teased.
Sally didn’t want to admit her real reason for wanting a new bedspread, so she changed the subject. “Do you think Snowball knows how to have kittens–without a vet or anything?”
“Sure. Cats know all about having babies and Snowball is a very smart cat. If you want, you can fix a box for her kittens behind the wood stove. They’ll like that.”
“Okay.” Sally paused and then began again. “About the bedspread . . .” She trailed off as she heard again in her mind Sam’s taunting words, “‘Fraidy cat, ‘fraidy cat.”
“What about the bedspread?” Mom asked.
“Well, let’s wait a little. I have to fix a bed for Snowball’s kittens now.”
Having something to do helped Sally forget for a little while how scared she was, but bedtime still came too soon. As usual, she checked carefully before getting into bed, but nothing was there. It always came later, after the light was out.
Sally woke suddenly to a faint rustling, followed by a tremendous ripping noise. She hadn’t heard ripping before, but this time there was no question. Something was under the bed. She tried to lie flat and melt into the sheets, but her heart was beating so loudly she was afraid it would give her away. She couldn’t even cry because it would make noise. Her throat ached with the effort to hold in her tears.
Clenching her small fists, she decided this time she wasn’t going to give Sam the chance to tease her! In one leap she jumped off the bed and raced for the light by the door.
The strange noises were still coming from under the bed. Now they sounded like tiny people talking, so she grabbed her stick horse for protection. Slowly she moved toward the bed, the horse stretched as far out in front of her as she could manage.
Poking carefully under the bedspread, she struck–nothing, just like before. She almost dropped the stick horse and ran, but she didn’t want Sam to be able to call her a baby and a ‘fraidy cat forever.
Lifting the spread with a shaking hand, she saw something new–the cover of the box springs had been torn loose, forming a cave. The sounds came from there. She held her breath and peered inside, finding herself suddenly face to face with two glowing green eyes. Astonished, she let out her breath with a whoosh.
“Oh, Snowball, it’s been you here every night! You were building a nest for your babies.”
Snowball just looked out at her and purred. Curled up against her were five furry kittens. Sally decided to keep her secret until morning. This time when she tried to go to sleep, the small noises and bumps under the bed made her smile.
“I wasn’t a baby,” she thought. “And won’t Sam be jealous?