A week after Christmas, Mac the postie delivered a parcel from Grandmama to Sasha at the café. Sasha thought it looked too small to be one of Grandmama's colourful handknit sweaters - maybe a scarf or mittens? But inside the layers of bubble wrap was a red box tied with a gold bow, and inside the box was a hand-blown glass snow globe.
Sasha sat on the floor and shook the globe, watching the white flakes swirl around a blue folk-art bird. The card, written in Grandmama's spiky handwriting, said
My dearest Sasha,
This is to remind you of proper Christmas weather, while you're so far away from us. May the bluebird bring you happiness.
A knock on the glass door of the café cut through the swell of homesickness rising in Sasha's chest. They looked up to see Alex, who was on early shifts all this week, and left the snow globe on the rug to go and help with the deliveries.
"Hi, Sasha." Alex wedged the café door open with a milk crate and grabbed a second crate to carry through to the kitchen. "We really need to get the trolley fixed, or I'll be putting in a worker's compensation claim."
Sasha followed, hefting a box of sugar packets balanced on a carton of vegetables. Turning back to collect the last of the boxes, they ran smack into Alex, who was paused in the doorway leading out of the kitchen.
"Shh," whispered Alex, pointing.
Sasha peered over Alex's shoulder to see a brown-and-white cat sitting in the red gift box.
"Isn't that one of the stray cats you're always feeding?" asked Alex.
"Yes, but I finished early yesterday and didn't leave any food out." Sasha backtracked through the kitchen, grabbing a tin of tuna and emptying it into a bowl. Nudging Alex to one side, Sasha stepped quietly into the café and placed the plate on the floor by the rug.
"Here you are, Cocoa. Some nice tuna for breakfast."
The cat turned its head to stare at Sasha, but did not move.
Alex snickered. "Of course you've named them all, crazy cat person. Come on, we've got to get ready for opening."
Reluctantly, Sasha stood up and went to fetch the last of the groceries. The brown-and-white cat - Cocoa - had not moved.
Coming back out to start up the espresso machine, arms full of milk bottles, Sasha paused. "Alex," they hissed. "Come quickly."
Now a grey-and-white cat was sitting on the rug, staring at the snow globe Sasha had yet to pick up. And at the bowl, a fat white cat was bolting down the tuna.
"Tubbs!" Sasha said sternly. The white cat ignored them, but Cocoa leapt out of the box and disappeared through the open door. "Lexy?" Sasha watched the grey-and-white cat curl up by the snow globe, surprised but charmed by this sudden feline invasion.
"Aww," said Alex, appearing at their elbow. "Did you name one of your cats after me?"
Sasha blushed. "It seemed appropriate. She has expensive tastes, too." Lexy the cat blinked.
"Well, chase your friends out. We're not a cat café!"
"A cat café." Sasha looked thoughtfully around the room at the comfortable old lounges and low tables, remembering a recent article on cat therapy café. "You know, that's not a bad idea."