In honor of Blossom’s birthday, Willow invited four of her neighborhood girlfriends and their pets to celebrate. The pets included Riley, Blossom’s best feline friend forever, Merle, the bulldog whose yard backed up to the Hatcher’s yard, and Sheba, the rich glamour kitten who lived next to Merle. Finley, the terrier who lived across the street, was the fourth pet guest. Blossom didn’t often talk with Finley, partly because she would have to cross Tulip Drive to see him but mostly because Finley was shy and never woofed a word.
Willow was a great hostess for a pet party. Each pet place setting included a teacup filled with kibble. And Willow had whipped up a birthday cake using three cans of Fancy Feast mixed with peanut butter. Yum!
As the guests arrived, Blossom could not contain her excitement seeing the wrapped gifts piling up at the front door. What could they be? Toys? Food? This was like Christmas!
Riley ate the kibble and cake and then stared at the leftovers. Merle ate a few bites of Meow Mix to be polite. Finley was silent. Blossom just wanted her gifts.
“Dry food, are these apps?” Sheba’s nose went wrinkly the way it did when her fancy head swelled. “Willow made the cake I hear. Not store bought?”
Blossom felt a growl coming on and wondered why Sheba’s family didn’t pack up and move to Hollywood. But her Meow Moment was fast approaching and she didn’t care if they dined on ant legs or Alpo. This was what she had waited for from the time Willow first prepped for the party.
The girls moved the gifts to the center of the room. “Open your presents, Blossom,” Willow said.
“Pick mine!” said Riley, putting his paw on the smallest of the gifts, bundled in a paper towel.
Blossom had to hold the gift down with one paw but was able to shred most of the paper toweling with the other. Willow kept poking a hand in to help, to the point Blossom just lay on top of the gift so Willow would back off. Smelling the catnip fumes beneath her, she popped up and quick finished the unwrapping. Inside was a blueberry-colored felt mouse with a jingle bell tail.
“Oh Riley! That’s awesome,” Blossom meowed.
Riley’s eyes lit like diamonds. “I picked it out myself at Petco, where the pets go.”
Boy, if cool felt mice came in such small packages, Blossom’s brain buzzed with what might be in all the larger ones.
“Do mine next!” Merle did a little hop around a longish almost shoe-sized box.
“No, me!” Sheba had a rather snarly voice and a gift in an even larger box than Merle’s.
But Blossom eyed the smallest of the three remaining presents. “Should I open your gift, Finley?”
Finley blinked three times at Blossom but said nothing. Finley had about as much personality as a toad but he did bring a not completely small gift, so Blossom decided to be kind and tore into it. Willow had to remove the lid as it had been scotch-taped together and, upon opening, had to remove tons of tissue paper.
“Oh, this is just lovely, Finley!” Willow said. Blossom tried to nose her way into the box. After all, it was her gift, not Willow’s. “Just adorable,” Willow added, taking it out. The other girls gathered round, oohing and aahing, leaving Blossom on the outside. Willow gently set the gift at Blossom’s feet. It was a framed photo of Finley.
Blossom had to screw her lips tight knowing it would be very bad manners to blurt out, “What?” but that was exactly what she was thinking. Where was she going to put that, next to her sleeping basket? Better yet, her litter box, but then she wouldn’t want Finley watching her do her private stuff.
“Oh Finley, you handsome dog,” Sheba meowed cutely. Riley and Blossom side-eyed each other.
Blossom decided to open Merle’s gift next. It was even wrapped in red paper with little kitties all over it. Before her claws had shred the paper halfway, she knew she recognized that pink box beneath the wrapping as she’d seen it at Willow’s own parties.
“A Barbie doll,” she croaked.
“Red Carpet Barbie!” squealed Willow and her friends.
Whose party was this anyway? It was beginning to feel like Willow’s. Blossom felt her mug scrunching into an ugly line but she couldn’t unscrunch it. “Merle, what am I supposed to do with a Barbie doll?”
Merle’s furry brow crinkled up in a hurt expression. Blossom could have bit her tongue off. Merle was the sweetest bulldog in the whole world but, hello, not even dogs played Barbies.
“Lack of courtesy killed the cat!” sniffed Sheba.
Sometimes Blossom wished someone would rubber band Sheba’s mouth shut. Now she felt double-dog bad. “I’m sorry, Merle.”
Merle barked. “No worries, Blossom! I love my Barbie. She has chewy legs, almost like rawhide.”
“Perfect! I’ve always needed a good chew toy.” Blossom put on her fake happy cat look, anything for Merle, and proceeded to attack the last and largest gift from Sheba.
As the shreds of sparkly paper fell away, Blossom thought about Sheba’s owners who ate steak every Saturday night, according to Sheba anyway. They were the only family on Tulip Drive with a built-in sprinkler system and two cars with no dings, dents or missing paint. And Sheba’s owners took her to Cat Couture once a month to have her toenails clipped and painted. So Sheba’s gift had to be worth a million bucks. The gift was almost unwrapped, leaving a heap of sparkles and glitter resembling solid gold kitty litter.
The box was from Cat Couture. Blossom’s heart ticked quickly. What was inside? Maybe a stuffed toy bigger than Riley’s mouse? Cans of organic cat food? Or, Blossom held her breath. Willow removed the lid. The box was almost big enough. . . for a bed? Blossom’s toes tingled at the thought of sleeping in silk sheets.
Willow gasped. The others crowded round. Sheba pointed her nose skyward the way she always did when she knew she’d outdone every pet between Tulip Drive and the freeway. Willow held the contents up for all to see. It was an outfit. Clothes. Cat clothes and attached to it, Blossom gulped, a hat.
“A princess outfit.” Willow sighed lovingly at Blossom. Blossom knew that look and felt her cat cookies crumbling in the pit of her stomach. Her head felt itchy and she wasn’t even sporting that pointy princess hat yet.
“Medieval meow, if you know what I mean.” Riley was in his jokey mood.
Blossom stared at the shiny pink dress, the skirt made of scratchy mesh. The hat with a snappy chin band. Everything about it spelled tight. Blossom was meowless.
Sheba, mistaking Blossom’s look of horror for one of awe, crowed, “See, she likes my gift best!”
Finley opened his mug but nothing came out.
“No she doesn’t,” huffed Riley. “Blossom doesn’t want to wear polyester on a hot day like today.”
“A princess dress sure beats a blue mouse,” Sheba hissed.
“He only meant,” Merle began, trying to smooth things over.
“What was that, Barbie Doll?” Sheba snarled.
Blossom gasped. Sheba must have gotten out of the wrong side of her sleeping basket this morning. She needed to quickly don her thinking cap before a brawl broke out. Hadn’t something similar happened at one of Willow’s parties? Mr. H called it one-upping. He’d taken Willow aside and told her there was only one way out.
“I love all my gifts equally,” Blossom meowed, even though she really only liked Riley’s.
The barks of resentment and meows of anger ended. There was a silence like that after a mousetrap snapping.
Finley sighed, more sound than Blossom had ever heard from him.
“I’m sorry.” Riley stared at the floor.
“Me too,” said Merle.
Sheba looked to her owner, Francesca, who along with Willow and the others had emerged from the bedroom with Willow’s favorite doll, Samantha. “Sometimes Francesca gets a time-out for being too full of herself. . .” Sheba didn’t finish the sentence.
Maybe Blossom was being a little too full of herself just then, but this was a way better Meow Moment than the feeling she’d had anticipating her birthday gifts. At least everyone was happy.
Blossom looked to the girls, giggling at the prospect of trying to fit the princess dress, Blossom’s princess dress, onto Samantha and sighed herself. Another dress for Samantha. Good, that’s where it belonged.