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From 2018: The Secret

The Secret
Ina Ross

I crunch on my too-dry toast. Nan and Granddad are heavy sleepers so no need to worry about waking them. The morning sun spills into the once-dark kitchen. I’m usually still in bed when Nan gets up to feed the cats, but I couldn’t sleep.
Nan’s footsteps skip down the stairs. She’s always so happy in the morning, unlike Granddad, who you should avoid at all costs before he’s had his coffee. Opposites attract I suppose.
“Up early again, kitten? You ok?” she chirps as she strolls into the kitchen.
“Morning Nan, I fed the cats for you,” I answer, trying to avoid the question and failing miserably. She can always tell when something’s up. I haven’t fed the cats since before Mum and Dad left.
They left when I was four. Nan told me they couldn’t take care of me, that they were good people, but I’ve gone past the point of worrying about them anymore. I’m happy with Nan and Granddad – well, we’ll see about that after today.
She clicks on the kettle then sits beside me. I fiddle nervously with my bracelet. She puts her arm around me and I snuggle into her, breathing in her scent just like when I was young.
“Got anything you want to talk about, kitten?” she says softly, petting my head.
Our shared love for cats is how I got the nickname. We would lie on the couch, curled up into each other, and chat about all the cats we’d own. She would pet my head and call me her ‘favourite little kitten.’
I know I can talk to her about anything. I take a deep breath.
“I met someone, Nan,” I murmur, eyes locked on the floor. No turning back now.
“Ah, and what’s the lucky boy’s name?” she replies, still rubbing my head. Just say it, I think to myself, it’s now or never.
“Jess, Nan, her name is Jess,” I whisper. She stops rubbing my head and gets up to make the coffee. She puts three mugs down onto the table and sits back down beside me. She exhales, and turns to me.
“Look at me, kitty,” she says.
I turn to look at her, the nerves welling up inside me.
She smiles gently, putting them at ease. “That’s what been bothering you? You were afraid to tell me you had a girlfriend? I love you no matter what, you know that right? When do we get to meet her?” She smiles through it all.

A wave of relief washes over me. She doesn’t care. She still loves me. The happiness bubbles in my stomach. I throw my arms over her and squeeze her as tight as I can.
“I love you too, Nan,” I cry, failing to hold the tears back. All the worry and fear finally subsides.
As we prepare for Granddad to come bounding downstairs, moaning and groaning about anything and everything, Nan hums a little song. I feel closer to her than ever before.