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Old 02-28-2016, 10:47 PM   #91
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it up in the spacious kitchen where there was room for everyone to help themselves. The cats had quite a feast, as the guests and staff found them to be totally charming.

Joyce stopped by to help after work, and after dinner, the carpet was dry. In came the furniture and lamps, and after much discussion and rearranging, the room was done at nine-thirty. Suzanna put up the curtain rod and the new curtain in the bay window, and at last, they looked in from the wide doorway.

The room looked much like it had before. Tracy Poole's display case sat filled with her new pieces, something very special to Suzanna; Tracy had refused her offer to buy the broken ones and had even provided an antique display cabinet she had sitting in her attic. She hauled it down, cleaned it up, and it sat in its own place now, its curved glass doors and glass shelves sparkling, the mahogany wood shining. The glass and wrought-iron lamps, the chairs, and the little loveseats and couch were inviting, and the vases filled with lovely silk flowers. No trace of the fight remained, except for a little change in the decor.

Carrie looked at her watch and smiled. "Told ya," she whispered to Suzanna, who was still in shock. She hugged Carrie.

"Thank you. I can't believe this. It's beautiful," she breathed.

"Champagne, anybody?" Peggy Bright, the head breakfast cook who had stayed, waved a bottle. Just then, Ralph and Sam came in, and saw the parlor.

"It's time to celebrate!" Ralph boomed. "I'll help you serve it up."

Sam gawked at the room. "Holy cow! That looks great!"

Everyone agreed heartily, and went into the dining room for a toast to the new parlor.

It was after 11pm, and Peggy, the last to leave after helping clean up after the buffet, bade Suzanna good-night and closed the kitchen door behind her. The guests had gone to bed. Suzanna stood in the doorway of the front parlor, looking at what she felt was a miracle. Meows rubbed against her legs, purring.

"Penny for your thoughts?" he said.

She reached down and picked him up and cuddled him. "Someday, Meows, someday, somehow, I am going to find a way to pay these wonderful people back. Somehow."

"Put a little sign over the doorway," said Meows.

"A sign?"

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Old 02-28-2016, 10:49 PM   #92
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"Yes. The Friendship Parlor, Dedicated to the People of Stony River Who Made It All Possible."

Suzanna laughed and kissed him. "I will! That's a good start! But I want to do more."

"I know. Like you said, it's a start. And don't worry, you'll always be able to help people around here. News travels pretty fast when someone's in trouble. Your turn is over. Unfortunately, someone else will need help next, and on it goes," he said gently. "Life is a circle."

"Life is wonderful," she replied simply, and turned all but two lamps off. "Let's go home."

As they stepped out the kitchen door heading for the cottage in the back, she turned and looked at her sign in the front, and sighed happily, thinking how lovely the parlor looked now.

She would make that sign herself, and put it up tomorrow.

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Old 02-28-2016, 10:51 PM   #93
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End of Chapter Five.

With love,
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Old 02-28-2016, 10:56 PM   #94
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Chapter 6 – Sunshine the Inn Kitty

The Friendship Parlor was a hit. The word spread that she had a room dedicated to the townspeople, and they flocked to see it. Tracy Poole's pottery sold out many times over and a few items of Carrie's were sold, but no one wanted to take those out of the room until Suzanna was able to replace it with her insurance money. Cars clogged the driveway, and more and more people made reservations for a night or two. Even Sam booked two nights there in the fall as a surprise anniversary present to his wife, Lydia.

"We've been married thirty years," he laughed. "She deserves something special for hanging in there with me."

He got a large discount. Suzanna made up some lie about a special running that particular week, two nights for the price of one. He fell for it. That's one little private victory, she thought, smiling to herself.

"I heard that," whispered Carrie behind her. "You little fibber."

Suzanna whirled, and blushed. "Was it that obvious?"

"Let me put it this way. I think he was too distracted with the idea of doing something special for Lydia to notice. However...do us all a favor and don't become an undercover cop or anything, ok? You aren't too convincing."

They both laughed. "I think I'll just sit tight here and run a B&B," smiled Suzanna.

"Ready for lunch? I brought Caesar salads and homemade lasagne."

"Oh, I'm there," said Suzanna, picking up her purse, and the two women walked out the back toward Carrie's shop.

It had been a week since the disaster in the parlor, and as Suzanna sat in the shop enjoying Carrie's cuisinary talents, she remembered it.

"Remember about this time last week?" she said.

"Do I ever," Carrie said with a shiver.

"I thought it was the worst day of my life, but it turned out to be the best day of it."

Meows smiled from the counter, where he was leisurely washing his face. Little Belle was next to him, hoping to snag some salad.

"Funny how that works," he pointed out.

"How far are you booked up now?" Carrie asked.

"Up to the week before Thanksgiving, believe it or not."

Pook looked up. "You got beds in there. How come you don't have cats?"

Suzanna looked at her.

"Yeah," said Saav. "What if you have guests who like cats but their cats, let's say, don't travel well or something and they can't bring them? They'd miss them."

"Like a cat away from cat," smiled Bart.

Meows glared furiously at Suzanna. "I'm not sleeping with strangers!"
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:00 PM   #95
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Carrie and Suzanna laughed. "I wouldn't make you do that, silly. I'd miss you! But I think it's an idea, we could rescue a couple kittens from the pound, and socialize them real well and offer their company to the guests," Suzanna replied.

"That would be an excellent advertisement for Sunshine. That would really get peoples' attention," said Meows.

"Um...I hate to rain on this parade, but I see a few things wrong with this picture you might want to address," began Bart. "One, you're going to need half the bedrooms -- maybe six of them -- to be cat-free. People have allergies. Also, along that line, the cats should stay out of the front parlor, the dining rooms, the library, and the study. The back parlor, the sunroom, the porch part of the kitchen, the hallway, and the basement would be where they could go. That utility room down there is huge and heated, so they'd always have someplace warm to go. And another problem is, kittens are fine, but you might want to try finding a well-socialized, friendly young adult cat or two to begin with, then bring in the kittens."

Suzanna took Bart's little speech in. "Okay, I follow. Those are sound ideas, Bart. I'll definitely give it some thought."

"Or, we could keep them in our cottage in the back and completely off the first floor. If a guest wants a cat, maybe it needs to stay in that room at night, and be let out back to the cottage when the guest is out. It'd be a lot of cat-toting back and forth, but he's right, the allergy thing could be a problem and you don't want to be sued," suggested Meows.

"That's probably a better idea," nodded Bart. "Also, you do allow dogs, and a cat roaming the halls might be a problem for some dogs."

Pook and Saav agreed. "That would work a lot better," said Pook. "You don't want a screaming cat and dog fight waking everyone up at two in the morning."

"Make sure no one on your staff is allergic to them," added Saav.

"That I do know. None of them are allergic to animals," said Suzanna. "I had to make sure they weren't because Sunshine is already pet-friendly."

"I think it's a neat idea. You also might want to think about hiring an extra person to change the litterbox in the room and refill the water and food bowls. It might have to be an on-call thing or part-time, since you might not have guests who want cats every day," Carrie suggested.

"Oh, yeah. Well, the budget looks good, I actually can hire a couple more people if I need to at this point," Suzanna said.

"Wanted: Professional cat-toter with own litterbox scoop to work at cat house," smiled Meows.
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:05 PM   #96
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They laughed. "My ad agency, there," Suzanna quipped, pointing to Meows.

"I think it's a neat idea," Carrie said. "Adds a homey touch."

"Maybe I can start with one adult cat and see how that goes," Suzanna said.

Meows nodded. "That would be nice."

"Can you get along with just a regular cat?" Suzanna asked Meows.

"Oh, certainly," he smiled. "May I go with you to pick one out?"

"I wouldn't dream of doing that without you."

They finished lunch, discussing advertising approaches and how to fit those in with the existing ones for Sunshine. Meows couldn't wait to find the cat, take pictures of it, and see what he could come up with for the new ads. After the cats relieved Carrie of any leftovers she might have to take home, Suzanna scooped up Meows and took him to the shelter.

The lady at the front desk saw Meows on her shoulder and smiled. "Looks like he needs a friend," she guessed.

Suzanna laughed, thinking this woman looked familiar. "He does. I thought I'd bring him along to pick his new friend out."

"I'm afraid cats and dogs don't last long here," she sighed. "In fact, not a lot of the animals we take in here do. They get adopted almost as soon as they get here. We had a waiting list for kittens, and finally had to get them from another county. Puppies…well, we import those too.”

Suzanna was surprised. "How is that? Usually shelters are overrun with unwanted pets."

The lady smiled. "But everyone here who does have pets, they take care of them. They spay and neuter them. We always have been very short of any unwanted pets. It’s quite interesting, this town and these people.”

"That makes your job a lot easier, doesn't it?"

"Much easier. What are you looking for? I hope not a kitten. We're out, and another litter isn't expected for a while, and if there are only three kittens, they're spoken for."

"An older cat, one that's real good with people," said Suzanna.

"Wow, I have two. Now one, I think, is going to go to a lady when she comes back from vacation tomorrow or the next day. The other just came in yesterday. He's about a year and a half old, and he's a sweetheart," she said, getting up. "Let's go meet him."

Then Suzanna saw it. The slight limp. The pretty long black hair. This lady had been on her hands and knees picking glass out of her carpet a week ago. Suzanna smiled. Victim number two, she thought.
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:08 PM   #97
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The big cage she led them to had the most beautiful long-haired, cream-and-chocolate colored cat they had ever seen.

"He was just groomed this morning," said the lady.

"What kind is he? He doesn't have the smushed nose of a Persian."

"We're not sure, but we think some type of Persian mix. He's neutered, has all his shots, and I can make you a copy of his records from his former vet."

"Why in the world would someone give up a beautiful cat like this?" Suzanna wondered. Meows purred so hard he rumbled. This one was the right one.

"Oh, that part's a little sad. The lady who owned him had a stroke, and now she's in a nursing home, unable to care for him. Her daughter and grandchildren tried to keep him, but their dog didn't like him and after a few weeks, that wasn't working at all. So her daughter brought him here."

"Can I hold him?" Suzanna asked. "Meows won't hurt him. I think Meows likes him."

"Sure," said the lady, and opened the cage door. The cat came right up to them and meowed to be picked up. Suzanna scooped him up and put him on her other shoulder. Both cats purred so loudly she felt like she had an earthquake on her shoulders. This one couldn't talk, but he was lovely and affectionate, and she wouldn't have to worry about this one scaring any of her guests by suddenly opening his mouth and talking. He was a regular, sweet cat, and the way Meows was thundering away, she knew this one was it.

"I'll take him," said Suzanna. The lady beamed.

"I think you'll be very happy with him. Looks like he likes both of you...listen to those purrs."

Suzanna followed the lady out. "How much is he?"

"Well, he just got here yesterday, and so except for the grooming, we haven't really spent much on him at all. How about just a donation? Whatever you think you would like to give to help us pay the bills and keep doing what we're doing," said the lady.

Suzanna opened her checkbook, wrote one out, and gave it to her, and the woman did a double-take.

"Oh! This is quite generous," she said a little nervously. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes. You're married, right?" Suzanna asked, seeing a gold band on her left hand.

"Yes, I am. Just got married last month," she said proudly.

"Wow! How nice. Where did you go on your honeymoon?"
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:11 PM   #98
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"Nowhere. We're saving for a cruise," she replied, smiling with anticipation.

"Really? Hmm." Suzanna got her datebook out. "How would you and your new hubby like two free nights at Sunshine Inn in the fall, say the week around Thanksgiving? Call it a wedding gift. Everyone needs a little bit of a honeymoon," offered Suzanna.

The lady's eyes flew wide. "Oh that's right! Now I know where I've seen you. You're the one who owns Sunshine Inn!"

"Yes, and I remember you, on your hands and knees picking glass out of my carpet. I want to thank you, and do something for you."

"But you don't have to do that!" the lady exclaimed.

"How about the weekend after Thanksgiving? Will that work for you?"

"Wow...gosh! Yes! We're both off that weekend."

"Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday?" Suzanna asked, her pen poised.

"Um...Friday-Saturday? Is that okay?"

"Sure, and I'll give you the room I usually try to give newlyweds. It's a lovely one with a fireplace and there's a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. It's especially cozy. I love that one. What's your name?"

"Ellen Duckett. My husband's name is Ben. This is wonderful of you, Ms. Pearson. I can't wait!"

"Call me Suzanna. And if you'd like to see the room first, I'll give you a tour when it's between guests in there."

She shook her head. "Ben and I were one of the first ones there on your opening day, when that guy smashed the champagne bottle. We saw all of them, and I know which one you're talking about. I love that one."

"Oh, good. Then I'll see you the day after Thanksgiving," Suzanna smiled. "And you'll see this little guy there. He's going to have a special role there."

"Official mousecatcher?"

Suzanna laughed. "Not exactly. Check out our ad in the paper in a couple weeks or so, and you'll see," she replied, and winked. "Thanks so much, Ellen. Thank you for helping me."

"No problem," Ellen smiled back. "You need a carrier for him?"

"No thanks, he'll be fine. It's only a couple blocks. Thanks again, see you in November."

With a smile and a wave, Suzanna went out the door with their new housemate.
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:16 PM   #99
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"I like him," said Meows when they got in the truck. The other cat curled up next to Meows on the passenger seat.

Suzanna scratched the new cat under his chin. "How's the name Sunshine sound?"

"Quite fitting, Suzanna. I like it. Hello, Sunshine."

Sunshine looked at them, perfectly content, and Suzanna started the truck.

The beautiful cat fit right into the little household behind the B&B. After a week getting used to his new home, it was time to introduce him to the staff, get the ads in before the deadline, and hire someone to take care of him.

She needn't have worried about the last one. The staff was thrilled and offered to share the job. They loved the cat, and he seemed to like them. Luckily, he seemed to like everyone. When Suzanna took him to Carrie's shop, he got along fine with the other cats there, and didn't seem to really notice the other cats acted differently. He played with Belle and sampled Ralph's goodies, and he liked riding in the truck.

Meows, after the first week, ended up being a little disappointed because Sunshine didn't talk. He brought that up one night as all three of them were piled on the bed.

"Well, look at it this way," Suzanna said. "At least you two won't be fighting over the computer."

Meows did the feline version of a shrug, which was twitching his ears and whiskers. "Maybe. But it would be nice anyway."

"He's a regular kitty, Meows. And it's better. Remember when Carrie told us about Belle blowing their secret wide open to Ralph? You don't want panicking guests here, do you?"

He thought about that. "No, I guess not. Not everyone understands it."

"And also, if he did talk, and someone found out, and had less than the best of motives, he could be stolen and exploited. You don't want that either, do you?"

Meows sighed. "No, I guess not. I think maybe it's safer for him, that he can't talk. But I like him...on a feline level. I just wish I could have a conversation with him, find out who he is. That kind of thing."

"But you can. Just watch him. Notice his habits. Have you ever noticed he likes to curl up in the laundry basket? He likes our smell, he likes being associated with us. He follows us around all the time, so he likes people and other animals. You just have to watch him, and it's harder to do that than it is to talk to him...if he could talk. He also acted very friendly
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:19 PM   #100
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toward everyone, and I think somewhere in his mind he understands what we want him to do here and he's trying to say, 'No problem, I can do this.' And I think he likes the idea, too. As if it suited his personality and his needs," said Suzanna.

Meows looked at his sleeping feline friend. "I guess so. That makes sense. If I want someone to talk to, I can always raise the others on messenger." He brightened. "Then again, after hours online with Belle zapping me with questions and sending me on endless searches because of her insatiable curiosity and zest for learning, sometimes the peace and quiet is nice."

Suzanna laughed. "I bet. But she is doing really well, from what I'm hearing."

"She's doing wonderfully, as usual. Very bright little one. Pook and Saav, I found out, are math, science and technology wizards and Bart's strong suits are philosophy and sociology, politics and religion. Interesting fellow, he is. When Pook and Saav distract Belle enough, we have some very enlightening discussions."

"That sounds very interesting," smiled Suzanna, thinking that discussions like that for hours on end would send her off the deep end screaming. She was glad Meows had the others to engage in that kind of activity with, and not her. She had gotten burned out on endless conversations like that with her peers in the law firm, and had to put up with stuffy, boring and arrogant fools who truly and completely believed they knew everything there was to know and then some. At least Meows wasn't like that. She had heard some of his discussions, and it seemed to her Meows spent more time trying to understand others' opinions rather than promoting his own. Unless, of course, he was asked. Or genuinely trying to help, such as his suggestion about trading the Mercedes. Practicality. More than once, she'd had reason upon reason to thank Meows for pointing her in the right direction. To show her gratitude, her license tag read MEOWS1. He was proud of that.

"It wouldn't really be to you, but it is to me. I know how you used to say if you heard one more overblown opinion you were going to choke the person it came from. I don't blame you. Those people you used to hang out with in the city were the most insufferable creatures I had ever met. And by the way, most of the time, they were wrong. I'd go look stuff up on your computer that I had heard mentioned, and wonder why the American Bar Association even bothered with them."

She was surprised at this. Again, he knew what she was thinking. "You went and looked it up? How come you never said so?"

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