The black cat clock mounted on the wall across from the curio cabinet ticked and tocked, its eyes moving back and forth, back and forth. Sheila was both enthralled and terrified. She sat staring, perplexed by just what it was the black cat was looking for, and much more disturbingly, what he was doing perched on the wall. And so it was very difficult for Sheila to sleep that night, staring at the black cat clock, the ticking and tocking jolting her awake each time she began to drift off.
Miss Abigail too, had a difficult time falling asleep that night, her mind so preoccupied with trying to decide what dress Mr. Elliot would most enjoy seeing her in after all these months. She wondered if she should construct an elaborate lie to justify her absence, or if she should simply tell the truth. Regardless of these mullings, once she did drift off, Miss Abigail slept more soundly than she had in a long time and woke just as the sun was rising, feeling fresh and ready for the day. The first thing she checked, after assuring that the cookies had not been disturbed in the night, was the curio cabinet. There was Sheila, her new little cat, looking considerably less bewildered than she had in that thrift shop window the previous day.
“Aren’t you looking wonderful this morning,” sang Miss Abigail. Sheila was so happy to be greeted in such a magnanimous fashion that she couldn’t help but agree with Miss Abigail’s assessment.
Mr. Elliot was drinking tea when Miss Abigail appeared in the bookshop doorway in what he privately thought was a rather dowdy looking dress. Still, he was so pleased to see her after so long that he jumped up from his well-worn reading chair and went to greet her. He resisted grabbing her hand and landing a kiss upon her cheek, even though he felt moved to do so. He knew, from several acquaintances of hers, that she had been suffering from the funk. He had never known anyone with such an affliction, and so regarded her with curiosity and a bit of apprehension, though he did his best to prevent any such feelings from registering on his face.
Miss Abigail proudly presented the shirt box full of oatmeal raisin cookies. She tried to conceal the smile spreading across her face with a dainty cough into her handkerchief. She did not want Mr. Elliot to know how pleased she was that the corner of his mouth twitched, that he cleared his throat three, four, five times, all signs that her presence made him nervous with excitement. She had certainly chosen the right dress. He asked her to sit with an awkward flourish and presented her with a book of poems and a cup of tea, and together they spent almost an hour munching on oatmeal raisin cookies and exchanging niceties.
They had such a wonderful time, that Miss Abigail completely forgot about introducing Sheila. It wasn’t until she was half-way home when she realized her insensitivity. She immediately opened her purse and apologized to the little cat who she thought looked rather comfortable despite being neglected.
Miss Abigail turned around and hurried back to the shop. But seeing through the window that Mr. Elliot was busy with a customer, an elegant looking woman in a teal dress and a very becoming hat, Miss Abigail quickly stepped back so as not to be seen. Miss Abigail thought this woman looked familiar and suspected that she was the one who had moved into The Snobbsinson's House. She spied through the window for several minutes, noting that though Mr. Elliot seemed to be very interested in this woman whose cigarette dangled from the corner of her painted mouth, he did not invite her to sit and drink tea, nor, thankfully, to eat one of Miss Abigail’s oatmeal raisin cookies. Now the thought of returning to the shop just to introduce Sheila seemed a tad absurd, so she decided that she would have to come back the very next Tuesday in order to introduce Sheila.
“I’m sure that will be fine with you,” Miss Abigail said to Sheila as she walked home, clutching her purse, wondering just what it was that woman had been talking to Mr. Elliot about. Had Sheila chosen to answer she might have told Miss Abigail that she would prefer a break from the confines of the poke-a-dot purse, as it was a bit stuffy and overcrowded with pens and papers and handkerchiefs and twigs and assorted bottles, clips, buttons, and candies. But Sheila was not one to complain. And had Miss Abigail realized how uncomfortable the journey was for Shelia inside the poke-a-dot purse, surely she would have provided more appropriate accommodations.
But Miss Abigail had other things on her mind.