The Visitor

Lauren Rebbeck © Lady answering door with a plate of biscuits in her hand Illustration: LAUREN REBBECK, WWW.LAURENREBBECK.COM


Who is Carol and why is Lucy so desperate to win her approval?

Lucy jumped when the doorbell finally rang. Dan smiled and nodded encouragement to her.

“Here goes then.” She forced a welcoming smile onto her face.

When the woman entered the lounge, Dan leapt to his feet


Lucy watched as Carol settled herself on the sofa and gazed around the room. Thank goodness I remembered to dust the window sill behind Carol’s head, she thought.

“Tea, coffee?”

Lucy had prepared the tray earlier that morning. Chocolate digestives were arranged in overlapping circles.

“Everyone likes digestives, don’t they?”

Dan had chuckled and given her a hug.

“She’s not the Spanish Inquisition, you know,” he said

“No one expects…” Lucy began the usual response but her vision was suddenly blurred and her voice faltered.

“It’ll be OK.” Dan patted her back.

“But adoption, Dan?” Lucy replied. “They have to be so careful that we’re suitable.”

“We are suitable,” he insisted. “They won’t be checking to see if the house is clean enough, or that we don’t wear our shoes in the lounge. You’re over-reacting.”

“Obviously the home visit is an essential part of our process,” said Carol, picking up a chocolate biscuit. “And you have looked at our website?”

“Extensively,” said Dan, joining in with the endeavour. He sipped his tea more daintily, his little finger even threatening to take flight.

“After tea, perhaps you’d like to see round the house?” offered Lucy.

“That won’t be necessary.”

Lucy noted Carol apparently finding it necessary to sample the chocolate biscuits, though.

“Do help yourself, Carol,” she said, mentally regretting the last two days of frantic house-cleaning.

“It won’t be using the bathroom,” Dan had commented at the time as she’d scrubbed and bleached.

“But the inspector might,” she’d replied, undeterred.

“May I give you a top-up?” said Lucy, gesturing at the teapot and hoping to encourage the bathroom visit.

“No, thank you.” Carol handed Dan a few small leaflets. “These will help you prepare for the arrival,” she said.

“We’ve passed?” squeaked Lucy.

“It’s not that stringent an examination,” said Carol, smiling.

“But we are a bit near the main road,” admitted Dan.

“That’s what happened to Misty, our previous cat,” said Lucy, feeling her throat tighten.

“A car got him,” said Dan through gritted teeth.

“I see,” said Carol. “We just have to be sensible about which cat you eventually adopt. An older cat, perhaps?”

“We could do that.” Dan nodded.

“Another biscuit?”

Lucy wasn’t sure any more biscuits were necessary, but felt it her duty to offer.

Carol shook her head.

“If I might just use your bathroom?”

Lucy couldn’t restrain herself

Once Carol had been directed to the facilities, Lucy bounced up and down on her toes.

“She likes us,” she whispered. “We can have one.”

Dan seemed equally pleased.

“Just wait until she sees the bathroom,” he said, grinning. “You never know, they might even let us have two.”

“Do you think so?” She gazed out of the window to the bottom of the garden where Misty, victim of the traffic demon, slept his eternal rest under the elderberry tree.

“And we didn’t even have to show her the photos of Misty or anything.”

Dan chuckled. “Or tell her that you were thinking of having a paw print tattooed on your shoulder.”

At the front door Dan stood with his arm around Lucy’s waist as they said goodbye to the cat charity inspector.

“Come along to the cat re-homing show tomorrow,” said Carol. “I’ll help you choose the right little friend to join your family.”

“Or two, maybe?” Lucy couldn’t resist.

“If you’ve got room,” said Carol. “Three cats might be a handful.”


“The fluffy black one in the garden. That one’s yours, isn’t it?”

“In the garden?”

“Yes, sitting under your tree? That’s what totally convinced me that you’re the sort of family our cats need.” She smiled. “He’s obviously very happy here. I just hope he won’t be too put out by another cat or two moving in.”

Lucy blinked back a tear as she thought of Misty under the elderberry. “No, he won’t. He really won’t.”

“It’s obviously what he would have wanted,” whispered Dan.

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Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me