“Where did the cat come from? Does it only talk to you when you are afraid?”
Belinda’s voice was skeptical, but Kumori knew she could trust her. They had worked together for two years in the same small cubicle among the never-ending rows of cubicles that made up their office. Both women joked quietly to pass the time as they stamped the official documents that passed through their hands, barely reading the pages, though only when their other co-workers weren’t around. Still, Kumori wondered why she would bring up Lucky Cat to her friend. Shouldn’t it remain her secret at a time like this? She tried to make it sound like a quirky joke from her childhood, though maybe it was too late for Belinda to believe that kind of excuse.
Belinda noticed her hesitation and smiled reassuringly.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me. I thought it might be a cute story that I’d like to hear. Around this place, not many people have anything light-hearted and sweet in their life to share.” She sighed and flipped back her shoulder-length brown hair with a toss of her head. “I wish sometimes I was alive before the Reorganization, before they started planning everything and you had to get permission to come to the city or go to the country.”
Kumori smiled back at her.
“My Aunt Suna was alive back before the Reorganization. I guess she was my great aunt, really. She died when I was a little girl, but she was the one who gave me the cat statue from the country my family lived in during World War Three. I remember hearing that they were popular back in the old country years ago. Now you don’t see them.”
“They’ve probably been banned by the authorities by now. You shouldn’t let anyone see it,” Belinda said, whispering and glancing toward the aisle outside of their cubicle entrance though it was late and everyone else had gone home.
“You’re probably right,” Kumori said, thinking it was a good thing she left the little statue in her purse instead of taking it out to show her friend. “Since they banned pets, Lucky Cat is all I have to keep me company in my little apartment. I wouldn’t want to have it confiscated.”
“You need to get a boyfriend,” Belinda said, laughing before she turned serious again. “But you said it was more than just a statute to you. Did you mean it was magic?”
“I don’t know,” Kumori said. “I don’t understand the old country ways at all, and Aunt Suna died before I was old enough to talk with her about such things. My parents would never answer questions like that if Tsumori and I had them. Maybe it is magical in some way that it can make me think of it as a real friend. Even when I was a little girl, I felt comfortable asking it questions I couldn’t ask any of the adults. It does seem to know things.”
“How mysterious,” Belinda said, nodding. “You should definitely keep it secret then. That kind of help could come in handy. When was the last time you got permission to see your family and Tsumori? How long have you been in New Caledonia?”
“I tried a few times to get the authorities to give me permission to go back to visit, but they refused. It has been five years since I’ve seen them. They’re too far out in the provinces to come here, though it might be easier for them to get permission to come for a few days. I think the city authorities don’t want to lose their workers, and I had too good of grades for them to let me stay out in the countryside. I wonder if Tsumori has tried to get permission to come here. He had even better skills than I did.”
“You could talk to him on the internet and get news of your family.”
“But I’d have to go to the main office of the central authorities to use it. I guess it wouldn’t matter. It would be nice to see them and know they’re doing well. I just feel uneasy about it.”
“Did the cat tell you not to go?”
“Now you’re being mean. Do you think I ask Lucky Cat for advice on everything? I just didn’t go. Maybe I should think about it. They might be worried.”
“Well, it’s time to get out of here. I’ll see you in the morning. Do you want me to bring you breakfast?”
“No, it’s okay. I’ll probably get in a little late tomorrow.”
“See you then.”
Belinda grabbed her bag, swung it over her shoulder and walked down the corridor beside the cubicles. After a few minutes, Kumori left the office, too, turning out the lights behind her, but when she was halfway down the street leading to her apartment, she realized she forgot her keys and returned to the office.
Excerpted from "Kumori and the Lucky Cat (The Lucky Cat Series Book 1)" by Wendelin Gray. Copyright © 2016 by Wendelin Gray. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.