Oliver’s Secret is a book full of fun, surprises, and a little bit of faith! This is the perfect story for family reading, or for new readers eager to try out their newfound reading skills.
Clare was lonely. That afternoon, she’d put away her toys in cupboards and books on shelves in her new room. She’d minded Tommy while Mum and Dad arranged furniture and unpacked pots and pans. Now they were cooking their first meal in the new kitchen in the new house.
It was meatballs with noodles, and she’d been hoping for fish and chips. Mum was Chinese and they’d lived in China for the last five years, so they often ate Chinese food. But now they were in England, Clare wanted to eat English food with a knife and fork. She wrinkled her nose when she saw the chopsticks on the table, and kicked her trainer against the skirting board.
“Don’t do that,” said Dad, stirring the meat balls.
“Go and play with Tommy,” said Mum.
“He’s gone to sleep,” said Clare. She’d played with Tommy all day, and it was a relief when he had fallen asleep on his play mat, sucking his thumb, with his bottom in the air.
“Oh dear,” said Mum. “You shouldn’t have let him. Now he probably won’t sleep tonight.“
“I couldn’t help it,” said Clare.
“Well, never mind,” said Mum. “Whatever’s the matter, Clare? You do sound cross.”
Clare thought they all sounded cross. Mum’s hair was flopping over her face and she kept pushing it back. Dad looked tired and was frowning a bit. Moving country and moving house was hard work.
“I’m lonely,” said Clare. Her mouth turned down at the corners. “I miss my friends in China. I don’t have any friends here.”
“Well, you will have,” said Mum briskly, fishing out plates from a crate. “Heaps, I expect. When you go to school and get to know people.”
“They might not like me,” said Clare. The thought of going to a new school, with new people, gave her a hollow feeling in her stomach. She kicked the skirting board again. Then she noticed something she hadn’t seen before. In the bottom of the back door, was another door. A tiny door that hung downwards on hinges. She pushed it with her foot and it swung to and fro, squeaking a little.
“What’s this little door for?” asked Clare.
“That’s a cat flap,” said Dad. “So a cat can get in and out by itself, without someone having to open the big door for it.”
Clare thought that was a lovely idea. “Could we get a cat?”
Dad shook his head. “We’re not all that keen on cats. I’ll probably stop up the cat flap.”
“I’m keen on cats,” said Clare. “Why can’t I have one?”
“You’re getting quite whiny,” said Mum. “Come and put out the table mats. You’ll feel better after a good meal.”
“I feel all right now,” said Clare. “Just lonely.”
They served up the meatballs and noodles and sat down at the new table. Dad said they ought to say thank you to God for moving safely to the new house, so they did. Mum glanced at Clare and prayed that God would soon supply a friend for her so that she wouldn’t be lonely. Then they all said thank you for the food. “But I wish we had some pudding as well,” added Clare, “like we have at Granny and Grandpa’s.”
“You’ll have to fill up with biscuits,” said Mum. “If I can find the biscuit tin.”
They all enjoyed the meat balls, even Clare. They were just finishing when a knock came at the door. When Mum went to answer it, Clare could see a blonde woman standing there with a tray. She and Mum talked and laughed for a few minutes. Then Mum came in with the tray.
“That was someone from the church. She knew we were moving in today and thought we’d like some tea and cheesecake. Wasn’t that nice?” She glanced at Clare and added, “She’s got a little girl your age, Clare. Called Eliza. She thought you might like to go round to play.”
Dad divided up the cheesecake while Mum poured tea from the big green teapot. “Well,” she said, “talk about prayer being answered. That’s two, Clare – a lovely pudding and someone to be your new friend.” She and Dad looked at each other, suddenly happy and sparkling as though they felt that everything was going to be all right. Clare wasn’t so sure. The cheesecake was lovely – creamy and fruity to the last spoonful. But she wasn’t sure about the new friend.
“What if I don’t like her? What if she doesn’t like me?”
Mum laughed and gave her a big hug. “Don’t be such an old grouch! Everything’s working out fine. Let’s go and wake Tommy and get him bathed and fed.”
Tommy hated being woken from a nap, and made his feelings heard long and loud. When things had quietened down a little, Clare remembered the cat flap. She looked at it when Mum sent her to the kitchen with Tommy’s plastic cup and dish. She nudged it with her toe and it squeaked as it flapped in and out. “I wish I had a cat,” she said longingly, under her breath. Suddenly she remembered her prayers for a pudding, and a friend, and how God had answered. She still had a few doubts about the friend, but she prayed, “God, could you send me a cat?”
She didn’t really think that this prayer would be answered too, but there was no harm in asking. And a little while later, when Mum and Dad were watching TV and she went to fetch a drink before bed, the cat flap swung open and a big, black and white cat came walking through.