It is interesting to note that even in a house packed with baffling personalities, Little Mil stands out like a sore thumb.
At 6am, every weekday morning, Phil and I lie in the darkness, waiting for the dawn, and his alarm goes off.
A more grating melody I have yet to find; harsh, it makes no compromises in volume, subtlety or artistry. It blares.It is like a bawling sergeant major, all expectation and no sodding compromise. It and I are sworn enemies.
And is it easily switched off, just a short reach from the warm, all-consuming duvet?
It is not.
My husband leaves it at the bottom of the stairs. A whole floor away. This, I tell him, is a mistake. Not just because the walls there are paper thin, and our poor unsuspecting bachelor neighbour must have a blue fit every time it goosesteps into action at a very small hour; but because Phil must tear himself away from the news headlines and the cosy layers of duck-down, and must try anything he can, at the bottom of those drafty stairs, to pacify it.
It serves as a wake up call for us all. And none more than Little Mil.
I fling open our bedroom door and at first it appears there is no-one there, despite a deep conviction that a personality is willing me to permit it entrance.
Is there a ghost? I wonder blearily, and then the smallest, most falsetto mew you have ever heard emits from somewhere at my feet. It is almost inaudible to the human ear. And I look down, and there she is.
Good morning, she emanates severely.
A kitten who never quite reached cat size, Millificent waits gravely for me to turn and indicate exhausted acquiescence. “Hello, Little Mil,” I say, looking at her, and she returns my gaze levelly.
Because Mil has qualities of the charming and the pretty, like a Gainsborough woman with a graceful hat. All who see her chorus her engaging qualities. Yet those who share the same four walls as hers know she has oddities which will not be reconciled with first impressions.
Her childhood is cloaked in mystery, though she arrived parcelled with her brother. We know there are other siblings but can only surmise that room in the womb was a bit tight and she drew the short straw.
Alas, we think she was taken from her mother too soon. Thus, her personal habits are abominable. She has no concept of personal hygiene, and her brother huffs at her sloppy unfeline ways.
She is not a tortured soul, but she has an element of the eldrich in her stare. And when you are lying asleep, if you leave the door open, she pads soundlessly into the room and does a passable impression of a vampire, pummelling bare skin with clawed feet and licking mercilessly as though she was in need of the darkest of libations.
Yet when she trusts you: when she knows you are a sympathiser, she has the intensity of a mother lion- only a very, very small lion indeed – and you are hers completely. Enveloped. Commanded.
Deeply tactile, passionate yet cold as the grave. Silent and stealthy, with a meow which might just as easily be a bat squeak.
Grave Mil. Eldrich Mil.
Little Mil, the Vampire Cat.