Chapter 3: A Disease

"Where did they come from Jenny?" asked Munkustrap, looking down at the kittens set before him.

"We found them this morning on the tire… Their mother abandoned them…" explained Jennyanydots. Munkustrap looked at the kittens.

"Well… This is a surprise. Who will be looking after them?" he asked.

"I will," said Jellylorum, smiling. "I feel they will get along with Pouncival and we cannot split them up between Jenny and I, they shouldn't be split," explained Jellylorum. Munkustrap gave a nod.

"That is true… It is unfortunate that they come now… So many kittens tonight at the ball…" he said softly.

"They can stay in the oven where Jenny or I can be watching them the entire time," said Jellylorum. Munkustrap gave a nod.

"Yes… That sounds good… We need to get back to decorating the junkyard for tonight… Where is everyone?" asked Munkustrap, looking around. "Oh no! Cassandra, that doesn't go there!" shouted Munkustrap and he got up and darted towards the sleek brown cat.

"You five go ahead and play," said Jennyanydots, "And stay out of trouble. Tonight is the Jellicle Ball and we don't need you to get in the way now. Come on Jelly."

"What are we going to do now?" asked Etcetera, scratching her ear.

"Let's play hide and seek!" said Pouncival, hopping up and down.

"Ooooh… That sounds fun!" Etcetera grinned and touched her nose "Not it!" she cried.

"What?" asked Tumblebrutus but before he knew it all the other kittens were touching their nose. "You all smell," he said, walking over to a corner and covering his eyes. He began to count and the other kittens scattered.

Victoria knew this game, she knew by how the cat turned his back and covered his eyes. She followed the other kittens then split from them, crawling into a small spot between a box and a trashcan. She crawled under a piece of white cloth and brought it over her head. She blended in so well, you wouldn't be able to tell she was there unless you really looked and saw her eyes. She smiled. She picked the best place; all she had to do was wait.

Tumblebrutus finished counting and looked around. Tumblebrutus scrunched up his nose. He knew where Pouncival would hide; he had played this game with him enough times to know his favorite hiding places… So he knew exactly where he needed to go to find him. Tumblebrutus made his way through the junkyard, his eyes looking as he walked, hoping to find the others while he looked for Pouncival. Unfortunately he didn't, because he found Pouncival in the first hiding place he always checked, in the pipe.

"Found you!" said Tumblebrutus, tagging Pouncival.

"Aww… How did you find me?" asked Pouncival, crawling out of the pipe after Tumblebrutus.

"Lucky guess, now help me find the others,"

The others were a bit harder to find because Tumblebrutus didn't know their hiding styles or favorite places. Etcetera was easy to find because she ended up giggling once they had passed her. Pouncival ended up pouncing on her, making her laugh more.

"No fair!" she cried, wiggling away from Pouncival. Tumblebrutus grinned and began to look the other two.

Mistoffelees was a bit harder to find, but Tumblebrutus found him hanging from a beam near some black fabric that hung down. The white on his tail, chest and face gave him away or he would have blended in quite well.

"I wish I was all black…" Mistoffelees said as he hopped down from his hiding place.

"Guess Victoria is the winner… Just need to find her and tell her," said Tumblebrutus. Mistoffelees looked at Tumblebrutus.

"She's pretty good at this game… She's very quiet so it will be harder to find her," he said but there was something strange in his voice that Tumblebrutus couldn't pick up on but shrugged it off.

"She's white, how hard can it be?" he asked, running off to find Victoria. Mistoffelees watched as he ran away and he felt a bit guilty. He was hoping Victoria wasn't going to pick up on the game they were playing and would just linger near the clearing, being the first to be picked but it seems she ended up hiding. He knew he should have stayed with her, making her hide near him so he could watch her but it never dawned on him to do that. He ran in the opposite way of Tumblebrutus, hoping to find Victoria quickly.

Victoria laid very still, her eyes keeping a look out for anyone to pass her. She had a plan, whenever she would see someone like her she would close her eyes and hope she wasn't seen. This plan worked once because her brother had ran right by her and didn't see at all. This made her happy that her strategy was working.

The sun began to move in the sky, making it close to the afternoon, the game had been going on for a half an hour and Victoria was still waiting for someone to find her. She was worried, did they forget about her? Was she invisible? She sat up, the white fabric sliding down her back. Where were they? She walked a bit, looking around. She couldn't exactly remember which way she had come to get to this spot so she began to walk, hoping to find her brother, sister, or two others she had met.

Tumblebrutus was confused. How could Victoria hide so well? She was white yet he couldn't find her at all. He could hear faintly Mistoffelees calling for her, so he feared that they were not playing the game anyone. Victoria was missing and she needed to be found.

"Victoria!" cried Tumblebrutus, running down a clear path. He jumped up onto some of the junk and began to walk across it, giving him a higher view to see if he could spot a white figure. He was happy that he did that, for he found a white cat sitting on a trash can lid not far from him. He jumped down and ran towards her.

"Victoria!" he shouted, coming up upon her back but she didn't move. "Victoria!" he shouted again.

Victoria sat on the trash can lid, tired and sad. She was lost and she didn't know where she was. No matter where she turned it was just junk, junk and more junk. She sniffed and felt her eyes go wet, feeling the wetness roll down her cheeks. She rubbed her face and sniffed again. Her ears twitched when she felt a small shake of the ground, it was coming behind her. She turned around and her chest seemed to release the tension it had built up when she noticed who it was. She sniffed again and began to cry. She didn't know why she was crying, but she was crying none the less.

"Victoria!" cried Tumblebrutus when he was close to her. She turned around, looked at him, and she began to cry. Tumblebrutus was confused, not knowing why she was crying.

"Why are you crying? We couldn't find you!" he said, giving her a stern look. "Why didn't you call out when I called for you?" He was taken back when Victoria hugged him, holding him tightly as she cried. Tumblebrutus was mad and confused. What was with her? She was the weirdest cat he had ever met and it made him mad that she would pull stupid stunts like this.

"We are all worried you disappeared! Mistoffelees is frantic, what do you have to say for yourself?" he asked. Victoria didn't answer. "Victoria!" he whined, pulling away from her. "Answer me," She just stared at him, wide eyed and frightened. Tumblebrutus was confused.

"Say something," Silence. "I won't be your friend anymore if you don't say sorry!" She still didn't say anything. Tumblebrutus was confused. "Shake your head if you understand me," he said but all Victoria did was sniff and blink, never shaking her head. Tumblebrutus pulled back from her. She couldn't hear him. This was wrong, this was horribly wrong!

"Oh heavyside... You can't hear me!" he shouted, backing away from her. Victoria looked at him and walked toward him. He didn't know why but he felt like getting away from her, leaving her where she was. Not hearing was not normal and all jellicles were normal. She was different and he didn't understand it. Was she evil? Was she going to hurt him? So many things ran through his mind before he noticed Victoria was touching his shoulder. He jerked away.

"No," he hissed, backing away, scared. Was he going to catch it too? Would being friends with her make him not hear as well? He couldn't do that, he couldn't give up hearing. He turned and ran, not caring if Victoria was following or not.

"Did you find her?" asked Mistoffelees. Pouncival shook his head.

"Nope! No sign!"

"Oh Vicky!" cried Etcetera, falling on her butt. "She always gets into trouble… At least with mum we lived in a big open area with few places to hide. This place has so many hiding spots we may never find her!"

"Look! Tumble!' shouted Pouncival. Mistoffelees looked and noticed a white figure running behind him.

"Victoria!" Tumblebrutus came into the clearing and ran straight to Pouncival. Mistoffelees ran to Victoria and pulled her into a tight hug.

"You found her Tumble! Good job!" said Etcetera, smiling at Tumblebrutus. She noticed that he was different and tilted her head to the side. "Tumble, what's wrong?" she asked.

"Your sister is wrong," he said.

"What do you mean? There isn't anything wrong with her," said Etcetera.

"She can't hear me! She can't hear and doesn't talk. How is that normal?" he asked, backing away. Pouncival looked at Tumblebrutus then looked at the other three.

"She was born with it!" cried Etcetera.

"What if she wasn't? What if it's a disease you can get? You two might have it right now… I might have it. I can't give up hearing, I just can't!" shouted Tumblebrutus. "I don't want to be friends with you, not if your sister is going to be around," he spat and began to leave. "Coming Pouncival?"

"Pouncy, you don't believe that do you?" asked Etcetera. Pouncival looked at Victoria then Etcetera.

"What if it is a disease?" he asked.

"You are crazy!" cried Etcetera, getting up and walking towards Pouncival.

"Stay away! How can I be sure?" asked Pouncival. He noticed Tumblebrutus walking away and followed him.

Etcetera let out a frustrating scream and kicked a box. She looked at Mistoffelees and Victoria. She glared at her sister.

"This is your fault! Why can't you be normal?" cried Etcetera.

"You know she can't help it," said Mistoffelees, holding Victoria close to him.

"How can we be sure? Maybe it is a disease? What if we get it Misto? We just lost two friends because of her! What if we can't make friends? I like the feeling of being around other kittens and now I don't have that… It's all her fault!" Etcetera walked to Victoria, glaring at her.

"Speak! Say something!" she cried but Victoria said nothing. Her smile slowly faded to a frown, unsure of what Etcetera was feeling, but she knew she wasn't happy.

"Vicky!" Etcetera just looked at Victoria and turned away. "I can't do this… I was fine when it was just us three but now… She's the reason mum left… I…" Etcetera sniffed. "I can't take this!" she cried and ran off, disappearing into the junk.

Mistoffelees was a loss for words. They had just made friends that morning and now they were gone, gone because they found out Victoria was deaf. She couldn't help it, she was born with it. If it was a disease, wouldn't Jennyanydots and Jellylorum have warned them? Taken her away from them? She was his sister, someone he cared for deeply. His other sister just ran away because of Victoria. How did he handle that? How can he take a side in this type of a matter? He couldn't but he felt that he would protect Victoria because who else could? She couldn't protect herself let alone someone else… Etcetera could hear, she could scream but Victoria couldn't. He looked at sister in his arms and noticed she was crying. He couldn't understand why she was crying but felt that she could feel moods and it upset her. He rubbed the top of her head.

"Shhh… I'm still here," he said softly, knowing well enough she wouldn't be able to know. "I'm still here…"

A/N: I didn't want to stop the chapter here, I wanted to include the ball but this chapter ended on a note that felt like a good chapter end. This was NOT what I had intended when I started it but I knew that as kids if someone is different you don't understand why and you do not embrace the difference easily… The next chapter probably won't come out as quickly as this one though... Enjoy!