The Cats Like Her – October 2023
"Well, darn it," Ziva turned to her project partner Alice as the two read the sign on the café near campus. "I did not know it was closed for renovations."
"Neither did I," Alice replied. She juggled her laptop, backpack, and the project board while Ziva carried her laptop, backpack, and a portable printer back to the van.
Once the two stowed everything in the rear of the van, Ziva texted Tony to give him a heads' up that they were headed to the house to work on the project.
"We can work at my house; I have a large dining room table we can lay out everything and get organized," Ziva looked at her friend. "I have to warn you, though, that with three preschool-aged kids, two dogs, and four cats, we may have 'helpers.' Hopefully my husband can keep them distracted enough to leave us alone. Once the older two come home from school they can also help keep the little ones out of our way."
Alice nodded, "Not a problem. I have two younger sisters and a cat, so I am quite acquainted with the 'unwanted' helpers."
Ziva turned into the driveway and hit the remote for the garage door opener, "We will go in through the garage, since that door is closest to the room where we will be working." As she opened the rear hatch, Tony came out of the garage.
"Heard you open the door; what can I carry for you?"
Ziva handed her laptop and the portable printer to her husband; she took the project board and her backpack into the house with Alice following behind. Once they put everything down on the dining room table, she made proper introductions.
"Tony, my friend and classmate Alice; Alice, my husband Tony," she barely had time to get the words out before she was bombarded by three little bodies and the two dogs.
"IMA!" the younger DiNozzos all hugged their mother and Asher leaned on his alpha person while Daisy licked Ziva's hand.
"Hello; I missed you while I was at class," she greeted the children. "Would you like to meet my friend?"
All three turned to look at the new person in the house. Beth moved behind her Ima's leg as LJ scooted closer to his Abba. Rivka crossed her arms in front of her and stared at the stranger.
"Who are you?" she demanded.
"Rivka Abigail; you know better than to be rude," Ziva reprimanded her middle child. "This is my friend and classmate Alice. Alice, meet Rivka, Beth and LJ. The furry DiNozzos are Asher and Daisy." She pointed to each one as she introduced them.
"Hi," Alice smiled at the three children as Daisy sniffed and then nudged her hand for pets.
"Are you going to stay here?" Riv questioned. "Are you having bah-sketty with us?"
"Rivka," Tony warned.
"I want to know, Abba," she replied and shrugged.
Ziva tried to apologize for her child, "She is not normally this pushy. I do not know why she is…"
Alice grinned, "No problem." She turned to the curious three year-old, "Your Ima and I are working on a project for our class. Is that okay with you?"
"Yeah," the little girl was satisfied and turned to her father. "When is snack time, Abba?"
"Very soon; how about we let Ima and Alice get to work and the rest of us get a snack?" he led the three little ones to the kitchen and Daisy followed hoping for some treats. Asher curled under the table and sighed. He'd most likely stay near his alpha person.
The two women began laying out the parts they had completed and organizing notes and other information. They were trying to figure out how to place two images on the project board when they were startled by Simba, Tali's orange tabby, jumping up onto the project.
"Simba, down," Ziva hissed at the cat. He stretched lazily and then eased off the table. He turned and started winding around Alice's feet. She reached down to pet the cat and he purred.
Riv and Beth appeared in the doorway each carrying her cat.
"Do you like cats?" Riv queried. "This is my cat Patches. And Beth's cat is Lightning." Both girls plopped their cats at Alice's feet. Ziva watched as Lightning rubbed on Alice's shoe and then to her surprise Patches rubbed on her friend's legs. Patches was their skittish cat; the one who normally disappeared when someone other than the immediate family came into the house.
"Okay, girls; I am sure Alice does not want to be petting cats all afternoon," Ziva tried to shoo them all out of the dining room.
Alice smiled and let the cats sniff her hands and then she petted each one. Patches even leaned into the petting. "Pretty kitties…"
"I like you," Rivka announced. "The cats like you, so you must be okay!" Beth nodded and grinned.
Tony reappeared in the dining room. "Okay mini-ninjas, let's all go outside and play so Ima and Alice can get their work done. Where's your brother?"
"I don't know, Abba," Riv replied.
"Me either," added Beth.
Just then the little boy popped out from under the table with his stuffed lion, "ROWR!" He grinned at everyone, but especially at his parents, trying to stay out of trouble.
He tugged on Alice's shirt, "Wanna meet my lion?" He held the lion out for her to see. "Him name Lee-roy," the toddler added with a huge grin, "like me!"
Alice smiled at the little boy and took the lion's front paw in her hand, shaking hands with the plush toy, "Hello there Leroy the Lion; pleased to meet you."
LJ giggled, "You funny!"
"If you are a DiNozzo, it's time to go outside and play," Tony herded the kids and dogs towards the desk sliding door. "Who wants to make giant bubbles?"
"ME!" all three preschoolers yelled as they ran out the door onto the deck. Daisy and Asher ran out into the yard and spotted a squirrel to chase into the trees. Tony grabbed the large jar of bubble solution and the flat dish and wand for making the big bubbles.
Inside, Ziva and Alice were working on the project mostly uninterrupted; Ziva had to shoo Callie off the table. The calico cat had come into the dining room meowing and looking for her person. Ziva introduced Callie to Alice as 'Tony's cat.' Callie finally settled on Tony's chair and watched the two women work at the table.
Ziva's phone sounded an alert notification; she quickly silenced it and explained to her friend, "My older two should be getting off the bus at the end of the driveway. I will be right back." She walked to the front door and opened it. Tali and Anthony were just stepping on to the walkway from the driveway.
"Hi, Ima," Tali hugged her mother.
Anthony tried to duck as Ziva ruffled his hair, and teased, "No hug for me, motek?" He gave her a quick side hug and ran inside.
"Abba and the little kids are out back; you may have a snack and then go outside to play before dinner," she walked with them towards the kitchen. In the dining room she introduced the kids to her friend, "Tali, Anthony, this is my friend Alice from my Organizational Behavior class. Alice, my older two, Tali and Anthony."
Tony came inside as the kids got their snacks. He stuck his head around the corner of the door from the kitchen, "Spaghetti for eight for dinner?"
Ziva looked at Alice, "You are welcome to stay and have dinner with us; I can take you back to your apartment afterwards."
"Thanks," her friend nodded and smiled.
At dinner, the kids asked a lot of questions, especially after Ziva mentioned that Alice was an exchange student from Australia. LJ couldn't quite grasp that the current season in the foreign country was not autumn, but spring. When Alice mentioned that Christmas was in summer time back home, the toddler gasped dramatically. Tony and Ziva had to try not to laugh at his antics. Anthony asked about the kangaroos and if Alice had ever seen one.
Tali asked about places Alice had been, and told her about visiting Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Israel over the past summer.
"Ima, is Australia as far away as Israel?" Riv asked as she remembered the family trip.
"Even further away," Ziva replied.
Riv's smile faded, "Oh, so we couldn't go visit Alice?"
"Sure we can someday, little ninja; it will be more time flying, but it would be fun to go to another continent," Tony reassured her.
"I wanna see Alice's cat," Beth spoke up. "What's your cat's name? What color is the cat?"
Alice pulled her phone out of her pocket; she found the picture she wanted and showed it to Beth. "He's gray, and his name is Charlie," she told the children as she showed the picture to the others. "I've missed him since I came here in January. I'll get to see him again in December when I go home."
"You can come visit our cats if you get lonely for him," Anthony offered. "That way you might not miss him so much."
LJ tapped Alice's arm, "Like ice cream? Always ice cream on sketty nights! I share my choc'late with you. I like you." He leaned against his Ima's friend. "You my friend!"