Alex hung up the Christmas decorations with a heavy heart. Without Ginger, his pet cat, around, there seemed to be no cheer!

There were only a few days left for Christmas, but no one in the Kumar family felt like celebrating. Just last month, their beloved pet had disappeared and some days later, they had found her mangled body lying on the road, within the same colony. “We heard an awful racket in the night,” a friend said. “There seemed to be a pack of stray dogs and then there was this high-pitched screeching. If only we'd known it was your Ginger, we'd have gone out. The dogs probably chased her and she came in the path of a vehicle.”

Alex didn't say anything. What could he say? Ginger had come to him as a kitten, playful and cuddly and always getting under his feet. What he'd like best about her was that she was independent but always came back to him to ‘tell' him what she'd done. Sometimes she'd insist that he come out with her — and there on the lawn would be a large dead rat. Or she'd sit on the back of his bike when he was cycling and as he reached the bottom of the slope she'd take a flying leap into the tree — and when he was on his next round, she'd hop on again. Ginger usually went out at night, coming back through the narrow bars of the window upstairs and then finding her way to his room. What had happened that night?

Alex would never know.

He hung up another streamer, thinking of the previous year when Ginger had pulled down streamers faster than he could put them up. And the lights on the tree had fascinated her and kept her at home most of Christmas Eve. – rather unusual for her.

This year, Alex wasn't looking forward to his gifts — in fact, he hadn't asked for anything because the only thing he wanted couldn't come back from the dead for him!

But under the tree on Christmas morning, there was a surprise for Alex. A large box with holes in it, heavy too. Alex's heart began to beat faster. Had Ma and Pa got him a kitten? Carefully, he unwrapped the package, not sure whether he wanted another kitten in Ginger's place. But no, there was no animal inside. The gift was a large pot with a beautiful ixora plant in it. “Your responsibility Alex,” said his mother. “Water it and take care of it – you'll find that gardening is a great hobby.”

Alex smiled sadly. Yes, this was a living thing – but not likely to wander off and get killed! It would be easier to look after than an animal. Over the next few days, Alex threw himself into the care of the plant. He was up early every morning and went straight to the garden to see if any new leaves had come out or if the pot needed shifting into the patch of sunlight on the other side of the gate. He was doing just that a week later when he heard a strange sound. He peeped behind the pot then behind the bush in front of which it stood, to see what was there, and he fell back in surprise. A pair of melting brown eyes looked at him. That noise came again. It was a soft whine. Without thinking, Alex picked up the puppy with the expressive eyes and ran inside. “I need some milk, Ma,” he said, all business. “This puppy needs to be fed.”

Pa came into the kitchen and looked at Alex and the puppy. There was a hint of a smile on his face but he said nothing.

Alex watched the puppy lap up the milk. “I think I'll call her Pixie,” he said. “P for ‘pot' and ‘ixie' for ‘ixora'. Isn't that a good name?”

His parents agreed. “You have a busy year ahead, don't you? So many things to take care of…”

And Alex gave a huge grin – his first really heartfelt one in two months.