My cat died.

Pepper. She's just gone.

I feel like there's a dark cloud hovering over me right now. I know it's her.

She was so sweet, though. So mild-mannered. Pepper was a tabby. She had gray fur with black stripes. Her two front feet had little white socks, and her back legs had long white stockings. Pepper had a little stripe going up between her eyes onto her forehead. Her whole nose and mouth and chest were white. I remember her eyes. Her eyes were huge and green-brown.

When she was little, she had plenty of fat to spare. As she grew older, she became even skinnier than Baby. Throughout her life, though, Pepper lived for food. She was a food-a-holic.

Never much of an active cat, Pepper slept a lot. She was always omnipresent. Whenever I had to walk down the hallway, there she was, sitting on the rug, right in my way. If I had to run downstairs, then she was sitting at the top, waiting for me to step over her. And when I was hungry, she was, too. She was in the middle of the kitchen then, meowing and begging for more food.

She was a sweetheart, as I've said a million times. When I was little, she used to let my sisters and I clip barrettes in her fur. She actually enjoyed it. That made my mom laugh.

I used to call her the Queen. She looked so regal all of the time. Her head was always held so high. She was always happy.

In the end, when nobody was nearby, she'd moan loud and low, beckoning someone, anyone to pet her. So I'd take a break from writing to spend a few minutes with her, just petting her, talking to her, and teasing her. She'd always change her voice quickly and greet me with a high-pitched "meow."

In the last year, Pepper had a problem digesting some cat foods. She couldn't eat hard food, like the crunchy kind. We couldn't give her treats most of the time (though I felt bad and snuck her some anyway). If she did have hard food, she'd just throw them up again. With the treats, she could keep them down sometimes.

Then, a day or two beforehand, she chucked up some regular, wet cat food. It was right outside of my room, in the hall.

I knew something was wrong right then. Well, to tell the truth, it was my mom who'd figured out that she'd chucked up regular wet food. But I could tell before my mother's analysis that something was wrong because Pepper just sat there for a few minutes and stared at the food.

Don't worry; I won't go into detail. It's just that she normally just got back up and continued on with her day. This time, she really seemed put down or disgusted by her sickness.

Then, on Monday, we had a snow day. I hadn't seen Pepper all day...I figured she was just sleeping or something. And she was. Still alive.

But on Tuesday (another snow day), when I woke up, everyone else was already awake. Normally, I'm the first or second one awake. I was confused.

And then Rachael came into my room, asking if I was awake. I moaned and nodded.

"Did you hear about it?" she asked quietly.

"No," I answered.

"Well then I'm not gonna tell you."

I smiled, thinking it was a joke. "What?" I asked. I needed to know. I shouldn't have asked.

"Pepper died," she said simply.

Naturally, I thought she was lying. Rachael is an awesome liar. She could convince you that Kate Bosworth was a man. Well, maybe not. But she'd a darn good liar. So I ran down the hall yelling at her, telling her to stop lying. But she told me to ask my mom. And my mother was crying. She told me that yes, she had died...

I cried all morning. I just wanted to go back to sleep and never get up again.

But my mom said we had to go out and do something. So an hour later, we were out to lunch at Panera. I felt like I was just stuffing food into my mouth. I was totally numb.

On a quick visit to Target, Rachael bought candy and Alexa got a video game. I got some Skittles.

We went to see Racing Stripes then. Rachael and I had a good laugh because there were a ton of little kids in the theater, and they all had colds. Rachael's pet peeve is when kids have throat-rattling coughs because it hurts her throat just to hear one. I'm surprised we didn't get mortally sick from seeing that movie...

After that, we went to the mall.

Everything from there after was a blur. We got ice cream later on, at about eight at night. Then we just about died on our beds. Meanwhile, Pepper was in the corner of the garden...

I didn't want to go to school on Wednesday. First of all, it was supposed to be an exam day (it was later changed to an exam review day). I was fatigued. I felt like I'd skipped doing my homework. Plus, we'd just had four snow days. Who wants to go back after snow days? And then there was Pepper looming over me. No, she wasn't looming. It was more of an empty feeling looming over me, even though I knew I still had Baby.

All of my classes were terrible. I was becoming slowly depressed. I had to break the news to all of my friends just to break the ice. I just felt lethargic, like I didn't want to do anything. It was horrible.

At lunch, I couldn't finish my food. I ended up passing up my cookies, which is very unlike me. I love fudge-striped cookies. Even though the mini ones are sort of a rip-off...

My teachers noticed something was up, too. Maybe not in first block, or second. Or third. Or fourth or fifth. But in my last two blocks, sixth and seventh, I wasn't up to my normal perfectionist standards. In math, I was getting answers wrong left and right, and I'd forgotten everything. I just wanted to sleep. I was irritated. In seventh block, my Health teacher even asked me if I was okay. Automatically, I nodded. But I was, by no means, okay. Nothing was alright. I felt like my friends didn't care, and that nobody understood.

The worst feeling was that nobody understood my pain. All of my friends had sweet dogs (yes, Mallory, your dogs are sweet, even though I've never met them) who were still alive. They were young dogs.

Pepper was seventeen. Plenty older than me. Eighty-four in cat years. Plus, she was a cat.

As I mentioned before, it felt like my friends didn't care. But they didn't know what to say.

Hey, when my best friend's pet bunny, Penelope, died on Diffendoofer Day in fifth grade, she was mortified, and I didn't know what to say. I couldn't relate, so I just shut my mouth and tried to avoid the subject.

But for me, it made everything worse when friends tried to dodge the subject. Everything I did for the first few days led me to think about my cat. She was unavoidable.

I'm not sure how other people like to deal with death. For me, though, I need to talk to someone or else start a journal to help me cope. I'm really sensitive. I cry for people I hated, or people who I never knew when they die. Nobody knows, though, since I cry in bed at night when I'm praying. I pent up my emotions so nobody knows. I've really tried to be more emotional, but it doesn't work that way for me. I'm most comfortable by myself, and I when I most need comfort, I'm by myself.

There was nobody for me to talk to, though, except for my family. And they were in the same boat as me.

Anna helped, though. Anna's a senior on the guard; she's really cool. And as soon as I told her, she raced over and hugged me. I may have laughed, but it brought tears to my eyes. She knew what I was going through. She could relate. And just that little fact--that she knew how I felt--was enough to make me feel better.

I really appreciated having friends around, though. I mean, even though they didn't talk about it, I always brought Pepper up in my conversations. Even though they can't contribute, it feels good for me to vent to someone else.

Day by day, as it gets farther and farther from the date when it happened, I get less and less emotional. But it's all pent up inside me all the time. And I vent to myself. That doesn't help any. I can't get any advice; I can't get any help.

So I've tried venting to other people. But my friends get uncomfortable around that topic. So I keep a journal. That way, later, I can look back and think, "Gosh, I've had worse days than today."

You might not think it's been long enough for me to be able to write about this as though I'm over it. And I'll tell you honestly: She died on January 25, 2005. And no, I will never be over this tragedy. But you know, sometime I'm going to have to tell the world about the day my cat died.

A ton of you probably think that this is such a petty situation--so my cat died? So what? Well, I don't care what you think. But here's the thing...I woke up to Pepper every day of my life since I was born. And then one day she's not here. Think about it. It's like waking up without a nose or something. You would miss your nose a ton. I know I would.

And also...we loved her. We love her. We took good care of Pepper even after she died. She died happy (I hope).

Guys, sorry if I type anything wrong now; I can't see--my eyes are, like, watering, and my throat's choking up.

Anyways, we took good care of her, and she was like my sister of another species. She means so much to me.

And she gives me something to look forward to. No, I'm not looking forward to death. But I know that there's someone in Heaven who I know is waiting for me. It makes death seem a little more friendly, knowing familiar is up there, biding their time, waiting to greet you...

She's sitting in my great-grandfather's lap, eating all the cat food she wants. Heh heh. Lucky girl. I wish I could have an all-you-can eat buffet like her. Aah, well. That'll have to wait for another day.

I just feel bad that on Monday I didn't seek her out to pet her or brush her fur or something, or at least say hi.

Well, Pepper, I love you. I miss you, but I know you're happy, and you've got a full stomach now. Something you could never have down here. The images in my head of you seem so lively and real...I wish they were.

P.S. Friends of mine, don't feel bad. My fault--I'm practically emotionally retarded.