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Chapter 2

"Matilda, I'm home!"

Pushing the door open, Sappho entered the house. She placed the brass key back inside the small pocket of her black bookbag. Flinging the bag off her shoulders, the blonde watched Matilda bolting downstairs to greet her. The silver tabby stopped to stretch by the base of the stairs before curling her tail around Sappho's legs.

"Mrow," Matilda meowed softly, rubbing her scent against the human's legs.

Sappho stretched her mouth into a wide smile. She loved when her cat rushed downstairs to greet her whenever she came back from school. Sappho bent down to peck a kiss on the tabby's small head. As usual, kissing the feline resulted in getting loose hairs stuck on her lips. Plucking them off one by one, Sappho followed Matilda whom was leading her into the kitchen.

Expected, Sappho thought. She assumed Matilda wanted more kibbles in her food bowl, but she was proved wrong once they reached the kitchen.

Matilda picked up a dead, brownish gray mouse in her mouth. Carrying it with pride, she padded over to Sappho and dropped it by her feet. The scrawny rodent lay motionlessly on its back. Several patches of its fur were covered with scratches and dried blood. The feline definitely had fun with it while she was away.

Matilda stood patiently waiting to be praised. Her dilated, olive green eyes scanned her human's furless face. Before Sappho came home, Matilda didn't know what to do with the toy she found. It bored her when it stopped moving when she was playing with it for five minutes or so. She decided to give it to her two-legged friend as a gift. She hoped the human would find it useful.

Sappho didn't move and stared blankly at the mouse's tiny, beady eyes that were filled with emptiness. Feelings of disgust did not cross her mind. Matilda had given Sappho many other things before. Sappho could imagine how hard it was to scavenge for scraps of food, just to survive when there was always a cat carefully guarding the kitchen. The mouse took that risk which was equivalent to a suicide mission. That was the harsh life for the prey however.

"My, my…" Sappho began softly.

Matilda's ears perked up at her voice, and the tip of her tail ticked back and forth like a clock.

"I am so proud of you, my little huntress! Is this your first mouse kill this month?" Not that there were mice often in the house, but Matilda usually caught at least one or two in the summer.

Matilda blinked at Sappho. Although she did not understand the noises coming from Sappho's mouth, she took it that the human was satisfied. She assumed whenever humans spoke softly in a high-pitch, overdone tone, it meant that they would not attack her. Sometimes when Sappho would talk too high, however, she would completely end up walking away from her.

Sappho chuckled. "Would you like a treat for your hard work?"

Treat. Matilda definitely recognized that word. Whenever Sappho mentioned "treat," the cat knew that she was going to get a tasty present. The memory of chewing that savory, dried meat captivated her mind, opening up all her senses.

But first, I need to pick up the mouse, Sappho thought. She found her mother's broomstick in the corner of the kitchen and hesitated for a moment as she took it by her hand. She glanced down at the dead mouse. Sorry. Sappho swept it into a black, plastic bag and tied it up.

Matilda watched the human curiously as Sappho exited out of the house. The blonde placed the bag by the porch to bury it later.

Returning back inside the house, Sappho spotted Matilda whom was still in the kitchen. She sang in a random tune: "Are you ready for your treat? Ready for your treat? Are you ready for your treat?"

The cat's olive green eyes gleamed with excitement as Sappho approached the kitchen counter. A ceramic, cat-shaped cookie jar was beside the bag of dry cat food. Lifting the lid off, Sappho fished for a treat inside. Her hand explored the cold cavity, reaching for whatever she could find. But it was empty.


Matilda waited for Sappho to give the treat to her after she closed the lid. However, the blonde's hand came back empty-handed. Disappointed, Matilda fluttered down her black-striped tail.

Ready to stalk off from the disappointing human, Matilda stopped when Sappho said, "Wait! I'll be back soon."

Sappho exited the kitchen and grabbed her brown messenger bag from the closet. The blonde left the house in a matter of seconds. Yawning, Matilda closed her eyes. She knew by the time she would wake up, Sappho would be back in no time.

The plastic black bag occasionally hit Sappho's leg as she walked. It was always bound to happen whenever she carried bags. As a child, her mother refused her to carry the carton of eggs, afraid her daughter would crack all of them open in one swing.

Sappho already had it all planned out what she was going to do first. She was going to buy treats from the pet food store, and then bury the mouse at the mudflat. The pet food store was a few blocks away from her house, so it made sense to go there first. Getting to the mudflat took at least fifteen minutes depending how fast she walked. Sadly, it was the only nature still left in her area. She lived in a city after all.

Long walks were not a problem; Sappho viewed walking as a good exercise for her. As a sixteen year old, Sappho had hoped she would still be able to grow a few more inches even though puberty had passed. She heard of cases when women still grew in her twenties. However, despite her desire to be a little taller, it wasn't all too bad being five foot two. When it came to childish games, she had a greater advantage of winning a game of hide-and-go-seek. If she was too tall, Matilda would be intimidated by her height. The blonde was just curious if it could also apply to her if she could still grow after puberty.

Looking both ways before crossing the street, Sappho contemplated about Amelia. She flushed, recalling how the brunette pronounced her name, and the teasing look in her eyes. I cannot be developing a girl crush, Sappho thought, denying the rising feelings. It would settle the label of her being gay. No, it was just a sudden infatuated feeling like her other past crushes.

Just a silly crush, Sappho assured herself. She liked to believe she was asexual.

The pet food store came into view, and Sappho invited herself in.


Sappho handed three dollar bills to the pet food salesperson, a heavy, middle-aged man with little hair on his head. He was about to slip the small bag of chicken breast treats into a plastic bag, but the blonde stopped him.

"It's okay," Sappho said. "I'll put it in my bag." Plastic wasn't eco-friendly.

"Alright, pretty," he replied as he held out the treats to the blonde.

Wincing, Sappho did not take it from him. Pretty. Hey there, pretty... The word made Sappho cringe with distaste.

The salesperson glanced confusingly at her. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Pretty," Sappho scoffed. "I hate that word."

"Oh?" the salesperson asked, arching his thin eyebrows. So that's her problem, he thought. She's probably like the other insincere girls. "Miss, I know what you are thinking. Just accept that—"

"No," Sappho said sharply, cutting him off. "I just hate being an adjective. Would you like to be an adjective?"

The man flushed at her surprising response. The treats slipped out of his hand onto the counter which Sappho retrieved. Placing it back inside her messenger bag, Sappho walked out of the store with a grin. She enjoyed exercising the freedom of speech.

"Jeez," the salesperson grumbled under his breath after the blonde left. "Girls these days are so cold; it ain't what it used to be."

Sappho was okay with compliments, but being addressed by any adjective irritated her. She didn't really care if she was really pretty or really ugly. She just found it disrespectful to be judged physically. Terms of endearment just pissed her off in general. Hey, baby. Hey, sweetie. Hey, cutie. Those simple forms of address provoked fires in her eyes.

The blonde had observed some men in society. Some men found it socially accepting to whistle at women on the sidewalk or across the street. Some of them even purposely brush against or molest females in public transportation. However, Sappho wasn't ignorant. Not all men were like that.

A few years ago, Sappho took the train to meet her mother at a restaurant after school. A young woman around her twenties was holding on to a rail since all the seats were taken. Sappho was standing in the right of her, and left of the woman was a short man wearing a baseball cap. The blonde didn't realize he was touching the woman's buttocks until the lady's face turned pale. It literally looked like she was going to cry. Sappho wondered why the woman didn't defend herself. Perhaps the woman was too shocked or frightened to move a muscle? The blonde knew she wasn't the only bystander in the crowded train to notice the molestation. Why didn't anyone else stand up for her? Sappho immediately went behind the molester whom didn't notice her. She fetched out a plastic twelve inch ruler from her bookbag and whacked the man's hand with it. The molester immediately withdrew his hand in pain and spun around to face the thirteen year old Sappho. Caught red-handed, he immediately escaped when the train's door slid open. The color in woman's cheeks restored back to their color. She embarrassingly thanked Sappho for standing up for her. Before the blonde got off her stop, she told the woman, "Next time you see a male molester, kick him in nuts."

The cries of seagulls echoed in the air, signaling Sappho's arrival in the mudflat.

Taking a deep breath, Sappho spread her hands in the air like a bird. The weather was cool, the tides were low, and the scent was almost a replica of the sea. The blonde was just in luck that the tide was low because that was when the mudflat was exposed. However, unlike the fresh, constant smell of the sea, the mudflat changed its smell and landscape. Sometimes in the summer when it was hot and humid, the mudflat carried a stench of rotten eggs. High tides covered the mudflat, making it invisible.

Sappho stepped onto the sticky ground, a mixture of silt and clay. It was decorated with patches of marsh grass and algae, streaking the ground with green. A few centimeters of her boots' heels sank into the mud. Sappho was glad that she wore combat boots. Her mother would disapprove, however, at her muddy boots. Gazing around the mudflat, Sappho spotted a couple of empty shells floating in the puddles of water. Oystercatchers probably ate them earlier in the day. Some clams and mussels poked out from the sucking soil. In the far distance, she spotted great egrets and… a human being? Sappho squinted hard. It appeared someone was sitting down watching the birds.

Is that a ranger? Sappho wondered. I better bury the mouse fast then.

The blonde quickly went over to a patch of marsh grass and bent down carefully to make sure there weren't any snails. She rolled up the sleeves of her white blouse and picked up an empty mussel to dig the soft soil. The perfect burial spot, Sappho thought. A tiny hermit crab poked out from the hole, slightly startling her.

"Sorry to disturb you," Sappho apologized as the hermit crab scurried away. She continued to dig.

When the hole was big enough, the blonde wiped the sweat off her forehead. Unfortunately, she forgot her hands were stained with mud. Sappho had a few options to clean the mud off of her head. She could use her sleeves, wash her hands in the puddle of brown water and then wipe it off, or leave the mud on her head. None of options appealed to her. If she used her sleeves, her mother will notice the stain. The brown water can aggravate the situation even more, and she was not walking home with a slab of mud on her head. Then, Sappho thought about the water in the distance near the egrets. The water there might be cleaner. Yes, I think I'll do that.

Sappho untied the black, plastic bag, and the dead mouse dropped inside the hole. The blonde buried the soil back until the hole was no longer visible. She patted the small mound with the mussel and jumped up to her feet. The blonde gently ripped off a piece of marsh grass from the patch and lay it on top of the mouse's burial. While she saluted the mouse a goodbye, mud from her hand splashed on to her glasses.

Aww crap. Now I can't see. Despite her hands were going to dirty the dark blue frame of her glasses, Sappho took her glasses off and slipped it inside her messenger bag. She could still see, but everything was blurry. Oh well. It won't be too long.

Sappho headed toward the egrets. She wondered if the ranger, if he or she was one, was still there. I'll just pretend to walk past them as if I didn't notice them, she thought.