She should like a small white mouse, she thinks.

She should like a mouse because they are cute and clean and easy to take care of, not like her brother's dogs. The dogs are nice, they are warm and they cuddle but they are loud and quite large and strong and they have an odd smell to them. She feels the urge to wash when they brush against her. it's even worse after their baths.

A mouse, on the other hand, would be quiet. A mouse would be soft and small and not terribly smelly. A mouse would get along with (or better yet, not ever meet) the cats she's dreamed of having for years. She knows that mice and cats are made out to be enemies, but she figures if she keeps t in her room in a cage, it will be out of reach and no bother.

The cats she has longed for since her neighbor introduced her to Sophie and Chloe and Jack and Caesar when she was small. Jack was black and hid wherever there were no people and left mice on everyone's doorstep. Caesar disappeared into the woods when he was an older cat but he was the prettiest, all orange and stripes. Sophie and Chloe were twins, kittens, and the best to play with. Sophie once scratched her finger while leaping somewhere, but she forgave her. They were great fun and never filled her ears with nonsense.

The dogs do this, but it's the people who are best at it. She's experimenting with methods to drown them out. Music works well but gets her into trouble. If she doesn't figure something out she'll live in this chaos until she's out of the house.

A house it is, full to the brim and bustling and she sure could use a break. Colleges fascinate her, she's seen her sister's campus and read countless websites. She wants to go to a liberal arts college in Boston. She wants to study sociology.

In fifth grade, she starts to spell her name with i instead of y. She straightens her hair and learns to apply mascara and goes on an low-fat diet. She starts to wear low-cut tops and skinny jeans and she can braid her own hair with her eyes closed.

She gets perfect grades and wears nice clothes and exchanges her glasses for clear lenses, stares longingly at computers and purses in shop windows. But really, all she wants is a mouse.

One day in seventh grade she goes on a hike in the woods and slips on the leaves by the stream. Leaf litter, she remembers it's called, like the trash that fills city streets.

Later she goes swimming but can't find anyone to join her. She sits at the bottom for a long time.

She earns money. She buys a canvas wallet with turtles on it and fills it with babysitting money, twenties and fifties and hundreds. She buys books and lattes and spends hours in Borders instead of watching a movie.

One by one her siblings leave and it's a bit quieter but the dogs are still loud and her little brothers and her parents and she is so very, very quiet, good girl.

One day she realizes the quiet should not be all she wants. She should be loud and busy and relish the loudness around her. She should, but all she really wants is a mouse.

One day she comes home and screams.

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