“What’s that sound? Is it the cat? She sounds like she’s having a hairball!”
“That’s not her hairball noise. She probably saw a bird at the window. Go back to sleep. I have to shower.”
Gary pushed back the covers. Emily settled back and began to drift toward sleep. Down the hall, Sofie was already moving around; she didn’t hear Logan yet, but he always was the last up. Just ten minutes more.
She heard the shower go on and began to drift.
She heard the sound again. It didn’t sound normal at all. Maybe something had gotten into the house. She didn’t know what kind of creature made that noise. She hated living out here in the woods. Sometimes she felt under assault by all the critters that wandered the perimeter of her home. She liked the city. Concrete, car exhaust, people. She understood those things. Ticks, raccoons, foxes, deer, and all the other things that inhabited their property were aliens; moreover, since they were there first, they seemed disinclined to give way to the people who came to live there. Emily didn’t blame them.
She wished the land had stayed house free.
Sugarplum trotted into the room, her head down, shoulders hunched. She began to play in the corner, and Emily settled back under the covers. In the bathroom, she heard Gary turn off the shower and knew she’d have to get up. He always drove Sophie, while she took Logan. Emily hated mornings. She closed her eyes. Five more minutes.
Sugarplum jumped on the bed and slowly walked up toward her. Sugarplum loved to cuddle, and Emily smiled.
Something dropped on her shoulder, something small and furry, and alive. Emily heard herself screaming before she recognized the field mouse scambling through the covers. Sugarplum was on it at once.
Emily heard the pounding of feet. Greg stood in the doorway, water still running down his face. “What the hell happened?”
“Sugarplum has a mouse! Just get it!” She could still feel the damn thing dropping down on her bare shoulder.
“Jesus Christ, I thought someone attacked you,” Gary said. She could see he was trying not to laugh. He grabbed Sugarplum who still had the mouse clamped in her jaws. “Well, it’s dead now.” He held it up by its tail and walked downstairs in his towel.
Sophie popped her head in the doorway, eyes wide. “Eww, a mouse?” She looked at Sugarplum who was circling the bed looking for her prize. “Well, I guess Sugarplum brought a gift for you, Mom.” She glanced away. “Dad really needs to hurry up.”
Logan pushed past her. His hair stuck out in all directions; his eyes were blurry from lack of sleep. “Mom, I never even knew your voice went that high,” he said. That was impressive.”
“Everyone get dressed,” Gary said as he came back into the room. “We’ve got to get moving.”
Emily pulled herself out of bed. She wanted a shower, but now there wasn’t time. She’d do it when she got back. In fact, she’d drive Logan to school in her pajamas. She just needed to brush her teeth and scrub her arm. Her skin crawled, and for the hundredth time she wished she lived someplace else.
She glanced down at Sugarplum who still prowled the sheets. Sugarplum looked up. Her orange fur bristled, and her green eyes glittered. It was her hunter’s posture.
Emily backed away and went to the bathroom to get ready.