One day, when Mom picked me up from the pool, she was oddly silent. At home, she sat me down. “I have some bad news,” she began.
“This is it,” I thought, “I am cursed.”
“Scarlet’s left us. She’s flown away.”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
She saw the confusion on my face. “To heaven,” she added. “A neighbor called me today and said they found Scarlet in their yard.”
It still took a minute for it to register. When I saw the tears in her eyes, I realized she was trying to say that Scarlet was dead. And then slowly, my disbelief turned to anger. I wanted to ask which yard, but I’d already decided on the yard. There was only one possibility. I clenched my jaw and walked up to my room. Later, when it came time to feed Scarlet, I felt the loss a bit more. The house seemed quieter, even though it wasn’t really – how much noise does a cat make?
I couldn’t hide my sorrow when I mentioned the news to my friends at baseball practice. Adam came up to me later with a plan: he and his brother had two dozen eggs. They were going to throw them at the witch’s house.
“Does Mark know?” I asked.
“No.” Adam said, “It’s just us.”
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll go with you guys.”
I don’t know how Mom found out, but she did. She stormed into my bedroom the next morning and jolted me awake, shouting, “Alex James Sandoval! There is no excuse for what you did last night, do you understand me?” I looked down at my bed sheet. I noticed there were some black cat hairs on it. “Look at me!” she shouted. “Look at me!” I looked. “I certainly hope this wasn’t your idea. Was it?” I didn’t answer. “Was it?”
“No,” I whispered.
“So why did it sound like a good idea to throw eggs at someone’s house?” I started brushing the hairs into a little black fur ball. “Tell me something. If Mrs. Morton was the devil herself, how would it help things to throw eggs at her house?”
Her gaze was boring into me. There I was, sitting in bed in my pajamas, getting scolded by my mother, who kept asking, “how does it help – even if she’s guilty – to throw eggs at her house? How does it help?” I started crying. I was aware that she was right; I was hoping for pity. “Answer me, Alex. How does it help?”
“It doesn’t,” I whispered, wiping away a tear and sniffling.
“It doesn’t,” I said louder.
“You’re right. It doesn’t.” She slammed the door behind her. I felt horrible. She made me feel horrible.
I decided to stay in my room all day, partly to punish myself, partly to punish her. I thought about running away. I thought about faking my own death. If she came in and found me dead, she’d really be sorry. But an hour later, Mom knocked on my door. I couldn’t say no when she asked if she could come in.
“You know I love you, right Alex?” she said. I didn’t answer. She came over and sat on the bed and started to rub my back. “If you’re as upset as I am about Scarlet dying, you must be pretty upset,” she said. “But she was an old cat, you know? She was almost eighteen.” She was still rubbing my back. I didn’t want to admit it, but it felt nice. “You know, sometimes animals just walk off alone when they know they’re going to die.” I saw a tear fall onto my pillow. “I think Scarlet was just old. I think she just walked off because she knew it was her time. There’s not always someone to blame. Sometimes, bad things just happen.” She pulled me toward her. “Baby, you know I love you, right?” If I had spoken, I would have burst into tears, so I just nodded. She hugged me. “Good,” she said.