“I didn’t agree to this,” Olivia says.
“Um, well, you do have other options. But – come on, look.”
Olivia looks and sees Lily wearing her oops-but-uh-please smile. She also has her hands clasped together just under her chin, which has the effect of squishing the cat, or maybe a kitten, who is now squirming a little behind her curtain of brown hair. It jumps down and pads over to curl up in a bag, thankfully empty, and peers up with wide eyes.
“I have a choice,” Olivia reminds herself, and it’s a little grounding. She lets out an exhale. “I have a choice,” she repeats, and the world feels a little steadier. She looks at the cat again, takes in the way it looks, tries to reasonably calculate how much it would cost to take care of one. She knows there’s a general store a few blocks away that sells cat food at a decently low cost, because for some reason it’s sold next to the candy. Olivia doesn’t want to take in a cat if it will go hungry with her. It’ll feel like a failure, which has never failed to drive her to tears. There are some cardboard boxes that can probably be made to serve as a makeshift playground, and maybe some other things she can scourge up. Could she – no, she reminds herself, could they do it? Olivia crouches down, looks a little harder. Their place doesn’t forbid pets, and their neighbors, who come over every weekend for tea, have no allergies beyond their sneezing reaction to pollen.
“Hey,” Lily says, clasping their hands together and drawing small circles with her thumbs. “I’m ok with it if you decide no.” She looks earnest, a little apologetic.
“No,” Olivia says, and she’s surprised at the amount of conviction that comes with it. “The cat can stay.”
Lily beams, and Olivia offers a tentative one back. The cat has their head raised a little out of the bag, and she wonders if the memory will stay, will remain something hopeful and warm. A little family.