Olivia sobbed her little heart out, her chubby face, red and blotchy, tears streaming from her eyes. A high pitched wailing permeated the room.
Erica shot her husband a worried glance and put a gentle arm around Olivia`s shoulder.
“Listen darling, Porky is in the sky now with God, she is having a lovely time floating around …”
She glanced at her husband, standing beside her trying to be supportive, he had a confused expression on his face “Floating around?” he mouthed. She made an irritated gesture with her hand. They knew this day was going to come, the day they would have to comfort their child on the death of her very first pet. It was the main reason they kept saying “No” to Olivia having a pet in the first place, but when all her friends had pets and the responsibility of looking after them, they finally succumbed to the nagging.
“So you see, we mustn’t be sad, Porky is happy”. Erica tried her best to be comforting. Olivia sniffed loudly” But I want Porky on the ground with me not in the sky”.
“I know darling, but guinea pigs don’t live forever, come on let’s go and wash your face”. Erica gently splashed water on Olivia`s face and dabbed her tear stained eyes with a soft towel. She looked so sad Erica almost couldn’t bear to look at her.
Olivia mopped around all day, refused ice-cream and all sorts of treats both parents kept offering in a desperate bid to cheer her up, and fought back a constant stream of tears.
“You are daddy`s brave girl”. Jeff smoothed Olivia`s hair and kissed the top of her head softly. He was at a loss to know what to do, he hated seeing his baby upset.”
“Why don’t you go and play on your swing?” He said gently. To his surprise Olivia nodded and went slowly into the garden.
“Should we get her a new one?” Jeff asked Erica the minute she walked out into the garden. “I could go straight to the pet shop from work tomorrow if you want me to”.
“Let’s see how she goes for a few days first” she answered. “We don’t want to make it any worse, she might say it’s not Porky and she doesn’t want it. We will broach the subject with her at the end of the week and if she wants another one let her choose it herself on the weekend”. Jeff agreed that sounded like a good plan. He would just have to try and cheer up her sad face for a few days first.
After an hour of taking it turns peeking out of the kitchen window every ten minutes to check she was not crying again, Jeff called Olivia in for super. She came running in straight away with a smile on her face, sounding excited “Mummy, Daddy, Porky is back, she` s not in the sky with God, she` s free on the lawn but she doesn’t like her food anymore. Can I get her some chicken instead?” She had her hands on her hips and stared up at them with her huge wide eyes. Both parents were powerless to refuse their baby girl anything, especially after what she had been through today.
“Of course darling”. Feeling relieved, Erica put some chicken from the fridge in foil, lightly wrapped it and handed it to Olivia who held it carefully in her little hands and took it straight outside”.
“What was that about?” Jeff asked confused. He was not expecting such a change in mood or for Olivia to say something so strange.
“She` s probably hungry, she has barely eaten all day. She` s pretending Porky is back; let her be for a bit”. Erica answered sensibly. Jeff rested his arm on Erica’s, comforted that his wife knew what to do in situations like this.
“Olivia darling, you need to come in now it’s starting to get dark”. Erica called ten minutes later.
“Okay mummy, Porky has gone to bed now anyway”. Olivia answered happily as she climbed up the step to the kitchen.
“Okay sweetie”. Erica ruffled her hair thankful that her daughter was much happier.
This routine persisted every night, around six o clock Olivia would say she was going to feed and play with Porky. She would go outside loaded with chicken, ham, cheese, pork, beef or lamb depending what was in the fridge. She would stay outside for about half an hour then come in happy chattering away with a story about Porky and the lovely cuddle she had with her.
“Should we do anything?” Jeff asked. He was starting to get a bit worried that she wanted poor Porky to be alive so much that she was seeing things.
“No, its fine lots of children have imaginary friends and pets she`ll grow out of it, it’s just while she gets over Porky`s death” Erica reassured him. “Just play along with it for a while”.
Jeff nodded and hoped his wife was right.
Saturday evening Olivia was rummaging in the fridge for tasty treats for “Porky”.
“What is she doing with all that food? She doesn’t even like half the stuff she is taking outside, when have you ever seen her eat lamb? But there is nothing left out there when she comes in. I`ve been out to check, is she hiding it?”
Erica didn’t have time to answer because Olivia came bursting through the door full of excitement, jumping up and down waving her arms.
“Quick mummy, quick daddy, come and see, Porky has had babies”. Jeff and Erica shot each other questioning gestures and walked towards the door. Olivia ran ahead proudly pointing in front of her swing.
Erica recoiled in horror as she feasted her eyes on the biggest, savagest looking RAT she had ever seen in her life. Behind the beady eyed, fat, hairy rat and its long scaly tail were six, yes six squeaking offspring. Their precious daughter had been nurturing a family of rats.