A house cat dreams of becoming a human girl so she can play the piano
The melody came on the beams of moonlight. Moonlight poured through a tall window, covering the room in an eerie glow. Ivy lay on the fluffy carpet, fur glowing slightly. Her ears finally stopped twitching at every noise, wishing it was music. More specifically, piano music. She sighed in her sleep, the comforting sound filling her dreams. Ivy dreamt of kitchens full of mice—so many! an endless source of entertainment—and swarms of birds in the air, fresh and warm, to bring inside for her beloved Dahlia. She rolled over in her sleep, and her dreams changed to the piano.
If only I was human . . . Ivy purred to herself in her sleep. Then I could play the piano, the wonderful piano Dahlia sits at for hours and hours . . . I could be tall, tall enough to reach the piano, to sit down on the stool with my human legs touching the ground. But now it towers over me, grand and elegant, leaving me feeling small and vulnerable. If only I was human . . .
As she wished and wished to be human, the moonlight wrapped itself around her. It grew thicker and thicker, almost solid now. Swirls of it were bright and sounded slightly higher pitched. To most it would sound like nothing, but to the moonlight it was speaking. Should we do it? Should we do it now?
She had tried. She had tried to play the piano but was only able to make horrid, wild noise. And when she failed, it made her desire stronger.
Does she truly want this? the moonlight sang. Yes! said a shiny swirl. Are you sure? said another. A third said: We will find out soon.
* * *
It was now the sun which bathed Ivy in its light, and delicious birds’ bouncy music that filled the room. They never knew it might be their last day.
Ivy stretched and let out a yawn. Something was different.
Her paws no longer felt furry, nor did her face, which was getting itchy from being pressed up against the carpet. In fact, her paws didn’t feel like paws anymore. It was as if they had been pulled too much in all directions, leaving them stretched and achy. Ivy’s legs were too long and smooth, and instead of claws she had stubby nails. Soft cloth covered her, a dress like Dahlia sometimes wore. Like Dahlia! What had happened?
She was staring at Ivy as if she was some horrible monster. Why wasn’t she happy?
Ivy jerked up. She was much heavier, so she had to use her arms to hold herself up. They were strange, and at the end had large palms with fleshy, furless fingers. It was a hand! Emotions bubbled up in Ivy’s throat, stronger even than when she spotted a mouse, exposed, nibbling on a crumb in the kitchen. She could do anything now! She could play the piano! With Dahlia! They could read together, and have conversations about birds!
Footsteps echoed in the hallway, coming closer.
“Ivy! Where are you, you silly cat! It’s time for breakfa—aaaaaah!!!” Dahlia stood in the doorway, frozen, her eyes on Ivy. Ivy looked up. Dahlia had always been so kind, giving Ivy extra cat treats, scratching her chin, petting her, and her eyes were always filled with warmth and love when she looked at her. Now all of that was gone, and she was staring at Ivy as if she was some horrible monster. Why wasn’t she happy?
Ivy tried standing up, but her legs were too long and she fell down. She opened her mouth to speak, but instead of words like Dahlia’s came a croaking, raspy sound: “Eh-eh-grrr! Mrr—”
Dahlia squealed and backed out of the room. “Mom! Dad!”
Ivy finally managed to stand up, and stumbled over to the piano. It wasn’t so huge anymore; she was taller than it. Finally. After dreaming for so long, I can play the piano! Maybe Dahlia won’t laugh at me anymore.
Ivy lay her large human hands on the keys. Then, a horrible noise! It was wild, worse than a five-year-old trying to play the piano; it sounded like nails scratching on a chalkboard.
“There!” Dahlia cried out, running into the room with her parents at her heels. “Oh, my . . .”
“What in the world . . .” They both stared at Ivy as if they were trying to find out if she was dangerous or not. Ivy tried to talk again, and this time it came out something like this:
“Mrrreeeek!” She moved her mouth into what she thought was a smile. Dahlia and her parents looked horrified. Maybe she had smiled wrong? “Who are you?! Where are your parents?” Dahlia’s mom asked.
“Mreeeee!” Ivy stood up, holding on to the piano for balance. She tried taking a few steps, but gave up and got on her hands and feet and tried crawling like a cat.
“Aaaaaah!” Dahlia and her parents stepped back.
“Get out of my house!” Dahlia’s mom yelled. “I’m calling the police.” Ivy had never heard Dahlia’s mom talk to her like that.
“I said, get out!”
Ivy half-walked, half-crawled to the back door. She tried to use the cat flap but did not fit. Finally, after a few minutes of hard work, she managed to use the handle and stumbled outside.
The air was warm and had a pleasant scent of summer flowers and birds. A breeze rustled Ivy’s long, flowing white hair. It felt strange, yet pleasant, on her furless skin. If this were yesterday, she would have thoroughly enjoyed the nice weather, catching birds and chasing butterflies, but she could barely even walk.
Ivy stumbled down the stone path winding its way through the garden. She usually moved smoothly and gracefully, quiet and stealthy. Now her bare feet were loud, making every twig snap, and barely managed to keep her from falling down. She felt unbalanced on two feet instead of four. How did humans walk like this?
As usual, Ivy went to the fence. She tried to squeeze in between the planks of wood. Her head didn’t fit, no matter how hard she tried. It was too stiff and un- moldable. If only I was small again. Why did I ever think that being a cat wasn’t awesome? Sighing, she decided to try the other way. She crouched down and jumped.
Bam! Ivy’s nose smashed into the fence. Dizzy with pain, she tottered to the gate and pushed it open. Being a cat was definitely better! Why are humans so bad at jumping? She stepped out onto the grassy hill. The grass felt different, so short. Compared to her paws, the blades had been large and individual, but now that she had feet, the grass merged into what felt like a cool cushion underneath. Ivy used to feel the dirt and stones much more, but now her feet were less sensitive. She took a few steps. The grass was soft, and cozy. She walked to the edge of the hill and gasped at the beauty.
Wildflower-speckled hills and valleys spread beneath her. Groves of lush trees dotted here and there, and a stream gurgled merrily. A large forest lay a few hills to the left, and mountains rose in the distance to the right. And best of all, the colors. Ivy was too busy at first to realize, with the commotion at Dahlia’s, but now she did. Everything was so much more vivid, and had so many more different tones. She realized that the flowers which she had always thought were green, blue, and white were actually so many more colors. Colors she’d never seen before. Everything was sharper too, and she could see even past the forest, where a glittering ocean lay. The only downside was that her vision was a bit narrower, but that hardly mattered.
After a few minutes, Ivy tore her eyes away from the scene and walked down the hill. She wandered around aimlessly, taking in the beauty. Everything was calm and peaceful, and her legs started to get used to walking, so she did not trip as much. But Ivy found herself looking over her shoulder, expecting to see Dahlia running toward her, and perked up at every noise, thinking it was Dahlia calling her name. Eventually her legs began to ache, and she decided to rest.
Tears filled Ivy’s eyes when she realized she was at the stream. The stream where she and Dahlia had spent many afternoons sitting with a picnic and a good book. She plopped down on the grass next to a big rock and curled up, letting the tears fall.
Ivy woke up to her arms, legs, and face feeling hot and tight.
“Mraaw!” She looked and saw that her skin was red and peeling. What’s happening to me?! The sun was glaring into her eyes. Shade. She hobbled toward the woods.
The grass felt cool against Ivy’s face. A breeze rustled the leaves of bird-filled trees above. Her stomach growled, and she realized that she had not eaten since yesterday. That delicious bowl of cat treats and wet cat food . . .
Something rustled in the tree, a flurry of feathers above her, which she had not seen before. It was a new color. It was beautiful. And it looked delicious!
Ivy jumped up and winced—was it sunburn? When Dahlia was little, she would come home from playing outside from time to time, crying, and her mother would put sour cream on her face to soothe the pain. There was no one to put sour cream on Ivy’s sunburn. She focused all her attention on the bird and pounced—or . . . jumped, since she was human—falling on her face. Ivy stood back up, wiped the dirt off, and reached again. The bird fluttered to a different branch. No! It cannot get away! So yummy!
She leapt, and in a few seconds her teeth sank into feathers. Only after the bird was already halfway gone had Ivy realized something felt wrong. The taste was off, and the texture . . . Bleh! She spit out the bird, gagging. It was rubbery and chewy and just awful. Feathers fluttered through the air, landing in the grass softly. Some stuck in Ivy’s hair. Her mouth felt slimy and the taste still lingered. Water. The stream burbling ahead looked so fresh and inviting. Ivy ran to it, spitting and wiping her mouth. The water that splashed her face was too cold, but she drank and drank until the taste of bird was finally gone. Ivy’s stomach still growled. What happened? Birds always tasted so delicious, juicy and flavorful. Now she cringed at the thought of eating another one. Instead, thoughts of those sweet-smelling pastries with apples that Dahlia made filled her mind. And cheesy baked potatoes . . . maybe Dahlia would give her just a little bit if she stared at her with wide open eyes long enough? Humans always fell for that kind of thing.
The sun sank low, covering everything in a warm glow as Ivy climbed up the last hill. Her legs ached from all the walking, but she pushed forward until she reached the top. The house was white with a gray, slanted roof. It had two floors, and many large windows with powder-blue shutters. Rose-dotted vines crept up the walls all the way to the roof, where they spread like cracks on ice, tumbling over the edges. A mossy cobbled path wound its way through the wild, overgrown garden. The air smelled sweet with honeysuckles, and crickets chirped along with the croaking frogs. Ivy pushed open the gate and stepped onto the path. As she reached the house, she could hear the familiar sound of Dahlia bickering with Burt, and smell the delicious cooking.
Burt ran past the front door, which was wide open, and stopped to stare at her. “Mom! That scary girl is back! And she has feathers in her hair! Ew!” he yelled. “Not again! I’m coming!” Footsteps sounded closer and closer, and a second later Dahlia’s mom appeared in the doorway. A look of disgust came to her face when she saw Ivy.
“Get away from my house!” she screamed at her. Ivy stood frozen. Then the shock wore off, and she scampered away into the garden.
Once Ivy was sure Dahlia’s mom and brother had gone back inside, she inched her way out of her hiding spot and snuck to the open dining room window.
Dinner conversation drifted through as Ivy curled up on the hard ground.
“I still haven’t been able to find Ivy! What if something happened to her?” Dahlia’s voice reached Ivy’s ears.
“Maybe she hid in the laundry again?” her dad said.
“No, I already checked there,” Dahlia replied. “And I checked the cabinet in the living room, and under the bed. I looked everywhere! Even outside.”
“I’m sure you’ll find her tomorrow morning. Everything will be fine,” Dahlia’s dad told her.
“I sure hope so,” said her mom. “There has been enough drama already with that weird girl. How did she even get in our house? Burt, stop eating with your hands.”
“But forks are too boring!” “Burt!”
“I just want Ivy back . . .”
But I’m right here, Ivy thought. I’ve been here all this time. Her eyes closed, and she drifted off to sleep.
* * *
“Ivy. Ivyyyy. Ivy!”
“Huh?” Ivy looked over her shoulder to see Rose standing in the doorway of the dressing room.
“Finally, I got your attention! You’ve been standing there staring out the window for the past ten minutes.”
“Oh, sorry,” Ivy said. Rose frowned and took a few steps into the room.
Rose was a staff member at the Kociątko Theater. They first met at a boarding school when they were both thirteen. There had always been something off about Ivy. For the first year she didn’t talk at all, and when she finally started to, she had a strange accent. Rose could never figure out what it was since she had never heard anything like it. But worse than that, Ivy didn’t seem to know how to do anything. She could barely use a fork at first, and she could not read or write at all. Over time Ivy learned, but she still was never like the other girls. Instead of chatting or giggling or reading, she would sit by the window looking longingly at birds for hours. Anytime Ivy’s parents were brought up in a conversation, she would say, “They live far away. Near mr-r-rouwntains. What’s for dinner?”
“Where are we going for dinner after the concert?” Ivy said. “Is everything okay?” Rose asked.
“Yeah, just . . . remembering stuff,” Ivy said. “Are we still going?” “Yes. We could go get sushi? You love sushi.”
Ivy liked hanging out with Rose. She never pushed Ivy to talk about her past, and was always there for her. Rose even helped Ivy get her first performance at the Kociątko.
Rose also liked spending time with Ivy. Ivy was a good friend. She was very loyal, very nice, and . . . weird. Rose always found people who were weird more interesting than the girls that all acted and looked the same.
Ivy had to swallow down a meow. Stop it. You’re a human. Not a cat anymore.
“You’re up next on the stage,” Rose said eventually. “After this soloist . . .
Steinberg, the flute person.”
“Right.” Ivy turned away from the window and followed Rose out of the room. Ivy walked slowly and carefully down the dimly lit, carpeted hall. Years and years had passed, and Ivy could walk perfectly fine, but she still wobbled a bit while wearing heels. At the end of the hall was a wooden door. Rose opened it quietly, and Ivy came into the small dark room behind the stage. Beyond the curtain Ivy could hear the soloist finishing up, loud clapping, then silence. “Are you ready?” Rose asked.
“Not really, but I never am. I mean, I feel ready—I can play—I have everything memorized. But I never get used to the crowd.”
“You’ll do great!” Rose gave Ivy a quick hug, then gently nudged her toward the curtain. “You’ve already been in the newspaper. Plenty of times.”
“Uh . . . I don’t know. Well, see you in a bit.” Ivy took a deep breath and pushed the curtain aside.
The bright lights blinded her.
Ivy’s heart beat faster and faster with every step. Butterflies did flips in her stomach at the sight of all those people, their eyes on her, expecting something spectacular and beautiful. But at the same time she felt a sort of thrill, excitement about being the center of attention and about the object that started it all. There it was, the piano, in the center of the stage, standing huge and elegant. Ivy’s arms and legs felt heavy, weighing her down as she walked. She took her bow, and the spotlight made her anxiety ten times worse. Thoughts rushed through her brain, the usual: What if I make a mistake? What if I’m not good enough?
Ivy ran her hand along the sleek cover and sat down.
She began to play. Her fingers moved across the keys, the melody surrounding her. Ivy had the whole piece memorized by heart, so instead of looking at the sheet music, she surveyed the audience. So many different faces . . . Ivy faltered.
The girl’s shoulder-length brown curls bounced when she moved her head. Her deep brown eyes were wide open. Ivy’s breath caught in her throat. Her heart raced and her arms felt weak.
Why is she here? How is she here? Does she like the piece I’m playing? Does she know it’s me?
Ivy had to swallow down a meow. Stop it. You’re a human. Not a cat anymore. You have to prove it to her. Prove that you have succeeded! Gotten what you wished for . . . almost.
She started again with more passion, pouring her emotions into the notes. The crescendo was magical, loud, tinged with happiness—the kind of happiness she had never experienced.
The applause was deafening. Is Dahlia one of them? Is she proud? I have to get to her!
After taking the last bow, Ivy rushed off the stage. She ran through the maze of corridors, trying to find the right door to the lobby. Finally she found it and burst through. People were bustling around, opening their umbrellas at the doors. Where is she? Ivy looked around the room. There! She spotted the curly- haired girl in a red poncho walking through the doors.
“Excuse me, excuse me, sorry!” Ivy pushed through the crowd. Ten feet from the door, five feet . . .
“Wait! Dahlia!” Dahlia didn’t even turn her head. “Wait for me!” Ivy ran outside into the rain. She was almost there. She stretched her arm out and grabbed the girl’s shoulder. Dahlia jumped and turned around.
“Oh Dahlia, how did you find me? Have you realized who I am at last? I’ve missed you so much!” The words tumbled out of Ivy’s mouth as her eyes started to water.
“What?” said the girl, pulling down her red hood to see better. “Who are you?” “It’s me, Dahlia. It’s me, Ivy!” The tears rolled freely down Ivy’s cheeks.
“Oh, you are the pianist. Umm, I really loved your piece, but please let go of me.” Dahlia tried to squirm away, but Ivy was stronger. She looked desperately over her shoulder. Her parents were out of earshot.
“You liked it, Dahlia?!” Ivy’s heart swelled.
“Why do you keep calling me Dahlia? That’s not my name. Let go!”
“What? No, no it is!” Ivy exclaimed, tightening her grip on the girl’s shoulder. “It’s not.”
Of course it was Dahlia. It had to be Dahlia. But . . . her nose wasn’t as turned up as this girl’s, and Dahlia’s face was rounder, and . . . it’s been ten years. She couldn’t be a young girl.
Ivy’s grip slackened. “You’re . . . you’re not Dahlia.”
“I know. I told you I wasn’t.” The girl in the red poncho yanked her shoulder out of Ivy’s hand and ran towards her parents in the distance, who had finally realized their daughter wasn’t with them. Splish! Splash! Sploosh! Her red rain boots landed in the large puddles, getting farther and farther away, leaving Ivy all alone. Rain streamed down her face, mixing with Ivy’s tears.
Dahlia hadn’t come after all.
* * *
A warm, honeysuckle-scented breeze rustled the grass. The white paint on the familiar wooden gate was worn and peeling, unlike the house’s freshly painted yellow walls. In the driveway, alongside the old blue family car, was a bright, shiny new red one. The trunk of the red car was wide open and filled with cardboard boxes. A couple more boxes sat on the ground next to it. On one box, FRAGILE! THIS SIDE UP! was written in bold red marker. Another one said CLOTHES. Ivy stood there, trying to catch her breath after walking up a few hills all the way from the bus stop. Wow—who knew you would tire out this fast when you’re a grown-up. Sunshine warmed her skin. She could hear laughter coming from an open window in the house. The house that she should still have been living in.
“I’ll come in a second! One last box to carry!” called out a voice. A voice familiar, yet different.
“Are you sure you need all those toys? You aren’t a child anymore,” said another familiar voice.
“Yes, Mom, I do. Just because I’m twenty-three doesn’t mean I can’t have stuffed animals.”
The front door opened, and a young woman stepped out holding a cardboard box overflowing with stuffed animals. Her dark brown curls fell down to her waist. She was barefoot and wore a pale yellow, checkered knee-length dress. A stuffed zebra fell out of the box and landed on the mossy stone walkway. She walked over to the red car and set the box down.
“Done.” She looked up, and her eyes met Ivy’s. Brown eyes. Her heart-shaped lips pulled into a smile.
“Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there!”
Ivy stood frozen. It’s her. It’s really her.
“My name’s Dahlia.”
Ivy’s breath caught in her throat. She had always thought that if she just had a chance to talk to Dahlia again, she could make everything go back to normal, to fix everything. But Ivy couldn’t make a sound. She just stood there staring wide- eyed at Dahlia. Dahlia was a couple inches taller than she used to be, and her hair was darker.
“Hello?” Dahlia asked when Ivy still hadn’t answered. “Are you a new neighbor?” “I’m not new,” Ivy said.
“So you live around here?” Dahlia walked down the driveway towards Ivy. “I . . . I used to.”
“Did you live here when you were a kid? You seem familiar. Maybe we were friends.”
“I lived here ten years ago.”
“Your hair . . . It’s so unique. I like the orange strands in the white. You seem very familiar. Are you sure we weren’t friends?” Dahlia tossed something in the air and caught it again. It was a small stuffed mouse with a few scratch marks on it. Ivy’s attention snapped to it. She watched it fly up in the air and fall back down. I need it now! Ivy reached out and grabbed it.
Dahlia stood speechless.
Ivy turned around and fled. Her hat flew off as she ran down the hill and into the woods. She kept running, thorns scraping her legs and branches tangling with her hair.
Eventually she ran into a clearing, the pain in her sides too much, and collapsed. Everything was still except the grass. It rustled, but there was no wind, only moonlight. It bent this way and that, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right, and sometimes forming different shapes. A star, a cat, a dog, a tree. The moonlight shifted, fluxing between being almost solid to being no more than a glimmer in the air, to solid again. The small, more-solid swirl that was a bit separate from the main group of moonlight was the one making different shapes in the grass.
Stop that! The swirl was pulled back to the rest of the moonlight.
Hey! the solid swirl said.
Stop making so much noise. You’ll wake her up, said another.
What are we doing here again? said a different one.
Should we turn her back? She’s really suffering! a higher-pitched one said.
Let’s just go, said the more solid swirl. It had returned to making shapes and patterns in the grass, but the rest paid no attention anymore.
No. Have we made a mistake? She seems truly miserable, a lower-pitched one said.
We are the ones who caused this. I suppose we must help . . . said the brightly glowing swirl.
The moonlight wrapped itself around Ivy until all you could see was a silvery, shimmering mass.
* * *
The morning light warmed Ivy. She felt soft, very soft, lying on the grass. She hadn’t felt this comfortable on the ground in ten years. Ivy opened her eyes. The blades of grass rising from the ground looked much more muted, soothing to her eyes. She blinked a few times. Her vision stayed the same. She stretched out her arms and stood up but lost her balance and fell back down, landing on her hands and feet. She could feel every tiny little pebble. She could see every tiny little pebble too. She felt comfortable and relaxed on her hands and feet, unlike before. Everything was familiar.
Ivy started to purr. The grass was much taller now. Hundreds of ants scuttled over the soil, and a large, juicy beetle followed behind. Ivy chased after the beetle, trying to catch it in her paws. It crunched satisfyingly in her mouth. Then she spotted her tail. It was fluffy with orange patches, and just out of reach. I want to bite it! She ran in a circle for a few minutes but soon gave up. A large oak tree stood tall, its leafy branches spreading above her. Ivy crouched down and jumped easily onto one of them. She walked along it, her balance perfect. In the distance, she could see the house, though it was blurrier than before. Ivy turned her head in the other direction and saw a different house. Something was moving in the yard. My friend! She jumped down out of the tree, landing soundlessly. Ivy ran to the fence.
A small white kitten was playing in the grass.
“Hello?” Ivy called out. The kitten startled and looked up at her. It bounced over. “Hi! Another cat! Who are you! Where are you from?!”
Ivy backed away a bit. The kitten moved forward. “Want to be friends?!”
“Where is Mango?” asked Ivy.
“Who? What’s a mango?” The kitten ran around her, chattering quickly. “My friend. The cat who lives here.”
“I live here!”
“No, a different cat. Maybe I got the wrong house.” Ivy turned to leave. “Oh! The orange cat?” The kitten followed Ivy.
“Yes! That’s Mango. Where is she?”
“There’s photos of her! She’s been gone for a while!” “What? Where did she go?!”
“I don’t know! My owner always gets sad when they look at her pictures. Want to be friends?!”
“But what happened to her?”
“Who knows! they got me instead! Let’s play!” “Oh . . .”
Ivy had a sinking feeling in her stomach, and her throat felt tight. She turned away from the kitten and started to slowly walk to the gate.
“Where are you going?!”
“I don’t know.” She squeezed through the wooden planks of the fence.
Ivy wandered around the wildflower-speckled hills for hours. She caught three sparrows, and they did taste delicious, but she didn’t feel satisfied or accomplished. She remembered catching birds with Mango, how they used to have competitions on who could catch the most, and how great she felt when she won.
“Haha!” Ivy giggled. “I got more birds than you!”
“Okay, I get it, you won,” Mango admitted reluctantly. “Yesterday I caught seven birds, and you only caught five today.”
Ivy had thought turning back into a cat would mean going back in time. Ivy and Mango, two young cats constantly exploring and always in the present; Dahlia, a young girl, never seen without a book under her arm.
But Dahlia was all grown up now, and Mango was gone. Who knew what else would be different?
Stop thinking about this! Just be happy for once.
Ivy sighed and lay down in a patch of lush, green moss. Her eyes followed a small gray mouse making its way through the grass. A part of her wanted to snatch it up, but she didn’t have the energy for it. Her eyelids drooped as she started to doze.
Soft hands grabbed Ivy, startling her. She was lifted high into the warm evening air and spun around.
“Hello! Aren’t you a pretty little cat! Where do you live?” Dahlia asked. Ivy, of course, couldn’t speak, so she let out a meow.
“You are so cute! You know, you remind me of my old cat I had when I was thirteen.” Dahlia sat down in the grass and set Ivy in her lap. “She always sat in my lap when I read. She would rest her chin on my arm just like you are doing now.”
Because I am Ivy.
“But one day she just disappeared and never came back. I spent hours and hours looking for her.”
I did come back. I’m back now!
“She had a small orange spot behind her left ear. Just like you!” Dahlia lifted Ivy up again and looked her straight in the face. “Even your eyes are the same color as Ivy’s!”
“You don’t have a name tag or collar. I do miss having a cat. I can take you to the vet either tomorrow or the day after to check if you are chipped.
If not, maybe I can keep you.” Brushing her skirt off, Dahlia stood up and walked away carrying Ivy.
“What’s wrong?” Dahlia asked. “Are you lonely?”
The house was small but cozy. The living room had yellow walls, a round armchair, and a couch. English ivy, strings of hearts, and orchids hung in the large window. A majesty palm stood in a corner next to a bird of paradise plant. A vase of lilacs sat beside a stack of books on the coffee table. Tall, empty bookshelves covered the whole wall to the left of the window. Boxes overflowed with books everywhere, so it was nearly impossible to walk around.
In another corner an electric keyboard rested on a stand. It was shorter than a normal piano, and some octaves were missing. Why would Dahlia not have a real piano?
Dahlia gently set her down on the fluffy white rug and headed into the kitchen. Ivy immediately tried to run ahead of her, tangling up in Dahlia’s legs, causing her to trip.
“Hey!” Dahlia exclaimed. “Don’t do that!”
In the kitchen, the walls were painted powder blue and the countertops were made of pale wood. A table with one chair stood on its tall legs next to a window, which overlooked a stream winding its way down the hill and into the woods.
Dahlia added another box to the pile on the floor. More boxes sat on the counters. One, full of plates and bowls, was halfway unpacked into a cupboard. Dahlia took the rest of the plates out, and the cardboard box was empty. Ivy suddenly felt the urge to sit in the box. She jumped up onto the counter and was about to curl up in the soft, warm cardboard when Dahlia picked it up, flattened it, and put it in the recycling bin. Ivy meowed at her.
“What’s wrong?” Dahlia asked. “Are you lonely?” She petted the top of Ivy’s head, but Ivy kept meowing. Why would she throw away the box? She knows I love sitting in boxes!
“Maybe you’re hungry? I think I have some chicken.” Dahlia turned away and opened the fridge door. She pulled out some raw chicken wings and put a couple in a small bowl, then set it on the floor.
“Here you go!”
“I don’t want food! I want the cardboard box!” Ivy said. But Dahlia could not understand her.
“Still not happy? I don’t know what’s wrong.” Dahlia sighed and went to the living room.
Ivy was not sure what to do. She wanted the cardboard box, not food. But the chicken did look delicious, and she hadn’t eaten all day. Ivy purred as she crunched on the bones.
Suddenly, the sound of tape ripping came from the living room. Tape that could be on a box! Ivy dropped the chicken wing from her mouth and dashed over to see. More books lay on the floor and table now, and a box was open.
Ivy jumped. There were still books left inside, but that didn’t matter. It was a cozy box, and she was sitting in it.
The keys on Dahlia’s laptop clicked rapidly as she worked at her desk. A cup of tea, long gone cold, sat right where her elbow could knock it off of the edge. The sun had set hours ago, leaving the room dark. That didn’t bother Ivy since she saw perfectly well without light.
Silently, she made her way across the room over to Dahlia, lifted her head up and meowed: “I’m bored!”
Crash! Dahlia had flinched and knocked over the cup of tea. Glass shattered against the wood floor, and cold liquid splashed all over Ivy.
“Why would you do that!” Droplets of tea flew through the air as Ivy started to dry herself.
“Stop! Why am I even talking to a cat? You can’t understand me.” Dahlia shook her head and tried to avoid the glass as much as possible on her way to the kitchen. She came back a few minutes later with a few towels and a dust pan for the glass. After the floor was all cleaned up, Dahlia looked over at Ivy.
“You poor thing.” Dahlia wrapped her in a towel, then sat back down, holding Ivy in her lap.
Ivy purred. The sound of typing was calm and peaceful. Dahlia had yellow headphones on and streaming from them was a sad, eerie piano melody. It made Ivy feel oddly happy, with a touch of otherworldliness. After all that happened, and everything that had changed, she had returned.