Her question startled me. I hadn't expected someone who looked as if she could be in a Victoria's Secret ad to actually speak to me, but then again, why not? I wasn't the handsomest guy around, but my little sister, Maddie, and her friend Hannah always giggle and call me Hottie Pants, so I figure I'm not too bad—even if the girls are only ten.
"Oh, just a mouse," I told her, sounding way too cheerful. Then I cringed at how lame it sounded to be buying a dinky little mouse. Why hadn't I said I was there to buy rat poison or bear feed—something more manly? If I could somehow slip it into the conversation that I'd be using the mouse to trap a dangerous, flesh-eating hawk, it might make her hang around for a few seconds longer.
"A mouse? That's so sweet!" Her face lit up as if I had just given her the diamond stud that blinged from the side of her nose. After seeing how excited she was by my buying a mouse, I was glad I hadn't specified I'd be using it as bait for a hawk's breakfast. "Do you mind if I watch while you pick it out?"
Was she serious? I wouldn't have minded if she tied me down and poured red ants on my face, as long as she continued to talk to me. "No, that'd be awesome!" I gushed, sounding more like my little sister than the rugged guy I'd been faking I was.
I needed to calm down or she'd think I was a loser. I've talked to plenty of hot girls before, although to be honest, they've usually just given me my change and I've said thank you.
She blessed me with a blue ribbon smile—the kind you get for Best in Show at the county fair. "Cool! I've been in here wandering around, waiting for my parents to finish shopping at the hardware store down the street. Sad how all these animals are locked up though, isn't it? I wish I could set them all free."
"Yeah, real sad," I agreed quickly, even though I thought it a bit extreme to want to free animals in a pet shop, but that was girls for you. Always feeling sorry for the weak and the meek. Come to think of it, perhaps this could work in my favor. "So where you from?" I hoped that she would say she had just arrived in town and was moving in next door to my house.
"Up north. Not too far away." She shrugged. "Want me to show you where the mice are?"
"Sure, that'd be great." I acted as if I didn't already know it was the third tank to the left of the storage room door. As I walked behind her, admiring the view, I ran my hand through my hair, wishing I'd brushed it this morning. While I had heard that girls liked guys with thick wavy hair, I wasn't exactly positive they liked tumbleweed heads.
We stopped in front of the twenty-gallon tank filled with a swirling mass of mice, but I was still watching more of her than the mice. I wondered if there was something slightly off about her judgment. I mean, the only time I'd seriously attracted the attention of a really hot chick was when I stood next to the chicken incubator at the Museum of Science and Industry tapping on the glass. I rubbed my jaw, thinking the heavy stubble that accompanied my recent growth spurt must be responsible for this newfound female attention.
She clapped. "They're all so adorable! What color are you getting?"
I wondered what color mice juvenile red-tailed hawks preferred, but figured as long as it was furry and breathing, the color was inconsequential. "I haven't decided." I remembered to lower my voice to sound more manly. "Pick the one you like."
"Really?" She looked up at me, her eyes wide with excitement. That's when I saw that her eyes were sage green with light flecks of yellow in them. How cool was that? I'd never met anyone with eyes that color before and was pretty sure I never would again.
The door to the storage room burst open, jerking me out of my drool fest. What was I doing standing here chatting when my hawk was waiting for me? Pete came out carrying bags of cedar shavings. "Pete!" I called out, waving a hand in the air. "If you have a quick second, I need a mouse right away." I hoped he would pick up on my need for speed.
He stopped and looked at me. "Another one? Your dad was in last night."
"Yeah, I know," I responded, purposely being vague. "Emergency replacement."
He nodded. "Okay, okay. Just let me set this stuff down."...