MaryAnn set her purse down on the kitchen table and shoved the peanut butter sandwich and a bag of Cheetos into it. Her lunch wasn’t nutrition friendly, but it was all MaryAnn was going to get tonight; she was running late and couldn’t afford to be late for work again. She hurried into the bathroom and started putting on her makeup.

A petite blond pixie came to the doorway. “Mommy, can I hold Whitey? Please! I’ll be real soft with her, promise!”

“All right Holly, just be sure to lock the cage tight when you’re done. Remember what happened when Fluffy played with our last ferret?”

“Yes, Fluffy is a mean kitty!” the girl pouted, then turned and left the room.

MaryAnn brushed out her hair then gathered her purse and book before heading out of the house. She placed her bag down on the passenger seat of the car and had just fastened her seatbelt when Holly came running outside crying.

“Mom! Whitey’s gone! She’s gone! Fluffy is going to get her and kill her!”

Damn, MaryAnn thought. She couldn’t face finding another dead pet and burying it in the backyard. She gave a long suffering sigh and got out of the car. “We’ll find Whitey, sweetie. Go get your big brother, Max and we’ll all look for her.”

And look they did, behind every table, chair and couch, in the dirty laundry and under the beds. They opened cupboards and checked closets; MaryAnn even tried the washing machine and dryer out of desperation. No ferret.

“Max, I’ve got to go to work,” MaryAnn said checking her watch and frowning. “Lock Fluffy in the bathroom so we know the ferret’s safe and keep looking. She’s got to be here somewhere. I’ll call you from work and check on you, okay?”

“All right, Mom,” her teenager said. “We’re on it.”

“Thanks, Hon, I knew I could count on you.” She kissed him quickly before he could duck away; she knew he was too cool for mother’s kisses.

MaryAnn rushed back to the car and fastened her seat belt. Startled by an unexpected rustling sound next to her, she stared over at the passenger seat and realized that her purse was moving. Cautiously, she reached over and peered inside. What she found made her laugh out loud. Whitey’s small white head popped up and looked around curiously, blinking her eyes against the sunlight after being buried in the darkness of the bag. Her long whiskers were coated with Cheeto crumbs and she held one of the orange treats greedily in her paws.

MaryAnn reached into her pocket slowly and grabbed her cell phone, careful not to disturb her ‘stowaway’. After taking a few pictures of the Cheeto thief, she dialed her home number and heard Holly pick up. “Baby, it’s Mom. Come out to the car and see who I found,” she laughed.

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