Stacey slurped slightly, licking the drip that rolled down her arm. She breathed in the sugary smell of ice-cream and chocolate. Her fingers were sticky as they held the treat away from her dress where flecks of chocolate had fallen and melted in the afternoon sun.
She tried not to think about Ginger buried beside the back fence. Grandad had taken the still, little body and his spade. She had followed him.
‘There’ she said, pointing to a spot where the grass grew dense and tall.
Grandad dug a hole. He placed the dead mouse inside before covering it with soil. Stacey held out the cross and watched as Grandad hammered it into the ground. She wondered whether it would pierce Ginger’s heart and she twitched with each thud. But she didn’t look away.
As they stood back, Grandad put his hand on her shoulder. ‘Let’s think about something else’, he said. ‘Ice-cream?’
Stacey counted the crosses lined up along the fence. There were three of them now. And three times Grandad had offered to buy her an ice-cream, so she nodded.
Ginger hadn’t struggled. The paperclip, the cheese, the switch; it was over in an instant.
While she nibbled the last of the ice-cream and licked her fingers, Stacey supposed she would have to keep her next mouse alive for a few weeks. It was important to have a heart.