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Noodles

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The Murphy family had a cat. Cynthia had bought the thing ages ago, obsessed with how small it was. They had all expected it to be ‘Cynthia’s cat’, but instead the thing became attached to Connor. Loud, irritable Connor. She would climb up on Connor's shoulder, touch her nose to his nose, scamper around his feet, and sleep in his hoodie pockets or on his chest.

And Connor let her. He wouldn’t let a single member of his family touch him, but this cat was allowed to use him as her own personal playground. Cynthia tried to not let it show that it bothered her - she was happy that her son had at least something to love and care for, even if it wasn’t himself.

Connor had named the cat ‘noodles’ when Cynthia first brought her home and was adamant on the lowercase ‘n’. Cynthia let it happen, smiling at the light in her son's eyes even as he flinched away when she tried to ruffle his hair.

So, noodles became part of the family. She was the only thing that would calm Connor down during a fit, and a reason for Connor to come out of his room at least twice a day.

As Connor got older, the episodes got worse, but his love for noodles didn’t waver. It showed during one of the arguments that had become regular between Connor and his sister, Zoe.

“Fuck off Zoe, I don’t care!” Connor yelled, making noodles jump in his arms. He automatically relaxed his posture and cuddled noodles in his arms. “Shh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I startled you, you’re okay,’ he murmured, gently petting his cat and quietly leaving the kitchen and a dumbfounded Zoe.

Zoe caught on quickly, so every time Connor would get worked up, she’d plop noodles in his lap and he’d calm down considerably. He’d still mutter under his breath, making Zoe roll her eyes, but it was better.

It didn’t stop Connor from using noodles as a scapegoat, though.

“Connor, you have to go to school!” Cynthia had chided one morning, Zoe nodding along with her absentmindedly as she took bites of her toast.

“I can’t,” Connor says, “I need to stay home and take care of noodles.”

“Noodles is a grown cat now, Connor.”

“But look at her! She’s so helpless.” He gestures to where noodles is on her back, an old hoodie string caught between her teeth as she paws at it.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

Mother and son stare at each other, before Cynthia brings out the big guns. “If you don’t go to school, you won’t have a high school diploma to get a job and buy all the nice things for noodles that your father and I won’t pay for once you graduate.”

Connor glares at her but scoops up noodles from the floor as he goes to get ready. He doesn’t spend the entire day in school, and noodles is hiding in his pocket, but it’s a start.

***

It’s a few weeks later, and Zoe walks in on Connor, headphones in, noodles on his chest, and a joint between his fingers. She rolls her eyes and knocks heavily on his door, making him startle so much that noodles nearly flies from his chest.

He yanks his headphones off and glares at his sister. “What?” He asks, his voice not quite grating, but not friendly either.

“I was just coming up to tell you that mom picked up more whipped cream,” she says, because she’s a nice sister sometimes, and that involves telling Connor when his favourite (yet most disgusting) food is back in the house.

“Oh,” Connor says, not quite glaring anymore, “thanks.”

Zoe takes a deep breath and prays that she won’t get chased out of the room by what she says next. “You know that weed and smoke are bad for cats, right? Especially one noodles’ size. She has tiny lungs.”

Connor looks at her. “Are you lying to try and get me to stop?”

“No!” Zoe holds both hands up in front of her, “I just thought you should know.”

Connor narrows her eyes at her, but puts his joint out in his ashtray anyway, pretending he doesn’t see his sister’s smile.

He googles it later and resolves to quit immediately and switch to nicotine gum, or heaven forbid, vaping.

He’d do anything for noodles, even if he won’t do anything for himself.