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by Sophie Watson

Lawrence brings home a dwarf rabbit. A gift, he says, for his favourite bunny girl. He presses a hot kiss to my temple and tells me to take care of it. The rabbit sits, pliant on my lap. Its pale hairs scatter like pine needles on my skirt. The rabbit’s silky ears press flat against its skull, as my fingernail catches every notch of its spine.

He takes me to the shops, swaddled in a long winter coat. I leave the rabbit in the old fish tank with clumps of sodden spinach. The silver sun is too intense, even through the windows of the car. I wonder if the rabbit can breathe, trapped so long behind glass.

The sales assistant is softly spoken and takes me away to look at feeding bowls, while Lawrence picks a hutch. Her brown eyes are wide as she asks if I’m ok and I tell her I’m just tired. She frowns, but then Lawrence is there with a big metal cage with fish scale mesh, and she puts her sales smile back on and leads us over to the water bottles. An indoor rabbit, he declares: Won’t let my baby out of my sight.

Back home I assemble the cage with quaking hands. The hay is coarse under my fingertips and I hold in a sneeze. The rabbit blinks at Lawrence with plaintive eyes as he paces up and down the kitchen. Silent. There’s a finality to the way the door slams. He leaves and I let go.

The rabbit lifts easily from its cage. I feel the butterfly beat of its heart against my palms. Its claws dig in. A limp urge to hurl it against the wall.

And I breathe in.

Sophie Watson lives and works in Oxfordshire. Her work has appeared in Paragraph Planet and Oxford’s Haunted, an anthology of ghost stories. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @scewatson.