Isabella woke up. Energy filled her mind as she hopped out of bed and got dressed. She brushed her long, dark brown waves and put on her glasses.
Today was her eleventh birthday. She hurried downstairs where her aunt, Molly, prepared breakfast.
“Happy birthday, Isabella,” said Aunt Molly.
“Thanks.” Isabella sat down. She looked outside and frowned. If only her parents and uncle could see her today.
Three years ago, Isabella’s mom had suffered from depression after the dad had died from a heart attack. Isabella’s mother had lost so much control that social services had sent Isabella to live with Aunt Molly. Uncle Tanner had divorced Aunt Molly a year after and had moved to Vancouver.
“Isabella, after breakfast, I have a surprise birthday present for you.” Aunt Molly tied her ash-blonde hair into a bun.
“Oh, yippee.” Isabella ate her pancakes. She cleaned up, and then Aunt Molly led her downstairs to the basement. Aunt Molly turned on the lights. “Ta da.”
An albino guinea pig ran around in its cage. Isabella opened her mouth.
“You get to name her,” Aunt Molly said.
“All right,” Isabella said. “Her name will be… Peppermint.”
“Nice name,” said Aunt Molly.
“Why peppermint, though?” asked a strange female voice.
Isabella gasped. “Aunt Molly, did you hear something?”
“What? The guinea pig making noises?”
“No, someone asked why I named the guinea pig, Peppermint.”
Aunt Molly tilted her head at Isabella.
“Whatever. Play pretend like you’re five.” Aunt Molly returned upstairs.
“Aunt Molly, stop it!”
But Aunt Molly closed the door.
“You can read animal’s minds,” the same unknown voice said.
Isabella breathed and looked around. “W-who’s there?”
“Its me, the guinea pig you named Peppermint,” said the voice.
Gasping, Isabella turned to the creature. She rushed her breathing.
“Last night, someone gave you the power to read animal’s minds,” the voice said.
“But how am I going to convince my aunt?” asked Isabella.
“There is a note in your closet upstairs stating the name of the person. It appeared last night when you were sleeping.”
Isabella hurried upstairs and to her bedroom. She opened her closet and saw a piece of paper under her shoes. She picked it up and read it.
I wanted to let you know something about myself. I was born with the power to read everyone’s minds, including animals. I’ve kept it secret from you for many years. I was worried that I was going to scare you. So I sent some magic into the letter that would make you understand what I’ve gone through. I miss you. I wish I could be here for your birthday.
Isabella flushed. Tears stung her eyes. How could her own mother want her to read animals’ minds? The mom couldn’t have gone that insane. It made no sense.
Isabella hurried downstairs. “Aunt Molly?”
“What now, Isabella?” Aunt Molly asked.
“I got this note from my mom.” She held up the paper.
Aunt Molly put her hands on her hips.
“It is, I swear. I even recognize the handwriting.”
“Let me see.”
Isabella handed the note to Aunt Molly. Aunt Molly read it. Her eyes watered. She burst into tears. “I c-can’t believe it.”
Isabella remained mute.
“I don’t want you to be like this, Isabella.”
Isabella shook her head. “Neither do I.”
“There’s got to be a way to undo this.”
Isabella paused. Then she returned to the basement.
“You’re back,” Peppermint’s internal voice said.
“I need to get rid of this curse,” Isabella said.
“The only way to get rid of it is to suppress it yourself.”
“You have to replace thoughts of me with thoughts of other people.”
“B-but I can’t forget you.”
“It’ll only take a few minutes. Then you can spend as much time with me as you’d like.”
Isabella looked down. “Okay.” She returned upstairs and sat in the living room. She closed her eyes. Thoughts of her friends, teachers, and even her mom, came into her head. She thought about the guinea pig, but replaced it with a memory of her dad going to the hospital.
Peppermint’s internal voice faded away from Isabella’s mind. Isabella pushed herself to remember the voice. But she had forgotten.
She went back to the basement. Peppermint made her usual guinea pig sounds. Isabella gazed at her. The animal climbed her cage bars. There were no unusual voices.