The other mice would have nothing to do with her. At first, she had tried to keep it from her mother and her sisters and brothers. But you cannot hide the smell of a cat, certainly not from a widowed mouse. And you cannot hide the aura of love: it crawls inside you and compels its ways upon you. You do not merely surrender to its sickly ecstasy, no, you throw yourself upon it. And so you have no choice at all, no choice but to spend every idle moment brushing your eyelashes with your paws, preening your whiskers and sitting in the most dangerous alleys, trying to look coy and innocent, trying to pretend you don't know any better.
Finally it was too much. Unable to bear her mother's look of bewildered disgust, her brothers' muttered curses, and her sisters' stone silence, she looked up over the bread crust, begging for understanding. "He's different," she pleaded once, helplessly. And her mother had simply gazed back and said, "You were one too many. I should have eaten you."
Winter never really leaves the city. It draws away and hides for a few weeks after solstice, hides in the storm drains and on the stony walkways of the downtown plazas, and at night it returns with the fog from the sea. And behind winter, hunger follows like a shadow.
They live in a stepwell that goes underground from the sidewalk level. It ends in a door that leads to an abandoned basement. The door is permanently shut, so they are undisturbed.
Other cats rarely speak to him, except in scorn. Once in a while a cat will spy him on the street, hold up a freshly killed mouse, and say, "Hey, look, I've got your girlfriend!"
When he gets back, she's fixed their home up nice, put a little bunch of clover blossoms and wildflowers in the corner, because she knows his cousin is going to be all right, she knows everything is going to be all right.