In hindsight, it is easy to see how we were led down the bunny trail.
At 16, the girl is an impeccable strategist, capable of exploiting every shift of mood and circumstance. She has a long history of successful campaigns, going as far back as the toddler years when she would appear next to my bed in the wee hours holding teeny-tiny toddler footwear in her hands and insisting that it was time to seize the day.
"Shoes?" she would say, raising her teeny-tiny eyebrows at me in an expression that said, "I can't believe you are still in bed at 3:45 a.m., you slacker, but I have things to do and I need your help with my Cinderella shoes."
Her father and I were 100 percent opposed for a lot of good - but ultimately irrelevant - reasons. He works 100 hours a week and I have 100 part-time jobs. We live in a house that contains about 100 acres of laundry-covered floors and is overrun with teenagers. We recently discovered that a family of mice had moved in as well, living under conditions that almost certainly outranked the teenager-occupied areas of the house for cleanliness.
Operation Pet was a no go.
But where we saw an impenetrable, unshakeable, resolutely anti-pet Household Position, the girl saw only opportunity. Among other things in her favor, her brother's return from college for the summer was the perfect showcase for her to star in a limited engagement of The Good Teenager.
While he demanded to use the car, she offered to pick up my dry cleaning. Where he left half-eaten burritos on the furniture, she made crepes for dinner. He drank all the beer in the guest refrigerator; she greeted me at the door with a glass of wine.
At work, she text-bombed me with photos of kittens. We are not getting a cat, I told her. But she already knew that. The cat was a red herring.
Recently, I came home to find her cat-sitting. The cat must go, I said firmly. She sighed, gave the cat a sad hug and complied. That is the kind of teenager she is.The kind who doesn't argue. Which as our parents could have told us, but didn't, is the kind you should fear most.
The cooperation continued unabated, while at every turn, her brother continued in his role as The Teenager Who Makes the Other Teenager Seem Reasonable. How was he supposed to know I needed my car to get to work? The keys were just sitting there.
Last week, Operation Not a Cat went from planning to execution. She googled pet shops and rabbit rescue centers. She made phone calls. She made lists. In between running our errands, she ran reconnaissance. She began talking about her new pet as if it was a bunny accompli. There was some last minute psychological warfare: she'd probably have to decline a lot of invitations to hang out with boys in order to spend more time with her new bunny.
Then she picked me up from the train station one evening and drove me straight to the pet store. Just to look around. Earlier that day she had done the grocery shopping, texting me to ask: What is Dad's favorite dinner? It wasn't even skullduggery at that point.
When we passed the first two pet stores and the girl was still driving, it occurred to me that we seemed to be heading to a particular pet store, but what did that mean? She had done the grocery shopping! She was so cheerful! She was singing to the radio! She was adorable. She was practically throwing off light.
We were headed for a pet store where a small black and white rabbit waited in a glass enclosure. Something told me this was not a coincidence. And that something was a sign with her name on it.
We took him home. We named him Napoleon. What else could we do?