When I heard Mummy call me home for lunch, I felt a little twinge in my stomach. It wasn't because I was hungry, that sort of throb was more of a call, like a car honk from my stomach, telling me I needed food. This ache felt like a soft warning, like a black cat, scampering up the street. I've always heard those were bad luck. Or perhaps not.
Something seemed wrong, but I couldn't explain it. Was this guilt? Sasha told me that guilt feels like a monster is scratching at my feelings, burying me from inside. But what did I feel guilty about?
Furrowing my eyebrows, I called back to my mom, "Coming!" Climbing down my favorite tree, I rushed into my house, still trapped in my own thoughts.
Right as the front door was pulled open, I saw Mummy sitting at the dining table, a sorrow expression on her face. She peered up at me for a moment, exhibiting a forced smile. "Hi sweetie. we need to talk about something. Sit here."
She pulled one of the big wooden chairs closer to me, telling me to come forward. Smoothening my skirt out, I plopped onto the surface. Now, even Mummy looked sad, a bit shaky as well. Her hands were wiggling like worms at her sides. Perhaps she felt guilty, too.
"Is something wrong?" I asked her, fiddling with the wrinkled tablecloth at the table. It had a small rip on it, from where you had tried biting at the fabric.
Standing up slowly, Mummy patted my head, fluffing the braids she'd styled in the morning. "That depends on how you take it, love. But yes, I'd consider this a wrongdoing in fate."
I frowned, not understanding what she meant. Fate? That was new in my dictionary. Mummy had never said it in front of me either. I don't think that had to do with guilt anymore.
Sensing my confusion, she continued, clarifying herself. "You know how Coco went for his surgery today?"
"Yes," I nodded. Lately, you've been feeling so awfully sick, not wanting to play with me, hardly eating anything, and so, so many scary things. You even fell asleep once and didn't wake up until we took you to Mrs. Clark, the vet. It was a bit rude of you, because even when I tugged your furry paws and cried for you to wake up, you kept sleeping. Mrs. Clark said you'd had a problem, which made me feel a bit better about your behavior, but I forget what it was called. Inside blood? Oh yeah, internal bleeding.
"Well," she sighed, enveloping her sweaty hands into mine. "Coco didn't make it."
"He didn't make what?"
Now lifting me up and hugging me tight, she stated firmly, "He died."
After that, I didn't remember much.
"Hey, Erin!" I could hear Daddy marching up the steps, ready to "get some giggles out of me," as he calls it. But ever since Mummy told me about you leaving a week ago, I don't think I've even smiled.
Death was a weird, horrible thing, I'd decided. It comes up and swipes wonderful folk to its dungeon. Then, even the people who weren't the prey suffer, in the side of their chest. My heart hurt, even though death had left me all alone. That's what makes it so cruel. If it were to take my best friend away, wouldn't it be fitting if it at least gave me a heads-up? A warning?
I wonder where you are now, sometimes. Maybe you're happy wherever you landed in the stars. Hopefully you miss me, just as I miss you. You deserve to have a good home, is what I know, and that's what I wish for you.
Another thing you deserved was to have at least one part of you at home. I wanted to bury your body in our backyard, where the sunflower patch you loved was, but Mrs. Clark said it was too risky for other wildlife. That means I never truly had a chance to say goodbye, and now, since I don't know where your body is, I never will.
"Erin!" Daddy's voice shook me out of my thoughts. "Don't get so shaky, kiddo."
I stared at my blankets as I wiped my cheek, making me aware of a tear that had slid down sneakily.
"Y'know what? Let's go look at those sunflowers again, huh? They always make you happy."
Deep down, I knew it wasn't the sunflowers that made me happy, but how ecstatic you would be in those fields. Well, it would make you jump in joy before you got sick.
Knowing Daddy wouldn't take no for an answer, I climbed onto his back, letting him piggy-back ride me downstairs.
As we reached the back door, I could smell the tomato soup Mummy was making. She might as well mix some of my tears into it, there have been an abundance of those for a while now.
For a moment I thought I heard you barking, wagging your tail up and down at the sight of me going to the sunflowers, ready to join on whatever adventure we were planning to go on. It was out of familiarity that I looked back at your favorite spot on our couch, thinking that you were sleeping.
Realizing that you weren't there was a sort of stab to me, though. It was a reminder that you're not here anymore.
As Daddy stepped outside the door, it ripped me away from your resting area, dragging my focus to the sunflower field before us. I could almost feel your spirit, padding along the grass as you laid in the patch we called our special hideout.
Hopping off Daddy's back with a thud, I ran over to the fields, remembering all we did here.
The first day we brought you home, you destroyed the entrance to the field, feeling a bit attacked by the height of the large flowers. That spot which you had ripped over was now mended with the sunflower seeds I planted back, but we still avoided that area regularly.
In the middle of the patch was where we used to play fetch. It'd been a bit dangerous playing in the middle of the field Daddy spent so long planting, but he was alright with it. Of course, you had trampled over some of the younger plants a few times, but your adorable eyes could get out of trouble easily.
Once, I had thrown the ball so far that you looked like a golden blob in the evening light, retrieving it. Then, you became a little speck, like a star in the night sky. After that, I couldn't see you at all. I remember shrieking in fear, thinking you'd be lost. Turns out, you returned the ball back to me right at my feet as you toppled me over in a big bear hug.
Towards the very end of the field, where I walked for an eternity to reach, was your doghouse. Me, Mummy, and Daddy all worked on it for a few weeks before it was ready, tacking the bolts in and collecting wood from wherever we could. The hammer was always very heavy for me to carry, so I would use one of the toy ones that came with my handy-builder set.
Sometimes, while you were getting ready to sleep, you'd pull me into the little house, pawing at my shirt until I was laying down. Mummy and Daddy had been very angry the time they were searching for me till three in the morning, but I thought it was a lovely game of hide and seek.
Now, I crawl into your doghouse with even less ease than before, my long legs being forced to perk out of the small area. I stare out at the field we've grown together in, where we had the most fun times together. I wonder when we'll be able to do it all again, hopefully in our own sunflower field. It's the finest place on Earth.
You were the only one who could make me smile when I was sad, or laugh when I was angry. When I was upset, I'd come and hug you before anyone. I wonder who I'll cling to now. If you get worried, I promise, nobody can replace you, Coco.
That's because nobody can take away the days we spent running outside, in the hot summer or frigid winters. Nothing can blow away the nights we used up sneaking each other treats from the kitchen, avoiding the creaks of the house floorboard. Maybe none of those times would be special to me anyway, unless you were there with me.
I've always heard that gold is the best of all the trophies, medals, or awards anyone can get. Then silver and bronze. For me, you were golden. My favorite friend, my only friend: You were the best. Sadly, our luck wasn't. At the moment, our sunflowers look more silver than golden.