by Stacy Bennett
Jillian’s chin rested in her hand as she sat on the stair listening to Uncle’s gruff voice, something about “that girl” and “rightful inheritance.”
A whine tickled her ear, followed by a cold snuggle across her back. A whiff of sun-warmed fur brought to mind tail-wagging butterfly chases. She swallowed unshed tears as a ghostly paw rested on her arm.
“I’m fine, Dolly.” But really nothing was fine since the fire.
A slobbering tongue had awakened her in the night. Gentle teeth taking the hem of her nightgown dragged her through smoke and heat, out into the yard as the firemen arrived. Dolly raced back inside where Mum and Pa still slept and Jillian waited forever for her to return. When all was soot and cinders, the captain ran smoke-smudged hands through thinning hair, stumbling over the words. Mum and Pa were “lost.” Jillian knew they weren’t really lost. It was just something grownups said.
Uncle was there to take her home, which was strange since it was after midnight and Pa never spoke to him. Jillian figured his ‘gold-digging’, as Mum called it, kept him busy. He kindly moved the gasoline can so Jillian could ride in front seat, feeling desperately sad and alone.
Luckily, Dolly wasn’t “lost.” She padded into Jillian’s new room, like a gust of winter wind filling the sheets with smoky dog smell and love.
Jillian thought it funny how Dolly didn’t like Uncle, not one bit. The only time he had visited Jillian’s room, Dolly growled like a bogey monster from under the bed and then bit him. It was only the ghost of a bite, but he had turned white and screamed like a girl. Now, Uncle kept his distance, and that was just the way Dolly liked it.
I posted this piece today in honor of a friend’s bassett hound who passed away this week. Originally, it was written as an entry for the Faerytaleish Pinterest Contest in June 2012, which was run by the ineffable Anna Meade, who you can visit here. I recommend going when you’re hungry as she’ll likely have you pull up a chair for some scones and tea and glitter.