Prologue

Dana ran through the grass in joyous abandon, her bare feet sinking into the soft blades, her long blond hair and her dress flowing behind her as she followed the puppy, struggling to hold on to the leash.

“Stay where I can see you!” a woman called.

The puppy found something interesting and stopped to sniff at it, so Dana looked back to see her mother sitting on the bench, leaning over the stroller.

“I will,” Dana called just as the puppy took off again, jerking her arm in the process. She gave a little squeal and ran behind, giggling happily. The grass tickled the tops of her feet, the sun was warm on her face, and she wondered what it would be like to go up in the sky. Then the puppy the ran toward some trees, and Dana stopped laughing. A man was there in the shade. The dog ran right toward him.

“Lucy, no!” Dana tried to pull her away. She couldn’t do it. Lucy’s one-year-old birthday was next month, and she was very strong.

The man crouched down and held out his hands. Lucy strained toward him, waving her tail madly, snuffling and licking as the man pet her head. Dana stood as far away as she could without letting go of the leash.

“I will not hurt her,” the man said. “You see, she likes me. What do you call her?”

“Lucy,” Dana said, and then quickly covered her mouth. She shouldn’t have said that.

“Greetings, Lucy. And what is your name, young Miss?”

“I’m not allowed to talk to you,” Dana said.

“I see. That is probably very wise. However, there is no need to be afraid.”

The man smiled at her. His hair was kind of long and almost the same color as hers, and he had very green eyes. Some of his hair fell over his forehead.

Lucy danced around now, trying to get his attention again, still wagging her tail.

“Do you know what kind of dog she is?” the man asked, scratching behind Lucy’s ears.

“She’s a golden reteever,” Dana said, not so scared now. Lucy always barked at people who might be bad, and she didn’t even bark once. And Dana felt sort of warm around her shoulders and in her chest, like a hug, even though no one was touching her. She glanced back at her mother, just to make sure she was still there, close by.

“Good dogs, reteevers,” the man said. He looked across the park. “And there is your mother, with… your brother, or sister?”

“My sister. She’s a baby. Like Lucy.”

“How wonderful for you. No doubt you take very good care of them both.”

Dana only nodded. She loved Lucy and loved to brush her and feed her, but sometimes she spilled water carrying the dish. Dana wasn’t sure sometimes about Marta, who was even more work than Lucy.

The man looked in the other direction now, and then he reached over and touched her arm very lightly. Dana knew she shouldn’t let him, but it felt warm, like he hugged her again.

“It is time for me to go,” the man said. He stood up, put on a hat, and picked up a long, thin box before bending toward her again. “It was very nice to meet you and Lucy. Have lots of fun today, all right?”

She nodded again and watched as he walked over to some people who were dressed funny, like him, in costumes. They all stayed under the trees and the man went with them, but he turned around and smiled at her before they got too far away.

* * * *

Dana came up from sleep slowly, still fuzzy, but with a pleasantly warm feeling. She burrowed into the pillow, trying to hold the sensation. What had she been dreaming? Fragments filtered back in random images. She’d been young, playing with Lucy, the dog they had when she was little, and running in the park. She loved that park. Memories of it always made her feel good. It had been a very happy time, and she hadn’t dreamt about it in ages. What else? There was something else…. She remembered her mother there, with Marta, and… someone else. The image proved too elusive to retrieve. Whoever the other person was, he–at least she thought it was a he–had generated a very good feeling as well. It was so long ago; had she met someone once? Maybe it was one of the teachers from the arts-and-crafts programs they had during the summer. Or maybe it wasn’t anyone real. Whatever the case, the warm feeling lingered. She glanced at the clock–only five, and it was Sunday, too. Dana burrowed back into the pillows and tried to recapture her dream.

 

©2017 Mari Elise Rei. All rights reserved.

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