“Alexis! Billy! Get down here now!”
Melissa scooped the eggs from the pan and spooned them onto separate plates. She slammed the plates on the table, and, mumbling something I couldn’t hear, stomped to the stairs.
“Breakfast is getting cold and you’re both going to be late for school!” She stared at the bedroom doors that refused to open, and groaned.
I stared up at Melissa and wagged my tail. This temper of hers was getting worse. Now everyone was refusing to speak to each other. I’d considered saying something about it a few days ago, but I wasn’t sure how to begin. I learned long ago I had to be careful whenever I started up a conversation with a human. They never react the way I hope.
Melissa paced the floor, then picked up the plates and threw the eggs into the trash. She slumped into the chair and sobbed.
I scratched my head. Melissa wiped her eyes and looked at me.
“Oh great! Just what I need now. A dog with fleas!”
“What fleas? I’m trying to think, here.”
Melissa froze. A lone tear streaked across her cheek like a rain drop trickling down a statue.
I stuck out my tongue, and stretched my mouth into a grin.
“I think I’m losing it,” she said. “I could’ve sworn the dog spoke.”
I growled to clear my throat. “Surprise!”
“You can talk?”
“News flash: all dogs can talk. It’s just a matter of whether or not we trust a person enough to talk. And I trust you.”
“What about Alexis and Billy?”
“I don’t talk to them.”
“You don’t trust them?”
“How can I? They don’t care about me.”
“That isn’t true.”
“Oh really? I never saw them filling up my food bowl, or giving me water, or bathing me, or walking me.”
“The first week they did.”
“Did they? That was so long ago I don’t remember. The other day I went into Billy’s room and he chased me out. Then, I went to Alexis’s room and she ignored me.”
“I’m sorry. I guess it was a mistake bringing you here. I brought you here because I felt guilty after Jed left. I thought giving them a dog would help them to not think about everything that went wrong. I never considered I might be burdening you with our problems.”
“It’s not a burden. I’ve had to live with people who were worse. I could have left anytime. To tell you the truth, I’m glad I’m here. In fact, I came here because I knew you would need me.”
“When you came to the shelter, I could see how unhappy you were. I’ll never forget the three of you: Billy ignoring your every word, Alexis rubbing the tears from her red, puffy eyes, and you motionless, ready to give up. I thought ‘there’s a family who could use my help.’ That’s why I jumped on the gate and wagged at you.”
“I did notice you were the friendliest dog there.”
“Those other dogs didn’t want to deal with human problems so they ignored you. But I knew you needed me.”
“Can you get Billy and Alexis to talk to me? Or do anything I say? I know they blame me for Jed leaving.”
“Actually, they blame themselves. They need you to let them know it isn’t their fault.”
“I never said it was their fault.”
“I heard them talking the other day before you got home. Something about Jed screaming at them for bad grades and not keeping their rooms clean. He told them he was sick of everything. Then he left.”
“Yes. He did do that, and we fought over it. I told him not to take out his problems on the children. I said it was difficult for me to work and still come home and keep everyone happy when he was never around. He slept on the couch that night. The next afternoon when I came home from work I found a note on the kitchen counter. He said he’d met someone else and I would hear from his lawyer.”
“Have you seen him since?”
“Only once. I get the house. He agreed to pay child support. We talked about joint custody. He said he doesn’t have time right now. And his girlfriend doesn’t like kids.”
“Those kids need to know they aren’t to blame for this.”
She stood and walked to the stairs.
She turned and looked at me.
“You need to know this wasn’t your fault, either. If you want, I can come upstairs with you and we can talk to Billy and Alexis together.”
“They don’t know you can talk.”
“They will soon enough. They need to know I’m here for the whole family.”
© Natalie Goodwin, 2020