Sadie by Cynthia Song

She looked at her children through grayed eyes as she lay on the soft carpet. There was the little one, the girl with short black hair. She had long forgotten her name, if she ever knew it. As she tried to remember, she only came up with a jumble of noises and pronunciations in her head. Then there was the older one, the boy with pale gray eyes and hair. She had long forgotten his name too and did not attempt to remember it. It would be useless to try. A lean man formed in her mind as she recalled the third member of her family. And a fourth – the woman. Yes, it was these people who had brought her into their home. She did not understand why she had been given a second chance but she appreciated it, even if she could not express it. Sometimes she tried to mouth the words but only distorted howls and wails trembled through her mouth. The man chastised her for screeching and she decided to shut her mouth.

***
She remembered the day she met her family. It was a humid morning in one of the summer months. She was living at the sanctuary with her mother, who had long since given up on taking care of her children. Or rather, her child. The other five had been taken, died, or simply ran away. And so she gave up. But the last remaining child still grasped to that last dangling thread of hope. On that sweltering morning, this family of four came to change her life forever, to make that thread of hope into a thread of life. But she did not know how or why they chose her, or even if what they were doing was allowed. As the little boy reached out to grasp her, her eyes filled with tears and she shook with joy. It was her first time being accepted by someone. As she leaned towards this stranger, a pang of guilt struck her. She turned her head towards her mother. Her mother, too old to be cared for, who no longer grabbed the attention of passers-by. Her mother, whose legs were too feeble, whose heart was faltering, lay shrivelled in the corner, ignored. It was too late. She was lifted from the shelter into the car of strangers and never again felt the warmth of her mother.

As the children aged, so did she. Yet as they grew stronger, her bones grew frailer. She had passed the point of growth, but nevertheless connected with her siblings. They would ruffle her hair, make baby sounds that would lighten her heart but she never knew why they underestimated her. Was it the fact that she was different? She did not know and she did not care. Her brain had already forgotten the reason for this question. Day by day, she lived with her new family, gradually forgetting her mother, her old life.

One day she remembered her mother. It was one of those winter nights, where the wind made her shiver and the snow lay softly on the sidewalks, her feet making tiny prints in the vast, white carpet. It was then that she saw the female leaving bigger prints, prints that were hers but magnified. Her eyes trailed forward along the path, hungrily looking for its origin. It was her mother. Yes, the gray frizz that characterised her mother was upon her head. This female possessed the humble, sluggish gait of her mother. The battle scar her mother sustained on her face while protecting her young caressed the face of this female. It was her! Her! She galloped towards her guardian angel, her saint. As she neared her, her face morphed into someone else. An ugly demon. A dark haired, fiendish nobody. It was nobody. Her vivid memory of her mother played and danced on that monster’s face and she yearned for her roots, still in her grasp. But that thread of ancestry was cut many years ago. She was her mother’s no more.

***
She still lay on that same carpet that she laid on for the first time, fourteen years ago. The memories of her mother, her new family, her friends playing, screaming, laughing played back over and over in her mind. She tried to immerse herself in the joys of the past but knew she would get too excited and disturb the children doing their schoolwork. So she lay on the carpet and merely smiled.

The door slammed and a boom echoed throughout the house. The woman took off her heels and placed them on a shoe rack with a clack. The woman murmured to the man staring at the computer, his finger scrolling up and down. The man nodded and yelled strange, jumbled words that she could not understand. Then the children came, tumbling down the wooden stairs and dashing across the carpet. Their faces were solemn. She did not understand why. The family approached her.

They gave her the best dinner she had in her life: grilled steak with just a touch of that metal tang, cooked salmon that was seasoned just right and sautéed mushrooms. She wondered why today was such a special day but she cherished her dinner, smiling as she ate. Little did she know there was a plate of dessert set down next to her as well! On top of the silky smooth platter was a cream cheese and peanut butter cake sitting there, waiting to be devoured. Her eyes lit up with delight as she gulped down the sweet bliss the family had provided her. After she finished, the family had tears in their eyes. She could not understand why there were tears and if they were happy or sad. They called her name and ushered her into the car. She loved car rides.

The trees, bushes and flowers soared past them like birds flying in freedom. She craned her head out of the window and closed her eyes as her hair fluttered in the wind. A long time passed before the car screeched to a stop. She opened her eyes and saw they were at the place where they took her to be poked and touched and meddled with. She did not like this place. There was a woman who dressed all in white, carrying a multitude of metal instruments that were icy cold to the touch. The woman in white constantly asked questions to the family that brought her here, always scratching notes on that white piece of paper on the gray clipboard she brought. But as they walked through the door and jingled the bell, she felt a difference. The same woman in white that always greeted her was not the same. Her face was stone, her smile carved in, like she was about to commit a dirty deed. They entered a bright room. It was mostly empty with the exception of a dull, silver table. She leapt up onto the table and lay down. She was tired.

She did not understand why everyone else seemed so tired as well. Their skin hung on their faces like the jacket the woman hung on the door peg every day after she returned. They all gathered around her as the wells of their eyes filled with salty tears and they held her hand. They never held her hand before, and she jolted a little with the abrupt contact. The woman, the man, and children all whispered strings of sounds that she could not understand, yet she felt the velvety undertones, the sweetness, the love of their voices. She never felt as appreciated, as loved, as she did right then. As the drops trickled from their faces, they almost appeared from her eyes as well.

The woman in white appeared in the circle, holding a needle that she had grown used to hating. It would dig deep into her flesh, releasing an alien fluid into her body that made her shudder. Yet it was different this time. She could feel it in the bones of her body but she reassured herself that she was fine. The woman in white reached out towards her and patted her on the head, once, then twice, before rubbing her neck. The woman in white murmured some things and, after a long silence, wiped her with the sharp-smelling, wet cloth. She braced for the sting, and she received one. She waited for the soreness that would arrive, but there came none. There was only a light and warm feeling that permeated throughout her body, and her world got dimmer and dimmer. Her eyelids were falling fast but she did not want to sleep. But she did want to sleep. She embraced it, as her head slipped from her furry paws and her long snout touched the cold metal table.

She dreamed of her mother.